Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Best Movies of 2009

With 3 days to go in the year, lists are popping up everywhere and I too threw my hat in the ring. This list, of my top 5 Hindi & English movies, has been inspired by these tweets by my friend Abhishek Paul. So, without further ado let's delve into the year that was.

Note: I have only taken those movies into account which I saw in a theatre in 2009, with one exception, which we will come to later.


5.  Paa 

Two years back Amitabh Bachchan and Balki had created one of the most under rated movies of our times - Cheeni Kum. This time they didn't leave any stone unturned to ensure the movie got all the publicity it deserved (and more!) and that included Amitabh Bachchan appearing only through his 'Auro voice' for all interviews and even as a commentator for a cricket match!

Though there initial concerns about the movie being a rip-off of 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button', the final product had nothing in common with the Oscar nominated movie, besides the fact that the protagonists suffered from the rare disease, progeria. Maybe Amitabh Bachchan's angry-young-man went against him most of his life where he was typecast in similar roles, but now that he is taking up experimental roles we are perhaps seeing the best of Bachchan senior.

Auro will remain etched in the minds of Indian cinegoers for a long time to come. Shahenshah, take a bow.

4. Gulaal

Gulaal had very high stakes against it because it came on the heels of 'Dev D' the mega success from Anurag Kashyap and expectations were sky high. Also it was the last movie to be released before the 3 month long producers-multiplex owners strike. Just to meet expectations was a tall task, and Gulaal definitely lived up to it.

Though the plot was not overtly original, the portrayal was brilliant. All through the playing time of the movie you were glued to your seat with sweaty palms, unsure of what to expect from the very sharply etched, volatile characters. As usual Kay Kay Menon delivered a powerhouse performance in an Anurag Kashyap movie, but the biggest take away for me was the mind blowing performance of Raj Singh Chaudhary as Dileep. Perhaps the weakest character of Indian cinema, beating Devdas and Dev D to the post, his transformation was captured in a most riveting way. The twists and turns in the tales were a little predictable sometimes but on the whole this was Anurag Kahsyap starting off from where he left off in Dev D and cementing his place as a force to reckon with in Indian cinema.

3. Luck By Chance 

By far the biggest under promoted movie of the year. It's almost sad to see how it has evaporated from the combined consciousness of the industry. Zoya Akhtar's directorial debut with her brother (Farhan) in the lead role was a most refreshing package from the movie-within-movie genre.

Every character, howsoever short the role may have been, was realistic and believable, yes including the very colourful Romy Roli (Rishi Kapoor)! Hardly has such an honest movie been made on one of India's biggest dreams - making it large in the world of Bollywood. Starting from the acting classes where you have to not only act, but also sing and dance and fight and what not, Farhan's journey from a struggling actor to the next-would-be-superstar was beautifully etched. Konkona Sen Sharma never looked like she was in a movie, she hardly does. We are lucky to have such an natural in our generation, though she is getting a little stuck in the stereotype that she has created for herself.

Overall a delightful watch and leaves you with a sense of hope but not by sugar coating the world of cinema.

According to me Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's graph (Aks-Rang De Basanti-Delhi 6) has been one which goes up and to the right (complicated way of saying constantly improving!), but the reception to Delhi 6 was unexpectedly harsh. However, since this is my blog and these are my ratings I will keep it at no. 2 on the list and it remains one of those movies which says all that you wanted to but you could never say it as well kind.

The issues tackled - caste, superstition, communalism etc - are not new at all, but I felt the fashion in which it was portrayed was touching and inspiring. There were many cliches and in-your-face metaphors used, but with movies like this one which genuinely wants to spread a message, you need to use props to reach out to lowest common denominator.

Abhishek Bachchan and Sonam Kapoor were outstanding in their performances and like in all good movies the supporting cast stood shoulder to shoulder with them. E.g. in the scene where the sweetshop seller was beaten up and his shop ransacked, the pathos and anger portrayed was sharp enough to bring a tear to the eye and feel like bringing an end to the mindless violence we indulge in. And it will be unfair to finish the review with a mention about the music, A. R. Rahman has perhaps produced his greatest piece of work for this movie.

R. O. Mehra has at least one fan who respects him more after this movie.

1. Dev D 

It is not easy to make a movie on a story that has already been made 4 times in the last 60 years, with actors like Dilip Kumar and Shahrukh Khan having etched the protagonist's character in the minds of millions, for eternity. It get's even tougher when 2 of your previous movies (Black Friday and Paanch) have been banned and censored ruthlessly by the censor board of the country for no particular reason many times in the past.

Anurag Kashyap took on all of these adversities head on and made a movie which will get into the history books as one that, in some way, changed the perception about Indian movies forever. That's Dev D, or the new age Devdas, for you!

