24 December, 2011

Don 2 : Mushkil nahi Namumkin

Prelude : 3D as a technology was invented 50 years back and had it really done something exceptional to the cinema viewing experience, it would certainly have attained greater popularity. 

Synopsis: 5 years after the first Don escaped, he has become the King of the Asian drug market seeking to capture Europe. For this he needs Wardhan rotting in a Malaysian jail. Wardhan has a key that shall open a locker in Zurich to a tape. With this tape Don intends to coerce the V.P of Germany's premier bank to show the way to the 'currency plates'. This is the Don's master plan to rule Europe by executing this caper. Roma who is now in Interpol is on his tail with a retired or just about to retire d'Silva. I did make a genuine effort to try and tell you more but this is it. 

"Don ka intezaar to gyarah mulkon ki police kar rahi hai!!!"
So said the first Don in 1978 without setting a foot outside Mumbai...oops Bombay then. This is the one line that has absorbed Farhan Akhtar and is the basis of his Don movie franchisee...let the courts decide whether the Akhtars legitimately own this or the Irani’s..ours not to reason why...ours just to see and cry...


The first fifteen minutes of the movie truly sizzle and then sadly the flame goes out and how. 

Don 2 is a holiday odyssey made by a trainee at a travel agency who in his enthusiasm to get the best deals jumps across countries and continents in the shortest time giving no thought to the paying tourist. 

Needless to say we have first class travel arrangements in luxury yachts, exotic locales. Fast cars. Only one amazingly talented hostess ( Lara dutta showing off her various wigs and classic sartorial faux pas...a colourfully orange nightgown on an unending pier takes the cake ) and extremely friendly border authorities and officials. So we journey with the old Don who has vanished from part 1 remake from Thailand to Malaysia to Switzerland to Germany.

On the way he picks up a Wardhan from a Malaysian jail(Om shivpuri in the first part had not impressed greatly but his was an Oscar worthy performance looking at Bomman here...5 years in jail have frozen that mercurial actors face into one weird scowl). Given gen nexts requirement, we need a token computer geek. The geek has to be partnered with a local country girl to show his credibility of being in place with the times,  however unconvincing the actor playing the part comes across (Kunal Kapoor totally in need of a crash course from Barry John, Anupam Kher or whoever is teaching acting these days ). So Don and entourage are in Germany and voilaa before one can say “apple strudel” we have the German RBI equivalent bank having an Indian Vice-President ..so first there was the geek and now the veep.explanation given..."after all We Indians are everywhere."

This is where the director has totally lost the plot, there is no cohesive story that links up part 1 and 2 apart from a sketchy voice over and when they were shooting the new movie in Germany the hard bound script that had the story was forgottenback home in India and since no one wanted to travel to India...we are left with a movie that has frames which are very attractive but no rhyme or reasoning to them. German efficiency is conveyed to us in a manner that the bank veep gets an immunity for an international criminal in like 30 minutes...try telling our RBI Governor Rengarajan to do the same for Kasab...if he cant or wont we can still get away by saying this is because of a beauracratic India, the poor Germans have no such luxury.

There were serious expectations from Farhan Akhtar and this movie was his litmus test in creative writing let alone direction. Don had remained in the public memories because of characters like Narang,Shakaal, Mac, Jasjit each one having a clear role knowing what part they essayed in the larger scheme of things.

Watching Sharukh Khan in every frame of a SRK movie can be tiring not to say irritating when he is not looking or performing at his best. Priyanca as Roma has a logical role but then she too loses it towards the end with an ‘ uff tumhey goli lagi hai, kinda line where one feels given the cliched cinematic tradition she would tear off a strip from her bullet proof jacket and tie it around SRK’s scratch” Lara’s character and role is so totally redundant one wonders what is she doing here. If we have left someone out of the performances department without a mention then well its because they truly were not noticed...There is not one song which shall go down as hummable...the remake had a sensational composition in “Aaj ki raat”, here "Dhuaan" is just not in the same class

The ‘why’ is what baffles me...now that we have a movie that is bereft of a story we need to make it saleable and fast because a longer stay in the cinema’s is certainly going to damage its recovery process of investment, hence lets make it 3D,  charge the viewers double and get out fast before anyone realises that “Is Don2 ko samajhna mushkil hi nahin namumkin hai”

07 December, 2011

Memory Vignettes - Dev Anand - Adieu

Working keeps me young & maybe that’s why they call me evergreen - Dharam Dev Pishorimal  Anand

Circa 3rd December 2011, London , Dev Anand passes away. It took time to sink in and hence the delay in writing this piece. I believed truly so that this man was immortal. What else can be a testimony to it but the fact that he was acting and directing a film at a young age of 88 years; A working career spanning 65 years, Unbelievable.

In the decades of the fifties and sixties Indian Cinema was dominated by a Troika. Dilip Kumar who re-invented acting had laid claim to the title of the Thespian, Raj Kapoor who captured the common man in his Chaplinisque portrayals of a socialist India was the Great showman, and then there was Dev Anand. Unabashedly I  say he was my favorite.

Dev Anand was not quite as easy to slot neatly as the other two. Maybe because he was arguably not as talented an actor like Dilip Kumar nor did his movies have the depth of a Raj Kapoor's did but when Dev Anand smiled on screen with that twinkle in his eyes the silver screen lit up. He defined and symbolized a rakish romance. He was the handsomest of the three and while the other two ( Raj & Dilip) conveyed an image of pathos , Dev was Mr. Cool even before Cool was a word in spoken parlance.His image ethos was urban through and through. The reason he was difficult to slot is also because he played apart from the lily white hero roles, all kinds of characters with shades of grey and he played them fearlessly and effortlessly.There was no concern for the prototype hero image which seemingly restricted his contemporaries. He  even got clobbered in his films unlike the typical Hindi film hero who was always dishing out more than was served to him and even then one still loved him.

Enough and more has been written about his films the great ones that he acted in , some brilliant ones that he produced under the Navketan banner and directed and even those haphazard narratives that masqueraded as films beyond the 80’s. We are not treading that path. The onscreen avatar of Dev Anand for me stops at “Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ this was the last great film that Dev Anand made and all that which came after was pure indulgence.

