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WEEKLY MAGAZINE, MAY 11, 2014 Free with your copy of Hindustan Times


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To read Brunch stories (and more) online, log on to To discuss the stories (or give feedback), follow @HTBrunch on Twitter. For everything cool on the Internet, like Hindustan Times Brunch on Facebook. And for videos, check out our channel (

The Office Poll

by Rachel Lopez

Everybody’s talking about how one kind of mango is better than the other. Some tabloids even asked readers to vote for the King. Brunch’s research throws up startling findings...



of the respondents believed picking a “specific type” of mango was “so last summer!” They instead believed that organic, sunof south Indians ripened, small-batch, single- polled thought that th farm, late-harvest varieties wer their opinions were were worth their weight in being drowned out gold. So they’re apparby the other 50 per ently paying `5.9 lakh cent. In nor north India, per mango situ the situation was sed reversed



That top


still believe that Thai mangoes are tastier than Indian mangoes. A slander case has been registered against them


said, India has many things to fight over, a mango shouldn’t be another, especially during election time. This set is now called “sickular” on Twitter, and their voices are drowned out on TV news debates


On The Brunch Radar

DON’T SAY: I thought the graphics were amazing!

DO SAY: In any case, I can’t think of a Star Wars movie without Han Solo.

DON’T SAY: I thought he was cute. DO SAY: I want to beat him over the head with a <insert miscellaneous object (preferably spiky)> every time he opens his mouth and then <CENSORED>.

of Goans refused to participate in the poll, insisting that the mangoes grown on their own property were better than any fruit on Earth, but were unwilling to share. Repeated attempts All the to confirm this fact were Gujaratis who met with responses participated in the that they were off for poll denied this. afternoon siesta The 18 per cent then called them liars and pointed to the mango petis behind them

was happy with the prices they just paid for a peti. Especially when they saw the mangoes at the bottom


What’s wrong with Lucas? The prequel Star Wars movies are terrible.


indicated that they were unable to pick a favourite because “the Gujaratis were hoarding all the mangoes to eat with rice and chapati or to be bottled into gor keri”


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a man named George Lucas made a new kind of science fiction movie that took all the science out of the fiction, and pop culture was never the same again. If you don’t catch the reference in the first line, congratulations! You’ve come to the right place. With the buzz created around the upcoming sequel (Star Wars: Episode VII) in the longrunning franchise, we decided to help you sound like (or talk to) a fan. It would be better if you watched the films, but until then...

I hope there’s no Jar Jar in the coming movies.


of the ndents re respo believe the 2 per cent mentioned ar above are idiots

by Vipul Nanda



of those polled believed that one particular species of mango – Alphonso, Dussehri, Totapari, Langda etc – was better than all others (but nine out of 10 among them couldn’t name more than three species of mango)

Shortcut To Smart

s were The Star Wars movie the later ee, thr of s set in de ma ls. The que pre re we s vie mo the masoriginals generated has. And it ing ow foll fan e siv trilogy, l que pre the ugh tho were huge Episodes I, II and III ered sid con s fan er old , hits idiotic. and s, lles sou m the

ed JofIf you thought you hat ones, frey from Game of Thr to how you can’t come close ks. Bin much we hate Jar Jar a with A floppy-eared alien rible gramsqueaky voice and ter , comic-relief mar, this dim-witted from the animated character sally panned. prequels was univer

WHEN CLUELESS. BURST INTO IMPRESSIONS DARTH VADER: Adopt a foreboding tone and in your lowest voice and say ‘Luke, I am your father.’

YODA: Take the first two/three words of a sentence and say them at the end of the sentence in a squeaky high-pitched voice. You don’t need to quote lines from the movie if you can get the voice right, even a simple ‘waiting for the bus, you are?’ would send most fanatics into paroxysms of pleasure.

n Summer reading lists! <rubs hands in glee> n The Seatbelt Crew. Look them up!

n Sheldon Cooper on the cover of New York magazine’s television issue n Selfie jokes. “Selfie: khud ki lena” n When you find out that that Facebook friend who looks like he/she’s made it in life and love is actually living in the pits



by Saudamini Jain

People interested in Dhoni’s litti-chokha party Advice, any kind n Using the words “passionately locked lips” when referring to Alia Bhatt and Arjun Kapoor kissing n Watching Don Draper hit rock bottom n Gary Turk’s viral video Look Up – “Look up from your phone, shut down that display”. I don’t care how beautifully you say it, stop dissing social media! n


NOTES: (In the Star Wars universe, Darth Vader is the biggest badass in the galaxy.) Burnt through a fight on a volcano planet (don’t ask) this gigantic figure is clothed in black armour and has a strange voice box to boot.

NOTES: This small green seemingly goblin-inspired alien is apparently the wisest and oldest thing that has ever lived in the galaxy, and thus does not care for basic grammatical structure.


Stuff You Said Last Sunday Loved today’s cover ver story! The tastemakers! There’s so much..that goes into lip smacking food!..?? @pratiikrege

a foodie ing issue. Am shi’s. Very interest re Qu on e ec e pi and loved th had Batman And this one 90 @Anisha_48 e. Made Excellent article Antoin to dwell e my morning & the urg ine deeper into Indian cus tyChef Joel D’Souza @Speciali

Find Hindustan Times Brunch on Facebook, tweet to @HTBrunch or

Cover illustration: ABHIJEET KINI Cover design: PAYAL DIGHE KARKHANIS

EDITORIAL: Poonam Saxena (Editor), Aasheesh Sharma, Rachel Lopez, Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi, Veenu Singh, Parul Khanna, Yashica Dutt, Amrah Ashraf, Satarupa Paul, Saudamini Jain

DESIGN: Ashutosh Sapru (National Editor, Design), Monica Gupta, Swati Chakrabarti, Payal Dighe Karkhanis, Rakesh Kumar, Ajay Aggarwal

MAY 11, 2014

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DON’T SAY: I keep getting confused about which is which. DO SAY: Star Wars is better than Star Trek, it had lightsabers in it. End of discussion.

Drop us a line at: brunchletters@hindustantimes. com or to 18-20 Kasturba Gandhi Marg, New Delhi 110001

Trek feud is The Star Wars–Star m, and kdo gee of tre at the cen m it. To all things emerge fro ument is descend into this arg questions to start dealing with eration, of the Force, the Fed s, and can Vul , pire Em the arre all sorts of rather biz r nde wo you t tha gs thin think who had the time to about.

FOR ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES, PLEASE CONTACT National — Sanchita Tyagi: North — Siddarth Chopra: West — Karishma Makhija: South — Francisco Lobo:





For any worries related to unplanned pregnancy:


Write to us at or call us at 1800-22-0502 (toll free) or sms ICAN to 56070 Website:

1. Dear Doctor, can I have a n e m e r g e n c y contraceptive pill and then indulge in unprotected sex over the weekend? Will it be effective? Emergency contraceptive pills are successful in avoiding pregnancy when consumed at the earliest and preferably within 72 hours of unprotected intercourse. However, as it seems that you are planning to have intercourse; emergency contraceptive pill is not the option you should choose. You need to use regular protection like condom or regular contraceptive pill. Emergency contraceptive pills should be used only as a back-up method in cases where regular contraception either failed or was missing.

