Monthly Archives: November 2016
The train ride from Colombo to Matara is compelling with quaint sea-side towns, historical sites and exotic dining options
The roar of waves sounds like thunder as they crash against the black rocks along the historic Sri Lankan coastline. Even as the fresh ocean spray hits us, lifting almost fountain-like off the breakwater – we are awed that this is all that lies between us and a turbulent Indian Ocean. Surprisingly, we are not sitting at a fancy restaurant at the water’s edge sipping on beers, and staring out as heavy monsoon skies menace towards us. Rather, we were chugging along southwards at a sedate pace on the ‘railroad-upon-sea’ as we called it, having left Colombo Fort Station just before 7 am, and on pace to reach Galle at half-past nine that morning. This Coast Line of the Sri Lankan Railways is serviced by a number of trains that run between Colombo on Sri Lanka’s West coast and Galle or Matara in the extreme South of the island. It is now populated almost entirely across its length by those selling sea-side charm and leisure to all comers on this Emerald Isle.
We get sneak peeks of several little sea-side towns along the way where the train makes stops. Bentota, perhaps the most well-known amongst these has a number of luxury resorts along the scenic water’s-edge vistas. A quick stop-over breakfast with Madras-boy Ranjit Shankar, who is now at the helm of Vivanta by Taj – Bentota, makes for a pleasant memory, even as we continue on our journey towards the southern tip of Sri Lanka. Vendors edge past us every now and then calling out their wares, little notebook-leaf cones of delicious snacks such as chilli-crusted cashews and pineapple slices or even better – hot, crispy masala vadas with shrimps embedded within, served with deep-fried red chillies.
Of history & heritage
We arrive at Galle very nearly on schedule and follow the stream of passengers out through the exit and onto the street, where we find ourselves right across from the stunning Galle International Cricket Stadium that lies at the mouth of the Galle Fort’s main gate. A tricky trishaw (as auto-rickshaws are called here) ride around the cricket ground and through the Fort entrance, while balancing our bags on our knees, and we are on Pedlar Street. Here, a quaint wooden floored two-storey heritage house that looks very much the part in this rustic old area within the Fort is to be our home for the next few days (Rs 2,500 onward for double occupancy on airbnb.com). The family of four welcomes us graciously into their home and like the house itself seem genuinely grounded in the surrounds. Their ancestors were traders of Moorish stock like so many others here inside Fort Galle. Thirty-six hectares of Colonial-Era architecture have survived mostly intact here, with the Dutch and British styles featuring most prominently – as churches and provincial administrative buildings imposed their stern facades upon us. There is, of course, the suggestion that the Fort has been re-imagined more recently as a treasure trove for more splashy tourists, where re-worked architecture undermines the Fort’s rich heritage and some trinket shops sell artefacts of dubious vintages. But there are true gems within these walls – and you just have to slip between some of the grander frontages and into the by-lanes and alleyways to find a maze of homes and shop-houses where some families have lived and worked for over a century.