My memories of this stylish actor reside in the manner in which he romanced his ladies on screen. A romance in which there is a playful mischief yet one that maintains a genteel elegance. It was tilted at an angle like he was. Dev Anand never grabbed a lady onscreen, quite the contrary he maintained a distance. His  almost casual embrace too didn’t make his heroines uncomfortable in fact they felt cherished in his arms and company and that came across beautifully in his songs and scenes. Watch a Nutan run down the steps in Dil Ka Bhanwar Karey Pukaar ( Tere Ghar Ke Saamney) or a Madhubala (Kaala Pani ), she is the one who approaches & initiates a physical contact in "Accha ji main haari chalo maan jao na" or the way Hema Malini in a huff is closing those endless windows and curtains (Johnny Mera Naam). The twinkling mischievous demeanour clearly stating that " I shall be a gentleman till you stop being a lady". A thorough gentleman he was both on and off screen and this is the elegance in etiquette that one shall always miss with his passing away.

Another abiding memory was at a recent award ceremony that he attended. Film award ceremonies and their presenters can get personal and some even downright nasty in their attempt to being funny, none more so than the current so called King of Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan. Khan was taking pot shots at every one sitting in the audience and the recipients of his hammering were too junior to object or did not have the command over the English language that Shahrukh constantly uses during his baiting. He acts falsely humble for a few actors like Amitabh Bacchhan for the others he is downright arrogant. Even seniority is not respected as was seen in the Manoj Kumar episode when he mimicked the star in one of his movies. In this function wading through a crowd he came across a quiet Dev Anand sitting in the audience without any hangers on; the common manner in which the film stars group themselves. The Khan with a catty gleam in his eye that said "lets have some fun with this old man" approached with pseudo humility and said "Here I have with me Mr Dev Anand who even I am scared to ask questions as his are the films that I have grown up watching". He would forever live to regret this baiting.

Dev Anand stood up at an angle , a frail figure and tossed back his scarf and with flashing eyes challenged Shahrukh, "Why son ask me anything." The language was the idiomatic Queens English that the Khan could not even hope to imitate. “I think Shahrukh, you are not conveying the picture like it is, if Mr.Bacchhan sitting over there had said he grew up watching my films, he would have been partially right, as for you I don’t think you were even born then”.  Like a whipped cur Khan fled .

The signals were all there but not read correctly. Dev Anand was sitting alone because he chose to, he had always marched to the beat of his own drummer, he neither needed the divided or bunched up camps of the current day Bollywood to define his being. Age may have made his body frail but his thrust & parrying was rapier sharp as ever. It may not have translated into great movies off late but the number of movies he kept on churning out with wannabe actors who were better off undiscovered was a statement of an obsessive, self absorbed cinematic giant who refuses to stop and stop he didn’t. He like the shining star that he was simply moved on to the next realm.

It was indeed a pleasure and privilege to breathe the same air and share some time in this Universe with you, Dev Saab. 

He had remarked that when I die, cremate me or if you choose to bury me and put a stone on it, don’t carve the word “Rest In Peace”…I don’t like that word Rest…instead carve  “Work In Peace”.  WIP Dev Anand. 

15 November, 2011

Movie review "Rock Star": A Wonderful Self Indulgence

What does one expect to see in a movie titled Rock star?  Rock & Roll …possibly, a bio-pic of a Rock musician…most likely but in director Imtiaz Ali’s imagination it’s just that a title for a movie and the movie is a love story. Disappointed are you at this simplistic assessment…don’t be. It is in the style of the telling that this movie works at a sublime level.

Movie making is one of the most collaborative of modern art forms. It is like one large kingdom made up of many fiefdoms, who contribute to the well being of the product. And when there abounds ownership & co-operation amongst each other while executing their parts, the complete set up can jump into a level that is ethereal. Imtiaz Ali achieves this magical fusion with A.R.Rahman, Irshad Kaamil, Ranbir Kapoor and Mohit Chauhan. This is the band that truly rocks the movie and justifies the title.

How does a simple guitar playing Hindu College student Janardan Jakar aka JJ  transform into the complex phenomenon called Jordan?. 
JJ keeps giving lots of eartime to his college canteen manager and resident Obi Wan Kenobi who along with samosas feeds him some desi wisdom of how real rock stars were born out of broken hearts & pain (all this while Jim Morrison is staring at you from posters) Thus he sets out to acquire it. It is here he runs into a Stephens college girl Heer ( Nargis Fakhri, very pretty & charming but stiff and awkward too) . An interesting friendship shapes up between the Hindu College boy and the Stephens college girl and there begins his journey. It is in the portrayal of JJ that Ranbir Kapoor has come of age as an actor of serious merit. His talent was obvious in his earlier works but the sheer range of what makes JJ into Jordan as essayed by Kapoor is what makes this movie. It is the complete package from the look of a young college boy (costumes designed by Aki Nirula, Manish Malhotra ) to the eyes that lose their innocent charm and grow sadder, deeper and display a confused angst, the eyes are vocal. Ranbir as Jordan breathes life and raw energy into the character of JJ & Jordan and never once does he falter.The manner in which he caresses his guitar, the way he strides onto stage for a performance, his awkward hugs & kisses, his erupting violence it is a masterful act. 

It is an awkward character who is inarticulate and the communication is clear only in his music. This musical soul of the whole ride is encapsulated by the poet Kamil in one line “Jo Bhi Main , Keh Na Chahu, Barbaad Karey, Alfaaz Mere”. This movie is neither cerebral nor linear.One actually may have to feel the film rather than merely watch it. It is almost like a collage of sequences put together. These frames sometimes overlap, some times are sequential but wonderfully carry the story ahead. It is a serious film and its soul is musical which draws the viewer in. A.R.Rahman's musical genius needs no telling but it is in this album that he throws at us a wide variety of gems ( Sadda Haq & Jo Bhi Main have a true blue rock flavor of the Rolling Stones genre - Satisfaction, Kun Faya Kun is a sufiyana beauty, Nadaan Parindey and Phir Se Ud Chala are soulfully rendered songs by Mohit) The music created shall make this album a collector’s item for a long time to come irrespective of the fate of the film. It is pure. Do grab the album if unable to see the film and grab it even if you do.

