Argo | Movie Review

Is it worth your time and money??: Oh yes!! Argo is definitely one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. The story engulfs you right from the word go, and you enjoy the ride as if you are the ones involved in the crisis. Argo is a good story for USA to tell people, but Ben Affleck executed it brilliantly to make it stand apart. It’s an edge of the seat thriller with moments in abundance. The acting is just perfect, and so is the direction. But its the production and design  team that needs maximum applause. It’s not easy to create the eighties, but they do a superb job of it. The grainy look makes one believe that it is actually a film from the eighties (The use of the old Warner Bros logo made it even better). It’s sure to sweep the Oscars. Overall, an excellent film and a must watch for any movie lover. Don’t miss it!!

Acting: 9.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 9.5/10
Technical Aspects: 9.5/10

Verdict: 9.5/10

Cloud Atlas | Movie Review

Acting: 8/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 8/10
Technical Aspects: 9/10
Is it worth your time and money??: If you like movies which are different (and if you aren’t a jackass who wouldn’t let others enjoy the movie), this one might be for you. It’s brilliantly picturized, has some great acting and direction. The screenplay is absolutely wonderful, but the stories all together do not really connect so much, and I thought there were a few loose ends. The Wachowkis and Tom Tykwer could have done a little better on the script, which in itself is based on the book by David Mitchell. Overall, it’s the experience that counts though. A little less than 3 hours long, Cloud Atlas is for a certain section of crowd who enjoy something different. I enjoyed the ride; I hope you do too!! 🙂

Verdict: 7.5/10

Hard Rock Cafe | Restaurant Review

Place: Hard Rock Cafe 
Location: GVK One, Banjara Hills 
Cuisine: American 
Meal: Dinner (with friends)

I’ve been wanting to visit this place for a long time, but the lack of company and/or an occasion kept me from it. It was one of my friend’s birthday last weekend, and I dragged everyone to Hard Rock Cafe. I was kinda skeptical if whether these guys would like the place, but thankfully, they did. The place was partly full when we dropped in around 8:30, but got packed as time passed by. We found a booth in the restaurant part of the cafe (the other being the bar section). The ambience and décor were very good, and it felt like I was in a real American cafe. The loud blaring music made sure no one was dozing. 😛

We took our time with the menu, and decided to start with a Veg Jumbo Combo, which included Santa Fe Spring Rolls, Onion Rings, Potato Skins and Tomato Bruschetta with four different sauces. The meat-eating friends ordered for Tupelo Chicken Tenders. We also ordered a drink each, and I asked for a Mango Cooler.

The drinks were served first, and I liked mine. It was a mix of Mango and Orange juices. Soon, the Jumbo Combo was served, and it was huge and every well presented. The Santa Fe Spring Rolls were heavenly and one of the best rolls I’ve had in recent times. Cheesy and crispy, they were yum. The Onions rings were alright, a little too oily, and the Bruschetta was pretty decent. The Potato Skins again were excellent. They were cheesy and perfectly baked. I’m not a big fan of salads, but the accompanying one tasted delicious.

For the main course, I ordered a HRC Veggie Burger with caramelized onions and mushrooms. Other guys ordered for Caribbean Black Bean Burger, Grilled Fillet Steak and Grilled Chicken With Lemon Caper Sauce.

It took a while for the main course to be served, probably because of the steak. When the food finally arrived, it was quite a sight. My burger looked super huge, and I was in for an absolute treat. It turned out to be scrumptious. I struggled to take it all in into my mouth and kinda made a mess of it before I finished, but it was worth all the mess. I only wish they went light on the caramelized onions, for it made it a little too sweet.

I had a taste of the  Black Bean Burger, and it tasted pretty good as well. Unlike mine, which was served with a salad, this one came with crunchy Fries. The other guys were happy with their Chicken and Steak as well. I happened to taste the Mashed Potato which came with the steak, and it was again, heavenly. It was definitely the best Mashed Potato I’ve had in my life. Wow!!

