Life of Pi | Movie Review

Directed by Ang Lee, Life of Pi is a simple story told in a very effective way. The film grips you right at the start, and you are engrossed in Piscine Molitor aka Pi’s life all through. You can emotionally connect with Pi, feel his pain and joy, and that’s what makes the movie work. The subtle humour is wonderful.

Acting by Suraj Sharma is superb and he couldn’t have asked for a better debut. He digs into the role with all his might and comes out a winner. Irrfan Khan is good as the older Pi, while Tabu looks stunningly beautiful as Pi’s mother. The Royal Bengal Tiger aka Richard Parker is a graphic wonder (to an extent that you would think he was real if no one told you that he were computer generated!!)

Direction is perfect, and so is the screenplay. However, I was kinda disappointed with the ending for it could have been much better. The graphics are simply wonderful. They look a little unrealistic at times, but I’ve never sailed in the Pacific at night, so I wouldn’t know :P!! The 3D effects are really good – they made me jump out of my seat on a couple of occasions.

Is it worth your time and money??: Absolutely!! It’s a visual masterpiece. A better and gripping ending could have made Life of Pi a magnum opus. But still, it’s a brilliant film nevertheless. Go rediscover yourself!!

Acting: 9/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 9/10
Technical Aspects: 9.5/10

Verdict: 9/10

Travelogue | Day 20: Shimla – Kalka – Delhi

September 11, 2012

Reached Shimla at around 6:00 in the morning. Asked people for directions, and walked to the Railway station in about 30 minutes. Brushed my teeth at the station and was wondering what to do next. The Toy Train to Kalka was at 10:30 so I had about 3 hours to kill.

So I decided to head out again onto the streets. Everything was still closed for it was not even 7:00. I managed to find a small roadside hotel serving hot Poori, and settled down in there for a while. After roaming around the deserted town for a while longer, returned to the station. Sat in the waiting room and read a book, and did some time pass before the train arrived. I got in and settled in my seat.

I was expecting this train ride to be fun, and initially it was, but soon it got boring. Again, the view and landscapes were more or less mediocre and I kinda dozed off after a while. The view kept getting worse as we headed down the mountain range, and as we neared Kalka, there was nothing but garbage and filth next to the train track. It was actually pretty disgusting.

The train reached Kalka at around 4:30 PM, and my next train to Delhi was at 5:45. Did some time pass at the station and watched TV on the platform while  waiting for the Shatabdi Express to arrive.

This train was very well maintained and one of the best trains I’ve ever been in. I actually felt like I was on-board an aircraft rather than a train. It also moved pretty fast. The compartment was pretty much empty and I therefore had the liberty to sit with my legs stretched out. They served some pretty good food mid way through and we reached Delhi earlier than the scheduled time, at around 9:30 PM.

I initially had a couch in Delhi, but the girl I was supposed to Couchsurf with had to travel on emergency to Mumbai. She said she’d be back in a day, so I had to again find a place for myself in Delhi for a night. This time around, I asked a rickshaw guy to take me to a decent place, where I could get a air-conditioned room for around 500 bucks. He took me to a couple of hotels but everyone quoted around 1000. Unable to find an A/C room in my budget, finally zeroed in on a regular room for 500 bucks in the better part of Paharganj.

I had a quick shower before hitting the sack.

Day 19: Dharmshala (McLeodGanj)
Day 21 – 23: Delhi

Travelogue | Day 19: Dharamshala (McLeodGanj)

September 10, 2012

The bus was supposed to reach Dharamshala or McLeodGanj at around 5:00 AM, but it ended up reaching way before time. I didn’t realize the difference between Dharamshala and McLeodGanj until I reached; Dharamshala is the town and McLeodGanj is the suburb hillock on which His Holiness the Dalai Lama resides. Anyway, Andreas decided to part ways here and went along with the girl he had met in the bus, and the task for me now was to find a room for myself.

I roamed around the empty streets in search of a room, and a few guys offered me one for around 300 bucks. I thought it was too expensive for a day’s stay, for I was travelling to Shimla the same night. After walking through the by-lanes, I found a small hotel which offered me a room for 150 bucks. The room was pretty neat, and after check in, I dozed off till about 8:00 AM.

