Sita Ramam | Movie Review

Sita Ramam

From the trailers, Sita Ramam seemed like a romantic love story from the 1960s, with a war backdrop. Does this age-old romance work in the current era?

Scripted and directed by Hanu Raghavapudi, Sita Ramam narrates the non-linear back-and-forth story of Afreen (Rashmika), a Pakistani student from 1985 who reluctantly travels to India to handover a letter written 20 years ago by Lieutenant Ram (Dulquer) to a woman named Sita (Mrunal). While trying to locate Sita, she learns about Ram, his heroics in the Indian army, his undying love for Sita, and a little about how she’s connected to them.

From the first frame, it is clearly evident that Hanu wanted to create a love story like Roja, a Mani Ratnam classic. While combining war and the army into love stories is not new, I thought Hanu tried too hard to make everything fit into the storyline. He succeeds with the love story element; an army officer receiving letters from strangers claiming to be his family when he says he’s an orphan is well conceptualized, and how this ignites Ram and Sita’s love story is beautifully handled. The twists and turns along their journey and how it’s integrated into the army operations work well until a point, but eventually starts to feel artificial and unrealistic, primarily because of the slow pace of the film. Movies like these need to have a crisp screenplay and keep you engrossed all through, and that’s where this movie falters.

Dulquer Salmaan is brilliant as Ram. His characterization makes you fall in love with him. Mrunal Thakur scores big on her Telugu debut; she looks lovely and utilizes her expressive eyes effectively. Sumanth has a meaty role and does justice. Rashmika’s act could have been better; it felt like she did the film just for the heck of it. There are numerous actors from across industries in the film but almost all of them either have a single frame or are under-utilized.

Music by Vishal Chandrasekhar is alright but nothing great. Editing by Kotagiri Venkateswara Rao is decent considering the slow screenplay; at almost 2 hours 45 minutes, the film is too long, but I doubt he could have done anything about it. Cinematography by P. S. Vinod and Shreyaas Krishna is a major asset to the film. The Kashmir valley is stunningly picturized, and so are the buildings and frames of the 1960s. Production by Vyjayanthi is commendable.

Is it worth your time and money?: Sita Ramam is a beautiful love story with its moments, but it falters because of its slow paced and shoddy screenplay. So, watch it if you have the time and patience.

Worth mention: The chemistry between the lead pair.

Acting: 8/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 6/10
Technical Aspects: 7.5/10

Verdict: 7/10

Dhaba 49 | Restaurant Review

Place: Dhaba 49 
Location: 49 Chippenham Rd
Cuisine: Indian 
Meal: Take-away
On: Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Dhaba 49 happens to be the closest Indian restaurant to our place, but we never, for whatever reason had the opportunity to dine in here over the last four months we’ve lived in London. However, come last Tuesday, utilizing Just Eat’s Cheeky Tuesday offer, we ordered a Paneer Butter Masala, a couple of Butter Naan, and a Pilau Rice.

Though the place is about 500 meters away from our house, it took about an hour for the order to be delivered. (I actually cancelled an order a while ago cos it said the estimated delivery time was about 90 minutes).

Dhaba 49 Naan

The Paneer Butter masala (PBM) had too much ginger and was a little too tomatoey for my liking. The paneer however was fresh, so we managed to empty the box. The Butter Naan could have done with some more butter.

Dhaba 49 PilauThe Pilau rice was decent, but again, like with almost every Indian restaurant in London, bland. I wish people added a little more salt while cooking the rice, or at last after. The rice, also, was too oily.

Overall, a mediocre meal. I read good reviews about this place online but maybe because of my expectations, was disappointed. PBM is the basic Indian dish for any vegetarian, and according to me, it tells you how good or bad a restaurant is; if you can’t get your PBM right, you can’t get anything right! While Dhaba 49’s PBM wasn’t totally bad, there is room for improvement. Also, the hour waiting time is a bit too much especially when they are so close by.

I’d definitely dine at this place sometime soon, once my extended family comes by. Until then…

Food: 7/10
Service: N/A
Ambiance: N/A
Meal for 2: £16.50 (offer)

Verdict: 7/10

Portobello Health Foods | Restaurant Review

Place: Portobello Health Foods  
Location:  269A Portobello Rd 
Cuisine: Fast-food 
Meal: Take-away
On: Saturday, 25 June 2022

Looking for Vegetarian food options near my place on Google, stumbled across this small Vegetarian/Vegan joint on Portobello Road. Given that this was a Saturday, headed out to try this place as well as to experience the Portobello Road Market.

