Books I read – Only Time Will Tell by Jeffery Archer

Jeffery Archer, the author of past bestsellers like Kane and Abel, Not a penny more not a penny less and many more have been regularly churning out novels every year now and his latest offering is one of his most ambitious project called the ‘Clifton Chronicles’ where he intends to write about Clifton family starting from 1920 till 2020, spread over 5 books. The first book of the series is ‘Only Time will Tell’, which tells the story of Harry Clifton starting from 1920 till 1940, the period between the 2 great wars.

The story begins around 1920, when young Harry is born to a hardworking mother and a missing father. Harry is a brilliant child and he gets to go to school and then college mainly due to her hardworking mother, some generous help by his teachers, guides and friends. He meets friends in school and meets a girl later with whom he falls in love, only to discover that the girl’s father does not like him for reasons which have been known to only few. There are various twists and turns and secrets which get revealed. The book has an open ended, somewhat unexpected but as this book is going to have sequels its is quite apt to build up the suspense and interest.

The style of writing is very typical Jeffery Archer and to be frank there is hardly any novelty in the story too. The story and characters are quite predictable and you almost know how everything is going to pan out by the end. The earlier part of book concentrating on school life of Harry and his friends is interesting and almost reminds you of one other HARRY we all know, but when the same story is told over and over from different character’s viewpoints it gets bit tedious and you really want to book to move forward quickly. The plot looks quite out of Kane and Abel or similar past novels of Archer.

Overall the book is a good read and hopefully the next parts of the series would be better. Although this might be author’s most ambitious project in a long time, it certainly isnt his best.

My Ratings : 6.5/ 10 –  Do read if you like Archer and his very British stories.

Dum Maaro Dum – Lots of Smoke, too little Fire

This week’s latest Bollywood release is Dum Maaro Dum. The movie is a big film releasing after a long while and was eagerly looked forward to with its chartbusting song, cutting-edge promos and a drug-mafia story set in exotic Goa locales starring Abhishek Bachchan in a tough cop role out to clean the drug infested, mafia driven underworld of Goa.The film also stars Rana Daggubatti, Bipasha Basu, Pratiek and Aditya Pancholi amongst many others.

The film is set in Goa and here Goa is shown in a very different light from what we are used to seeing. Director Rohan Sippy has shown a realistic view of Goa unlike the fictitious view we get in past films. Goa shown here is neither the sweet romantic Goa of ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa’ or the south bombayish view of Goa as in ‘Dil Chahta Hai’. Goa’s underbelly is exposed, its drug trade, local life and sun-kissed atmosphere is thoroughly captured. Beach, beautiful women, booze and drugs they form the identity of Goa.

The first half of the film is real breezy and sets up back-stories of various characters very nicely. The movie moves at a feverish pace and sets up the meeting of all its leads at the Goa airport, almost reminder of ‘Yuvaa’ in which 3 stories collide on a Kolkata bridge. The movie also tends to remind one of gritty cop drama ‘Sarfarosh’ to an extent. The thriller is very well written by Sridhar Raghavan, at least the first half,  however in the 2nd half of the film the writing goes a bit haywire.

The movie is about Police trying to clean up Goa from the clutches of  local and international Mafias acting in various parts of Goa, ruling their various fiefdoms with the power of drug money. Abhishek Bachchan with ‘nothing to lose’ cop is the fearless cop out to topple mafia lord Aditya Pancholi’s world. Prateik is the teenager with dreams and hope and love but caught in the mafia trap, he represents what Goa was before the drug money came in, soft, hopeful, dreamy, lazy and romantic. Rana Daggubatti who has lost his past girlfriend Bipasha Basu to the greed and lure of drug money is initially a mute spectator to the sorry tale the youth gone haywire. He later gets into the act along with ACP Kamath in the hunt for the master drug-pin Micheal Barbossa. Rana represents the Goa of today which has seen it all and continues to be see the same story unfold yet again and again. The second half of the film slightly disappoints as the suspense when revealed isn’t a big shocker but almost expected and almost all the twists can easily be predicted by the viewer. The film could have been much better if the second half was handled in a better way.