Yet with all the rock music and wonderful locations through which Jordan travels it stays a love story.The language of the storytelling is musical though from the words of Kaamil & compositions of Rahman. The intensity would have heightened had Fakhri been a better performer but she doesn’t make the cut. It is all left to Ranbir and he does a splendid job by himself. It would have been enough had the movie been shorter but Imtiaz Ali like most directors has seriously self indulged in assigning a longer time span to the lead pair thereby losing the plot someplace. He ends up reducing the performance of  Shernaaz Patel and a lot of others ( Heer’s mom ) into cameos. Another is of the late Shammi Kapoor who plays a shehnai master ( Jameel Khan ) who spots the talent of JJ thereby easing his passage into the recorded music world. This is his last movie yet the fire in the elder Kapoors eyes has not dimmed from his hey days in Junglee. Fitting it is that a small semi porn film seen by Heer & JJ has the title "Junglee Jawani". We have the regular humdrum caricatures of the mean parasitic music moghul  ( they just cant be anything else, Rock On gave us a balance of both the good one and bad one) here we are left with a badly wigged loudmouth( Piyush Mishra, hamming away ). Aditi Rao Hydari looks pretty in her part which is slightly bigger than her "Delhi 6" one and with lines and it may just get her noticed for larger parts. Anil Mehta’s camera weaves its magic in capturing the magic of the urban centers of Delhi, Mumbai and Prague to the snow filled beauty of Kashmir and the frames leaves one breathless.The frames are dew fresh.

What doesn’t work for the movie is its length( 18 reels and a full 190 mins ).No fault of the editor though she has done a splendid job, it is Ali letting the reins loose. 

What works is an innate honesty to the central character. It may not be Imtiaz Ali’s finest work to date but when it comes to romance his grip on the sensitivity of portrayals is as good as any one like say a Yash Chopra . Chopra had his romp in the mustard fields of the Punjab, the tulips & daffodils of Switzerland, Well its Ali's turn now to have his motorcycle rides on snow banked roads of Himachal/ Dalhousie/ Kashmir…every maker is allowed his foible which can even become a trademark. 

Finally If a question is asked whether this movie should be seen at all , Yes it must, definitely for one Mr.Ranbir Kapoor  & one Mr. A.R.Rahman. It is a journey for your senses. You too are entitled to indulge yourself :-)

28 October, 2011

A pod of cheer

 ‘Do come soon. I am waiting for you Rahul, we have to go together’. The voice came from a beautiful girl; the soft morning sunlight was in her eyes. The short sleeve blouse under a rust orange sari displayed evenly tanned brown arms. A keener observer of the female form could also get a glimpse of the slim waist through the transparent chiffon. The smile still played on her lips and the eyes sparkled as she brushed something off her cheek that flew in the air…it was a dandelion pod. The passerby envied Rahul, whoever he was. Obviously it was the first flush of a gentle story at its very beginning.

The pod in the mean time was carried on by a gust of air and it flew high up. In the trajectory of its flight it executed a gentle twirl and settled on a head covered in an embroidered cap favored by Marwari jewelers. The wearer of the cap was oblivious to its presence. His phone rang and he screamed in delight “How much is it up by? 32%, kya baat kar raha hai…sell all that we picked up yesterday…how much deducting brokerage? Rs.48 Lakhs , that means about Rs.16 Lakhs profit? Done deal…he shook his head in frenzy…he was obviously thrilled with his recent glad tidings. But right there in the middle of a busy market he could not share it with anybody so he just galloped along in search of a body who could properly admire his genius. This sudden motion of his though dislodged the light pod and it carried on in the air.

A small little girl saw it and stretched out her palm. She was a grubby little beggar girl with grime all over her face and a dress that had more dirt than clean patches. But the pod in her hand jumped up a few times and settled there. She closed her palm around it in a hollow so as to not damage it. Her face despite its obvious hardship had a gamin charm and she beamed at everyone around her. Her other palm was stretched out for largesse that had not been in her lot for a few days. The light at the crossing turned red and she got into action tapping on the windows of the cars…hands came out and before she knew she had a few crispy notes from three cars…more money than she had seen in the last month could be anyones educated guess and they wouldn't be off the mark. “Aaiiiii” she shouted at her mother as she showed her collection, she had quite forgotten about the pod in her other hand that flew up and settled on the window of the car and fell in on to the sari of an elderly woman in the backseat.

The lady who had absent mindedly plunged into her purse to give the note to our beggar girl was occupied in thought. She was on her way to the hospital. Her husband was in a coma over the last fortnight after a heavy fall he had sustained. He slipped on the steps & had cracked his skull. Now even the doctors had stopped predicting when he could be out of it. Through the styling of her apparel, her large car and general well being one could sense prosperity, there were worry lines etched on her face due to the hospital visits. The lines did not ease up as she entered the special ward. As she sat on the bed and passed a hand over his forehead, the pod rolled and fell on the blue smock worn by the comatose patient. At that moment his eyes fluttered open and recognizing her, he smiled. Her eyes filled up as she hugged the fragile form on the bed & this made the border of her sari billow. The pod flew out of the room and settled on a starched hemline of a matron passing by the door.

The matron was a good looking woman in her early to mid forties but she was tense. Her boy who had finished his graduation had gone for his first job interview. She was quite sure that he would get the job but he had told her that he would have an additional surprise for her. The nursing community and her job in which she had spent over 25 years only made her dread surprises. She turned as the young nurse at the reception called out to her, Matron call for you. She hurried over and picked up the phone. “Mum, about the job…can you come down for a second, I am at the reception and I don’t know how to tell you? His voice broke and the Matrons heart was filled up with anxiety. She hurried down. As she reached the spot she found a young man who hurried over and hugged her. “Enda Monay…she affectionately murmured in Malayalam…I am still on duty…the hug had dislodged the pod from her hemline and it had stuck to the side pocket of the young man. Mum I got the job and then he turned and expectantly brought forward a young good looking girl wearing a rust coloured orange sari. Mum, this is Jini Thomas and she has agreed to marry me. Jini’s eyes had the same sparkle from the morning as she bashfully met those of her future mother-in-law. Only when she was enveloped in a big warm hug and she exhaled, that Jini realized that she had been holding her breath. The Matron looked at both of them with a mock sternness and then pushed them out…Go Rahul, you and Jini go out and have some fun. We shall meet later at home and you can tell me all about it. Jini you too are to be there…We have a lot to talk about this rascal.

The matron was beaming as she walked in. She saw the driver of Mrs. Rastogi whose husband had been admitted in a coma two weeks back distributing sweets to everyone on the floor. She turned back once to see Rahul and Jini walk out of the door arm in arm…something flew in the air dislodged from Rahul’s pocket, the wind gently blew through the wispy threads of the pod from the open door and  brushed across her face. 

It was a happy wind. The pod flew on …

03 October, 2011

A new genre in cinema UP: Sahib Biwi aur Gangster, a review

There is a new geography in popular Hindi cinema today, Uttar Pradesh. We have had Romantic films, Comedies, and Action cinema from here but arguably the most popular have been those films that have used this geography and its peculiar nexus of Politics, Underworld social ethos in the hinterlands as a backdrop. So popular is it that this has almost attained the status of becoming a genre.

