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The Red Devils Renaissance

The match ended yesterday with Manchester United winning 4-0 against the bottom- placed club Norwich City and we’ve heard it way too often this season. Have United finally turned a page, is this the real United, can United churn up such performances every week, does United have the consistency for the season? The first season under Ole was nothing to write home about since we ended up sixth but the start was promising. Sir Alex Ferguson(SAF) has left a void that a few have tried to fill with abysmal results. SAF’s shoes are hard to fill. Ask David Moyes, Louis Van Gaal and Jose Mourinho.

Man Utd
Manchester United

The way Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has handles the team is admirable. Keeping Pogba in check, till now, or for that matter his signings and their performances in the first season. Rumour has it that we might just be able to sign the Sporting Lisbon enigma, Bruno Fernandez as well in the next few days before the January transfer window closes. Aron Wan Bissaka and Harry Mcguire are an integral part of the back four and Daniel James is performing not as consistently as one would like but kudos to money well spent.

Liverpool will win the Premier League in a canter with a 16 point lead at the top but it is imperative that given United’s stature, a top-four finish is a must. The fight for the top four is all the more intriguing given the usual suspects and Leicester City in the mix. Chelsea and Arsenal have taken a leaf out of United’s book by giving Frank Lampard and Mikel Arteta the reigns respectively for different reasons. United have a fair chance because they are only five points adrift of Chelsea in fourth right now. It could be anybody’s game, pun intended.

To complete or compete with the squad, United need replacements for Fellaini who left for China and Ander Herrera who left for Paris Saint Germain. In my opinion, Andres Perreira, Tahith Chong, Angel Gomes, Jesse Lingard are squad players at best and although youngsters are being given their due, a lot is left to be desired. Brandon Williams has been a revelation this season, both, with his defence and offence as an able foil to Luke Shaw.

If Pogba stays and United can get some sort of a run to win some silverware then this season can be termed a success. Otherwise, Ole would be in the best position to take a call on what the next steps might be. Mike Phelan, Michael Carrick and Nicky Butt are experienced hands as backroom staff. Tweaking is required of the transferred business to weed out the Darmians, Depays, Schneiderlins etc. I am an optimist and then a realist when it comes to supporting the club that I love. If not for me, then Ole has to do it for my son.

Ole, Ole Ole Ole, Ole!

Featured

12 Strong

This is a pending movie review considering nowadays it belongs to my reading when I can find the time and this is your quintessential war movie. If you’re in it for the thrills and spills, strong language, explicit action sequences with missiles and horses in the same frame then you won’t be disappointed. Not to mention, the ladies can feast their eyes on Mr Macho himself aka Chris Hemsworth. The movie is also helped by the fact that it is based on a true story and furthers the American perspective of the war on terror.

Chris Hemsworth, 9/11, Afghanistan, war on terror, Michael Shannon, Michael Pena, Green Berets, Jerry Bruckheimer
12 Strong

The movie is stupendously shot thanks to the effervescent producer Jerry Bruckheimer who knows a thing or two about action movies from his heyday. The movie is based on the first retaliation by America against the 9/11 attacks by sending the Green Berets led by the new Captain Mitch Nelson portrayed by Chris Hemsworth ably supported by an effective star cast including Michael Shannon and Michael Pena where the team has to take the help of the Afghan Warlord General Dostum in order to pave the way for the conventional warfare which was to follow in its aftermath.

Definitely a one time watch for the adrenaline junkies and if you want to see repercussions of the sophisticated type against the mindless terror that takes shape across the world from fanatics driven by the unthinkable.

Stand By Me

It was right after my twelfth standard or high school when I was preparing for my entrance exams to go to college did my father get me a desktop computer and internet was still dial-up in the year 2000. Napster was in its nascent stage and the first song that I downloaded on it was Oasis – Wonderwall which took me 40 minutes to download and the rest, as they say, is history. I don’t need an excuse for writing about Oasis, my favourite band, but today is as good a day as any. Besides, my last blog was an amalgamation of sports and a song which was again an Oasis classic and this time the bog giving Discover Prompts relayed that we had to blog on a song. Instead, I chose the band rather than the song. Wonderwall was also the first song that I sang for an impromptu audition in college but I didn’t pass muster.

Knebworth, Noel Gallagher, Liam Gallagher, Definiteley Maybe, (What's The Story) Morning Glory, Be Here Now, Heathen Chemistry, Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, Wonderwall, Cigarettes & Alcohol, Don't Look Back In Anger, Champagne Supernova, Tambourine, Discover Prompts
Liam Gallagher

Definitely Maybe was the first studio album by Oasis which consisted of Paul ‘Guigsy’ McGuigan, Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs, Tony McCarrol, and the brothers Liam and Noel Gallagher. Liam initially joined the first three for a band called Rain when Liam suggested that they change the name and Noel was eventually asked to join and he did on the condition that he would be boss. The Gallaghers are synonymous as the brothers from Manchester and they are notorious in the same breadth as a duo who were always at loggerheads right from the start to the band’s eventual demise in August 2009. Their rivalry and one-upmanship was the kind of music and entertainment nexus that a purist would frown at. although there is no denying that the brothers were the heart and soul of it all brimming with confidence and chutzpah. If Liam had the baritone to belt out numbers such as Wonderwall, Champagne Supernova, Cigarettes and Alcohol etc, he also had the suave and the belief to crouch in front of the mike, standing still to rock a live audience with a tambourine in hand. I might differ from the majority by stating that I wasn’t the biggest fan of an Oasis live performance, Liam’s vocals in particular but my opinion could be lost in a crowd. Consider this, Oasis sang over two nights at Knebworth for a crowd above 125,000. They were the biggest band in the UK since the Beatles and cynics never shied away from calling them clones of the Beatles.

My favourite album is (What’s The Story) Morning Glory which had evergreen originals such as Wonderwall, Champagne Supernova, Don’t look back in anger. The last song is when Noel came to the fore with his singing when I could build a case for him as one of the finest songwriters of his generation and an accomplished lead guitarist. He can at present be found lending his creativity to the band the High Flying Birds while Liam as embarked on a solo career.

The first half of Oasis offerings in terms of studio albums was pioneer work right from their debut album Definitely Maybe, (What’s The Story)…, Be Here Now, Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, Heathen Chemistry but it petered out towards the end. Live Forever has been voted as the best song by Oasis fans over their official site. However, for the sheer pleasure of the guitar riffs and the simplicity of the lyrics, I would rate Wonderwall as the best. What do you think was the best Oasis album and song? Let me know your thoughts

Ps- Stand By Me is an original by Ben E King but my heading is for the Oasis song by the same name from the album Be Here Now

 

After All, You’re My Wonderwall

First, the reason for writing a blog on a weekday and not the weekend is because I follow a blog on WordPress and it said that the blogger would give open topics for interpretation every day to write on. Yesterday, it was a joke and today the topic is open. Open for me is the outdoors and nothing to beat the outdoors with physical exertions not for recreation but for the sheer thrill of competing and winning. This brings me to my favorite sports franchise Manchester United. I wake up to my wife and my kid but before all this, I used to follow the Red Devils as my true love ever since 2001, even before Ronaldo came by when Roy Keane used to hold the fort in midfield(I even have his T-shirt from the time -16). I would like to associate open, the topic, with sports, with Manchester United being the sports fanatic that I am and take this opportunity to reminisce about Man United’s victory over Manchester City at the Etihad on 03/11/19.

Sports, Discover Prompts, Manchester United, Manchester City, Open, Etihad, Peter Schmeichel, Red Devils, Wonderwall, Cityzen
Peter Schmeichel at the Etihad through the telly

As you can see from the image, Peter Schmeichel is at the Etihad through the telly when I still had TVs and not stream 1000 GB of data at 150 Mbps every month thanks to my family which includes my wife, my son and my parents. Peter has in his backdrop, the Man United away supporters who were the only ones left in the stadium and it is a pity Wonderwall wasn’t played that day. It is an oxymoron because the heading belongs to my favourite band Oasis even though Noel Gallagher, the band’s erstwhile lead guitarist, is a die-hard Cityzen. Oxymoron or dichotomy? For the record, United won 1-2 with Rashford and Martial scoring while Otamendi replied for the hosts when the game was done and dusted. Proud to add that we did the double on City when the season was curtailed.

