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Friday, December 8, 2017

My Hyderabad, My Metro

When the Metro was announced in Hyderabad ten years back, I wasn't much affected by the news.
Ten years back the traffic wasn't this bad. My office was closer and the roads still good enough to allow commute by one's own vehicle. Once the offices moved far to the newly built Hi-Tech City, we traveled by the MMTS (running on train tracks). It had its limitations in terms of timings and frequency, but we managed with a combination of traveling to and fro from the stations in shared autos.
Then came the convenience of Ola/Uber cabs and we thought it was a blessing till we hit surge prices, and surge indeed they did.
In this scenario, the Metro comes as a big blessing!
Don't know why the officials even doubted its viability. There are people in Hyderabad and there is a great need for a convenient public transport. For those saying that the tickets are heavily priced, I say look at what you get in return...pollution-free AC environment with half the travel time. And isn't time equal to money these days?
I traveled the first time by the Metro yesterday, exactly one week after its inauguration.
I have been into Metros in India and abroad. Yet, seeing the Metro stations, the ticketing, the train, the entire infrastructure... I was super thrilled and lapped up all these sights greedily like a child. Everything that looked beautiful, everything that worked right filled my heart with delight. 'Mana Hyderabad!' said the heart with glee. A great closing gift of 2017 to the people of Hyderabad.
Okay, now for the actual experience:
I started at home at 12 noon and walked down to Tarnaka station. As I approached the station, I saw that the escalator was not working! Already?! I thought with a sigh, as I clambered up all those steep escalator stairs!
The station at Tarnaka was beautiful! It has been waiting for the last three years since completion...so why not?! There were personnel every ten feet waiting to help people, including a person beside the ticket counter! I queued up to buy a ticket to Ameerpet. At Rs.40, I felt it was a very decent deal considering that the same would have cost me at least three times that by a shared cab. As you get in, you and your bag are scanned. You need to press the issued token against the marked area on your right to allow the gates to open. And keep the token safely with you till you get down at the destination.Two kind of tokens are issued, red and blue ones for the two different routes.
 The idea was to just get into the Metro, have lunch somewhere and return by the same. This ride, covering a 12 km distance, took me 30 minutes. I stuck to the window trying to guess the position of the stations vis-a-vis the surrounding areas. (Not all the stations are on google map yet)
I inferred, Prakash Nagar stop meant Shoppers Stop; Rasoolpura stop is Fortune Manohar/Old Airport; Begumpet  stop is  beside Country Club/Life Style building/opposite Vinn Hospital at the beginning of SP Road. More trips and I will be able to decipher the location of the other stations better  and where they lead to.
Getting down at Ameerpet, I was pleasantly surprised to see people standing in a queue waiting to get in. I walked out of the station, down the stairs into a rubble of cement. Construction work is yet to be completed at the station and its  surrounding areas.
It was 1 pm and I chose to visit a restaurant in Kondapur.
Generally, I avoid going to a restaurant 26 kms from my home as, in shared cabs, by the time I reach through different pick ups and convoluted ways, I'd be famished. Even after having traveled half the distance by Metro, the 15 kms to the restaurant at Kondapur took me another hour by road. So, I reached the destination 2 hours from the time I started at Tarnaka.
Lunch and a couple of shared autos (30/-) later, I found myself at Miyapur station. Miyapur station, 10 kms away, is closer to Kondapur than Ameerpet is. So next time, in order to get to Kondapur, I need to travel directly to Miyapur to save, both, time and money.
Miyapur station is something we Hyderbadis truly deserve. Long, open stretches of greenery with families gathered around the aesthetically designed benches of  attractive hues all around was a heart warming sight---starved as we are for open spaces! Keeping in line with the pollution-free surroundings, were cycles available for rent.

At Miyapur station
The fare from Miyapur to Tarnaka was 55/-. Miyapur being the first station, I got to sit beside the window and watch the stations and the roads below.
My Metro, My Pride
There were halts every minute or so till we reached Ameerpet, an intersection and a signal to change platforms. This time there was no queue, resulting in a jostle with people trying to get in and get out at the same time. I got into the train headed to Nagole on the platform below. Like in the morning train, the crowd this time was okay too but only till another train full of passengers added to this lot! Then it got really crowded
The journey from Miyapur to Ameerpet took me 30 minutes. Once you alight, you drop the token into a provided slot to allow the gates to open and let you out.
Remember, A/B exits open to the road and enable you to go with the traffic and C/D exists to go against the traffic.

