blast from the past

I was looking through the desktop and my backed up files today, looking at all the literary content I had generated in high school. This reminded me of my college application process, and I gleefully began reading the essays I had written. This essay, titled “The Bathroom”, was unequivocally my favourite one. It was written for Harvey Mudd College and (surprisingly) my application was accepted. Enjoy!

The Bathroom

There are two places where my mind is idle and completely open to ideas—in the bed while I am dreaming and in the bathroom while I am…doing the obvious. The latter does require some state of non-constipation to ensure that my mental energy is being used somewhat efficiently. It is an unfortunate by-product of life that one cannot remember dreams for a long enough time to record them—but with a pen and some paper, miracles can occur in (or on) a toilet. Anyhow, let me progress with the evidence for my shifty argument, lest I waste too many of my precious words on this introduction.

As I have mentioned above, if I can successfully channel my mental energies into areas of creativity, in the bathroom of course, great things can happen. When in a toilet, there is nothing much to grab my attention and thus my mind begins to wander. Ideas begin to formulate, develop and disappear and for a second it seems that I am but day-dreaming. How can I capture my ingenious thoughts? This is when the writing stationary and my consciousness comes in—I can now record my ideas and make sense of them afterwards!

I can interact with my thoughts in a way that was previously impossible—I can tinker with them and put them into proper words. What sets bathroom free-write apart from the post-write of dreams is the fact that the writer is already awake and ready to write. There is no risk of forgetting ideas or running out of time with them (unless you are in a particular hurry) and as a result, there is a progression of sorts. It is important to remember, however, that one must not force the development of ideas whilst actually in a bathroom. Everything must drop into place naturally.

Apart from being a great place to communicate with my brain, the bathroom is also an exemplary demonstration of the great human skill of multi-tasking. One can cleanse bodily systems and get work done—at the very same time! This is especially true if you are an unorganized worker, procrastinator or just a person with dirty habits. I, of course, am none of the three; I am a enlightened person who understands the true potential of a bathroom. It is almost derogatory to call such a mentally stimulating place a restroom—it is a place where the mind is extremely active.

Before I climb out, soaking, of this essay on a seemingly disastrous subject, I would like to helpfully point out my tasteful choice of subject and of course my honesty in the execution of this essay. I am sure this essay was…different, and I am hoping that that was for positive reasons. I sincerely do hope that this essay provides me with an opportunity to exhibit my creativity, my superb skills in writing and of course my modesty.

eurotrippin’ in switzerland (day 2)

After our naps the previous afternoon and a refreshing night of sleep, we were up on day 2 at around 8.30 in the morning and ready for breakfast, which was provided complimentary. Breakfast consisted of several items, including cereal, milk, tea, several different types of bread loaves (which we had to cut ourselves), cheese and butter of many different types, fruits, cold cut meat slices and 4 different types of yoghurt. In short, plenty of stuff to stuff ourselves with. After eating breakfast, we decided to check out of the hotel and leave our bags there, and then take the trains to Jungfraujoch–the “Top of Europe”.

We reached the train station at a brisk jog, reaching just about 10 minutes before the train was due to arrive. We were able to hit the ticket counter before the crowd grew (by the time we had paid for our tickets, the ticketing room was full) and then waited for the train to arrive. Our route would take us from Wilderswil to Lauterbrunnen, from where we would take a separate train to Kleinescheidegg. From there, we would take the Jungfrau Mountain Railways to the Jungfraujoch station. In all, the journey took something like 2.5- 3 hours each way!

A view of Jungfraujoch from the Kleinescheidegg station

The path taken by Jungfrau Mountain Railways to get to the top

The crows in Switzerland were all yellow-beaked

The ride from Kleinescheidegg to Jungfraujoch stopped at two or three viewing posts on the way, as we got progressively higher. I don’t remember the names of these posts, but we had only 5 minutes at each station hence a lot of time was spent running around lest we missed the train. Compounding this was the fact that we kept leaving our bags on the train so taking the next train wasn’t an option. 😛 We got our first look at the glaciers there, as the following photo shows.

The view of the glaciers from one of the “scenic stops”

After we reached the top, there were several choices of what we could do. There were several locations to view the glaciers, a place where we could actually step out onto the mountain, a “snow lift” or something like that that would take us up to the highest point at Jungfraujoch, an ice “palace” or food. We obviously chose food since it was already about 2pm! We got in the self-serve line and grabbed some unmemorable grub. My Dad and I both had a German-style sausage with beer and my Mom, with it being Monday, had a salad and the “vegetarian plate” which was apparently not very good. Anyhow, the purpose of eating was to fill us up so we could explore the actual place!