We were pretty much stuffed, but I wanted to try their Chocolate Mousse. But the guy suggested we go for Chocolate Cake instead, which could be shared.

And the cake turned out to be luscious, moist and fudgy. It tasted even better with the Vanilla ice-cream. Yummy!!

Overall, an excellent meal. The food was finger licking good, and so was the atmosphere. I loved the music they played, the ambience, and their service. The only thing I didn’t like was the amount on the bill :P. It was expected to be an expensive affair, but to be honest, it was worth it. It was a perfect way to celebrate my friend’s birthday. I’m definitely going back soon to get another taste of their Spring Rolls and Burger!!

Food: 9.5/10
Drinks: 8/10
Service: 9/10
Ambience: 9.5/10
Meal for 4: Rs. 5059/- (Taxes: Rs. 1164/-)

Verdict: 9/10

Student Of The Year | Movie Review

Is it worth your time and money??: If you’re looking to kill some time, then yes, Student Of The Year might be your cup of tea. It’s a time pass flick, and has its moments. Unlike any of the previous Karan Johar movies, there’s no real drama in this one, and that works. Both the guys, Siddharth and Varun are real hunks, but I thought Alia looked odd. Give it at a watch, am guessing you won’t be disappointed.

Acting: 8/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 7.5/10
Technical Aspects: 8.5/10

Verdict: 7.5/10

Cameraman Ganga Tho Rambabu | Movie Review

Post Gabbar Singh, the expectations from Pawan Kalyan are really high from Cameraman Ganga Tho Rambabu, and him teaming up with Puri Jagannath makes things even better. But sadly the film disappoints. It is not because of the lack of punch dialogues nor Power Stars charisma, but due to lack of a proper script. Businessman was a success because of its effective screenplay, but Puri Jagannath totally falters with screenplay in this film. The script does not have a basic conflict point, and that in itself is a main drawback.

The first half is very predictable but alright, but the second half is pretty much a disaster for it totally goes haywire. I like Pawan Kalyan, but honestly, he’s no Chiranjeevi. Pulling off Tagore like stunts just doesn’t work for PK. But he still manages to woo the audience with his charm and powerful punch dialogues. He looked a wee bit old in a couple of scenes though. Tamanna has very limited role, and I thought she went a little overboard to get into her tomboyish character. There’s no special mention on the comedy front.

Except for the Jaramochindi song, the music isn’t so great either, but PK dances well. Cinematography Shyam K. Naidu is alright. Most of the aerial shots are graphic based. Editing by S. R. Shekhar could have been a little better. Productions values could have been way better as well. But most importantly, if only Puri worked a little more on the script and screenplay!!

Is it worth your time and money??: It’s totally upto you. I enjoyed the first half, but the second half was a total bore. PK and Puri’s dialogues are the plus point of the film, while lack of conflict point and disastrous screenplay cause the downfall. There was no need for Rambabu to be a reporter to do what he did, and neither was there a role for Ganga. So now make your guess on how effective Cameraman Ganga Tho Rambabu is.

Acting: 8/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 6/10
Technical Aspects: 7/10

Verdict: 6.5/10

Travelogue | Day 15: Leh – Keylong

September 6, 2012 

Woke up at 4:30 in the morning, had a shower, picked my bags, and walked to the bus stand near the post office. I had booked the front window seat of the HPTDC bus, and had paid Rs. 1500/- for it. A Korean woman was sitting next to me, and there were people from different nationalities accompanying me. The bus took off from Leh at around 5:15 AM. I wanted to sit up and enjoy the beautiful landscapes, but was still too tired and dozed off soon. We stopped for tea in a small town on the way at around 7:00, and after getting back, slept till past 10:00.

When I woke up, I started enjoying the beauty around me and clicked a few pictures. A little after 1:00 PM, we reached the second highest motorable road in the world, Taglangla pass. We stopped here to click a few pictures. It had snowed the previous night, but most of the snow had melt by the time we reached the pass.