I shudder to think about what football might look like in the foreseeable future or the lack of it given that United was on an upswing before the enforced break and Bruno Fernandez was a god-sent, cathartic transfer that is all about what United stands for. I’d like to keep my opinion for another day by leaving you with the lyrics of Wonderwall by Oasis-

Today is gonna be the day
That they’re gonna throw it back to you
By now you should’ve somehow
Realized what you gotta do
I don’t believe that anybody
Feels the way I do, about you now
Backbeat, the word was on the street
That the fire in your heart is out
I’m sure you’ve heard it all before
But you never really had a doubt
I don’t believe that anybody
Feels the way I do about you now
Chorus
And all the roads we have to walk are winding
And all the lights that lead us there are blinding
There are many things that I
Would like to say to you but I don’t know how
Because maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me
And after all, you’re my wonderwall
Today was gonna be the day
But they’ll never throw it back to you
By now you should’ve somehow
Realized what you’re not to do
I don’t believe that anybody
Feels the way I do, about you now
Chorus
And all the roads that lead you there are winding
And all the lights that light the way are blinding
There are many things that I
Would like to say to you but I don’t know how
I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me
And after all, you’re my wonderwall
I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me
And after all, you’re my wonderwall
I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me
you’re gonna be the one that saves me
you’re gonna be t

To hee hee or not to be

This blog is because I read somewhere that the reader had to write a blog on a joke or the last time the reader had a hearty laugh so here goes.

Alex or yours truly is the best of friends with Vincent and boys will be boys. We discuss football, sports in general, booze, banter, verbal bashing and anything under the sun. We basically get along like a house on fire. We were talking on the phone day before and discussing the lockdown when I had to come up with the verbal bashing of Chris which is something that I and Vincent enjoy to the hilt because Chris is our punching bag.

For the record, all three of us were colleagues not too long ago. Vincent and I, without sounding pompous, have been blessed with the gift of the gab while Chris is as well though his vocabulary is limited, to say the least. The following incident is a testament to it.

Chris gives me a message on WhatsApp to check the recommendation on LinkedIn. Now, I had told him at least a month back to write a recommendation for me since I had written for him hoping he would reciprocate which is why I thought to myself,”a long time coming”

But as luck would have it, there was no recommendation on LinkedIn for me so I reverted. He says, “you Baldy, check out a recommendation for me on my account” in chaste Hindi. This recommendation has come from Chris’s reporting manager John who Chris used to report to not too long ago. John is a well-read, knowledgeable professional and a Caucasian to boot. No harm intended I am not a racist. So Chris wants me to review John’s LinkedIn recommendation to find out if it sounds right. Get the joke? I have to one up on a native speaker and a reporting manager to boot even if I’m bilingual and Chris can’t decipher the message.

Vincent and I laughed our socks off and this isn’t a one-off when it comes to Chris and his shenanigans. Nice to recollect the story twice in 48 hours albeit in different modes. Hope you enjoyed it.

Alex, Chris, Vincent, Recommendation, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Discover Prompts, Old Delhi
Alex, Chris, Vincent, Recommendation, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Discover Prompts, Old Delhi

Continue reading “To hee hee or not to be”

Parasite

This is a movie review of one of the most talked-about movies in recent times, Parasite. Parasite won four Oscars including Best Picture and Best Picture in a foreign language but for me, it was definitely not something that was worth all the noise. Sure, storyline, direction and acting were good but in no way did it feel like as if it was the best movie in recent times as critics might have you believe.

Kims, Parks, Bong Joon Ho, Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo, Woo-sik Choi, So-dam Park, Oscar for Best Picture 2020, Best Picture in foreign language
Kims, Parks, Bong Joon Ho, Kang-ho Song, Sun-kyun Lee, Yeo-jeong Jo, Woo-sik Choi, So-dam Park, Oscar for Best Picture 2020, Best Picture in foreign language

The plot is unique with the Kims who live in abject poverty in a half-basement apartment trying to get by life with one scam at a time or trying to get by with as little an effort as possible. Juxtapose the Kims with the Parks who live in a swanky neighbourhood and have all the amenities and comforts that are required bordering on luxury. The twist in the tale comes after the Kims are working for the Parks in one giant make-believe and the Kims are threatened with exposure.

The film is a fabulous advertisement for the term Parasite with the rich trying to suck the poor dry or vice versa. The irony of the movie is not lost with the plot and the climax but for all those who haven’t yet seen it, there is an HBO adaptation that would be coming along shortly that could be as long as six hours of a reel.

There is an undercurrent when it comes to a following of Korean films amongst a section of the population and from my experience without sounding racist, the north-east in India are followers of south-east Asian films. If ever there was an opening to build on then Parasite has definitely opened the quintessential pandora’s box. I would still say that the movie did not deserve the hype or four Oscars in its kitty but is definitely worth a watch if you can get by subtitles alone.

 

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures

With Europe taking over China as the hotbed of COVID-19 and India also in the midst of taking up the honours or definitely competing for it, reactions are aplenty but being the pessimist that I am, I see a recession coming as a worst-case scenario. An acclaimed economist in a leading daily could not fathom what a recession could look like in the near to distant future for India but he gave a very potent fact stating that if we were to reduce our daily activities by 5%, then we would head into a recession.

COVID 19, COrona Virus, Gratitude, Gung Ho Celeb, Kanika Kapoor, Lucknow, #WFH, Work From Home, recession, pink slips, lay-offs,Janata Curfew, Streaming Wars, World Water Day, 22nd March, Greta Thunberg
Desperate Times Desperate Measures

Gratitude

Today, my neighbours got together at 5 pm IST(Indian Standard Time) and clapped in appreciation of Doctors, paramedical staff, security forces such as the Police and media personnel who are still working even in the face of infection at every corner. As a concerned citizen, I appreciate such endeavours but at the same time, fear for my parents who are well past their sixties and are prone to infections or complications and I wrote as such when I commented on a fellow blogger who had posted one such account on WordPress.

Gung Ho Celeb

The media is doing the right thing by informing about celebrities or politicians suffering from the Corona Virus but what do you do about a singer as reputed as Kanika Kapoor who rather than self-quarantine, attends a huge function with politicians and celebrities galore, shops at the swankiest markets of Lucknow, lodges at a chic five-star hotel in town and throws tantrums when she is admitted to a hospital. The fact that she interacted with a host of people and got them in harm’s way is another story for another day. Just so you know, there has been an FIR(First Information Report) lodged at a local Police Station against her for negligence.

It Happens Only In India

Take the case of another politician from Telangana who represents the TRS(Telangana Rashtra Samiti) and instead of being in isolation after returning from the US instead goes to his assembly constituency, attends Municipal Corporation meetings, meets several officials because he said that he had tested negative for Corona Virus and hence there was no need for quarantine.

#WFH

Now that the majority of the country has been brought under some sort of lockdown/restrictions in travel, tomorrow would be my first day of Working From Home(WFH). Only time will tell if this would translate into a successful exercise but I do know that if it continues for long then pink slips and lay-offs could be a very real possibility. I hope and I pray that it does not “come down” to that. The process to begin operating from home started in our office by a chosen few led by the Managing Partner and I saw several employees burning the midnight oil and reporting for close to sixteen hours for three days in succession. The office was only at 20% of capacity and I was not surprised given that it was the first day of WFH.

Streaming Wars

In addition, today was a “Janata Curfew” at the behest of the Prime Minister and I have never seen the roads so deserted with hardly any vehicles going by considering I live right next to the main road. I am a complete sports buff and support franchises across different sports, however, all sporting activities on the telly have gone for a toss and there is a clamouring for postponing the Olympics as well. Forget hoarding and stocking, the real fight is for eyeballs when it comes to Netflix, Youtube, Amazon Prime etc. There has been a notification by EU officials that since so many countries are under restrictions and people watching streaming platforms, Netflix has been advised to lower their streaming from 33k to a lesser number to prevent the internet from breaking. My mom watched and finished “She” and “Mirzapur” over two days while I am in the third season of Game of Thrones(GOT). Yes, I hadn’t seen GOT till now and am binge-watching. So much for constraints and restrictions.