2. Dear Doctor, we are trying for a baby from last 2 months. Few days back I ate a sweet made entirely of pineapple and jaggery. Later my mother told me that these two can cause abortion. Is it true? I am worried. This is a common myth in most households that heat generating foods such as

pineapple, papaya, dry-fruits, jaggery etc can be used as contraceptive methods or cause abortion. However, this hasn’t been proved by any scientific research. Hence, please relax. Wait for your next period and conduct a pregnancy test in case it is delayed for over 10 days from the expected date.

There’s a natural way to keep summer headaches at bay this season


T IS natural to be affected by the sun. It is, after all, the biggest thing in our solar system and as the Earth inches closer to the hot ball of fire in the summer, it’s impossible to not feel its effects. Headaches, usually triggered by hormones (particularly with women) or stress, are often set off by the sun as well.


GO GREEN: Cucumber and other vegetable juices help. Also LIMIT EXPOSURE: Wear a hat gorge on summer fruits like or carry an umbrella. Our dark watermelon and muskmelon. hair has a higher propensity to SAY NO TO SALT: Lower absorb and trap heat, COVER IT UP your intake because it and cause headaches. Sun hats can precauses water retention. LATHER UP: Switch to vent headaches TRUST YOUR NOSE: a milder shampoo and Aromatherapy is wash your hair more often effective often to keep the at controlling sebaceous glands headaches. Try healthy. oil of neroli or DRINK UP: Dehypeppermint. dration brings on HIT THE SACK: headaches faster, At least eight hours so carry a bottle of nightly is mandatory water if you step out. Drink at during the menstrual cycle. least 10 glasses of water daily. PACK IT IN: A weekly henna hair pack will keep the scalp cool. TENSION ON YOUR MIND... TAKE A DEEP BREATH: Often, CALM DOWN: A daily session of headaches are just a response anulom-vilom pranayam is one to lack of oxygenation. Practise of the best natural therapies. pranayam daily to balance CLEAR IT OUT: Avoid wearing the air flow in the body and to sunshades indoors. Don’t wear increase oxygen intake. your sunglasses or a tight headCOOL DOWN: After coming in band for long periods. from the heat, place a wet band EAT RIGHT, EAT OFTEN: Small on your head and eyes. meals at frequent intervals are best, as skipping meals can trigger headaches. HORMONAL HEADACHES If your headaches persist DITCH DAIRY: Cut out even after the summilk, cheese, other dairy FINE BALANCE mer or if they follow an products and coffee Coconut water unusual pattern, before the week of the has electrolytes see your doctor. menstrual cycle. You shouldn’t BALANCE IT ignore them or OUT: Drink suffer through coconut water life with them. and nimbu pani regularly.

3. Dear Doctor, I consumed a n e m e r g e n c y contraceptive last month and this month my periods are delayed by almost a week. On the expected date I observed very light bleeding which lasted for a day. Is this a sign of pregnancy? Emergency contraceptive pill may cause a slight fluctuation in the period cycle. If you observe scanty bleeding or heavy bleeding compared to normal periods, it may be due to the pill. As you observed bleeding around your expected date, it could be your actual periods and least likely be a symptom of pregnancy. This scanty flow is a temporary effect and not dangerous. This may normalise by the time you have your next period.


Queries answered by Dr Nirmala Rao MBBS, MD, DPM; a well known psychiatrist who heads Mumbai based Aavishkar - a multifaceted team of expert doctors and health professionals. Aavishkar has a comprehensive approach to mental and physical health, with an emphasis scan this QR code to visit website on counselling and psychotherapy.

MORE ON THE WEB For more columns by Dr Shikha Sharma and other wellness stories, log on to MAY 11, 2014

Supported by:

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All You Rajini Fans Rajinikanth’s on Twitter now – way too many jokes here. We couldn’t resist...

by Ramakrishnan M


N MONDAY, Superstar Rajinikanth joined Twitter and whizzed past 60K followers in just over 60 minutes. Even Delhi’s blazing summer was interrupted by freak rain. For a few minutes nobody remembered or seemed to care who Narendra Modi was and what he was doing in Amethi. Some say Modi himself was secretly thankful Rajini joined the microblogging site before May 16. But what many may not know is: ■ That Rajinikanth sent his first tweet via a Nokia 1100. ■ If Rajini tweets once it is equivalent to him tweeting a hundred times ■ Rajini is the only one who does not have a 140 character limit on twitter Rajinikanth is well over 170 100 films old and has acted across Tamil, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu films. From a nervous 25-year-old making his debut in 1975, many fanatics claim that he is the only actor who has acted in black-and-white, colour and 3D films (his latest offering Kochadaiyaan — a motion capture film — released on Friday). In fact, what they do not acknowledge is that if the man does not speak during any scene in his movie, it becomes a silent movie in itself. His punch lines are legendary and are so full of goodness that even Osama bin Laden was moved to tears. To take further his message of goodwill and set an example as a role model, Rajini stopped smoking onscreen in the late Nineties. The real reason was of course that cigarettes smoked by Rajinikanth died of lung cancer.

And because today is Mother’s Day and whatnot, we thought it would be interesting to compare Rajini’s age with that of the actresses playing his mother.


(One landmark film from each year since 1975)


Rajini’s age


Heroine’s age

40 30 20 10

1975 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2002 2005 2010 2014 2015



Rajini ki Amma

2010 2000 1990 1980 1970 1960 Follow @ram_k27 on twitter

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Rajini’s age Mother’s age

1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2002 2005 2010 2014 2015

The actor, of late, has come under some criticism for portraying only youthful characters despite his touching the 65-year mark. He’s still serenading a lead pair as old as or even younger than both of his daughters. In fact, you can get an idea of how eternally young Rajini’s onscreen persona is from this graph on the right.

(Okay, so this graph is slightly made up, but not far from the truth)!





T’S FRIDAY morning. Sunny Leone’s latest film is out. And after playing Baby Doll for the two-hundredth time in two days, the RJs on air get down to ‘reviewing’ the movie. RJ 1: “In a scene, Sunny is seen pleasuring herself…”. “…she must have a lot of practice, no?” RJ 2 cuts in, and giggles till RJ 1 concludes with the serious proclamation: “I give the movie two stars.” The verdict didn’t make it to Ragini MMS 2’s hoardings or print ads. But the film’s promoters didn’t need to look hard to find praise. Today, it seems, everyone’s two cents can translate into more than two stars. On more than a dozen websites, at-home reviewers hold forth on every major release, offering their assessment of 100-crore films, indie titles and everything in between. Bloggers, Twitter users and at least five of your Facebook friends (and mine) have decided that the world needs their judgement of this Friday’s box office offerings. So where does that leave India’s popular critics, film journalists who have been assessing Bollywood films for a decade or more? Are their voices being drowned, or sharper than ever? And in an age where everyone’s a superfan and no one else is allowed to have the last word, how are they standing by their own words? Brunch got some critics such as CNN-IBN’s entertainment editor Rajeev Masand, TV host Anupama Chopra and Rediff ’s film critic Raja Sen to talk about life on the job.