We were hoping that the bus would stop for lunch sometime soon, but it was not until after 4:00 PM did he stop. And that too, he had stopped at a location where there was nothing but bun and tea available. Everyone on the bus asked him to move further and instead stop at a better place. At around 6:00, we stopped at a place which had quite a few food stalls. Had a cup of tea, which tasted very much like Hyderabadi tea, and then got back onto the bus.

At around 8:00 PM, we reached the HPTDC guesthouse at Keylong. We were told that we had to share a tent put up outside the guesthouse with few others. There was also an option of renting a room in the guesthouse by paying 300 bucks per person. I decided I was gonna stay in the tent, and was put in one with a Brit, an American, a German and a Swiss. Dinner was served in the guesthouse a while later – there was rice, dal, subzi and roti. Over dinner, I mingled with a lot of people apart from my tent mates. I became friends with a Czech girl who was trekking all by herself near Leh, and an Indian woman from Mumbai, who has taken a number of trips by herself in the recent past. We discussed politics and various other issues before we finally hit the bunk past 11:00 PM.

Day 14: Leh (Rafting)
Day 16: Keylong – Manali

Travelogue | Day 14: Leh (Rafting)

September 5, 2012 

I was supposed to report at the taxi stand by 8:00 AM for the taxi. On my way, I stopped at a German Bakery and grabbed a ready-made Veg Cream Cheese Sandwich. The bread was hard, but the stuffing was decent. I was picked up in a Xylo, and was joined by a young lady from Delhi, a German Couple, an Israeli and two Brit Indian women for the rafting trip. All of them seemed fun, and so I was getting all excited.

The rafting was from a place called Chilling, on the bank of river Zanskar, to a place called Nimmo, where Indus and Zanskar merge, a total stretch of 28 kms, which would take about 3 hours to cover by raft. We reached Nimmo at around 10:00 AM, and were asked to suit up. I wasn’t told that a wet suit would be provided, so carried extra pair of clothes  which turned out to be unnecessary. There was a small tent where we could change into the suit. In hurry, I initially manged to wear the suit back to the front and made a fool of myself :P. Then I was asked to wear a windcheater over the suit and a helmet. We had an instructor on board our raft, and there was a gonna be a safety kayak travelling with us. The instructor, Kali, was a super fun guy and the safety Kayak guy, Himal was even more fun. Both of them hailed from Nepal. They gave us basic instructions, what to do incase we fall off into the water and stuff. And then we got into the raft. The water was freezing cold (as one would expect). We were told that this was a level 3 rafting stretch but on this particular day, the current wasn’t too high, so it could be rated less. The initial few minutes were spent on the basics. Rafting with the flow was alright, but against seemed a little difficult.

The scenery around was beautiful. We were surrounded by high mountains on both sides, and it was magnificent. I so wished to capture the beauty, but my cam was sitting in my bag in the car.

About 30 minutes through, we passed through a pretty heavy current. I was sitting second to the right of the raft, my leg loosened a little from the lock position, and I fell back into the water when a tide hit me. The feeling was just awesome!! Cold water rushing through every part of your body, your hands and legs going numb for a second or so, the adrenaline pumping in, it was just so bloody amazing. When I got into my senses and opened my eyes a couple of seconds later, I realized I was right under the raft. I waited for it to move away, and then made me way up. I immediately got into the safety position without panicking. Hemal came and pulled me onto the kayak, and we slowly moved towards the raft, and I got back in. Those 5 minutes is one experience I’l cherish forever.

We had super fun in the raft, spoke on various topics. Kali thought the Delhi girl was my wife and started asking all weird questions like where we first met and all. It was not until a while did we realize that he thought we were married. He also thought she was one of the Brit Indian women’s daughter. Super fun!!

We stopped at around the 14 km mark for about 10 minutes. The currents were down after this stretch, and it was easier to raft. About 2 kms before we reached the end point, Hemal came and pulled everyone into the water (when the water was still). I swam a little before I got in, but the Israeli guy just kept sailing. He sailed for more than a kilometer before we could reach him. He went super numb by the time we pulled him in.

