Archive for 2008

Men: Some Holiday Thoughts

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

I’ll keep it short and sweet so I can join in the Christmas cheer and start wrapping some of those gifts and writing those cards.

Living as a single woman in NYC, when it comes to men I often feel like a visitor in a museum – albeit one boasting a great collection. I wander through the halls and am privy to some of the most intelligent, successful and handsome men a woman could ever wish to behold, but I am not allowed to touch, never mind take any of the “artwork” home!! Oh, yes, there is a gift shop on the way out, but it always offers cheap imitations of the real beauty featured in the galleries and – most of the times – only reproductions of the pieces that weren’t so interesting to me anyway.

Because of my work, I am out a few nights every week. I could be out every night, covering some event or other, but I choose to stay home at times, writing and giving myself a break. As much fun as it is to mingle among some of the most wonderful men this earth has to offer, it is somewhat bittersweet for me. I mean, this CBS sitcom actor is just even more charming and sweet in person, that famous designer has become a good friend, the high fashion photographer is funny and bright and taken, and the distinguished author is looking at me as a equal of minds, and wanting something lighter of intellect to date. Get the picture? If not, read on…

There is an abundance of men out there, and when women say to me “I just can’t meet any guys” they are either looking in all the wrong places – like a lesbian ball celebrating same-sex marriages in Philly – or they are phrasing that wrong. What I would say is: “I meet loads of great men, but they are just simply unavailable.” Truth. And I don’t mean taken, with girlfriend and married. I mean, simply not available to me. As most of you know – and I apologize if I might break the myth for some – I am not 23 anymore. So, some of the wonderful men – the generation of men between 20 and 30 have some real sweeties scattered in there, which my generation seems to have been a bit short on honestly – are simply age inappropriate. And with my Italian hospitality instinct, the last thing I want in a relationship is to be the mother figure!

Then, some are gay. But not openly gay, which is wonderfully refreshing to me these days, but “closet” bound… And they aren’t about to admit that even to themselves. The weird behavior of one of the subjects of my interviews, the odd disappearance of my actor friend after I spoke of my need for the truth in life, can all be explained as part of this syndrome. It all has to do with culture, I’ll let you guess which one, and mother issues, again!

Some, of course, are taken. Again, not openly so which would be easily detectable, but emotionally so. They pine for their ex girlfriends, or ex wives, or sometimes their current wives which they just forgot to mention upon meeting a woman. So, they try to get involved with someone new and end up being the worse candidates for a relationship. They run at the slightest hint of problems and disappear for no reason whatsoever…

Then, there are those men who are madly in love with their children. The little wonderful beings are their pride and joy and no woman could ever possibly dream of coming between them. But what they fail to see is that some women, yours truly for one, do not wish to come “between” them, but simply be among them. Another human being with her own share of enthusiasm about life can be the perfect addition to a family nucleus. But I believe that to these men their kids are their possessions. They are like a fancy car, or a big flatscreen TV: something they own and no one should try to touch or take for a ride.

Finally, there are those simply involved guys. Try anyone who doesn’t have any of the issues above, and you’ll understand why they are simply, genuinely taken. And all I can do is be happy for them and hope their women are giving them what they deserve: great love. Because a good man is a great treasure. Trust me, I visit that museum every day!

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Drawing courtesy of Majeak Ann

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Masala Popcorn

Friday, December 19th, 2008

I promised easy and I am delivering SUPER EASY. If you are having this popcorn at home, get yourself some microwavable popcorn – I have recently discovered Trader Joe‘s Butter Flavored is best – and a packet of Chat Masala from you local Indian grocery store. You can also substitute Madras Curry, there is a great one in Whole Foods, if yellow popcorn, instead of red, is what you crave. Melt a tablespoon of butter in the microwave, add about half a teaspoon of spices and then microwave your popcorn. When you open the bag, drizzle the butter mixture on top, reseal the bag and shake it like your Mama taught you! Open and eat, while watching a Hindi film, of course. The flavor will be just too overwhelming for any ol’ run-of-the-mill Hollywood movie, trust me!