World Water Day

I would like to end by bringing forth an occasion which needs to matter on a much grander scale by observing and adhering to water conservation efforts and celebrating World Water Day which happens on 22nd March every year. The majority of the world population is not lucky enough and there is not much access to clean drinking water. Through this, I hope, in our small and concerned way we may think of the needy and try our best not only to save water but also think about climate change so that the next generations or a Greta Thunberg has reasons to smile.

 

Honeyland

This movie would have won an Oscar if it wasn’t for Parasite in the Foreign language category even though it won big in the Sundance Film Festival. It is an engrossing tale of a female bee keeper in Europe who tries to eke out a living and maintain a balance with her environment when a nomadic tribe led by Hussein enters the neighborhood and almost manages to disrupt her livelihood.

Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov, Hatidze Muratova, Nazife Muratova, Hussein Sam,
Honeyland

The film is shot in Macedonia and the Directors Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov were supposed to originally film an environmental documentary. However, they visited the female bee keeper Hatidze Muratova over several weeks at times sleeping in tents to gather over 400 hours of footage from Hatidze’s daily life which eventually transpired in the movie.

It is a nuanced depiction of how humans dwell at times taking their environments for granted or at other times trying to inhabit  with others can be to one’s detriment. One of the quotes of the movie is, ” one half for me, one half for you” which is about a quintessential period in the life of a villager and at times being so used to the rigmarole of the city life, one tends to forget one’s roots.

Beautifully shot trying to encapsulate every happening in a village and it is a definite recommendation from my side.

The Report

The Report is a movie from Amazon Studios and is a realistic portrayal of events post 9/11 and how the CIA operated its torture chambers with impunity, lack of accountability by subverting the law and hiding it from the general public. It is due to the concerted efforts of Daniel J. Jones, played admirably by Adam Driver, who is a staffer to Senator Dianne Feinstein (Annette Bening) to investigate the CIA practices, detentions and Interrogation programs  after 9/11.

Adam Driver, Annette Bening, Daniel J. Jones, Dianne Feinstein, Jon Hamm, Scott Z. Burns, Steven Soderbergh
The Report

The movie also has Jon Hamm and is directed by Scott Z. Burns. Steven Soderbergh, best known for Traffic and Erin Brockovich is the producer and this movie had a limited theater release.

The message definitely comes across of high handed governments whether Republicans or Democrats and the highest offices still being put through accountability and owning up for their actions or operatives even if it is the most powerful clandestine intelligence agency in the world, the CIA.

A lesson in history about the background of the war on terror and even though I don’t exactly like the next statement, I have to admit that only in America can one have the audacity and courage to question the government in power or the way it functions and hold it accountable irrespective of the cost and the time that it takes. This movie showcases the intricacies of an Senate Select Committee on Intelligence which cost $40 million and took five years to see the light of the day.

Chernobyl

This is a review of an HBO mini series of the same name even though I watched it towards the end of 2019 after reading an innocuous looking article in the Times Of India where one of the Instragram Influencers posed for a snap in the ghost town of Pripyat in a bikini and tattooed arm and the waist down still being covered with a radiation suit which I thought was the biggest irony of all.

April 26th, 1986, Biggest man-made disaster, Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, Instagram Influencers, Pripyat, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
Chernobyl

April 26th, 1986 was a terrible day for mankind since one of the biggest man-made disasters happened when a safety test went wrong in Chernobyl in the erstwhile Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. A decree by Kremlin in 1988 forbade doctors from declaring any radiation related deaths but the fact of the matter is that an entire city was evacuated and thousands perished.

Forget about the great acting, the “real” picturization, the accident and its repercussions, the taut script, the high rating on IMDB, forget all that. The reason what got my attention is that I read about the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster as a part of my history book with the fatalities being in the 30s according to official figures in the 1990s . Remember that wasn’t the time of the internet boom and information coming from the Soviet Union wasn’t exactly forthcoming to the world at large with tight government control with a completely unbiased approach to typing this. Even today, not much comes out of Russia anyway, I am talking scandals and scams except for the doping scandal of Russian athletes who have been barred from the Olympics.

I found it so impressive that I am making my mom watch it today. Hopefully, this is a lot different from her daily staple and she will enjoy it.

EVC 3k Marathon

Cynthia, the Operations Manager at EVC Ventures, suffers from Cerebellar Ataxia and to create more awareness about the disorder, EVC organized its first 3k marathon. Out of 350 odd employees, around 30 volunteered to participate in the run after Friday’s shift between 6 am and 9 am. It was a pleasant morning with a gentle breeze and the sun not yet out in all its glory which made it an ideal day for putting on the running shoes. The “track” was a non-decrepit parking area 750 m in length and we had to finish four laps to finish with the marathon.

Cynthia, Cerebellar Ataxia, EVC Ventures, 3k run,
EVC 3k Marathon

Cerebellar Ataxia according to healthline.com is the inflammation or damage to the cerebellum which results in a disorder. The cerebellum is an area as a part of the brain that controls gait and muscle coordination and Ataxia refers to the lack of control of the voluntary movements.

There was a time not too long ago when I ran 5.2 km in 30 minutes and I haven’t run since the last four years though. I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to finish not too far behind the winner who took all of 13 minutes and 2 seconds. I managed to finish it in 15 minutes without stopping to catch my breath.

The event was organized really well by the company by taking into account several factors such as stray dogs, refreshments, adequate water supply, volunteers, peppy music to keep everyone on their “toes” to name a few. I have proudly displayed the certificate of completion on my desk as a reminder of the run that went by and the management’s announcement still ringing in the ear that we would have it on an even bigger scale with sponsors come November. I need to start practising for a half marathon now…

Best Phone In India Under 15,000

After considerable research of trying to find the best phone in the Indian market under the Rs 15,000 price range, I bought the Samsung M30s which definitely delivers with its specs and quality. With the mid-range segment being hotly contested with the likes of Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo and other Chinese manufacturers, Samsung has upped the ante with a hardware refresh of the Samsung M series.

6.4 inch AMOLED screen, Exynos 9611 chip, 6000 mAh battery, 48 MP camera, 16 MP front camera, 6 GB RAM and 128 GB hard disk, Amazon exclusive,
Samsung M30s Review

The hardware refresh of the Samsung M30s sticks to the original formula with its overall design and display remaining the same but there are some major changes that have been brought about. However,  the 6.4 inch AMOLED screen with a bezel-less design is definitely one of the USPs which remains as is. The Exynos 9611 chip is more powerful and efficient compared to the previous counterpart with the battery improved to 6000 mAh which would easily last you a couple of days. The main camera is 48 MP and also has the ultra-wide lens. The front camera for selfies comes with 16 MP clarity.

I have taken the slightly more expensive, due to the specs, 6 GB RAM and 128 GB hard disk space because the 48 MP camera would require more storage space. The phone can be exclusively bought over the internet and Amazon in particular.

A few of the drawbacks of the phone are that it runs Android 9 Pie which is a lot older and since Google is not supporting updates for older versions it could pose a security threat. In fact, according to Which? due to this lacuna, Android has a billion devices or 40% of the market that is susceptible. It also accepts without user approvals, a lot of spam notifications and has some bundled software which is irritating to the say the least. The camera quality under the night light is not satisfactory.

Having used the phone for a month as a backup to my Pixel, I think the Samsung M30s is a good buy, definitely better than the flood of Chinese manufacturers in the market.

 

Laureus Sporting Moment

The Laureus Sports Awards 2020 were recently held in Berlin and as a proud Indian, I had to write about the recognition bestowed by Laureus for it’s best sporting moment in the last two decades(2000-2020). Through this piece of reportage I would like to look back at the journey that eventually resulted in the winning moment with Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar on the shoulders of his teammates as a part of the victory lap at the Wankhede Stadium in 2011.