We walked in at about 3:00 PM and saw this large spread of offerings from different cuisines. It is an order-your-meal kinda place where you pick anything you want from the offerings, in either small, medium, or large boxes. There is a small seating area in the store but that would cost you extra 60 pence.

Portobello Health Foods

We opted for the large box as we wanted to try a bit of everything, and this gave us more scope to do that. We asked for some lasagne, grilled mushrooms, beans, rice, vegetables, broccoli, a couple of other things I don’t remember, and loads of potato wedges.

The overall meal tasted good, but some of the items were a little too bland. I wish they had some kinda condiments and sauces to make things wild. The large box cost us about 10 quid, the medium is £8.95, and the small is for £7.2. I am not sure if these prices are justifiable, but for the variety, maybe it deserves a try once in a while.

Food: 8/10
Service: N/A
Ambiance: N/A
Meal for 1: £9.95

Verdict: 7.5/10

Apna Adda | Restaurant Review

Place: Apna Adda
Location: Leicester Square
Cuisine: Indian

June 2022     July 2022


Meal: Take-away
On: Thursday, 2 June 2022

After a fruitful day of celebrating Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, we were looking for a place to quench our hunger. Felt like eating Indian (again), and decided to drop in at Saravana Bhavan at Leicester Square. There was waiting, and while we did that, I looked at their menu and realized that everything was overpriced (as we just dined at SB at East Ham a few days ago which wasn’t expensive at all). So looked for alternates in the area and found this small Indian eatery right around the corner.

Apna Adda

A couple of blocks away from Empire Cinemas (Cineworld), located right next to Bella Italia, you’d probably miss this unless you look closely. Apna Adda is a small shop with just a couple of tables. Having realized that dining in will not be possible, we decided to do a take-away, and ordered a portion of Veg. Spring Rolls, Veg. Hakka Noodles, Kaju Curry, and a couple of Naan. I was told it would take about 30 minutes for the order to be ready.

We explored the Piccadilly Circus area for a while, picked up the food, and hopped on a bus home. Our lil one was hungry, so we opened the Spring Rolls on our way. 7 small rolls were served along with some sweet chilli sauce, and they tasted alright. They probably were frozen ones you get at a supermarket, which justifies the size and more or less bland taste.

We were really excited to try the noodles and didn’t waste any time dug in the moment we reached home (without clicking any pictures). Unfortunately, they turned out bleh. With excessive soy sauce, they had a strong taste which I did not enjoy.

The Kaju Curry however was yummy. Loaded with cashew nuts (Kaju), the tomato gravy was perfect. I would have maybe preferred it a little spicier though. The Naan was decent, but the corners were a little too thick.

Overall, an okay meal. Our Indo-Chinese experience was mediocre while Indian food turned out to be good. Reasonably priced, they have quite an extensive menu. I’d definitely try this place again, hopefully soon!

Food: 7.5/10
Service: N/A
Ambiance: N/A
Meal for 3: £22.46


Meal: Dinner (Take 2)
On: Thursday, 7 July 2022

Dropped in here last week for dinner before a movie, and ordered a Vegetable Biryani. I then settled at a table on the street where there were quite a few entertaining performances to keep me engaged while the food was being prepared. 

Biryani

In about 10 minutes, the Biryani was served alongside some raita. This was dum-style Biryani with the curry at the bottom and rice on top, garnished with some coriander and fried onions. While the rice was perfect, I thought the curry was a bit on the spicy side, which made me sweat at the end of my meal. It may not be the best Biryani, but wasn’t bad either.

Food: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Ambiance: 8/10
Meal for 1: £6.95


Verdict: 8/10

Aladin | Restaurant Review

Place: Aladin Indian Restuarant  
Location:  Brick Ln, London 
Cuisine: Indian 
Meal: Dinner (with wifey and our lil one)
On: Sunday, 26 June 2022

On a lazy Saturday afternoon, we were in the neighbourhood to get our Indian groceries but were hungry as well, so we decided to hog first. Brick Lane is a street full of Indian and Bangladeshi food joints, with people calling out to you while walking on the street to try their restaurants. This was pretty late in the day for lunch (around 4:00 PM), so most of these eateries were empty. Not wanting to be the only patrons, we decided to walk into a restaurant that had at least a few tables occupied, and this turned out to be Aladin.

