All about “sweets” and my sweet tooth!

In the Indian scenario, desserts ( to those inclined towards western cuisine) are just “sweets”. But unlike the connotation of desserts which normally follows the main course and is therefore had at the end of the meal, Indian sweets can be had at all times of the day, before, during, after and in between “meals”.

Most of my friends know that I have a sweet tooth ( shouldn’t that be sweet tongue?); and friends display their love and affection by bringing in different varieties of sweets whenever they return from India. Apart from consuming and sharing, I haven’t bothered to write about these. 

But in the last one week, when I received three boxes of sweets, each of which had a unique story, I thought that I must share some quaint details about these fabulous tasting delicacies.

The first box of ” Dry Jamuns” came from a friend, who returned from Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu. These came from the famous Murari Sweets Store. According to the website, this was started by  Murari Lal Sait who belonged to a small town of Khurja in western Uttar Pradesh. His grandson Arun Kumar now continues the tradition of making high quality sweets out of passion to bring north Indian sweets and delicacies to the temple town of Kumbakonam.

Over the years the sweet shop has gained reputation for its quality and unchanged taste not only in Kumbakonam but also in entire Tamilnadu. 

The second box came from a friend who returned from Dharwar in Karnataka and he brought for me the famous Dharwar Peda. There are numerous Peda stores dotting Line Bazaar, but there is only one Babusingh Thakur Peda Shop! Started by a migrant from Uttar Pradesh in the year and popularised by his grand son, the sixth generation of the family is presently running this show!

The third box came from another friend from Gurugram, and the makers of this special Dhoda sweet are Om Sweets, whose quality and distinctive sweets have been making waves. And while it is impossible for me to describe how much I enjoyed the taste of these sweets, I can at least show you photos of the boxes and what remains of their contents!!

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I came to know of the first major film of Bollywood to be released in 2018, MUKKABAAZ, only on the day of its release. The title translates as “The Brawler”, and apart from the fact that I hadn’t seen a single movie in the last three weeks (The last one was TIGER ZINDA HAI, which was so tepid despite the good action scenes that I didn’t feel like penning a review), what got my attention was that Anand Rai, Vikramaditya Motwane and Anurag Kashyap featured amongst the producers of MUKKABAAZ. All the three have been associated with good productions like RAANJHAANA, TANU WEDS MANU, HAPPY BHAG JAAYEGI, MASAAN, HASEE TO PHASEE, UDDTA PANJAB and TRAPPED. All these movies are devoid of glamour of the conventional kind; in addition Anurag Kashyap wielding the megaphone indicated that this would be a “dark” movie with liberal usage of expletives and shots which to the “refined” viewer would appear to be gory and even repulsive. But then, MUKKABAAZ was never meant to be a movie designed to showcase the “better” India nor was it meant to attract FDI to Bareilly or Benaras.

Instead, it was meant to be a raw depiction of the caste tainted bureaucracy in the small towns of Uttar Pradesh and how its influence in the local sporting federations muffles talent. Based on real life incidents, MUKKABAAZ, about a backward caste person wanting to become a boxer also addresses the issues of an inter-caste love story. And it does that not by a series of sobbing episodes, but by delivering punch (MUKKA) after punch in its 155 minutes length. Punches yield blood and bruises; these are not very pleasant to look at on the screen, but they are very, very real.

Heading the star cast is Jimmy Shergill, a favourite of Anand Rai and who did so well as the “tame” villain, who loses out to the hero in the TANU WEDS MANU series and HAPPY BHAG JAAYEGI. But this time around, Jimmy plays Bhagwandas Misra, who is evil personified and who is just plain ugly in his machinations. And lending him brilliant support is Vineet Kumar Singh, playing the young boxer Shravan who crosses swords with Bhagwandas; also debutant Zoya Hussain, who plays Sunaina, Shravan’s love interest. Zoya’s character is mute, and therefore she has to convey all her feelings through expressions, which she does admirably. Her mute character also is perhaps representative of the plight of women in such surroundings, whose voice just is not heard.

In this raw depiction, there is no room for make-up, either for the actors or the sets. The lanes of Bareilly and Benares are not made up to look good; they are just shown as they are. Anand Rai’s movies have always had “slapping” episodes; in this too, he seems to have persuaded his director Anurag Kashyap to have a few slapping sequences in the middle of all those punches! Anurag doesn’t seem to have spared the opportunity to hit hard against “the cow and anti-beef” brigade as well.

MUKKABAAZ certainly delivers what it was expected to deliver: a forceful punch; and if this is the harbinger of Bollywood productions in 2018, I must say it augurs well!

