Sania Mirza: The reigning queen

Sania Mirza seems to be at the top of her game lately. She has retained her No.1 position in Women’s Doubles with 9370 points, with former partner, Martina Hingis just five points behind the ace-tennis player. Awardee of the Padma Bhushan, Padma Shri, Arjuna Award and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, Mirza has become a champion with a string of victories in the recent past. Her latest win was the Toray Pan Pacific Open with partner Barbora Strykova of the Czech Republic on Saturday. Her winning streak in 2016 continues in the Women’s Doubles category, as this is her eighth title this year; the other seven include the Australian Open, Italian Open, Madrid Open among others.

The reigning queen was unable to clinch an Olympic medal with partner Rahan Bopanna and this led to veteran tennis player Leander Paes’ scathingly commenting on the selection of the team to be sent to the Olympics. Both Bopanna and Mirza took to Twitter to allegedly counter the claims made questioning their capability to win medals for the country.

Despite speculation about her career suffering due to her marriage and injuries, Mirza has emerged as a clear sportsman who does not give up on what she believes in. In her autobiography, which she launched at an event in July this year, Ace Against Odds, she talked about her struggles, controversies, injuries and marriage.  Senior journalist, Rajdeep Sardesai was in a bit of a spot where his question irked Mirza yet she retorted in a cool manner, forcing Sardesai to apologise on national television.

Sania Mirza is an inspiration to millions of Indian girls across sports, not only tennis and has often spoken about empowering women to come forward and excel in every field, especially sports which up until recently has been a male-dominated arena in India. PV Sindhu, Dipa Karmakar, Saina Nehwal and Deepa Malik have won accolades for India and put us on the international map with respect to women athletes.

 

And the Oscar goes to…

ndia’s entry for the 89th Academy Awards has been decided – three-time national award winner, Visanarai. Directed by Vetriman, it has been adapted from a novel, Lock Up by M. Chandrakumar and is about police brutality. It deals with the issue of migrant workers who have been wrongly arrested for a crime they didn’t commit and what follows. The film has also been winning accolades both within and outside the country including the National Award for the Best Tamil Film, Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor.

 

While everyone is aware of the international obsession with the Oscars, but it has always been evasive to us Indians. Never has an Indian film won in the category of ‘Best Foreign Film’ at the Oscars and it has rankled with everyone. The question usually boils down to the selection committee, which has the power to select a film that can put India on the global map as far as popular awards are concerned. This has not happened yet, and it is unknown if that is because of the wrong selection or the European bias. Whatever might be the case, most of the time, it so happens, that the huge market within the country and the Indian diaspora are enough to make big bucks for the producers and after all, that’s what puts the balm on the hurt.

 

India’s last few entries, such as Devdas, Paheli, Rang De Basanti, Court or The Good Road, have not managed to make it even to the nominations. Only three films ever – Mother India, Salaam Bombay!, Lagaan – have and returned disappointed. It remains to be seen whether this time will be any different. Hoping that it is, but even if it is not, does it really matter to the common man going to the theatre to unwind and enjoy the naach-gaana?

Documentary on Arvind Kejriwal Grabs International Attention

Toronto International Film Festival saw a whopping total of 296 features unspooled this year, with hundreds of film buffs and famous Hollywood moguls sweeping through the already bustling Canadian city.

Some of these films are already being seen as Oscar contenders by prominent film critics. Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy in Pablo Larraín’s Jackie has won critical acclaim for the Chilean director’s depiction of the days

This year’s edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which ended on Sunday, screened three Indian documentaries. One of them, ‘An Insignificant Man’ is on anything but insignificant, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. The other two were ‘The Cinema Travellers’ by Shirley Abraham and Amit Madhesiya and ‘India in a Day’ by Richie Mehta.

 

The filmmakers of ‘An Insignificant Man,’ Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla have been documenting the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi since the time of its inception. “We were curious about Kejriwal and the anti-corruption movement. When we heard the rumours about a political party, we wanted to know more. So we went to Delhi in 2012,” said Shukla, as reported by the Hindustan Times. From then on, they have been shooting AAP at close quarters, even getting access to their top-level meetings.

 

Ranka also revealed that they had an understanding with AAP about sharing the footage with the party but what the duo did with the footage was at their own discretion. They claim to have tried to study the rise of AAP as a perspective into participatory democracy in the world’s largest democracy. With over 400 hours of footage, the editing process took over two years. There are no voiceovers or narration in the documentary and it just observes this phenomenon as it unfolds.

 

Anand Gandhi, producer of the documentary also famous for directing ‘Ship Of Theseus’ was all praises for what Ranka and Shukla have managed to achieve in their 95-minute long documentary. He said, in a report by Huffington Post India, “This film is a fantastic document of what has been the singular biggest problem for democracy anywhere in the world: making it more participatory.”Without trying to portray the party or Kejriwal in any particular way, the film captures public rallies and meetings along with exploring the most important stakeholder in the democratic process, the voter.