Genre, I must be kidding right? Take a look at some of the films that have been released in the recent and middle past and take a call. Vishal Bharadwaj’s stable has given us Maqbool, Omkara, Ishqiya; Anand Rai’s Tanu Weds Manu; Prakash Jha’s  Gangajal, Apaharan, Rajneeti & Aarakshan. Tigmanshu Dhulia made a smooth debut as a director with his first film “Haasil” which was an excellent display of the politics on college campuses in the state. This film jump started the career of Irfan Khan for his chilling performance as a student leader. Tigmanshu Dhulia made some other films in between like Charas which didn’t shake the box office but with his latest “Sahib Biwi aur Gangster” it would be surprising if he is not recognized as a director of serious merit even at the cash counters.

“Sahib Biwi aur Gangster” as a title is a take-off on the Guru Dutt films production directed by Abrar Alvi titled Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam. The inspiration sure is from the earlier film but it is in the adaptation of the storyline where the similarities end. This is without a doubt a triumph of the script.

The plot is clear, fast paced and finely nuanced. It hinges around the three principle characters of the Sahib ( Jimmy Shegill, in superb form as an erstwhile prince riding on the borders of financial peril), Biwi ( Mahie Gill, his manic, scheming queen , competent) and the gangster Babloo ( Randeep Hooda, the ambitious goon cum driver, excellently underplayed). The Sahib is scrambling to regain his lost glory through the route of tender contracting and even contract killing for money to achieve the ultimate aim of a political victory. He has to for this, seek favours from a politician he helped elect ( Rajiv Gupta, absolutely standout performance in its smooth oiliness ) and a rival contractor mafia goon Gainda Singh ( Vipin Sharma, a natural who looks the part ). The sahib has his coterie of loyalists who abound the palace grounds; his protective shadow and trusted bodyguard Kanhaiyya ( Deepraj Rana , very convincing) his saucy daughter who cannot stop talking ( Deepal Shaw, a wee bit over the top but palatable) and his mistress ( Shreya Narayan, a sensitive and sensual performer). 

The story line centers on the Raja in his quest and shifts to the plotting Begum. Babloo is planted into this household by Gainda Singh as an informer. He has a tryst with the Begum. The Begum has her own agenda to retain the Sahib in the haveli and wean him away from the mistress. These are the plots and sub plots that are so skillfully weaved in that one waits for the next unexpected turn quite vicariously, and it comes with a punch.

The characters are deeply etched and masterfully executed which show the directors grip on the storyline. It is almost Brian De Palmaisque in its treatment. The backdrop of UP is now familiar yet the locales chosen for staging this drama are beautiful , stark and lonely. The camera by Aseem Mishra ( Once Upon a Time in Mumbai fame ) captures this so finely yet stays in the background bringing the characters to the fore of a beautiful frame. This is elegant camera work. Another technician who stands out in this venture is the sound designer Rakesh Ranjan. Music ( Songs ) does not overpower but the compositions in the audio track are powerful. They shall not be hummed popularly for sure but savored by aficionados who shall admire the compositions and keep wondering in which film did they hear it in. 

This movie though is through and through a directors cut, for the manner in which he has extracted performances from his lead trio that are beyond what they have shown us so far in their careers. For this alone Tigmanshu Dhulia can very well stand up and take a bow. When one sees this plot of layered agendas it is not surprising to understand the buzz in the industry created for his next “Pan Singh Tomar”. 

11 September, 2011

Vinayaka's RTI

RTI : ‘The Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI) is an Act of the Parliament of India "to provide for setting out the practical regime of right to information for citizens." The Act applies to all States and Union Territories of India. Under the provisions of the Act, any citizen may request information from a "public authority" (a body of Government or "instrumentality of State") which is required to reply expeditiously or within thirty days.

A quiet night…not quite…but almost there

It had been a long day and everyone was asleep. Well, not everyone… Ramesh Natekar, the patriarch of the house could not sleep. The hands of the clock glowed and stood between 25 & 30 minutes past 1am. The room was dark and only the electric light shaped in the form of an oil lamp glowed. This was my quiet space in the day. The routine had not varied in all of the fifty six years I had been a visitor to the house of the Natekars ; a Maharshtrian Karade Bramhin family. During this tenure as an honorary guest in their house, I had seen them grow in numbers, become older, wrinkled and fatter too. A few faces that I did see early on in the years gone by were missing and replaced by a brood of new ones. The snoring though remained the same. It was a family legacy and even the youngest carried it forward proudly and loudly. This sound bounced upon my large ears quite clearly almost like the moonlight that streaked in through the window panes.

I sensed a movement and a tiny form came closer, one hand rubbing his eyes and the other holding up his slipping pajamas at the side. He looked at me with limpid eyes full of clear intelligence and curiosity that only a child has. It was Abhimanyu the youngest male member of the family all of four years. His eyes had questions and I understood all of them. In the dark I could sense Ramesh Natekar’s eyes also on the kid though he did not move. His eyes moved on from the boy to me and he smiled. The kid’s eyes held questions. His eyes challenged me “Who exactly are you, why do you come to our house and what do you do otherwise?” I sensing Ramesh Natekar’s eyes on me looked at him and he was looking at me with an amused expression that said “Try answering him; now you shall know what we go through the rest of the year.”  None of us had spoken but there was a clear communication channel that had been established. Each one of us understood the other without uttering a sound. It was divine…I laughed at my own choice of expression. I looked at Ramesh Natekar and conveyed that I will answer the kid’s questions for sure but for you I have some some questions to ask. Will you hear me out? He slowly closed his lids once and opened them back thus sealing our agreement.

Little Abhimanyu eagerly looked at me now and I communicated to him “OK”. He took both of his hands behind his ears mimicking an action that said I am all ears and then his eyes fell on my belly and he smiled with such a glee that it reached out to me in waves.

Some answers & a few questions too:

I gazed down at my tummy and realized that it too had grown in size. The colour of my clothing had also changed for the brighter however the cut and fashion was exactly as it was from fifty six years back. I was a size three now in lieu of the size one I had been when I first was welcomed here. My name? Well… I have several but am addressed commonly as Ganesha, Ganpati , Vinayaka, Vignaharata etc. Fondly though everyone calls me Bappa and greet me with their hands folded and say “Morya”.

The fourth day of the Hindu month of Bhadrapada is when I am welcomed to all houses and am a resident for a period that varies between 1.5 days to 11 days. Your Grandfather has been getting me here on behalf of the entire Natekar family and I honor his invitation for a 1.5 day stay.