RATING: 4 out of 5

January 13th, 2018

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Amongst the myriads of people, who are successful in falling (or rising) in love at the right age ( what’s that??), there exists quite a section of folks, who just haven’t been able to “get locked “. A few of those turn cynical, which makes the probability of their finding a partner even lower. I am not suggesting that all those who get “locked” in have happy tales to talk about, but in quite a few of these cases, which do not belong to the “arranged” category, the process of locking in is akin to walking along the path strewn with roses all over. Our filmy tales,take full advantage of the “Rab Ne Banayi” jodis and are able to weave in song numbers and fairy tale dramas.
What would happen, if the falling in love season has passed for two souls who are as different as chalk and cheese, but none the less are thrown together? Can the dissimilarities actually cause the evolving of a relationship?
And what can be a better way to discover this than to embark on a journey and through a series of hits and misses?
Director Tanuja Chandra tries this in the rom-com QARIB QARIB SINGLLE and manages, at least in the first half, to capture the idiosyncrasies of her lead cast in a fun filled manner. I wouldn’t really fret about the slowness of the pace in the second half or the contrived ending, primarily because of Irrfan Khan’s outstanding performance. You can’t just fault him on any count. And matching him reasonably well is the South Indian actress, Parvathy Menon, for whom this is a debut film in Bollywood. There are witty one-liners galore and quite like the fritters in the Fairy Express in which the couple travels, the movie packs in unusual situations to take the story forward.
At the end of the movie, I couldn’t quite understand why there were two QARIBs and two Ls in SINGLLE in the title. Numerological reasons, perhaps. If Irrfan can have two Rs, why not this? But that’s not worth quibbling about..just see it!
RATING : 3.5 out of 5
November 11, 2017

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Bollywood’s efforts at presenting good whodunits are rather scanty, but I am wonderstruck at the frequency of it being once in five years! The first taut whodunit in Bollywood in the 21st century was in 2002; the movie was the less publicized MANORAMA: SIX FEET UNDER. If you have not seen it, you must certainly get it on a DVD and watch it; it has a fine story with lots of twists and turns. And after that we had to wait for five years till 2012 brought the famous Vidya Balan starrer KAHAANI and a short while later Aamir Khan’s TALAASH. And after a hiatus of another 5 years, we now have ITTEFAQ. Although there has been a ITTEFAQ in 1969, which was a very well made suspense movie, and a totally forgettable ITTEFAQ in 2001 starring Sunil Shetty, and the 2017 ITTEFAQ, the stories in these three presentations are different from each other. And without an iota of doubt, the story of the latest ITTEFAQ easily stands out as one of the best suspense stories that have been presented in Bollywood. Credit for that goes to a threesome: the director Abhay Chopra and two others; credit  for producing this also goes to a threesome: Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions, Shah Rukh’s Red Chillies and Renu Chopra (daughter-in-law of the famous B R Chopra).

The twists and turns in the latest ITTEFAQ do more than mere justice to a whodunit; in fact these constitute the pillars of the movie. The one-liners, actually help the story telling process and since most of the one-liners are mouthed by the cops, this shows a maturity to be able to laugh at the foibles of the cops themselves and Akshaye Khanna does his investigator role with aplomb.  

Though it is a suspense thriller, ITTEFAQ doesn’t convey grimness; it is not what one could call an edge of the seat thriller. It is just a hundred minutes long, but despite that, one can’t call it a very taut product. While the screenplay (also by the director) can be partially blamed, I feel that both Siddharth Malhotra and Sonakshi Sinha, who play the lead roles aren’t able to bring in the feel required in the complex roles. This is what ultimately causes the movie to be a couple of notches lower than what  KAHAANI delivered in 2012 and what MANORAMA: SIX FEET UNDER delivered in 2007. But at least, thankfully, there are no unanswered FAQ (as what one would encounter in Indian suspense tales) in this ITTEFAQ!!!

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

November 4th, 2017

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Quiz Question: What is the real “secret” in SECRET SUPERSTAR?

Well, I guess I will make the reader read till the very end of this review to get an answer to this.

SECRET SUPERSTAR, the newest production from Aamir Khan, is a feel good tale about children, their dreams, the obstacles and the thrill of watching the dreams coming true. Weave in between, a true loving bond between mother and daughter; very realistically portrayed sequences of puppy love; the boorishness of a parent; the big bad world of Bollywood and its awards and one is bound to come up with an emotionally satisfying storyline with ample opportunities for throats getting choked with feelings. And while we have been exposed to last minute romantic reunions at airports or railway stations, the joy caused by the separation at the airport in SECRET SUPERSTAR beats all those!!

For the viewer to empathize with the happenings and personalities, it’s not enough to have a nice story. You require actors to emote perfectly. Whether it is Zaira Wasim, the young wrestler in DANGAL playing as the teenager Insia or Meher Vij, the mom of the cute little girl in BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN, playing the role of Insia or the youngster Tirth Sharma, who plays the adorable Chintan, everyone performs outstandingly. These features to a large extent outweigh some of the “unreal” filmy parts of the script, which is what makes SECRET SUPERSTAR a tad less perfect compared to DANGAL. DANGAL came alive because of a real story; SECRET SUPERSTAR sounds less real. In today’s world, we have several upcoming performers on various reality shows and that is the route which music directors take to spot new talent. And while Meghna’s voice is good, it just doesn’t seem all that good for so many hits on YouTube! And the songs which Insia writes and composes tunes for are no potential “hits”.