There is an upper scale in grandeur and luxury here too, as in Colombo. The Dutch Hospital and its courtyard reserves the most top-notch establishments for itself. But besides these, among the notable restored colonial buildings, is the elegant Amangalla on 10 Church Street, a building that dates back to 1715. The high-vaulted arches, a verandah overlooking the street and a tiled roof render it magnificent, while the lace and silverware atop period furniture inside give it real class. Joining the hostess of the hotel, Audrey Schallhauser, for traditional afternoon tea is an experience in itself. The Fortaleza on the cross street just before the Dutch Reformed Church too has a wonderful atmosphere and serves a fabulous breakfast, that has us doubling back for more the next morning. (Breakfast for two at Rs 750. Details: fortaleza.lk)
Off the beaten track
Outside the Fort, the bus stand was where the action seemed to be, and the tea shops – with their many little baked goodies – are a source for more local flavours. We walk further to the market along the promenade (which provides a superb view of the East wall of the Fort) and manage to parcel some juicy rambutans for our journey further south to Unawatuna, the closest beach town to Galle. Many little shacks dot the beaches between Unawatuna and Matara, with Mirissa being the most popular stopover for sperm and blue whale-watching boat trips in the season from November to April. Details: srilanka.travel/whale-watching
The next day, we hired a taxi (Rs 3500) for the day, to take us across the south of Sri Lanka past Matara, to Tangalle – a 1.5 hour drive from Galle. The drive is quite sublime as little fishing hamlets blink quickly in and out of sight, while the salty whiff of the day’s catch lingers a little longer even on their nets. Coconut palms sway in synchrony as they seductively hide the seaside town of Tangalle, where diverse flora and fauna await. The General Manager, Filipe de Lencastre is eager to help you discover all this and more at the Geoffrey Bawa-inspired luxury resort, Amanwella. We enjoyed one of the most-authentic Sri Lankan cuisine thalis in his company on the restaurant deck with the infinite view of the pool and ocean. This dining experience nearly lured us into a personalised cook-out with the resort’s master chef in a special kitchen set up by the beach. He also invited us to the village of Palapotta, near Tangalle, where we could try our hand at pottery, an art form that has been handed down generations. Alas, we put it off for our next visit. Details: aman.com/resorts/amanwella
Galle Fort’s hotspots include A Minute by Tuk Tuk, Crepe-o-logy and Pedlar’s Inn Cafe. While Colombo bustles with some of the best international fare, we highly recommend dining at The Bavarian on 11, Galle Face Court, Galle Road, which has for over three decades, served up the most delectable German food. You’d be glad to make an advance reservation, even if it is a Monday. (Meal for two with beverages at Rs 1,500 approximately.) An unassuming food ‘joint’ on 100 Lotus Road, Ruhunu Food Centre offers the most amazing, eat-all-you-can, help-yourself Sri Lankan Thali for all of Rs 80 per person. No
visit is complete without a stopover at the Dutch Burghur Union, VOC Cafe, on 114, Reid Ave Bambalapitiya for a potlam of their mouth-watering lampreis (Rs 250). By far the best and the only one worth eating, this rice and curry meal steamed in a banana leaf washes down well with their homemade ginger beer. Just remember to get there by 12.30pm as they make only a limited quantity every day and it runs out within half-an-hour of preparation.
— Niren Saldanha & Karuna Amarnath
Fitness takes centrestage courtesy a yoga and pilates workshop. Elsewhere, a kizomba session and jewellery exhibition await your attention
Reiterating that health and fitness is deeply reflected in our general well-being is the Body Change Weight Less Workshop, organised by Pondy-based SDFX Dance Studio. This 10-week programme will be overseen by Jeanette Mauritz, a certified yoga and pilates trainer. Open to girls and women aged 15 and above. Every Tuesday and Friday, 9 am to 10.30 am. Details: 0413 4201823
Ever tried your hand in making lac jewellery? At DakshinaChitra you have a chance to work with lac jewellery (studded with glass pieces and stones) . The cultural and heritage venue will conduct a workshop on lac jewellery making. To be supervised by their in-house expert, Zeenat, it is open for adults only. November 26-27. 10.30 am to 5.30 pm. Register for Rs 2,000 per head.
Next month, Kalinka Art Gallery will host a two-month long exhibition. It features the works of Pondy-based Ezhilarasan E, who will display his collection called Himalaya and other ays. The oil on canvas paintings will be showcased from December 1 to January 22. 6 pm to 8 pm.
Details: 0413 2336976
Patterns in black
Ask anyone who loves to zentangle and they will tell you how addictive the art form is. If you are one of them you will be interested in the upcoming Zentangle on Canvas workshop by Maven Art Academy. It is open to adults only, where participants can come up with interesting patterns using either pen or pencil. November 28-30. 11 am to 1 pm. AtRs 800. Details: 24830787
Make your move
Learn about the finer movements of kizomba, the dance form that originated in Angola, under the tutelage of Swedish expert, Kristofer Mencak. He will organise a bootcamp next week, along with Salsa Madras. Mencak is a two-time Scandinavian champion of kizomba, so rest assured your training is in good hands. December 4. Entry free.