Abhay Deol (Dev) without a trace of doubt is the most versatile actor from his family (including his legendary uncle) and he produced one of the greatest performances of Indian cinema in the form of the 'loser' Dev who ruined his life over the love that he spurned due to hypocritical values. Mahie Gill (Paro) emerged as an actress to look out for. Same goes for Kalki Koechhlin (Chandramukhi), who by the way played an Indian character perfectly in spite of being from a French background.

This movie could never have been what it turned out to be without the almost enchanting music. It was so much a part of the story that it's impossible to remember which song played where in the movie. The biggest strength of the movie was it's non-preachy narrative and screenplay.

If Dev D is a symbol of what's in store for us in future, it gives all of us Indian cinelovers immense hope. God bless Anurag Kashyap.


This is the exception mentioned at the beginning of the post, as this is the only movie which makes the list that I didn't watch in the theatre (it's not released in India yet).

The sheer drama, taut screenplay and sense of victory along with David Frost at the end. A compelling watch

At the risk of being steamrolled by the intellectuals, and pseudo-intellectuals, I will openly declare my love for this thriller. I don't care however 'in' it maybe to hate Dan Brown's books and movies made on them, this movie kept me at my seat's edge through it's run and I left feeling my entire money spent on it was worth it. If you haven't watched it, please do yourself a favour, and get a DVD and watch it, even if you don't want to accept in public that you liked it:)

3. Up

Besides the unbelievable graphics (and I saw it in normal 2D), Carl Fredricksen's character resembled my grandfather, and the other grandfather like people I have known, so closely that I just had to keep it in my list. It has the technical excellence and the magic of Disney which through it's comics manages to tug at your heart. Perhaps one of the best animated movies of the decade.

2. Avatar

The most talked about and most expensive movie of this year and all time respectively has one of the simplest messages that there is - be good. However, the technology and the special effects will blow your mind away and the seamless way in which the technical marvel and simple fable kind of a storyline met is worth the hiked up prices at the multiplex. Avatar is more than a movie, it's an experience. One that you will regret missing, so please book your tickets while it's still running at a theatre near you.

It takes a Quentin Tarantino to play with history the way he did in IB. The only reason this makes the list, and right at the top of it, is because like most other movies in the list this was taut and edge-of-seat thriller, but this had me so riveted from act 1 scene 1 that I couldn't force myself to go for the much needed washroom break. If you have to watch one thriller in your life make sure it's this one!

Photo courtesy - www.glamsham.com (hindi), www.movieposter.com (english)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Videos From Singapore & Indonesia

Earlier this week I was in Bintan Islands, Indonesia to attend a conference and I also spent a few days before that in Singapore. Will be writing about the trip in a later post, as of now wanted to share some of the video captures from the trip. Hope you enjoy.

The first video is from the Underwater World in Sentosa in Singapore. Given the basic video features of my camera the feel is not completely captured, but it is a very interesting feeling indeed to see all the aquatic creatures swim by you and over you! I thought the best part was when one of the caretakers went inside in a diver's costume to feed the animals (video not available), was quite surreal!

The next one is from the Dolphin Show, again in Sentosa, where the highly trained dolphins performed a variety of tricks, I could capture this belly dance and is quite amusing! Have got the rest of the antics as still shots.

The food in Singapore's food courts is mind boggling to put it mildly! I was so fascinated by the spread and variety that I recorded this video in the middle of a crowded food court called The Asian Food Mall in Orchard Road.

Moving over to the Indonesian part of the trip, the next short video shows the welcome dance we received at the Bintan Lagoon Resort, Indonesia.

We had a packed schedule during the days and amazing entertainment in the evenings. This anchor, Rafique, was a pro at involving the audience (Googlers from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, India, Ireland & US) and making the night memorable. This video shows a couple of Googlers, Mike from Ireland (now in China) and Patrice (from Australia) given some Indian dresses and asked to dance (impromptu) to an Indian song. And Varun is asked to be a tree!

Another of Rafique's games was asking 4 people to come up on stage and perform a rock show. They were given props like a broom, mops and dusters and they had to improvise to a song being played in the background! The effect was quite hilarious!

Finally, the last video shows the food from the pirate party themed dinner. The food again was from most of the countries from where the participants of the conference had come from and was delicious!

Presently I am sifting through the 300 odd pictures that I took during the trip, and once the selection is made will upload and share them with you!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Alternate Cover For Chetan Bhagat's 2 States

Recently completed reading Chetan Bhagat's latest novel 2 States. It's a sequel to his previous book, Five Point Someone, about the IITs. This one talks about two IIM-A grads, a Punjabi guy and a Tamil girl falling in love and marrying against all odds and their families' wishes.

A quick, light read and worth it at it's price of 95 INR or 65 INR if you buy it from Flipkart (thanks Manan for the tip).