In this period I have to divide my time and soul amongst the millions of people who are my devotees. Well, if you don’t understand devotees it’s like fans or followers. Just suppose that had I been on the current craze called face book, you may have been on my friends list. But I would have a problem here because they limit the friends list to just 5000 & in the last count ( 32 seconds ago ) I had many ( 1.4 billion, 3 million , 553 thousand and 72 followers) more followers than this or any current platform could possibly handle.

Statistics aside, am blessed with the love, affection, fear and hope of a large section of the human race. Someone wise had said that “with great power comes great responsibility”. It is my job to ensure that this race retains its faith in the creative good and bonds itself for the better. But that’s the larger perspective in my reflection. Your home then becomes my seasonal home like a time share at a holiday resort. I have permanent non-seasonal homes too (temples as you mortals call them). Some of them (Eight are very highly popular and had there been a ranking system like you guys have for the leading hotels of the world; Ashta Vinayaka) have become tourist attractions by themselves. People visit them, some more than others thinking that those are my favorite abodes. There I am a host unlike here when I am the guest. You can’t even imagine how painful that can be; the pain of having to receive so many people & being polite all the time. While the guests only come with more expectation than faith. Some even come to proposition a trade for my blessings. Good Health, Prosperity top the list of asks. There is no rest when I am home so basically the eleven days that I get to go into people’s home to enjoy their hospitality is a lot easier as the nights are peaceful, even if the night reverberates with gentle and not so gentle snores like now.

I am a god of plenty and people have dissected me even into pseudo management principles thereby almost making me into a corporate icon. Stating that large ears means listen more, sharp eyes mean focus, long nose for smelling out things….give me a break. What would you do when you are saddled with an elephant head? Do people even realize my difficulty? It is said that my mom Parvati made me and I didn’t have an elephant head then. I had a fight with my dad. My mother was changing and kept me outside to guard the room. It was then my Dad walked over and wanted to enter. I didn’t allow it and he got angry with me. On his high handedness even I got angry and I told him I was not allowed to let him enter. We fought and “I literally lost my head”, it was then my dad realized what he had done and in a fit of haste asked his assistants to go and fetch the first head of the animal who walked across their path. An elephant walked across and they grafted his head on me. Imagine Abhimanyu I was as small as you and they put an elephants head on my body. The weight of head made the belly come out. Now I eat like an elephant too. But do they give me any variety in food…no. Somebody somewhere decided that I loved Modak’s ( steamed momo’s with sweet grated coconut filling ) and nothing else. Would you like it? Abhimanyu shook his head from left to right quite vehemently.
How would you feel when you see pangats (batches) after pangats of people sit before you and eat a rich variety of food served on a banana leaf and all that you are given are 21 modaks. So what if I am a god is so much sugar good for me?

Then when I feel like asking for something else in the morning a Brahmin comes and with express speed hurls Sanskrit mantras at me. Why doesn’t anyone speak to me in Marathi or English or their mother tongues ? I would actually prefer that. Sanskrit is a dead language now. The host who sits for the puja knows even lesser of the mantras than the priest who is muttering them with one eye on the donation thali and the other on his watch. He is rushing through skipping a line here and there because he has to go to 12 different houses today. Now by the time I am hungry all I am done is drowned under flowers and people come and donate more grass twigs, leaves and flowers, look this also attracts flies. Then there is the aarti or the prayer where all the family gathers to loudly yell it in my ears. For god’s sake…yes I too have senior gods in the pantheon, I can invoke their names too, and why do you yell your prayers so loudly is my query? You have invited me home and I am here, not far away in the heavens. Should you be soft it would be good on my ears. They are anyway so big that they can pick up the sounds from far far away. Mrs. Natekar senior now look at her, she is in so much of a hurry to wrap up this session that she is stifling the others. It’s the same with everything she does, your granny, Abhimanyu. "Get it over with quickly"Natekar should have been her name, hey what is the big hurry? Do it softly, do it slowly let everyone participate. Just because she is loudest and senior most in age, the other members don’t vocally object but quite frankly the rest of the family does want to do things differently now.

And you Ramesh saheb, do you think I should file a RTI for some of the questions that have baffled even me. Ramesh Patankar’s eyes sparkled with curiosity and hence I elaborated. I am not getting into the age old philosophical argument of did god make man or man make god. Now that we are here, the two of us the old argument can be set aside, my queries are

  • You guys wear some zany clothes, why don’t you guys have me in something comfortable for a change. Is there a law against it, a god wanting a change of clothes?
  • If you guys like me so much and have me over why do you dance with abandon when you see me off? Is that truly polite?
  • When did the practice of dancing drunk before my procession commence? and why to truly rambunctious songs. Some Munni somewhere became badnaam, why does it have to be my see off song? 
  • Why do you dunk me and drown me in water, look what you have done to the environment. Is there any reason specific that I have to be dunked, where is it written in the Veda’s, imagine you are invited by your daughter to stay with her for 11 days and at the end of the day she takes you into the nearest pond and drowns you, would you like it? No, that’s not the way you treat guests that you invite home or should you? Is this legal and allowable when it is done to gods?
  • As a god why I am not expected to exhibit morality? Should anybody and anyone who prays before me be the recipient of my blessings? Can't I refuse when corrupt politicians and criminals also invoke me before beginning their nefarious schemes?
  • Finally I need to eat differently and need a more balanced diet (prasad)…only modaks is a strict no no…check whether one of these new age devotees of mine like a Ms. Rujuta Divekar can design a new diet Prasad for me, then by the time i am back the next year I wouldn’t have to be seen as obese & sedentary all the time. 
So totally engrossed in passionately recounting my grouse when a characteristic snore interrupted my monologue…I looked up only to see that old Ramesh Patankar had finally fallen asleep.None of my queries had reached him. Maybe next year I shall file one before coming here, I will have Riddhi & Siddhi ( my consorts) remind me in the month of Shravan itself….let me enjoy the undisturbed solitude for now 

20 August, 2011

"Sind" to "Sindhu" is this change required in the National Anthem?

In the midst of Anna Hazare's fast against corruption and mobilizing the nation into a rock star's fervor and the Indian Test Cricket team getting a sound thrashing in England it was possible to miss out on this snippet that slipped through into the newspapers without making much noise.That makes it no less relevant.