Abhishek Bachchan as Inspector Vishnu Kamath lives up to his role and how much ever his critics hate him, one has to agree that slightly crooked and touch cop acts suits him very well. Abhishek is a star who everybody loves to hate and dislike partly for no fault of his, partly due to the expectations people had in him and also partly due to his lazy selection of roles. But he lives upto the role here although he needed a much better conclusion to his role in the end. Slightly disappointing to see him not in focus at the end. Telugu star Rana Daggubatti as the local Goan singer Joki has a nice presence and easy on the eye to look but has similar expressions throughout. He does have a nice role too and by the end he becomes the central figure to the story.  Bipasha Basu as the girl gone the wrong path is okay and is almost a predictable act. Aditya Pancholi is nice as the Mafia boss Biscuta and he is seen on screen after a while. Prateik as the teenage is okay and his love story with Anaita Nair looks cute, but he quickly needs to re-invent himself or else he’ll be doing this same kind of roles all the time. Also he needs to do something about his squeaky voice !! Deepika Padukone in the much hyped and publicized ‘Dum Maaro Dum’ remix song looks drugged out, which of course suits the look of the song. Govind Namdeo and Muzzamil as cops are wonderful.

Technically the film is  excellent and is very well shot and edited. The entire look of the film is superb and suits the mood and story of the film. The background score is catchy and the songs are nice. The film is smartly shot and some of the scenes are indeed dark but overall Goa is shown in a different light altogether. The concept and core idea is nice but script and screenplay goes wrong in the later portion and the ending doesn’t satisfy you completely with several loose ends. It could have been a huge bonfire in the making but leaves us only with lots of smoke.

Dum Maaro Dum is certainly a one time watch.

My Ratings –  7/10 –  Entertaining watch. Not great but good enough.

Asli HD to the rescue !!!

Buying a new TV is actually a simple task. You look around the biggest stores, search for the bargain and pick up what fits your room and mostly your budget. Of course every person in the decision making is to be consulted and most times everyone has different views about it. The biggest of brands or the most cost-effective ones. Good looking flat panels or standard looking TVs with perhaps better feature at lower price.

Of course the flat panels win and LED TV and 3d are the latest rage. One of the most important feature of the TV is HD or ability to display High Definition images. Of course to display HD images the television channels should provide the content in High Definition and then of course your cable guy or the DTH which you own needs to carry those as well. With recent launch of Tata Sky HD that part was taken care of but still most channels beamed their programs in regular format and having HD on your TV hardly meant anything. In foreign countries there are many HD channels and most big networks have an HD feed. Here in India there were few channels which indeed beamed HD signals including Star Cricket beaming the Cricket World cup which had an HD feed with no ad breaks and that itself was a true ‘paisa vasool’ for the owners of HD TV and HD set-top box. But the cricket world cup is over and so what now !!

Last week I heard of Star TV launching some of its key channels in HD format. Not only they would be beaming the HD signals but also shooting the content for them in HD format and hence making is the real HD format or what call it Asli HD™ . With Star Movies, Star World and National Geographic 3 of the 5 channels being beamed in HD, I am excited about viewing them in HD quality, especially movies and television shows. It sure would be revolutionary. Star Plus the general entertainment channel and Star Gold showing old Hindi movies being in HD is an additional bonus and perhaps my Mom can enjoy that too. If only they worked on some better content on Star Plus !! But thats a separate topic in itself.

Hopefully there would be many more channels coming up with HD quality feed and my investment in HD TV and HD set top box would be justified. Now that Star has taken the initiative soon all the other networks and channels would be compelled to think in this direction. So people buying a new TV, remember Asli HD is here finally in India.

Madhya Pradesh Calling…

Its the summer holidays and we are going on a short family tour of Madhya Pradesh in a week’s time now…

Here are 2 excellent advertisements which prompted us to visit the state. The superbly made ads made us inquire about the tourism facilities and we decided to do the trip. This is what a good advertisement can do.

