general

Politics, FB, OCD, running, summer and how stress reduces your brain-size

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Hyderabad, India – Feb 2016.

I didn’t care about politics for a long time. And then Facebook happened. Which was just like Orkut in the beginning but gradually transformed to a Google Reader sort of thing with a minor (or may be major) difference. In Reader you read / viewed what you personally subscribed to (handpicked over months and years). On Facebook, you read / view what your hundreds of Facebook “friends” decide for you to read / view (aided / tweaked by Facebook’s ever evolving algorithms and what not). For some reason, my FB friends seem to be talking and writing and sharing about politics a lot, so I get drawn in. This, over the past few years has been helping shape my own political worldview. How desirable or undesirable that really is – is another question. But because I consume so much of politics, I end up talking (and writing about) politics way too often. The kind of shit you eat, the kind of shit you shit. Kind of.

Moving on, over the past few weeks I have been suffering from an obsessive compulsion to buy more and more part experimental, part non-experimental video-shooting accessories. The irony is, for my last 3MS I did not shoot anything (for visuals, that 3MS relied 100% on video footage provided to me by those who wanted the story to be made, supported by existing News clippings and a photograph from some random person’s blog).

So the only thing that I did with my last 3MS was figuring out a structure to tell the story and then editing accordingly. I love creating a story (from non-fiction narratives). But I also love shooting moving visuals. And this second love often keeps me awake at night thinking about new portable ways in which to handle the next project. I am never satisfied with my last setup that “almost” worked. There is always some room for improvement! And that translates to order after order on Amazon. Gets crazy at times. 🙂 The next 3MS is on a health diagnostics based startup based out of Gurgaon. Will keep you guys posted about how that goes.

Oh by the way, talking about cities, it’s so fucking hot in Goa right now. I mean not burning hot like it is in Patna in May – but painful enough to feel shitty sweaty without AC. AC is on for most times anyway, so I don’t sweat much. The most that I sweated this month was when I ran the half marathon. I actually ran a lot in March. When I was running in Feb, I could go out at seven in the morning and it was pleasant. Now in March, if I don’t step out by 0630 AM, it gets too hot and humid too quickly.

Continuing on the theme of running, biwi ordered a Fitbit Surge (for herself) that I eventually ended up owning. She did order another one afterwards – a different smaller model without GPS, that she very much likes now. It’s fun to keep track of every Kilometer with the Fitbit. One of those “not really needed” but “sweet to have if you have it” things. Makes it easier to achieve consistency in pace though, if I think about it.

For some unknown reasons, I caught fever last weekend and haven’t gone running since then (been like 5-6 days now). Will probably take one more day of break and then resume. This whole running business re-started after I stumbled upon a short video in Gurgaon, at Tota’s place, about how stress physically alters your brain cells leading to irreversible loss of concentration and memory over long term. Pretty freaky, I tell you. Watch it for yourself.

I am definitely stressed out all the time (a lot of times, if not all the time). And I pretty much like being stressed out. It’s outright boring to be too calm too often. But there is no way I want my brain to shrink in size. The above video talks about exercising as a way to offset the negative effect of stress. And that’s how the whole running business re-started. To run fast, you also need to exercise (train with weights) – so have also been making good use of the home gym finally (it had been biting dust since quite some time). Hello brain, I will not let you shrink.

combined

A composite photograph from 2015 – clicked a few days after the purchase of the home-gym. Goa, India.

Wow, can’t believe I managed to jot down a long boring post about “this is what I have been up to these days” for no particular reason. Anyway, need to get some pictures processed, a 3MS edited and pack my bags for a weekend wedding photography assignment somewhere in Andhra Pradesh (no – not Hyderabad; I would have said Hyderabad had it been Hyderabad). Take care you all!

general

After having lived in Goa for over three years, finally ran a (half) marathon today!

2016 March Goa half marathon run

After having lived in Goa for over three years, finally ran a (half) marathon! It was a rather slow run. The first half marathon that I had run in my life (Hyderabad, 2008 or 09) had taken me less than two hours. And today as you can see, over two and a half hours! Sob! Sob!