Carried On The Shoulders Of A Nation, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, India World Cup Winners, Cricket World Cup 2011, Laureus Sporting Moment
Laureus Sporting Moment 2000-2020

There were many a slip between the ‘cup’ and the lip and how India became World Cup Winners after 28 years on their home soil. There was drama early on in the group stage when India had a last ball tie with England but managed to make the quarter finals. Under the astute leadership of M.S Dhoni and Gary Kirsten, the South African coach of the Indian team, there was a pivotal change made in the playing eleven in the quarter finals by replacing Yusuf Pathan with Suresh Raina and it was exactly the tonic needed for the knockout stage of the tournament. Yours truly was a part of the semi finals by being watching it live in Mohali when India met Pakistan in the semi finals and the respective Prime Ministers of the two countries being in attendance. Who can forget the iconic moment when M.S Dhoni hoisted the winning six in Mumbai or not to forget Yuvraj Singh playing the role of an all-rounder to perfection suffering from Cancer btu still coming up trumps with bat and ball culminating in the picture for the Lareus Sporting Moment  as the “Carried On The Shoulders Of A Nation”

The Florida Project

This is a movie review of the title to this blog and at the outset, I would like to mention that it was not just critically acclaimed but also definitely worth a watch. The narrative is through the protagonist’s eyes, in this case, six-year-old Moonee, played by Brooklyn Prince, and how she spends one particular summer with her playmates and under the aegis of her rebellious single mother with Walt Disney World in the vicinity.

Brooklynn Prince, Bria Vinaite, Willem Dafoe, Moonee, Sean Baker
The Florida Project Poster

Credit is due to the director, Sean Baker, who effortlessly transcends the world of a kid even though the reality that she is surrounded with is far from cosy. Bria Vinaite plays the mother who is striving to make ends meet and wants the best for her daughter but that is not always the case. A seasoned actor such as Willem Defoe brings credibility to the supporting cast as the motel manager with a conscience or an upright man who knows what he’s doing.

The movie also ranks high on IMDB with a rating of 7.6 and I had the good fortune of watching it with my better half on Netflix. This movie is definitely one of those on Over The Top(OTT) platforms that cannot be missed because once you get hooked to the content there is a dearth of good programming to keep you hooked or you might go for trial and error to find what suits you best.

The contrast in the characters and locations is what is admirable in the movie but what really takes the cake is the unexpected climax and the sheer ingenuity of it all. Do watch it.

 

1917

For the uninitiated, this is a movie review of 1917 and this movie got several accolades along the way including the nod for best Director for Sam Mendes. The movie has been shot in a single shot with an estimated budget of $100 million and a worldwide gross of $150 million approximately. The movie is visually stunning with great camera work and a story line that easily blends into the picture. Not to mention, war movies are a preferred genre and since this revolves around world war one, it makes it all the more interesting.

1917
1917

The story is in the middle of world war one where Lance Corporal Blake played by Dean-Charles Chapman takes with him Lance Corporal Schofield played by George MacKay and the two of them are entrusted with passing on a message to a platoon of 1,600 men at a distance who are ready to attack, to not do so since it was a trap. To add a twist to the tale, Blake is also trying to save his elder brother who is a part of the platoon.

The movie has garnered three Oscars and several other nominations and awards and has a rating of 8.5/10 on IMDB(Internet Movie Database).Watch the rest of the movie and form your opinion if you like such stories.

Bombshell

If you’ve been following my blog then it would be no surprise to you that this is another movie review by yours truly. Unfortunately, the film falls short of expectations given the premier star cast even though it could have been a hard-hitting movie. Please don’t take me as an MCP(Male Chauvinist Pig) but somehow women empowerment movies still have a long way to go. Disclaimer –  I appreciate women all the more after having married an independent lady who is a mother to my kid and who contributes to the household income by working for the government.

Bombshell
Bombshell

First, the star cast and then the story. The movie has Charlize Theron who portrays the character of Megyn Kelly ably supported by Nicole Kidman who plays the role of Gretchen Carlson and Margot Robbie as Kayla Pospisil and all three of them are working for Fox News at the height of Trump’s first election campaign with the US divided between conservatives and liberals.

This is the story of how the three women with support from other women colleagues take down Roger Ailes who is the head honcho of Fox News who has built the company into a behemoth contributing a third of the revenue for Fox Network under the leadership of Rupert Murdoch.

Being a professional and a man, there is a fine line during professional and personal space respectively that one needs to tread in order to be in the safe zone when it comes to sexual overtures to the fairer sex. Sexual harassment policies are commonplace now incorporate culture and instances such as the film and media exposure to misdemeanours towards women is being given due coverage and importance. Being an Indian and being a part of a patriarchal society does give rise to misogynist tendencies. Incidents in the not too distant past have cast a dark shadow over the country but I hope too that we “progress” towards more meaningful existence of the girl child and give due respect to women in the workplace.

Ps- My mother gave more than 35 years to the banking industry and held court over several ups and downs which is something that I want my wife also to follow up with to drive home the point.

Phantom Thread

This is a movie review keeping in mind that Valentine’s Day is another week away and continuing from where I left my last blog, this movie is as romantic as can be with great actors and Paul Thomas Anderson as the director. I think, Daniel Day-Lewis is hotter as Reynolds Woodcock compared to Vicky Krieps as Alma in a strictly non-gay way or it could have helped had Paul given more importance to Alma’s beauty in a strong non-sexist way. Sure, Daniel Day-Lewis’s body of work far exceeds Vicky’s but that just adds to the notion.

Phantom Thread
Phantom Thread

The film is set in 1950’s London with Reynolds as a successful designer with an upmarket clientele whose life is a routine with painstaking scenarios until he lays his eyes on Alma the waitress who is a strong-willed woman in her own right and how the two of them fall in love. Define irony? Writing a review for Phantom Thread and I have a Google add competing for my screen space with Kate Hudson as the star of the “movie” Dubai and for me, Kate Hudson would always be the heroine of How To Lose A Guy IN 10 Days. That just about wraps it up for me. Hope I can do something without the roses come to D-Day.

 

Marriage Story

This is a movie review cum confession cum dedication towards the Valentine Day weekend coming up in part or at least in preparation of it. At 38(almost there), the definition of a romantic comedy and Feb 14 doesn’t really rhyme so this portion is dedicated to the movie about how a marriage breaks up and a family stays together, eventually with amazing portrayals by the star cast and brilliant direction by Noah Baumbach. It has been released in select theatres and is available on Netflix.

Marriage Story
Marriage Story

To bring a diary entry context to it, I had been obsessed ever since I got married three years back with the concept of divorce considering how much my parents used to bicker and be physically abusive which has defined me to an extent towards the person I am today. But going by this movie’s depiction of divorce proceedings or how much it entails when it comes to the process workflow of separation, it puts a spanner in the works when you think of taking the divorce step.

Noah Baumbach has expertly captured the scenes with the intricate details and the emotional turmoil that the couple, played by Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, go through. Laura Dern and Ray Liotta are the lawyers for the couple standing against each other. So what is the moral of the story you might ask? In a lighter vein, divorce is expensive, ask Jeff Bezos.

Uncut Gems

This is a movie review by the same name and the plot really isn’t rocket science when you have the protagonist as a hustler, gambler and jeweler in the same sentence. Rest assured, the movie is an interplay of characters slowly but surely building up to a crescendo and before I let out the ending, I would rather you watch it.

Uncut Gems
Uncut Gems

Adam Sandler is Howard Ratner, a Jewish Jeweler in New York who hustles and gets deep in debt and has to continuously raise the stakes by betting desperately at times. Julia Fox as his employee and keep also plays the part but the coup de grace is having Kevin Garnett and the Weeknd as a part of the film to give it more relevance to the story and the hustling. Safdie brothers as the directors are given ample leeway to express but somehow the anxiety and stress are missing from the story.

This movie automatically reminded me of The Gambler given the similarities in the storyline and the portrayal when push comes to shove. Uncut Gems could have a lot more chutzpa as the narrative could have been more. Don’t take my word for it.