For the most part, India’s top critics seem happy about the rise in the number of opinions. “There are more voices now. And that’s not a bad thing,” concedes

In a Bollywood-crazy country where everyone has an opinion, film experts talk about ratings, reviews and holding your own against opinionated masses by Sarit Ray

Masand, who has been reviewing films for over a decade. The ever-smiling critic is popular not just for his writing (and an entertaining magazine column where he spills industry secrets without naming a single name), but also his televised reviews of latest releases. Masand says that the Internet has allowed for the formal style (which he admits had become “elitist, formal and, in effect, predictable”) to be broken, with younger, more informal voices coming in. Most old-school critics would take a standard, serious approach (even if the analysis itself was sharp) – opening with a discussion


on the plot or a scene perhaps. It is not uncommon, however, for a modern-day critic to present the entire review as a discussion he had with the liftman after watching the film. That’s how critic Karan Anshuman wrote his entire review of Dhoom:3. Or for someone to illustrate a review via an unabashedly funny stick-figure comic, as Sahil Rizwan (aka The Vigil Idiot) does to great popularity. His Dhoom:3 review,

MAY 11, 2014

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for instance, had unnaturallylarge-eared Aamir Khan twins, toy bikes, even a Christopher Nolan as well as a Batman. Film critic and TV show host Anupama Chopra has done reviews for TV channels and several publications including the Hindustan Times. She also hosts the popular show, Front Row. She, too, feels that more voices can only be a good thing. “Movies are a subjective passion, and the more opinions, the better,” says Chopra. “I don’t think a critic is someone on a pedestal…”


“Most critics don’t know how to read a film and no one’s sure what their credentials are”


“Every film gets at least one fourstar review these days,” says Rajeev Masand of the rise in reviews on social, electronic and other media. “Of course, who am I to say that I am a serious reviewer, and a certain radio jockey is not?”




The critic on a pedestal on YouTube that is so vicious – he did exist, until rekeeps alleging the director has cently. Film reviewer daddy issues – that it’s had over Mayank Shekhar one lakh views. Pretentious Movie says he’s happy Reviews (two boys, one camera that the cult of the and a YouTube channel) rips apart holier-than-thou movies that represent the worst of critic is gone. “The cinema (more on them at the end problem starts of this article). when people, “Every film gets at least one especially those four-star review these days,” from within the Masand says. “Of course, who am I industry, start givto say that I am a serious reviewer, ing the reviewer and a certain radio jockey is not?” more importance he says. But he says that filmmakthan you deserve,” ers need to exercise a little more he says. “And discretion about the standard, and once you get close the source of reviews they are to your subject, quoting from. “Honestly, at the cost subconsciously, you of sounding condescending, I’m may no longer say not thrilled at being lumped with the things you might many of these reviewers,” he says. otherwise have.” Raja Sen has been reviewing Those on personal on an online platform for a decade. platforms like blogs He says breaking free of print has and social media, on one obvious benefit: word count. the other hand, are far His standard review is 900 words less accountable. Kamaal – significantly more than what a R Khan (flop actor, but a hit critic tends to get in a newspaper online reviewer) has a – which allows him to delve video review of Yeh deep into a nuanced film Jawaani Hai Deewani or slam a terrible one. WHOM TO But he says that it’s PLEASE? becoming harder to “I’ve been abused so often that it’s hard to pick a comment [that establish credibilistands out],” says Anupama Chopra. ty on the Internet. After her review of Rowdy Rathore, “So many blogs one comment read: “Watch the are keen to be movie, change your review and dismissive just apologige [sic] publicly to the to get noticed,” he viewers…” points out.


“I didn’t pay to watch this film, but I’d still like my money back” RAJEEV MASAND on his review of DON

Perhaps the biggest change for any critic today is how their word is no longer the final word – at least if you scroll down to the comments section. Disagreed with a review? Why write an email to give the reviewer a piece of your mind when you can comment anonymously or tweet your abuse in 140 characters? “I’ve been abused so often that it’s hard to pick a comment [that stands out],” says Anupama Chopra. After her review of Rowdy Rathore, a comment read: “Watch the movie, change your review and apologige [sic] publicly to the viewers…”. The worst reactions came after she gave Salman Khan’s Bodyguard a less-than-favourable review. “His fans went ballistic,” Chopra recalls. “They posted physical threats on Twitter about what they would have done to me. It was pretty depressing.” She says she reads the comments on her online reviews and sees the tweets addressed to her, but never replies.

Let’s face it: There is sadistic pleasure in criticism. That’s why reviewers love to sink their teeth into an especially bad film. In his review of Ishkq in Paris, Masand declares the leading man “as expressive as a slab of granite”.

“It’s not a film. It’s a cartoon” ANUPAMA CHOPRA, in her review of JAI HO



You can’t get a critic and a filmmaker to agree. Even a selfadmitted masala film director like Rohit ‘100 crore’ Shetty is quick to dismiss the worth of critical acclaim. “Shetty, who came on my show despite all my negative reviews, stated clearly that my reviews had no importance in his scheme of things,” says Chopra. Dancer and director Prabhudheva, whose Rowdy Rathore earned only one star in Chopra’s review also came on Chopra’s show. “He said, ‘Madam, I saw your review (I had given the film one star). Now, you dance and I will review it,’” Chopra recalls. The responses from the film world illustrate both how little reviewers matter as well as how much they do. Masand says that after he gave a harsh review to Rowdy Rathore, the film’s star Akshay Kumar “told me he doesn’t want to talk. He said someone had read my review and cancelled their tickets to the show.” Mahesh Bhatt, another mass filmmaker, admits he’s always had what he calls a “fiercely hostile relationship” with reviewers. “The critic has an opinion on films, but so does my maid,” he states baldly. “And I care more about my maid’s opinion, because she is a consumer of what I make.” Director Kabir Khan has made both niche and mass-appeal films. His Kabul Express, back in 2006, picked up a fair bit of critical appreciation. Then, he went on to





make the Salman Khan-starrer Ek Tha Tiger – a product more tailormade for box office returns. Khan believes that there are too many critics, many of them “self-styled ones who rave and rant, and find their names up on billboards. Most don’t know how to read a film and no one’s sure what their credentials are. And they tend to see everything – small-budget films, mega-starrers – through the same prism. Soon, they’ll be telling us how an edit should be done.”


direct something soon and Karan Anshuman is set to direct too. Kabir Khan is critical of reviewers turning directors: “Some only write reviews till they can become filmmakers themselves; or they are full of angst if they’ve had their scripts turned down. ” Sen says one needs to draw one’s own boundaries as a film reviewer. He says he wouldn’t review a film he’s been involved in even slightly, or made by a person he’s worked with. But Shekhar sees no conflict in being filmmaker and reTWO STATES viewer: “The director constructs, a Several critics are now makreviewer deconstructs.” ing films themselves. Raja Sen Chopra is in a more challengco-wrote the dialogue for Go ing a position. She’s married Goa Gone (2013) and says to director-producer THE he is in discussion to Vidhu Vinod Chopra, TRUST so she has imGAME mediate family Raja Sen believes that eventually that’s part of the people learn to not trust a review industry she must source that consistently inflates critique. Chopra ratings. “I’ve been told by readers that a particular newspaper gives doesn’t review any good ratings to practically every film her husband film, so they don’t take it is part of. “I know seriously,” he what bad reviews feel says. like,” she admits. “But I will never be dishonest as to what I feel about a film.” She isn’t wary of upsetting her husband’s colleagues either:: “We don’t have any friends within the industry. So I’ve never been particu-