We reached Nimmo and changed into our clothes before we took a small drive to the restaurant, where food was arranged for us. We were initially served tea and coffee, and thereafter, lunch was served. All this was included in the rafting price of Rs. 1600/-. There was Dal, Aloo Gobi and Rice. The food was pretty decent. Once we finished lunch, we were dropped back in Leh, at around 4:00 PM.

Tip: Try to bargain a little on the rafting price. More than bargaining, try enquiring at a couple of places before you get the best price. On our trip, people paid from 1200 to 1800 for the same rafting trip.

The previous day, I went to the HPTDC center on Fort road and booked a seat for the bus to Manali for the next day. I went there and conformed on my seat before going to the room to get some rest. At around 7:00 PM, I got out to find a place for my last meal in Leh. I roamed around the place to find a good restaurant, and finally zeroed on a pizza place next to Lamayuru (not sure on the name, probably Summer Harvest). I ordered for a Veggie Pizza with my choice of vegetables. It was served in about 10 minutes and turned out to be really good. Crispy and cheesy, just the way I like it!!

I got back to the room, packed my bags and was all ready to leave the next morning. After a fun-filled day, it was time to hit the bed.

Day 13 : Leh
Day 15 : Leh – Keylong

Travelogue | Day 13: Leh

September 4, 2012 

This day in Leh is one of the most unproductive and lazy days of my trip. Got up late, really late and somehow manged to get my ass out of the room past 10:00 AM. Walked around the city a bit, and then stopped at Neha Snacks on the Market road for some breakfast. I ordered for a Chole Poori. I’ve heard some good things about this place and so my expectations were high, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Poori was very good, not oily, and the Chole was yum. They even served extra aloo curry. These guys apparently serve yummy Aloo Patties in the evenings as snack. Hmm.

Roamed around a little more and checked out all the markets in town for about two hours. And it was time to hog again. So went to Lamayuru restaurant on Fort Road to try their Indian food. I had Stuffed Tomato with Roti. The curry was awesome. The gravy was rich and creamy, the tomatoes were ripe, and the stuffing delicious. Happy tummy.

I went back to the room and slept till about 6:00 in the evening. I again had to force myself to get out of the room. This time I headed to the Leh Palace. The walk up was exhausting, and there was nothing much to see in the Palace. There was a photo exhibition on, but there were no lights at the place. I managed to see a couple with the torch on my phone. I sat on the top for a long time, clicked a few pictures, and then went on to hog again.

This night, I decided to try Tibetan Kitchen, apparently one of the best restaurants in town. The place was packed but I managed to find myself a table in the corner, right next to the entrance. There was a lot of choice for meat lovers, but no so much for vegetarians. I asked the waiter for some suggestions and we finally zeroed on Veg. Sabaclev (That’s what I remember the name to be). I was told that it was a Tibetan bread sandwich, stuffed with cheese and veggies.

The place got fuller as I waited for my food. The Sabaclev arrived and was served with Tomato chutney. It turned out to be delicious. The bread, or roti was crunchy, and the stuffing inside was tasty. It was the best food I’ve had in Leh.

Once done, I headed back to the room, and slept. I managed to book a seat for myself for the rafting the next day before I got back.

Day 12: Leh (Khardung La)
Day 14 : Leh (Rafting)

Travelogue | Day 12: Leh (Khardung La)

September 3, 2012

Now that I didn’t have to catch a taxi or anything, I got up leisurely at around 9:00 AM. Got ready and headed off to get my bike which was all ready by the time I reached. I was contemplating whether to have breakfast or not, for it was almost 10:00, but stopped by at the restaurant next to the bike place (the same place I stopped at on the other day) to have yummy Cheese Toast. Once done, I was on my way to Khardung La pass, the highest motorable road in the world!

