Books, Lit Fests, News, Movies, Art, Fashion and TV of course... "I must say that I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a book." - GROUCHO MARX

My Photo

I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Two recent films have brought back the powerful images of the twin towers collapsing. When it happened in Naseeruddin Shah's directorial venture Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota somehow it seemed a little contrived, you almost expected something like that to happen.

Not so in Kabir Khan's first feature film Kabul Express. It opens in true documentary style, pictures from the APTN archives, the rich baritone telling you about 9/11, how Afghanistan was forgotten, then remembered in its war-ravaged state.

Just when you are expecting the movie to go into full documentary mode, Suhel (John Abraham) and Jai (Arshad Warsi) who play the role of television journalists arrive on the scene to report on what's happened post 9/11. Their mission is to get at least one Taliban interview on tape. That happens when they and their Afghan driver Khyber (played by Afghan actor Hanif Hum Ghum) are kidnapped by a Taliban fighter on the run. He is Imran (played by Pakistani actor Salman Shahid). Along the way an American photographer Jessica (Linda Arsenio) ends up with them.

Each of them has his/her own agenda. Jessica wants to tell the world about the war, while at the same time hoping that publishers would line up for her book that will speak of the battles largely forgotten. Imran, who incidentally is from the Pakistani Army and was sent to fight with the Taliban simply wants to get back to his country. Khyber wants him out of his Kabul Express. While Suhel and Jai desperately want their story, which has to include an interview with a Taliban fighter.

Their wish is granted when they are kidnapped and thrown together by Imran's gun. With that starts a journey none of them will ever forget. A journey that is made even more memorable thanks to Warsi's presence and comic dialogue delivery - all done with a poker face.

John has his moments too, that come fairly early in the film. The time when he asks a young boy to join him while he is exercising only to discover that the sweetest smile often hides the deepest pain. The boy emerges with his crutches and smile intact.

The movie throws up several such scenes but none of them get overly mushy. Kabir Khan effectively makes the crossover from documentary to mainstream cinema by delivering some serious messages in a light-hearted way, by bringing together actors from different countries and using mainstream ones like John and Warsi together with Hanif Hum Gum and Salman Shahid.

Yes, cricket is a major point of debate, but when the Hindi songs come on, its same notes that connect, quite like the actors. There's Madhuri Dixit, Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna, who end up bridging the barriers when language fails.

Now, if you are thinking all of this would be happening in a dreary desert landscape, think again. Anshuman Mahaley's cinematography makes the setting almost picture-postcard perfect. It might even tempt you to pack your bags to re-discover Afghanistan.

At a little over two hours, the film is tightly knit and edited. Beyond the drama that unfolds on the rocky road to Pakistan, the movie throws up several tough questions. Key among them is that of war. We all know that war teaches us many things, but does it ever tell us who the real enemy is? The movie leaves you with some soul-searching for answers to that elusive question. For the sheer depth of its purpose and the directness with which it addresses it, I'll dish out a four out of a five for the splendidly done Kabul Express.

The movie has already premiered at several international film festivals including Pusan and Toronto. In fact, the next time you hear of it, its bound to be on the prestigious awards list. You wouldn't want to miss it.

Principal Cast: John Abraham, Arshad Warsi, Salman Shahid, Hanif Hum Ghum, Linda Arsenio
Director: Kabir Khan
Executive Producer: Rajan Kapoor, Swaratmika Mishra
Producer: Aditya Chopra
Screenplay: Kabir Khan
Cinematographer: Anshuman Mahaley
Editor: Amitabh Shukla
Sound: Rishi Oberoi
Music: Julius Packiam

Monday, December 18, 2006


There are stories and there are stories.

Some of the people behind those stories fade away, others remain etched in your memory forever. The story of the remarkable Captain Elmo Jayawardena is one of those - that you will never forget once you hear it, that is.