“Amrita Rao plays a cow...” RAJA SEN in his review of VIVAAH

No Tension, Just Pretension Two comics are making a rocking, guffawing success of video reviews by Amrah Ashraf


NE NIGHT I was watching an old Dharmendra movie and thought it would be cool to review films no one would,” says Kanan Gill, 24-yearold stand-up comedian from Bangalore. So he, along with Biswa Kalyan Rath, an IIT graduateturned-stand-up-comedian, created video reviews of lesser-known (and even lesser appreciated) films and uploaded them to YouTube. Three months and four reviews

later, the boys behind Pretentious Movie Reviews are a YouTube sensation. Their reviews have drawn over a lakh viewers. The videos are full of hilarious comments about the hammy acting, cringeworthy CGI, the plot that trips on itself and the cheesy melodrama. They draw your attention to such gems as Shakti Kapoor referring to Viagra as vitamin sex (in Gunda) and how Hrithik saves Kareena’s flying dad from a car accident (in

MAY 11, 2014

larly traumatised by having to give a friend’s film a bad review.” However, that doesn’t mean no one’s ever pointed fingers. “A director told me that I was less than raving about his film because he was competition for my husband,” she says.


Of late, there has been a more serious allegation against film critics. In 2011, at a forum at the Mumbai Film Festival, writer-director Nikhil Advani answered “Yes” when asked if he knew of anyone in Bollywood who paid to get a favourable review of his/her film. The book, Shooting Stars, by old-time film publicist Colin Pal talks about how they used to slip in money at press shows. They called it ‘cab money’. Sen feels people learn to not trust a review source that consistently inflates ratings. “I’ve been told by readers that a particular newspaper gives good ratings to practically every film, so they don’t take it seriously,” he says. As more and more films are churned out by Bollywood, reviews will continue to be written, read, posted, shared shar and slammed. Filmmakers ma may not lik like them; Salman Khan’s Khan box office bo credentials cr may not be ma diminished

CRITICS V/S COMMERCE It’s the oldest irony – films which get slammed by reviewers go on to do big business at the box office (think Rohit Shetty’s unblemished track record of hits and then check out the reviews of his films). So guess who has the last laugh?


Rajeev Masand called it: “…a sloppily scripted sandwich of hammy acting and cheesy dialogue” Box office collections: `284 crore*


Raja Sen warned: “…a film ostensibly made for kids but one so abysmal that you should be most concerned if your children want to see this” Box office collections: `244 crore* *India collections. Figures courtesy

by them. But when did reviews affect any of that anyway? Whatever form they do evolve into – meme reviews, listicles – they will continue the culture of critical thought. The rage over roughly aimed and quickly taken selfies hasn’t reduced the worth of a thoughtfully framed photograph. The same logic, one hopes, will hold for an intelligent criticism. Follow @SaritRay2001 on Twitter

and two chairs. No cameraman. They don’t even bother with scripts, just a few talking points and a lot of improv. “But before shooting the review, we watch the movie at least 10 times.” The rest of the magic is created on Gill’s iMac. Editing takes THE PRETENTIOUS ONES 20 hours. Gill (left) and Rath ripping a film apart These reviews work because the boys justify everything they Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon). say with examples. That and Gill’s “We are not critics,” Gill says. charm and Rath’s straight-faced “We bring out the points of contenhumour is probably what’s catation in a funny way and the rest is pulted them to popularleft to the audience.” ity so quickly. THE VERDICT amrah.ashraf Their production is simple: They draw your Gill’s SLR camera shoved into Follow @hippyhu on attention to a cupboard Twitter such gems as the facing a table cringeworthy CGI and ridiculous dialogues

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indulge TIME BOMB

Surfer Rosa (above left) to me was like an improvised explosive device. Songs to sample on Indy Cindy (above right): Magdalena 318, Jaime Bravo, Ring The Bell and Bagboy


(L-R) Kim Shattuck, David Lovering, Black Francis and Joey Santiago. Shattuck had replaced Kim Deal as the bassist for a while last year



Sanjoy Narayan

download central

An Old ImprOvIsed explOsIve devIce I American band Pixies’ music still has the edgy popmeets-punk thing. Their new album Indy Cindy works best if you’re new to them

N THE late 1980s when the American band Pixies was formed, I, like many of my music-loving friends, was still listening to my old favourites – bands that we liked from the 1960s and 1970s. In hindsight it seems silly but back then we actually didn’t experiment much with new music. Blame some of that on the lack of access – those were pre-Internet days; besides, record shops in India (then one of the few sources for new stuff) played it safe by stocking only bands and labels that they knew would sell in big numbers. I never heard a Pixies album till much later, sometime, I think, in the late 1990s. It was Surfer Rosa, their first full-length album from 1988, and it has all the ingredients needed to blow you away: dark and difficult-to-comprehend lyrics, a curiously delicious blend of melodic hooks and garage-y punk, a punchy bass line and, lastly but most importantly, a searing lead guitar. Surfer Rosa to me was like an improvised explosive device (IED), a bit crudely put together, but quite certain to

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explode any moment. It was just the sort of record that is guaranteed to make a band great. As it turned out, the Pixies became a great band, influencing more American indie and alternative bands than any other band had. The Pixies were originally from Boston and comprised Black Francis (original name: Charles Thompson) on vocals, Joey Santiago on guitar, David Lovering on drums and Kim Deal on bass. But the band was initially short-lived. After they released a second album, Bossanova, and a third, Trompe Le Monde, they broke up. Which was a pity because the band missed out on the alt-indie wave that the 1990s witnessed and although band members, notably Black Francis, played solo gigs and recorded albums, and rumours among a loyal cult following swirled about a possible comeback, that didn’t happen – until 2003, when, 11 years after the breakup, the Pixies got back together and played gigs. But no new album was released. I’d re-discovered the Pixies old discography and had met a couple of much younger new friends who too liked the Pixies, and occasionally their albums would spin on my playlist, but mostly it would be Surfer Rosa. Till last year, when the band released a single and two new EPs. This was accompanied by an announcement that bassist Deal, an integral ingredient of the Pixies IED, had left the band. This was followed by the release of a brand new full-length from the Pixies, which has the songs on the EPs as well as new ones. The new album is called Indy Cindy (an un Pixies-like name for an album but then Pixies is quite an unlikely band name for the kind of music they make) and, somewhat to my surprise, it is one that has received mixed reviews with the mixture skewed towards the bad. Many reviewers have been of the opinion that the 12 songs on Indy Cindy are not edgy or jagged enough and some of them have tended to compare the Pixies sound of today with what they sounded like in the late 1980s. That’s quite unfair. Or maybe I’m not as die-hard as old Pixies fans. After all, I discovered the band around the time they were first breaking up. The Pixies today – Francis, Santiago and Lovering – are middle-aged musicians and, besides, this isn’t the late 1980s any more. Their music still has the edgy pop-meets-punk thing. Black Francis sings like he did before, and Santiago’s guitar is still incendiary, and yes, they sound more polished and their music is more finished. But, hello, this is 2014 and these chaps are old guys now. Indy Cindy works best if you’re new to the Pixies. If you never knew the kind of influence this band has had. Songs to sample on their new album before you decide to spring for it: Magdalena 318, Jaime Bravo, Ring The Bell and Bagboy (the latter features the harmonising vocals of ex-member Deal). If, on the other hand, you’re an old Pixies fan, then Indy Cindy may sound like a band that has been heavily influenced by, ahem, the Pixies. Download Central appears every fortnight