While having lunch this afternoon I thought of this alternative cover for the book which was waiting for me right on my dining table. Do notice the subtle details like the Punjabi being slightly larger than the Madrasi;)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Diwalinks & Dummies Guide To Twitter - Please RT

I am a trivia scavenger. Any information, remotely newsy, funny, informative or plain absurd fascinates me no end. Like others of my ilk, and there are many in case you didn't know, I not only collect random facts through 'links' but also cherish them and share my joy by spreading them far and wide hoping other trivia freaks will catch hold of them and keep them alive. The internet, through it's 'links' have helped us more than diaries, quiz books, newspaper cuttings etc combined.

This Diwali I wanted to share a bunch of these links that I collected but couldn't share through Twitter/Facebook etc for some reason or the other.

If you are not accustomed to the world of Twitter, then here's a dummies guide:

a) every 140 character message you update if called a tweet.

b) you can 'follow' people you find interesting and similarly those who find your updates interesting will follow you (I am available at @suhel by the way)

c) yes, everyone has an ID and is generally known as @ID

d) refer to point a, whoever you are and however big 'connections' you may have, you have to get every message within 140 characters. Yes, that's 20 shorter than a normal SMS.

e) If you like someone's tweet and want to share that, you usually Retweet (RT) him/her. E.g If I tweet 'India won the world cup' and you heard the news first from me, and want to let everyone know and also acknowledge the fact that you heard it from me you will tweet ' RT @suhel India won the world cup' This is useful information because I have received every link published below from Twitter users I follow, and have duly RT ed them.

f) The rest of the rules are pretty fluid, and unless you are @shashitharoor you can also use phrases like 'holy cow' and 'cattle class' :)

Here are some links I wanted to share.

Happy Diwali!

RT @abhility For all those who call Kolkata home or love it anyway - a good piece in the Business Standard today - http://tinyurl.com/yjr563b

RT GautamGhosh Are You Practicing Proper Social Networking Etiquette? - Forbes.com http://ow.ly/tPQB

RT madmanweb Where would be we without the Internet to show us stuff like this: Oprah pees for 10 min - http://is.gd/4d8ca

RT avinashkaushik Meet the "most persecuted person in the entire history of the world": http://tr.im/BgB3 Good lord!

RT ankurb Can't decide what's the best time to run off to pee when watching a movie? Help is at hand. http://tr.im/AslF (Seriously though, WTF?!)

RT amitvarma I saw the headline on the homepage and thought Brian Lara was a modern-day Cleopatra: http://bit.ly/vJLx6

RT avinashkaushik [I dare you not to enjoy this...] The Marshmallow Test: http://tr.im/z1Qt

RT nixxin RT @priyankarocks Ballmer Confiscates iPhone at Microsoft Annual Meeting http://bit.ly/hVL0j

RT marissamayer RT @TechCrunch - Kanye West Disrespects Our Website http://bit.ly/CPzCT by @parislemon

RT bhatnaturally Tracy Awards - cream of crap advertising http://bit.ly/154sAB

RT madmanweb Viewer Friendly Interface - computers as shown in TV and movies: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/...

RT anirbandas RT: @dushver: Amazing: 23 Breathtaking Moments And Ideas Captured By Photographers : http://digg.com/d3yoKu?t

RT avinashkaushik [Absolutely Brilliant] People, their hang-ups & other ppl. Video, 8 mins (2yrs of work). Red Rabbit: http://tr.im/qwyo

RT cdeepak RT @d33pak: RT @leztah http://bit.ly/CfgyN The MJ pepsi commercial from the 1980's. The ad that started the pepsi young generation thingy.

RT nairr A complete Michael Jackson profile (A quizzer's delight): http://bit.ly/s86Iy

RT avinashkaushik The, boldly named, Complete Google Analytics Power User Guide: http://tr.im/pCXe Download it, finally use GA! :)

RT nikhilnarayanan Airbus & Boeing : a 40 year rivalry http://is.gd/1cesy via Business week #boeing #airbus

RT ankurb Evolution of a photographer. http://digg.com/d1uQ6M Nice illustration of what happens as you get sucked deeper into photography.

RT Asfaq Integrate Google Latitude with Your Google Profile http://ff.im/-429oC

RT rameshsrivats Modi-...heartwarming to see players from different IPL teams ... come together to play for their countries. Check http://is.gd/10PKP

RT greatbong http://bit.ly/lRZc2 The great "bad man" Ranjeet captured in a very candid moment. Not safe for work. Not safe for your health.

