February 2014 witnessed fat budget, big star cast movies releasing on all of its Fridays, but surely the best was saved for the last. ‘Shaadi ke Side Effects’ is a roller coaster ride that leaves you with pangs of laughter.  Simultaneously, it delves deep into the emotions of the post ‘just married’ period where Sid (Farhan Akhtar) & Trisha (Vidya Balan) try to manage an unplanned parenthood. The struggle comes with financial constraints and professional aspirations, along with lost sleep, social life and freedom.

The Plot

The baby daughter they are ‘blessed’ with soon turns everything around. The ringing violins and saxophones turn into the baby’s wails, Sid’s marketing jingles turn into lullabies, intimacy evaporates, romance takes a backseat and their life enters into a different phase bundled with troubles. While the now idiosyncratic full time mom Trisha, still adjusts to the new life, Sid longs for the old carefree moments and seeks precious advice from his bro-in-law (played by Ram Kapoor) that twists the story in an interesting manner.

The Positives

The movie is garnered with commendable performances of talented actors like Vidya Balan, Farhan Akhtar, Ram Kapoor, Vir Das, Purab Kolhi and Ila Arun. Vidya succeeds to look as adorable as always despite of her character’s nagging nature. She has justified her casting for this role with her amazing comic timing and dialogue delivery in the first half as well as with her ability to pull of emotional scenes with utmost grace. You can hardly take your eyes off her, courtesy her simplicity and grace.

The movie is Sid’s point of view, and revolves around his experiences, and Farhan has very well carried it well with his powerful expressions, innocent looks and amazing talent of cracking funniest jokes without a smile on face. The characters are largely relatable due to the outstanding performances by the actors.

The dialogues are very well written, are funny as well as they provide valuable pieces of advice to the married duos. Check this out:

Farhan’s tip to a happy married life:  “When I’m in the wrong, I say sorry. When she is in the wrong. I say sorry.

The Neutrals

After long Vidya Balan has featured in a movie wherein she isn’t the main protagonist, however this nowhere means she is less of an actor, or her character in the movie is sidelined.

The music of the movie is catchy, but it is clear that it isn’t here to stay.

The Negatives

The performances of the leads as well as the supporting cast are amazing but the movie’s story doesn’t attract much of audiences’ attraction. It is a predictable B-wood movie, extended aimlessly to around 2.5 hours that might put people’s patience to test.

A rich and cultured soon-to-be married young lady is unwittingly abducted by an uncouth and violent truck driver. What follows is quite a clichéd tale of love, loss and learning, but it’s told in a refreshing manner. Highway is the story of two seemingly opposite people who slowly grow together only to realize that they are not so different while on a road journey.

Veera and Mahabir, played by Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda are strong and sound characters, both with an intense background story. Alia sheds the Barbie image with her stellar portrayal of a girl finally breaking free from shackles of a hypocritical society. But even though the actors executed their parts beautifully, the script somehow fails to lend any real depth to the characters.
The movie in itself has ups and downs. It’s unconvincing in some places, such as when Veera becomes too candid a little too soon with her captors; light and funny in others; it even reaches a point where the movie continues with absolutely no addition to the actual story.

Imtiaz Ali also manages to address the issue of rape of minors by their own family members without it sounding preachy or overpowering the entire essence of the film. The music by A. R. Rahman compliments the movie well without being invasive as is the case with many Bollywood movies.

To summarize, Highway is an unorthodox spin on a story we’ve all heard before. Watch it for:

  1. Great performances by both the actors
  2. Visual treats from Rajasthan to Punjab to Kashmir
  3. The virtue of not being a run- of- the- mill romantic movie

The Big Bang Theory is an American sitcom created by Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady and is currently in its seventh season. It premiered in December in India on Zee Cafe and is halfway through.

It is based on four socially awkward scientists each with their own quirks. The sixth season ends with Howard and Bernadette happily married, Leonard out on a sea voyage, heartbreak putting an end to Raj’s selective mutism, Amy still in love with Sheldon and Sheldon as his usual annoying but hilarious self! The seventh season starts with Penny dealing with Leonard’s absence and their daily lives follow suit.

The latest season takes a break from romance and relationship troubles which were the central theme of the last two seasons and turns its focus back to Sheldon’s eccentricities which is a breath of fresh air. The comedy is great and the end will leave you laughing. There’s no trouble in paradise when it comes to Leonard and Penny and its fun watching a different side of their relationship.  Raj can now talk to women without being drunk and that adds a whole new dimension to the program and makes it entertaining. This season also sees greater involvement of Stuart who was otherwise seen occasionally.

The eleventh episode ‘The Cooper Extraction’ is one of the best episodes. Sheldon leaves for Texas for a day and the rest of them imagine how their life would’ve been had they not met Sheldon. The scenarios created are rib cracking and will leave you in fits of laughter!