5 Steps To A Voice Over Homestudio

The reason for writing this blog is to share how anyone reading this can set up a voice-over home studio for less than 7k INR(Indian Rupees) or less than $100 USD in five easy steps which is what I did. This is hoping that you would already have access to a laptop which would be able to download free software and a decent set of headphones for listening. Please understand that you would require a condenser microphone which would connect to an audio interface which in turn would connect to the laptop through a USB and the laptop would have pre-loaded software.

Voice-Over Home Studio
DIY: Voice-Over Home Studio

  1. Senheiser headphones which cost around Rs 1,500($21) are a prerequisite if you watch movies on your laptop or want to listen to songs even if you don’t want to set up a home studio. It is essential to have a 3.5 mm to 6.35 mm audio jack for Rs 240($3.36) because the headphones otherwise would not connect to the equipment that I am referring to in this article.
  2. A laptop would come handy which has a configuration about 8 GB RAM, MS Windows 7 or beyond and which could download software such as Audacity also known as Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) which is free, to record, edit, improvise on soundtracks, is the most popular and has an easy interface. Shotcut is a video editing free software which requires time getting used to and you might need it when it comes to voice-overs for animation or video.
  3. The Behringer U-PHORIA UM2 is an audio interface which converts the analogue signal from the microphone to the compatible digital signal of the laptop which could be represented as waveforms on the software such as Audacity or Shotcut. This device requires an XLR cable for Rs 325($4.54) to provide phantom power to a condenser microphone for it to function properly.
  4. A condenser microphone is required for a professional sounding voice which could be interpreted and treated via an audio interface and a laptop which could record the audio sample in a digital format such as mp3. I got this along with a stand and a plastic shock mount for Rs 1,900($26.56).
  5. A Pop Filter is essential to eliminate “p” sounds such as “pop” or hisses and also to prevent saliva from spoiling the mic. It should be installed at a distance between 2″ and 6″ from the mic. It would cost you Rs 250($3.50)

With the aforementioned things in mind and a little tweaking according to your liking, you can set up and soundproof your room for a professional sounding experience. Soundproofing could be done with Isolation Shields depending on your budget or pocket.

Happy recording!

Top 7 on Amazon Prime Video India

This is content on the best on offer on Amazon Prime Video India without being biased about a particular genre but giving due regards to the quality on offer.

Prime
Amazon Prime Video India

  1. The Salesman –  The movie was released in 2016 and is of Iranian origin. Let the language not be a barrier to compelling storytelling. It is about a couple starring in a play, “Death of a salesman” and how the wife is physically assaulted in the husband’s absence and how he takes it upon himself to find the criminal even though his wife is not comfortable with the idea.
  2. Dunkirk – Christopher Nolan directs this movie based on a true story where the Allied Forces are surrounded in Dunkirk by the Germans and how they were eventually evacuated with the sheer will of the Brits. Don’t see it if you are keen on dialogues because the movie is generally without too much banter. Watch it if you are a Tom Hardy fan.
  3. Razi – As an Indian, nothing can be more inviting than Pakistan bashing on celluloid especially when it comes to spies and espionage. The brilliant portrayal by Alia Bhatt and Vicky Kaushal, great direction by Meghna Gulzar and great script from the original novel by Harinder Sikka
  4. T2 Trainspotting – Danny Boyle and Ewan McGregor reunite after 20 years when Mark Renton returns to his pals in Scotland and if you watched the original then you’ll know what to expect of this sequel.
  5. Gone Girl – Starring Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike and Neil Patrick Harris, this story is about a man who finds himself in the spotlight due to the disappearance of his wife and he is not above suspicion. The movie has been adapted from a novel by Gillian Flynn who has also written the screenplay
  6. True Story – Michael Finkel(Jonah Hill) from the New York Times is a disgraced reporter and when he is investigating the murderer, Christian Longo(James Franco) who has taken on Michael’s identity then it quickly develops into more intriguing facets.
  7. Mad Max Fury Road – When water is cola and there is a tyranny that governs it. Lo and behold Charlize Theron who rebels with the help of a psychotic worshipper and a vagabond Max played by Tom Hardy.

 

Once Upon a Time In…Hollywood

Yes, this is a review of the movie by the same name which in recent times has been nominated for 10 Oscars and when the tagline of a movie states that it is the ninth film by Quentin Tarantino then I have two words for you, enough said. Quentin has come a long way from his Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction days but still commands the romance and the respect every time he comes up with his rendition of a story on 70mm. This time is a homage to the golden age of Hollywood in the late sixties.

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood(2019)
Once Upon a Time In…Hollywood

With a who’s who star cast that includes Brad Pitt, Leonardo Di Caprio, Al Pacino, Margot Robbie, Dakota Fanning, Kurt Russell and Luke Perry the film has grossed upwards of $350 million worldwide. Rick Dalton is a faded TV star played by Leonardo Di Caprio who has a stunt double Cliff Booth played by Brad Pitt and how the two of them embark on contrasting journeys to acquire fame and fortune, not literally, while they can. The movie by Hollywood standards is long at two hours and 41 minutes but is enjoyable and has scored high(7.8) on IMDB. Watch it for what it is worth.

Joker

You don’t have to be Einstein to guess this is a review or better still, a tribute to the Joker which in recent times has been a path breaker for DC Comics as a “villain” outshining several heroes in the midst. Certainly, when it comes to box-office returns. Movies are a part of me as much as sugar is a part of tea and this was an exception since I watched it in a hall with a handful of people for company by starting early from office at around 10 in the night and watching it at 11 near my house. Not to mention, I could have streamed it, downloaded it or watched a DVD in case I had the option but the movie had the right kind of buzz for me to follow suit.

Joker
Joker

With a star cast that includes Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro in the same frame would in itself be meat but that is just the starters to hook you in. Arthur Fleck is a guy with mental problems in Gotham City who is mistreated and disrespected by the society at large when he is trying to make a living the hard way. The easy way is another story altogether for another time though. This is when there is a resurgence of sorts by Arthur in a downward spiral replete with crime and anarchy which makes him come to terms with his alter-ego, Joker which could be an extension of him playing the part of a stand up comic during struggles in Gotham city.

Incredible storytelling by Todd Phillips and negativity never felt so good. Nominated for 11 Oscars and reminiscent of a couple of lines from Counting Stars by One Republic which states,

“I, feel something so right,                                                                                                            Doing the wrong thing
I, feel something so wrong
But doing the right thing”

 

 

Grade place for kids

The only thing constant is change and for my child to step into a toddler from an infant has brought about its own set of problems. Not willing to put in the towel, I have decided, god willing, to get my son admitted in school at the ripe old age of two and a half years(almost three) fraught with its own trials and tribulations.

Son, school admissions
School Admissions 2020

The stipulation from the government of Delhi regarding school admissions is that on the 31st of March, the child needs to be three and a half years old but a leeway of 45 days can be provided which is what my son falls under. Despite the government directive, some schools have refused to accept the admission form which is a precursor to the admission process itself. Fair enough, the rest of the schools that I had applied for did not admit my son when the first lists were announced for all the schools. Points are given on several different factors such as parents bein an alumnus, distance from the house, elder siblings being in the same school etc. Unfortunately, my son did not get through because he was not able to garner the requisite points. Some learned people have told me that the cut off went at 55 points.

Several well-wishers have also warned, suggested, cajoled me by stating that I should wait for another year before I admit my son in school. The only dichotomy being that if Perke(son) is admitted this academic year then he would be the youngest in the class and if I postpone the admission to next year then he would be the oldest in the class. In addition, my greatest fear is that my son has to complete his education inclusive of a post-graduation, get a job and marry before he is 28 years. Otherwise, god forbid, if he turns up bi-polar like his dad then I am not sure if he would be capable of anything with all due respect considering my mind went for a toss and only I know how much I have struggled with the burden of my genes. Sorry, mom. Another way of looking at it is that my son watches so many cartoons in such varied languages such as French, Russian, Chinese, English, etc. thanks to my dad who spoils him silly, Perke can’t come up with two straight sentences in English let alone make a conversation which is a pity. If Perke continues in the same vein for another year with his mobile, tablet and TV it could very well be another worst-case scenario.