RT nikhilnarayanan I still don't believe. RT @Naina Optical Illusion : The best I've ever seen! http://ow.ly/lrFc via @jnack

RT bhatnaturally Handy list of marketing & advertising books http://tr.im/xs3t

RT shashark How to Manage Your Online Life When You're Dead http://bit.ly/4rAEKU

RT avinashkaushik [Priceless!!] Emails From Crazy People http://tr.im/vlW8                   

Friday, October 09, 2009

Dummies Guide To Winning The Nobel Prize

Barrack Obama was inaugurated as the president of the US of A on 20-Jan-2009.

The Nobel Peace prize was announced on 9-Oct-2009.

The last date for nomination was 1-Feb-2009. (Go to the part of the article that says: Myth: Candidates can be nominated until the last minute)

Before becoming the president of the US of A very little of his work was 'for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples' for which he received the prize.

Which leads us to the question? Can we hope to win the prize with 11 days of work (25 Jan was a Sunday)?

And the answer is: Yes, we can!

(cross posting from a mailing list I had originally posted this in)

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Lost Art Of Bubble Making

Remember the soap-bubble wallah in the melas from our childhood? No? Even we had forgotten about him, and then we found him. In Gurgaon of all places. Next to a plethora of over priced restaurants on the evening of Karwa Chauth. The price of a packet has gone up from Rs. 2 to Rs. to now Rs. 20, but the joy remains the same. Actually a little more maybe. Here are some pictures and videos of us revisiting our childhood after a day of celebrating marriage. And looks like we have both improved over time and without practice!



Friday, September 25, 2009

Sharodiya Shubhechha - Happy Durga Pujo For The 'Non-Bengali's

While most of you in Bengal will be busy deciding upon which pair of new clothes to wear on this Shoptomi (Day 1 of the Pujo) evening, I am blogging from my office in Gurgaon, getting ready to go for 'What's Your Rashee?' in sometime and missing home and Pujo.

This post by Arnab (Greatbong) whetted the Pujo appetite, more so because this too was written from an out-of-Bengal perspective. After spending Shoshti at DLF Bengali Association's Pujo, Gurgaon I figured that if you are not in Poschim Bongo (West Bengalo) - Markin Juktorashtro (United States of America)  & Gurugram (Gurgaon) are more or less the same.

The Gurgaon Phase 1 Pujo is in fact one of the better examples of a Pujo I could find to show Veni. This was her first experience of Durga Pujo. And we know we should have gone to Asansol/Kolkata this year but due to the disappearance of 80% of my team and my leave a few months back her introduction to the Bangali Pujo had to be postponed by a year.
Coming back to the one in Gurgaon, it is a very well organised one by the Bangali families in and around DLF City, and has been going on for many years now. Yes, I forgot to note when it started. It is organised in the DLF Community Centre, and the protima (idol) is placed in the club house, so one does miss the entire elaborate pandals, but it has the Bharati-Bhaban (those from Asansol-Burnpur will know what I mean) feel to it. The protima (shown above) is not ekchala, and this year a golden varnish has been applied to the idols.

The dhakis (ones playing those drums to the right) come from Bengal every year and frankly there is not much difference in their performances here and back home. Besides, they are a most friendly bunch!
 And of course, how can a Durga Pujo be complete without the 'cultural programme'?:) Gurgaon doesn't disappoint there as well! There is a fully packed four day programme ending with an extravaganza by the Bangali rock band - Bhoomi. The program list is provided below, I think only the bishorjon ceremony is quite conspicuous by it's absence. I have half a mind to go and take part in the 'Qweej' (which for some odd reason is spelt as 'Quiz' here). We couldn't catch much of the Shoshti (day 0 of the Pujo) function, but plan to do so on Oshtomi (Day 2 of the Pujo)along with the anjali.


Finally, the main part of the Pujo - the food! While driving back last evening my wife observed that she has not come across any other Indian festival where everything else takes such a distinct backseat compared to the food, and I think she was bang on. While rewinding through the memories of the pujos gone by I realised that the lasting impressions have indeed been of the mansgher ghugni and phuchka competition and of course the pretty women, rather women looking their prettiest, whether most of those were pretty in absolute terms is a question that can pass.

The DLF pujo organises an Anondo Mela (sort of a community fair) where families bring home cooked food, set up stalls and sell them, and by far is the biggest attraction of the Pujo here.

The spread included - korai shutir kochuri (peas kachori), aloor dum (Dum  Aloo), dorbesh (a kind of sweet), peethe (another kind of sweet), manghsor ghugni (a form of mutton and chholey), aloo kabli (tangy potatoes), dim er devil (devilled eggs), chicken biriyani (kolkata style with a whole boiled potato), mishti paan, egg roll, chicken roll, chicken momo, papri chaat, sandesh, machher chop (a kind of fish snack), Mughlai Porota and many more. Oh yes, we did try most of the ones mentioned above and thus have forgotten the rest, though they were no less by any means.