Exit & Customer Service Counter at Tarnaka

On things that can be improved:
1) We need to have queuing system, especially at busy intersections like Ameerpet
2) Lift to be strictly used by the senior citizens or physically challenged people. Right now it is used by all
3) Near the station exits, water is getting sold at Rs.2/-  per cup! Really?! Shouldn't this basic need be provided free of cost? What about the plastic waste being generated? 

Outside Ameerpet station

4) The frequency of the trains at 16 minutes from Nagole and 8 minutes from Miyapur needs to go up
5) Only three bogies are attached now. Double that number needed. Traveling standing all the time is not a pleasant experience.
6) Shorten run time. Now, it takes more than an hour to travel from Miyapur to Tarnaka.

Every time a government provides great infrastructure, it means that it respects the citizens and their needs. I would ask the government to continue to maintain these high standards of infrastructure and educate/help the people live up to these standards.
L&T has done Hyderabad proud in architecting this impressive world-class infrastructure, making it a prominent land mark in the city.
In turn, the people need to ensure that they safeguard this beautiful property as its custodians.


The Route Map

I look forward for the early completion of the other routes. Will greatly ease the Hyderabadis' commute.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Gruham /The House Next Door

It is a month since this movie released and not once did I have a thought of watching it.
Two reasons:
When I was a child my mother used to narrate experiences from her younger days. Some of those stories included movies screened in her college. Through all those memories, one movie stood out stark and sharp and that was: The House of Wax. Her story telling and compelling power of imagination had me swear off horror movies forever.
Two, my father-in-law, a great movie buff, used to take us to watch movies of all kinds, horror being one of the genres. I was like a kid then and would obediently tag along. And...the (regional) horror movies that he made us watch were so comical that I decided not to watch these ridiculous movies any more. Catching an occasional one on different TV channels or internet further reaffirmed the belief.
But, because it is Siddharth, an actor I have a soft corner for, and because of the interviews in which he kept insisting that it is not like your typical comic horror drivel in the name of watching horror, and his assurance that this movie measures up to international standards, how he worked for 4 years, polishing the script to produce it in 3 languages...all these compelled me to go watch it.
I was prepared to literally run out of the theater screaming in fright. But thankfully nothing of the sort happened. It was scary but not to the extent I expected. Maybe I should watch some more 'real' horror movies to compare.
Well, the first thing that goes right with the movie is its brilliant casting. Each character, small or big, so apt for the role he/she plays! Second, the very crisp writing with not a wasted moment in the movie. Third, the startling, hair-raising moments that catch you unawares abated by the equally intimidating music.
The story is about a haunted house and why the ghosts within compel the new resident, Atul Kulkarni, to vacate the premises by possessing and controlling his daughter, Jenny.
Siddharth, a neuro-surgeon helps Suresh , the psychiatrist in this process. A sorcerer and a priest (Prakash Belawadi) are roped in too to get rid of the ghost who possesses Jenny. Of course, after each of these people  go through various trials and tribulations, the ghost is rid of. But even as we think the movie has ended, there is still a twist waiting at the end.
I like this one. Horror movies...here I come!
This movie is for me  3.5/5 experience. On a scare-o-meter, it scores a 2.5/5.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Secret Superstar

Aamir Khan's name, whether associated with acting or producing, always raises one's expectation. Going by that standard, Secret Superstar doesn't meet the anticipated bar. It is produced by Aamir Khan and directed by his manager, Advait Chandan, a debut director
Yet, there are a lot of pluses which make the film watchable.
For me, this movie is a little behind my times. We don't stifle our children's dreams like that these days, do we? Secret Superstar is a voice for all those children from middle class households where following traditions and fulfilling the expectations of the society is more important than fulfilling one's dreams.
That's the plot premise.
Okay, now what really works for the movie is Zaira Wasim's outstanding performance. After watching her in Dangal and now in Secret Superstar, it looks like she can play any role with an enviable ease.  She is also well-supported by her mother, played by Meher Vij.
The strict father's role, espoused by Raj Arun, is against his 15-year old daughter playing the guitar and her singing. He wants her to be educated just enough to make her a good prospect for a marriage and not remain uneducated like her mother. Therefore, the only way Zaira can fulfill her dream is to post her videos on You Tube wearing a burkha. Zaira's confidants in this journey are her mother, younger brother and her classmate (Tirth Sharma) .
There are some powerful yet subtly delivered messages on women empowerment and how, a woman when she discovers her inner strength, becomes indomitable..
Aamir Khan, in an extended cameo, plays an obnoxiously arrogant music director who had once touched the peaks of fame but has now slipped as he tries to adapt himself to the requirement of modern music. Later, he helps Zaira in both, her journey of music and her life journey.
What will really touch your heart is the innocent friendship between Zaira and Tirth. You feel transported to your younger days as you remember your childhood crushes.
The minuses come from the fact that the film lacks a cohesion. Beautiful parts but not stitched together seamlessly.
I will go with 3/5

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Where's the food, Chef?