If you are going to check out a cool World cinema film at the newly inaugurated BIG Cinemas in Manhattan – BTW, my new favorite venue, complete with a crystal chandelier and all! – then simply bring a small Ziploc bag with your favorite spices and add them at the cinema. You might need to re-flavor once the bag gets to halfway, since you won’t be able to do the whole “shake it like your Mama taught you” bit… Well, not without making it rain popcorn in the theater anyway and the folks at BIG might not be too happy about that. When you become quite adept at this and feel like getting adventurous, try out your own flavor combinations and spice mixtures. It’s what they do in some Indian theaters these days and believe me, you’ll never go back to plain popcorn again! 

Photo courtesy of Caleb Colman – and can I hear you all say WOW!

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A Few Fabulous Films to Look Forward To…

Friday, December 19th, 2008

WOW, it seems unbelievable, but it is almost the end of 2008 and January 09 is fast approaching. I can hardly hide my excitement, since there are a few Hindi films coming out in the new year that I just cannot wait to watch. A nice bag of masala popcorn – I make my own VERY easily and gladly share the recipe in this week’s Recipes section – a hearty red wine, or a cup of steaming chai if it’s too early for wine or your cinema doesn’t allow outside beverages… Well, my neighborhood joint doesn’t either, but whoever said “rules are meant to be broken” was obviously speaking to me! So, grab your coat, your best friend and your masala mix and check out this vast array of great entertainment.

LUCK BY CHANCE” is the feature directorial debut of Zoya Akhtar, who is also the writer on this project. But Ms. Akhtar is far from being a newbie at making films, as she has been executive producer on the Bollywood hit “Lakshya”, has been a casting director on several major projects and even wrote the Mira Nair directed “Migration”, a thought-provoking short film which was shown in NYC as part of “AIDS Jaago” and was used in India as an educational tool, before feature films, to spread the word about the dangers of AIDS. But her artistic legacy does not stop there. If her last name sounds familiar to those of you who know Hindi cinema, it’s because her brother Farhan Akhtar is the master director behind such wonderful films as “Dil Chahta Hai”, “Don” with Shah Rukh Khan and “Lakshya” itself. She is also the daughter of renowned poet, lyricist and writer Javed Akhtar and screenwriter Honey Irani. Well, you now get the picture, the whole picture of this family being a cinematic dynasty! The film, planned for a later January release, stars Farhan Akhtar in a lead role again, which is lucky for us considering how wonderful he was in this summer’s hit “Rock On!!” And the talented Konkona Sensharma, opposite Mr. Akhtar, with Rishi Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia – reunited after “Bobby” and “Saagar” – and Hrithik Roshan in featured roles. Add in a brilliant script, about the fringe players in the Indian film industry, and I believe they’ve got a WINNER. But don’t trust me, check out the trailer for the film, which is linked to the title above.

“Delhi-6″ is the latest film by “Rang De Basanti” director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra. To say that I loved RDB would be selling the film short. I saw it with my dearest friend Ravi at the historic Raj Mandir cinema in Jaipur and the ending left me in a puddle of tears. I had to be lead out of the cinema, still overwhelmed by emotions, only to find Ravi’s driver outside in the parking lot, backing up his little tricked-up, western-style Maruti (complete with bull horns) to the title song of “Dhoom”. Who knew they made ringtones for cars?! Thank goodness because the absurd aspect of the whole thing lightened up my mood and got me laughing again. But back to “Delhi 6″ and the wonderful casting coup of combining fan-favorite Abhishek Bachchan with relative newcomer Sonam Kapoor – the star of last year’s personal favorite “Saawariya” and Anil Kapoor‘s daughter. If the name Anil Kapoor doesn’t have the same Bollywood superstar meaning for you that it does for me, then maybe reminding you that he plays the seedy game show host Prem Kumar in “Slumdog Millionaire” will help. If that doesn’t help either, then what are you doing reading my blog?? Anyway, A.R. Rahman, who incidentally also scored Slumdog, is the music director on the film, and with Mehra’s love for his beloved Delhi in the mix, this promises to be an unforgettable film.