Reference: A PIL  (Public Interest Litigation) filed in the High Court of Bombay, by Shrikant Malushte, Retd Professor of Photography, to amend the word “Sind’ in the National Anthem to the word “Sindhu” ,  Published in the leading dailies on 18th Aug 2011

The Gist of the PIL

The petitioner Mr. Shrikant Malushte objects to the usage of the word “Sind” in the national Anthem and his insistence that it be changed to “Sindhu” are 1) The province of Sind is no longer in India and hence the Indian National Anthem should not carry the word. 2) By having & using the word Sind in the Indian National Anthem there is a “deliberate implication and attempt on part of the Indian Government ( according to the petitioner) to retain Sind as a province within India”.That's the message which is getting sent across is what he says.

Should a matter require screening before being defined/qualified as a PIL?

There are legal cases and there are legal cases, some of which come before the High Court. One needs to examine whether the matter placed on record really merits the time that gets spent on it. The courts are busy as such with a huge backlog of cases of both Civil &Criminal nature. It is a question that when the courts of the land are used to tend to matters frivolous should there be a penalty imposed on the people who wastes its time. The National Anthem case is one such.

Does this case deserve merit at all, is my basic issue? To refute the points of objection, one needs to understand what the significance of the creation is before it became a National Anthem.
  1.            Jana Gana Mana was composed by Rabindranatah Tagore as an ode to the nation that was a unified province then. It was amongst two of the shortlisted songs for the National Anthem amongst the many patriotic songs written. The other one was Vande Mataram by Bankim Chandra Chatterjee. There is a popular anecdote which refers to the choice of Jana Gana Mana being done because the band playing it could not compose “Vande Mataram” during the flag hoisting of Independent India. These stories apart both are great creations and compositions by poets of repute. One is selected and is the National Anthem and the second one is also popularly sung, it did not get forgotten or lost in the anals of history.

  2.     Tagore did not write the word "Sindhu" the river but "Sind" the province and we can easily see the reasoning when the sequence is sung. Punjab, Sind, Gujarat, Maharatta, Dravid, Utkal, Vanga. It is logical and yet poetic, plus it’s the poet’s independent creation. Does anyone have the right to impinge on this individual freedom of a creator just because he finds this one particular word offensive? And is it really that Offensive. Its intent is not offensive. Changing the word “Sind to Sindhu” which is a river one robs the rhyme of its logical beauty. Does anyone have this right? Creative freedom in a democratic society is a fundamental right, the right of expression.

  3.      The 1950 ruling that gets referred to where the plaintiff mentions that the court had instructed the change to be made but it was never implemented can also be an erroneous judgment. Judges are human too and can make mistakes. If Mr. Malushte feels this is objectionable, he could petition the Courts and governments to change the whole National Anthem from Jana Gana Mana to some other song instead. That is certainly within his fundamental rights as a citizen of the country. But to change a song itself, is neither his right to ask for nor demand and certainly not within his right to petition the courts for. It is like having some Frenchman getting up to question why is the Mona Lisa smiling, and if she does have to smile why so enigmatically? That is not acceptable to me. She should not be smiling enigmatically, either paint her lips upward or erase the smileoff and let the rest of the painting remain. The person would be quietly escorted off the premises of the Louvre and told, gentleman please go home and don’t come back if you don’t wish to see it.

  4.      On a teaser note to this article and demand by Mr. Malushte for his Sindhu, all our Veda’s and Upanishads, The Ramayana and Mahabharata have been composed and have supposedly also happened on the banks of the Sindhu and Saraswati rivers. Today all of these provinces are in the dominion of Pakistan, should there be changes made in Valmiki & Vyas Muni’s creations too today because they geographically do not suit us? 
History is a record of the walk of people who roamed the earth before us and left behind their footprints. These footprints in all the fields may it be Art, Science, Culture, Law, Religion and even Faith have served us as guideposts to learn from. One truly cannot and should not change or even attempt to change history itself because then you erase the data that is our cornerstone for development and progress. Learning to accept it, tolerate it and moving on is the best way forward. 

Today long after the poet is dead and gone and not around to defend himself and his creation; Mr. Malushte wakes up and takes this matter before the court of our land. This is when even our neighboring country Pakistan (if ever anyone had a case to do so it would be that Nation) has never officially expressed an objection to this word being a part of the Indian National Anthem. So does this PIL have any merit at all? 

05 July, 2011

Delhi Belly : A New Cinematic Lingo ?

There are quirks that people have while watching films in cinema halls. The most common one is to carry tub loads of popcorn and cold drinks to partake inside. I have two. Eating A-1 samosa’s from Gurukripa ( In most cinema halls in Bombay, they are standard fare ) as soon as the movie starts. By nibbling on their crisp jackets, eating each one slowly from the outside all the way in, no sooner the lights go dark is one. The second quirk is to skim read the censorship certificate of every film completely. In my early days of this quirk, the attention would be focused on the number of reels. I would feel puffed up with the power of this knowledge that I alone in the entire dark theatre really knew how long this film is. Today have graduated from those simplistic timess to reading all the data on it. It should therefore not be surprising that such weird behaviour often begets a remark…he is certainly certifiable. Anyways…There was something different about the one flashing here for the film “Delhi Belly”. It was not the “A” rating, nor the 10 odd reels which declared that the film is short enough not to require an interval, but in the language of the film certified here; English & Partially Hindi. Wow…had I read that correct? I looked again..yes it said the same thing. My interest was tickled.

From the manner in which the camera pans the first frame straight into a pig sty like accommodation, we step into the world of the three pigs that live there. They are so ordinary that in their ordinariness lies their appeal. They squeal at each other and loll about in their muck with such gay abandon that one can’t but hold back giggles at this. The first little pig Tashi ( Imran Khan ) is a reporter, The second little pig Arup( Vir Das ) is an ad agency designer and the third pig with a huge pork belly, Nitin ( Kunal Roy Kapur ) is a photographer. This sty is owned by a landlord who has his own parallel track beefing up the storyline. The ensemble cast has two cute looking sow’s Sonia & Menaka ( Shehnaaz Treasurywala is the rich girlfriend of Tashi & Poorna Jagannathan plays the free spirited distraction respectively) . The two are by no means here as pure eye candy,they are the spice and the catalysts for this insane plot, propelling it further and faster in furious circles. The most notable addition to this ensemble cast of characters is the snake Somayajulu ( Vijay Raaz absolutely brilliant ) and his fellow sidekicks played by a competent foursome. There is also a saucy parakeet ( Anusha Dandekar) in a special role and a Bear in white trousers that dances like Mithun Chakraborty displaying its hairy chest in an item number ( Aamir Khan) that round up nearly all the central animals of this animal farm.

Is this a movie review of Delhi Belly? Well not exactly, it’s too late in the day to write a review.But what the heck...its late so what...Ok its a personal take ( review in brackets ) of this absolutely delightful film.

