I am amazed by the display of naivete by people, their naivete so deeply conditioned that it ceases to be artificial. These people are very well aware of the reality, but when you show them some proof to confirm that, they are aghast and shocked. What the hell am I ranting about? I am talking about "The curious case of N D Tiwari"! To be honest, when I heard about it, I laughed out loud. Not because there was something funny in his achievements, but the way people reacted to it. So I am trying to understand what exactly bothered them?
  • A Governor was doing 'it'? ('It' upsets more people than lets say, if he was taking a bribe of crores of rupees from those 3 women)
  • A Governor was doing 'it'? (Come on seriously, are we not taught in schools that politicians work for people and poverty is dropping like Walmart prices?)
  • A Governor was caught doing it? (What is revealed is always only the tip of the iceberg. Just imagine the uncaught! Is it the "envy, envy" at work here?)
  • A Governor was caught doing it in Raj Bhavan? (The media is proficient in math, they come up with some numbers and say its a humongous waste of tax payers' money. Honestly, are you, the common man, upset that you are unwillingly donating a few paisas for the cause?)
  • The Governor was 86 years old. (Dammit, 9 out of 10 cant lift themselves up. Again, "envy envy", is that the feeling?)
  • The Governor was with 3 women. (Imagine that classic scene from "Once upon a time in the west" - 'Guess we are 1 horse short...no, its two too many'...Haah!)
  • The Governor was with girls a third of his age. (Remember reading this in a couple of places, as if the reporter would have no problems if they were septuagenarians!)
  • The ladies were call girls [Not sure, remembering reading somewhere. Correct me if I am wrong!] (How dare you Mr. Governor, we would have really stood by you if the ladies were educated, from respectables families and filed their income tax returns every year!)

Seriously, what exactly bothered you? :)

Goa

Goa is perhaps my most favorite vacation spot in India. Many think that Goa is only for people who booze or love sea food or party animals. But you can enjoy Goa equally if you love flea markets, the churches, museums, the sea, the sand, the sunsets, the pancakes at the beach shacks...!

This was our first trip post marriage where we decided not to approach a travel agent. One, obviously the financial constraint and two, we wanted a sense of adventure and unexpected. So I started doing what only eminent scientists and nobel aspirants did a few decades back. R&D! I was at my maniacal best of clicking through links, gathering info and preparing an itinerary. After searching over a hundred options, we decided to stay at Candolim. But no amount of R&D will stop you from getting surprised by gems like these.


"Original Fakes" - actually saw the same name in two shops!


Tuk Tuk Cab Rickshaw Stand

Transport
When buses are very infrequent, autos unavailable in most places and taxis obscenely expensive, what comes to your rescue is the National vehicle of Goa - Honda Activa. Easy to hire, for around 200 bucks a day, decent mileage, smooth ride and enough space to hold all the items you shop. And did you know that there are two kinds of two wheelers in Goa? Honda Activa white board and Honda Activa yellow board. It seemed to me as if every second home in Candolim region is in the "Letting Honda Activa for hire" business!

Ponda
It boasts of some lovely temples like Mahalsa, Mangueshi, ShantaDurga etc. Though not a tourist destination, it had very nice roads and signboards at every intersection. Even a severely geographically challenged person (Div has enough material to write a big post on that) The temples are very colorful with yellows, oranges, pink etc. Even the "tulasi katte" in every household is very colorful.










There are some things about Goan temples which I found interesting.
  • In Goan temples, you can wear footwear into the main entrance of the temple, but need to leave them just before entering inside the temple.
  • The "deepastambha" in the temples are elaborate and reminded me of the leaning tower of Pisa.
  • The flower sellers sit inside the temple premises and sell you in either Marathi or Konkani. No english here!
  • The "golaka" or "hundi" is called "Fund Peti". Fund seemed as though its some kind of investment. Peti very funnily reminded me of Sanjay Dutt's gangsta movies.
  • The priests dont offer "theertha" in the temples. A vessel containing theertha and a chained spoon will be placed in a corner and the devotees have to take it on their own.
  • There are non-veg hotels and wine stores just outside many temples. When things are not taboo and just a way of life, they probably cease to be offensive, right?


Old Goa

If you are into visiting old churches, stroll around lovely museums, interested in history - Old Goa is for you.