Last but not least, there is “Dev.D” by Anurag Kashyap. There isn’t a film I have been waiting to see longer than this, and that’s because I knew of its existence long before all the others. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Mr. Kashyap in person, in LA last spring, and having absolutely adored his previous films “Black Friday” - a very poignant film especially today, considering the Bombay Attacks last month – and “No Smoking”, I cannot wait for his updated, personal and dark rendition of the Devdas classic, starring the handsome and talented Abhay Deol in the title role. This film was supposed to open on January 9th but is now scheduled for the second week in February, with a music release date of January 10th. But I still absolutely urge you to view this film on its opening weekend. Lets show Mr. Kashyap that he is beloved by intelligent people and that his wonderfully innovative work does not go unnoticed… At least not among the readers of The Ajnabee.

Images courtesy of Excel Entertainment Pvt. Ltd and UTV Motion Pictures

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“Understanding the Mumbai Attacks” at Asia Society

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Let me first start by formally announcing that the above title will be the last place where the Maximum City will be referred to as something other that Bombay – its proper and only name – in this article. But more on the reasons for that later…

I knew, while I watched the horrific events of November 26th unfold before my eyes, that I was witnessing history – albeit tragic and heartbreaking – in the making. But I could never imagine that just three weeks later I would be sitting in a crowded auditorium, listening to two men who, for me represent Bombay in all its glory, might and even controversy and polarity, try to make sense of yet another senseless act of violence against humanity. These two men are Sir Salman Rushdie and Suketu Mehta and they were joined in this discussion, on Wednesday, Dec. 17th, by “Planet India” author and sometime CNN commentator Mira Kamdar and BBC Executive Producer Rome Hartman. The crisp air of the NYC streets outside was soon replaced by the buzz of the intellects inside and the warmth of people of all backgrounds and cultures united by their love for the city of Bombay, all accounting for a night we will never forget. But without further ado, here are some of the highlights of the evening’s discussion, which took place inside the Wallace Auditorium of Asia Society, and was organized in conjunction with the IAAC and SAJA. Bear with me, as I tried to write notes as quickly as I could, but my inadequate shorthand didn’t stand a chance considering the speed of the brilliant minds gathered on the stage!

The evening’s tone was set by a somber slide show, before the talk started, of some touching images taken in the midst of the Bombay siege by photographer Andri Tambunan. The South Asian Journalists Association’s own Sreenath Sreenivasan introduced the panel of speakers by saying “It is not possible to fully understand such horror”, before Mira Kamdar confessed to having lost family members in the attacks. “My cousin and her husband were having dinner at Tiffin, inside the Oberoi Hotel. They were shot by the terrorists in the initial stages of the strike and for 48 hours, while the hotel was under siege, no one knew what had happened to them. When I heard of their fate, I realized I had to stop speaking on CNN, where I had been commentating on the situation. The attacks had become too personal, I could no longer be objective.”

Salman Rushdie, after reading an excerpt from his personal ode to Bombay, “The Moor’s Last Sigh”, went on to state that he would henceforth only refer to the city by its proper name, Bombay. He also pointed out that the current name of the train station at the epicenter of the attacks – Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus – has no real meaning to him and it will always be known as Victoria Terminus, or VT for short, to true Bombaykers. “These new names are the work of politicians” and hold no personal meaning to those who have grown up in Bombay. “In a sense, this was the Perfect Storm”, he continued, pointing to the deadly combination of illegal drugs in the terrorists’ systems, the delay in response by the Fire Department and the twelve hours of lapsed time between the start of the siege and the arrival of the Commandos from Delhi. Based in a suburb of Delhi and accustomed to escorting politicians around in armored trucks, the Commando unit did not have a dedicated plane in case of an attack happening somewhere other than New Delhi.“It was awful to watch as the pile of mistakes grew” Sir Rushdie stated, “Just that very evening, Indian Intelligence had alerted the Coast Guard of a planned attack by sea in South Bombay” but the Coast Guard supposedly had the threat checked out and dismissed it, only hours before the carnage began. And those who were there to assist the public, like the Indian Police Force personnel who were there on the ground just minutes after the attacks started, did not have the updated protective clothing which would stand a chance against the high velocity rifles of the terrorists. Which explains why the lives of three senior Police Officers in the Anti-Terrorist Unit were lost in the first hours of the attacks. Senseless losses, due to 20-year old bullet-proof vests.