 

Being a crowd-funded project, it received 600 per cent of his estimated budget from about 800 donors collecting a whooping Rs. 71,00,000 and became the largest Indian crowd-funded project of 2014. As reported by the Hindustan Times, Vinay Shukla said, “Media channels couldn’t address everything that needed attention. I think people realised the importance of having filmmakers and citizens come forth and shoulder that challenge.”

 

‘An Insignificant Man’ is definitely going to be a much-awaited release in India. After winning accolades across the globe, the subject has managed to steer public attention to itself.

Need for Stricter Action Against Drunk Drivers

With the latest drunk driving case in Chennai, another innocent life has been lost where a drunk driver in a Mercedes hit an auto driver. This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as drunken driving cases are concerned in Indian cities. There have been a number of cases of road rage across the bigger cities. Be it Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad or Delhi, pedestrians and other drivers are not safe at any time of the day and night.

 

What lies beneath the surface is the will to appear “cool” or “macho” by openly flouting the norms and knowing that one will get away with it. There is a serious lack of fear of legal punishment among the youth especially. The offence they are charged under is Section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), which is a bailable offence. Imprisonment is usually up to three months. This is the cost one pays for taking someone’s life.

 

Other countries such as Taiwan and China have much stricter laws for driving under the influence of alcohol such as the death penalty or life imprisonment as well as a sentence of up to 18 years. There is some hope now with the Supreme Court Committee on Road Offences ruling on March 22 this year. There will now be stricter implementation of traffic laws for offenders such as revoking the license and higher fines. This is a start, however, there is an entire psyche behind the thousands of people who are willing to their own lives at risk along with those with them inside the vehicles and outside.

 

Even after being caught, there have been many instances like the young man in Janakpuri in New Delhi, who hit three people in the early hours of June 13 with his car, one of whom succumbed to injuries. He was allegedly drunk and asked the cops to call his father for compensation. This appalling laxity in dealing with drunk drivers and tests being conducted hours after arrest, which could lead to absorption of the substance into the blood stream and thus going undetected, is just unacceptable.

 

Innocent lives have been lost and families ruined as in the case of the Hyderabad incident where members of three generations of the same family were killed on July 4, is just one in a long list of horrific accidents caused due to drunk driving. Swift action by the Police and the judiciary along with strict penalties for drunk drivers is the need of the hour. What remains to be seen is whether the implementation will be what it is supposed to be and how it affects the mindset of the people.

Mama’s Boys: This time the woman likes them all!

All of us have grown up on the stories from Mahabharata and Ramayana and even pondered over the grave injustice done to Draupadi for having to be shared by the Pandavas. A short film by Royal Stag, Mama’s Boys directed by Akshat Verma has taken this portion of the epic and given it an epic spin. The film, with its impressive cast gives the viewers a new perspective with the same tale set in 2016.

The writer of Delhi Belly is back with his quirky and kinky sense of humour with a brilliant ensemble cast starring Neena Gupta, Aditi Rao Hydari, Arunoday Singh, Amol Parashar, Vivaan Shah, Jim Sarbh and Akshay Oberoi. The typical Punjabi mother, Kunti delivers some hilarious lines with a deadpan face. Talking of deadpan humour, Arunoday Singh does some good work in that department. Though one did feel there was not enough time given to the five actors to establish themselves, except Akshay Oberoi, who plays the gambling drunkard, Yushishtir, to the tee.

Themes like homosexuality, social media, and experimental sexuality all make an appearance and are carefully yet seamlessly woven into this modern adaptation of the Mahabharata. The setting and character establishment shows creative yet crisp writing and direction, and the casting speaks for itself. The 16-minute long film delves into the layers of family politics and relationships, which interestingly are not very different now as they were then.

The dark humour presents the viewers with an ironic yet contextual message. While living in a society, which often denies girls the freedom of choice, this short film takes the concept and flips it around completely. Hydari, aka Draupadi, isn’t hesistant to the idea of having multiple sexual partners and has been checking all the brothers out on Facebook and Instagram. A helpless Arjun goes to all of his brothers trying to convince Kunti to repeal her orders and what happens next will crack you up!

Restaurant review: Le Petit Amour Patisserie and Bistro

Nestled in a cosy corner in Kothrud, Le Petit Amour Patisserie and Bistro welcomes every guest with its quaint décor and comfortable sofas. Described as a French, Continental and Italian restaurant, Le Petit’s menu reminds us of one word: gluttony. Who is really above the cravings of the herbed and flavoured dips accompanied with fries made in Paris butter?

