Thursday, 24 May 2007

I Love this Woman....

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Guru


Guru; a visionary who leaves behind his simple beginings, to create the biggest polyester business in the country. Armed with his grit and determination, and guided by his dreams, this ambitious man leaves his village with two shirts, his wife, and his brother-in-law. He is incorrigible, easy-to-like, pushy even, and confident. He is a definite winner, and when his honesty refuses to pay off, he takes the crooked path. He makes money, and becomes one of the most successful businessmen in the country. However, since he is also responsible for much of the corruption in the country, a newspaper decides to strip him off his status and hard earned success.

The plot has the makings of an inspiring rags to riches story. Who wouldn't relate to a man who wanted to make it big? It is easier, when that man is the charming Abhishek Bachchan. He is endearing and so likeable that even his decision to marry Aishwarya for her dowry brings a smile. You recognize his dreams, applaud his every successful moment, and stay loyal till the end.

This period film is then interspersed with some interesting songs, and several dramatic moments that i'm sure generated a few claps in theatres. However, despite these ingredients, the film was a huge disappointment.

For me, the plot wasn't realistic enough. Guru's success isn't gradual, it is instantaneous, and though we see him as a humble, honest individual in the beginning, his hand in corruption comes as a surprise. The audience doesn't see him as wayward businessman till much later, and once this guise is taken off, he is shown to be only source of trouble in society. Where were all the gangsters, corrupt politicians, and drug peddlers you wonder. Why was "The Independant" focusing merely focussing on bringing down Guru? Why were its owner and reporter wearing cloaks of righteousness, when they were concocting stories about the man themselves? Were Guru's presents, and the fact that he patronized their newspaper for his side of the story, reason enough to antogonize them?

The acting was fairly okay. Abhishek Bachchan displays traces of his father Amitabh, in his demeanor. Though overly dramatic in some scenes, he gives a decent performance. Aishwarya Rai as his wife is understated. As with the women in the Maniratnam movies, she has spunk, and is strong-willed. A silent force behind her husband, her performance was perhaps the most subtle and believable. Mithun (remember Disco Dancer) as the owner of The Independant, is refreshing. He isn't loud or dramatic. You believe in him, and respect his strong moral ethics. However, you wonder why he supports the path chosen to fight Guru. Madhavan as the reporter chosen to destroy Guru, seems like a forced presence. His undivided attention on Guru, and his unethical means makes Guru more of a hero than he already is. He is paired opposite Vidya Balan, whose presence seems unnecessary. She doesn't help with the plot, and isn't one of the important characters. Even without her, you get a peek into Guru's soul. However, if not for her, you'd miss the only kiss in the movie.

These performances are aided by Rajiv Menon's camera work, and A.R.Rahman's music. I'm not a huge Rahman fan anymore and except for Na Na Re and Tere Bina, I found the other songs weird. The biggest disappointment however was Maniratnam himself. Though in comparison to most other Hindi films, Guru fares well, in comparison to his own films Guru proves to be a disaster. Perhaps he should stick to Tamil cinema?

Friday, 18 May 2007

Thursday, 17 May 2007

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

On Popular Demand

A rare picture of us together.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Conversation in Church

Friendly Pastor: I'm sorry, I didn't get your names.
Ro: Rohit
Friendly Pastor: Robert
Ro: Rohit
Friendly Pastor: Robert?
Ro: Rooohit
Curious bystander: Robert?
Ro: R-O-H-I-T
Friendly Pastor and Curious bystander (hesitantly): Ro-hit
Another person walking by: Robert is it?
Ro: Yeah
Friendly Pastor (turning to me): And you?
Me: R-O-O-P-A, Roopa
Friendly Pastor: Roopa. Alright! See you both next Sunday, good bye.
Ro (to me): Call me Bob

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

The Haunted City - Day 3

We were most productive on day 3, because we'd planned the day well. We started at the Castle museum that I was most fascinated by. Here we found living rooms from different periods and regions, the oldest vaccuum cleaners, toilets from different times, detergents and soaps from different eras, baby clothes, coffins, wedding gowns, receipts to burial plots, a magnificent clock, and a street from the past with shops, shopkeepers, a school, and a prison. We were in another time.
Victorian sitting room
A living room from the 1950s
Interestingly, all of these rooms came with accompanying sounds. In the second room the radio was on, and on the shelf an old picture was displayed. In another room from the Yorkshire moors, you could hear the breeze outside. Inside, a rabbit hung from the ceiling, and the room was scattered with some basic wooden toys.
An old vaccuum cleaner