The view of the mountain from the station

We visited the “ice palace” first, which was essentially a cave in the ice with various ice sculptures around. It was extremely cold and slippery and it took us a while to convince my mother to enter it. Once we were in, it was fun viewing all the different sculptures in there, but the extreme cold forced us to get out of there as quickly as we could!

Sculpture of a bear with its baby

Proof that my parents were at the Top of Europe!

An E.U. mouse doll frozen in a rectangular prism of ice

After we were done with the ice palace, we took the elevator to the next floor, which dropped us off exactly at the location where we could step out onto the mountain. Interestingly, the snowy mountain-top was a good deal warmer than the ice cave, because we were in direct sunlight since there were no clouds. In fact, it was so warm that the ice had started melting and really getting our shoes wet. That didn’t stop me from grasping the opportunity to pelt my Mom with a couple of snowballs. 😛 The views were absolutely breathtaking. I think when it comes to pretty landscapes, nothing can beat the snow-peaked mountain.

The view from outside… that railing wasn’t helpful in stopping one from falling down!

Another direction… the snow looks so smooth but I bet sliding down it wouldn’t be fun

That’s me in the white hat in the center of the image

After we were done with our little foray into the snowy parts, we came back in and warmed up a bit before heading downstairs. It was starting to get late, considering the 2.5 hour journey in front of us to get back to Interlaken, followed by the anticipated hour drive to Luzern. Hence, we skipped the trip to the top of Jungfraujoch and instead headed back to the train station to prepare for our departure. On the way back, we went through Grindelwald (instead of Lauterbrunnen) since the proprieter of Hotel Baeren as well as the railway travel clerk had suggested we do it so we completed a circle of the Jungfrau region. However, the sun had started coming out and with no air conditioners, none of us were interested in leaving the train to admire Grindelwald. Hence, we simply swapped trains and came back to Wilderswil. At Wilderswil we loaded up our car, said goodbye to Hotel Baeren and were on our way to Luzern!

Luzern (spelled Lucerne in French) in Switzerland is also a pretty touristy spot and also features a lake–Lake Luzern. The directions for the drive to our hotel were provided by Google Maps again, and they worked really well until we reached the city of Luzern. Once we reached, we had no idea where to go. Unfortunately, the roads in a real city (Interlaken/Wilderswil were nothing but little towns) were a lot more complicated and in Switzerland, there were a ton of little roads and lanes all over the place. Not to mention that there was a dedicated bicycle lane which added to the already confusing lines and stripes on the ground.

To cut a long story short, we got lost. We reached Luzern in about 1 hour and it took us about an hour more just to find our hotel. Turns out it was on a street that seemed inaccessible and even if the maps had given us meter-by-meter directions (which is close to what it had done) we wouldn’t have been able to reach. In the end, it took me walking to the hotel and getting exact directions to get there. Once we got there, it was great. The hotel–Hotel Rebstock–was set at the base of a beautiful church. Our room was supposedly in a part of the building that had been built in the 1200’s. I didn’t get any photos of the hotel, unfortunately…

Once we reached the hotel, we freshened up a bit and then headed out for a walk around Luzern. We walked along the lakeside all the way to the train station where we crossed the road and started looking for dinner. We ended up finding dinner alongside one of the smaller creeks/canals that led into the lake that we later found out was known as “Old Town”. Unfortunately, what we ate for dinner has fallen out of my memory range. 😛 But I’m sure it was delicious and expensive! After dinner we walked back to our hotel and crashed for the night, picking up brochures for Luzern to study and plan for the next two days.

eurotrippin’ in switzerland (day 1)

So I decided to finally blog about my trip to Europe. It’s been 2 days since I’ve been back but after the frustration of having to upload photos in batches of 20 at a time because of the crappy internet here, I decided to take a break from thinking about the trip. Anyways, now I’ve quit the laziness and decided to write all the stuff down before I completely forget it. I’ve also decided to (and in fact executed already) upload the photos to Facebook instead of to this site. That way I don’t have to worry about diskspace. I’ve also decided to create a Travel category, which is a silly decision because I won’t be traveling too much from this moment on… Anyhows, enough formalities!

Our flight from Mumbai was straight to Zurich and left at around 12:50am. We decided to get to the airport early and have dinner there itself, since there have been a slew of development in the food options there. As it happened, they had a fully functional food court as well as a restaurant that was sponsored by IIFA (an Indian film institution of some sort). The dinner there was over two weeks back, so I have no recollection of what it actually was… but it was good! We had overestimated Bombay traffic by a country mile, though, so we ended up spending quite a bit of time waiting for our flight.