MORE ON THE WEB To give feedback, stream or download the music mentioned in this column, go to blogs.hindustantimes. com/download-central. Write to Sanjoy at




Global Desi

They have spunk, pluck and a commitment to quality. Finally we have three Indian packaged foods that not only top the international competition but are also reasonably priced


’VE ALWAYS wondered why, given that Indians can run world-class hotels and restaurants, our food manufacturers do not reach international standards. The packaged food business in India is dominated by multinationals, most of whom would rather import their food products from abroad and make us pay high prices. But what about Indian companies? If our hotels and restaurants can match and even exceed international standards, then why can’t our food manufacturers? Why must the very mention of Indian-made packaged food only bring forth images of bhujiya and sev? Surely, we can compete with the global corporations in other areas as well?

Vir Sanghvi

rude food I’m happy to report that I’ve found three products in the Indian market that not only top the international competition but are also reasonably priced. All three are made by Indian companies and represent a triumph of Indian ingenuity. The manufacturers don’t have the vast marketing budgets or expensive distribution networks of Big Food, which is what I call the global giants. But they have spunk, pluck and a commitment to quality. The first of the three is the best kettle chip currently available in the market. It tastes strongly of potato, the frying is perfect, the product is always fresh and never stale and the price is a fraction of imported kettle chips. If you are in the food business then you’ve probably heard of the Mrs Bector group. If not, you may have noticed products under the Cremica brand name. But the chances are that the group and the brand don’t mean a lot to you because they don’t spend as much money on advertising as Big Food does. I first heard of them when my friend Manjit Gill, ITC’s top chef, suggested that I try their tomato ketchup. Now, I’m the sort of guy


who thinks that only Heinz knows how to make ketchup and am leery of the yellowish goo that many Indian companies claim is tomato ketchup. (In all fairness, the yellow colour is a function of the breed of Indian tomatoes they use; it does not mean that the ketchup is really made from kaddu). So I was sceptical when Manjit recommended the Cremica ketchup. But because I trust his palate and respect his judgement, I tried it anyway. I was astonished: it really was a world-class ketchup. A few months later, I had dinner with a few guys I knew from the Four Seasons hotel group who told me how bad Indian ketchup was. Spontaneously, I organised a blind tasting. We were at the Taj in Bombay and I got the kitchen to make us some French fries. Then I placed three bowls of tomato ketchup (one from Cremica and two from famous multinational brands whose identities I will be discreet about.) The Four Seasons guys dipped their fries into the ketchup, looked at each other and smiled superiorly. “This one”, they said, pointing to one bowl, “that’s the best.” You know how the story ends. They had all picked the Indian ketchup: Cremica. I didn’t quite say: “So how about that, white man?” But you will understand that this was exactly how I felt. The Indian ketchup had the most tomato-ey taste of all the three and the perfect balance of umami flavour. Later I bumped into the Bectors and they told me their story. The family had started out in Punjab, making handcranked ice-cream in their garage. When that worked, they had moved into making bread. But the breakthrough came when McDonald’s arrived in India. Despite its multinational character, McDonald’s wanted to localise its supply chain. It asked the Bectors to come up with a ketchup that lived up to McDonald’s global standards, and the family came up with the tomato-heavy ketchup that had wowed the Four Seasons guys. The Bectors sell the ketchup (and eggless mayonnaise) along with other products under the Cremica brand name, but their most loyal customers are within the catering industry, where chefs like Manjit go out and look for the best products. The kettle chips (under the Opera brand name) are a new innovation and they emerge out of Geeta Bector’s (she is the daughterin-law of the family) determination to make world-class chips in India. (Geeta loves kettle chips). Why are they so good? I asked Geeta, who made no special claims for her chips. They were chunky-cut, fried in small batches in kettles and the potatoes were sourced from western India, where the best-potatoes come from. (McCain, the potato giant, has based its Indian operation at Mehsana in Gujarat for this reason). When I said how much I liked the Opera chips, she seemed pleased but was modest enough to sound surprised. You should try them yourself to make up your own mind. My own preference is for the simple salt and black pepper version. In my view, the Bectors have still to get the fancy flavours absolutely right. But the basic chip is terrific. Shortly after I began corresponding with a company called Paper Boat, I noticed that they had begun

The Opera kettle chips (left) taste strongly of potato, the frying is perfect and the price is a fraction of imported kettle chips. Their ketchup (right) is tomato-heavy

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Typical Indian flavours like jamun kala khatta, aam panna, imli ka amlana and even golgappe ka pani have now been introduced advertising. I don’t know if you’ve seen the ads but Paper Boat is a range of largely fruit-based drinks with extremely innovative packaging and typically Indian flavours. I tracked down the guys who had started the company and discovered that they were all young, well-educated, firstgeneration entrepreneurs, some of whom had learnt the ropes while working for Coca-Cola. Neeraj Biyani, who grew up in Ranchi had thought of the flavours, Neeraj Kakkar who went to Wharton had grown up in a small town near Karnal. And the two Neerajs and a third founder called Suhas Misra had enlisted an old Wharton buddy called James Nutall. James designed the eye-catching packaging. Their company has private equity funding from Narayan Murthy’s personal fund, Sequoia Capital and Footprint Ventures who believe in the quality of the product. I got Amit Kaul, the witty brand manager of Paper Boat, to send me a list of their flavours. Paper Boat started out with aamras and jaljeera last August. Now they have kokum (which was a discovery for some of the company’s north Indian founders who had never heard of it before), jamun kala khatta, aam panna, imli ka amlana and even golgappe ka pani. Kanji, satoo and rasam are some of the products they are working on. I asked Neeraj Kakkar why they went with such Indian flavours, given that they had foreign educations and multinational experience. He agreed that this was odd especially since one of the founders is an American. “Stranger than fiction is this white guy thinking how to make aam panna,” he joked. But the answer is simple enough. Nobody has ever bottled a great green mango drink before. There is no widely marketed ted kokum drink of this quality. So they are exploiting a gap in the market and betting that a new generation of Indians is finally ready to enjoy the flavours of