The reason why I got down to jotting my thoughts is that for the fourth or fifth time somebody, my neighbours in this instance, suggested again that it was too early to think about Perke’s admission. With this predicament in mind, I will leave you with a quote from Hamlet,” To be, or not to be, that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles.”

French 101

French 101
French 101

The reason for not having written in the last three and a half months is the reason why I’m typing this blog. Hopefully, the means justify the end. I learnt French again at Alliance Francaise in Delhi after having done it for six years in school. Knowledge is one thing that can be never taken away from you and so it seemed.

Being an Indian and a bonafide Punjabi makes me want to emigrate to Canada. For this reason alone, I had a like-minded friend/colleague for company in the office called Nadir. Now, Nadir is the primary applicant for emigrating to Canada and knowing French would be a plus point. This is when he saw me learning French on Duolingo, an app for the uninitiated which helps in learning different languages. So he told me that I should join him in learning French with an added incentive that the crowd is really good for bachelors and married men alike and it would be good fun.

We went to Alliance to register for the course and got to know that the fee would be 27k for the duration of the course which I thought was reasonable and would add to my application for Canada being the secondary applicant. Besides, nothing could go wrong in terms of learning the language as I had already done it in school and it would be more of a refresher course.

The day that I came to pay the fee was when Nadir decided to put in his papers because he wanted to go back to Bangalore to his dad who was alone. (For the record, he is currently working in Bangladesh in the Oil & Gas sector after shifting his loyalties from Information Technology). In addition, I got to know that there were no additional points for the secondary applicant even if he knew French as an additional language. That left me as the oldest person in the class of 21 at Alliance Francaise at 37(there were a couple of guys in their 30s but I was the oldest by a long shot).

This also led to a WhatsApp group named till today – “Celibataire + 1 Marie gang”(Singles + 1 married gang) which kept me on auto mode 24*7 because I was putting nine hours each on weekends including the time spent travelling, also, with hardly any time left to do anything else.

Now that you have had your kicks at my expense, hopefully, this should translate to more expressions of the ilk via this medium. Au revoir!

7 Movies On Netflix India Worth Watching

This instalment of the best movies on Netflix India is in continuation of the previous blog and I would like to point out that it is not a random exercise. I have a list of all the movies that I have watched till now and I am sifting through the best of the lot for your viewing pleasure alone. So here goes:-

Baby Driver

  1. Baby Driver – With an innocuous outlook or a first impression about the movie, I still watched it only because of its loaded star cast with the likes of Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Ansel Elgort etc. The movie is worth its while as a popcorn flick with no strings attached and rates as 67 on the all-time top 100 in Rotten Tomatoes.
  2. Lust Stories – This Hindi movie with an adult outlook looks at sexuality in different shades. The reason why I have it as my best Hindi movie on Netflix is that it is a rendition by four contemporary directors of repute and since it is about four short stories so you don’t have to labour through it. A compliment where its due in the film is the character of Bhumi Pednekar who redefines the maid in MADE.
  3. Shot Caller – It is your quintessential larger than life hero played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau building on his Game of Thrones exploits as a recently released prisoner who is forced by his gang to commit a felony against a rival gang in California. Loved it!
  4. The Gambler – If you ever watch The Gambler and I suggest you should is you’ll know the reason why Mark Wahlberg was the highest-paid actor in the world till 2017. Sorry about no updates about the current standings. Jim Bennett is the gambler who is at the wrong end of the stick with nothing going right for him including his hormones(Literature professor confused with his student) and how it “raises” the tagline – “The only way out is all in”
  5. Whisky Tango Foxtrot – This is a woman’s perspective adapted from the book “The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan by Kim Barker played by Tina Fey with a few others for a company not to mention Margot Robbie. Very funny, has to be watched, girl power, 21st century. Hopefully not sounding like an M.C.P(Male Chauvinist Pig)
  6. Her – Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore is a lonely writer who falls in love with an Operating System without realizing the repercussions and is not to be missed for the portrayals and the voice-over of Scarlett Johansson. As a story, something we can all look forward to as a part of our future.
  7. Hell or High Water – Another movie that ranks high on both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes is the western Hell or High Water about a man who is divorced and his elder brother out of prison who desperately try and save their west Texas ranch from foreclosure by the bank. Great star cast including Chris Pine, Ben Foster and Jeff Bridges.

Top 7 Politically Correct Content On Netflix India

Better late than never when it comes to penning down thoughts in the form of a blog and what better way to do it than to spread the love through the top 7 content on Netflix that I would like to recommend to whomever who reads this. I have tried to be as objective as possible when coming up with the movies/shows/series and do bear in mind that some of them may no longer be available on the platform considering I have made a list of all the movies that I have watched since I opted for streaming platforms which include but is not limited to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Youtube, Torrents, and other OTT(Over The Top) platforms. Besides, to look at it through a philosophical perspective, we are coming to the end of the decade and as an audience, we have gone through a sea change of experiencing mediums with the advent of 4G and soon to be released 5G spectrum. So why not have a compilation of sorts? Oui? Without further ado, I would like to bring forth the best content across different genres to stand out from every other list that you might have come across.

Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Christopher Nolan, Sci-fi
Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Christopher Nolan, Sci-fi

  1. Interstellar – Christopher Nolan is a modern-day genius when it comes to out of the box thinking and hard to believe plots and to continue in the same vein, Interstellar is a masterpiece in the sci-fi genre ably supported by a good cast spearheaded by Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Jessica Chastain. The movie was acclaimed by critics and audiences alike and the plot revolves around the future of mankind by traveling through a wormhole to the far reaches of space in order to secure mankind’s future. Miss it of your peril.
  2. Breaking Bad/ Narcos – Netflix’s original series brings up a tie between Breaking Bad and Narcos as my personal favorites because, for me, both were equally riveting even though in both the series, it is about the drug trade but from very different angles or generations apart. Breaking Bad aficionados would have nothing to complain since El Camino released as well this fall and brought to an end the narrative centered around Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.
  3. Zero Dark Thirty – Jessica Chastain stars again in this real-life inspired event about the hunt for the most wanted man in the history of mankind, Osama Bin Laden and how he was ended by the US SEAL 6 team after a decade long hunt. Kudos also need to be given to Kathryn Bigelow for a realistic portrayal along with an agent’s conviction or gut feeling who eventually translates her intel to the team on the ground.
  4. 12 Years A Slave –  This movie was critically acclaimed and released in 2013. It also garnered several Academy Award nominations and is a story about a man Solomon Northup who is a free man from upstate New York before the American Civil War and who is sold into slavery. Profound acting by Chiwetel Ejiofor as the lead character. I would keep this as the best movie as a biography.
  5. Wild Wild Country – This is by far the most controversial documentary in the Indian sub context because Osho, while he was alive, commanded an enormous following and till today his teachings and his way of life are propagated in different parts of the world particularly in India. Controversial because of the kind of scandals that were a part of Osho’s commune while he shifted his base to the US in the early eighties. Thoroughly enjoyable for the neutrals.
  6. Straight Outta Compton –  It is one of the best movies till date about hip hop culture primarily focussing on the emergence of the group NWA in the mid-’80s which gave rise to present-day stars such as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre to name just two
  7. Kevin Hart –  When it comes to stand-up comedy then nobody does it better than Kevin Hart who is a walking talking laugh riot with the flair and panache to match up and better anybody else who might be competition. Going by his shows, collaborations, his starring roles in major Hollywood productions it is obvious that Mr. Hart has a huge fan following and knows how to play to the galleries. He won’t just tickle your funny bone but will make you laugh till you begin to cry.

Catch-22

A book review of Catch-22 is a difficult proposition but something I might as well try because of this gem of a book cannot go unnoticed without an opinion. It is a satirical work of fiction by Joseph Heller who creates Yossarian in the middle of a battle between 1942-1944 dring World War 2. There are many who have stopped mid-way through reading it and find it difficult to finish it but I am not one of those. I have read a few in my time and am planning to gift my son a collection that I am building for him through Amazon’s 100 best reads and I can safely say that this book is definitely a part of it.