The plot is simple. A bunch of diamonds to be couriered to Vijay Raaz get mixed up with a stool sample (Shit Happens…the tagline of the movie …) and this exchange gets routed through all the characters detailed above in the farm. Their unpredictable reactions to each predictable turn taken by the plot bring in an element of fun and this is what keeps us hooked.

The movie is mad and totally funny primarily because it does not at all attempt to be so. The winner here is the cutting edge camera that captures both the grittiness of the environs, may it be the long antlered roach on a pizza slice or a flashily bizarre disco number, completely making us co-conspirators in the plot. Closely following is the brilliant screenplay, the language of which is actually the language of everyday usage. This is my lingo. What charmed me also was one amazing dream sequence of the jilted Arup. We have watched dream sequences in cinema right from the big dream merchants who made big films that we have been raised upon. Raj Kapoor had long winding staircases leading up to clouds or balconies on which the hero and the heroine would sing their song whether they were happy or sad, The Mukherjee brothers, Shakti Samanta and a host of others had them running around trees or sliding down the slopes of the Kashmir Valley. Yash Chopra had Switzerland and his yellow tulips after he graduated from the mustard fields of the Punjab. These sequences have never felt real to me because when I am angry, happy or sad I don’t dream of singing or crying amongst the tulips…Ja Chudail is that iconic number of pure funky retribution and “yes, this is the stuff that make my dreams when I am pissed off.  I do dream this way"

The Music by Ram Sampath is sterling. The lyrics of Amitabh Bhattacharya, Munna Dhiman, Ram Sampath, Akshat Verma who is also the scriptwriter and Chetan Shashital are so fresh that the music album is sure to achieve cult status along with the movie. In Abhinay Deo's direction one can instantly notice that the captain of the ship is having fun directing this madcap venture. The fun element translates from his mike into the skin of the characters who are having a blast by themselves. The beauty of the performances is that no one is a comic. Each one is playing a part of the character. There is no hero though the three are central to the plot. It is in the situational turn that the humour bubbles out and comes at you in waves…one after the other. The performance to note is of Vijay Raaz playing a gangster with such a fine precision that is pure Tarantino in its manically sane delivery. His edge is in the eye and the tone of his voice, they convey all. It’s a masterful performance. The other standout character performance is that of the girl Menaka played by Poorna Jagannathan. There is a gypsy like free spirited adventure that she brings to the part. She is comfortable in her own skin & in this comfort she projects a sensuality that packs quite a wallop. This is a girl to watch out for ahead.

There are frames that reminded me of scenes from movies that I liked, these were not lifted mind you but seemed familiar just the same. The first shot took me to Sai Paranjpes Chashme Buddoor where 3 young men while away time in a room smoking one cigarette butt and this is passed around. Here there is indolence and laziness passed around on display. Tarantino's influence also seems strong in the scene of the shootout in the hotel room bullets flying everywhere. Vishal Bharadwaj had done it earlier in Kaminney during the climax, Deo does it here. 

Apart from the title " Delhi Belly " nothing in the script or screenplay remotely even alludes to Delhi. The lingo is pure Bombay and its is reflected in the choice of swear words and the accents of their delivery. Which brings us to the point where this soliloquy started...Language. This language is a new morality by itself and if Indian cinema is losing its prudishness it is a sign of a maturing audience preference.  

The much talked about “bad” language for which the producers applied for the “A” certification right at the beginning makes one wonder whether this was a strategic play. If it was then it has succeeded because the film apparently has sailed through without a single cut. This has maintained the flow and pace of the plot. If by this one infers that  the censors are maturing too ( should this be a reality for all and not just Aamir Khan ) then it sure is a welcome sign for all film makers and cinema as a whole.

Swear words in any language have a flow and grammar all of their own. Here one goes beyond the literal meaning of the word. The grammar of the swear word lies in its phonetics; in its intonations. The same word can become a hiss of anger, a mortifying insult  or even a fond term of endearment. Try it. It has a liberating power whether one does it in Hindi,  English or English + Partially Hindi J

18 June, 2011

Mum's Kitchen, Panaji: Goa, Susegat and a Divine food experience

Susegat – The Stately Spirit
There are holidays and then there are holiday destinations. In India however, can say this with some authority, having travelled to almost all the corners of this country, if any one state symbolizes the “chilled out” holiday spirit, it has to be the state of Goa.

Try it if you don’t believe me. Just utter the word “Goa” around anybody and ears perk up. This state had for a long time been my business territory and even then when a trip here was planned, it had me very wary of this one fact. “Oh...so you are going to Goa hmmm”…the underlying message would be, better bring orders and keep your business expenses low, you aint on a paid holiday. I could never elicit the same response when the destination was “Ankaleshwar” or “Vapi”.  Goa evokes this peculiar reaction from people without fail.

There is something special in that air…it relaxes you like nothing else as a languor seeps into your bones, the local word for it is “Susegaat”. It comes from the Portuguese word “Socegado” which loosely translates into a laid back serenity or simply said "just to be" doing nothing is the silent part. This typifies everything here. Nothing is hurried and all shall happen in good time…brilliant attitude for a holiday but totally frustrating if you are here on business. Our holiday starts the moment we book the tickets to here, some part of the susegat starts creeping in, to stay within us until a few days after we are actually back like a delicious hangover. The place is on the world tourism map for its Churches, Temples, absolutely stunning beaches and the curious confluence of cultures Hindu Indian & Christian Portuguese which has created a cuisine like nowhere else on this planet.

Of course this article is about food…but you are wondering as to why this long prattle on the state and its spirit? Without being in tune with this spirit you may not enjoy Goa to the fullest. On a very generic basis across the state in any kind of eatery that one frequents the food is by and large good and I mean really good. But this too like its stately spirit will take its own sweet time coming to you. The cooks take pride in doling out fresh stuff on your plate like all good cooks do anywhere but here the preparations are involved, the curries take some time to make so do be patient. Relax with a drink or a chilled beer, the food will eventually happen to you. The common offerings are nearly all from the water bodies around. A huge coastline, six main rivers Mandovi, Mapusa, Chapora, Zuari, Sal & the Terekhol with more than forty odd estuaries provides some of the best Seafood varieties. Fish, Crab, Shells, Lobsters, Prawns and Squid to be later ladled out with curries, masalas or just tossed around in plain butter and pepper sprayed with vinegar & sugar. The leaning on meats is towards red meat so we have mutton, beef and pork much more common than fowl.
What should the vegetarian traveler do here? Till the mid 1990’s I would very confidently have told you in one word…Starve.