News of his book launch came to me during the early days of my book segment, over two years ago. I'll be frank. I'd never heard of him or of his book 'Sam's Story' which had won the prestigious Graetian Prize, instituted by none-other than the Booker Prize winner Michael Ondaatje. The book had made waves internationally before being picked up Singapore-based publisher Marshall Cavendish. The press release also mentioned the fact that Elmo Jayawardena happens to be a full-time Singapore Airlines pilot who runs a humanitarian organisation when he is not flying planes or writing.

My curiosity to find out more about this man was adequately whetted. So on a rainy Saturday afternoon when I would have liked to be snug with a cup of coffee, I made my way to the book launch at the Library@Orchard. For a minute, I thought I had stepped into the wrong room. The room was packed. The seats were taken - not that I minded standing.

When Captain stepped on the podium, uttered his first line, it drew instant laughs. The first volley was about his best pal's tennis game and it was advantage Elmo. From there he went on to talk about how everyone in the room mattered, how they had in one way or another contributed to AFLAC - the Association For Lighting A Candle - an organisation he had formed to reach out to the less fortunate in Sri Lanka. In fact, all the proceeds from the sale of his book 'Sam's Story' were also to go back to the charity. Speaking of publishing dollars, he told a rapt audience. "I leave the issue of royalties, entirely to my publisher's conscience."

Just why does he do that? That question led me to unravel Elmo's life. 'Sam's Story', which had opened so many literary doors for him was only a small part of the bigger story that Elmo was telling the world. And what a story it turned out to be.

Elmo was born into a reasonably wealthy family. His father was a Sri Lankan fighter pilot who went on to work as a senior captain at Air Ceylon. But at 12, life dealt a cruel blow. His father lost his job and the Jayawardena world collapsed. By the time he was 14, he became the breadwinner, while attending school at the same time. All that was left of the family fortune was a small property where he plucked coconuts.

At the age of 17, he was making fan blades for the Brown's Company. A minor break came when he was working as an accounts clerk and someone showed him a newspaper advertisement calling for air stewards for Air Ceylon. Elmo applied and got the job. Though finding a suitcase for his first flight turned out to be a challenge. After walking through his hometown, he and his mother could only find a big canvas one, that had to be filled up with his and his brother's clothes for his first flight to Bombay. The suitcase turned out to be the butt of all the cabin crew's jokes. For Elmo, those jokes only turned out to be another one of life's many lessons that taught him never to look down on anyone.

Despite those leg-pulling sessions, kindness showed up in strange forms. When a senior colleague who had developed a fondness for Elmo suggested he take flying lessons, he dutifully followed. He went on to clear the prestigious Flying Nine exams and landed a job with Singapore Airlines.

The next couple of years were focused on raising his two children with his wife Dil. In 1995, when their children were older, Elmo and Dil decided it was payback time. Driven by a sense of purpose, but no clear idea of how it would all work, they formed AFLAC. Like all good things, it started small. Backed by funds from foreign and local donors, health and education were and still remain AFLAC's key priority. Since its formation the group has also diversified into the field of shelter, clothing and food.

People came forward from all parts of the world to help and AFLAC grew over the years reaching out to students, cancer patients and anyone in need. That was till the deadly tsunami waves lashed the coastal belt of Sri Lanka. Galle alone had over 5,000 displaced families. Given the enormity of the disaster that faced them, within days, a new direction was charted.

Post-tsunami initiatives included a housing project, a pre-school in the south of Sri Lanka, stipends for students, boats for fishermen.

Today, the charity stands out with the reach that only a gifted writer and an international pilot's connections can bring. While the work may be local, the donors who support it come from all parts of the world. Perhaps what draws them to it, is Elmo and Dil's belief in the proverbial saying : "It's better to light a solitary candle than to curse the darkness."

To think he does all of this between flying passengers on 747s to all parts of the world and writing. I have often asked him about it. "There is no secret formula," he always tells me, "it's all very simple, it's about connecting one person's generosity to another person's need."

I know all of this is easier said than done, which is why as AFLAC's 'Swim for Safety' project takes off on the second anniversary of the tsunami, I can only say a humble Salaam to this amazing Captain.