As the third edition of the Auroville International Potter’s Market is set to be held in next January, the township is abuzz with activity and anticipation
The art of ceramics has come of age in Auroville, Pondicherry. Over the last few years, this community of specialist artisans has grown rapidly, with a number of new initiatives supporting local artisans. “The scene is very promising and optimistic,” says artist Priya Sundaravalli, a longtime Auroville resident who mentors several training initiatives. “Many potters have discovered the balance between production ware and creative self-expression,” she observes. While solo and group shows are on the rise, the Auroville Art Service also organises events featuring regional artists. “These shows do not discriminate against clay work,” relates Priya. “Ceramic artists get to show with other visual artists, which is the way it should be.”
Art and soul
Several workshops now focus on advanced processes of raku
firing, and the Japanese technique of Haiyu slipware, notes Priya. Moreover, many Auroville schools now have ceramics as part of their curriculum. White Peacock Studio, run by the Russian artist Saraswati Renata Sidorenko, is a prominent centre that hosts classes for children and adults. “This is a non-commercial club, a family affair,” says Saraswati, who trains youngsters, while her mother, Anna Morozova, facilitates workshops for grown-ups. “It’s a place for non-professionals to explore the purest form of creativity, paying no heed to the commercial side of the art world,” avers Saraswati.
A kiln slate
The ceramic revolution in Auroville began in the early-’70s, led by the patrons Deborah Smith and Ray Meeker, who founded Golden Bridge Pottery (GBP) in Pondicherry, informs the architect-turned-ceramist Adil Writer. “The sub-culture of ceramics has now spread into the hinterland,” says Adil. Some of these studios are larger than those in Auroville, and are flooding the market with stoneware of varying quality,
As the GBP has slowed down activities, few others are left to carry the torch forward, says Adil, who runs the studio Mandala Pottery. “We are known for functional ware, murals and installations,” he says. They also create “Studio ceramics”, represented at exhibitions in the country and overseas.
Glaze of glory
About 10 years back, Mandala Pottery “adopted” a small terracotta facility outside Auroville, informs Adil. “This small local unit has now grown larger than my studio,” he says. “We have some of our designs made here under our strict supervision. It is advantageous to both studios.” The studio hosts wood or gas-firing sessions almost every week, supplying works to shops, boutiques, spas, and corporate groups across the country.
“We also have export orders,” adds Adil, “but we focus on shops that respect and understand the
positives of a handmade pot.”
A few years back, Adil and the ceramic artist Rakhee Kane hosted Ruthanne Tudball from Norfolk, UK, for a workshop on soda-firing. “Soda firing is a very specific way of firing pottery, lending a vibrant orange peel look,” he says. A booth at the upcoming Potters Market will showcase such work.
“Historically, ceramic meant terracotta, which is low-fired,” explains Nausheen Bari, another artist at Mandala Potter. At GBP, students learn how to fire clay with wood, and the traditional Korean and Japanese methods of anagama firing. “There is a solid base here,” she adds. “Students are making a profession out of this, and it has had a cascading effect on local potters.”
Pottery in motion
Lately, many ceramic artists are taking to works of larger sizes, observes Bari. “Porcelain is also being taken up seriously for sculptural work,” she notes. “However, tableware is very much in demand, as India is waking up to the prospects of handcrafted, personalised lifestyle products.”
Until recently, ceramics were barely recognised as an art form, reflects Bari. “But now, it’s getting better
visibility,” she says.
The Auroville International Potters’ Market, initiated by Ange Peters of the Forest Pottery Studio, has a fair share of village studios hobnobbing with potters from all over the country, and overseas. The outcome is positive on more fronts than one. Other members at Mandala claim that the status of “the humble potter has risen greatly”, says Adil. “A barometer of this is that people working in Auroville now have better chances in the marriage market,” he adds, in a lighter vein.
The Auroville International Potters’ Market will be held from January 26-28, 2017. Details: 0413 2623101; auroville.org
— Team Indulge
Pics: Adil Writer, Mandala Pottery, Marco Saroldi, Nausheen Bari, Priya Sundaravalli, Saraswati Renata Sidorenko, White Peacock Studio, Vimal Bhojraj
Friday, November 25
Top Five (Comedy), WB, 6.59 pm
Cast: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union
Andre Allen (Rock), the star of a hit comedy franchise, Hammy The Bear, is gearing up for his marriage with reality TV-star Erica Long. Also looking to do more serious movies, starting with Uprize, Allen is interviewed by Chelsea Brown (Dawson), a New York Times reporter. Things change for the star when they meet with a car accident. As he begins to develop feelings for Brown, she throws a shocker when she admits that she never found Allen funny. Will his comic timing be the deal breaker for their relationship? Rock’s character is named after his brother, Andre, and his grandfather, Allen.