Catch-22.jpg
Catch-22

John Yossarian the protagonist finds himself in the middle of the war spectacle and tries to provide perspective filled with humor towards the inadequacies of the theatre, the perpetrators from both the sides, the bureaucracy or even God himself. The following is an excerpt from the book to drive home the point.

Don’t tell me God works in mysterious ways,’ Yossarian continued, hurtling on over her objection. ‘There’s nothing so mysterious about it. He’s not working at all. He’s playing. Or else He’s forgotten all about us. That’s the kind of God you people talk about – a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatological mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?’
‘Pain?’ Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife pounced upon the word victoriously. ‘Pain is a useful symptom. Pain is a warning to us of bodily dangers.’
‘And who created the dangers?’ Yossarian demanded … ‘Why couldn’t he have used a doorbell instead to notify us?”

MUST-READ, Thoroughly Enjoyable!

Bohemian Rhapsody

It’s been more than a year that the movie was released and I for one have conflicting thoughts about it. I wanted to start off by giving it a heading called, “fall in love again” but then I juxtapose with the lead character Freddie Mercury and I am left bemused. First, the positives, the recreation of a bygone era replete with characters/ superstars of a bygone era is second to none and Rami Malek deservedly got the Oscar nod. The music is what binds the story together because if you were born in the early eighties like me then it would have been difficult to miss Queen no matter which part of the earth you belonged to. There is a realism involved in the narrative since even when Freddie Mercury was alive, he led a very colorful life which wasn’t helped by his promiscuous tendencies, his cross-dressing and his larger than life persona. The musical journey transcends a bygone era culminating with Live Aid Concert for Africa and the band reuniting after a lot of upheavals brought about by personal ambition and greed overtaking artistic compulsions.

Bohemian Rhapsody.jpg
Bohemian Rhapsody

The negatives would primarily be based on his sexual escapades considering Freddie was unabashedly gay who had his fair share of flings but then who am I to judge. Not too much to critique since the movie is a celebration and should be enjoyed as such. Whether you are homophobic or a Queen hater, you cannot miss it as it is a gem.

Fine Dining And An Anniversary

There aren’t too many special occasions that we as a family go out of our way to celebrate but the one exception to the rule is when it comes to my anniversary. It gives us an excuse to dine out in the capital(Delhi) and I am yet to be disappointed with eating out considering it was only our third anniversary that we were celebrating. A good month before the celebration, we were watching an old episode of Master Chef India on Hot Star with my Mom when we came across the Judge Zorawar Kalra’s restaurant Pa Pa Ya. Chef Sahil Singh who was competing with a contestant had won a round in Master Chef. Sahil Singh outperformed the contestant in the face-off and as an icing on the cake, Zorawar asked him to include the winning dish in his restaurant menu. Needless to add, that was all the inspiration I was looking for. Need to give credit where it’s due by mentioning that Zorawar Kalra under the aegis of his company Massive Restaurants is slowly but surely changing the face of fine dining across the country which is no surprise why he had made it as a judge in season five of Master Chef.

Pa Pa Ya, Saket
Pa Pa Ya, Saket, New Delhi

Just for trivia sake, I might add that out that the first anniversary was also at a Zorawar Kalra restaurant, Masala Library By Jiggs Kalra named after his father. Pa Pa Ya is situated in the chic mall Saket Select City Walk and as an introduction is an Asian Bistro with typical offerings from all across the region including but not limited to Thai, Chinese, Japanese, etc. The ambiance is grand and the restaurant is nicely done with a well-equipped bar catering to every taste bud.

One of the USPs of the place is the not to be missed Sunday Brunch and reservations are recommended. The price scales up beyond 2k per person depending on the kind of alcohol that one might fancy. Another point to note for young couples like me who have toddlers or babies is that the restaurant is accommodating with children less than 10. The food on offer is quintessential Asian fare which leaves you wanting for more even if it’s brunch. We started with the restaurant namesake Papaya Salad which was a novelty followed by a starter called Chicken with Thousand Chillies. This was followed by Jigae Chicken soup which was average. There was an unlimited serving of Dim Sums and Sushi and I ate till my heart’s content. There were also generous helpings of the following as well such as Sliced Braised Chicken, Ching Mai Curry Shrimp, Peking Duck which was tender and alluring, Yaki Udon Noodles, Khao Pad Kar Pao and to top with a dessert called Chocolate Ball on fire.

Pa Pa Ya can be reserved for special occasions especially if you have a penchant for Asian delicacies and I am glad that my better half and my son were able to enjoy to the hilt as well.

The Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy

It’s been ages since I read this one and my primary focus would be to do it justice as a book review because I thoroughly enjoyed it while reading. Absurd is a premise well associated with the book which eventually translates to the ‘understatement of the decade.’ Consider this as a start, right before the earth is about to be demolished before making way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is saved by Ford Prefect who is a researcher and together they commence their journey through the stars and planets with each supposition more ludicrous than the next though with the underlying theme which still makes us human and our day to day activities that keep our suppositions and our opinions for granted.

 

Douglas Adams, Arthur Dent, Ford Prefect,
The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy

The entire novel is a volume which has six parts to it namely:-

  1. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  2. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe
  3. Life, the Universe, and Everything
  4. So Long, and Thanks for all the Fish
  5. Mostly Harmless
  6. Young Zaphod Plays it Safe

The genre it belongs to is sci-fi and if you’re in it then you’ve probably read it till now but if not then try and get through the first installment and if the humor about God, marketing professionals, warmongers, philosophers, scientists, political leaders, etc doesn’t get to you then Douglas Adam’s with would surely as a writer par excellence and you wouldn’t find it a drag. Highly recommended.

Two Nights And I Might

This actually happened with me a month or so back and the only word that I can equate it to is Utopia for there is nothing else that a man can ask for between his wants and desires. My shift is from 5:30 pm till 2:30 am since we cater to the Eastern Time Zone and when I want to unwind after a hard day then we go to a hotel called Park Plaza, in the vicinity for booze and revelry at Melange which is their bar. Names and referral points are being changed but this is based on a true story.

Melange, Park Plaza, Vincent, Chris, Saket Jha, British Airways Cabin Crew,
2 Nights And I Might

Vincent is a former colleague with whom I no longer talk because of what transpired but we used to hit it like a house on fire since we shared similar tastes in sports, movies, booze and brotherhood. We were on a hiatus and hadn’t been talking when he gave me a buzz and said,”lets catch up.” My obvious reply was to go for it even though I was selling myself short in terms of the work hours but since Vincent was coming from the other side of town, I gave it a miss to the last couple of hours on a Wednesday. We met in the car park when he told me that he thought that he owed me a session with booze in tow considering he had got back to drinking after ages albeit for a short while. So off we went to Melange in the vicinity to get tipsy or tend to tipsy. Started with our pints and lit our smokes when a guy who had been drinking for a while from the looks of it called out to Vincent to exchange pleasantries. Vincent being the “sport” that he is went along and before I knew it, the two of them were jostling for a game of one-upmanship which is typical of Delhi lads where putting down the other person overrides the premise of a conversation. Later did I get to know that Vincent was talking to a certain Saket Jha who was a Bihari(one of the backward states in India but can’t say it for Saket. More on that later). The conversation veered towards girls and sluts in particular with Saket boasting and Vincent giving him just the right kind of encouragement while Saket was slurring and swaying. We were joined by another gentleman who was a British Airways cabin crew from whom there was a ready supply of apparently Brit cigarettes JPS. Eduardo also joined in considering we were the only blokes around and it was a favour to the waiters on call since now the waiters only had to serve one table. Eduardo had the audacity of proclaiming in the middle of the conversation in the midst of Indians in the middle of India that the only reason why Indians were good in English was because we had been colonized by the British which was ironic considering it came from a Swiss bloke.