My friend, Dhiman (with me in the picture) and his family have been putting up a stall every year without fail, and this time it was the kochuri-aloor dom, machher chop, dorbesh and peethe one. The 80 rupees was well spent on the food from their stall:)

Besides this there is also a commercial area where there are stalls set up by eateries and restaurants, some well known names like Nizam's roll and Biriyani. The handloom and other allied stalls also make their presence felt.

 You can watch this roll being made in the video below. The amount of chicken he added to the roll would have been considered blasphemous by any self respecting roll-chowmein wallah of Bengal. But then again, that same roll wallah wouldn't dream of charging Rs. 60 for a roll.

If you are in Delhi NCR I would recommend you give this pujo a visit, and if you are cooling your heels in Bengal, then good for you! Wherever you are, wishing you season's greetings during this magical time of the year. I promise I saw some kash phool on my way to Delhi and that 'Pujo Pujo bhab' is present in some form here too!

P.S: That deem-er devil on Veni's plate was just as good at it looked:)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Dil Bole Hadippa - Review

This is a first for me, reviewing a movie from the theatre, 45 minutes into
it. And it's not because I am suddenly fascinated by mobile internet but
because the only other option is to watch the movie, which frankly is not
much of an option.

I came with low hopes and shallow expectations, after all the movie has been
universally panned, but DBH has gone under and below those standards.

The ending and everything else is predictable from act 1 scene 1, that is if
you don't consider the teasers, posters or the title itself. Punjab, mustard
fields, audio collage of ex-Yash Raj strains, cricket, India-Pakistan,
Indian > NRI, thousands of extras in bright costumes, loud characters,
Anupam Kher as the avuncular old man and every other stereotype which was
charming during DDLJ and has lost all sheen over the last decade and half
due to excessive and manic milking.

The plot - Rani Mukherjee is a cricket crazy Punjabi village belle who wants
to play for the local team that plays against the Pakistani local team every
year during Independence Day. India has lost the match 9 years in a row, and
Anupam Kher - the owner of the Indian team - calls over Shahid Kapur, his
son and a smashing cricketer playing in England, to build a team. Veer/Veera
(Rani) is not allowed to be a part of the same because of her gender, so she
goes in the disguise of being a sardar.

We just went into intermission, and as far as the ending goes your guess is
as good as mine, and both, I am sure, are mighty good!

The only difference between us is you will now move to another tab perhaps
with some pity for me, and I will spend the next hour or so watching the
movie as I don't have the review to keep me busy any more.

Before you sympathise with me any further and think of me as the boy who
lost everything, let me tell you that last Friday a friend challenged me to
a TT match, the bet was two movie tickets of my choice or his. I won the
matches and the bet but made a terrible choice of the movie.

Oh yes, the movie had some message about women's equality, having the Indian
heart in the right place and a few others I'm sure. And yes, it had Shahid
Kapur's name before Rani's in the credits in a movie for, of and about Rani
Mukherjee, some respect shwon to the woman.


Sent from my Blackberry Wireless Device

Friday, September 11, 2009

Making Your Own Font

The idea of having a font made from my own handwriting has intrigued me ever since I was introduced to MS Word and the world of fonts. But I had resigned to fate, assuming that I had to either become the next big thing in calligraphy or needed to build a brand as big as Cadbury's to have my wish fulfilled.

However, a few days back I stumbled upon this site which made my long time wish come true - www.fontcapture.com And the simple logic implemented behind the technology is praiseworthy.
You will find the easiest step by step guides on the site. I am producing some screenshots of how I made my font in case you want the proof of the pudding before the eating.
Step 1: Download the blank form template (shown below) from the site. This basically includes all characters which you need to fill out with a sharp black marker.

Step 2: Filling out the characters. Below I have put my scanned copy of the same.

And we are almost done. Now we just need to upload this file (.jpg or .png) and we have our own home grown font!
Seeing my font on screen I was expecting to be beeming with pride after the age old wish coming true. However, all I felt was a sense of shame for having never taken my parents' and teachers' repeated warnings to improve my hand writing. But I have promised to myself that just to have an enviable font made after my writing style, I will again pick up the pen and rough pads and start scribbling.
Here's how the font will look like. Well, should be much better for most of you:)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Oh! Calcutta Oh! Yes