Boyhood (Drama), Netflix
Cast: Patricia Arquette, Ellar Coltrane
Mason Jr (Coltrane) and his sister Samantha (Lorelei Linklater) have had a tough childhood. Their parents are divorced, and they live with their mother, Olivia (Arquette), who is trying to move on. The movie chronicles Mason’s life from the age of six to 18—through his experiences filled with family problems and romance, marijuana and an aspiration for photography in later years. It is a coming of age story that sees Mason attempting to straighten out his life. The movie covers a period spanning 11 years, or 4,000 days, and was shot in 45 days.
Saturday, November 26
The Godfather Part 3 (Crime/Drama), HBO, 11.27 pm
Cast: Al Pacino, Andy Garcia, Sofia Coppola
The Sicilian mafia boss Don Michael Corleone (Pacino) may be old at 60, but his empire is stronger than ever. Having made ruthless decisions including getting his
own brother, Fredo, murdered, in the past —now Corleone, also known as the Godfather, is ready to legitimise his businesses. But the murder of Pope John Paul 1 and the Papal banking scandal threaten to sabotage his good intentions. Add to that when his nephew Vincent Mancini (Garcia) starts a feud with gangster Joey Zasa, Corleone realises thet he cannot leave the mafia world yet. Robert Duvall, one of the mainstays in the first two films, refused an offer in the third, due to vast differences between his salary and Pacino’s.
Neerja (Biographical/Thriller), Movies OK, 7.55 pm
Cast: Sonam Kapoor, Shabana Azmi
Based on a true story, Neerja Bhanot (Kapoor) is a successful flight attendant and former model whose mother, Rama (Azmi) always expresses concern about her job. After attending a house party, Kapoor heads back to the airport for her duty on Pan Am Flight 73. Little does she know that the passengers on the plane for the day also includes militants from a terrorist organisation who are planning to a hijack. The moment they spring up into action, Neerja is brave in face of the adversity and alerts the pilots and even manage to ground the plane in Karachi. But the passengers are still at the mercy of the hijackers. The actual incident happened when Kapoor was just one year old.
Sunday, November 27
Jungle Book, Star Movies, 9 pm
Cast: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley Idris Elba
Featuring voice-overs by an ensemble cast, Jungle Book tells the story of Mowgli, the orphan boy raised by animals in the jungle. Based on Rudyard Kipling’s original work of the same name and Walt Disney’s animated film, it shows how Mowgli learns to live in the jungle, under the watchful eye of panther Bagheera (Kingsley) and Baloo (Murray). His biggest threat yet is Shere Khan (Elba), who is on the lookout for the boy to kill him. Can Mowgli survive? The movie is the first instance where Kaa, the snake, has been portrayed as a female, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.
Shaandaar (Romance/Comedy), UTV Movies, 11.30 pm
Cast: Shahid Kapur, Alia Bhatt
Alia (Bhatt), an insomniac, is the adopted daughter of Bipin Arora (Pankaj Kapur). Though the Arora clan is not very kind to Alia, Bipin and his daughter Isha (Sanah Kapoor), adore the girl. Soon, Isha’s marriage is fixed with Robin Fundwani (Vikas Arora), in a bid to improve their financial condition. On the way to the wedding, Arora’s car is rammed by a motorcycle driven by Jagjinder Joginder aka JJ (Kapur), who is the event manager for Isha’s wedding. During the wedding, JJ and Alia are drawn to each other, especially when it is discovered that JJ is an insomniac too. While they find their common ground, Fundwani manages to break Isha’s heart. Tabu was initially reported to be paired opposite Kapur.