This is the first one. Entire state is represented by the movement of eyes. What an imagination !

The second one is even more wonderful as the entire state beauty is displayed by just hand shadows. Its a Classic !!

I hope our trip lives upto the expectations built up by these advertisements.

Rio – For the Kids…

Animated movies have been revolutionized since Pixar and 3d and advancement in technology. Rio is the latest animated movie coming out of Fox studios. It is the movie from the creators of Ice Age and its sequels and is directed by the same director Carlos Saldhana. Carlos who hails from Brazil has not left any stone unturned in showcasing his native land, its people and its culture.

Rio is actually about a rare species of Blue Macaws. Blu ( voiced by Jesse Eisenberg) is a clever blue macaw domesticated in Minnesota and has lived all his life with humans, has never seen a jungle other than books  and loves his cage. But Blu is the last of the male of its species with last of the female Jewel (voiced by Anne Hathway) in Rio,  Brazil. The story is about Blue visiting Jewel in Rio amongst the beautiful surroundings of the city Rio. The pair of Macaws meet, fight, run away, get captured by bird theives and rescued by their wonderful friends and helped by many other friendly animals and birds. The story shows every aspect of Rio’s culture, its samba dances, bike ride through its narrow bylanes, its sunny beaches, its trams and mountain peaks and adventurous people paragliding around the Jesus Christ the Redeemer Statue, some rogue guys, bird-thieves, beautiful rain forest wildlife and in the end the extravaganza of the Carnival. The movie is set to superbly crafted rhythms and is as colorful as any movie can be. The aerial sequences and dances are worth the ticket price and the overall animation is top-notch. Rio is surely a magical place and made me feel like visiting it more after watching the movie.

The movie is an enjoyable ride for the kids of all ages and although the emotional quotient is not on par with many Pixar films but it is never dull or boring at any point either. The characters are all lovable. Some of the jokes are suitable for grown up audience although none being adult in nature. Get some kids along when you watch this. It is best watched in a large movie hall full of squeaking and screaming children.

My Ratings –  7/10 for the movie and 8/10 for colorful animation and superb voice overs by the leads.

Thayn Thayn – Kickass rap song

Here’s the new rap song from the upcoming film’ Dum Maaro Dum’.

The song is called ‘Thayn Thayn’ and features Abhishek Bachchan in his ACP Kamath avatar from the film, rapping in his succesful ‘Bluffmaster’ style. Preetam has scored the music.

Abhishek had a super succesful R&B song sung by him in his previous Rohan Sippy directed Bluffmaster and to bear the same results he has sung this rap song mainly for the film promotion. Very nice beat and rhythm to hear.

Watch it…

IPL 4 Predictions

IPL 4 begins tomorrow 8th April 2011, with opening match in Chennai. Each of the 10 teams play 14 games with 7 home and 7 away. Making it 70 matches. There would be 4 more maches to determine the winner of IPL 4, the final match to be held on 28th May in Mumbai. The format for the final 4 teams is slightly different with the top 2 teams getting an extra chance to qualify for the final  thus getting to the top 2 positions important in league phase.

The top 3 teams of course qualify for the Champions Trophy, later this year.

12 Cities play host to the matches. Pune team has their home base in Navi Mumbai and Kochi team plays couple of matches in Indore while Kings XI Punjab play few matches in Dharamsala. With 74 matches in 50 days it would be a tough schedule for every team, what with travelling across India

With Lalit Modi, the architect of the first 3 versions, nowhere to be seen it would be a different tournament at least from the glamor point of view. Which is good as well as concentration would be on good cricket rather than good looking models and parties.

 

 

My predictions – Mostly based on team compositions, players, captains and coaches and mostly gut feeling.

MI, RCB, PSW and CSK as the top 4 and Kochi and Rajasthan Royals the bottom 2.

Just a  wild guess. Lets see.

Let the fun begin.