Earlier, I had always looked down upon anyone who took more than two hours to run 21+ Kms. Because I, an average runner, was doing so in less than 2. But now I can’t look down upon anyone! Lack of exercise and running over past few years has definitely left me a below average runner. The last long distance race I ran was over one a half years ago in Mumbai (a 25k) and that had been a horrible run too. I was unfit and had trained for just one week. At least this time, I spent a good 5 to 6 weeks building up the running routine (from 5k to 12k). I guess it will take few more weeks to push up the average speed to less than 6 minutes for a Kilometer. I can be happy with that, for a while. Today, as you can see in the pace chart above, after the 16th Kilometer, I stopped running altogether and just walked till 17th. That really sucks  – not to be able to run throughout.

Few words on Goa Marathon as an event:

Pros:

  • Started almost on time
  • Limited crowd for 21k (I hate crowds – Mumbai marathon is intimidating for example – ran it only once)
  • Adequate number of water stations throughout the route (by the way – it is an amazing route for a run; and I am saying this even when I live in Goa – one of the most beautiful routes for a half marathon, trust me).
  • Volunteers did an amazing job offering water, juice, banana and oranges (I typically start consuming these after 10k – but once I started, I ate and drank a lot every kilometer).

Cons:

  • No t-shirt in goodie bag 🙁 (not that I wear the marathon t-shirts but generally hota to hai na?)
  • Road traffic (bikes, cars, trucks and buses) kept plying throughout – a car almost hit me; this is UNACCEPTABLE – what’s the use of tying up with traffic police / government officials if you cannot block traffic for few hours?
  • The only thing that they had to offer for “grub-coupon” (post run) was a cup of yogurt! Should have probably saved some juice packs and fruits while running had I known this! Had to rush home to eat proper food (there were food stalls at the venue but I wasn’t carrying any money – I had assumed the grub coupon would get me enough basic post-run calories)
  • Just when I was about to hit the finish line – they started the 5 Km run – hundreds of runners ran directly towards me and I had to struggle to save myself from coming down under them. And of course, that fucked up the already fucked up timing (by may be half a minute – but still!). This was stupid. It was not like I took 4 hours to finish my half. I ran slow but there must still have been around 40 to 50 odd runners behind me!
art, events

My one month cool and experimental plan for the summer of 2016

In short, I will be running a 3MinuteStories (3MS) shop in a village in Himachal Pradesh for a month. What the heck is a 3MS shop? And what exactly would I be selling from my shop? Read on.

What can ‘arts’ achieve in the 21st century if it is taken out of its usual cosmopolitan setting and related dependencies? Shop Art / Art Shop (SA/AS in short) is a contemporary Arts event that is trying to explore answers to this question, by inviting 10-12 artists to do a one month paid-for residency in Gunehar, a small village close to Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. The first SA/AS was held in 2013. This year (14 May to 24 June 2016) would be its second edition.

Loly – my dearest friend – is working for SA/AS and that’s how I got to know about the event / residency. She connected me to the other organizers, they checked out my 3 Minute Stories and soon, Frank – who leads SA/AS, asked me if I’d like to be a part of it. I jumped in. What did I need to do? Well, like the other artists (some of them are still being finalized I guess), I will be occupying an empty shop in Gunehar and will be creating, yes you guessed it right, “art-work”. 🙂

A painter or a sculptor or a fashion designer can possibly sit in a shop and create stuff but what would a film-maker like me do sitting in a shop really? Edit movies on his laptop? Also, how do I exhibit my final work? Set up some TVs? What would be my final work anyway – a couple of 3 Minute Stories that I can possibly shoot in the village? I don’t have answers to all these questions. But hopefully, I will figure some of them out before I land up in Gunehar! More than anything else, it would be cool to keep checking out how the other artists proceed with their work. And of course, what they end up creating.

Of the four weeks that the SA/AS residency would be, the first three weeks would be for creation and the last week for exhibition. The exhibition is planned in a way that it not only demonstrates the end result of the artists’ work but also incorporates typical local ‘mela’ elements, such as concerts, screenings, discussions etc. to reach a broad cross-section of the society.