Suave sophisticated, urbane, cool...this is the air Saif carries around him and these are the kind of roles that he can carry with an easy aplomb, as witnessed in Chef.
The (Airlift) director, Raja Krishna Menon, has done a brilliant casting in Saif as the Chef,  Padmapriya Janakiraman as his ex-wife, and Svar Kamble as their son.
Having seen Favreau's CHEF earlier I was a little reluctant to watch this one but I can safely state now that the story hasn't been messed with over-the-top performances.
So what works for this movie? It is not the typical hero-heroine-villain-songs formula. It is about a person (Saif) who follows his passion to be a chef instead of the engineer/doctor professions most prevalent in India. He runs away from home as a child, going to the US eventually and earning 3 Michelin stars.
Yet one fine day, he finds himself in scuffle with a customer who criticizes his food.
As a result, Saif is fired and he uses this break to be with his son who lives with his ex-wife, Padmapriya, in Cochin.
Milind Soman as Padmapriya's friend, with his chiseled body and a salt and pepper hair is a treat to the eyes. He is a business man and offers a run-down truck to Saif to conduct his food business from.
Mentionable is the driver of the truck played by Dinesh Nair who brings in the humorous flavor to the movie.
In getting the food truck ready for its journey to Delhi, is also a journey of a relationship  between Saif and his son, Svar. They together discover what it is to be a son and a father. The movie captures these moments beautifully. Credit to the two for the very cool casualness with which they handle these emotions.
Here you have a hero who is not afraid to show his shortcomings, his weaknesses and how he is willing to learn and pass these lessons to his son.
The movie, very predictably, ends with the success of the food truck and a family union.
In Chef, if you assume you will get to watch some great culinary experiences, some gastronomically delightful cooking, some tantalizing tastes and sights, you are in for a big disappointment. The movie only brushes through those much-anticipated moments fleetingly.
Also some incidents and characters are rather sketchily etched.
Despite these flaws, the movie is quite watchable and perhaps will help bring Saif that much-needed hit after the debacles in the last few years.
A 3/5 from me.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Mahanubhavudu: a fiasco

Going by the word-of-mouth propaganda, I watched this movie in a remote located cinema. The tickets were sold out in every other multiplex.
The opening song (Mahanubahuvudevera) and the trailers make you think it is some classic like 'Mithunam' or 'Rudraveena': a movie about relations and emotions. But till the end, it leaves you puzzled about what exactly it wants to convey.
Sarwanand's movies always send out mixed signals. When you go to watch his movies you don't know what to expect. It is true that he chooses his stories well and that he tries that they are different to the routine. Some of his movies are brilliant and some very run-of-the-mill types.
Therefore when I went to watch this one, and due to all the hype created with tickets sold out, I expected a lot out of the movie.
The character of Sarwanand is afflicted with OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), a behavior which compels him to keep himself and his premises clean. Dirt and mess disturb him. This is established in the first half with all his reactions to situations when he encounters unclean people and surroundings.This intolerance hurts people close to him, including his mother. His brother (Vennela Kishore) just about tolerates this behavior and the only friend that Sarwanand has in his life.
He falls for Mehreen Pirzada as his first encounter is with her inclination to Swach Bharath.
Gradually the two fall in love . But his OCD makes him not even kiss her due to his fear of contamination. Eventually, this behavior creates circumstances that lead to a break up.
Yet, Sarwanand, who has managed to impress Mehreen's father (Nassar), travels to his village to take care of Nassar's health. He braces himself and tries to adjust to situations which make him face his fears many times.
The final test comes when he has to roll on the mud floor with a wrestler to restore the 'honor' of Nassar and win over the heroine. He passes out after this event due to his extreme reaction to the surroundings caused by his obsession with cleanliness.
There is nothing in the movie that makes you feel compelled to watch it.
The hero has a perpetual annoying smile throughout the movie and a more annoying hair style which makes you want to reach out and pin back that lock that keeps falling on his forehead. The heroine, as in most of the Indian movies, is ornamental.
But what was quite disconcerting was the treatment of OCD. It is not treated as a chronic disorder that it is but as something that is to be  made fun of. It might have been still okay if a character in a smaller role has this behavior and you laugh at it for the few moments that it lasts in the movie. But for this behavior in a full-length  role needs justice and a serious treatment.
Watch only if you are prepared for a typical Telugu film with a mass appeal. If you expect some brainy stuff, you are in for a big disappointment.
A 1.5/5 from me.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Jai Lava Kusa: the unexpected