Day 1 – Interlaken/Wilderswil

At Zurich, we arrived and after picking up our bags looked for the rental car counter. Upon finding it, we started asking companies for cars, only to be met with rejections. Apparently it’s hard to get a car in Zurich for 4 days on a Sunday morning at 7:00am. This brings me to my first tip:

EuroTip 1: If you’re renting a car, book in advance. The rates are better as is the availability.

We ended up renting a satisfactorily comfortable car–a Renault Clio–for an overly inflated price of around 410 CHF (that’s Swiss Franc to you). The car was good, even though it was French. (jokes!!) We decided not to go with the GPS option as we headed out to Interlaken using directions we had printed out from Google Maps in Mumbai. I was the navigator and my Dad was the driver. My mom was the pre-elected backseat driver but she didn’t do her job and took photos instead. It worked out for the best for everybody!

After a false start wherein we pulled into a gas station and wondered how to get on the highway, we were off. The highways in Switzerland were quite awesome and the speed limit max’ed out at 120 kmph. Most cars were going a lot faster, though, so we decided to stick to the rightmost lane. My Dad was forced to learn the task of driving in a left-hand-drive, driving on the right side of the road with a stick shift (aka hands switched). A strenuous task considering that most recently he’s only driven on the left side of the road in the right side of the car with automatic transmission. He adjusted well, though, and the fact that we didn’t have to switch too many gears because of the nice highway system, was also good.

We reached Interlaken in good time and then got lost in Wilderswil, the small township where our hotel was located. As it happened, we just overdrove and missed it on the side, but found it on the way back. The hotel was a small inn-like hotel that seemed to be a family business. It had a restaurant on the lowest floor, then the reception and finally rooms on the next 2-3 floors. Our room was thankfully on the first floor, but we still had to carry bags up at least one flight of stairs. The doorboards were squeaky. The hotel was called Hotel Baeren, or “The Bear Inn”. Accordingly, there were several stuffed bears all over the place. Here are some photos of the hotel:

A few of the bears that welcomed us

An old-school typewriter

Unfortunately, we made time a little too well for our own good and ended up reaching Wilderswil about 2 hours before check-in time. So we walked around the area and got a feel for the places around. We also warmed up our camera lenses a bit. There were a view views of Jungfraujoch, the “Top of Europe” mountain-range available, but the cloudy skies didn’t create enough contrast for a decent photograph. We made our way all the way to the rail station, which was about 1.5km away, I’d say, and then headed back. There was still about 30 minutes to go before check-in time but this time the person at the reception, who seemed to be the owner of the inn, said our room was ready and showed us to it. We put our bags in and decided to have lunch at the inn.

The food was scrumptious, although a bit pricey, but this was something that we’d get used to in Europe. I ordered a wiener-schnitzel, my Dad ordered a pasta of some sort and my Mom ordered a rösti dish with chicken in mushroom sauce. I think that meal ended up being one of our favourites of the whole trip. Beverages were in the form of wine and beer (a local brew, known as Rugenbrau). Overall, it was a good start to the trip. We came back to the room and all took a nap from the exhaustion of a decent drive and a long flight trip and walking.

In the evening, the hunt for coffee/tea was on as well as the search for the actual city we were planning to visit: Interlaken. We had decided to stay only one night near Interlaken since most of the fun stuff there was for adventurous folks (paragliding, bungee jumping, river rafting, etc.) which we clearly were not a subset of. We got ad-hoc directions from the proprietor and set off in our car, only to get lost in about 10 minutes. Or rather, we thought we were lost whereas we were actually on the right track. Anyhow, safety prevailed and we drove back to the hotel and parked round the back, and then approached the train station and bought tickets to Interlaken there. This brings me to another tip.

EuroTip 2: If you’re driving in a foreign country with lots of changes from routine, consider getting a GPS navigation device. Local transportation in Europe maybe great, but it’s also pricey.

We found our way to Interlaken on a roundtrip ticket and then walked from the train station towards the city and the Thun lake (or maybe it was the Kriens lake… don’t remember). On the way, the many maps we passed confirmed that we had in fact been heading in the right direction. In fact, it was the shortcut from the owner of the inn that caused us to doubt our route.  Right across the train station there was a beautiful little cove/pier (I don’t know anything about nautical terms for shores) across from one of the lakes. There was a coffee shop there and we decided to end our quest for coffee and had a drink there. I had a Cafe Macchiato which came complimentary with a delicious little piece of Swiss chocolate:

Yummy Cafe Macchiato which my Mom kept referring to as “cold”, although it was warm

After replenishing our caffeine levels, we started walking towards town. On the way there we passed a small kiosk and purchased water, ice cream (for the parents) and a large pack of Maltesers for myself. Ooh, I think Maltesers are one of the finest chocolates invented. I was so busy eating them that I couldn’t take a photo. Oops. On the way to town we passed (among other things) a Japanese garden, several parks and several breathtaking views of the Jungfraujoch mountain range and the two lakes. We also saw many, many dogs. Apparently dogs are the national animals of Switzerland, or so it appears. Everyone had a dog. Most had two and some even had three. Not so many children around, though. It was the first place in my life where I saw a no-smoking sign in any sort of establishment accompanied by a dog-allowed or dog-not allowed sign almost everywhere.