Mira Kamdar took the audience on a short nostalgic journey of the Bombay of her youth, when she first arrived by sea at the age of three to meet her grandparents who lived in the city. “Everyone can find a home in Bombay”, she said. The descendant of Gujarati merchants who moved to and then fled Burma to settle once more in Bombay, Ms. Kamdar pointed out that the whole city had been turned into a “Soft Target” that night, including her cousins having a quiet dinner out. “The terrorists were robotic killing machines, they seemed to be reenacting a video game”.

Sir Rushdie added that “the terrorists were coked out of their minds” pointing to witness accounts that reported the men snorted cocaine before reloading and re-commencing their killing spree, several times.

Then it was Suketu Mehta’s turn to read from his book “Maximum City – Bombay Lost and Found”. But not before pointing out “I came back twenty-one years after deserting the city and it took me back in. It is a city that explains itself through narration” and it also accounts for 38% of all of India’s taxes. It has been the setting for bombs, floods and shootings and that’s just in the past couple of years. It is a city of 22 million inhabitants and the world wonders how the whole thing works, but it does. “When I moved back to Bombay, I found hope in the incredibly crowded suburban train system” and he went on to read from the “Adjust” chapter of this book: “Certainly, if you commute into Bombay, you are made aware of the precise temperature of the human body as it curls around you on all sides, adjusting itself to every curve of your own…” is his personal ode to the organized chaos that is the train system in his city.

Suketu Mehta then provided some explanation as to why Bombay as a city was singled out this time, quoting from his recent piece on a literary blog: “Bombay is the Golden Songbird. The terrorists wanted to kill the songbird. The city is all about money, transactions. And it is the home of profane dreams. Like its film industry, known as Bollywood.” He went on to say that when he was in Lahore for a visit, he walked into a video shop to find some locally made films and was only shown the latest Hindi blockbusters by the shop owner. “The terrorists hated the idea of the city’s indiscriminate openness. Everyone can come and make it there. Bombay is a pleasure-loving city.”

Soon, the conversation turned to a blame game. Sir Rushdie blamed the duplicity and hypocrisy of Pakistan in their reaction to the attacks, pointing the finger at India’s neighbor for being brutally incompetent and then brought up how the country’s current President – Mr. Asif Ali Zardari – was once labeled as “Mr. 10%” because of the kickbacks he demanded while his wife, the late Benazir Bhutto, was Prime Minister of Pakistan. He also brought up that although the sole captured terrorist in custody has confessed to being a Pakistani Punjabi and having been sold into Laksha-e-Taiba by his father, who has also confirmed Kasab is his son, the Pakistani government does not publicly admit to him being a citizen. Then Ms. Kamdar blamed the Indian Government, and its knee-jerk reaction with the POTA-inspired Unlawful Activities Amendment Bill, which was passed on the day of the discussion. She called Draconian Anti-Terrorism Laws obsolete and unnecessary and the wrong response in this situation. Sir Rushdie again reiterated the need for “a Coast Guard who can guard the coast” instead of more laws on the books that ultimately don’t help in saving lives, when the water is right next to the Taj Hotel and fires can’t be put out because the Fire Department can’t get to the scene. He also said that the Pakistani elite has a growing resentment of the success of India and that they have a syndrome like that H. L. Mencken quote on Puritanism: “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

Suketu Mehta blamed the ISI and said it “should be declared a terrorist organization”, and, for the sake of Pakistan itself, it should be banned. Since the conference was simulcast on the web, the Council General of Pakistan then joined in by email for some blame as well: “We the people of Pakistan share the grief of our Indian neighbor. Terrorism is a world problem. We have been hit hard by it as well, but have not been as quick as the Indians to point the finger.” After which, Mira Kamdar conceded that Pakistan has never been treated as a country by the US, but as a battlefield. Salman Rushdie jumped in to mention that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said that in 75% of all the world’s terrorism, the road leads to Pakistan, while on her recent visit to Pakistan, Condoleezza Rice had informed the government of the country that if they do not ban these groups – like LET – Pakistan will be declared a terrorist state.