The SA/AS guys also plan to take some of the work created during the residency to different locations, galleries etc. around the world in a modified and actualized version in a series of follow-up exhibitions. Let’s see how my 3 Minute Stories does on that! 🙂

Will keep you guys posted on how things shape up! For now, pretty excited.

PS: the feature image is a photograph I took in Himachal Pradesh last year end. More photographs here.

general

The first five weeks of 2016 went by too quickly – Part A

Immediately after 1st of Jan, there was a two-day wedding shoot in Pune. Subbu joined me for that. I shot a movie and he worked as the candid photographer. We often switch roles in different weddings. To prevent us from getting bored.

From Pune I flew to Bangalore and spent almost a week there trying to shoot two short documentary movies at the same time. There’s this place in Kormangla called IKP-Eden which is basically a shared office-space (I think you can rent a chair @6,000 per month) targeted at smaller sized start-ups. But what makes Eden very interesting is that, it has its entire ground floor setup as a workshop with all kinds of machines and tools and equipments (welding machines, lathe machines and all those ironman kind of stuff basically); pretty much everything that you might need to create a physical product. On one of the floors, they even have couple of 3d printers. Because of such facilities, many physical product based startups are moving to Eden (those with ideas for new medical equipment, new vehicles, new drones etc.).

Our Prime Minister keeps promoting “make in India“. Yet, if you look around, the infrastructure required to actually make things (from something as simple as say a new design of a water-bottle to something as complex as a new kind of car) is not accessible for start-ups, all at one place. The existing big manufacturing companies with a dedicated R&D team and all that, are usually the only ones creating new products. The college guys are stuck with e-solutions based ideas; you will see one new food app after another, but will hardly see a new type of say a camera, coming from a startup. IKP, by setting up Eden, wants to change this. And it is doing a good job of it.

L2, one of my IIT (and hostel) seniors, who works for IKP, invited me over to spend few days at their place to see how I could bring out the story of what they are trying to do, via my 3MS. I got to interview many startups in the process and got some great shots. Let’s see how the 3MS comes out to be.

L2, my senior from IIT, who had invited me over to IKP.

L2, my senior from IIT (who had invited me over to IKP), at his workstation. My jacket represents me in the adjacent chair.

Amongst the startups that already operate out of this space, there is one working on a new medical device that promises to automate the glucose dripping process (presently, it’s a manually controlled procedure and unnecessarily relies upon the efficiency of a nurse). Then there is another one working on a battery operated smart-vehicle, targeted at warehouses where workers will no more need to manually collect and carry around goods. These are just few examples. In my next post, I will talk about one more startup Skylark Drones, that operates out of Eden. How the startup came into being is the story of the other 3MS (along with the one on IKP-Eden) that I was there to shoot in Bangalore. That’s a cool story in itself.

A startup co-founder working on his battery operated vehicle in IKP Eden's workshop space.

A startup co-founder working on his battery operated vehicle in IKP Eden’s workshop space.

general

2015 in pictures

On your phone / ipad, you can swipe to move to the next picture. On your computer, you can use the arrow keys. You can also view the pictures in full-screen mode on your computer (though doing so will hide the individual stories written below the photographs).