The weather was a bit rainy so our pace of walk was brisk, but we had enough time to soak in the atmosphere. Interlaken is a completely tourist town and it seems that it is the destination of choice for Indian tourists. About 80% of the people there looked to be tourists, of which greater than 50% appeared to be of desi descent. In fact, we even passed a sign on the way that was in Hindi! I got my Mom to take a photo of it. Priceless… but I guess it’s the Yash Chopra effect? Anyways, as we walked back, we began to look for dinner options and settled on a place called Des Alpes, which apparently served great pizza. Sadly, I only remembered to take a photo after the pizza was consumed:

This plate contained pizza

We then walked back to the station, took the train back and walked back to our hotel. By the time we reached Hotel Baeren, it was approaching 10pm and the light had just began to fade. Yeah… them Swiss have long summer days and long winter nights, from what I hear. Anyways, despite the nap and the coffee, we were pooped and crashed hard. We decided to go to Jungfraujoch the next day on a relaxed schedule, instead of trying to catch the “Early Bird” special at like 6.45am. ‘Twas a great decision…

the last of the mango season

As with everything in life, all good things must come to an end. Mangoes are an excellent part of life and hence they must come to a particularly depressing end, as the mango season finally rolls on. Not that I’m complaining (too much) since I’ve had my fill of mangoes this summer. From the sweet alphonso mango, to the rarer yet tasty badami and dussehri varieties and even the baiganpali, which is what us Oriyas supposedly like the most!

I finally had the opportunity to eat my favourite mango “preparation”–diced mangoes with vanilla ice cream. This dessert is the perfect blend of fruit and ice cream, sweetness and coldness, and other illogical combinations. Whatever, it’s delicious and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’d disagree with me (since I’d probably cause them to implode once they realized the folly of their ways). Anyways, I figured what better way to show you how delicious mangoes+vanilla ice cream is than showing you a few high-resolution photos to increase your blood pressure (and jealousy levels!).

An over-exposed look at the dessert
An over-exposed look at the dessert

A nice, little bowl of scrumptious
A nice, little bowl of scrumptious

One final exotic look at mangoes was in the form of mango souffle one weekend when Swati Bhauja and I convinced her to bring out the old cookbooks lest she forget how to make these wonderful desserts. Theoretically we (Bhauja and I) should know how to make souffle now but there were so many little things that my mom did from knowing the mistakes from previous attempts, that I got lost pretty quickly. Won’t complain, though, since the end result was fantastic. It was one of the few souffle’s I’ve had that has had the gelatin perfectly dissolved, is not too sweet, is not too liquidy, is not too solid, etc. It was a perfect end to the mango season (although I’ve been guilty of having a few more mangoes here and there since then!).

The undecorated mango souffle
The undecorated mango souffle

Mango souffle with ad-hoc decoration of real mangoes
Mango souffle with ad-hoc decoration of real mangoes

A serving of the souffle
A serving of the souffle

The chef flanked by her assistants
The chef flanked by her assistant

And that’s that! Yummmmmm… don’t know when I’ll get the chance to savour this king of fruits again. 🙁

(one of) the final installment(s) of the indian (food) summer

About a month ago I had the privilege of eating some home-cooked biryani as well as one of my favourite vegetarian dishes—rajma and rice. I can say that I had no role to play in the preparation of either dishes, and probably fortunately so, since they would have ended up inedible otherwise. Ramesh, our cook, is a genius when it comes to preparing biryani and I’m more than happy to be pampered and spoiled by his good cooking!

Biryani is an Indian dish that basically comprises of rice and a meat (in this case, chicken) cooked together. As you can tell, I don’t really have any idea of how it is actually prepared but talking with people who do know how to prepare it and observing them passively, I take it the two main steps are making the (chicken) curry and then making the rice and mixing them together and perhaps cooking them a bit more. Ramesh’s version features a “layered” style, wherein most of the meat is at the bottom and then there are layers of rice and other various goodies above it. It’s breathtakingly good, especially when enjoyed with a side of raita, which is basically a yoghurt-based watery mixture containing onions, tomatoes, and sometimes cucumbers. Enough talking, though, let’s see some pictures!