I wore a sweater over my t-shirt, and a sweat shirt over the sweater. I had a pair of gloves on, but I forgot to carry my muffler (I was too lazy to go back to the room for it). I had an extra sweater in my bag, just in case. Khardung La is about 40 kms from Leh. The initial few kilometers were plain road, nothing great. It wasn’t even cold or anything, and I was getting suffocated. After about 20 kms, where I had to submit my permit, the ghat road started and it got cold. My hands and arms were protected, but my face was freezing. I managed to tie the extra sweater I had in my bag as a muffler on my face and took off further.

Now starts the fun part. About 5 minutes from the point where I cover myself, it started raining, but since it was so cold, the rain drops turned into ice before they hit me. My clothes were getting wet and I started shivering for the cold was getting worse. The bike started to skid, and the roads suddenly became empty for most people stopped on the side because they didn’t want to drive in this weather. But I kept going, on and on, till I reached 18,379 feet (disputed) above the sea level. The feeling was wow, but my whole body was too numb to realize its surroundings. I parked my bike and rushed into the shack. It was as if the Gods were waiting for me to take protection, for the moment I got into the shack, it started pouring cats and dogs outside. I felt so god-damn lucky!!

I ordered a black tea, and used it to warm my hands and get into my senses. My phone got wet, which was my primary concern, so dried it off before I settled in the place. Five minutes though, the rain stopped, and the whole place was covered in close to 2 feet of ice. I got out and clicked some pictures and enjoyed the beauty. It was magnificent, and I felt awesome. It wasn’t an easy ride up, and I felt great for I did it without any problems. I was shivering, but still manged to roam about the place a bit. I got back to the shack and ordered for maggi and another tea.

The roads got pretty bad, and people stalled their taxis and bikes on the road. Army troops were helping public move their vehicles. But I had to go down somehow for I was freezing. I needed to go down. I put all my gear up, and started off slowly. I rode in the path the trucks had made, so as to avoid the ice as much as possible. The bike still kept skidding, so I had to avoid using the brakes as well. Trust me when I say this, it was the most difficult and adventurous ride of my life thus far. One wrong move, and forget hospital, you wouldn’t even be able to find my body!! The first 5 kms were really bad, and then, it was normal. Uff.. one hell of a ride.!!

The ride down seemed longer than while going up. I lost one of my gloves mid way through, so turned around and went looking for it for a while (which I couldn’t find), so this made it even more longer. I finally reached Leh at around 3 PM. I roamed around the city a bit on the bike, and stopped at a sandwich place in Changspa to grab a bite. I ordered for a Veg Sandwich with some Mushrooms and Onions. What they served was exactly the opposite of what I had imagined it to be. They served something similar to a Subway sandwich, with cold veggies and cheese, without proper dressing. I was so disappointed, for it even cost me 80 bucks.

I came back to the room, watched some TV and slept for a while. Late evening, I got out, returned the bike, and then went to dine at Dolphin Bakery on Fort road. It was a garden restaurant, and I ordered for Veg. noodles. I asked him to make them spicy, and they turned out to be yum. I was so craving for some spicy food. Once done, I bought a huge chocolate doughnut and ate it on my way back. It was alright, not so great.

I had planned to go rafting the next day, but I was too tired from the ride in the morning. I was initially planning to finish rafting the next day and take the bus to Manali on day 14, but the bus I wanted to take, the deluxe bus run by HPTDC runs only on even dates. So I had to wait till Sept 6 for it. I had one free day, and decided to just stay in the room doing nothing the next day.

Watched some more TV before calling an end to the second most thrilling day of my life.

Day 11 : Leh (Pangong Tso)
Day 13 : Leh

Travelogue | Day 11: Leh (Pangong Tso)

September 2, 2012

Woke up early in the morning, washed up, and rushed to get to the taxi. We were promised a Scorpio by the tourist guy, but we instead got a Sumo. There was a young couple from Mumbai, and a Mallu woman from Delhi sharing the taxi with me. Once everyone arrived, we hit the road by 6:30 AM. We took the highway towards Manali until we reached Hemis, and from there we headed into the mountains. We were to pass the third highest motorable road in the world, Chang La on this trip. The roads were pretty bad, and the ride was pretty bumpy. Even while sitting in the middle row of the car, it felt like I were in the back. But thankfully I had good company, and we managed to make it a fun ride.