To celebrate the new year (2015), we went to a resort called Wildernest. For those who wonder what more can one do in Goa, beyond beach and booze related activities, you must check out this place.
Later that month, biwi got us to take up few wind-surfing classes, very close to home, at the Dona Paula beach. It was fun.
Especially watching her fall :P
The last visual memory from Jan is biwi asking me to take her pictures as she jumped around the house in her dancing clothes. She needed these for her marketing posters. Because I am not a fashion photographer and never shoot portfolios, I don't have any backdrop in my house. This is how I manage.
In Feb, Adarsh, a friend from IIT came down to Goa and booked me for few hours to do an outdoor shoot with his wife. It was their anniversary. We had a good time and he went back home with some great images. This was my last stand-alone couple-shoot assignment. I don't do these any more. Except when a friend, who I can't refuse, requests for it. Or when I am shooting a wedding and the couple also wants me to take their pictures, outside of wedding. Over the years, I have become too much of a journalistic photographer and I can no more enjoy hanging out with stranger couples, trying to make 'romantic' photographs for them.
In Feb, I also met Halim Khan. In Hyderabad. Halim is a Kuchipudi dancer (an art form predominantly learnt and taught to Hindus) and is most famous in the dancing circuit for his female impersonation acts. For many of his earlier shows, the viewers assumed he was a Hindu woman. How he came to be doing what he is doing, and the challenges that lay ahead, make for a pretty interesting story. I shot few interviews and video footage of him, for a possible documentary. The work is stuck though and I just don't know how to pull it off. Me being in Goa and him in Hyd, is a big obstacle.
There were many weddings to shoot in March, so I was mostly working. In April, biwi and I visited Italy. Vacation time! This is a photograph taken one evening, from a bridge in Venice.
This one is from Venice too. Venice truly is "one of it's kind place".
This picture is a snapshot of a video-footage from a Gopro that I was flying (on a quadcopter) for the first time in a foreign land (Alta Badia, Italy). We had started our Italy trip from the north, and kept moving southwards as the days passed. Alta Badia is one of the northern most regions of Italy, sharing its border with Switzerland. Last few weeks of the skiing season was still on. We were probably the only ones roaming around the ski area in running shoes. And singing and dancing for our Holioke.
We also did cycling for a couple of days in Italy, mostly along the Amalfi coast. You can click on the play button to watch the Holioke (unless you have seen it already).
This is one of the last few pictures we took in Italy; Capri Island.
Not many days after returning from Italy, biwi and I traveled to Deoghar and Patna. It was the burning month of May. One of my cousins had his thread ceremony and papa had broken his other leg in another bike accident.
Palak's thread ceremony. His head was shaved in the process. Patna, May, 2015.
Later that month, after returning to Goa, we bought a multi gym. That was the only month when we used it.
In August, I got signed on to an assignment that made me travel to Uganda. This photograph is from Kampala, the capital.
Shanta, a friend, who also happens to be a wedding photographer, accompanied me in the week long Uganda trip. Here you see him sitting on a taxi (a Bajaj Boxer) in Kampala. Motorcycle taxis are as rampant in cities and towns of Uganda as are auto-rickshaw in Mumbai. They are called boda-bodas. Almost all of them are Bajaj Boxers.
My work took me to couple of slums in Kampala.
Ugandan children love doing flips by the way.
On days that we were not busy with work, Shanta and I traveled to a town called Jinja from where originates one of two tributaries of the famous Nile river.
Mathuradas building - painted with the Indian tricolor. There are many Indian businessmen settled in Uganda. Jinja especially had several old Indian buildings, this being one of them.
This was the most dramatic day in Uganda. After finishing rafting in Jinja, I flew my quadcopter and crashed it on the other side of the river. Eventually, I was able to recover both the quadcopter and Gopro with the help of my rafting guides. This photograph was extracted from the memory card. These are the first few Ugandans who found "a flying machine" crash-land in their village. They of course didn't knew the camera was on and firing.
Almost immediately after returning from Uganda, I bagged another commissioned documentary assignment that made me visit Kota (Rajasthan) for the first time.
A lot of my time was obviously spent flying. Here in this picture, I manage to get a glimpse of my flat in Dona Paula, after taking off from the Dabolim airport, Goa.
Monsoons. Goa, India, 2015.
I experimented with several video-shooting contraptions throughout the year. The experiments are ongoing.
My interactions with Shanta during our Uganda trip influenced me to try photography more often than I did earlier (there literally was a time, when I simply did not shoot anything except weddings). This photograph is just a memory of a regular day at house, as biwi gets ready to go out for some shopping. A year may have its defining moments. But for most part, our daily lives are full of ordinary, nothing special about them moments. As a photographer, any moment, defining or ordinary, has an equal potential of leading to a good image.
Black Sheep Bistro, Goa, 2015.