For more on AFLAC's work and how you can be a part of it visit :


Says TIME magazine and I hate to disagree.

The magazine which has been giving out its annual 'Person of the Year' award since 1927, selected millions of people this time round. Citing they way blogs and websites like You Tube and My Space have changed the way we perceive virtually everything, TIME tipped its hat to the millions of bloggers, ordinary people and and citizen journalists who re-defined the term 'news' as we've known it.

As Editor Richard Stengel rightly said: "they were a vessel to all the most important stories of the year."

This is not not the first time the magazine shied away from naming an actual person for its "Person of the Year."

In 1966, the 25-and-under Generation was cited; in 1975, American Women were named; and in 1982, it was The Computer.

Read more about it here:,9171,1569514,00.html

For the longlist and who made it through the years, head here -

Friday, December 15, 2006


First Published - 1952
Pages: 184. Price: $7.99 (US)
Publisher: Harper Trophy, an imprint of HarperCollins

They say great stories never age. 'Charlotte's Web' is a case in point. With the movie set to hit the screens near you, there has never been a better time to revisit the book.

The inspiration for the movie is the E.B. White classic 'Charlotte's Web'. The book which was first published in 1952, tells the story of a spider named Charlotte and her friendship with a pig named Wilbur and the story of this bond is evocatively narrated.

Illustrated by Garth Williams, it has been ranked one of the best-selling children's paperbacks of all time. Recording sales of 45 million copies so far, it has been translated into 23 languages.

No surprise then that it has had two cinematic versions. The first one hit the big screen in 1973. And the second one releases this year.

Such is the charm of the book that it has drawn big Hollywood names like Julia Roberts, Robert Redford, John Cleese and the queen of talk-shows - Oprah Winfrey.

Dakota Fanning brings alive the character of eight-year old Fern Arable who saves Wilbur from being slaughtered by her father. With that she wins the hearts of all the animals in the barnyard helping unravel this lovely magical tale.

Charlotte is the spider, who spins lessons on life in her lovely little web. Take this little soul-searching that Wilbur goes through for instance:

"Well," he thought, "I've got a new friend, all right. But what a gamble friendship is! Charlotte is fierce, brutal, scheming, bloodthirsty - everything I don't like. How can I learn to like her, even though she is pretty and, of course, clever?

Wilbur was merely suffering the doubts and fears that often go with finding a new friend. In good time he was to discover that he was mistaken about Charlotte. Underneath her rather bold and cruel exterior, she had a kind heart, and she was to prove loyal and true to the very end."

The book packs several powerful lessons like these. Lessons that resonate with the young and old alike. So if movies drive your reading, let the big names draw you back to this charming tale of loving and caring. Flip the pages of the book, before you catch the movie.


Absolut, Red, Gold, Orange....
Yes, we've seen Vodka re-defined in several bling-ing forms.

But what's Vodka got to do with hair loss?

A lot of this piece is to be believed. Try it at the risk of losing everyone around you....

Thursday, December 14, 2006


I'm usually suspect of lists, particularly those that attempt to set apart the best from the rest. But when such lists happen to be from The Economist, I do happen to sit up, read the fine print and take notice. Not that they always give me what I want.

Often a lot of South Asian writers are simply ignored. This year too, I was hoping to see Vikram Chandra's 'Sacred Games' somewhere on the list - it's not. Nor is Kiran Desai's Booker prize winning 'The Inheritance of Loss'. While one of my favourite reads of the year, Claire Messud's 'The Emperor's Children' makes the cut, Hisham Matar's stunning debut 'In The Country of Men' doesn't.

Apart from these literary heart-breaks it is encouraging to see James Kynge's 'China Shakes the World' and Edward Luce's 'In Spite of the Gods: The Rise of Modern India' get the mention they deserve in the 'Politics and Current Affairs' section.

The book that's caught my eye this time round is:
"Journey Through Great Britain
By Iqbal Ahmed. Coldstream; 190 pages; £9.95

A deceptively simple account of travels in Britain by a Kashmiri immigrant. It shows the British as others see them -not as they think they are."