Game – Weak Play

This one’s not about any Live Game I watched or any particular sport but is about the hindi film ‘Game’ released last week starring Abhishek Bachchan in the lead. The film directed by first timer Abhinay Deo also stars Boman Irani, Jimmy Shergill, Kangana Ranaut, Shahana Goswami, Anupam Kher and former Miss India Sarah Jane Dias making her debut. The film is produced by Farhan Akhtar and just bsed on that ground I had some hopes from the film. Also a suspense thriller is always fun to watch. And then I watched Game.

‘Game’ is a mish-mash of many past hollywood and bollywood plots. It has 4 random people being  assembled on an island and all 4 are related to murders and then a vigilant cop investigating the truth kind  of plot. Problem here is the plot is really weak and suspense is hardly there. People would guess the  outcome very easily. The movie is very slow moving as well, strange for a suspense who dunnit. The  sequences in flashback and back story of each character hardly has any meaning to the actual plot and  some of the sequences like chase in Istanbul and Bangkok TV interview etc. have no real meaning and are  just there to justify shooting in exotic locales.

Abhishek Bachchan tries to do a Bond and doesnt quite cut it. He doesnt have the body language to be a  suave smart Bond like spy, he does try his best but somehow he doesnt fit in. Kangana Ranaut hams as usual  and her cop act is useless as she hardly does anything smart and is always moving around from one place to  another. She didnt even say ‘busssttterd’  even once. Other actors are more like fillers and have hardly any  role. Poor Sarah Jane Dias chose a horrible film to make her debut and Shahana Goswami looked  imprressive in her bit role.

Technically the film is okay. Well shot in exotic locales and quite glossy. The music disappoints though and background music is okay in parts. The director tried his best but the plot and the script wasn’t good enough in first place.

Overall a huge huge disappointment.

My Ratings –  4.5/ 10 –  Simply because I watched a movie in theaters after a long long time.

I WAS THERE ….Historic day !!!!

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Those who know me know how much passionate about cricket I am. I follow cricket on TV, internet and live whenever and wherever I can. This was world cup, finals in my home city and with India reaching the finals only a natural calamity would have kept me away from  Wankhede on 2nd April, 2011. Now a gold letter day in Indian cricket !! It was THE match. India vs. Sri Lanka in the world cup finals at my home ground. What are the odds of having that ever again, in my lifetime?

I had booked the ticket long back and though I was offered serious money ( 6 figure number) I never once had a thought of selling the ticket in black market and encash the huge gains. (Hint – I could have bought a Tata Nano car with AC with that money). I am way too passionate a cricket fan to let go off this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Match was to begin at 2.30 pm IST and gates were to open at 11.30 am. To avoid the rush of getting in and avoid standing in huge queues I reached the venue at 10.30 am all dressed in world cup t-shirt armed with…well nothing except the ticket, wallet and mobile phone ! Yes this time the cops were to allow the cell phone and that was a huge relief as it meant I could communicate with friends and family ( how wrong I was) and can even take pictures with cell phone camera, although not of a great resolution. I have been to the stadium many times in past and it has generally meant a tough time for spectators with little to eat and drink inside and cement slabs as seats, shoddy restrooms and general chaos. But this time it was different. This was world cup finals and Wankhede had been renovated completely for this event, this day.

Now we had enough security to last a war with our neighbor, checking and frisking at every corner and I was frisked 4 times at different points and a very decent standing in line experience I had. It also helped that I was about 5th in line and generally chaos happened close to match time. As the gates opened I was further checked and I slowly made my way to my stands and my seat which was on the top tier, front row of Garware Pavilion, which meant a spectacular view of the entire ground, right besides players dressing room and VVIP boxes. The view was simply breathtaking as I entered my empty stand. I settled down made call home reporting my safe arrival and took general pictures of the ground, the pitch and whomsoever I could see. It was T-3 hours.