We reached Chang La at around 9:30, where we stopped for breakfast. The place was pretty cold, for it was at 17585 feet above the sea level, and I just had a thin sweater on me. I was shivering like crazy. We went into the small shack and ordered some tea to make us warm. I was initially hesitant, but also ordered some maggi to keep me full during the rest of the drive. The scenery was as beautiful as in the rest of my expeditions. We stopped on the way to see some Yaks and sheep. The day turned out to be very cloudy, and we were hoping for them to clear soon, for the beauty of Pangong is to be seen with clear skies.

We finally reached the lake, Pangong Tso, a little past noon. Our driver was kind enough to take us to the corner of the lake where there were not many tourists. Captain Bhatacharya, a friend of Sanjay’s in Kashmir, had told me that this is one of the best places in the world, and it’s possible to get hypnotized while here. Every word of his turned out to be true!! It was just magical. What we see in 3 Idiots is nothing compared to the actual beauty. The clouds gave way for some bright sunshine, and the lake looked stunningly beautiful. I was absolutely mesmerized by it. I just can’t explain or put it in words. The experience was unbelievable!!

The best place I’ve visited in my life thus far!!

I pulled my jeans up and attempted to step into the water. It was freezing cold. I managed to walk in till my knees, and it got better after a while. I spent quite some time playing in the water while enjoying the surrounding beauty. There was no count on the number of pictures I must have clicked. Every sight looked new and beautiful. The driver gave us two hours to spend by the lake, but we must have spent more than three. The lake changed colors so many times in this time. The blue was just beautiful. I just didn’t feel like leaving the place. Argh, I so wish I could go back now again!!

We somehow managed to drag our asses into one of the restaurants nearby to grab a bite before we headed back. All four of us ordered together for some roti, Paneer Butter Masala and Dal, and the food was pretty decent. When we got out, it got cloudy again, and we spent 30 more minutes by the lake side before we got back into the car.

We were driving back, but my heart was still at Pangong. Man, it’s the best place I’ve been to thus far in my life, and I don’t thing I’ll find anything more beautiful. I was suggested to do a two days one night at Nubra, but I would have so loved to do it here instead.

Tip: Chuck Nubra if you have to, but do spend a night at Pangong. Trust me, it’s totally worth it. There are a few tents nearby which need to be pre-booked in Leh. How ever expensive it is, take it, for you will not regret it!!

We stopped a couple of times on the way back to click some pictures. I guess I ate more than I should have, and because of the bad roads, I felt a little sick mid way through. Thankfully I was fine by the time we reached Leh at around 8:00 PM.

I was to find a shared taxi towards Nubra Valley for the next day, but the people I met in the cab suggested that it was not a worthwhile trip. It would have cost me a little more than 2000 bucks, and the fact that they didn’t make it sound enthralling made me chuck it. I still wanted to go to Khardung La pass, which is one the way to Nubra. Our taxi driver suggested I rent a bike and do it myself. Hmmm.

September 2 happens to be one of my favorite days in the year, and a visit to Pangong made it even more memorable. I realized I’ve been spending quite a lot in the recent past, but to celebrate the day, I headed off to Chopsticks, one of the best restaurants in Leh (I did a little research and found out about all the good places to eat at in Leh). I ordered for Singapore Noodles, hoping it would be something spicy like what we get in Hyderabad, but it turned out to be vermicelli noodles. I was a little disappointed for I wished to have something spicy, but it tasted good nevertheless.

Before I went back to the room, I reached Himalayan Adventures and booked a bike for the next day. They didn’t have the Impulse, so I instead got an Enfield Thunderbird for the same price (Rs. 600/-). I was dead tired by the time I reached the room, and I had a long, beautiful day to blame!! Pangong Tso, I’m gonna come back soon!!

Day 10 : Leh (Magnetic Hill)
Day 12 : Leh (Khardung La)