Though several searches show the correct title of the book is 'Empire of the Mind: A Journey Through Great Britain'. A sequel to his first book 'Sorrows of the Moon', a moving investigation of the immigrant experience in London, Iqbal Ahmed moves beyond the capital to make a journey through the remnants of Britain’s imperial past in 'Empire of the Mind'. Ahmed who was born in Kashmir in 1968, has lived in London since 1994. His first book was chosen as a Book of the Year in The Guardian and The Independent on Sunday. He is currently working on a novel.

Read more about how a hotel doorman by night, turns into a writer of note by day here:

So if lists determine your reading, you'd do well to head here before setting out for the nearest bookstore...


Thursday, December 07, 2006


Still from 'Dombivli Fast'

Still from 'Omkara'

It's not Sundance, nor does it claim to be. It's a festival that evolved like all good things do - over a cup of coffee and a conversation. And it's all set to grow.

Into its second year, the Asian Festival of First Films opened another window of opportunity for first-time film-makers, producers, actors, writers, cinematographers - and just about everyone involved in the art of film-making. The gamut ranges from alternative, documentary to commercial cinema.

We all learn from our firsts, so did the festival this year. The venue was better, the production slicker. The presenters - the charming MTV twins May and Choy did a fine job of pronouncing the Indian names in addition to providing some live Mandarin to English translation. If anything was lost in the process, I am sure the discerning audience couldn't tell.

The glitz factor was upped. In attendance this year were veteran actors Anthony Wong, Gina McKee (of Notting Hill fame), Cecilia Yip, award-winning scriptwriter of Bram Stoker's 'Dracula', Jim Hart, noted Indian film director Ketan Mehta and German director Volker Langhoff and two time BAFTA winner Michael Yorke.

Adding to the substance, were the excellent speeches by the jury members. Yes, Mahesh Bhatt did a fine job last year, but that's the only one I can remember from that time. This time round Hart, Yorke, Mehta and Langhoff all left you with several points to ponder. Right from the quality of films, to the trials and tribulations of first time film makers.

Speaking of first films, Kunal Kohli (of Fanaa and Hum Tum fame) who had helped in the first round of selections this year had likened it to the 'first kiss' - something you wouldn't forget even if it was bad.

Though what made it the final round looked like award-winning stuff. Some of my favourites were there. Grace Phan's, stunning documentary 'A Hero's Journey', Vishal Bharadwaj's 'Omkara' and Ramakant Gaikwad's 'Dombivli Fast'.

I was a tad disappointed not to see 'A Hero's Journey' make the final cut, but apart from that the jury did a fine job of picking the best from movies that they said didn't even look like first time attempts at film-making.

If you've seen Omkara, you'll find it impossible to believe that this is Taasaduq Hussain's first feature as an independent cameraman. If you've watched Phan's documentary, the results are likely to be same. Ditto for many of the other films that made it to the long and the short lists.

They opened windows to a whole new world. Worlds that Hart pointed out are "connecting through art". In a clear indication that art knows no borders over 200 films all the way from the US, Israel, to New Zealand came together in Singapore. Though in the end, India and China emerged as the clear power-houses.

Beyond the awards, beyond the platform it provides, the Asian Festival of First Films was a clear celebration of the fine craft of film-making in all its forms.

We saw the first rays of hope shine through it last year. After a second successful year the only way forward for Sanjoy and Shweta's vision is forward.