The Big Bang Theory delivers everything it promises and more. It continues to be a great show cast with interesting characters having amazing comic timing and a good script to compliment them. Each episode induces smiles if not laughter. It is a good watch and a treat to Big Bang Theory fans. It definitely leaves you asking for more! You can catch it on Zee Cafe every Sunday at 1:30 pm.

The latest book by Khushwant Singh that recently hit the bookstores is a compilation of 35 famous and controversial personalities through the eyes of the 98 year old celebrated columnist. The Good, The Bad and The Ridiculous pens uncensored attacks on people with whom Khushwant Singh had relations, met and interacted over the years. Co-authored by Humra Quraishi, this book provides an insider’s look at the lives of people like Indira Gandhi, Giani Zail Singh, Jinnah, Gandhi and many others and introduces us to their not-so-pleasant characteristics.

He dedicates small chapters to each personality and narrates his accounts wittingly and candidly. The book engages you with innately honest opinions and makes one curious to know what bomb would explode in our perceptions of the famous ones after reading about them.

Reading out blurbs like, “There was something cold and haughty about her. Not my type at all … But she had her set of admirers … and never forgave anyone who said anything against her” for Indira Gandhi or “He took a vow of celibacy in his prime, but without consulting his wife, which I think was grossly unfair. He would sleep naked beside young girls to test his brahmacharya. He could be very odd” for the Father of the Nation makes the book both intimate and irreverent.

He quite clearly expresses his bitterness for L.K Advani and expresses his ‘ambivalence’ for Indira Gandhi. Khushwant Singh dedicates the biggest chapter to V.K Menon followed by a close second of Giani Zail Singh.

The book entertains and shocks the reader with Singh’s sketches of the good, bad and the ridiculous shades of the people whom he knew for almost a century.  Well informed accounts and frank opinions by KS have been appreciated by all and makes him one of the most honest and candid writers in this industry.  Khushwant Singh also makes it very clear in this book he that neither dreads criticism and nor is bothered about it.

This book will certainly ring a bell for people who crave gossips coming out from the elite class of the country. Notwithstanding the fact that the book is only a person’s opinion which need not be a full story, the book can prove to be useful for peeking into the lives of others through the eyes of the Big Old Man of the writing world.

In the last week of November the multi talented Raghu Dixit along with his band the Raghu Dixit Project launched their album Jag Changa. This is their second album following the 2008 release. On this album you can clearly see the singer- songwriter go back to his roots, and if you haven’t caught him live yet, you’re missing out on some soulful music.

We’ve picked out 3 tracks from the album to highlight how this Project is at the top of its game and everything IS changa.

Track 01. Parasiva: The album opens with the song Parasiva (Kannada) that has a rather prominent Indian percussive sound but this soon mellows out when Raghu Dixit chimes in with the vocals and a playful chorus. Things that make this track stand out are the droning violin sound, the rather plastic-y effect on the guitars during the chorus (if you tune in carefully this is easily identifiable) and some brilliant bass work to tie the track up. Enjoy this track while dwelling on its meaning, which acknowledges the many strangers who come to our aid in life when we have our backs against the wall- what else can you call it but an act of God as Raghu Dixit says.

Track 03. Jag Changa: As Raghu Dixit explains while performing live, the album was to an extent inspired by the many Delhi gigs the band performed. He says that they took away the word ‘changa’ and its meaning that everything is fine, beautiful, add to that the word ‘Jag’ and you know it, the world is beautiful. Certainly a world with Raghu Dixit’s music is nothing short of a surreal one. The title track of this album opens with Raghu Dixit strumming a sharp progression and humming to it. Before you know it, a percussive click and a slide of the bass ushers in the banjo and Raghu Dixit harmonizing, before the verse. The lyrics sometimes playful, sometimes satirical however always acknowledging that at the end of it all, the world is beautiful. Navin Iyer chips in on this record with a marvelous flute solo that livens up the track. The satire comes through in probably the most striking lines of this song- ‘Insaan ban gaya hai do pal ka ishtehaar. Sansad se zyaada bhar gaya hai ye Tihar.’- followed by a short violin solo. This song will certainly stay in your head for a long time and has the most repeat value.

Track 04. Yaadon Ki Kyari: This song is literally a garden of the singer’s childhood memories with lyrics as pristine as the waters of the Godavari. It is easily notable that Raghu Dixit pours his heart out while singing this song which ties together snippets of his childhood memories such as the scooter rides with his father, his love for the Rasam Shaadam (Rasam Rice) his father would make and so on. The most striking imagery however is that when he reminisces the long walks along the bank of the Godavari with his mother and how they together lit up several earthen lamps and floated them across the river- all those lamps that ornamented the river are described as the most beautiful sight in the world by Raghu Dixit. So take a peek into the singer’s childhood and maybe re live some moments from your own.