A huge pot of Ramesh’s biryani
A huge pot of Ramesh’s biryani

A huge helping of biryani (that is a normal-sized plate!)
A huge helping of biryani (that is a normal-sized plate!)

A look at the biryani as well as the aforementioned raita
A look at the biryani as well as the aforementioned raita

This blog has been dominated by meat so let me remind my readers that I am in fact not a carnivore. In fact, I enjoy a number of vegetarian dishes, one of my favourite being rajma. Rajma is the Hindi name for kidney beans and the way I like it best (as almost anything) is as a curry with rice. I have no idea how it is prepared but its red and tastes delicious!

Rajma curry
Rajma curry

Rajma with rice and Kunduru Bhaja in the background
Rajma with rice and Kunduru Bhaja in the background

Finally, let’s take a look at some food from Orissa, when I was at my mom’s house in Cuttack. I’ve never actually lived there but all my cousins at some period or another have been living there so the feel of family and bonding is great. As a result, we end up with some pretty large meals enjoyed by about 10-12 people simultaneously (there are 9 cousins all in our range and 2 more that are slightly younger but still welcome :P). Seeing that this may be last time in Orissa for a while, I was pampered with one large meal (you’ll see what I mean in a moment) as well as some mutton curry… yeah if you haven’t noted by now, we Oriyas love our mutton!

The grand spread!
The grand spread!

Yummy in my tummy… notice the stark contrast between my plate area and Pinku’s (one of my cousins)
Yummy in my tummy… notice the stark contrast between my plate area and Pinku’s (one of my cousins)

Yep, the grand spread represented my first meal at Cuttack this year and consisted of no little than 10 dishes. There was the breakfast that I hadn’t yet had in the form of idli and sambar. Then there was lunch, which consisted of rice, daal, paneer curry, some dish that I can’t remember now, saag, kunduru bhaja, kakharu phula bhaja and salad. Dessert was served alongside in the form of mangoes. In short, quite a large meal and one that I struggled to finish but ended with a smile on my face! This meal alone was probably responsible for 10% of my weight gain in those 10 days in Orissa!

And now the mutton…

No need for words to describe the taste!
No need for words to describe the taste!

What was judged the “reddest” curry and thus the one that should be photographed
What was judged the “reddest” curry and thus the one that should be photographed

So there’s the end of another food-astic blog! I will have one more up soon about my parents 30th anniversary which featured plenty of scrumptious eating, but that deserves its own separate little post. Must separate home-cooked and restaurant-prepared food, because home-cooked is just so much more deliciously wholesome!

A huge helping of biryani (that is a normal-sized plate!)

more cooking escapades

The months of June and July were filled with more, thus far undocumented, cooking adventures as well as the enjoyment of delicious Indian dishes that I was not involved in the preparation of. I learned a few different bhajis and whatnot, but the main dishes I picked up were a couple of chicken preparations. I can provide recipes if necessary but I don’t remember them offhand so I’m not including them in this blog. Let’s have a look at each of these chicken delicacies.

The final chilly chicken preparation
The final chilly chicken preparation

Another angle of the chilly chicken
Another angle of the chilly chicken

This was a simple chilly chicken dish and basically comprised of chicken, capsicum (bell peppers) and onions. I don’t remember the preparation exactly but there was chilli powder, green chillies, soya sauce and some other stuff. It was a bit spicy and pretty tasty. It seems like a pretty easy dish to make, too, so hopefully I will be able to repeat the efforts once I’m on my own.

Pepper chicken being cooked in the pot
Pepper chicken being cooked in the pot

Serving of pepper chicken (notice the large green chilli!) with roti
Serving of pepper chicken (notice the large green chilli!) with roti

Another look at one of the more peppery angles of the pepper chicken
Another look at one of the more peppery angles of the pepper chicken

This was a pepper chicken dish that my mom and I made the night we returned from Orissa. Although there is a recipe existing, in theory, in the cookbook I’ve been building up this summer, in reality the actual preparation was very ad-hoc. My mom added about 5 different types of different pepper mixes from several tiny, oddly-shaped bottles she has collected. I am confident that I won’t be able to repeat this one on my own, but it was tasty enough for me to pretend like I can, for those who don’t read the words in this blog!

oh! calcutta—bengali foodie paradise

It is common knowledge to most of Mumbai that Oh! Calcutta serves some of the best Bengali food in town. Given Bengal’s geographical proximity to my home state, Orissa, the food is much appreciated by my family. Every time I visit home (usually multiple times) we make sure that we visit the restaurant to be treated to some of our favourite dishes, any lucky cousins who are visiting us, in tow. I know, in particular, that one particular cousin missed out and was more than a little unhappy! This time the fortunate party comprised of my parents, piusa (an uncle), Chiku Bhaina and, of course, myself. Let’s take a look at the happy time we had!