When it came to solutions, alas, the distinguished panel was not as outspoken. Mr. Mehta pointed out that India is a country where “the poor vote” while the middle and upper classes simply stand back and allow their politicians to run the country for them. But in order for things to change, this mentality has to change. Sir Rushdie said that Bombay must be given the right to defend itself, without having to wait for outside forces – from the North – to come to its aid. “Bombay is efficient. It has power, local power”, he continued. But Ms. Kamdar was given by Mr. Hartman the last word. She remembered her slain cousin and her husband, she talked about the 13 year-old whose whole family was slain on the platform of VT and who was not told of his newfound tragic fate while in the hospital, and spoke of the Rabbi and his wife, who were killed in the siege at Chabad House and now appear to having been tortured as well. 

Throughout the evening, I was reminded of that old proverb “if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem” and could not help but wonder if the panelists felt as I did. Yes, I sat in the presence of brilliant minds, yes I heard facts that would have taken me days to research online, yes I was privy to some clever conjectures about what to do with Pakistan, the Indian Armed Forces and world terrorism in general; but ultimately, even Sir Rushdie had to admit that if one were to resolve the issues of Israel and Palestine, create an independent Kashmir with the consent of both India and Pakistan and recall US occupation from all Arab countries, the terrorists who have been trained to be killing machine – and find happiness only in the afterlife – would not turn their guns into gardening tools and become farmers overnight. Something poignant and sad, but the fundamental truth of an evening spend in the pleasant company of some interesting people. And really, that is all it turned out to be…

Photo of the Taj Hotel courtesy of Lorenzo Tugnoli/AFP/Getty Images

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The Weekend Ahead Sizzzzzzles

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Wondering what to do this coming weekend? Well, not me. Starting with a few fun activities around town, I’ll then move on to a great new Bollywood film and end up at a Speakeasy. Yes, exactly what I meant to write. Stay tuned for my highlights of the weekend, and week ahead.

The highly anticipated “Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi” is out this Friday. Directed by Aditya Chopra, starring Shah Rukh Khan and newcomer Anushka Sharma, the film promises to be at the very least a lavish, bigger than life entertainment courtesy of Yash Raj Films, and at most, the hit of the Christmas season.

For a synopsis, I’ll let the Yash Raj people say it best: “Have you ever stopped to think if the most ordinary, uninteresting, unobtrusive man you might see on the road or around you might have a love story to tell? Maybe not! How can an ordinary man have a breathtaking, goose flesh igniting, awe inspiring love story of all things to tell? But guess what – love does not differentiate between the ordinary and exceptional, the uninteresting and interesting, the unattractive and attractive. Because love knows no distinction. It can happen to anyone and once it does it engulfs us into it completely and gives us those miraculous experiences that only love can yield. This is what happened to Surinder Sahni (Shahrukh Khan) - a simple, clean hearted, honest man working for Punjab Power, leading a humdrum life, when he meets his total opposite and finds love in the flamboyant, fun-loving, vivacious – Taani (Anushka Sharma) for whom the whole world is her canvas and she paints her own life with the colours of rainbow all until unforeseen circumstances changes it all and brings them together. What follows is a journey filled with laughter, tears, joy, pain, music, dance and a lot of love. A journey that makes us believe that there is an extraordinary love story in every ordinary jodi.” 

The film will play at the AMC Loews Village 7 Cinema on Third Avenue and 11th Street, but check Fandango for the venue nearest you. And for some great and unusual factoids about the film check out TheBollywoodFan.com.

After the movie, I’ll probably go to the barely opened and already scorching hot 67 Orange Street. A modern day Speakeasy, opened this Wednesday in fashionable Harlem and inspired by Almack’s Dance Hall, which in the 1840s happened to be one of the first black-owned bars in the city. The food on their menu sounds divine and the drinks are mixed by the great Kali Irwin of Le Poisson Rouge fame. If you don’t trust me, just check out their preview review on NY Mag. And don’t order a Mojito there, but do try out something with Pisco – the new cool spirit – like the Cherry Pisco Sweet.