The crowd kept filling in slowly and steadily. I made several new friends who all had brought huge banners which we tied it to front of our stand for easy visibility. ‘ Dont Go Gary’, ‘Sach is Life’, ‘Dhoni the Boss’ and there were several more. Some of them cannot be printed here 🙂 I was checking out every corner of the stadium and occupied myself by having some decent sandwiches and drinks and generally made more friends then the first day of my college. It was T-2 hours.

At about 1 pm or so players started appearing and huge cheers went around whenever anyone from both camps appeared for practice, warming up which included catching practice, throwing balls at stumps, slip catching and some mild exercises. Sri Lankan nets was right under our stand but of course everyone in the stadium was looking out for Indian stars and one particular man. The in-house DJ was warming up now and the fantastic audio system inside the stands was blaring the latest hits and favorite Indian cheering songs with an occasional Sri Lankan song too. The moment Indians came in ground, the sound level doubled and when everyone spotted the ‘God’, all of us rose from our seats to bow to the almighty, the one and only Sachin Tendulkar. If you dont know who he is and why he is called God, then please stop reading this RIGHT NOW !!!

T-30 minutes and toss time. There was some confusion during the toss but then Lanka won the toss and elected to bat which was slightly disappointing as we all know its always a good thing to bat first in big matches. Then came the national anthem when the players lined up to sing the anthems for both nations. It was a historic moment when the entire stadium barring few sang ‘Jana Gana Mana’, it was goosebumpish to say the least. The crowd was full, stadium jam-packed with almost all seats taken. Must give credit to the excellent security arrangement, ushers and cops all around to help. The stadium is as world class as it can be. Comfortable seating ( almost) , superb view, airy stands, neat and clean rest rooms, lobbies to walk around and quality food stalls make it a great experience now.

The match begun and I am not going to write a ball by ball report of it as I am not best equipped for that and most of you reading this already know what all happened. Just to summarize the in-stadium experience that it was an experience of a lifetime for me. Huge crowds, cheering every Indian run or a super fielding effort and egging our players by singing songs, shouting slogans, creating giant Mexican waves which went around the stadium multiple times and even booing the opposition at times. Watching our favorite cricketers in action on a world stage was something all of us have a dream off, I certainly did and today I was getting my dream realized. The match as all know had its ups and downs and as Ravi Shastri would have said. ‘ It was swinging both ways’. The atmosphere was electric to say the least and the 300o0- plus strong crowd just had one ambition, to see India lift the world cup, to see Sachin complete his glorious resume by getting the world cup medal. Everybody from common laborer in the ground to the biggest of celebs ( and there were many) all had just one wish today and it was to see Dhoni lifting the world cup and gifting it to the ‘God’

India of course started well and till about middle of Lankan innings we all had hopes of restricting Lanka to about 230 or so but Jayawardane played a brilliant knock  hitting a century in world cup finals, with nice support by Sanga, Kulasekara and Perera in the end to reach a solid figure of 274. A score that has never been chased in a world cup final. No centurion in a world cup final was ever on a losing side. The signs were ominous and chances of an Indian victory were bit distant now. The crowd was slightly muted and nobody wanted to predict the outcome at the break. The cellphone service inside the stadium had died by now and hardly anybody could make or receive any calls but strange SMS’s were doing round about how the match was fixed and how certain things would happen. Of course the messages were as dumb as it can be as I got 2 messages with same details about the match but one of them had India winning and 2nd one had India throwing the match. I of course chose to ignore all such foolish stuff and knew that all of them were nothing but idiotic claims by conspiracy theory experts and were as dumb as April Fool jokes told to me by my 5 year old son !!

Going back to the start of Indian batting, the moment everyone was waiting for happened. God entered the ground in his customary style and you could hear the voice sitting in Shivaji park. The match had more twists in store and when we lost Sachin and scoreboard read just 31 everybody started worrying, 1996 collapse was remembered and world cup seemed distant at that moment. I had my hopes high and I had seen the Lankans batting on that pitch and deep in my heart I knew that if India batted 50 overs, it would get the runs. The pitch had no cracks or no vicious turn in it, neither it had any big seam movement. In fact it was bouncing very well and I knew our batsmen would relish that true bounce.