Located right opposite Brick Lane’s Food market (Upmarket) which houses some international food stalls, Aladin is a sizeable joint spread across two shops and is pretty much on the busy street so can be loud at times. We were led to a table of 6 where 2 seats on either side were already occupied by a couple of girls, and we were like, what? Then the guy separated the table to make it a 4+2 seater with little gap between them. We settled down uncomfortably, for I felt that we were intruding into their space. Almost all the tables were similarly placed, cramped next to each other. On the bright side, the place was brightly lit and looked spacious, thanks to the mirrors on the walls.

The entire staff seemed to be in a hurry which gave it an impression of a fast-food joint rather than a dining restaurant. One of the many guys came with the menus, and without even giving us any breathing space. asked if we wanted papad. I said no without thought, and he removed the pre-set plates from the table. We eventually asked for the papad while placing our order, and he got the plates back along with some condiments

Papad

For the main course, we ordered Paneer Pasanda/Korma, a Butter Naan, a couple of chapathis, and a Vegetable Biryani.

Paneer Korma

The food was served all at once in about 15 minutes. While the Paneer Korma was decent; the gravy was little on the sweet side and could have been more refined. Naan

The Naan was full of butter, soft, and tasted good.

Biryani

Vegetable Korma

The Biryani was served alongside some Mixed Vegetable Korma. The Biryani, while good, could have had more vegetables and little more masala (and salt) for it tasted bland without the korma, which in itself was alright.

Still hungry, for the portions weren’t that great, wifey decided to get a portion of Garlic Rice which was served in a few minutes. This had a lot of garlic, yes, but was dripping in oil. Again, needed salt.

Overall, an average meal. The food was decent but the experience wasn’t great. The hustle around us was getting too much to handle. To add to this, a scribbled note was presented to us as the bill for a whopping 40 quid, which I later, after stepping out of the restaurant, realized was at least 7 or 8 quid more than what we should have been charged for what we ordered (and if I read the scribble right, we were charged £2.5 for the papad!). This place is apparently voted as “One of the World’s Best Curry Houses'” in London, but I highly doubt they can be anything with this pathetic service.

Food: 7.5/10
Service: 4/10
Ambiance: 6/10
Meal for 3: £39.75

Verdict: 6/10

Aladin Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Thor: Love and Thunder | Movie Review

Thor: Love and Thunder

Thor: Ragnarok happens to be one of my favourite Marvel films for it was super fun. The banter and tiffs between Thor, Loki and Hulk (and maybe Valkyrie) gave us some best on-screen chemistry between the characters. Thor: Love and Thunder, on the other hand, while a fun film, lacks the spark and emotional connect that its predecessor did.

Directed and co-scripted by Taika Waititi, the film starts with the reinvented Thor at peace, yet desperate for a new purpose, alongside the Guardians of the Galaxy in a galaxy far, far away (no pun intended 😜). A distress signal brings him to earth where he finds his ex-lover, Dr. Jane Foster, as the Mighty Thor, holding his ex-hammer, Mjolnir. They soon realize that Gorr the God Butcher, having lost his child, Love, is, as his name suggests, on a god hunting spree. The rest of the film is about how Thor and the rest of the gang defeat Gorr.

While the storyline on paper is effective, it felt like the emotions were amiss in this almost 2-hour film which aims for a lot. There is a major clash between the serious and goofy elements, with no room for us to digest the former, which makes the film a little too overwhelming at times. The screenplay by Waititi & Jennifer Kaytin Robinson is a hit and amiss for there are a lot of tonal imbalances.

Chris Hemsworth is at his best playing Thor, and it feels like he was born to do this. However, his character arc could have been better developed for he seemed silly at times. Natalie Portman is mighty impressive as the Mighty Thor and does full justice. I however thought that her make-up was inconsistent (and maybe a little too much). The winner however is Christian Bale who acts his heart out as Gorr. Though he is the antagonist, his performance in the backstory makes you feel for him. Russell Crowe surprises with his act as Zeus.

Music by Michael Giacchino and Nami Melumad is alright. There are several featured songs effectively used in the movie. Editing by Matthew Schmidt, Peter S. Elliot, Tim Roche & Jennifer Vecchiarello could have been better for I felt that some value-adding emotional chunks maybe, have been left out. The cinematography by Barry Idoine is perfect, and I loved the way he bled the colours out in the scenes involving Gorr.

Is it worth your time and money?: As I said earlier, it is a fun movie, yes, and worth a watch, but not funny enough. Thor: Love and Thunder has its heart in the right place, but it aims for a lot without paying much heed to the emotional elements. Only if Watiti had spent a few more minutes on balancing the film, alas!

Worth mention: Christian Bale as Gorr the Butcher.