Alright, so what to do with all the extra time this weekend? I have one word for you: SHOP! Duh… I mean, it’s close to Christmas and New Year’s and I know you have it in you to buy something fun for your friends and something great for yourself! First stop: Rebecca Taylor‘s fabulous shop in Nolita. And to accessorize your romantic, bohemian look with some sexy footwear, check out fabulously chic twins Shane and Shawn, who own their own footwear company named, you guessed it, Shane & Shawn. Their shop is just a hop, skip and a jump away from Ms. Taylor’s, but oh so different. And when it comes to fashion my motto is: “Vive la Difference!” More to come, now my fingers are aching from overuse. N-joy your weekend!

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Amal – The Film

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

I recently was lucky enough to catch the film “Amal” at the MIAAC Film Festival. It’s a film that has crossed my path a couple of times before, but it always happened at the wrong time… I can safely say that I missed out on it before and wish that I had a second chance to view, it is just that beautiful! So, read up on the film, the feature debut of director Richie Mehta, and check out my interview with the lead actor, Rupinder Nagra, on Chic Today and make sure that you don’t let it slip by if it plays in your town.

Image courtesy of Poor Man’s Productions Ltd.

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Spicy Eggplant Stew – Madhur Jaffrey’s Recipe

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

This is a recipe I have used many, many times for a wonderfully hearty and meatless winter stew. It is from Madhur Jaffrey’s book “World Vegetarian” which is a great source of inspiration for me when I crave something different to eat. Whoever said that vegetarian dishes are boring, never read this book! There are amazing recipes from all over the world, ranging from Moroccan sweet breakfast pancakes sprinkled with honey, to traditional Indian Aloo Gobi – potatoes with cauliflower – and even Jamaican Callaloo soup. I suggest getting your own copy from Amazon, online. Also, if you have any trouble finding the spices for this recipe, do check out Kalustyan’s virtual store or their NYC location on Lexington and 28th street.

Here is what you’ll need for this recipe, to serve 4 to 6 people:

1/4 cup peanut or canola oil

1/8 tsp. ground asafoetida

1 1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds

3 whole dried hot red chilies

2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed

3/4 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes

3/4 pounds Japanese eggplants, those long ones, cut into 1 inch cubes

3/4 pounds white mushrooms, cut in quarters

1/4 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground coriander

1 cup of tomato puree, fresh or from a can

Salt to taste

3/4 cup cilantro, well packed into measure, finely chopped

2 1/4 cups drained cooked chickpeas, again fresh or canned are both OK

Put oil in pot and heat on high. Add asafetida and cumin. Sizzle for 10 seconds, then put in the red chillies. When they swell and darken, in just seconds, put in garlic and potatoes. Stir for a minute. Put in eggplant, and repeat for a couple of minutes. Then put in turmeric and ground coriander. Stir once and put in tomato puree plus 4 cups of water, salt, cilantro and chickpeas. Bring to a boil and cover, turning heat down to low. Cook gently for 40 minutes, until veggies are tender. Voila! You have yourself a fabulous vegetarian winter stew to keep you warm!

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Mumbai Meri Jaan – Bombay My Love!

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

I am so angry, so sad and feeling so helpless I just don’t know what to do with myself. Bombay, the city of my dreams, my most beloved place on earth, is under attack. I find very little to be thankful for, on this Thanksgiving day, but the fact that I am alive… It’s little consolation for the horror that is still going on thousands of miles away. I can’t help but think of the dead, the injured, the permanently and emotionally scarred.

It is my duty to write “The List” and I have been slacking off lately, but now the site is new, revamped and renamed and this is obviously going to be a baptism by fire! What a way to start off as The Stranger on this life journey, with grenades exploding and shots fired in my beloved Maximum City. But I will point you, my reader and my friend, towards some of the things that are helping me cope with this evil, this nightmare that doesn’t stop when I wake up.