Action director Kenny Bates on going from working with the Transformers to Chitti the Robot
Kenneth Bates is one of those behind-the-scenes guys. In fact, if you’re not the kind to watch a film’s credits roll, chances are you’ve probably never heard of him. And yet, without him, some of the most insane action sequences in Bad Boys, Transformers, Pearl Harbour, The Rock or The Italian Job may have never happened. The man behind Hollywood’s biggest stunts since 1989, is now getting Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar to trade robot-crunching blows, as action director of Shankar’s 2.0. In a chat about meeting the superstar and on shooting Transformers, the otherwise reticent Bates takes us through what it’s like to be him.
What’s it like to work in India? Did you have to change things to get in your zone?
Working on an Indian film is a challenge, though I admit, I’m very pleased to bring big blockbuster moments to the Indian screen. I’m looking forward to delivering big action in 2.0. Shankar has a clear idea about what he wants. My job is to augment his work, so we can turn out the best on screen.
Had you already heard of Shankar or watched his films before the offer for 2.0 came along?
Since I was a co-producer and action director on Transformers 1, 2 and 3 (it was natural that), I saw Robot (Endhiran). That’s part of what made me interested in this film.
How was it to be working with Rajinikanth?
He is respected, and he brings an aura to the set. He’s a gentleman and an incredible actor. I could have chosen half a dozen other films, but I didn’t. I chose this one. After my first meeting with Shankar in LA (which lasted nine hours), I was intrigued by his passion for the movie.
How much of the action in 2.0 is live and how much of it is VFX-layered? Are there any never-before-seen action sequences we can expect?
I have to be careful with this question, since I’ve had to sign endless legal forms! What I can tell you is, we are making the biggest movie in the history of Indian films.
Was it exciting working with local crews?
I have enjoyed sharing my knowledge with the local crews. There are plenty of talented film techs in India. There is nothing that they can’t do as long as they are given the opportunity.
You’ve created your own high-speed camera vehicles to capture action sequences. After your custom Bates Decelerator won the Oscar, are there any new concepts up your sleeve?
My team and I want to put the action in the face of the audience, and we do whatever it takes to achieve that. It might mean that I have to slide down a cable with a camera in my hands or drive into tumbling cars. We will add some new high-speed camera vehicles to our fleet in the next six months.
One director who has impressed you with their knowledge of action direction?
I have worked with Michael Bay for over 24 years. Ever since Bad Boys, we’ve worked together to deliver huge Hollywood Films. Jerry Bruckheimer gave us the opportunity, and that raised the bar for action films to an all-new level. Jerry once said to me, “I don’t want good, I want great.” I have never forgotten those words.
Has the rise of VFX and an increasing reliance on graphic recreation taken away the raw appeal of manual stunt design?
When doing a film like Transformers, there are plenty of visual effects (in motion). We work together to accomplish action sequences with live action (in the) foreground and background to create layers to work with in post-production. It is actually very complicated, and requires hundreds of hours of preparation prior to shooting. After that, it takes tens of thousands of hours of post-production work. You have to design the action and make it look good, all the time making sure not to get in the way of the elements that are being put in during post-production.
People think action direction is all about car chases. How much of a science is it, really?
I don’t normally respond to this question, but now I must. Every director or studio comes to me looking for the undoable. In order to have the action in your face, the camera has to be (right up) there. It is a science, and it is experience that allows us to do what we do best. A lot of work goes into every sequence before it ever gets shot. Shooting is the fun part, but it also means 12-16 hours of work a day.
The movie releases next year.
— Aasha Sriram
Bulleya singer, Amit Mishra, is set to make his mark in the Indian music industry
When he lent his voice for Ranbir Kapoor’s Sufi rock number, Bulleya, in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, he had the entire country’s attention. When the song garnered over 80 million views on YouTube, 27-year-old Amit Mishra knew he had arrived. Mishra shares, “When this song released, I didn’t expect this much appreciation from people, but everyone loves it now. People want to hear the song live. But the best thing for me was that I was delivering the song for the living legend himself, Mr Pritam Chakraborty (composer).” We catch up with the Lucknow-born, as he tours the country .