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

Verdict: 7.5/10

Mumbai Dosa | Restaurant Review

Place: Mumbai Dosa  
Location: Anna Bazaar, High Rd, Wembley 
Cuisine: Indian & Chinese 
Meal: Dinner (with wifey and our lil one)
On: Thursday, 9 June 2022

While we were craving some good food, we came across this small joint at the far end of a bazaar at Wembley, and boy, we were glad to find it. It’s a small setup with about 6 tables placed close to each other and the ambience isn’t appealing at all. However, the easy-on-the-pocket food tastes great, and so, we’ve been dropping by this place almost every time we’re in Wembley.

This time around, we came in at about 7:00 PM, before heading for a movie on a weekday, and while the joint was packed, we were able to find a table in the corner. This is more of a fast-food joint, so the tables are shabby and unclean, and this was the case today as well.

It’s a self-serve restaurant, so I walked up to the counter to order a Sweet Corn Soup, Crispy Baby-corn, Veg. Manchurian Fried Rice, and a Paneer Biryani. Do note that the lady at the counter might seem rude for she’s always multi-tasking, but she’s actually very sweet.

Given that the place was packed, it took long, longer than expected for the food to come. While we’d hoped for the Soup to come first, the Fried Rice was ready after about 20 minutes.

Manchurian Fried Rice - Mumbai Dosa

I tried their Manchurian Noodles a while ago which were decent, and was looking forward to tasting the fried rice. Full of vegetables and some chopped Manchurian balls, this turned out to be delicious and better than the noodles. It was spicy enough and reminded me of the bandi fried rice you get back home in India. For £7, the quantity is abundant unlike most of the recent restaurants I’ve been to. Yum!

Paneer Biryani - Mumbai DosaThe Paneer Biryani came next and this again was equally good. Loaded not just with paneer but also vegetables, the biryani was full of flavour. Wifey preferred this over the fried rice.

Crispy Baby-corn - Mumbai Dosa

The Crispy Baby-corn tasted good. They were crispy, yes, but if not for the chaat masala sprinkled on top, were bland. 

We were struggling to finish these three items and also running late for the movie, so requested for the soup to be packed. We also asked for a Fruit Salad with Ice-cream to go. While the Fruit Salad was decent, the soup was passable; it also had a lot of vegetables but was very thick and had too much soy sauce for my liking.

Overall, an excellent and sumptuous meal. The joint is badly maintained and needs an uplift, yes, but the food makes it up. Honestly, I wouldn’t recommend or go to such shabby places myself, but for the tasty and bang-for-buck food, I overlooked the mediocre ambience. The taste and quantity of food are better than the Saravana Bhavan located two blocks away. Do give this place a try if you’re in the area; I’d suggest to go!

Food: 8.5/10
Service: N/A
Ambiance: 4/10
Meal for 3: £20.50

Verdict: 8.5/10

Vikram | Movie Review

Vikram

Kamal Haasan is one of India’s best actors. But lately, his movies, similar to his personal life, seem too self-focused. Does Vikram stand out?

Scripted and directed by Lokesh Kanagaraj (part of his cinematic universe), Vikram starts with the murders of a couple of NCB members and an ordinary man, Karnan. Amar (Fahadh Faasil), a black-ops squad/sleeper cell commander is pulled in to investigate, and soon realises that the murders are related to missing drug containers owned by Sandhanam (Vijay Sethupathi), a local cartel leader and a ruthless man. It all comes down to who’s Karnan and how Vikram (Haasan) is connected to the all of this.

In the first half, Lokesh focuses on establishing the characters of Amar and Sandhanam, while the entire second half is about the triangular conflict between Vikram, Amar and Santhanam. While things might seem a little confusing, Lokesh holds our interest thanks to the crisp screenplay in parts. However, some episodes involving Sandhanam and his abilities after getting stoned are ridiculous and even funny. I also thought the interval bang was not well executed; c’mon, there’s one guy and 100’s of goons and police, but not a single gun? There are a quite a few illogical sequences like these in the film.

Kamal Haasan plays his age but looks sophisticated and stylish. He has a paunch in the first song, and I was like, whoa. But even with it, he delivers sleek action sequences in the second half. Fahadh Faasil carries the entire first half by himself and does a fantastic job. Vijay Sethupathi looks menacing, but I thought his character was not well scripted. Narain continues his part from Kaithi as Inspector Bejoy and is decent. Suriya impresses with his act as the antagonist (future films) in the climax. The rest of the cast is alright.

Music by Anirudh Ravichander is groovy and makes an impact on screen. The title track and the music pieces (Once upon a time & Wasted) are well used as background score. Editing by Philomin Raj is mediocre at best; films of this kind need to be sharp, but he fails miserably. The cinematography by Girish Gangadharan is top-notch. The action sequences are well choreographed.