On that note, the winners of the night were:

Best Screenplay
Zhang Jiarui & Daju Yuan for "The Road"(China)

Best Director
Ramakant Gaikwad for "Dombivli Fast" (India) & Lam Nguyen for "Journey from the Fall" (USA)

Best Producer
Ramakant Gaikwad for Dombivli Fast (India) & Lam Nguyen for "Journey from the Fall" (USA)

Best Actor Male
Le Go in "The Road in the Air" (Taiwan)

Best Actor Female
Kangana Ranaut in "Gangster" (India)

Best Cinematographer
Tassaduq Hussain for "Omkara" (India) & Bobby Singh for "Gangster" (India)

Best Documentary
"One Show Less" (India) produced by Nayantara Kotian

Best Director Of Documentary
Roseanne Liang, "Banana in a Nutshell" (New Zealand)

Best Film
"The Road" (China)

Foreign Correspondents Association Choice "Purple Orchid" Award
The Road (China)

Though you'd do better to read more about all the nominees here:


I'm not much of a believer. In fact, I haven't been one since the time I was 12. It's a long story, narrating which would detract me from the post of the day.

It happened last night and it's had me believing that if there is a God out there, he was definitely watching over Bala, his good pal Dinakar and me. We were headed home after the Asian Festival of First Films award ceremony (a longer post on it will follow - it is truly deserving of one). The traffic light had turned red and while we waited for it to turn green, we were busy chatting away, the focus of our attention being the traffic light staring us in the face.

After all, dividing us and the road opposite us was a huge stretch of green, with a rather larger divider - something you would imagine would be hard to mount, unless one were speeding.

As the patient wait continued - sometimes traffic lights do keep you waiting- we were jolted out of our chat by a Mercedes that had not just mounted the curb, it had narrowly missed crushing a taxi along the way and looked certain to drive straight through us.

Call it our good karma, call it the will of God, call it what you may, but as fate would have it, the car stopped literally a hair's breath away from what could have definitely been the end of us, though in that moment of shock I was merely thinking of the car.

"So would this mad driver have had to pay for the insurance if he knocked us? " was the first of my many insane questions to follow.
"Yes, but we would have got to that only if we were alive", Bala calmly answered.

It was a good thing, I wasn't at the wheel because faced with a situation like that I was would have definitely been frozen. Bala, on the other hand, kept his wits intact, he got us out of there, I am certain with his heart in his feet.

It's strange how all the driving lessons you take drive you insane with the safety tips, then you end up hitting the roads and half the time it seems some of the seasoned drivers really should be back in school.

As Tripta rightly pointed out after I narrated this incident, "its always scary that even though you may be the safest driver, there are enough crazy drivers out there", let me add to that - who CAN get you killed.

If you happen to the driver, who almost spelt the end of us last night together with a couple of others on the road and if you do happen to read this post, could you please remember not to hit that pedal on the metal too hard - if not for yourself you owe at least that much to the others on the right side of the road.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


He has written about Kashmir, riots within, the clashes between the West and the rest - by all accounts scholarly discourses which have been deeply insightful. Yes, we know about his stellar achievements which include being at the helm of some of the leading publications of our times in his 20s. But this is a man of grit, who remained unfazed by the 'exigencies of space' and continued writing. His real learning began at 17 in a manner that almost sounds like the stuff of fiction. But M.J. Akbar's immensely engaging 'Blood Brothers' draws on his life to capture the biggest story of India's history.

It tracks the lives of three generations of a Muslim family (largely his own) to unravel what happened in the last 150 years, starting with starvation, "the slow fire that sucks life out in little bursts, leaving pockets of unlinked vacuum inside."

From here you are drawn to the fascinating world of Telinipara. There is a conversion, there is love, humility, humanity and food - lots of it. As the family grows, so do the events marking the lives of the memorable characters in the book. They collectively make the leap from one page to the next ensuring you flip the pages to find out what happens next. Just like Akbar's earlier books, this one turns out to be a quick history lesson as well. If like me, you can't put your book down till you reach the end, then be prepared to travel through Bengal and Punjab before, at the time of partition and post-partition.

Then is a fleeting mention about the capture of the Haji Pir pass - something that remains close to my heart. See this earlier post -

Beyond being a memorable lesson in the trials and tribulations of a country that has lived through its share of crises, the book also gives you insights into events that marked one of 'India's most cerebral editor's' journey into the world of words. To tell you about it, would mean wrecking this post with a spoiler alert. Let me only get away with saying, it's worth reading 'Blood Brothers' to find all about that and a whole lot more - including Sharmila Tagore's bikini.