I had a quick shower and decided to go visit the monastery near Dalai Lama’s residence. I had to walk quite a bit before I finally reached the place. Having visited so many monasteries, this one was quite ordinary. But having nothing else to do (His Holiness wasn’t in town), I sat in there for a long time. I then headed back towards the room and stopped by at a small cafe called Mom’s Kitchen for lunch.

After hogging on some good food, I took a bus to the nearby Bhagsu Waterfalls. It was about a 30 minute ride, and this place looked very different from rest of McLeodGanj. There was a long steep walk to reach the falls from where the bus had stopped. I was pretty tired but somehow managed to reach the top. The Waterfall wasn’t big or anything, and again, having witnessed amazing landscapes through my journey thus far, it felt quite ordinary. I sat there on a rock in the water for a long time before heading back down to take the bus back to McLeodGanj.

I was unsure whether to head back to the room to take a nap or roam about a bit more. But my legs gave up pretty soon and I chose the nap. I woke up at around 7:00, roamed through the streets and had a quick bite before walking to the bus stop at around 9:00, for my bus was at 9:30 PM.

And this is when I realized that my bus wasn’t from McLeodGanj but from Dharamshala. I had to rush down to the other bus-stop, and luckily a found an auto on time. He charged me a bomb (100 bucks), but I had no alternative. I reached the Dharamshala bus-stop to realize that the bus was running late. It left for Shimla at around 10:00 PM, and I think I fell asleep as soon as I got in to the bus.

Day 18: Manali (Paragliding)
Day 20: Shimla – Kalka – Delhi 

Travelogue | Day 18: Manali (Paragliding)

September 9, 2012 

Again woke up late. It was still drizzling outside, so I was in for another lazy day. Went to the bus stand and booked a ticket to Dharamshala for the night from Manali. Andreas was joining me on the trip. He had no itinerary in place, and was exploring all the places he could. I also booked my bus ticket from Dharamshala to Shimla for the next night.

We had a late brunch in a small cafe near the hotel, and lazed around the cafe for a long time. The weather cleared up, and at around 3:00 PM, decided to go give Paragliding a try. Andreas wasn’t interested in gliding, but he said he would give me company, so we got into an auto and reached the spot.

We had to take a Gondola (Cable Car) to reach the top of the mountain from where the gliding began. There were two levels of gliding, but because of the weather, the second level (longer ride) was closed for the day. Including the Gondola ride up, the operators were quoting a price of 1000 (500 for the Gondola and 500 for Paragliding), but I managed to negotiate it for 800 bucks. Andreas decided to just take the Gondola ride to the second level and walk down the hill.

The Gondola ride was good, and after about 20 minutes, I got down at the first level while Andreas continued the ride up. I was asked to wait for a while before my turn came, so walked around the place, took some selfies and ate Maggi at the small cafe. I was walked down through the jungle to the spot from where the gliding started, and after putting on the gear, I was flying along side the operator.

Honestly, I expected the ride to be spectacular, but it wasn’t. The view wasn’t anything great, and I had already seen landscapes which were much more beautiful in my journey so far.

After reaching the bottom, Andreas and I walked around a bit before heading back to town in the same auto. Our bus to Dharamshala was scheduled to leave at 7:10 PM, and so, soon after reaching the room, we had a quick bite and started our walk to the bus stand.

The bus was more or less empty with just 5 passengers. Andreas found a Swiss girl for company, while I dozed off pretty soon through the bumpy ride.

Day 17: Manali
Day 19: Dharamshala

Travelogue | Day 17: Manali

September 8, 2012

I woke up late to a beautiful view from the verandah. I was so tired that I just wanted to sit and relax in the room all day. And more or less, that is what I did.

Maya left for Delhi late in the afternoon, and it was just Glenda and Andreas and I. We roamed around Old Manali for most of the day; had a good lunch at a nearby cafe. While Andreas went back to the room, Glenda and I explored the place a little more. We wanted to go try Paragliding, but was it was raining/drizzling, and we were told that the gliding might be closed for the day. So we postponed the act. There was a beautiful pathway through a park which connected old and new Manali, and we walked through it a couple of times. We had some snacks in the town, and on our way back, came across Water-Rappelling.