This has been a heavy duty food week with a nawabi lunch at Karim's (Gurgaon) a few days back consisting of Biriyani, Burra Kebab, Chicken Afghani, Jehangiri Qorma and the masterpiece - Mutton Raan, this was followed by Haleem from Pista House. And it was only fair that it ended with a lavish Bangali spread at Oh! Calcutta (Nehru Place, Delhi) this afternoon.
Coming back to the lunch, some school and college friends of mine planned this a few days in advance and exchanged emails to get into the mood. This post by Shantanu Ghosh (a highly recommended food blogger) obviously upped the ante.
Bangali cuisine is quite elaborate to begin with. A normal lunch at a Bangali household is usually a 4-5 course event - starting with some veg/fish fries as appetisers, a veg curry, dal, a non veg curry (fish/chicken/mutton), and a sweet dish. So, when you come to the most well known Bangali chain in the country for their Sunday lunch do budget for 1.5-2 hours and tie the belt a little loose.
The lunch started with some very well prepared fish chops, crisp and fresh with kashundi (mustard sauce), and the ubiquitous luchi and chholar dal. They also had some seafood and chicken salad, though I can't vouch for their bangaliness.
Then we moved the the steamed rice and veg part of the meal. Though the Bangali cuisine is better known for it's machh (fish) and other non-veg side, we do have a heavy armoury of the the torkaris (veg curries)! As you can see, the greyish curry next to the rice is perhaps the most famous of them all - shukto. Somewhat similar to avial in the southern part of India and the mixed-veg sabzi of the norh. Along with that there was doi potol (a very Indian vegetable whose English name I am not aware of, cooked in a curd based gravy),  and aloo-fulkopi posto - between the shukto and chholar dal in the picture. This is a dry-ish dish of potato and cauliflower smeared with posto (poppy seeds).
And now the 'main course' the amish or the non-veg part of the meal. I apologise for the poor clarity of the picture, by the time I reach this part of the lunch I am usually too one-tracked on the food and lose the focus on the photos. A trait that I may not try to rectify too soon!Anyway,, the reddish to the top left of the plate was Tomato Rui Machher Jhol (Rohi fish in a thick Tomato based curry) more or less a staple at most homes. Next to that is the most authentic home made murgir jhol (chicken curry) you will come across. And finally the chingri machher malai kari (prawns cooked in a coconut based gravy). All three items reeked of the bangali home kitchen and brought back fond memories to the table of 5 bangalis living in Delhi, nteresting none of us are from Kolkata, which seems to be the only place in Bengal that anyone seems to know!
There was a most well prepared Mutton Biriyani with the Bangali style whole boiled potato in it. However, by that time I had dug into my plate with my hands and so there is no pictorial proof of the same.

By the time we were through with this we couldn't move too many muscles in the body, least so the mouth and legs, however a Bangali meal being incomplete without the mishti (sweets) we had to attack the chaler payesh (a rice & milk concoction) and Rosogolla (I won't translate this).

A weekend lunch buffet (they don't have dinner buffets) will come to around 600 INR with taxes. On the whole the place definitely gives you an slice of the Bangali cuisine. But remember, you will do justice to the place only if you go when hungry, very hungry!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

10 Movie Reviews In 1400 characters

I intend to write a review after most movies I watch, but have ended up doing so for just 3 movies over the last one year. I would like to attribute the dismal intention:action ratio to two technologies - Facebook and Twitter. Usually I update a 140 character review no sooner than I finish watching a movie and that generates the ennui to do more justice to the review later. One of the resolutions I took this morning while in the 'I-must-do-something-fruitful' moods, is to review most movies going forward.

To make up for the lost ones I am jotting down the 140 character reviews with ratings of the movies I saw over the last year or so.

Pulp Fiction


Love Aaj Kal

Harry Potter And The Half Blood Prince

Angels & Demons

The Usual Suspects

The Prestige

Black Friday



I couldn't search my tweets beyond this (around 6 months from now), and that by itself was a pretty tough task. In case you want to search your previous tweets you can try the following steps.

1) Go to www.tweetake.com and enter you Twitter username and password.

2) Download the .csv which will give you all your tweets till around 6 months back.

3) Search for your tweets in the .csv file and check the date.

4) Go to www.twitter.com/username/?page= and put a number after the =, this is the page number of your tweets. E.g www.twitter.com/username/?page=6 will give you the 6th page (starting from the latest) of your tweets. After this you just need to narrow down the tweet by changing the page number depending upon the date of the tweets you see.

I know this is not close to the most elegant way of searching tweets, but that's the best option as of now to my knowledge. If you know of a more convenient method please do let me know.

UPDATE: Just found a much better way of archiving ALL your tweets and searching through them as well! Please follow the instructions here. You just need to use my favourite Google product - Google Reader.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Pista House's Haleem - Divine Gastronomy

This post has a very high probability of wandering into the realms of exaggeration, and if some of you have gathered such from the title I don't blame you. However, hand on foodie heart, I shall try and be as objective as is practically possible writing this piece after having a plateful of it, three to be precise. The 'it' is obviously the haleem from Pista House, Hyderabad.

To get everyone on board I think we should know the basic facts right.

