Sunday, 31 August 2014

Kakinada - of Boats, Beaches, Coringa Park, Draksharamam and Sunsets

You had never heard of Kakinada before and it sounded like a station on Mumbai’s Central Line. But here you are making your way south in a bus from Vishakhapatnam. Kakinada is about 150 kms from Vishakhapatnam and is the capital of Andhra Pradesh’s coastal district of East Godavari.

Mere Desh ki Dharti
On the mighty Godavari - On the train from Rajahmundhry to Samarlakota

What is markedly different during the journey are the lush paddy fields and apparent affluence of the people in coastal areas. All this can be traced back to a certain British named General Sir Arthur Cotton, an irrigation engineer, who supervised water management and canal construction projects in AP. Through his efforts an Anicut or dam called Dowleswaram Barrage was built on Godavari at Rajahmundry in 1852. Entire coastal AP has prospered with the resulting extensive irrigation. Today East and West Godavari districts are called the rice bowls of AP. With about 3000 statues in these two districts, Arthur Cotton is revered and worshipped like a God!

A little research reveals a trove of attractions along with the fact that Kakinada is a natural port with both anchorage and deep water ports. Kakinada is nicknamed Fertilizer City owing to two huge fertilizer plants and is popular as Pensioners’ Paradise. You were just lucky to visit Kakinada twice over a period of few months and that gave you few Sundays to explore the town and the nearby areas.

Tiptoeing in Kakinada
The best part of being in Kakinada is the sea. Try spending an evening at the fishermen wharf with a temple in the neighborhood. The setting is perfect: you are in a vantage position in the shallow waters photographing the sea birds as the sun gradually sinks in the west. It is all quite as the birds tiptoe in the waters looking for fish. Your floaters sink into the sand and you take them off to tiptoe barefoot in the waters just like the birds. The water catches slivers of the setting sun.

Coming Home to Kakinada

Catch of the Day - at Kakinada
At this moment, from the east a procession of fishing boats start chugging in. They seem to line up and follow a curve probably hugging a trench unseen below the water. The fishermen are happy and wave at you - probably the fishes have bitten and the catch is good. Women folk from the village have joined and the shore is beehive of activity. The catch is being unloaded from the boats. While in the distance you can see the big tanker ships unloading their cargoes. A Coast Guard cutter keeps a watch. It is the first time you are witnessing something like this - it is an altogether different world and you love it. The sun sets on another glorious evening in Kakinada spreading golden hues on the water. 

You can never have your fill of sea. There is something about water and sea that just draws you in. By the time you were free on the first day in Kakinada it was already dark. You had driven to the fisherman colony just to hear the lap of the waves in the pitch dark. Next day you set out for Uppada Beach about 5 kms north of the town while the evening is still young.

Uppada Beach in Kakinada

Ships Twinkle in the Distance - Kakinada
On a hot day, a big crowd has gathered on the beach to cool off. The waves come in quick succession working up quite a surf. Boats bob on the surface. Red crabs come out of their holes only to disappear at the slight sound of your feet. The best part on a beach is the feeling when the sand below your feet is slowly drawn away by the receding water. It puts you in a state of bliss. The sky turns a different shade every few minutes - another beautiful sun set over Kakinada. Even the moon has made an appearance. In the distance ships anchored in the high seas light up as they wait their turn at the port. In the dusk the the lighthouse starts throwing the light. This is utopia for you - cool wet sand beneath your feet, lap of waves, salty air in the lungs - it cant get any better. Well, until the local cop starts blowing the whistle and it is time to go back to the real world.

This Aint Kerala - Coringa Park in Kakinada

Coringa Park
About 20 kms south of Kakinada on the way to Yanam is the Coringa Wild Life Sanctuary. Coringa is home to mangroves and is the second largest mangrove forest after Sunderbans. On its south side Godavari empties into the Bay of Bengal. The forest is an oasis of green spread over 260 sq kms. With water on two sides, Coringa provides an amazing backdrop to spend few hours in total isolation. The forest department has installed raised walkways around the forest where you can walk while the water during high tides flows below.

Mangroves in the Coringa Park
Here under the canopies of the trees listen to the birds and just feel at peace. Branches of the trees twist around the walkways tempting you to climb the trees. The mosquitoes are plenty and huge so carry a mosquito repellent cream. Through the leaves and branches just beyond you can see the water. This is part of Godavari’s delta. Walking to the edge of the river brings you to the jetty where Forest Department has boats which will take you on the Godavari river to the sea and onwards to Hope Island. The views here are awesome and it seems you have been transported to the backwaters of Kerala.