our own soil. Speaking for myself, I’m not sure about the new generation. But I do know that in my house, the Paper Boat drinks have now become our drink of choice. Which leaves me with the third outstanding Indian product I’ve tried. I’ve written about my love for custard (or crème anglaise if you want to get all fancy) before so I won’t bore you with the reasons why. As much as I appreciate high quality custard made with free range eggs and vanilla pods, I often crave a bowl of satisfying nursery-style custard that brings back all kinds of childhood memories. I’ve tried most foreign brands but with a very few exceptions (Waitrose’s own label is the best, I find) they don’t really cut it. So I was startled to find that the best pre-packaged custard I have eaten recently is made by an Indian company, in Ghaziabad of all places! It is a company called Amrit Foods, established in 1989 by a family with some experience of the food business. Its CEO Viveck Batra, is an IIT, XLRI Jameshedpur alumnus, with no previous experience in the food business. But because of a relentless quest for quality and perhaps because the custard is made from buffalo milk, which has a higher fat content than the cow’s milk that Western manufacturers use, their custard is richer and has a more satisfying taste. If I have a criticism, then it is about the way they package it. For a start, they call it “Instant Dessert Mix” which is misleading. Why not just call it custard? It is not an instant mix. It is a ready-made product. Secondly, they ask you to keep it in the freezer, which is a huge no-no because it destroys the texture. This is a preservative-free destroy product oduct with UHT packaging. All you need to do is put it in the fridge (for taste reasons – in our climate), te), cut open the pac packet and eat, eat, eat! So far at least, they have not got their distribution in place so you can only buy it distrib online – which frankly, is a little crazy. (Who goes on the Internet to buy custard?) But it should be in the shops soon. And I know that they are guaranteed at least one devoted customer: me! customer


Paper Boat, a range of largely fruit-based drinks, comes in extremely innovative packaging

I often crave a bowl of satisfying nursery-style custard that brings back childhood memories


The custard from Amrit Foods is made from buffalo milk, which has a higher fat content than the cow’s milk that Western manufacturers use

MAY 11, 2014


MORE ON THE WEB For more columns by Vir Sanghvi, log on to hindustantimes. com/brunch The views expressed by the columnist are personal



Game Of PhOnes Who makes the best cameraphone in the world anyway?


The K Zoom has an autoselfie mode where you can use the back camera to take an auto picture

T’S A FEATURE that is used more than voice calls, it’s a critical buying criterion and has single-handedly halved the market for standalone cameras. The camera on a phone may well be the most important reason for you to buy or not buy a phone. Thus the battle to be the best cameraphone in the world is a big and bloody one. Many contenders have come in from many directions to wrest this title. Only one can win!




If that opening paragraph came out a little over the top and melodramatic, then you can blame it on my current obsession with the Game of Thrones series. And just like that savage battle for the Iron Throne is hard fought and has a lot of collateral damage, this too is a fight that has left many a lens, flash and sensor bludgeoned and defeated. The latest salvo is from Samsung with its Galaxy K Zoom with a 10X Optical zoom. To many the greatest Achilles heel of any camera phone is the lack of an optical zoom and Samsung seems to hit hard and strong to make sure it covers all ground there. So, with a phone that is so optically superior, has Samsung wrested this coveted title already? Let us zoom in closer to take in a more detailed picture.


The S4 Zoom’s problem areas were its bulk, its ergonomics and its weight

The K Zoom is very Samsungish in its design and won’t win any beauty contest

a Exynos hexa-core processor, a 1.3GHz quad-core chipset and a 1.7GHz dual-core processor, a 4.8-inch Super AMOLED display at 720p, 2GB of RAM, 8GB internal storage, microSD card support up to 64GB, a 2,430 mAh battery and runs Android 4.4 KitKat. The startling shocks are that it is not Full HD, has only 8GB internal storage and comes with a pretty poor battery. Surprisingly, none of these ruin the optical performance.

Rajiv Makhni



This isn’t the first attempt by Samsung to take this market. It’s actually tried two different products before this from both sides of the line. There was the Galaxy Zoom Camera and the Galaxy S4 Zoom phone. Of this the S4 Zoom is the closer sibling. Samsung though has made it quite clear the K Zoom isn’t the successor but a brand new line-up (BTW, the K stands for Kamera, the Swiss word for well, a camera!). The S4 Zoom was a remarkable product for its time but didn’t set the market on fire. The problems were its bulk, its ergonomics, its weight, the realisation that it was almost impossible to use as a phone, its battery life and most importantly, the fact that it didn’t do too much beyond the optical zoom part! The K Zoom takes care of most of the shortcomings.


Right off the bat, the K Zoom won’t win any beauty contests. Not because it’s a bad looking phone but because its just so Samsungish in design. This stubbornness on the part of Samsung to continue with a design philosophy that is three generations old befuddles me. Have you noticed how even in their advertisements for the Galaxy S5, they only show the back and not the front of the phone? It seems even their art and advertising department is embarrassed and only shows the part of the phone that looks different. Anyway, I digress. The K has a rubberised dimpled back, is much thinner than the S4 Zoom at 20mm, lighter at 200 grams and has faux chrome on the sides. The innards are solid with

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This is a truly solid optical effort at 20.7 megapixels (that will give you an image that has a resolution of 5248x3936) with a real 10X optical zoom (a retractable IN THE SAME lens system with nine elements), a Xenon LEAGUE flash, optical stabilisation and a dedicated Both HTC One image processor. But beyond hardware, the M8 and iPhone software and interface are very good too. 5S are also The first is Pro Suggest. As you get ready offering good to take a picture; up flashes a dizzying arcamera options ray of pre-set filters and setting choices for perfecting that picture. Choices range from Waterfall, Snow and Fireworks to Food, and move onwards to some very eclectic and weird ones. You can make your own, share them and also download new ones from the Pro Suggest online area. Then there’s an auto-selfie mode, where you can use the much better back camera to take an auto picture. Just mark a space on the screen where you want your face, turn the camera around and when it recognises your face there, it’ll click on its own. Add to this motion tracking, multiple filters, the ability to set the exposure and focus independently within the same image, instant camera mode and video at 1080p at 60FPS (No 4K video though).

THE BEST, THEN? BATTLE FRONT The Galaxy K Zoom is a polished Sony’s Xperia Z2 has enough effort from Samsung to break potential to give the others a open this market. And while run for their money it did enough to become a contender, it didn’t hit the ball out of the stadium. The likes of the Nokia Lumia 1020, the iPhone 5S, the HTC One M8, Sony’s Xperia Z2 and its own Galaxy S5 have enough within to make sure that this battle is still wide open. Just like the Game of Thrones, this too shall be a war that is fought long and wide – and many shall die, for one to win! Rajiv Makhni is managing editor, Technology, NDTV, and the anchor of Gadget Guru, Cell Guru and Newsnet 3

MORE ON THE WEB For previous Tech columns, log on to Follow Rajiv on Twitter at The views expressed by the columnist are personal






Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of your destination. So, if you are visiting Bangkok this summer, stock up on John Burdett. If it’s Italy, then it must be Sarah Dunant