Celebrity endorsements never hurt and 'Blood Brothers' has deservedly received its fair share, including one by Henry Kissinger, that is bound to be seen in the next edition of the book (which will definitely be soon). So I'll end this by letting some of the blurbs do the talking - that is if you are still trying to make up your mind about picking up the book:

"M.J. Akbar's Blood Brothers is a marvellous work of history in the form of a deeply engaging story of a Muslim family in Bengal. The exploration of the complex interface between Muslims and Hindus over the last 150 years has the freshness of a first-person experience which it actually is. A work of considerable charm, grace and insight."
- Shyam Benegal
Acclaimed Film-Maker

"A skilfully crafted family saga down three generations packed with information of events in the country and the world, particularly changing Hindu-Muslim relations. It could be a textbook on how to write, mix fact, fiction and history. It is beautifully written; it deserves to be in Category A1."
- Khushwant Singh
Author & Historian

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


While I'm at it - this business of raving and ranting, let me get down to my long overdue post of Don. It was triggered in part by a comment that came my way at a dance party a couple of winks ago. The minute Khaike Paan Banaras Wala came on, someone next to me went : "No, one likes the new Don."

Perfectly fine statement to make if there were no neo-Don lovers in sight. But I liked it and I said it. Then the statement changed to "only 5% of those who watched it liked it." I have no clue where that statistic came from, but I count myself fortunate to be a part of that 5%.

We'd finally made it Don after a long day. A bull run (ie a run featuring man and his best friend) meant I spent an hour in traffic in a vain bid to pick up Bala in time for a book launch. When Catherine Lim is launching a book, you want to be there to catch her unscripted speeches. Much to my dismay, I missed the launch and the speech and barely managed a couple of words with Catherine before she had to leave.

Then we spent several minutes toggling between which movie we'd like to watch. 'Good Year', 'Don'? 'Don', 'Good Year' - things finally swung in favour of Don. We made it to Shaw only to realise that the show was at midnight. But you know how it is, when the mind is set on a movie, the mind is set on a movie. With a two hour long wait before the movie, I even had time to nap and that's pretty much what I expected to do when we ended the theatre.

How wrong I was. Right from the start, the movie exceeded my expectations. Ok, I would have preferred to see a real item girl instead of Kareena, but no one seemed to mind. Shah Rukh was brilliant from the word go. The quiet evil Don chilling you to the very bone, then the tapori who emerges in the Ganpati Visarjan. The 9/11 bits didn't seem overtly contrived unlike in Naseerudin's directorial debut 'Yun Hota To Kya Hota'. The empire in Don unfolds smoothly as do the splits right at the top of the Evil Empire - so to speak.

Farhan Akhtar captures Malaysia in all its glory. Anyone, who has been to Genting will tell you it actually looks better through Farhan's lens. Then the Bollywood heroine emerges in a new avataar. No more grin and bear it kind of heroine here. Priyanka Chopra is all ready to kick butt and she sure does with some stunning results.

Boman Irani proves yet again, there is no role scripted or otherwise that he can't do. As DCP De Silva he gives no indication of the twists that were to follow in the movie. Twists that had me like the other 5% at the edge of my seat wondering if good will eventually win?

If there are a couple of late bloomers like me, who take forever to watch the movie, let me not spoil it for you.

The official reviews don't quite leave the right impression, having watched it, let me tell you 'Don' on the whole is enjoyable. Each actor has fleshed out his character superbly and Arjun Rampal deserves a special mention. As does the man who put it all together. Farhan, who make me so proud of Indian cinema. The music rocks, can we expect anything less from the magically lyrical Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy?

Yes, I am an unapologetic Don fan, no ifs, buts and likes about that.

Since I'm making it my business to dish out some popcorns, I'm going to give it a four out of the full five.


It was such a thanda lip-lock that you wouldn't imagine anyone would get turned on by it. But some folks sure did and they've headed right to the court room, filing an obscenity case against Aishwarya and Hrithik Roshan. The kiss in question happened in the even more questionable Dhoom 2.