Another track that deserves special mention is Lokada Kalaji. Raghu Dixit can make you sing along and this track is testimony to it. A shame if you miss this track while the band is onstage, since through this song Raghu Dixit is happy to give you a lesson in Kannada and an opportunity to be one with the band.

In its entirety the much awaited album is nothing short of a work of art. To add to that, the album features a rather uncanny but welcome redesign to the conventional CD case format and comes in 3 different colours, so you may choose as you please- but what’s on the inside only gets better with every listen.

WRITTEN BY: Kenji Kamiyama
DIRECTED BY: Kenji Kamiyama
PRODUCTION: Production I.G
GENRE: Cyber-punk, Action

 The year is 2030. It is the decade of the greatest cybernetic advancement in the history of mankind, where the mind is no longer bound to the vessel of the flesh. Imagine the possibilities if your brain could be cyberized and your thoughts digitized into the vast global network. After all, what is a human thought but a simple form of electrical energy? Imagine a world with no physical illness as your consciousness can be transferred to a fully prosthetic body, sculptured in the likes of the Gods themselves.

Kenji Kamiyama’s Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is set in this very future where technological leaps have given rise to a whole new breed of crime. And as a response the government of Japan forms a special branch of unconventional covert operatives known as Section 9 that specializes in solving cyber crimes.

The main protagonist is a woman operative in Section 9 named Motoko Kusunagi, often referred to by her rank ‘Major’. Although her mysterious past is kept in the shadows one can notice the ease with which she can handle herself and her team when put in a tough spot. Her cool under fire and her genius hacking makes her a well respected leader and an indispensible asset to the agency. Her team members (and the other protagonist) include Bato, a former ranger who is the only one who can fight in equal footing with the Major, Togusa, a former police officer, family man and the only fully human member of the team, Saito, an eagle eyed sniper, Pazu, a former yakuza turned investigator, Borma and Ishikawa, information gatherers and lastly the head of the entire Section 9 – Daisuke Aramaki, an old man with limitless resources and equally abundant wits who is the main brain behind the entire team. His influence and political manoeuvring has often gotten the team out of sticky situations. The characters are richly varied but yet a cohesive unit. Their camaraderie displayed by their trust for each other and a few jokes to relieve tensions of a gun fight.

The plot follows the usual exploits of Section 9 as they go about their day to day business as any other secret agency – secretly. But the daily redundancies are suddenly broken by the re-appearance of the infamous hacker dubbed ‘The Laughing man’, due to the stylized logo he uses. He is a super wizard level hacker who had created a nationwide sensation when he accused the Japanese government of withholding vital information for their own profit at the cost of human lives. But after his first appearance (which occurred several years before the start of the story) the Laughing Man had vanished and many other criminals, inspired by his persona- committed crime. Section 9 is put into a wild game of cat and mouse as they try to segregate facts from reality, even harder still when all forms of information can now be altered and deleted, even the human memory.

The story requires a bit of patience from the audience as they are directly dropped into the middle of a vast new world. The technological advancement in the series is awe inspiring yet believable and better still is the new society that creates itself around it. As the thin line between man and machine begins to disappear the characters begin to engage in brief yet thought provoking dialogue on modern philosophy such as the definition of a human being. The story telling is bold; it does not shy away from presenting the world as it is – corrupted and diseased. Human passion begins to go beyond flesh and the series gives us the repulsive view of the most humane spectacles – sins. Kenji Kamiyama’s Japan is not just a world of towering sky scrapers and well to do bourgeois, but also diseased slums and shanty towns. The GITS series give us glimpses of both sides of the coin.

The artwork and its curious mix of CGI are amazing. And the music scores by Yokko Kanno fits perfectly with the moments on scene: a sombre music accompanying a crime scene investigation, a pulse setting beat during an intense gun fight or a striking revelation emphasized by eerie background music. Many critics have praised the work of Yokko Kanno and rightfully so.

The series is recommended for a mature audience as it involves a little more than just profanity. But it is a necessity as the story explores the deepest pits of human shallowness. A few unrequired instances may put some of the audience a little off but in a Japanese anime who could expect anything else? Its uncensored gore, fascinating plot and incredible storytelling makes it a must watch. Even to those who believe that cartoons are meant for kids alone. I assure you, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex will make you reconsider your presupposition and make you want to watch entire seasons again and again.

The third instalment of the spirited ‘Dhoom’ franchise that hit the box office this Friday delivers the audience three hours of highs and lows. The movie bumps across its peaks and valleys courtesy the amazing performances, electrifying action and beautiful locations. Not to forget, the movie seriously defies logic and consists of songs where leads dance halting the story and portions of no significance.