I was in top tier front and cameramen ( some Afro guy) came up and asked us to sing some ‘Indian victory’ song…this when Sachin had just got out..of course all of started cheering India back and I had a huge Pepsi finger in my hand too, which I was waving almost in the camera lens…after all this jugglery …I think I spotted myself on big screen for about 2 seconds ….I don’t know if Live TV caught us as it was between overs and in stadium feed was not always same as Live TV. This was at about 7.45 pm IST. My two seconds on the giant screens on the historic day, justified my existence !!

We started rebuilding thanks to Gambhir and Kohli and Dhoni and banners were furling again, horns were blaring, clapping and Mexican waves all around, song and dance blaring from the in house system and DJ was playing the best club tracks by now. The lights were on long back and every run was cheered for by the privileged few in the stadium. The in-house entertainment was on all the time and between overs we had mini contests and advertisements and songs and dance on big screens. Hope was slowly getting back in the hearts and mind of all of us.

As India inched closer to the victory people were getting more anxious and to hide their anxiousness they were shouting at the top of their voice. I took few strategic food breaks to settle my nerves and the last 5 overs was a stuff legends are made of. Dhoni and Yuvraj hitting the runs clinically and when Dhoni hit the winning six over long on fence,  it was the biggest moment in Indian cricket. Everything froze, I was jumping on top of the seat while shouting at top of my voice and throwing my cap high up and I noticed history being made. The moment billion people had been waiting for since 28 years. The world cup was our. India were the champion. The most exhilarating moment ever and I WAS THERE !!!!!  Dream was now reality, victory was ours and Sachin had that final wish completed. We had won it, won it for India, won it for Sachin and I WAS THERE to witness it from the grandest of grand seats screaming at top of my lungs, with tears in my eyes. I could no longer control myself.

I WAS THERE !!!!!!!!


Post match presentation, players hugging and dancing and doing a victory lap when Yusuf Pathan lifted Sachin and did a victory lap, when Harbhajan and Yuvraj cried and then danced to ‘Ganapati Dhol’ , the flow of emotion on the ground and all the speeches and interviews are worth watching over and over and perhaps I will watch all of them all day long and I wont get tired ever watching them.  This is the experience we all tell our grandchildren about. This day, 2nd April 2011, I will never forget. This day my favorite hero Sachin got his final wish fulfilled and I was there to watch the historic moment. As Virat Kohli rightly mentioned in his interview that for 21 years, he had carried the burden of billion dreams, it was time for his teammates to carry him for victory lap, tonight. That sight was fulfillment of everything to me. Dream achieved. Time to dream new dreams now.

All of us partied in the stadium with players and spectators dancing to the DJ tunes and sounds of dhols. Nobody wanted to leave and there were firecrackers everywhere, people on the road, traffic jams everywhere and Indian flags on every corner and on top of every car. It was like India achieved freedom once again. I reached home at unearthly hours and even at that hour my wife, mom and elder son were waiting and we discussed the entire match and my experience in details and I couldn’t sleep all night and I had to write this. I still cant sleep.

In 1983, I watched India win it at an hour which was way past my bed time then. I was 9 1/2 years old then and could only imagine what it actually meant. Today my elder son is 9 1/2 years old and as they say history repeats itself. Just experienced the circle of life.

Lastly, to all the moronic conspiracy theory experts who think this match was fixed, here’s my self-censored message “GO TO HELL”. To all the special people who watched this match Live in stadium, ‘Best Decision ever”

I can write on and on but now will stop and perhaps sleep, if I can.

To summarize, when Dhoni lifted the cup and gave it to Sachin, life was complete for me and I WAS THERE !!!!!!


P.S. I have lots of pictures of stadium, players etc. which I shall upload when I return back to earth !!

Here’s link to some of my pics on Facebook

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=378005&id=523247305&l=2d5f8cfaa0