Two old toilets

An old washing machine
A funeral (the family is visible behind)
Moi standing beside a horse carriage in the model of a Victorian street
After the museum, we ran towards the river Ouse, where we took a boat ride. While on this trip, we were given the history of the places we passed. We also passed a rowing club, where a lot of excited youngsters were competing against eachother.
After this trip, we were off to find the York Brewery. Thanks to our York pass, we were getting a tour of the brewery, but the incentive was the free beer. We crossed Dame Judi Dench walk, and followed the signs leading to the brewery.
However, as we were too early, we decided to check out the Nicklegate Bar museum first. A place that has witnessed numerous crimes, it is most well known for displaying the skulls of people who were executed. Though they aren't real now, i thought it was morbid. However i was fascinated by the wooden stairs and the museum keeper. I asked him if he'd seen any of the ghosts that supposedly haunt the museum today. A chatty old man, he explained the ghosts were responsible for his white hair. On a serious note, he added that he often sensed Sarah (a girl walking around with a key)'s presence. He even told us about a visitor who said he smelt cooking on the first floor. Incidentally it was there that a woman poisoned the food she was cooking before killing a group. He admitted to having heard footsteps from time to time, before asking me if i'd had any ghost sightings. When I said "no", he proceeded to tell me about a house he nearly bought, in which his daughter saw the man who'd killed himself in the house. Spooky!

By the time this tour was over, the brewery was open. We got a beer each before the tour, and another one of our choice at the end of it. I'm not too fond of beer, so while I made pretenses of drinking the beer, Ro finished up mine as well. He is now a fan of the Yorkshire Terrier. The tour of the brewery was boring. I barely understood the bartender's accent, and he seemed disgruntled about having to explain the process to different groups over and over again. Ro was paying attention though, because I caught him asking questions. After the tour and all that beer, Ro was full and happy, but I still needed to get some lunch. So we went in search of food.
After lunch, our next destination was the Roman bath. Another haunted spot, we were welcomed to this site by a guide dressed as a Roman soldier. Escavated in 1930, a modern steel walkway suspended above the ancient remains, takes visitors through the Tepidarium (warm room), Caldarium (hot steam room), and the Frigidarium (cold lunge pool). What I found most interesting however, was the sponge attached to a stick that the romans used to clean their butts, and the armour that we could try on. I tried a pathetic imitation of the Romans. From here, we wandered into Barley Hall, a magnificent medieval town house. Here we stepped back in time to the late 1480s, to discover what life was like in the busy household of Lord Mayor of York and Goldsmith, Alderman William Snawsell. Much of the restoration process is still ongoing in this house, but we did wander through the house, and see some beautiful tapestries.
Then we went to our last destination, the Treasurer's house. Named after the treasurer of York Minster, this magnificent house nestled behind the Minister came as a huge surprise. I didn't expect such grandeur and magnificence. Home to business man Frank Green, who lived in the house with his staff, the contents of the house have been displayed as they were during Green's time. One of the first houses acquired by the National trust, it was also one of the first few houses to have electricity. The house that once housed Prince Edward and his wife during a holiday, is proof of how wealthy green was. He was also a man who was immensely interested in decorating his house. The color schemes, the curtains, the designs on the furniture, and the furniture itself were all careful chosen by him. When the house was handed over to the National Trust, he asked that nothing be moved, and threatened to haunt the house later if it was. Of all the houses i'd been to, this was the most grand, and I was in awe, as I walked up the wooden staircase into the different rooms that now displayed huge beds with exquisite curtains covering them. The audio guide gave us information on each room. However, there was a guide in every room, so we could ask them any questions about the house or Frank Green, the loner who lived in the house with his staff, a parrot, and a dog. These guides breathed life into him, making him a real presence wherever we went. We'd come in too late, so we weren't allowed into the ghost cellar, where there have been sightings. So we left disheartened that we hadn't witnessed any ghosts during our stay in York.
After all this history, we decided we needed to get back to the present. So Starbucks it was. We had our coffee and walked back to our bed&breakfast. The holiday was finally over, but what a holiday it had been. Undeniably one of the most interesting places I'd been to, York had proved to be a memorable holiday.

The Haunted City - Day 2 (contd)

From York Minster, we wandered into the Shambles that are narrow, winding medival streets housing quaint little shops on either side. It's been in existence for 900 years, and if not for a few designer labels, you'd think you'd been transported to the past.

We encountered numerous street performers here.

We got ourselves some lunch, checked the map, and walked in the direction of the York DIG. We crossed the amusing Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate, which is the shortest street in York. Known in 1505 as Whitnourwhatnourgate, it was later changed to its present name. According to local legend, this is where men whipped their nagging wives (hence Whip-ma-whop-ma). This place turned out to be Ro's favorite spot!We also found the home of Margaret Clitherow, who fought for the abolition of slavery and for women's rights. She was martyred in York, and later canonised in 1970. Then, we were off to the Dig, where we found "real" archeologists who proudly displayed the results of their five years in the site. We saw tiles, pipes, tanks, and bones; all from the distant past.
A few minutes later, we were out again, looking for the York dungeon. Along the way, we crossed the famous Black Swan, a 15th century house that supposedly houses a few ghosts today. It belonged to William Bowes, who was the mayor of York in 1443.