Anonymous Green Mango Cocktail

First, we started off with drinks. I chose a drink that I was to, over the course of the meal, regret since it’s nothing like I wanted it to be. The name escapes me, given that I went there over a month ago (yeah, this is a super-delayed blog post!), but it ended up being a cocktail comprised of green mango juice and, supposedly, vodka. I say supposedly since it tasted just like aamb-panna, something that I am not a fan of. Anyways, nothing like a poor drink to make an already delicious meal taste even better!

Luchis Galore

Luchi and Mangso Kasa

The appetizer of choice, by default, was luchi-mangso kasa. Luchi is a deep fried Indian bread which is similar to its cousin, the puri, but is a lot thicker and, as you can see, a lot larger. Mangso Kasa is a preparation of mutton (or lamb, goat or whatever) that is basically drier and with a lot more masala than the conventional curry. In short, mouth-watering deliciousness. And it tastes like heaven. I know you’re drooling just by staring at it (unless you’re vegetarian, in which case you probably aren’t a big fan of the food sections of my blog anyway!).

Bhapa Ilisi and Rice

The main course was Bhapa Ilisi, which is a preparation of fish with a mustard sauce. We also ordered some chicken dish, but like the photo above, it was simply in the background. The ilisi was delightful, as usual, and one of the reasons I love coming back to the place. It was gobbled up in great proportions and over-eating was very much achieved. As expected, there was no room for dessert or I would have gladly had a misthi-dahi (sweet yoghurt). Oh (man, I love food from) Calcutta!

If you want to visit Oh! Calcutta:

Oh! Calcutta
Hotel Rosewood, Tulsiwadi Lane
Tardeo, Mumbai 400022
Tel.: 022-23539114

movie review: new york

Director: Kabir Khan
Main Cast: John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Katrina Kaif
Supporting Cast: Irrfan Khan
Music: Pritam
RATING: 3.5/5
MUSIC: 3/5


I had been looking for to this movie for almost a year, since I saw the trailer for it in December 2008. Apparently several post-production factors, including distribution problems due to the multiplex-producer standoff, as well as the IPL, caused this release to be delayed to June 2009. The theme of the movie was somewhat different from conventional Bollywood in that it didn’t center itself on a love triangle, although it certainly had the opportunity to do so. Let me look at in a little more detail.


This movie takes place completely in New York, USA, in the days/months/years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Sameer (John Abraham), Maya (Katrina Kaif) and Omar (Neil Nitin Mukesh) are three students of Indian origin studying at New York State University. Sam and Maya have both been born and brought up in the US whereas Omar is an international student from Delhi. The three form a close friendship that is eventually destroyed by love, wherein Sam and Maya like each other whilst Omar, who had feelings for Maya, is left languishing. He moves away from New York and starts working, evidently owning a taxi.

All this is revealed as “flashbacks” since the actual action of the movie happens much later in the future, where Omar is arrested for a potential terrorist attack after AK-47’s and several explosives were found in the boot of a cab owned by him. The FBI detain him and an aamchi desi agent, Roshan (Irrfan Khan), is put in charge of his case. It becomes evident that the FBI has actually framed Omar so that they could use his past friendship with Sam to get some answers, since Sam is a suspected member of a terrorist outfit.

Omar is then placed back in the life of Sam, who has now married Maya and has gone on to inexplicably produce a very gora baby with her, by the name of Danyal (pronounced “Daniel” throughout the movie). Maybe he was adopted or something, but he supposedly has Sam’s eyes, according to Omar. The two former friends unquestioningly accept Omar back into their fold and let him live with them, while Roshan uses Omar to glean information and try to get a confession out of Sam. Omar tests Sam by continually expressing his hatred for the American authorities and how he would do something if he had the chance… but Sam isn’t seem to be interested.

I won’t reveal much more of the plot since I believe that you should go watch this movie if you get the chance. The themes covered are pretty important and although the event is well in the past, it is still worth looking at some of the issues covered. Unfortunately, I can’t really reveal more without revealing the main plot of the story, so you will have to do with this abstractness, for now.


I wasn’t expecting much in the form of good acting in a movie starring Katrina Kaif and Neil Nitin Mukesh, who possess a total of 3-4 expressions between them. However, Mukesh finally delivered a pretty decent performance after Johnny Gadaar, in my opinion. His role was a difficult one as he had to play an amateur-spy-as-well-as-former-friend-trying-to-get-information-about-something-he-didn’t-believe-in and he did a believable job. Kaif didn’t match his standards, although to be honest she didn’t have much of a role to play, apart from the beginning. Her acting was about average, in that it wasn’t horrendous enough to detract from the actual movie, but it wasn’t so good as to lavish praises on her.