Life throws surprises and so do movies.
Jr. NTR movies are to be watched on TV only...this has been my dictum since the time he started acting. The OTT performances in his 'mass' movies aren't the kind I enjoy watching. There have been a few exceptions of late. But he still roars in one of his movies, 'class anukunnavemo, lopala mass aalage undi'.
Ok...
So, watched 'Nannaki Prematho' with the same expectation but was nicely surprised with the intelligent story and combined performances of Jagapathi Babu and NTR. Perhaps this sentiment made me watch Jai Lava Kusa (albeit reluctantly) in its first week of release.The underlying thought was how do I put up with three NTRs in one movie? It also doesn't help to know that it is directed by K. S. Ravindra, known for directing/writing for pakka mass movies.
And was I surprised when I watched this one?!
The story is of triplets who, separated in childhood, develop into three different personalities with three different shades of gray due to the environment they are brought up in. One is Lava, the gentleman, Kusa, the petty thief and Jai, the dark villainy character. This portrayal is brilliantly showcased by the best in the VFX and the prosthetics department, equally supported by remarkable performance by NTR.  He played around with the nuances of the portrayal of the three characters so well that when he gave an interview post the movie release, I was wondering about the absence of the other two NTRs! The story concludes to show how blood is thicker than water.
The heroines (Raashi Khanna and Nivetha Thomas) are ornamental but catalytic to some twists to the story. Ronit Roy in his debut role as a Telugu villain does not look as comfortable or sinister as do his contemporaries from the Hindi cinema playing villain roles in Telugu.
It is still not a class act. You still have those melodramatic dialogs, dances, action, costumes, an item number et al. Go watch it with no expectation and you will be in for a pleasant surprise.
A 3/5 from me.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Arjun Reddy

With people raving about this movie; with no tickets available over the weekend for any of its shows, I thought that writing a review about Arjun Reddy is redundant. But I write as I have a slightly different take on the movie.
Ok, at the outset I didn't understand at all why the movie is A-certified. The expectation it sets is that it has copious amounts of sex or violence or plenty of expletives but no, it doesn't really have scenes depicting nudity, nor scenes of gory violence and has just a handful of expletives. (The censor board may need a rethink as those expletives are very much a part of the narration and beeping them, despite an A certificate, hampers the narration.)
So what's it about?
The movie is about a very passionate and honest love story. Vijay Deverkonda, the hero, is passionately in love with his junior in medical college. He turns alcoholic when he loses the heroine (Shalini Pandey, in her debut role). It is an unconventional love story as it persists through all circumstances. It stands against caste, religious, regional differences.
This is exactly why it has so strongly appealed to the youth. It will appeal to the youth who feel choked because of all these restraints imposed by conservative thinking of parents and the society. The nonconformists will easily be able to take this story in their stride.
Why else will the movie attract universal audiences?
For me, because it stands by values. This movie appeals to the higher intellect. It teaches you to respect every human being. It teaches you not to objectify a woman. It teaches you to be honest and truthful to life, and more important, to yourself. It teaches you to value love and relationships. It teaches you to be passionate about life, love and living and not live like an inanimate object. It teaches you to live fearlessly, without hypocrisy. It teaches you the value of friendship that stands firmly with you through all ups and downs of life.
The director, Sandeep Reddy, has extracted the best from Vijay Deverkonda who makes a deep impact with his superlative acting skills after his brilliant 'Evade Subramaniam'. Together they bring out brutally honest emotions that we all die to display but are scared to.
The movie also boasts of slick editing and story-telling. The heroine has a presence and importance throughout. Maybe her rather plain looks has a message that looks don't matter in love.
Happened to catch a sparkling glimpse of yesteryears' Kanchana, as the hero's grandmother, who has lost none of her radiance.
This movie doesn't bank on crass comedy, punch dialogs, heroine's midriff or the hero's deification for its salability. (All these easily get by the censors).
I definitely think the movie is not just for the youth but for everyone who has forgotten to live a life.
For all the above factors, I give it a 4/5.