We had spent a good couple of hours by now, enjoying the Champions League semi final between Liverpool and Barcelona even though we are Man United supporters. There was a steady stream of alcohol which was inadvertently sponsored by Saket who kept boasting about his lineage and his spending power. I met Vincent in the loo to ask him because I was surprised that he was trying to enjoy a conversation with a perfect stranger and he was till trying to put him down even though he was sponsoring the drinks to which Vincent replied that for him it was always about taking someone’s case especially if he was asking for it which made me a silent spectator and a happy free loader. By this time, Chris and Lilly also came by to give us company after finishing work at the office and it was around four am. The conversation veered towards the unpredictable when suddenly, Vincent refused to keep shut and Saket got really annoyed and Saket removed his shoe to come across to Vincent to hit him with it. I thought it was a bit too far fetched and wouldn’t materialize when Chris butted in saying that Saket couldn’t do it or he wouldn’t let him do it since Vincent was like an elder brother to Chris. Saket walked up to Vincent across the table with his shoe in his right hand to strike Vincent with Chris about to intervene and Saket bends down and kisses Vincent on his lips! I almost puked being homophobic by nature and unfortunately I was the only one watching which was a cross between a snog and a depiction of appreciation. I thought this night couldn’t get any worse being in a sausage fest with only Lilly for a chick when Saket rattled off about carrying plenty of cash. Vincent encouraged him by questioning how much did he have and would he put it on the table.

Saket in his stupor puts USD 1500 on the table and Vincent picks it up to admire or count it which is when Saket says, “keep it” to Vincent. Vincent offered to return it to him a couple of times and Saket refused. Vincent nonchalantly walks away with the cash and Saket calls his chauffeur which I realized later because he left in an Audi A6 five minutes after that. Vincent, Chris and Lilly partied their guts out at another location while I was still taken aback with what had happened and I left for my place.

The next day brought its own trials and tribulations with Vincent jogging his memory and trying to find out Saket which was the right thing to do so he asked me for a favour if I could check again at Melange for him. The next night after office i warned the Manager at the bar to notify me if he sees Saket again because he had left a wad of notes with a person who was drinking with me. Chris also joins in later and there is a group of four women and a guy drinking at the next table, who we later realized were the British Airways Cabin Crew including the pilot and we drank our share. The bar was about to close so the women wanted to go out for a smoke and one of them walks by looking at us and she has a tattoo on her thigh and I say, “Nice tattoo” while Chris says simultaneously, ” Nice tat”. I followed up and asked for a cigarette when she invited us outside while Chris was busy taking her snapshots of the two thighs with her tattoos on it. We continued the conversation outside and I declared at the outset that I had a wife and kid to go home to and I wouldn’t bother them too much. Ronnie offered the smokes and started chatting like there’s no tomorrow. She offered us the role of guides for them as tourists to find out the “real India” even though the others were skeptical and refused but Chris wanted to be a part of it and I said no. Ronnie talked about her difficult childhood and the sacrifices her father in particular had made to bring her up while Chris asked me in Hindi if he should bang her tonight. In the middle of the conversation, seeing Ronnie getting sentimental, I started singing “Wonderwall” by Oasis and the three of us started singing. The others had left by this time and she also talked about her favourite Welsh band Stereophonics. All said and done, she invited me for drinks in her room and I politely refused. The next day, Chris thanked me and acknowledged my contribution by stating that if it wasn’t for me, Ronnie was impressed by my mannerisms and communication skills, he wouldn’t have slept with her later. I replied,”Anytime, every time”

A Star Is Born

I’d like to begin the review of the movie, ” A Star Is Born” with a couple of different comparisons with the common denominator being the Oscars and those are:-
1. A Star Is Born is a musical odyssey in the fiction genre which will dominate this year’s ceremony common with the biographical Bohemian Rhapsody( more on it in a separate review) with the lead actors justified for being in the limelight for their respective performances.
2. This year’s Oscars are an exception because a few of the contenders are actually mass acclaimed movies rather than only critical acclaim such as Black Panther. 
Now, to begin a movie review by harping on the Oscars can bring its own pitfalls but allow me the indulgence considering I was taken in by the Oscar mania and this should’ve come out a long time ago to coincide with the ceremony par excellence for the movie going audience. This is the fourth remake of a story having been told to earlier generations as well and Bradley Cooper took a multitude of roles in this one by acting, co-writing, producing and singing in it.
Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Jackson Maine, Ally
A Star Is Born

The story is about a popular country singer Jackson Maine played by Bradley Cooper, who has a penchant for his booze and whose career graph is receding even though he’s been playing to packed houses on his country tour when he comes across the hotel waitress Ally played by Lady Gaga who is a part time singer as well. Jackson is blown away with her voice and the movie plays out a contrasting graph of her careers along with their love/married life. Jackson Maine is a complex character portrayal with a self destructive tendencies with his drunken stupor with a cocktail of drugs while in the spotlight with Ally who has her own issues with her nose and a burgeoning following towards stardom. A point to note which would be hard to miss by anybody watching the movie is the soundtrack which enhances the movie going experience manifold asking for more. Given the chemistry that the lead actors enjoyed while filming and during post production, the audience was taken in by their respective personas and were disappointed to know that the two leads in fact enjoyed healthy relationships and were not romantically involved which was a pity.

Definitely worth watching for the coming of age of Lady Gaga as an actor in a lead role and the multi tasking attributes of Bradley Cooper.

This Country Is Going To The Dogs

Elections around the corner,

Promises being doled out in plenty,

Country caught up in a world wind of stories,

Is it really worthy of my time, am I getting senti?

This country is going to the dogs

 

Jingoism ruling the roost,

Unemployment taking a backseat,

Where are the issues that we really care for?

Is it only about drink and meat?

This country is going to the dogs

Have we forgotten the cow being more important than the woman,

Or the PM not giving a single interview to the press,

I’ve had it with the hyperbole,

Enough of this mess!!

This country is going to the dogs

Winging, whining, moaning, berating politicians galore,

Bemoaning a lack of opposition, makes me sore

Less the education qualification, more the criminal cases behind,

It is nothing but democracy rewind,

This country is going to the dogs

Usurp power at all costs,

Let the ‘others’ go to hell,

My park has 7 different benches meant only for two,

The only thing aplenty should have been a well,

This country is going to the dogs

I just finished watching Gully Boy,

Talks about food, clothes, house and internet,

Can’t wait to press N.O.T.A on the EVM

Nuf said, can’t do it no more, fret,

This country is going to the dogs

Lok Sabha Elections 2019, Indian Jamboree, Politicians, Hopeless scenario, Gully Boy, N.OT.A, EVM
Vote

Great Expectations

This is a novel that I had heard so much about but never got a chance to read which is obviously why I am writing this now as a review. Students nowadays in Delhi schools have to read Khalid Hosseini or for that matter, my mom who had to read Shakespeare while in college along with several other classics but Great Expectations came with an ‘amazing read’ bookmark from Amazon which should have eased me into it. I did finish it in a jiffy by my standards but what came to mind is a particularly Indian sub context by comparing Charles Dickens and Manmohan Desai, the erstwhile director of Hindi movies who churned out several hits primarily based on coincidences, lost and found stereotypes, larger than life characters,contemporary aspirations and Great Expectations is so much more.

Miss Havisham, Pip, Joe, Estella, Great Expectations book review, classic, Manmohan Desai
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

The story revolves around the protagonist Pip who is an apprentice to his brother in law in a forge and how he dreams of making it in the whole wide world against the reality that he finds himself in. Another facet giving impetus to his thoughts is his liking for Estella who is rich beyond his means and has the demeanor and personality of a heartless woman inspired by the irrepressible Miss Havisham. By a sudden turn of events and a quirk of fate, Pip finds himself with inherited riches and how he navigates troubled waters, pun intended, is what the book is all about. A book written in 1861 can still hold forth such is the power of the pen and is much appreciated with the intricacies and nuances involved wherein one finds a pleasant journey rather than a time warp of the industrial revolution.

Arguably one of Charles Dickens’s finest works and a must read for avid readers and I promise you, you won’t be disappointed.