Summer reading Heading out on holiday? Don’t forget to take a good book – or three – along

tension. City reads: Before I head out to any destination, I like to read up on it. But not the usual travelogues; I find that fiction set in that city serves my purpose much better. It allows me to immerse myself in the atmosphere of my destination even before I get there. So, if you are planning on visiting Bangkok this summer, do stock up on John Burdett, the bestselling author of Bangkok 8 and its many sequels. Its lead character is the half-Thai, half-farang detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, the plots take in everything from the Bangkok sex industry to themes of reincarnation and Buddhist philosophy. You could also try Jake Needham who was faAST WEEK, I stuck my neck out and gave you mously described by the Bangkok Post as “Michael Conthe anti-glossy magazine guide to preparing for a nelly with steamed rice”. vacation. But while I did say that the only thing If it’s Italy, then it must be Sarah Dunant. Her trilogy, you absolutely must pack is a sense of adventure, I The Birth of Venus, In the Company of the Courtesan, and forgot about another holiday essential without which your Sacred Hearts, is set in Florence, Venice and Ferrara and summer break would not be complete: books. brings the Renaissance alive as no academic tome could. If Given the high-octane lives most of us lead, the only you are looking for a more modern take on Venice, then you time you can crack open a book and sink deep into it is can’t go wrong with Donna Leon, who uses the device of when you are on holiday. It doesn’t matter where you go: crime stories to write love letters to her adoptive home city. frenetic cities; sun-bleached beaches; exSimilarly, if it’s Provence, it must be Peter Mayle. If it’s otic resorts; mountain getaways; insert Spain, it must be Ernest Hemingway (Death in the Afterthe destination of your choice. But no noon, a non-fiction book about the bullfighting tradition matter where you end up, a good book and his classic For Whom the Bell Tolls about the Spanish is always a boon companion. You could civil war). And if you’re bound for England’s Lake District, dipping into the poetry of the Romantics (Wordsworth in particular) may not be a bad idea. ■ If you’re travelling with kids and Seema Goswami want a book that would keep all age groups entertained, look no further than Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals. It is laugh-out-loud funny and brilliant as a bonding exercise. The perfect counterpoint to this is Clare Balding’s My Animals and Other Family, about growing up in a horsemad and dog-crazy posh English household. ■ Looking to get your teeth into something more substantial while you holiday? read it by the poolside, dip into it last thing at night, Then, John Keay’s India, described as A or just keep it handy for car and plane journeys. History: From the Earliest Civilisations to Over the last couple of weeks, I have been compil- SOUL CONNECTION the Boom of the Twenty-First Century, may ing my own wish list for my summer reading. Here For a more substantial be just the thing for you. You could also are just a few of the choices I have made. (And do feel read while you holiday, try, John Keay’s India, try Karen Armstrong’s A History of God, free to share your own!) ■ For interminable plane, car and train journeys: Karen Armstrong’s A which reveals fresh insights with every You need something light and undemanding in these History of God new reading, or her more recent The Case circumstances, a book that doesn’t ask too much of for God. Also worth a look is Tom Holland’s you but still keeps you absorbed by telling a cracking good In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise story. My favourites are crime writers like Harlan Coben of the Global Arab Empire. ■ If spanking new releases are your thing, then here and Lee Child. Their books are page-turners and are my picks: The Target by David Baldacci, The Colleckeep the ennui of long journeys at bay with a tor by Nora Roberts, Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna rapidly moving plot. You could also try Val McQuindlen, and yes, Missing You by Harlan Coben. Dermid, though be warned, her stories can get a So, happy holidays to you all. And happy reading! tad gruesome – not the best start for a holiday. ■ Beach reads: Top of my list is The Lemon Grove MORE ON THE WEB by Helen Walsh, a sweaty, sexy, sticky and ever-soFor more SPECTATOR columns by Seema Goswami, slightly icky story of a woman’s lust for her steplog on to Follow her on daughter’s boyfriend, who comes on holiday with Twitter at Write to them. It is just the right blend of disturbing and her at seema_ disgusting, evoking the atmosphere of fraught famThe views expressed by the columnist are personal ily vacations and leavening it with lots of sexual ■




Crime thrillers by Harlan Coben and Lee Child are page-turners and keep the ennui of long journeys at bay with a rapidly moving plot

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Wee Hour Saviours Hungry at 2am? Call up a late-night delivery for food, medicines and more by Satarupa Paul

Illustrations: SHUTTERSTOCK


UST GOT back home, man. Waiting for my order to be delivered now.” Ashish Gupta, a 27-year-old business consultant, pings at 2am in the night (or morning for you purists) on a Whatsapp group chat. He, like thousands of other young people these days, works when the rest of the city sleeps. On rare instances when he isn’t attending 1am meetings, he is out partying, or playing video games, or watching a match on TV. “When you are up that late, you often feel hungry, no?” chimes in his friend Abhinav Verma. “Before, I would either make some Maggi or warm up some left-over lunch,” the 26-year old research associate says. Ashish’s big problem was running out of smokes. “Then we would have to drive to the nearest 24X7. Now I simply call up one of the late-night delivery services and have them delivered.” Adds Abhinav sheepishly, “I sometimes order some food on the pretext of ordering a packet of condoms when I run out!” Food, cigarettes, medicines, sanitary towels or contraceptives – late-night deliveries are changing the midnight snacking and nocturnal craving landscape of India’s metros. Mumbai, the city that never sleeps, was the first to get a late-night delivery service some time in 2012 when entrepreneur

Neha Jain started Fly By Knight. The service has a simple menu and delivers to areas from Malad to Churchgate and Mulund. Its counterpart in NCR, Batman Delivers that is operational in Gurgaon, was one of the first ones to set up shop in the North. “The owner, fashion designer Leena Malik, returned from the US and saw the vulnerability of people going out at night post the 2012 Delhirape case. That’s how she came up with the idea of reaching essential products to people at night without them having to venture out,” says Raghav Negi, marketing head of Batman Delivers. “We also started what we call Batman Services, a first-of-itskind service where if you need an electrician, plumber, driver or guard at night, we provide them for you.” Crave Busters, one of the newest entrants in the night delivery scene in Delhi, takes your midnight cravings very seriously. With services all over Delhi, they focus only on gourmet food in Indian, Pan-Asian and Continental categories, and made with fresh produce. Samdarsh Wadhwa, founder of Crave Busters, says, “We believe that Delhi should eat at night what it eats during the day. The clock should not be a constraint for you to eat well at any time.” Hear hear!

The clock should not be a constraint for you to eat well at any time Follow @satarupapaul on Twitter

MAY 11, 2014



The Mirage In The Desert by Saudamini Jain


HE DESERT is magical enough by itself. The dark sky dotted with bright stars, smooth grains of sand warm under bare feet, the cool night breeze tickling our senses. We were in a campsite lit entirely by lanterns, the moon, a gleaming pearl. The oud was playing – its mellifluous notes evoking a sense of something out of the Arabian Nights. Food was in abundance and drinks were overflowing. But we were intoxicated by the poetry. If there was ever one... ... Whose love lay more infinite Than grains of sand That’s when I fell in love with a new poem – Invisible Kisses – and found a new favourite, EthiopianBritish poet Lemn Sissay. We were at Desert Stanzas – Poetry & Music Under the Stars, part of the sixth Emirates Airline Festival of Literature in Dubai in March this year. Apart from Sissay, there were Emirati poets Khalid Al-Budoor and Khulood al-Mu’alla, German slam poet Frank Klötgen, Mandarin poet Lan Yi and the UK’s Andrew Motion. Not all of them were translated, but even when the words were foreign, we were captivated by the cadence of the poets’ voices – the fall, the pause, the peak. Recognising the shape of a poem is instinct.

and Brunch’s favourite Pakistani writer Moni Mohsin (The Diary of a Social Butterfly). British journalist Christina Lamb (who co-wrote I Am Malala) was there – you may have read her interview here last month. There was a literary lunch with celebrity chefs Greg and Lucy Malouf. And there was a Murder Mystery Dinner (actors from a local theatre group enacted a play, somebody dies and the audience plays detective) – something you must add to your bucket list!