With less than an hour to spare, I made my way into the small yet spacious restaurant one Tuesday evening and was surprised to find it full and bustling with people, both inside the kitchen and outside. As dish after dish made its way to the hungry tables, I looked at the menu written on the chalkboard, weighing my options. Disclaimer: There are not too many vegetarian options here! Having said that, I think I tried most of the vegetarian dishes here and well, I would go back for seconds and thirds!

Very rarely in Pune can one come across a place, which offers top quality food, staying true to the cuisine yet making our Indian palates salivate. Without having too many options, Le Petit provides enough options ranging from beverages to soups and salads to main course with of course, the dessert. Menu decision-making has never been a strong suit but the roasted mushroom sandwich with confit onion and ricotta jumped right to the fore begging me to order it. Not a big fan of salads, I usually dig straight into the main course and going to Le Petit has only reinforced this belief! The brioche was soft and fresh, with the buttery aroma wafting off it.

Next we ordered the Paris butter fries, which is basically condensed butter with herbs made in-house and used to fry the potatoes. It can safely be said that this dish with its amazing sour cream dip has ruined fries everywhere else. Without being a big fan of tomatoes, the next choice turned out to be the best one yet. Spagetti Sorrentina with basil, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella in pomedero sauce was a combination made in heaven.  With just the correct amount of seasoning to keep the pasta well-balanced, boiled just right and the generous dollops of mozzarella were pretty much the highlights.

With our stomachs bursting and our jeans feeling too tight, we still couldn’t resist the desserts. With the French crepe with berry compote, vanilla mascarpone, one discovers a new love for almonds as they cut through the sweetness giving the dessert a much-needed crunch.

When a restaurant serves such quality food, there is always an assumption that one would have to spend a bomb. Petit Amour has proven all those people wrong. After all of that, our bill didn’t even come close to Rs 1000! For all the foodies who are perpetually broke, we have found a place for you! All in all, it was a delightful experience with quick service and heavenly plates of food, while the cheerful owners were an additional plus!

Of magic and more: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

‘Harry Potter’. A name that instantly brings a wave of nostalgia to an entire generation is back! The readers have now grown up and so has he. The eighth story (for it’s not really a book) comes almost a decade later for us muggles (non-magic folk), and 19 years later in the lives of Harry, Ron, Hermoine, Draco and Ginny and their children, who now enter the magical world of Hogwarts.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the rehearsal script for a theatre production conceptualized by Rowling, written by Jack Thorne and directed by John Tiffany. If the critics’ reviews of the performance are anything to go by, the Palace Theatre Productions have put up a show that is magnificent.

Coming back to the text, the story essentially weaves around the father-son duos, Harry and Albus, and Draco and Scorpius. Taking the readers back in time (or forward?), the story begins exactly where it left off, with the trio leaving their children on-board the Hogwarts Express on Platform 9¾ at King’s Cross Station.

The story weaves through, grounding the characters in reality, as much muggle as magical, which has been the reason the series, has created a mini-universe of its own, parallel to all others. Rowling’s influence on an entire generation is almost comparable to that of Walt Disney himself. The story focuses on the children, Albus and Scorpius and their friendship, reminiscing Harry, Ron and Hermoine’s days at Hogwarts. Harry, along with most of the magical world seems to be stuck in the past where the glories and scars of Voldemort and the Battle of Hogwarts still fresh. Albus, the angry teenager burdened with the pressure of being Harry Potter’s son, is a replica of Harry in his teen years.

The tale regales a series of ‘What Ifs?’ leaving many questions answered but raising as many all over again. The time-turner makes an appearance, playing a crucial role, taking Albus and Scorpius in a parallel realities in their bid to change the world and right Harry’s wrongs. Readers are thrown into the adventure right alongside the duo, bringing horror and laughter in equal measure, as they, for once, know the rules of the game.

Rowling’s inherent plot line is kept alive, where the cost of doing what is right is always paid, be it by father or son. Evil is defeated by good and there is a future brighter than before. There were certain disappointments though, like Ginny being just a shadow of what was expected of her, and Ron, once again bringing the comic relief. Hermoine and Draco were undoubtedly the favourites in the script – one was the strong female character we always needed and Malfoy was, at last, given the sort of importance he deserved!

Some characters like Teddy Lupin, George Weasley, Hagrid and Neville Longbottom were sorely missed. It would have been nice to catch a glimpse of these beloved people’s lives, coping with the aftermath of the Battle of Hogwarts and a Voldemort-free world. It must also be remembered that we, Potterheads, will always want more, no matter how much we get. Being a play, there were sub-plots that probably could not be focused on too much.

Also the script being released in a hardback cover gives the mere illusion of a successor, it is only a fragment of what it was meant to be. The text in all its glory can only be fully appreciated on stage through the new actors bringing alive the world we have only seen in our imagination and well, motion pictures.