Prawn Farming on way to Draksharamam
Draksharamam, about 35 kms south west of Kakinada is an interesting place. On the way, enjoy the sights of temples, coconut plantations and prawn farms. Stop to feast on fresh coconut water. If you are lucky, you will get coconuts for ten rupees - a steal. In AP, here on the coast there is always a risk of you becoming coconut water intoxicated!

Shri Bhimeswara Temple at Draksharamam
Shri Bhimeswara Temple, Draksharamam - Garbh Griha
Draksharamam is home to Shri Bhimeswara Temple which is one of the most celebrated Pancharamas of Andhra. It is one of the Trilings which give the name of Triling Desa to Andhra Desa. The temple is known as Dakshin Kashi or Banaras of the South. The temple carries inscriptions from 10th to 15th Centuries. With two enclosure walls, huge gopuras, mini shrines and two storeyed structure, the temple with lofty ling is quite majestic.

Sunset at Uppada Beach in Kakinada

Another Amazing Sunset over Kakinada
On the way back enjoy more of the sights and the amazing sunsets you have seen all through your stay in Coastal AP. Living and working in the city makes you almost forget how beautiful sunrises and sunsets are. Of course, the horizon from your office cubicle window extends to the building across the road. Here, every evening you are treated to wonderful sunsets - over the sea and over the swaying coconut trees.

Kakinada has something to offer to all travellers. If you are looking for an offbeat destination along with a slice of Pondicherry, come to Kakinada and get pleasantly surprised.

Getting There: Kakinada is 150 kms south of Vishakhapatnam. Samarlakota is the nearest railhead 20 kms away. Kakinada has hotels of all budgets. The beautiful Hope Island is about 5 kms into the sea. Tourism department has introduced boat services from the city’s Jawahar Jetty to Hope Island. Enjoy slice of Pondicherry about 32 kms south of Kakinada in Yanam. Visit the Coringa Mangroves on your way to Yanam.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Trippingg at the Movies - Raanjhanaa

Girl or a rocket will take you anywhere - from Banaras ki galiyaan to rough and tumble of politics and to guilt trips. Love is like the UPSC exam that you cannot clear even after ten years. And love will make you forget that it is your wedding day. Even after watching Sanju Baba give it all away in Saajan, Kundan still chooses to walk the same path. And then, all this running after your unrequited love tires you out and puts you in a mood where you choose to close your eyes and hope to start all over again, back where it all began - in the Banaras ki galiyaan. 

Raanjhanaa is a love story set in Varanasi between a Hindu boy Kundan and Muslim girl Zoya. The premise is perfect as Dhanush plays the character of son of Tamilian priest family who were brought to Varanasi 200 years ago. Smitten with Zoya right from childhood, Kundan gets slapped 15 times before he gets to know the girl’s name and a date. Not because she likes him but for his consistency. Choice of Sonam Kapoor as Zoya is perfect again and she gives another creditable performance.

The first half breezes through as Kundan pursues Zoya with his friends Murari and Bindiya providing support ranging from hilarious to downright touching. The skirmishes and banter among the three friends provides the best dialogues and scenes. You start to like Kundan’s enterprise, brashness and his honesty pursuing the love of his life to prove that Banaras’s boy chance of snagging his love is not usurped by doctors and engineers.

Kundan’s hopes come crashing down when Zoya giving ‘girlfriend feeling’ on his scooter tells him of the boy she has fallen in love with during Delhi college days. Kundan drives his scooter with Zoya into the Ganga as the story hurtles into betrayal, revenge and devastated lives. The age of innocence is lost as the film moves from Kundan’s Bal Kand to Lanka Dahan.

The second half delves into politics and romance takes a backseat. The political track is clairvoyant as events here mirror the happenings in Delhi later. The CM sounds eerily like a former CM. The political landscape provides the perfect foil as political wily games play out in the realm of personal lives with revenge foremost on the mind. And all this while, the events unspool to turn the innocence of love into hatred and betrayal. The sledgehammer shocks come rapidly as the script carries you on a roller coaster of emotions and feelings finally culminating in release and freedom of spirit called love.

Varanasi provides the perfect backdrop for the film. The ghats, the lanes, the crowds, the grime, the fort overlooking the Ganga makes you fall in love with India’s oldest city that you loved to hate not so long ago. You want to join Kundan on his next outing as he goes out to woo Zoya again.

The soundtrack is scintillating. The songs carry the story forward conveying the exuberance, loss and longing of love. All songs are gems and after you are done watching the movie you would want to watch the songs play again as they bring a smile to your face after the wrenching climax.

Dhanush is perfect for the role and impresses with his first outing in Hindi Cinema. He carries the movie on his lean shoulders. His unconventional looks works as his greatest strength as you identify with his character and soon Kundan charms his way into your heart. You feel for Kundan and root for him. Kundan’s guts and gumption make you wish that you could have done something similar instead of just ruing about the lost chances. Okay except the part of slitting wrists with sickening regularity.

