Category Archives: India

Some Photos

As mentioned in my earlier post, we were visiting Kerala over the last weekend and visited Munnar and the Backwaters at Alleppey. Here are some photos.

The Backwaters:

Munnar:

All the above photos were taken by my wife.

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Kerala and more Indian Movies

This is my fifth month in India and I have been travelling a bit in these few months, both for business and pleasure. Besides Hyderabad which is where I am staying, I’ve seen Chennai, Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, Jaipur and just a few days ago, Cochin, Allappuzha (Alleppey) and Munnar in Kerala. Of all these places, I like Kerala the most. Its quiet charm and its Backwaters is a most apt counter to the growth frenzy that is happening in most cities in India. I was supposed to go to Darjeeling but on the advice by the tour agent that it is raining a lot there, we decided to go to Kerala instead. The backwaters is really an experience that is worth every rupee that I have spent and more. India in my mind has now changed and there is still so much to India to experience and explore.

On the movies side, since I cannot take it anymore to wait for the DVD release, I went and watch Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna in the cinema knowing well that it is without subtitles. The great thing about Bollywood movies is that you do not really need to know Hindi to understand the movie due mainly to the explicit acting and storyline but also to the frequent use of English. So it was no trouble at all to watch the movie and I enjoyed it very much. It is a much more matured work compared to Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham and definitely more so compared to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, the director Karan Johar’s previous two movies.

But my greatest recent find after “Lagaan” is a movie called “Matrubhoomi” (A Nation Without Women). My introduction (in a serious way) to Indian movies is through Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy (besides those old Tamil movies that my grandmother loved and which I used to sit near her to watch on Saturday afternoons). Now with the growing popularity of the Bollywood movies, Indian movies seem to have been stereotyped by them. Whenever we talk about Indian movies internationally, the association to Bollywood movies, and therefore long running time and dance and music numbers, is rather automatic. Although my knowledge of Indian movies is like a drop of water in the ocean, I feel that this association is not doing some really good Indian movies that do not fit into the Bollywood model justice. Gone are the Satyajit Ray’s time. Blech! You cannot even find his movies in the store. I was looking high and low for some of his movies and I managed to find some in the old city but those are bad VCD copies with no subtitles.

I remember mentioning about “Chokher Bali” in my earlier post. I do find it a good movie and a rather decent adaptation of Tagore’s original novel. I found and have watched recently another work by the same director called “Raincoat”. It, like in “Choker Bali”, does not fit into the Bollywood model but is a superb, superb movie to watch. A simple story but extremely well made. This same goes to the movie I mentioned above, “Matrubhoomi”. It is a very profound movie and again not in the usual Bollywood model. I wonder how many of these great movies from India that I have missed! The thought that I have been missing these movies is killing me!!

I hope I will have enough time to dig deeper into all these and find more gems. Any help will be greatly appreciated :)

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Ganesha Festival

Here’s a video of the Ganesha Festival that we have taken today. Today marks the last day of this festival. Please wait for it to be fully loaded before playing.

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Once Upon A Time In India

I have never been a Bollywood movie audience before I came to India to work a few months ago. If in April 2006, you ask me how many Bollywood movies I have watched, I could not get past my five fingers and the latest one that I watched would be “Choker Bali” shown on the Astro Box Office Channel and the second last being “Dil Se”.

However, it is fortunate that I am in India now and with a lot of time in my hand, I am able to now catch up on the movies that I have missed and I really like what I have seen so far. Just in less than a week, I have watched three Bollywood movies, each of them great. “Fanaa”, “Omkara”, and the 2001 classic, “Lagaan”.

My favourite male Bollywood actor now is Aamir Khan.

I agree with my friend when he said that everyone on Earth should watch “Tokyo Story” at least once in their lifetime but after watching “Lagaan”, I must also add that everyone on Earth should watch “Lagaan” at least once in their lifetime. It is unbelievable that I have missed this movie and this reinforced the truth that we must give everything a chance. You will never know where gems can be found.

Just go watch this movie if you have not done so.

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Filed under India, Movies, Movies (Highly Recommended)

Lord Ganesha

It is incredible to see the worship of Lord Ganesha everywhere (I just returned from Mumbai and it is all the same, in fact, it was more so happening in Mumbai with many road processions) and this festival will culminate with the immersion of the Lord Ganesha statue on the 6th of September. By right, this festival is for 10 days which should end on Tuesday, 5th September but Tuesdays and Saturdays are considered “bad” days for the Hindus, so the immersion will happen on the next day.

In the spirit of the Ganesha Festival, my tribute to Lord Ganesha on my blog with this picture.

May Lord Ganesha Be With You

The Symbolism of Lord Ganesha

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Back Home

Finally! Back to Malaysia after almost 3 months now in India. Everything is still very familiar and am so happy to be back, to eat the food that I have been missing, to sleep on that fluffy pillow, to drive in my own car, to watch “The Lake House” in the cinema that I have been going to for the past few years and so many other things (not to mention, first and foremost, to be able to meet my wife since her last visit to India).

The Mumbai bombing on the 11th of July 2006 was really terrible. Such act of cowardice and should be condemned by every civilised person. Among many other measures, one of the things that the Indian government did was to ban access to certain blogs which sparked wide protests. For whatever reasons, the end result is that I was not able to read my regular blogs hosted especially by blogspot.com which is quite annoying since most of the blogs I read are hosted by blogspot.

The first most obvious thing that I noticed upon arriving in Kuala Lumpur is that everything is just so quiet and peaceful. No more incessant honkings. The places are much less crowded. The roads are wider. There are more space everywhere and no more cows and buffalos roaming the roads. But what I see much less is the number of young people carrying laptop computers moving around. Hyderabad is really a tech city.