There were a couple of guys who were conducting rappelling across Beas river, right next to a small bridge. He was charging around 400 bucks (as far as I remember), and Glenda and I decided to give it a try, given that we didn’t do anything exciting through the day. Glenda went first and she loved it, and so did I. I actually wanted more of it for it was too short a ride. The guy stopped me midway through and made me swing, which resulted in me drowning in the water till my waist. The water, as expected, was ice cold, but the entire experience was super fun.

Back to the room, stuffed with all the junk I ate through the day, I skipped dinner. Glenda also left for Delhi, and it was just Andreas and I left in Manali.

Day 16: Keylong – Manali
Day 18: Manali (Paragliding)

Travelogue | Day 16: Keylong – Manali

September 7, 2012

The bus was to leave at 6:00 AM in the morning, so I woke up at around 5:45 and got fresh. There was breakfast available in the canteen – bread, butter and jam. Grabbed a bite and got onto the bus which left at around 6:30. Again, wanted to enjoy the landscapes, but dozed off soon.

We were told that the bus would reach Manali at around noon, but the road on this stretch was pretty bad, and it was also raining. This made the drive long. I woke up at around 11:00 and clicked a few more pictures. At around 12:00 PM, we reached Rohtang Pass, were the bus had to stall because there was a landslide ahead, and the army had to come in to clear the roads. The landscape here was amazing, so clicked a lot of pics. Ate some Maggi and did some time pass for almost 2 hours before the bus finally got back on track. The roads ware still messy, and the drive was scary.

We finally hit the outskirts of Manali, from where people were Paragliding. It took a few more minutes before the bus finally reached he New Manali bus station at around 3:00 PM.

Once we picked up our bags, most of us started walking towards Old Manali. The Czech girl (Maya) led me, the Indian lady from Mumbai (Glenda) and the Swiss guy (Andreas) to a small guesthouse on top of a hillock. Beauce I had already made arrangement through Couchsurfing, I bid farewell, and moved further to find my couch.

My host was a local guy (Biplob) who seemed nice on phone. He was to meet me at a restaurant on the Old Manali road, and gave me directions to the same. Finding this restaurant was quite a task, and tired me out because I had to walk up and down a hill a couple of times before I finally found him. He was with a bunch of foreigners and gave me a key to a room located somewhere in the interiors. He gave me odd directions and asked me to find the room myself. After a couple of great Couchsurfing experiences, this really felt weird. Anyways, I walked through small bylanes for another 10 minutes to find a place called Double Dutch, which happened to be a guest house. I found my room and it turned out to be a proper guest house single bed room. A little curious as to why I was being offered such a room, I called Biplob and asked his if I had to pay, and he casually said yes, 150 bucks per night. I was surprised for Couchsurfing hosting is supposed to be free. Annoyed, I decided not to stay, and walked back to the guesthouse where Maya, Glenda and Andreas were staying.

There were 3 available rooms at this place, all occupied by my fellow friends. I asked the uncle to arrange something, and he managed to clear out their personal room on the second floor for me. For 250 bucks, it had a double cot bed, television and hot water. The best part was the beautiful view of the mountains from the verandah.

We were all very tired, but it was too soon to call it a day. So Glenda, Andreas and I ventured out to find this hot spring in New Manali. After another long walk, we finally wound this small hot spring in a residential area. There was a tank around it to store the water, and people were taking bath in it. It actually looked pretty filthy. A little disappointed, we started our walk back.

Dead tired by now, all four of us decided to order a meal at the guesthouse. We ordered for roti and Rajma, which tasted mediocre. After chatting for a while, it was time to hit the sack!