Sonam has her moments too. And just like in the fantastic Delhi 6 and the much derided Mausam that you loved, here too Sonam plays Zoya well and looks pretty and dainty as always. The lead pairing might have seemed odd but here in the movie it looks fresh and realistic and the casting looks like a coup.

Swara Bhaskar who is Kundan’s neighbour is simply amazing as Bindiya in love with Kundan. Effervescent, vivacious and pretty, she lights up the screen professing her love for Kundan and in the end as she breaks down you feel for her as another lifelong love goes unrequited. Hope to see more of her in future. Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub is another promising actor as Kundan’s friend Murli with the best comical dialogues and provides Kundan with the emotional support.

Aanand L Rai, the director in his second outing after Tanu Weds Manu has again chosen the backdrop of hinterland town to negotiate the tricky and crowded human emotion lanes of love, heartbreak, hatred, betrayal and atonement. Lot of movies of 2013 have brought a lump to your throat and Raanjhanaa surprises you and even goes a step further. Rai is a director to watch for and takes his rightful place in a now growing list of exciting new generation directors. 

Nietzsche argues that indispensable to the lover is his unrequited love, which he would at no price relinquish for a state of indifference. Kundan would have chosen unrequited love over indifference any day. Love is not easy and Raanjhanna makes an honest effort to convey a refreshing take on human emotions. Even though everything is fair in love but Mother Ganga, as the person on the ghats tells a repentant Kundan, will not wash away the ultimate sin. Just like Ghaton mein Ghat Banarasiya, Raanjhanaa is a love story among love stories seldom seen in Hindi Cinema. Watch it for the pure cinematic and emotional - both heartwarming and heartwrenching - powerhouse show.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Tripping at the Movies - Vicky Donor

2012 seems like a reprise of 2007 when amazing movies like Johnny Gaddar, Manorama - Six Feet Under, Bheja Fry came out of nowhere with little known actors and directors in new offbeat genres.

With few months still to go in 2012, we have seen equally phenomenal movies being released – Paan Singh Tomar, Kahaani and the mayhem saga of Gangs of Wasseypur Part 1 and II.

But nothing could be more offbeat than the titular Vicky Donor who donates sperms so that needy couples can have kids. Of course, it is not something to snicker about as some recent newspaper articles have revealed the growing infertility endemic in the country. But this movie is not about fertility. It is about our prejudices, double standards and getting out of our comfort zones to accept new things.

Just like GOW, Vicky Donor has the perfect cast and perfect performances. 

There is the irrepressible Anu Kapoor as Dr Chaddha with mouth full of gol gappas, who runs a Fertility Clinic and Sperm Bank in Darya Ganj. Lately even as the couples have grown more demanding for the perfect sperms, his sperm bank is having a low hit ratio. He needs to find his Alexander or Aryaputra quickly or shut down his clinic.  

Kamlesh Gill as the Beeji (grand-mother), self anointed Head of the Family, a gadget freak lusting for a Sony 42 inches LCD TV, wants to wear Ritu Kumar’s suit in Vicky’s wedding and who has no qualms if her grandson marries a Bengali and who advises him to go for adoption.

Dolly (Dolly Ahluwalia), the single mother who runs a beauty parlour in Lajpat Nagar, pining for her deceased husband, skirmishes with her mother-in-law all day and wants Vicky to start earning and marry a gori-chitti (fair) Punjabi girl.

Ayushman Khurana as Vicky could not have acted better or got a better debut. Looks and talks like a Panju from the refugee colony, who thinks he is destined for respectable job than to sell polka dot cloth in his uncle’s shop in Rajouri Garden.

Yami Gautam as Aashima Roy, the divorcee Bengali girl friend has the perfect face and diction. You want to fall in love with her. Makes you wish your bank had relationship managers like her. Of course, you don’t believe her lame story for the reason of her divorce.

Next-terrace Vicky’s ‘girlfriend’ with the blazing tongue with an admirer in Pitampura who has recently bought a car. You will have to rewind to understand the interactions between her and Vicky. Awesome ROFL stuff.

Jayanta Das as the refined Bengali Dad who is crestfallen when Vicky tells him the bengali colony CR Park is actually in Delhi and who when informed that his daughter is going to marry an itthe kitthe Panju sets off on a tirade on how Bengali men are better lovers than those money-minded business-class show-offs Panjus. His prospective son-in-law needs to pass the fish test.

Best Dialogue – Vicky to Beeji – Dilli mein sirf do cheez modern hain – ek metro aur ek aap (Delhi has two modern things – one is the metro and other is you)

Best Scenes
  • ·         Beeji and mother baring their soul over evening whisky drinks after a day of run-ins and skirmishes (Destined to be a cult scene)
  • ·         Beeji and mother dancing drunk in the baraat with the bride side Bengalis almost collapsing from the shock
  • ·         The entire wedding scene is a riot
  • ·         Palm reader looking incredulously at the number of child lines on Vicky’s hand
  • ·         Dr Chaddha poring over a map tracing Alexander’s route to India explaining why Vicky belongs to the same stock and therefore is the upjao (fertile) Aryaputra he was looking for.
  • ·         Beeji expressing her disappointment over getting an Apple iPhone with 16GB memory. She was expecting 32 GBs.
  • ·         Dolly missing her husband
  • ·         The interaction between Punjabi and Bengali families before the wedding and the argument if the wedding should be Punjabi or Bengali
  • ·         The limping friend asking for an intro with the girl working in Vicky’s mother’s parlour

Vicky Donor is directed by Shoojit Sircar who gave us the critically acclaimed and sublime Yahaan set in Kashmir. Just like Dibakar Banerjee who helmed Delhi based movies like Khosle ka Ghosla and Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye, Shoojit, another Bengali has gone ahead and given us another quintessential Delhi film with real believable characters. He sensitively tackles the sperm donation subject and gives us a film that provides laughter without resorting to cheap dialogues or innuendos. The movie is never over the top, the dialogues keep coming at you at a furious pace (You might have to sometime rewind to catch the Punjabi humour). Every possible Punjabi and Bengali stereotype is brought out with dollops of humour that will leave you laughing and gasping for air. Dialogues kindle and the music rocks. All credit to Juhi Chaturvedi for the story, dialogues and screenplay for catching every little nuance of a Delhi Punjabi family.

A must watch for the ultimate movie experience with everything – great cast, great performances, crackling dialogues, emotions to leave a lump in the throat and great music.

As always, to support good movies, buy copyrighted content.

Tripping at the Movies - Gangs of Wasseypur 2

Gangs of Wasseypur 2 is a joy train on an incredible journey commanded by Anurag Kashyap. Okay, it might be a long train but when you need to carry huge supporting cast of two warring mafia families, exploding bombs, crackling AK-47s, decapitated bodies,  slashing blades, spurting blood, some more gore, unending expletives, awesome soundtrack, startling sound effects, Definite,  Perpendicular and Tangent,  the journey turns out to be spectacular. It makes you want to buy season tickets for the journey.

When you don’t get tickets for the 10pm show on the fourth night of the release in an area teeming with multiplexes, you get a feeling that something special is playing and you don’t want to settle for Dark Knight Rises. You drive to the next multiplex praying and get seats for a later show. You feel the buzz at the box office counter and as you walk into the theatre. Most people have seen the first part. Yours truly is going straight to the part 2.

The movie grabs you from the first scene and does not let up. It is all grit, grime, goons and guns. The characters, the settings, the language, the behaviour is all spot on. How many Hindi movies will have a mother exhort her son to take revenge and kill the killers of her husband. And when the mother sings the song Kaala Re, you realise that you have’nt had so much fun at the movies in a long time.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Faizal gives a powerhouse performance. He had already impressed in Kahaani. His journey from a junkie to the feared don is alone to carry the movie to greatness. Every supporting cast member impresses. You want separate movies for Definite and Perpendicular.

You know the director has the viewers hooked when the audience actually cheers & applauds as the AK47 shreds the chief rival’s body. You cringed couple of times in the beginning, but now you are enjoying the mayhem.  The body count goes up. The line between criminals and non-criminals blurs and we cheer for the lesser criminals. You actually feel for Faizal and start rooting for him.

Anurag Kashyap pays his homage to Hindi Cinema. Faizal repents that instead of becoming Amitabh Bachchan, the superstar, he has become Shashi Kapoor, a sidekick. Perpendicular watches Maine Pyaar Kiya and Definite sings its songs. Hardened criminals watch DDLJ. Ramadhari Singh, the rival chieftain, credits his outliving three generations of Khans on not watching films. Huma watches Mamta Kulkarni gyrate. Anurag brings back the brass band from Dev D to sing Teri Meharbaniyan - Priceless.

In my view Dev D was Anurag Kashyap’s best effort and thought he will not be able to better it. With GOW 2 he has outdone himself.  He is India’s answer to Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez and Francis Ford Coppola, all combined. You can feel how much Anurag and the cast enjoyed making this movie.

Go watch the movie in the theatres to support the new coming of Hindi Cinema. Directors like Anurag Kashyap, Tigmanshu Dhulia and Dibakar Banerjee need our support. You will feel plain exhilaration and pride for the new age directors for concocting such heady mixes.