The case has been filed by an advocate under Sections 292 (vulgarity) and 509 (derogatory to women) of the Indian Penal Code. The complainant alleged that women felt offended after watching the scene and it promoted vulgarity in society. Seriously?

Now, didn't all of this happen in Fanaa, when Kajol and Aamir indulged in a whole lot more, or for that matter in the almost unwatchable Chingaari bits between Sushmita and Mithun. And hasn't anyone watched Aish pretty much bare it all in The Mistress of Spices?

If one has got to take issue with whatever is shown on the big screen, why let Shah Rukh and Kareena escape? The song in Don was hotter than anything that came across all of Dhoom 2.

I have absolutely no issues with a kiss, in fact let there be two if the context and the setting demands. Indian cinema, we've been told, has come of age (at least on the kissing front), now if only the folks watching it would grow up.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

DHOOM 2: How to LIKE Say It?

After reports of the upcoming wedding, the ceremonies, the rituals and the reports of Aishwarya Rai having to tie the knot with a tree before an actual wedding with the Abhishek Bachchan, the joke doing the rounds goes:

- The tree and Aishwarya act in a film together. The tree acts better. (what can I say - life's LIKE that only!)

That pretty much sums up Aish's showing in Dhoom 2 (never mind the short skirts and bikini tops). Every time she has to say like, it is with such effort that you wonder didn't even hear this when the shots were being done. One minute, she is this small time con woman Sunehri, the next minute you can hear her spouting English with the pucca clipped accent. As if that weren't painful enough, tough cop Bipasha Basu who makes an appearance as Shonali transforms into the rather forgettable Monali.

I'm not even a Hrithik Roshan fan, but he was the only one who impressed in this sequel that falls flat compared to its predecessor.

In typical Hindi movie style, the action takes you to a robbery in Namibia, where a five-year old non-shooter gifted with a gun, would have done better than the beefcakes, making a go at the King of Cons - 'A'.

Similar scenes repeat themselves throughout the movie. 'A' (Hrithik Roshan) reinvents himself several times including as a rather sad looking Johnny Depp avataar, he saves the dances and proves ACP Jay Dixit (Abhishek Bachchan) really shouldn't be asked to shake his leg in the same dance sequence as him.

The action was supposed to be riveting. I went to watch the flick with a bunch of pals and each of us took turns catching a couple of winks watching the deadpan events unfold in an even more brain-dead fashion.

If babes in bikinis mark your kind of movie watching, then go ahead, add to the Dhoom:2's already bursting at its seams revenues, otherwise be sensible and just wait for the VCD.

If I was in the business of popping those popcorns, I'd seriously give it just one.

It's like that bad. Give me Dhoom and John Abraham anyday.

Labels: , ,

Friday, December 01, 2006


I moaned as another birthday rang in yet another year. So many years gone by and I still have that book to do. Each year I put it down to another year. It didn't hit earlier, but when one thinks of all the years that have simply flown, the sense of under-accomplished rapidly sinks in. Which is why, this year I wasn't my boisterous self. I was getting older, time was passing me by and there was officially nothing much to show for a life gone by. That is till I got this lovely piece from my good pal Janet de Neefe. She describes our friendship better than I ever could.

We met, as she tells you at a press conference. It was what Malcolm Gladwell would call a 'Blink' moment. The minute we started out looong chat, I knew this friendship would be forever. Though I had no idea that the strings that bind us would strengthen so much over the next few months.

I owe a lot to Janet. She put me on one of the biggest platforms - a session with Michael Ondaatje. That one session opened so many more doors for me. In many ways, all the connections I made at the various other writers festivals that were to follow, added to the content of the book segment. Helping put so many sessions together with all the wonderful Literary Festival Directors I have met so far, has taught me so much more about the love for the written word. It has taught me to stretch myself just that little bit more to get the best bits for the show.