John Abraham, though, delivered a fine performance. He played the role of a good-natured, competitive Indian American really well, especially in the first half, but the real quality of his performance came in the second half. Watch the movie and you’ll know what I mean.

Irrfan Khan was excellent, as usual, and is one of the gems in Bollywood at the moment. His versatality as an actor is unquestionable and he’s been able to shine in roles as variable as in this movie where he is an FBI agent, to Billu where he is a poor hairdresser, to Dil Kabbadi where he is a middle-aged man going through a mid-life crisis.

General Negatives

The theme of Islam in the movie was not presented very well. For example, for the entire first half, the fact that Omar and Samir are Muslim was not mentioned even once, whereas in the second half it evidently became a huge deal. I think if the movie had stuck to the Indian/South Asian-ness of the people involved it would have left a better aftertaste. As it happens, they didn’t, and there were some dialogues towards the end of the movie about “freedom of Muslims” in the U.S. that didn’t seem like a particularly fair conclusion to me.

One more issue I had with this movie is that it may re-ignite bad memories. The 9/11 tragedy has been mostly done and dusted with, and bringing it up again and highlighting the role the American government played in the aftermath may not invoke the best emotions. However, the script was approved by the U.S. government, evidently, as a requirement for shooting on locations such as Guantanamo Bay.

Other than that, I think this movie was pretty solid and the only real downfalls came from the choppiness of the script.

General Positives

The music (or lack thereof) in the movie was refreshing. There were a couple of opportunities where the producers could easily have inserted a sleazy, club-based dance song, but refrained to do so since it would add nothing to the story. The songs generally fit in with the song and even though listening to the soundtrack I don’t remember which song was presented when, all the songs remind me of the emotions of the characters in the movie.

Another positive is the picturization of the movie, which is based entirely in the United States. There are several shots, especially those involving the SWAT or FBI forces, that could easily have been in an English action film. The depiction of American college life is somewhat exaggerated but still believable, at least for the Indian palate.


The music for this movie is unobtrusive and not overly exciting, but still pretty decent. Hai Junoon and Mere Sang are the songs to listen to, from this movie, as their tunes are quite pleasant. The music from this movie is somewhat mellow, bordering on happy, but not energetic. It is probably something that would be nice to listen to in the rain, which is what the weather is like, right now.

However, this music is the silver-lining that surrounds the cloud of plagiarism. I wasn’t aware of Pritam’s notoriety in the music industry of plagiarizing but after doing a bit of research online, it appears that he has lifted riffs straight from (mostly) Asian songs throughout his career. In this movie, parts of the tune for Hai Junoon were copied from Naluri Lelaki by a band called “Samsons”. Here’s some video evidence:


The movie overall was definitely watchable and I would recommend anyone to check it out. The themes highlighted are somewhat political but definitely important to think about. It could have been better, but the fact that the director didn’t fall into many popular Bollywood traps convinced me to bump this up from just a 3 to a 3.5 out of 5.

movie review: kambakkht ishq

Director: Sabbir Khan
Main Cast: Akshay Kumar, Kareena Kapoor
Supporting Cast: Aftab Shivdasani, Amrita Arora
Music: Anu Malik
RATING: 2.5/5
MUSIC: 2/5


The spelling of the title of this movie was definitely not the only problem I had with it. I’ve been misspelling the title all over the place but from the trailers, music and the like, it looked like this would be a pretty decent flick to catch as the monsoon season has finally come around. Sadly, I was wrong.

This movie had many bright spots, but they were overshadowed by periods of dullness or repitivity. Let me break it down into a few categorie:


The plot appeared to be somewhat different at first, but it soon boiled down to the standard two eventual lovers pretend like they hate each other, then each realize their folly separately and reconcile in the end. There was of course some drama surrounding it as well as a few laughs, but the story was essentially the same.

Viraj (Akshay Kumar) and Lucky (Aftab Shivdasani) are brothers in the same profession–body doubles for stunts, or “super stuntmen” as the posters around Mumbai scream. Simrita (Kareena Kapoor) and Kamini (Amrita Arora) are best friends and the havoc begins when Kamini decides to marry Lucky since she, gasp, loves him. Viraj objects to this marriage on principal, since he believes marriage is unmasculine, while Simrita has some unquantified hate for men, specifically stuntment, who she believes have no IQ. Of course, Kamini and Lucky don’t pay heed to their warnings and do the right thing, but all this achieves is the production of a ticking timebomb between Sim and Viraj.