Though the singer is trained in classical music and is also known for his songs like Manma Emotion (Dilwale) and Sau Tarah Ke (Dishoom), he says getting into films has always been his dream. Though Mishra concedes that a break as a playback singer is not nearly as difficult as fulfilling the responsibilities that come with the expectations. “The competition is cut-throat. But everyone gets a chance. They (the industry) just want one thing —that the singer is disciplined and know their responsibility. It is serious business for us. Studio work has always been my priority,” says the Mumbai-based singer.
Mishra also feels that music industry in India is filled with a pool of talented singers and adds, “Reality shows do give opportunities to talents, but one has to be prepared for the work that follows. There is travelling, concerts, and studio recordings,” says the singer, who loves light Indian music with a preference for thumri, Indian folk and dadra. He is also a fan of legends like Kishore Kumar and Mohammed Rafi.
The Rang De Basanti actor on his role in Dear Zindagi and his upcoming projects
He charmed us with his endearing simplicity in Rang De Basanti and his cooking skills in Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana. The 39-year-old actor, Kunal Kapoor, is now all set to woo us with his role in Dear Zindagi, sharing screen space with Alia Bhatt and Shah Rukh Khan. “It’s not the sort of film that you get a chance to be part of every day. It’s so personal and intimate. And that’s because Gauri (Shinde) has such a deep affection for the characters she has written, and a real understanding about them and the relationships they share. I think everyone will find something that they can relate with,” says the Mumbai-based actor.
Kapoor, who will be seen romancing Bhatt in the film, says that the actress is a unique and natural performer, and more mature than her age. Talking about his character in the film, Kapoor shares, “I play a character called Raghuvender, who is an ad film producer. He is successful, charming, funny, and like a lot of us, finds himself in an ‘it’s complicated’ sort of relationship.” The actor, who has two more films coming up, Veeram, a trilingual (Malayalam, Hindi and English) adaptation of Macbeth, directed by Jayaraj, and Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Raagdesh, also shares a light moment from the sets of Dear Zindagi. “I remember, one day, we were shooting in Singapore. The weather there is unpredictable and it randomly started raining. We started playing antaakshari and only with songs that had the word baarish or rain in it,” he says, with a laugh.
The Aaja Nachle actor says that to become “physically intimidating” for his anti-hero character in Veeram was a big challenge for him. “I have always been a pretty lean chap. So, it was pretty much a full day dedicated to getting fit and working on martial arts. Once you get into filming, it is a whole new challenge, because then you’ve got to push yourself to get to the gym, sometimes after 18 hours of shoots,” shares Kapoor. An aspiring writer, the actor is also currently working on four scripts. Talking about his next film with Dhulia, Kapoor says, “Raagdesh has a powerful script. Possibly the most powerful script I’ve read since RDB (Rang De Basanti). We have all heard about the Indian National Army, but this script made me see how significant their contribution was.”
Dear Zindagi releases
on November 25.
— Saloni Sinha
Director: Rajesh M
Cast: GV Prakash, Anandi, Nikki Galrani
Like the director’s earlier films, this too has a wafer-thin plot, strung together by a series of episodes that includes situational, verbal and slapstick comedy.
It tracks the misdaventures of a youngster who, before his wedding, takes a road trip to Pondicherry with his buddy. While the first half regales us with some fun moments, the tempo slackens in the latter half. Prakash plays the brash youngster with flair, while Balaji with his perfect timing provides key support.
— Malini Mannath
Director: Abhinay Deo
Cast: Sonakshi Sinha,
John Abraham, Tahir Raj Bhasin
The movie revolves around the mission that former ACP Yashvardhan (Abraham) and RAW agent KK (Sinha) take up to find the mastermind behind the assassination of three RAW undercover agents. Sonakshi Sinha as a RAW agent is quite unconvincing and despite Abrahams’s shirtless action sequences and the scenic beauty of Budapest, the story fails to hold your attention.
— Team Indulge
Director: David Yates
Cast: Eddie Redmayne,
Ezra Miller, Colin Farrell
Harry Potter fans are in for a treat with this spin-off to the original series. We follow Newt Scamander, a rescuer of magical creatures, in 1920s New York.
The movie has great special effects and a good mix of comedy and fantasy. Definitely a must-watch!
— Team Indulge
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