Day 15: Leh-Keylong
Day 17: Manali

Jab Tak Hai Jaan | Movie Review

Is it worth your time and money??: Unless you are a die-hard SRK fan, skip Jab Tak Hai Jaan for it’s a 3 hour-long boring film. The romance is pathetic, and the love story is even worse. The concept was good, but the handling and the twists were terrible. On acting front, SRK did fine, and Anushka was pretty good, but Katrina sucked big time. Even Yash Chopra couldn’t make her act (Zoya did much better in ZNMD). Direction seemed out of sorts, and it really didn’t feel like a Yash Chopra film. The screenplay wasn’t up to the mark as well. Music by A. R. Rahman, except for one song, is of second grade quality. Cinematography is fine, but editing could have been much better. Production values by Yash Raj weren’t up to the mark as well, for the graphics were horrendous. My recommendation, don’t watch Jab Tak Hai Jaan jab tak hai jaan!!

Acting: 5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 3/10
Technical Aspects: 6/10

Verdict: 4/10

Holy Basil | Restaurant Review

Place: Holy Basil, Radisson Blu Plaza 
Location: Road No. 6, Banjara Hills 
Cuisine: Chinese, Thai, Japanese 
Meal: Lunch

Walked into Radisson Blu Plaza for lunch last weekend. Holy Basil, one of their main restaurants across the lobby serves authentic Chinese, Thai and Japanese dishes. The place is brightly lit, and I made myself comfortable in the center of the restaurant.

Most of the food on their menu looked pretty tempting. Wanting to try a bit of everything, I ordered Veg Sushi and Kung Pao Mushroom for starters.

The Sushi was served in about 10 minutes, and looked very good. I’ve had Sushi only at Urban Asian before and was expecting similar kinda taste  but these turned out to be different. These were kinda sticky, and pretty much bland. I spoke to the chef about the taste, and he told me they were supposed to taste like that. However, I liked the Urban Asia ones better.

I’ve heard people talking about Kung Pao Chicken, so was really looking forward to tasting the mushrooms. And they turned out to be awesome. A mix of button and shiitake mushrooms in spicy kung pao sauce, they were absolutely yummy. No wonder people go gaga over the chicken dish.

 

I also tasted a portion of Veg Tempura, which was very crunchy and had a very nice flavor to it.

For the main course, I asked the Japanese chef to recommend something special, and he suggested I try some Noodles, with Sauteed Tofu and Mushrooms. The food was cooked at the open kitchen near the table and served in a matter of minutes. The Noodles came with lots of crunchy vegetables, and was spicy and tangy, different from the regular Chinese noodles. The Tofu and Mushrooms had a nice flavor to them and tasted pretty decent.

While I lived in the US, I used to hog on Basil Fried rice at a small Thai restaurant at Plattsburgh, NY, which tasted amazingly delicious. Ever since I came back to India, I’ve been trying to find something similar. I asked the Thai chef if she could make any thing similar, and she kindly obliged. The outcome was better than the one I remember having in the US. Spicy, with nice basil flavor, it was simply delicious.

For dessert, I was tempted to try their Chilled Mango Pudding with Fresh Cream and Ice-cream., but zeroed on Chocolate Spring Roll. Two tiny spring rolls stuffed with chocolate were served with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice-cream. The combination was absolutely toothsome.

Overall, it was a delicious meal. I loved their Kung Pao Mushroom and the Basil Fried Rice. The service was pretty good as well. All the dishes are priced on the higher side, so if you can afford, go give this place a try. I’m guessing you wont be disappointed!!

Food: 9/10
Service: 9/10
Ambiance: 9/10
Meal for 1: NA

Verdict: 9/10

Skyfall | Movie Review

Is it worth your time and money??: Skyfall is a Bond film, so the question of it not being worth your time and money doesn’t arise. It’s definitely worth a shot. But unlike what people have been saying, I wouldn’t consider it to be the best Bond movie ever. It is good, no doubt, and it establishes the new story line from now on, but it could have done a little more better. Daniel Criag for the first time looks a little odd playing the character. Javier Bardem is exceptional as the antagonist. Direction by Sam Mended is pretty good in parts, but the execution is a little slow. The film could have done better with a pacier screenplay as well. Overall, it is a decent film. The Imax effect is pretty decent as well, but nothing exceptional. Few shots looked grainy on the big screen. Give it a shot, I’m guessing you won’t be disappointed.

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

Verdict: 8/10

PS: This might be my last movie review from India. Next review from Singapore!!