Sunday, July 18, 2010

Ek Udaan

When I was in school in Iraq I had this classmate of mine whose mother was our English teacher. She was a decent teacher, but the reason I remember her now is because she used to slap her son in front of us in the class. It used to be painful seeing it. Her son, my friend, was quite intelligent, and not being so would not still be reason enough for that sort of cruelty, but I could never figure out why she would subject her son to such humiliation in front of his classmates. And the most harmless of things would prompt the beating. He would be so ashamed of his daily beatings in the morning that he would rarely come out to play in the evening with us. Even at that time, and we were just about 8-9 years old then, we could feel that she was unhappy with herself and that's why she would beat her son.

This came to me today after watching Udaan.

It's a beautiful film. Not the least for some of the best acting I have seen in a Hindi film in recent times. But also because it hit home in some way.

No, my parents were (are) much much better than Rohan's father in the film (who goes to rather unbelievable extents of cruelty), and I sometimes wish they were a little cruel, for it might just justify my craziness, and selfishness, but it hit home because unlike many of my friends from Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore and Mumbai, I know what growing up in a place like Jamshedpur is.

Of course, Jamshedpur stands in for hundreds of small Indian towns where thousands of people dream and then give up. I have come to take for granted a lot of things I have been given in my life and am wont to forget that so many others I knew, a lot more talented, a lot more capable, will take up that dreary job in the factory, will get married, will have children and will hope to see their children achieve what they could not. And then their children would repeat the same thing, maybe move a notch higher if they are lucky, but still lead stifled lives.

Jamshedpur is actually a lot more happening than the movie portrays it to be. I had my first pizza there, way back in 1991. I grew up in a township about 80km from the place, and it used to represent a weekend of freedom when we would take a monthly trip to my aunt's place, having that fabulous south Indian breakfast at Anand restaurant in Bistupur, having lunch occasionally at Kwality, buying audio cassettes for the latest hits, buying a comic or novel at that small shop in the basement of Kamani Centre, going through the collection of Commando comics that my cousins had - Jamshedpur was almost like being in New York for someone growing in the backyard of Jharkhand.

Jamshedpur also represents the pain that preparing for JEE was the first time around (I moved to Kota after a failed first attempt, stopped living for 9 months, and cracked the exam). My Brilliant Tutorials centre was in the town and making those periodic trips to the place knowing that I would do badly in the mock tests, gradually losing all hope and confidence in my chance to get to an IIT, that perceived gateway to a life of prosperity - so many young students must go through that.

I wanted to take up Arts after Class X. Study Literature. Write. But, you see, I was good in studies. Science made more sense. But then, that's a story we have heard so often and is hardly worth talking about.

I also saw Inception this weekend. The movie will go on to become one of the most talked about movies of the year, if not of our generation. But I think Udaan is a better movie. It's about dreams we actually saw.

I love it when a film makes me go all crazy. That is what films are for.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Chicken marinated in rum and cooked in coconut milk

That's what I cooked for dinner tonight. Inspired by a Discovery Travel & Living show's episode on Caribbean food.

And it tastes beautiful. I modified the recipe a bit since I forgot to buy lemon-grass and made my own curry powder. I feel really proud, and sated tonight.

The recipe is something like this:

Take around 500 gm of boneless chicken, cut it into bite-sized pieces and add to a bowl with 2 tbsp white rum (I used Bacardi rum, not sure if that is the right one to use, but it turned out fine), 2 tbsp fresh lime juice and 2 tsp garlic paste/minced garlic. Mix the chicken pieces well with the rest of the contents.

Cover with that wrapping plastic sheet (can't recall exactly what it's called) and leave in the refrigerator for marinating for around 2 hours.

For cooking, chop one large-ish onion into fine pieces and add to 2 tbsp of heated oil. Saute on medium flame for 5 minutes or so. Add the chicken pieces and the liquid remaining in the bowl, cook till the pieces change color and turn soft.

Add 1 tbsp curry powder. Which in my case was made of cumin powder, coriander powder, a bit of turmeric, a bit of black pepper powder and some garam masala. And some salt.

Mix well, and then pour in around 150 ml of coconut milk. Cook for around 5 minutes till the chicken reaches the required softness.

Serve with steamed rice.

And fly.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Two films and a soundtrack

There are these green, very green, oasis-like days in a life pretty much dry, brown, desert-like that make you thankful for being alive.

I saw two brilliant movies today and listened to a soundtrack that just blew me away, and I just had to write here about them.

I read the Ebert review on Shutter Island immediately after the film was over and was pleased to see that he also noticed the similarity with King Kong in the first scene. The sense of foreboding as the boat approaches the island, those amazing camera shots set the piece just right. A beautiful movie. It gives me goosebumps to see that someone as feted as Scorsese still loves being a child so much. I wish I could meet him some day.

The other movie I saw today was Toy Story 3. Apart from my persistent fascination with how Pixar keeps throwing trumps every year, I also loved a very personal chord that this film touched. That feeling of leaving the familiar environs of the place you went to school at, for college, has never been portrayed better anywhere else. I miss those days badly - the luxury to waste time. Things changed so much after I left for Delhi.

But, the best part of the day was listening to the soundtrack of Udaan. This is such a mind-blowing compilation that I felt guilty for having downloaded the album off the net. I am going to buy a CD of the songs soon. And I really look forward to the film, coming out on July 16. A film with songs like these can't be worth not seeing. A film-maker with music sense like this is worth looking out for.

To repeat what I just told a friend of mine on GTalk, Amit Trivedi is the new Rahman. In fact, I almost look forward to his new tracks now more eagerly than I do Rahman's. There surely can't be a bigger compliment.

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