DVDs – The obvious choices are “Mumbai Meri Jaan”, “Black Friday” and “Aamir”, all dealing with terrorism, though from different POVs and through different events. Anurag Kashyap’s “Black Friday” is probably one of my favorite films ever made, and I second Mr. Kashyap’s personal love for “Aamir” which left me in shock and thinking for weeks after I rented it from Netflix. Unfortunately, for “Mumbai Meri Jaan” you’ll have to either travel to Florence for the “River to River Florence Indian Film Festival” – where it is going to be shown in December – or wait for a screening or festival here. It is not on DVD yet…

Music – I am obsessed with A.R. Rahman‘s soundtrack for “Slumdog Millionaire” which is now available on Itunes. For the CD, you’ll have to wait until December, but I suggest downloading it and enjoying it on your Ipod… What? You don’t have one? Hum… My heart goes out to you! During these difficult times, I am also listening to a lot of Rahman’s older, classic tunes, like “Ishq Bina” and the haunting “Kehna Hi Kya” from Mani Ratnam’s “Bombay”, another film dealing with terrorism, of a different kind.

Movies – When the going gets tough, well, the sad can go to the movies. An amazing film was released in the US on Wednesday, and will be released in India on Friday, though I fear its greatness will be overshadowed by the current events and it will end up not doing as well as expected… The film is “Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye” starring Abhay Deol and Paresh Rawal, two great actors of different generations but equally talented and charismatic. The film is about a cat burglar, a charming thief who steals his way to riches and class… It is an absolute must see for a bit of a change from the images of doom out of India. Of course, you can find a complete “review”, albeit a-la-Nina, on the Films 2 See column!

Food – Well, always in the mood for Indian, these days I don’t seem to crave it as much. I feel sad for what has happened and frankly, I am one of those people that undereats in times of stress. So this is where my beloved chocolate comes in handy. Trader Joe’s Truffles or simply some good ol’ M & Ms are divinely therapeutic right now. 

Finally, let me leave you with a thought of peace. Check out my short tribute to beloved Bombay on Chic Today and try to pay it forward with some peace tomorrow.

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“Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye”

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

It is rare when something inspires me to begin a whole new category on this beloved blog of mine. Each subject I add on here is well thought-out in my head and requires a commitment of time and energy. But I figured, since this week is all about re-inventing and re-naming – see how HUEA has magically turned into The Ajnabee, just like that! – change is in the air. Hence, the new “Films 2 See” section is a welcomed and long-due addition. The last time I added a new column was when I started the “Chocolate Corner”, thanks to my lovely friend Driss’ suggestion. Today, a film inspired me and I felt the need to get out the word.

The upcoming Hindi film “Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye” has a timeless, across the board, international message to it. Lucky Singh – played by the dashingly charismatic Abhay Deol as no other actor could have - is Robin Hood, albeit it without any wish to gift his loot to the poor; he is John Robie, from “To Catch a Thief”, without the catsuit and the fancy accent… He is even Romeo, without the poison and those pesky Capulets and Montagues… He is a likable thief with love and a need for acceptance in his heart. What isn’t universal and unlimited about that! 

I attended a screening of OLLO – the street version of the title of the film – on Monday evening, organized by UTV Motion Pictures, which is one of the largest film distributors in India. They are the powers behind such great hits as “Tare Zameen Par” – which might just end up being the Indian entry to the Oscars this year – and “Jaane Tu… Ya Jaane Na”, a modern teen drama which was very, very successful, even in the international NRI market. I was disappointed to find the screening room for OLLO half empty – this is a highly anticipated film! – and yours truly as one of only three non-Desis in the audience. Seriously, this was NYU, part of the film school complex and students could have been made aware of this great film! It’s a battle I struggle with daily, even through my column on Chic Today. And I find that it’s not about European and American audiences not being open to Hindi cinema, but about Indian filmmakers – and the distributors behind them – not feeling confident enough to submit their work to non-Desis to view. Or avoiding interviews and standing up journos, only to then complain about how they are getting portrayed in the wrong light by the media.

The film’s director is the wonderful Dibakar Banerjee, who has been writing his own blog about the film on Passion For Cinema. Do check out his piece about Paresh Rawal‘s beard, which is guaranteed to give you a whole different viewing experience when you do catch the film in a theater near you. His previous film “Khosla Ka Ghosla!” was also a big multiplex hit and well received by NRI audiences, and starred one of my favorite actors Boman Irani. I recently had the great honor of interviewing Mr. Irani for his role in another favorite film of mine “Little Zizou”… But that is a whole other story, for a different day… OLLO is wonderfully acted, by Abhay Deol in the title role, but also his teenage counterpart, the turbaned Manjot Singh, as well as the timeless, ageless and without equals Paresh Rawal, in three very different roles. It helps that Mr. Rawal is such a versatile actor, but also that his roles all play on the idea of a father figure whom Lucky endlessly tries to impress. One is never confused by his three very distinct and equally exciting performances. 