Ruins of St. Augustine Church, Old Goa - completely blew me away. What a masterpiece it might have been when it was intact!


Tombstones, with Latin inscriptions on them, dating back to the 1500s. Saw one name "Ursula" written as "VRSVLA". I was laughing uncontrollably remembering Mel Brooks' History of the World Part 1 (which never had a sequel though) where he makes fun of Latin. In one of the sequences, he tells his friend - "Buddy, I am hurt. HVRT hurt".


Church of Our Lady of the Rosary - a deserted magnificent structure adjoining the river Mandovi.


The most well known of them all - Basilica of Bom Jesus


Se Cathedral - St.Francis of Assissi. Has some really well maintained museums.


Church of St. Catherine. You could easily mistake it for one of the montage shots of "Before Sunrise".


"A cross here. A cross there. What do you call that?". Double-cross!


Every nook and corner has a beauty like this one.


Beaches
Though we stayed close to Candolim beach, we did not go to the beach for 3 days. The sand varies in texture from beach to beach. Almost every beach now has marked safe zones for swimming and many life guards on duty, which was not the case 3 years back. Here are the beaches we visited:
Sinquerim beach - We had gone for an amazing early morning walk. The nearby Aguada Fort with its mammoth light house is a delight to watch. We were very surprised to spot a peacock there, which was not gracious enough to pose properly for my camera.
Calangute beach - Its not called the Queen of beaches without reasons. It is great for water sports, though the beach is a little too over crowded.
Candolim beach - A personal favorite of mine, so it was quite ironic that we visited it last. But I enjoyed so many new discoveries this time, I rarely missed Candolim beach.
Baga beach - Quite close to the Mackies Saturday Night Market - a place for amazing knick knacks, live music and expensive food. The market was the first place we visited on reaching Goa. If it is your first time in Goa, you would be shocked by the perfectly accented English that village women speak here (yes, it is actually Arpora village) and their amazing sales skills can put the a B-school student to shame ("Come my friend, I will give you the best price" is their mantra!)
Anjuna beach - The wednesday flea market was so huge, that it felt as never-ending as the sea itself. I guess it was the pulsating sound of Prem Joshua's "Shiva Moon" that kept us going.


Sinquerim neach - capturing somebody's "Dil Chahta Hai" moment


The gigantic light house at the Aguaga Fort


Beautiful sunset at the Calangute beach on the penultimate day


Not the queen, but the most beautiful of 'em all - Candolim beach herself

Panaji
Driving inside the city and on the bridge is a delight. There is plenty of parking space everywhere and is mostly free. The shopping on the 18th June Road is an ideal option after a tiring day. The relaxing massage we got at an expensive spa here still brings a bright smile on our faces.

The sunset cruise over Mandovi river made me realize this. There were probably a hundred handicams/digicams/mobicams capturing the performances in the cruise. Imagine 100 youtube videos of a routine performance that happens daily. I am amazed by the amount of redundant and unimportant online data that humanity might have generated in the last 5 years.


Our Lady of Immacute Conception overlooking the city of Panaji

I want to end this writeup with a PJ that occurred to me in Old Goa.
Q: How does Jesus address his mom when he is annoyed?
A: Arrey Mary Maa :)

Believe me when I say this, I had not gone to this movie to nitpick. No! I was expecting a nice little film, if not anything path breaking.

I remember reading R.Balki's interview, where he had mentioned this. He had been to Amitabh's office one day and there he saw Abhishek getting all wise and parent-ish while Amitabh was very child like. This made him think how would it be if Abhishek plays Amitabh's dad. This is where my friends, like it happens not too rarely, an interesting one line idea fails to shape into a full length feature film. If role reversal was the only thing, a decade back Balki could have casted Dimple as Twinkle's daughter or Esha Deol as Hemamalini's mom.

*** SPOILERS ALERT ***
Any film that has Jaya Bachchan acting all Guddi-ish, reading credits with fake sweetness is a huge turn off. But I told myself not to get too influenced by this little gimmick. The next scene where the MP Amol (Abhishek) arrives at a school to judge the Vision of India contest and delivers a rather nice speech to the kids and declares that the kid who designed the blank globe is the winner. Fine till here. Slowly, and surely, we are shown Auro (Amitabh, in an elaborate prosthetic extravaganza) coming to collect the prize. When a subdued background score or even silence would have been the ideal decision, all the kids start chanting "Auro Auro Auro" (Had his name been Rahul, I would have assumed I was in some SRK movie!)