Simrita is supposedly a super model who is a surgeon at the same time which seems entirely unfeasible but can be ignored for the sake of creativity. Her first solo surgery happens to be on Viraj, who she steadily despises over the course of the movie, and she ends up dropping a musical watch into his belly. This leads up to the best part of the movie, as Viraj ends up listening to this musical watch, which chants marriage mantras, on the hour every hour without understanding where it is coming from.

Sim, on the other hand, figures out from the x-rays that she has made a huge mistake and tries to coax Viraj into coming back for a “check-up” post-surgery. Viraj, of course, at this point hates Sim as she has ultimately convinced Kamini to divorce his brother. Instead of telling the truth at the expense of bruising her ego, Sim throws her medical morale out the window and tries to drug Viraj at several opportunities while spinning the classic Bollywood “pretending-to-love-you” story which our hapless lover happily falls for. Eventually succeeding right after Viraj proposes to her, Sim then reveals her motives to a heartbroken Viraj who then decides to marry Denise Richards, who apparently wants to have “golden babies” with him, in a knee-jerk reaction.

Lucky then succeeds in ‘opening the eyes’ of the stubborn Sim in one smooth scene where he reveals that Viraj had the chance to take advantage of her but didn’t. Apparently this is a most emotional moment for Sim, who then realizes she’s fallen in love with a total sleaze-bag who will probably dump her in a couple of years. Instead of paying heed to her brain, she runs after him and obviously everything ends happily after.


The acting could have been better. Amrita Arora does a good job acting as a dumb lingerie model. Aftab probably does the best of all the actors, while Akshay seems to be using this movie to show everyone that he does all his own stunts. Kareena’s acting is pretty good as she succeeds in convincing the audience that she’s a snob, although the script fails in bringing the best out of her. Sabbir Khan also uses a plethora of “guest actors” ranging from Javed Jaffery who plays a desi immigrant intent on suing everyone, to Boman Irani who features in one scene whose only purpose is to introduce the Om Mangalam song, to Sylvester Stallone who has been cast only so that he can stick his head into Bollywood and tell everyone how happy he is to be part of it.

General Negatives

There are many problems with this movie. The plot is very trippy and jumpy and the cast hasn’t been used properly. The advertising for this movie made a huge deal out of the Sylvester Stallone involvement whereas his involvement seems extremely forced. The plot doesn’t flow and it looks like the director has just taken a lot of pieces, such as big names, great shot locations and a decent background score, and mixed them together to produce something that is less than the sum of its parts. There was only about 15-20 minutes in this movie that I was actually entertained and for the rest of the time I was just waiting for it to move on. There are also glaring flaws in logic, such as why you would use a stunt double that looks nothing like the actual actor.

General Positives

A couple of the songs are catchy, the stunts are pretty good and there are some decent laughs provided by Javed Jaffery and Akshay Kumar in a couple of scenes. Amrita and Kareena look mostly gorgeous and ‘Bebo’s’ liplocks with Akshay are bound to cause some controversies in our tabloids. However, it again looks like the director just cues in “Kareena-in-bikini” without any consideration of where it fits into the plot. Not that I’m complaining…


There is only really one good song in the soundtrack, Om Mangalam, which made a strong claim to be the title track but was beaten to the punch by a track titled Kambakkht Ishq. Otherwise, the music is stuff that only sounds good in movie but doesn’t have much scope outside it. The requisite remixes that feature in every Bollywood movie soundtrack release are also present on the CD for the clubs to play. As expected, the picturization of the songs has mostly completely interrupted the flow of the plot. Oh well…


All in all, this is a timepass movie that I wouldn’t pay a weekend price of Rs. 275 per ticket to watch. As it happened, I didn’t pay a dime and neither did my parents, because we got free tickets from HSBC courtesy of my dad’s premier card (along with free popcorn and a Coke, too). Wait for this one to come on television–there’s no point in getting the DVD and the star value means it should be coming to Indian television soon. 2.5 out of 5 for me.

a few notes

I don’t have time for a long post now, but here are a few slices of information as to what will be coming up on sohummm. There will be some spectacularly long overdue food memories–especially of mangoes, meat and some of my cooking escapades. There will be a couple of movie reviews, namely of Angels & Demons, X-Men Origins: Wolverine and New York. With regards to that, I’m going to try to be a little more standardized in my movie reviews in an attempt to make it a more common feature of this website.

So that’s what’s coming up. Maybe a few cricket-related things here and there, but don’t hold your breath. Don’t hold your breath, generally speaking, unless you’re swimming underwater or something.