Right across is a church where interesting christenings take place. The church has two doors, one that is normal sized so people can enter, and the other, a small door to let out evil spirits.Notice the small door towards the right.

York dungeon was mere entertainment. We were led into a makeshift dungeon filled with moving skeletons, a door that screams when you attempt opening it, and several actors dressed as ghosts. The children ahead of us seemed to be enjoying themselves. They were cheeky with the actors who worked hard at scaring us, and laughed aloud when the actor glared at them angrily. I was perhaps the most easily startled. I held on to Ro's hand, and jumped screaming when a skeleton screeched into my ears. Phew! Here, we got a peek into what the plague did, the dead, the torture chamber, a court that sentenced people for the smallest crimes, and the hanging of Dick Turpin. The entire exercise was entertaining, but it had eaten into our time. There was little else we could do.

However, we still had time for Clifford's Tower. The remains of the York castle, this is where William the Conquerer first built a wooden castle in 1086, overlooking the river Ouse. It was burned down by the natives and this second castle was built. The castle has witnessed some of the most horrific moments in history, such as the massacre of the jews in 1190. We climbed up the winding stone steps and went on top to view the city from it.


By the time we were out, there wasn't much we could do. All the other museums had closed for the day, and we had time to ourselves. We were tired, so we got some fruit juice at an interesting little joint called Le Place Verte. Adjacent to the river, this tiny place once had the machinery needed to open up the bridge next to it, whenever a vessel had to pass.
By the time we were done, it was only 6, and we weren't too keen on going back to our bed&breakfast just as yet. So we decided to walk along the city wall. We began at one end, and before we knew it, we were close to where we were staying. We couldn't believe just how small the city was. However, before we began this walk, we marked out places on our map and planned the Day 2. We wanted to see as much as we could, and waste little time.
I'm glad we planned day 2, because we managed to see a LOT more than we did on day 1.

Tuesday, 8 May 2007

The Haunted City - Day 2 (York Minster) - Part 1

After a traditional English breakfast that consisted of an egg, bacon, brown hash, baked beans, mushrooms, baked tomato, sausage, and toast, we were out with our cameras. Our first stop was the station, where we got ourselves the York pass. For 27 pounds, the pass that is valid for two days gained us free entry into various tourist haunts. As we were still new to the city, we decided to begin with the discounted (again coz of our pass) tour bus ride. During the 45-minute tour, we drove past various churches, museums, and shopping areas. Only then did we realize just how small the city was. We actually could walk through the entire city, guided by a simple map and the city signs. No buses, no taxis, and no tube. We got off at Exhibition Square, to visit York Minster. After walking past Bootham Hall and several quaint little shops (expensive though), we were in the magnificent presence of the Church. Built in the shape of a cross, the church that took over 250 years to build, was exquisite. The stained glass and carved stones had crosses as well, and the architecture was detailed and awe-inspiring. We didn't go for service that had already began, but walked all around the church. An artist was busy at work outside. After admiring his work, we went into St Micheal Le Belfrey. the older church next to the Minster. There have been Christians in York since the Roman times, and church buildings in this area since the year 627, when Bishop Paulinus baptised Edwin, king of Northumbria. Saxon burials discovered in Petergate prove that St Michael's is of early origin. This church was rebuilt between 1525 and 1537, during Henry VIII's break with Rome. John Forman, the Minster's master mason buit it in the Tudor gothic style with renaissance influence. Much of the stained glass in the church has survived from that era. Interestingly, this is also the church were Guy Fawkes was baptised. After exploring this church, we walked on further, till we found a grand statue of Constantine. The statue finds place here, because Constantine was proclaimed Roman emperor here. He recognized the faith of his subjects and soon converted to Christianity as well, thereby establishing the foundations of Christianity in the region. From across his status is a tall column. This Roman column once stood within the great hall of the headquarters building of the fortress of the sixth legion, in the 4th century. It was found in 1969 during the escavation of the south transept of the Minster, lying where it had collapsed.
Then we moved into the Minster. Service was on, and the entire church was filled hymns.
While the choir kept busy, we used our York passes for entry into the undercroft, treasury, and crypt. With the aid of an audio guide, and exhibits from the different ages, we learned the story of the Minster through the ages. We found the remains of the Roman fortress, Viking Norman and medival carvings together with treasures and jewels of archbishops. The crypt is still used for special services, and it is also the final resting place of St William of York. By the time this amazing tour ended, it was time for lunch. We still had a LOT more to explore, and our day had just begun.