The variety on offer for the Vegans was truly limited unless one had relatives who could cook you the famous white pea curry called “pandhrya vatanyachi usal” and if you could have this, the sol kadi and rice day in day out you could last the term of your holiday. But that’s sufferance and the locals were not bothered. We didn’t ask you here so don’t come here and make demands. When you come here, fall in line or plain stay away. But for the non vegetarian this was “Cuisino Paradiso” so they came in droves both Indian and the foreign. Both lingered on for more time than they planned. There was one Kamat Hotel in Panaji which gave you breakfast, meals and snacks. Its still around but now one even sees a ghastly sight like Hotel Shiv Sagar from Bombay serving pav bhaji. Bhelpuri too is available for those who can’t live without it, but don’t even ask me. I write for the purists those pure souls , the people who can experience this state as it is without any embellishment rather than trying to change it to what they would want it from back home. For those changeling vegetarians…I tell them…please stay at home. This article is not for you.

Mum’s Kitchen – Miramar ( Panaji )

In this food paradise standing quietly and tall amongst all eateries serving authentic traditional Goan cuisine is “Mum’s Kitchen” at Campal, on the road to Miramar beach from Panaji. We discovered this place quite by accident about five years back and over the years we have made close to a dozen trips to Goa and every one of these trips included several to this one eatery. The last trip we had a few days back it was with a fairly clear agenda all meals here, why bother searching for something better in the rains when this one was nestled right next to where we stayed.

Circa 2005 it was November and we found ourselves wandering around Panaji hungry. We had come from the beaches of Wagator and it was late in the afternoon. The regular joints in Panaji had closed their lunch sessions and we had no recourse but to move towards the Marriott on Mandovi. Just before we took the turn to reach the Marriott  a small wooden board on a shaded bungalow beckoned us “Mums Kitchen”. Turning we parked our rented two wheeler on the footpath and walked in. The place captivated us right from that instant and we didn’t know then, that it was the beginning of a long lasting love affair. A small garden walkway bordered by mini rock pools over a red tiled patio welcomed us. Two flat carpenters benches were laid out with pots of ash for those who had to wait or couldn’t do without their puff. The garden is lush and tangled with such a startling variety of shrubs and flowers, trees and creepers, there is even a clump of bamboo it’s unbelievable. This tangled mass somehow is so harmonious that sitting on the bench one could just sit and stare and be at peace. It’s the Indian version of a Japanese rock garden is what came into my mind, if ever there could be such a thing. This garden is visible to the restaurant patron through tall & wide clear glass windows.

We entered to find a few tables occupied and asked them whether the kitchen is open as we were hungry. The waiter (today we know his name, Maxi) nodded in a friendly manner and said we are open 11 am to 11 pm. The place inside is just as warm. Wooden beams across the ceiling on which hung potted plants. On pale green walls hung hand paintings of the landscape of Goa. There was a small bar that had a grinding stone and a wicker basket with huge dried coconuts, it was wacky but it worked. Faint music was playing from unobtrusive speakers and we asked for beer. The beer deliciously chilled arrived in pilsner glasses. Maxi recommended try the fish fofo’s first with warm Goan bread and butter, with a suggestion go slow till we bring your main course. This is for your immediate hunger. We were pleasantly appreciative of this and it takes something to get a smile at a restaurant from my wife unless it’s something special. It’s the Hotel management background that turns her eagle eye on to everything all at once. When it took in the clean napkins, the sparkling cutlery and the warm plates she smiled in satisfaction. I now only hoped the food would be just as good. This is where we were to be taken by real surprise.

We had ordered for a plain Fish Curry ( King Fish – Surmai ) and Sannas ( Goan bread which is a steamed bread more like an idli but slightly sweet on account of coconut milk in it ). The Sannas served first as he returned to get the curry was so delicious that we had gobbled them all up much before he came back. We looked sheepishly at the serving waiter who smiled and asked, one more? Please. The fish curry comes with unpolished steamed rice. While he went to get our second Sannas we looked at the fish curry portion. It was sizeable with four huge fillets and enough curry. It looked beautiful and the aromas wafting across had us serving ourselves. We were hungry sure, but superlative food was the last thing we expected. The curry had just the right texture, tanginess and body that when one ladled it onto the rice it was holy matrimony. The curry wrapped itself around every grain and with a portion of the fish delicately steamed in it…we were in food heaven. Our Butter Garlic Prawns had arrived with the order of Sannas and we leisurely but determinedly attacked the meal. Neither of us spoke. We simply chewed , sighed, chewed again. The tongue demanded food before the earlier morsel had gone down and talking was out of question. ( That was the first time…today we pace it out and actually communicate too… in between sighs…don’t record the sounds of the table, they may just sound pornographic on an audio tape ).

The menu is wide and the flavour is on authentic local cuisine. This being Goa you may find some egg dishes and chicken too. In the menu though they are placed on the page detailed for vegetarians. That’s Goan understanding of vegetarian for you.

Over the years and our many visits we have tried most of the items on the menu and every single one of them is given care. There is a pride in its serving and in this pride lies its class. May it be the Goan Sausage or the Pork Vindaloo, the Mutton Xacutti or the Fish curries, the Prawn Balchaos or the Puddings this place serves it with style and a consistency that is exemplary. A decent enough offering on wine ( this may improve with time ) and a cocktail menu completes the list

A meal that includes beers, a good starter, a main course and dessert for two would set you back by about Rs.1500/- if you go overboard on the Wines and the drinks then you would seriously dent the pocket. This place is neither cheap, nor over the top expensive. It is definitely serious value for money for a discerning diner.  On this visit when we had all our meals here, we happened to ask Maxi… still the principal face of service here…who is the Chef? He laughed and said we have no chef…Our owner Maria Suzette Martin has designed a menu with recipes from all corners of Goa, some of them (recipes) even lost to locals. We have a designed stock sheet that creates and maintains the consistency. He told us that we also have a yacht where we can take you out on a private cruise for parties of size 2 to 12. We would be doing that soon.

It was raining when we reached for our last meal of this recent trip on 12 July,  noon. We had a late afternoon flight. Sitting on the patio…just the two of us…on the bench cradling our beers, watching the heavy rain, drop & soak into the garden. If ever there was a Zen experience it was this, the absolute harmony between Ambience, Service & Cuisine.

P.S : We decided then and there that this experience needed an extension. So at the end of our leisurely lunch parceled a Beef Xacutti and Sannas to be eaten back home at Bombay…talk about pigging on cows…who else could do it but a Kau…it was divinely ordained is how I see it :-)