I was in the Microsoft campus the day just before I left for Malaysia to follow up on a project we were discussing in Bangalore a few weeks before. It is a huge campus and most of them are Indians. They surely know their stuffs in order for Microsoft to hire them but the thought of so many skilled IT people in India is just baffling. I am still refusing to believe that they are really so good just because everything else about India indicate that they are really not there yet. But I think I am badly mistaken just by taking things at face value. There are just so many high level companies in India – Infosys, Wipro, Tata Consulting – just to name a few. What I will maintain is that India will have to seriously look into and take action about the corruption problem and the major need to improve the infrastructure and utilities. Oh, and yes, they must also really do something about their financial system. The amount of money flowing in the black market is just simply incredible, even the air hostess knows that the situation is really very bad.

Ah, but I am so glad to be back altough only for a short time.


The Buddha statue in the middle of the Hussain Sagar lake in Hyderabad


Charminar – Hyderabad’s symbol

Some images from our trip outside of Hyderabad:


Fatehpur Sikri – “Ghost City”, A World Heritage Site in Uttar Pradesh


A common sight in Rajasthan – the home to the Great Indian Desert


A really nice place in the Amber (pronounce “Amer”) Fort – Jaipur, Rajasthan


Restoration work at Amber Fort – Jaipur, Rajasthan


India Gate – Delhi


A common sight in India

Some more common sights:


Some of these actually overturned


Imagine a bomb in there….


No wonder it’s so noisy on the road


A lot of really hard labour


The children of Hyderabad


Some mangoes anyone? Mango season in Hyderabad


Police everywhere, hawkers everywhere


Family day on the park near India Gate, Delhi


Auto (pronounce “Atuk”) which is not unlike Bangkok’s tuk-tuk.

All the photos above are taken by my wife

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Are all chauffeurs the same?

The more I converse with my chauffeur, the more impressed I am with his knowledge. I wonder if all chauffeurs are like that. I remember watching a Hollywood movie where the chauffeur chose to become a chauffeur because that job gives him a lot of time to read. In the process of being a chauffeur, he managed to save up millions due to share market tips from his boss.

For example, in my conversation with him yesterday, he said that there are so many cars now in Hyderabad. One reason he gave was because the bank now approves loans so easily and buying a car is like buying vegetables. I told him that the same thing is happening in China. For example, in Beijing, there are about 1,000 new cars every day. To my surprise, he said something like this, “If this is to continue, one day we are going to be in trouble because there is not much oil left in the world and we will see many big countries that do not have much oil like USA and China fighting to buy oil. The world politics will be played according to this coming oil crisis.”.

How many chauffers, or in fact, how many people in this world, will have this kind of insights on cause and effect? The fact that there is a coming oil crisis is not a big secret but the way he said on how it is going to influence world politics is really brilliant. And we are talking about a guy who does not have much education. He picks up English by himself and managed to marry a woman who teaches English.

Then he is also a huge movie fan. Not really Hollywood movies which he also watches but he is a huge Bollywood movie fan. Maybe most Indians are the same and this is probably why India produces close to 1,000 movies a year, the most in the world.

He is now officially my Bollywood movie consultant and he knows where to buy cheap DVDs. I have given him a float of Rs1,500 to stock up good movies for me.

Today, we were talking about “Krrish” and I asked him if it is a good movie. He said that it is like a “Superman” movie for kids and he felt that it is a really copycat job. Well, as far as I know, it is not uncommon for Bollywood producers to copycat Hollywood ideas and a whole website has been created to keep track of these copycat activities. In fact, many of the recent “copycats” such as “Taxi 9211” has become hits. He continued to say that the previous movie “Koi Mil…Gaya” is a much better movie. “Krrish” is a sequel to that movie. I immediately asked him to procure me a copy.

He is also on the hunt for me for some Satyajit Ray’s movies and he has found some. The only problem is that those are VCDs and do not have English subtitles. It is a shame that Satyajit Ray’s movies are so hard to find here.

We continued our movie talk and I asked him which movie is worth watching in the cinemas now. He immediately said “Fanaa” and he told me to watch out for “Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna” and he jokingly said that it sounds like a sequel to “Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham”.

I then wondered. How could he afford to go to the movies?

The average ticket price here is between Rs60 and Rs100 for normal cinemas and Rs180 for the IMAX hall. DVDs for new movies costs between Rs300 to Rs350 and for older movies, it costs between Rs250 to Rs300. VCD prices ranges from Rs150 to Rs200 for new movies. For older movies, the price can go down to Rs25. And then there is cable TV that costs between Rs100 to Rs250, depending on which area you live but the contents are more or less the same, with an offering of about 100 channels.

Then there are the pirates. Pirated DVDs costs about Rs50 per piece, more than 1/6 of the price of the original but the pirates are not doing really a lot of business as in Malaysia. One reason is because the quality of the pirated DVDs is very bad, unlike those in Malaysia.

He said that he does not normally go to watch movies in the cinemas but he buys cheap VCDs. He will only go to the cinema if there is a big movie featuring the stars that he likes. Stars are a real determining factor on whether one goes to the cinema or not. For lesser movies, they will watch them on TV. Finding myself in my old shoes, I did not blink and asked him about the window. He said that for normal Bollywood movies, the soundtrack will come out way in advance to promote the movie (this I already know and this tactic is particularly effective in the UK). Right after one week after the movie has finished it’s theatrical runs, the DVDs and VCDs will appear in the market. However, it is not uncommon for DVDs and VCDs to be released simultaneously or sometimes one or two weeks prior to theatrical release in India in other countries (I wonder how he knows about this!). Then normally, the cable TV will play the movie 6 months after the last day of theatrical release.

Well, so much for this edition into the film business here. Will update on this as I get to know more. Hopefully I will be able to hook up to some movie producers and distributors here and get more inside info.

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