Biwi's friends from Canada visited us in September. By this time, I was getting a lot more comfortable capturing the 'ordinary' moments instead of a glamourized version of reality. As I look back, I love these images.
Anjuna beach, Goa, September, 2015.
By September, I had already shot over a dozen weddings. This particular photograph is from Jaipur where I had gone to shoot my next wedding - the biggest for the year. It took place in Rambagh palace.
Nasar is an RJ in Mumbai. Sheeba runs her cake shop. Jaipur, India, September, 2015.
Later in October, I went back home - Deoghar, to be with my family during the Durga Puja. Durga Puja is the biggest (and longest) festival in Bihar and Jharkhand (just like in West Bengal and Orissa). Here in this photograph, you can see devotees take blessings from (and clicking pictures of) Goddess Durga, in one of the famous pandals of Deoghar.
My uncle (Bullu), who lives in Canada, was home too, with his family. From left of photograph: dadi, Disha, Sujata chachi, mummy, Bullu uncle
Yashaswi (Disha's younger sister). Deoghar, India, October 2015.
Yashaswi soon learnt that Mr. Hickles could fall from the terrace and yet not get injured or die.
I was meeting papa after four months. He still couldn't walk without his cane.
Mummy and papa. Deoghar, India, October, 2015.
November was yet another interesting development in my perspective towards photography. I travelled to Chennai and attended a five day photography workshop by Chien Chi Chang (CCC) - a Magnum photographer.
CCC and his disciples. At work. Nov 2015, Chennai, India.
CCC and his disciples. After work. :D
Amrut, my friend from IIT, let me stay at his place in Chennai for the 5 day period of the workshop. The house was empty for the first few days. But Amrut and his family finally joined me, a couple of days before I left Chennai.
Naresh, another friend from IIT, helped me a lot, to deal with the pressure of this workshop. He showed up one day to narrate stories to me. So that I could click pictures of him narrating stories to me. These are the kind of pictures I clicked.
During the course of the workshop, I met (and tried meeting) many friends who I had not seen in a long while. Like Aditi for example. Aditi, a dancer, rode several kilometers on her motorcycle to come meet me at Beasant Nagar beach one morning. We had come to know each other during a month long mountaineering course in Darjeeling / Sikkim few years ago. This was the first time we were meeting after that. Here in this picture, she practices Taichi (her leg had a sprain, so she couldn't dance). Few days after I left Chennai, one of the worst cyclones that the city had seen in recent history, hit it hard. It was a national disaster in India.
By the time I returned to Goa from Chennai, biwi's parents and grandparents were already here. Chennai was about to get flooded. But Goa was all nice and warm. And I was an evolved photographer.
From left of photograph: biwi's - nanaji,naniji, mom, dad. Goa, India, Nov, 2015.
Few days after biwi's parents and grandparents returned to Ahmedabad (their hometown), I travelled to Delhi and met my best friend's daughter for the first time.
November saw a lot more travelling. Biwi flew down to Delhi too. Together we left for Manali. We thought we could figure out some trek to go on, once we reached Manali.
But Manali and nearby areas were having too much of fresh snow. And that meant, no trek was operational. We figured out another place in Himachal - Mcleodganj, were some treks were running. So we took a bus for Mcleodganj.
Cafe by mistake, Mcledoganj, India, Dec 2015.
We finally had a trek to do. It was a four days trek. This photograph is from the end of the first day. A place named Triund.
From left of photograph: cook, guide, biwi, senior porter, junior porter.
Although biwi and I had done our mountaineering course together (the same one where we had made friends with Aditi, the dancer from Chennai), this was the first time that we shared a tent and slept inside it together.
Biwi sips her early morning tea, outside our tent.
On the third day, we finally reached Indrahar pass after a gruelling climb up. The climb down was even more painful. The next day, we returned to Mcleodganj and then soon to Delhi. Biwi flew back to Goa but I had a wedding to shoot in Panchkula (Chandigarh).
I was in Panchkula when Subbu (my brother) called me to inform that baba (my grandfather) had passed away. A few days later, our entire family assembled in Deoghar. In this photograph you see a notebook in which papa has written down the text to be printed on a card (in Hindi), inviting near and dear ones to attend after death ceremonies. Deoghar, Jharkhand, India, 2015.
The room were baba breathed his last. Deoghar, Jharkhand, India, Dec, 2015.
This old photograph of baba was used for several days, as a priest conducted poojas, day after day.
Family sits for one of the poojas, one evening. From left of photograph: Subbu (my brother), his wife, mummy, biwi, Baby didi (papa's younger sister), choti dadi and chote baba (baba's younger brother).
Bullu uncle, who had only recently returned to Canada (after celebraing Durga pooja in Deoghar) had to rush back. You see him getting his head shaved (part of a ritual) as papa attends another ceremony in the background. The ceremonies and rituals soon got over and everyone returned to where they came from. Except papa and mummy and dadi. They live in the same house in Deoghar where baba died and I know it wouldn't be easy for them. Especially for dadi.
Subbu and dadi having a candid moment. Deoghar, Jharkhand, India. Dec, 2015. This is the last photograph in this series. Let's see what I manage to share from 2016.
general