Ramadan (Arabic: رمضان‎, pronounced: /rɑmɑd̪ˤɑːn/) (also written Ramazan, Ramzan, Ramadhan, Ramdan, Ramadaan) is the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar. It is the Islamic month of fasting, in which participating Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, smoking, and indulging in anything that is in excess or ill-natured; from dawn until sunset [Source: Wikipedia]

It is during this time that many Muslims break their day long fast by the dish, the protagonist of this post, Haleem.

Haleem "is a type of stew made from pounded wheat and mutton (or beef) made into a thick paste. It is the mainstay during the Holy month of Ramadan. It is a tradition to break the daily fast (roza) at Iftar with a plateful of haleem." [Source: Wikipedia] Detailed recipe here.

Okay, now that the basics have been covered, time for the details.

Think of what Sachin Tendulkar is to cricket, Ustad Bismillah Khan to the flute or Madagascar to vanilla. Now, that is what Pista House is to Haleem.

We are in the month of Ramadan and having spent a year in Hyderabad I had this craving for Haleem earlier this week. After a few tweets and status updates, God in the guise of Pratyush Prasanna told me via a Facebook comment that Pista House in fact delivers Haleem to quite a few cities of India (research tells me they are - Hyderabad, Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Kochi, Bangalore, Ahmedabad Coimbatore & Pune) and what's more they also accept orders and payments over the internet using credit/debit cards! Mahatma Gandhi's great grandson confirmed it. The minimum order has to be 1 kilo, which comes at a very reasonable 320 INR and is usually shipped within 1-2 days, the package will arrive between 8-11 PM if you are outside of Hyderabad.

I did what I was ordained to.

A bad thunderstorm in Hyderabad and some logistical difficulties tried to stand between my destiny and me, but only for a day. Around 10:30 PM tonight our doorbell rang and Veni came rushing to tell me it was The Haleem!

I leave you with a thought and some pictures. There are very few food items that make you, urge you to live that bit longer just so that you can taste it one more time, Haleem ranks right at the top of the chart. The other of course being Hyderabadi Dum Biriyani. On second thoughts, the culinary God's seem to have been a bit too blatantly biased towards the city of Nizams! God bless Hyderabad, God bless Haleem!

 The package has arrived on our dining table

The famous Pista House emblem

And we are one step away from the first look.

 Nothing has looked more deceptive than a kilo of lumpy haleem.

And there it is, in all it's glory after being heated for 3 minutes. The aroma of meat, ghee and a hundred spices filled our dining room and I guess and hope will not leave it in a hurry!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Who Am I?

Nowadays quizzing is all about hi-tech rounds and roundabout connections. So, I have decided to go retro and bring back the quintessential '90s round of 'Who Am I?' where the question has clues about the answer (usually a person) and the sooner you get the answer the more points you get. Simple? Okay, one more rule, you cannot click on the clues. Once you do the game is over. You start from 0 points and every clue you miss you get a negative 10 points.
Let's get going!
What's your score at the end of the quiz? His was 166.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Finger Lickin' Victory

It is not everyday that you receive a challenge at something you love. So when Pooja Guha, a girl who is about 10 inches shorter than me and a couple of dozen kilos lighter, challenged me (and Debraj) to a KFC eating competition last Friday, I realised it's one of those once in a lifetime opportunity knocking on my door on a dark stormy night.

Quickly the rules were framed 1) hot chicken wings 2) 90 minutes 3) total expenses to be borne by the loser:runner up:champion in the ratio of 3:2:1 4) Tuesday evening.

But then the problem with such unequal competition is that the challenger plays with very little to lose, while the unquestioned champion (read: Me) in some deep corner of the heart/mind wonders, 'what if?' That thought of losing the battle and fame and ego can be quite gnawing. Further winning strategies were chalked out, more so to come on tops than see off the challenger. Debraj was a formidable competitor. At the end, so was Pooja.

Tuesday came and with it came a first-in-4-years veg lunch at work. Well, not counting the eggs of course.

As it drew closer to the D hour (5:30 PM) the fears within were won over.

Reached the venue on time, all competitors, referee (Mrinalini Singh) and audience and photographer (Veni) together. There was a sense of underplayed tension as we chose our table carefully, ergonomically and gastronomically. The cashiers at the store were in for much entertainment.

After many photographs, some videos and 57 chicken wings Babu gave up after his 21st wing. Pooja had quit sometime back at 14. My count read 22! There was a small prize distribution ceremony (the video of which is embedded below). I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my well wishers and believers in my Obelix-ish appetite and love for chicken and other forms of meat which they compare to that of Romeo for Juliet. Well, a little more maybe.

It was fun, while it lasted. Looking forward to any further challenges. And in the meanwhile a question for you. Why did the chicken cross the road?

Too vague? Okay, what came first, the chicken or the egg?