The Plot

The movie is about a circus magician and acrobat Sahir (Aamir Khan) and his mission to ring the financial death knell for the Western Bank of Chicago and its director Mr. Anderson (the most expressionless foreigner ever). All this, to seemingly avenge the suicide of his father (Jacky Shroff) due to the bank’s bid to shut off their ‘Great Indian Circus’ to indemnify itself against the loss due to former’s inability to pay back the loans.

What follows is a series of action sequences where the protagonists summersault on bikes, drive autos down the slum roofs, and jump down the sky scrapers. The bikes run on ropes, they float; jump, fly and what not till the final faceoff wherein the ‘chor-police’ chase ends in an unexpected manner. Unlike common parlance, your heart races, quite confused, as you can’t decide if you really support the police or want the thief to escape.

The Positives

Aamir Khan is what you call the USP of the movie, ‘Mister Perfectionist’ as he is; he has acted meticulously pulling off the role well, sporting an amazing body and showcasing expertise on the acrobatic ropes along with his co-star Alia ( Katrina Kaif). Both of the leads have mastered the art well. The sets are grand, the wardrobe appealing and being directed by Vijay Krishna Acharya, a Kirori Mal (DU) alumnus and screenplay, dialogue and Story writer of previous Dhooms, the movie is well shot without any compromises on detailing.
The choreography is wonderful, special reference to the energetic tap dance movie begins with.

The Neutrals

Abhishek Bachchan in his shades and leather jackets and the tapori Uday Chopra have nothing new for audience to see. They are called to Chicago to catch Aamir, for the Chicago forces and SWAT teams aren’t able to, maybe. The music isn’t music to your ears, as you hardly come out of the hall humming any.

The Negatives

The movie is alarmingly lengthy with portions of no significance added to give screen time to other actors as the camera hardly spares Aamir who hogs for all the limelight. Also this movie unlike others, doesn’t show the theft happening, and emphasises more on chases that disappoints audiences. The currency notes fly in sky, and chase begins. (Really!)
And like I said, it defies logics and science.

It is Francis Lawrence making you delve into the world of science fiction again with the sequel of Hunger Games –  Hunger Games : Catching Fire. Adapted from the novel by Susan Collins, part two of the proposed four part franchise certainly leaves you hungry for more. Although being a sci-fi, this particular movie connects more with the public sentiment than the previous one, specially due to its dark satire on those in power. It highlights the fact that people’s minds are run by the state and it could do anything in order to resist change. Yes, it always wants the status quo to be maintained for its own benefits. A certain example of exercise of power given by Steven Lukes.

Unlike the previous part, which focused more on the deadly game, this one is an amalgamation of ‘The Mortal game’ and with it, squalid politics. Focus is on the role of Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss Everdeen) whose initial anxiety in the movie is shown in the form of a trope, i.e. sitting in a vacant compartment looking out of the window, as if stuck in a cobweb.

Having won the last hunger games, she has again been manouevered by the state to play the next years’ games, so as to silence the revolution of District 12 against the Capitol. While she competes with the reality, she hasnt been able to overcome her past. And with the capitol wanting more from her, will she be able to resolve her anxiety issues and see things clearly and instead of  supporting the capitol, will she be able to lead an uprising? Yes, the end leaves you in a state of dilemma, to think about what comes next.

The cast also includes Josh Hutcherson (Peeta Mellark) who partners Katniss in the game. Along with some great sets and costumes, the cinematography is of an excellent level giving a synergic effect. The computer stimulated graphics too take the movie to an unprecedented level.

Anand Vihar’s market in Shadara is no Khan Market or Connaught Place. The market is small, crammed and mostly has general stores, chemists and dry cleaners. But a rare luxury that this market can afford, that too recently, is a surprisingly good café- Café Hi5. The most interesting thing about Café Hi5 is that there are two entrances and a kitchen in the middle such that the two opposite ends of the room are completely disconnected from one another. So each side of the kitchen makes for a small sitting area seating about 8 people.

The servings are large enough that even if you go in a group, everyone manages to get a bite. There is no particular cuisine but Chinese and Italian are served, among others. Also, I have been told that the non-vegetarian food is excellent. You can try their sandwiches, burgers and a variety of desserts. But one of the main attractions of menu is the Iced Tea- it’s not your regular instant Iced Tea mixed in water and served at an overpriced rate and undersized glass. It tastes much like a peach flavored mocktail and is definitely worth a try.

The Café targets mostly school and college going students so the interiors complement the young and energized atmosphere that they have tried to create, complete with a TV and music playing in the back ground.

As far as money matters are concerned, a meal at Café Hi5 won’t throw your budget overboard. It’s decently priced, with a meal for two costing around Rs.400.