Is it worth your time and money?:If you like action and slick films, Vikram is your cup of tea. But at the same time, the screenplay might be too much to handle at times for a regular moviegoer. Also, there are references to Kaithi/Khaidi, so it might be a little difficult for you to follow if you haven’t watched it. 

Worth mention: Kamal Haasan and Fahadh Fasil’s act.

Acting: 8.5/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 7/10
Technical Aspects: 8/10

Verdict: 8/10

PS: It would be great if Lokesh could combine Dilli and Vikram’s characters in the next film with Rolex as the villain, rather than making two separate sequels.

Lightyear | Movie Review

Lightyear

Toy Story series happens to be one of my favourite movie series to date, and I was excited when Lightyear was announced. But the excitement died soon once the trailer was out. Unlike the Buzz in the Toy Story series, I thought that this Buzz didn’t have the warmth and lacked the nostalgic touch you’d expect; and I felt the same even after watching the movie.

Nowhere connected to the Toy Story but for the small write-up in the titles, Lightyear tells the origin story of Buzz Lightyear and his adventures as a Space Ranger. Scripted by Matthew Aldrich, Jason Headley & Angus MacLane, and directed by MacLane (who co-directed the mediocre Finding Dory in the past), Lightyear doesn’t feel like a Pixar film. Yes, the animation and graphics are great, and the movie does follow the Pixar theme of a character venturing out into the world and learning to appreciate his friends and family. Still, the emotions and core crux of connecting with the audience were amiss in this one. At the end of the movie, all I felt was, okay, that was just another one, but that’s not what you’d expect from a Pixar film, right? (oh wait, none of their movies in the recent past have felt like that! ). The confusing timeline aspect was also too much to handle (imagine having to explain that to my 3-year-old!).

Chris Evans does his best to pour life into Buzz and make the character his own, but bottom line, he’s no Tim Allen. The rest of the voice cast is alright.

Music by Michael Giacchino is okay. Editing by Anthony J. Greenberg could have been better for even at 107 minutes, the movie seemed long.

Is it worth your time and money?: Skip this one in the theatres and wait for it on Disney+.

Worth mention: Fun episodes involving Sox.

Acting: 8/10
Story-Screenplay-Direction: 6/10
Technical Aspects: 8.5/10

Verdict: 7.5/10

Saravana Bhavan – Wembley | Restaurant Review

Place: Saravana Bhavan
Location: Ealing Rd, Wembley
Cuisine: Indian
Meal: Dinner (with wifey and our lil one)
On: Saturday, 4 June 2022

We dined at Saravana Bhavan at East Ham a few days ago and found the place affordable. A few days later, we wanted to check in at their Leicester Square branch, but to our surprise, everything was priced double or more. A North Indian Thali which cost us £8.95 at East Ham was about 19 bucks. Anywho, last week, we were at the Wembley branch, which was again affordable.

The place was packed at about 7:00 PM but we thankfully didn’t have to wait for a table and settled down next to the entrance. Without much delay, we ordered Channa Batura, a portion of Veg. Manchurian, Hakka Noodles, and Paneer Biryani.

Manchuria

In about 5 minutes, the Manchuria was served, and for a moment, I thought I was at the Saravana Bhavan in India which is known for its meagre quantity of food at exorbitant prices. For 7 quid, I’d expect more than 5 pieces of Manchuria. Thankfully, the taste was good, but I thought the sauce was too tomatoey.

Channa Batura

Tha Channa Batura or Chole Batura, whatever you wanna call it was served soon. It was disappointing to see the Batura served flat for our lil one wanted to pop the big poori. While the Chole was decent, the Batura was dripping in oil. 

Noodles

The Noodles looked good and tasted good as well. I realized that the noodles you get here in the UK are generally thick (unlike the thin noodles you get in India). The texture is something I personally need to get used to.

Biryani

The Biryani was served last and came with a portion of raita. With loads of paneer chunks and perfect amount of masala, this was the best dish of the meal. On the downside, a few vegetables in the Biryani would have been worth it.

Overall, a mediocre meal. While the Biryani was good, no dish made a real impression, and the dismal portion sizes didn’t make things better. While the service was decent, the overall ambience was passable. I’d probably try the Thali the next time around to see if they are worth multiple visits. 

Food: 7/10
Service: 8/10
Ambiance: 7/10
Meal for 3: £28.54

Verdict: 7/10

Saravanaa Bhavan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato