Month: February 2018

Yercaud – More than a weekend getaway

You will be surprised to what length Google Maps can go to ensure you spend as little on fuel as possible! For the most part of our drive to Yercaud (a small hill station near Salem, Tamil Nadu, India) we paid exorbitant money as Toll fees. The last part of the drive was climbing up the hill and it is here Google took the matter into its own hands. To call the road narrow would be an understatement. We encountered only two oncoming cars and multiple two-wheelers on the route to the top of the hill. One hairpin turn almost gave me a heart attack! It felt like adventure sport the kind you get to see on AXN. My car a conventional sedan from Maruti (Dzire) was up for all the challenges the terrain was throwing at it. Well, what options did it have! Apparently, there were but Google wanted to make the road trip memorable. We drove through obsolete roads which were home to tainted and burnt houses like the one below.

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By we I mean my better half (definitely better) and yours truly.

There was no sign of life. It was both scary and exciting. We ventured further and found ourselves driving through patchy roads and areas which you wouldn’t call roads by any stretch of the imagination. At this point, we questioned the intention of Google Maps but having no other navigators around we put our faith in the artificial voice and pressed on the accelerator. To our surprise, we reached our destination, the sparsely populated hotel, without any hassles. The taxing 360 Kilometres drive and the warmth of a clean welcoming room put an end to the adventurous day.

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A typical hill station in India has quirky names for the high rise viewpoints, the main market selling obscure stuff and a lake that has boating as its main attraction. Yercaud is no different. The only place it lacks is a good market where you can traverse as a tourist and bargain like a local. If you are like me you will enjoy going to a tourist place when it is “off-season”. There is no crowd hobbling with you for space and the street vendors don’t charge an obscene amount for basic artefacts. At viewpoints, restaurants and the market, we were the only people posing as tourists.

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Both the photos above were taken at a point called “Pagoda Point”. A quirky name which doesn’t necessarily mean anything but is definitely catchy. We were among seven people at the point including a vendor who was trying to sell “American Corn” and fruits. Another aspect I have been trying to get my head around is why do they set up stalls where we have to shoot balloons with the air rifle? These stalls are mostly deserted barring a few stubborn children who are able to convince their parents to shoot the balloons. This definitely is more exciting for them than experiencing the nature.

Google, a rather sticky companion, suggested 13 different things to do at Yercaud. One of the places to go to was a “must-visit” waterfalls. Blindly following the suggestion we headed to the place and were warned by the locals of the 250 steep steps it would take to experience the waterfalls and come back! My better half had a hunch that the place wouldn’t be worth it but I thought otherwise.

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The daunting steps!

We took the plunge and decided to test our luck. Struggling with our not-so-fit bodies we finally reached the place of the waterfalls. It turned out to be a massive disappointment. The water was scarce and the place was not worth all the effort.

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The “must-visit” waterfalls.

The journey back to the ground zero from the waterfalls point went as you would expect. I was repeatedly told that I was wrong and I should have listened to my better half’s hunch. To make the situation better I suggested every person who was coming from the opposite direction that the effort to get to the waterfalls is not worth it. I saved few men from the inevitable. I took one for the team!

A hill station that can help you escape Chennai’s heat, make you experience cold weather in summer and has a sense of humour is totally worth your time and money.

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Yercaud’s sense of humour.

If you are planning a trip such as the one above Google is here to help! Trust it blindly. Conditions apply.

Padman – A superhero movie

The closing shot of Padman is as good as the brilliant ending shot of Truman Show. Akshay Kumar’s character finally has achieved what he had set out to do and the society has accepted him with elan. He stands alone at the center dressed in a pristine white shirt and the camera pans out showing us the full view of his village’s  beautiful Ghat.

I do not remember a lot of closing shots of Bollywood movies. Most of them are cringe-worthy photo ops that are a mere depiction of the end and nothing else. This was different and it stayed with me. It was powerful.

I had read a few reviews before venturing into the cinema hall. The problem with the reviews is that they influence your thinking about the movie. When the UN speech at the end was being delivered by Lakshmi (AK) I was wondering if the speech was long. Rajeev Masand had mentioned this in his review and it was clouding my judgment of the scene. A good percentage of the reviews have given Padman an average rating calling it a public service advertisement and a little too long. This also was playing in the back of my mind while watching the movie. It is clear then that for me reading reviews is detrimental to enjoying the movie!

Lakshmi is an intelligent mechanic who is a school dropout (8th standard we are told) and has a progressive mindset. He lives in a village in Madhya Pradesh on the banks of Narmada. Post his wedding he gets to know the trivial details of menstruation and how his wife Gayatri played by the eclectic Radhika Apte suffers for the five days every month. He finds it appalling that Gayatri uses an old cloth instead of a sanitary napkin. He learns from the local doctor about the ill effects of using unhygienic clothes during menstruation and is convinced that he needs to get the sanitary pads for his wife. Gayatri, on the other hand, does not want to spend money on the pads because it is going to eat into the household milk budget. Lakshmi at this point finds a purpose in life:

To build affordable sanitary pads.

His enterprising nature and experience as a mechanic help him figure out the basic process of making a home-made pad. But his lack of knowledge and resources prevent him from making the all elusive pads that will act as an alternative to the costly pads sold by the heartless money minded corporations.

Most of the movie deals with how he learns about the process to manufacture the pads and in the process also how to reach out to his target market i.e. menstruating women. There are many embarrassing moments where he struggles to find volunteers to try out his inventions. This clearly shows how obsessed he is with making the invention work that he has forgotten how sensitive is the topic he is addressing and attempting to solve. While his intentions are in the right place but the method to pursue the goal is not.

Enter Sonam Kapoor who plays Pari to fill the gaping hole in Lakshmi’s life.

She inadvertently becomes the first customer of Lakshmi’s pads and also a staunch supporter of his invention. The scene where he pulls out the pads from his pocket and gives them to Pari’s friends in the middle of the night is hilarious. Both Lakshmi and Pari together make a business out of Lakshmi’s pet project.

Sonam’s character was definitely needed in the movie. Without her, Lakshmi was pretty much done and dusted. He did not have it in him to build out the large-scale business. She makes him realize what he has been doing wrong all along. Women do not talk to men about women issues. She becomes the vehicle through which Lakshmi’s invention reaches its intended market.

That Sonam ends up falling in love with Lakshmi is questionable but I beg to ask why is it that not possible? She found in him a progressive man who is intelligent and has a passion to lead a meaningful life. The whole love angle does look like a blot in the story standing alone distant from the plot but it isn’t totally implausible.

The chemistry between Akshay Kumar and Radhika Apte is riveting. Both of them shine in depicting emotions through tenderly acts of love. The scenes between them have been written marvelously and their acting shines radiantly (Okay too many ly words there!).I personally couldn’t imagine Radhika Apte in such a role but she has pulled it off brilliantly. Contrary to popular belief she is not in the movie for just crying. Watch out for the scene in which she is in the crowd watching her husband in the river drowned with shame and how she shows that she has had enough of him.

Sonam Kapoor seems to be a favorite for receiving a lot of flak for her limited acting skills. She could have been better but she was not bad at all. Her character is a woman in today’s world who has multi-field interests and does not speak pure Hindi. What’s the problem if she is also a good Tabla player. Why do you have a problem with that? ( This is targeted at the reviewers who question her being depicted as a tabla player and then not showing anything about it later). She looked natural, beautiful and her charming self in the movie. And guess what that is how her character was written.

Amit Trivedi’s music is on point and is in his usual characteristic style. Aaj se Teri has quirky lyrics and is a compelling composition. The title song sung by Mika is entertaining and is also great to sing along!

After the endearing final shot of Akshay Kumar, they show an equally elegant shot of Arunachalam Muruganantham and call him the real Padman. Yes, the movie might have been made with the focus of minting money out of a social message but why do we find it difficult to accept that the message is important as well? The Padman challenge was termed as a marketing gimmick. It could be just that. But it has made the menstruation a living room topic. That in itself is an achievement. Yes, the movie will not make the percentage of women who use sanitary pads magically higher. But it celebrates the person who is attempting to do just that. So for once keep your cynicism aside and stretch your arms and hug the idea of Padman.