Indians love Dubai. I’d never visited because I never considered it a place for travellers. It’s like a gigantic mall for shoppers and party animals. And it is. The pride of Dubai is Ski Dubai, the indoor ski resort in the Mall of the Emirates (which I happily ignored, even though my first cabbie insisted it was the full Dubai experience – “we brought ice in the middle of a desert!” he boasted). There are countless clubs and bars (I highly recommend the Irish Village). I did party. And I did shop. It was everything a girl could ask for. But the real charm was in the fragments of culture scattered throughout my trip. To start at the very beginning,


An amazing literature festival with writers from all over the world showed that there’s more to Dubai than malls


Dubai is a surprisingly suitable venue for a literary festival. Eighty-five per cent of its population is expatriate – so the pool of authors is a wonderfully varied mix from around the world. There were some fantastic Middle Eastern writers (see box), there were bestselling writers – Joanne Harris (who wrote Chocolat – you’ve probably watched the film adaptation), Eoin Colfer (who man behind the 13-year-old criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl), our very own Amish (The Shiva Trilogy)


Al Bastakiya, the oldest neighbourhood in Dubai; A traditional Emirati breakfast, and a cultural talk from a very lively host at SMCCU (below)

you must visit Al Bastakiya, the oldest neighbourhood in Dubai. At the end of the 19th century, Persian merchants emigrated here and lived here until the 1980s when its residents moved to other parts of the city. Houses are built with coral and gypsum around a courtyard. It is distinguished by windtowers – a kind of natural air-conditioning. It now houses restaurants and art galleries. A great way to understand Emirati culture and partake the local cuisine is the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. We went for breakfast (surprisingly vegetarian because


Desert Stanzas - Poetry & Music Under the Stars, part of the sixth Emirates literature festival



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Burj Khalifa, at 828 meters or 2,717 feet, is the tallest manmade structure in the world

the Emiratis before the oil money couldn’t afford to eat meat so often). The meal began with gahuwa (two sips of strong Arabic coffee with cardamom and saffron in tiny cups – only half-full so you hold it comfortably) and dates. A spread was laid on the floor and we sat around it – there was dungaw (boiled channa), balaleet (sweet vermicelli mixed with scrambled eggs and raisins), chabab (delicious Emirati pancakes) with date syrup, khamir (a kind of bread sprinkled with sesame) served with cream cheese and ligamat (delightfully sweet doughy balls covered in date syrup and sesame seeds). While we ate, a local host talked us through Emirati history and culture.

came in. And in the 2000s, technology and finance companies poured in. Dubai’s population is now more than two million people. With the tremendous inflow of wealth, art and culture is sprouting up in places. We recommend you visit Al Serkel Avenue, Dubai’s industrial area, where warehouses have been converted into art galleries and creative spaces. “Everybody thinks we have a lot of money, so if we’re not strict, we’ll be the trash can of the world,” a curator told us. Driving through Dubai, you’ll be baffled by the inconsistency in architecture. Impressive standalone buildings senselessly thrown together. (An Egyptianthemed mall next to a Pantheon-like structure?) It is almost unsettling, this emirate – it’s too new, too sudden, too glitzy. Dubai seems unreal. But then the sun sets, and the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, pierces the night sky, glittering all the way to the top. A million photographs cannot prepare you for its glimmering magnificence – or for its dancing fountains. And then you know what Dubai is – a mirage. The writer’s trip to attend the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature was sponsored by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing

The litfest had authors such as Irish writer Eoin Colfer and our very own Amish


Dubai lies on a khor, a natural creek with settlements on both sides. It was mostly a pearl-fishing village till the mid 19th century. People reared camel and sheep, and that was their only wealth. By the 1950s, the north winds had caused silting, and dredging schemes began to widen the channel. In 1966, oil was discovered. And by the end of the ’60s, when the creek project was completed, shipping lines began using Dubai as the main port in the Gulf. Oil export began in 1969. The population was about 59,000. In the 1980s, it was made a free-trade oasis, foreign companies Follow @SaudaminiJain on Twitter

MIDDLE-EASTERN READING LIST n The Map Of Love by Ahdaf Soueif Love stories set in Egypt in the early 1900s and in the ’90s. n Palestinian Walks by Raja Shehadeh The writer, a Palestin-

ian lawyer, takes you on six walks – from 1978 to 2006 – through his country. n Napthalene by Alia Mamdouh The story of a young girl growing up in

Baghdad in the 1950s and 60s. n Throwing Sparks by Abdo Khal In Jeddah, a young boy starts working in an opulent Palace but finds himself trapped.

MAY 11, 2014






October 8



School for Girls, Pune



Hosting Entertainment Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega Life is too short and have just wrapped up and it is better to Dr Chandraprakash move on Dwivedi’s feature film

Asian Paints When Jassi postage stamps commercial were released (2004). It was the first time any celebrity had appeared on a stamp If you weren’t an actress, you would have been... An army officer. Acting or hosting, which do you prefer? Since I act a little while hosting, it has to be acting. The best thing about working with Aamir Khan in 3 Idiots? The question says it all. It was the best experience. What is the worst thing about working in TV serials? The monotony. What attracts you to a man? That he’s a man. I admire chivalry and wit as well. A typical Indian stereotype. That Indians travelling abroad look for an Indian restaurant. Is there anyone for whom you will do anything? For my family, any day. A lie you always get away with. That I am shooting. The sexiest actor in Bollywood. Farhan Akhtar. And the fittest? Vidyut Jamwal. Are you a good girl or naughty one at heart? I leave it on the men to figure. A dance style you could never pick up. As the winner of Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa (2006), I would not like to comment. Do you believe in happily ever after? I am a die-hard romantic, I truly believe in it.


What would you want to wear for the rest of your life? My attitude. A black sari or a little black dress, which do you prefer? I would love to wear a black sari with a short dress underneath. An item number you would love to do. Hungama ho gaya from Queen (2014). The craziest thing you have done for someone. Dressing up as Jassi for my friends’ wedding. What will you be most embarrassed to reveal? I’m embarrassed to reveal that I am not on Facebook. Your favourite childhood memory. Watching the Passing Out Parade of the National Defence Academy with my family. A dessert that describes you. Red velvet cake. Your fitness fundas. Sleep right, eat right and think right. Three skincare products you can’t do without. La Prairie serum, La Prairie night cream and Neutrogena sunscreen. You would love to do a romantic film with... Ranbir Kapoor. What makes your day? Having a hot cup of chai with mom. What spoils it? When she’s not around. You destress with... Meditation. The last line of your autobiography would read… “All is well.”


Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995)

my movies

Mona Singh


Black (2005)


Queen (2014)




Sholay (1975)

— Interviewed by Veenu Singh


Meryl Streep Photo: GETTY IMAGES

MAY 11, 2014

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Brunch 11 05 2014  
Brunch 11 05 2014  

Hindustan Times