There have been lessons in life, in living, in appreciating, though Janet says it much better than I do. Here's her piece... She calls it shabby, I hate to disagree....

29th NOVEMBER 2006:

Hey I wrote this about you. Had to write it quickly so its a bit shabby. I'll send you a copy when its published.

DEEPIKA SHETTY: There's something about Deepika!

There is something to be said for serendipitous meetings. Deepika Shetty beamed into my life at the Singapore Writers Festival press conference two years ago. Amidst a room of unfamiliar faces, hers was one that caught my attention. And when the questions started rolling in from the audience, hers were the ones that made sense. After the conference was over, we started chatting, and chatting and chatting. When the crowd dispersed, we were still talking! We became instant friends, drawn like gentle magnets into a sweet sisterly bond that is destined to be a life-long friendship.

Deepika Shetty is the News Producer of Prime Time Morning for Channel NewsAsia. Dubbed a current affairs 'breakfast show', it can be seen from Monday to Friday from 6.30am - 9.30am throughout Asia. In addition to that, Deepika also produces the book segment 'Off the Shelf', a program that she claims takes a 'lot of sweat, blood and tears but labours of love were never meant to be easy. It isn't quite the Oprah Book Club or the Richard or Judy show, though I do believe it has made some inroads in getting people reading in this part of the world.' And let me show you some of the authors that have appeared on her show: Shashi Tharoor, Paul Theroux, Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, Michael Ondaatje, Romesh Gunesekera, Jeffrey Sachs, Thomas Friedman, Alexander McCall Smith, Nury Vittachi, Chitra Banerji Divakaruni, Neil Gaiman and Suhayl Saadi to name a few.

'Personally, the journey has been immensely fulfilling. Being the bookie myself, the sheer sparring with minds who have appeared on the show has made this show more than just another job. It has also taken me to places I'd only imagined. I've moderated at key writers festivals in South-East Asia, Australia and will start next year with Sri Lanka's first literary festival - the Galle Literary Fest.' Hailing from India, Deepika moved to Singapore eight years ago to pursue her TV career. In India she was a journalist with the daily 'The Times of India' and the newsmagazine 'India Today'.

Of course, her other interests are plenty and one of her favourite pastimes is watching Bollywood movies, and her favourite star is Amitabh Bachchan! 'Like thousands of others, I am fascinated by the growth story in all fields, including Bollywood. I've produced several interviews with the stars as well. Prominent film industry names who have appeared on the show include - Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Sharmila Tagore and Shabana Azmi.'

Deepika has now become a permanent fixture of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival. And for those of you who have attended over the past two years, I am sure you will remember her. Flavoured with the utmost professionalism, Deepika manages to bring out the best in all those she interviews. And it is not just her warm personality and intelligent, articulate viewpoints that guarantee a wonderful session. It is her thorough research of the subject and keen eye for interesting detail that bring her panels to life. It was after she appeared at the 2005 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival, that Deepika was invited to appear at the Byron Bay Writers Festival. And she was the sweet heart of their event, running the most successful discussions of the festival.

Next year in January, she will be moderating at the inaugural Galle Writers Festival in Sri Lanka and will also be running a journalism workshop which, I, for one, hope to attend. In fact, the Galle Festival will be a bit of an Ubud Writers & Readers Festival get-together, with the likes of William Dalrymple, Suketu Mehta, Chris Kremmer, Madhur Jaffrey and yours truly appearing.

And Deepika is one of our greatest supporters who has an immense faith in our festival and in what we are trying to achieve. She said recently, 'I think it is a really special festival because it has been created with a sense of purpose - it was born out of the Bali bombings. And for the people of Bali. for people in Asia and beyond Asia, the festival resonates not just in terms of content, not just for the reason that it has been created, but for the fact that is bringing the people of the world together'.

Deepika will be appearing again at the 2007 Ubud Writers & Readers Festival and, who, knows, maybe we can tempt her to run a workshop for us too. Stay Tuned! In the meantime, you can read Deepika's blog at Happy Reading!

Janet de Neefe

Labels: ,