But anyway, enough of my words about this film. I am hardly a film reviewer and will never claim to be one. Instead, I simply come in as the Stranger I am, to the language, the culture and the stories, and try to spread the word to others who might feel like venturing into new territories themselves. For a real review, try this one by “Manorama – Six Feet Under” director Navdeep Singh on PFC. Truly, it will make you want to see the film even more than my endless rattle. Oh, and it will also inspire you to watch “Manorama” which is a brilliant, brilliant film – a spin on “Chinatown” set in a remote desert town in Rajastan. OLLO opens on Wednesday, November 26th, at a theater near you. Once you see it, I guarantee you will fall in love with Lucky, just like that!

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HUEA Nominations For “I Heart Your Blog” Are IN!

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

This past week HUEA was nominated by Miss Make A Movie as one of their favorite blogs. Of course, we return the favor and absolutely nominate them right back as being one of our favorite sites to read online, a wonderful place to meet for a “chat” with the girls. But then, we also pay the compliment forward by nominating seven other blogs that truly touch our Happily Unmarried hearts, through and through! And the nominees are:

Moods and Appetites – Truly a personal favorite by the really talented photographer and writer named Katrina!! This site is, in the words of Katrina herself “a daily record of my culinary and creative adventures, whether it be trying new foods, reviewing exhibitions, or simply looking at the details.” Just check out her entry for November 17th – Strands of Expression”. Simply BRILLIANT!

(Un)wedded Bliss - Another beautiful blog run by Tracy, who describes herself as a Pescatarian and as someone whose moods rise and fall according to the weather. But her writing is colorful, alive and ranges from the latest -hottest – music out there, to the top ten rudest questions to ask, to even a post about sore loser Republicans… Check it out and you’ll become addicted to it too.

The Phase Files – Run by the mysterious Phase, which is obviously NOT his real name, it is a blog all about the escapades and adventures of a young man in NYC. In his own words “Each phase consists of several different hilarious stories reflecting my mentality at the core of my behavior. Phase 1 is dedicated to sharing personal anecdotes as a player and the awkward and hilarious situations that always ensued. Phase 2 is the beginning of my transition to become a gentleman and treat women better. However, there are several obstacles I encounter to overcome my past and move forward.”

Passion For Cinema – is a blog run by several filmmakers, all of different caliber and age. It is a forum where everyone finds their voice and comments are highly encouraged. If you like cinema, and in particular enjoy Indian Cinema as much as I do – then PCF is for you. There you’ll be able to mingle with greats such as Sudhir Mishra, Anurag Kashyap and Abhay Deol… As well as hear the latest and greatest about all the newest releases. A true filmi community, brought to us by Oz, Dabba and the gang.

Go Galavanting – This is an online women’s travel magazine, a bit more than a blog. But with “A View from a Broad” it also has branched out into simple blogging. I love this site because it empowers and encourages women to travel on their own, but also does not disqualify any who are part of a couple to also follow the same paths. It is an equal opportunity travel site. Kudos to Kim Mance and Katy Quissell for starting this great site!

Show Me The Curry – This is a great foodie site run by Hetal and Anuja, two moms with excellent taste and their own YouTube TV show. They make preparing Indian food easy and fun and for that they get a big thumbs up from the HUEA girl, always looking to simplify her life! And the recipes are easily found through their efficient index, both visual and in tabs on the top part of their site.

Aasiyah Qamar – Last but not least, this is actually the website of accomplished romance author Aasiyah Qamar, where she does share a bit of her philosophy in life under “Thoughts and More”. Z, as her friends refer to her, actually writes on Miss Make A Movie and her pieces are always thoughtful, delightful and fresh. I have really grown to think of her as a dear friend – albeit one miles and miles away – so her presence in my list of favorite blogs is absolutely necessary. 

OK everyone, it’s now your turn to nominate your favorite blogs out there! Have fun and read up, there are some talented people out there, just writing because they love to.

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