In the meantime, you can have a look at the pictures of the competition.

Chickening out. Not.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Personal Study Into The Browser Wars

Nowadays not a day goes by when we do not hear about the browser wars in the media. I did a little analysis by looking at the traffic this blog has received over the past 3-4 years and tracking the browser source. I used Google Analytics to track the numbers.

Before we go into the numbers let me give you some background about the blog and it's demographics, which will help you analyse the scenario better.

It can be safely placed under the category of a personal/general blog with posts on various topics from cricket, movie reviews, news reports, snippets of information etc. The traffic varies considerably with the frequency of posts, and remains in the 200-1000 visits/month range. A large part of the traffic comes from colleagues in office (an internet company with global presence). The rest would be from school/college friends who are either pursuing higher studies and access internet from educational institutions or those who are working (mostly in MNCs). The rest would be if links to some articles are passed around by friends to others.

The chart below shows the changing face of traffic to my blog, based upon the browser* used to reach the blog.

* Google Chrome was launched in September 2008.

Will update this post with further analysis in a few days.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Personality Traits, Tests & Johari Window

Earlier today I attended a session on working styles of my colleagues and myself and how similar/dissimilar they are and how to reduce the differences and work in the best possible collaborative manner. It was a rather interesting session, quite a refreshing change from the usual training sessions which are spent fiddling with Blackberries and waiting for lunch breaks.

It was during this session that the conversation veered towards psychological tests and personality tests and how such pseudo tests are popping up in dangerous numbers in Facebook and other social networking sites. That's when I recalled this most interesting personality test I had come across many years back, and had found useful - Johari Window.

You can read that Wikipedia article to find out more. I have tried to explain the same in a simpler fashion, below.

1) There is a 11 X 5 grid, with 55 characteristics e.g. caring, intelligent, witty etc

2) You are supposed to select 5 or 6 of them which you think is most like you. So, there could be many which sounds like you, but you need to select the top 5.

3) Now you save this link and send it across to as many friends as you want. They will be asked to select 5 or 6 of the characteristics which they think are most like you.

4) The characteristics are then classified into 4 buckets, a) you have selected and your friends have also selected, b) you have selected but your friends haven't, c) your friends have selected but you haven't and d) neither you nor your friends have selected

5) After you have received considerable feedback you will notice a pattern and if the test is taken by a lot of people who know you relatively well, you will see that your 'Arena' (a) and 'Unknown' (d) will be very clear with little variation. What you can analyze in depth are your 'Blind Spots' (b) and 'Facade' (c)

There is a lot you can infer from the data and reading up on the same is highly recommended.

IF you think you know me well, I request you to please spend 2-3 minutes of your time and take my Johari Window test by clicking the link below. My results (s0 far) are provided below, but will request you to not look at them before you take the test, please feel free to do so once you are done. Really appreciate it.

Suhel's Johari Test

You may want to create your own Johari window and I will be happy to take the test if you will find it useful.

Looking forward to some constructive feedback and discussion!


(known to self and others)

cheerful, confident, friendly, intelligent, knowledgeable, witty

Blind Spot

(known only to others)

able, adaptable, bold, brave, calm, caring, clever, complex, dependable, dignified, energetic, extroverted, giving, happy, helpful, idealistic, independent, ingenious, logical, loving, mature, modest, nervous, observant, organised, patient, proud, quiet, reflective, relaxed, religious, responsive, searching, self-assertive, self-conscious, sensible, sentimental, shy, silly, spontaneous, trustworthy, warm, wise


(known only to self)


(known to nobody)

accepting, introverted, kind, powerful, sympathetic, tense

Dominant Traits

55% of people agree that suhel is intelligent

All Percentages

able (4%) accepting (0%) adaptable (11%) bold (2%) brave (4%) calm (4%) caring (2%) cheerful (35%) clever (13%) complex (2%) confident (46%) dependable (4%) dignified (6%) energetic (20%) extroverted (28%) friendly (44%) giving (2%) happy (4%) helpful (4%) idealistic (2%) independent (8%) ingenious (6%) intelligent (55%) introverted (0%) kind (0%) knowledgeable (48%) logical (11%) loving (2%) mature (4%) modest (8%) nervous (2%) observant (11%) organised (11%) patient (4%) powerful (0%) proud (6%) quiet (2%) reflective (2%) relaxed (2%) religious (2%) responsive (2%) searching (2%) self-assertive (6%) self-conscious (11%) sensible (8%) sentimental (11%) shy (2%) silly (15%) spontaneous (22%) sympathetic (0%) tense (0%) trustworthy (6%) warm (6%) wise (4%) witty (33%)

Created by the Interactive Johari Window on 9.7.2009, using data from 45 respondents.
You can make your own Johari Window, or view suhel's full data.