Next we are shown Auro's house, where he lives with his single mother (Vidya Balan) and grandma (Arundhati Nag) This is perhaps the phase where I was almost jumping with joy, because truly when was the last time you had seen a typical middle class home in a mainstream Bollywood film? And a mainstream heroine wearing "nightie" to sleep?

And then the downward spiral starts. Vidya sees Amol giving the prize to Auro on TV and she goes into a flashback mode. Within one breezy song, Vidya (a medical student then) and Amol (an aspiring politician) bump into each other, exchange names, and as Woody Allen might have put it, body fluids as well. After the song, Vidya realizes that she is pregnant and Amol refuses to take any responsibility. Vidya moves out of his life and raises the kid all by herself.

After this starts a very predictable ride where Auro and Amol's paths cross and they develop a bonding. Auro's health fails, which leads to a rather elaborate and cliched climax.

Instead of going scene by scene, I will just tell what worked for me and what did not.

What worked:

  • Arundhati Nag. What an actress, really! Her styling, accent, expressions - flawless. (See the scene where she comes to hospital with a blue plastic basket - priceless!)
  • Vidya Balan is good in a well written role and her scenes with Arundhati Nag are perhaps the best in the movie. They might have actually called the film "Maa", but hey who are the producers anyway?
  • Paresh Rawal is entertaining after a long time. The scene where he asks Abhishek "Are you gay?", nobody could have bettered that scene.
  • Ilayaraja's music has a refreshing sound to it, very enjoyable.

What did not work:
  • Abhishek Bachchan. What in Muruga's name was that? Just styling in whites, a la Murli Deora and Sachin Pilot, is not the be all and end all of a performance. And why oh why is that funny accent. I am sure Katrina Kaif has a serious challenger. See him pronounce "Avo" (for Auro) and "Khoo" (for cool)
  • The writing is also the culprit when it comes to Amol's character. A caricature of an ideal politician, even a fifth grader would find immature, who swings between two mental states - "Shit, this is the problem with this country" and "I am going to remove all the evils from this country". Just to give an example of bad writing, when Amol discovers that Auro is seriously ill, he comes to the hospital, sees Vidya there, realizes that Auro is actually his son. And if the news got out, media would finish his career and he would not be able to solve all the social evils in the country. Imagine the enormity of the situation and the mental turmoil a person would be going through. Right after this, he meets Paresh Rawal and lamely delivers the line in a very happy tone "I have a son" - his expression as if Priyanka Chopra has promised him to be her flat mate without even having to pay the rent.
  • Why the hell does Abhishek speak so much English, that too for someone who is a politician? Even Sonia Gandhi has learnt Hindi.
  • Auro's character, I would say is mediocre in terms of writing. We are not shown the anguish that a differently looking kid faces in school (but everyone chants "Auro Auro Auro" here), or the kid of a single parent facing the identity crisis, what he feels to know that he is gonna die. All we are shown is a kid who is almost Buddha-like, very cool, unperturbed. And to make it sound cute, he is made to talk lot of English, like telling "Round round round" for "Saath Phere".
  • A kid on deathbed trying to hook up an estranged couple is way way too cheesy for me. Does not work. At all. I expected the film to get me moist eyed towards the end, but there I was sitting totally disconnected - which I would call the biggest failure of the film. (I am not the "never moved" person. For example Munnabhai apologizing to Circuit in Lage Raho Munnabhai still brings a lump to my throat)
  • Is it a huge effort to sit for 4 hours for your prosthetic make up? Yes. Is Amitabh almost unrecognizable? Yes. His baritone voice never comes in? Yes. Does it mean it automatically qualifies for great acting? Nope, not really. Everyone is hailing Amitabh as if this is his best performance. I would not count this even in his top 10 performances. In an urge to praise the effort, everyone is overlooking the outcome, which is nothing great as such.

In fact, progeria is not at all a major element in this story. This would have worked better with an actual 12 year old kid with some fatal disease and what the dying kid, the single mother and the estranged-now-returned father would go through. It would have made a compelling drama. But then, we do not have a great reputation in making movie with kids, do we?

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