But, one looks at these frailties closely only because one expects perfection in an Aamir Khan movie. That this comes so close to perfection must be truly credited to the debut director Advait Chandan. And since I am coming to the end of this review, I must reveal the answer to my question in the first line of this review. Advait Chandan began his career by serving meals to the sets of Aamir Khan’s TAARE ZAMEEN PAR. His career progression from there to becoming Aamir Khan’s manager to becoming someone to direct Aamir Khan himself is a secret which should become public now. Wah re Aamir, you have proven yourself to be adept at facilitating this as well!

RATING: 4 out of 5

October 22, 2017



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When I began to write this review, I was in two minds as to whether I should title this in the conventional manner of my earlier reviews or should I title it as “VIJAY on VIJAY, VIJAY and VIJAY”!!!

MERSAL has Vijay playing a triple role, and has therefore three female leads: Nithya Menon, Kajal Agarwal and Samantha Akkineni. And as a further embellishment, it is directed by Atlee and has music by A R Rahman. All of that did not make me want to see this movie; it was only after all the controversies about Vijay’s dialogues hit the media and the thought about my titling this as “VIJAY on VIJAY, VIJAY and VIJAY” did I venture to see this.

For the benefit of my readers, who are not familiar with who Vijay is, let me begin by saying that Priyanka Chopra made her acting debut opposite Vijay in the Tamil Film TAMIZHAN; he has done sixty plus movies; and is popularly addressed in the Tamil Film world as Ithaya Thalapathy (young Commander-in-Chief).

MERSAL is what one could call a hard core masala movie, targeted towards the mass audience. Bereft of logic of any sort, but substituted by good production values and rabble rousing one-liners, MERSAL faithfully sticks to the formula of painting the hero in larger than life colours and thus effectively adding to Vijay’s star appeal. Add to that three heroines, action sequences involving flying kicks and glass bottles generating gore and the theme of avenging wrong doing, front benchers get more than what is due. The unfortunate part is that all that magical effects on the audience ( in fact, one of the roles which Vijay plays is that of a magician) could have been generated with much more refinement and far less spouting of blood. MERSAL still manages to retain its entertainment value, but by no means is a family entertainer and certainly not a movie for children.

Coming to the controversies part, Vijay’s dialogue towards the end about GST seems to have stirred a hornet’s nest in the BJP ranks and the painting of the medical community and the private hospitals in less than flattering hues seems to have irked that community. And since I saw the movie because of the controversies, I must say that film makers and actors, considering the enormous following amongst the not so well educated classes, have to have some responsibility and take extra care so as to present a correct picture and the correct perspective and not just pander to box-office requirements. MERSAL’s value as an entertaining movie would have been much better if only there was a better sense of discretion.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5

October 23rd 2017


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Actor Ayushmann Khurana is perhaps the only actor in the world today who has played the roles of a sperm donor at one end of the spectrum and at the other end the role of a person who can’t make it “hard enough” (erectile dysfunction, if you would like to call it in the medical parlance). He did the first role in the comedy VICKY DONOR  and now in producer Aanand Rai’s latest SHUBH MANGAL SAAVDHAN, he plays the latter role. And in both these roles, he excels in emoting the feelings of someone who has experienced the power of “hardness” and is weighed down  by “softness”. But that’s not the only reason why SHUBH MANGAL SAAVDHAN works!

Aanand Rai, who is well known for producing romcoms like TANU WEDS MANU and it’s enormously successful sequel, settles for a remake of a 2013 Tamil Film KALYAAN SAMEL SAADAM (Rice of the wedding feast) and utilizes the same director R S Prasanna who had penned the story as well. For a first time Bollywood presentation, Prasanna has captured the typical middle-class Delhite ambience superbly. He is aided by very witty writing by Hitesh Kewalya and down to earth performances by the rest of the cast. Bhumi Pednekar gets under the skin of the person who is initially baffled by the situation, but seeks to address it for the future; her mom played by Seema Pahwa (who had played brilliantly in BAREILLY KI BARFI) delivers another outstanding performance.  And so do the other members of the family. Mind you, this is not a theme to be laughed at and at the same time the director has to keep the humour continuously flowing. That according to me is the movie’s biggest asset.

True, the end is not as taut as it could have been, it becomes rather limp much like the hero’s problem. But surely, this was not supposed to be a commercial for Viagra, so why complain?
RATING: 4 out of 5

September 1, 2017

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