The year that was – 2015

I write this sitting in Bangalore where I have been since past five days, trying to create two 3 minute stories (paid work). I shall fly back to Goa tomorrow morning and before it’s too late, let me look back and reflect on the year that just went by. December was especially too fast to handle.

  • Learnt para-sailing along with biwi.
  • Visited Italy with biwi and made another Holioke – finally got to fly my quad-copter in a vacation (got taken in by the military too)! In Italy, we travelled to Milan, Alta Badia, Venice, Rome, Florence, Naples, Salerno, Sorrento and the Capri Island.
  • Got a commissioned 3 minute story assignment that made me travel to Kampala (Uganda) in Africa.
  • Did river rafting for the first time (Jinja, Uganda).
  • Crashed my quad-copter in Uganda; but recovered it too (haven’t yet checked if the thing still flies).
  • Published eight 3MS’ (got paid for one) and shot about two dozen weddings.
  • Tota & Maina gave birth to a baby girl; I will call her Bulbul here. Met her, played with her and clicked her photographs.
  • Gave a talk and conducted a visual story-telling workshop at IIT Kharagpur.
  • Evolved as a photographer, especially after spending time with Shanta and CCC.
  • Shahenshah died (cancer). [described in the character’s list here.]
  • Roamed with biwi in Himachal Pradesh without fixed plans and ended up undertaking a grueling trek to the Indrahar Pass.
  • My baba (grandfather) died (old age).
  • Other than the cities in Italy and Uganda, visited the following Indian cities (some for the first time): Bhopal, Jaipur, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Anand, Akodara, Bangalore, Pune, Kota, Kolkata, Kharagpur, Deoghar, Patna, Vizag, Delhi, Manali, Dharamshala, Chennai and Panchkula.
  • Watched an insane number of non commercial movies (@home; on a huge projector that was bought this year+in Mumbai Film Festival+in IFFI, Goa).

Looking back, a few marathons thrown in, could have made the year even cooler. Let’s do that this year. How did you do in 2015? Best wishes for the new year. Keep rocking till you are alive! Find problems to solve and make yourself useful in ways that you feel good about! All the best!

Link to summary from last year (2014).

snaps, travel

A picture story from Himachal Pradesh, India

Biwi wanted to go to the mountains. ‘What would we do there?’, I asked. ‘We would go someplace and then decide’, she replied. We went to Manali. It was our third wedding anniversary. We thought we would go on some sort of trekking. No trekking routes were open (late November). So we just lazied around Manali.

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Mall Road, Manali

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Tourists enjoy snow at Gulaba, close to Manali.

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In the three days that we spent in Manali, biwi found out an operational trek that started in Mcleodganj. So we took a bus and traveled for 8 hrs and reached Mcleodganj. We walked on the streets for few days before finalizing a trekking company.

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After we finalized a company, we did some shopping and left for the trek.

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Triund was our first halt. It took us about 4 hours to reach there. ‘Triund is like a picnic spot, not even a trek’, our guide would later tell us.

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Above: Trekkers reaching Triund from Mcledoganj.

Because Mcledoganj-Triund is an easy short trek (never gets too steep), many return the same day. Some camp for the night and return. Few, like us, trek further uphill – to Indrahar pass.

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Indrahar Pass is typically a 4 day trek – two and a half days of climbing and one a half day of descent. So we had an easy first day. We had three more days to go.

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The second day was an easier shorter trek from Triund to an unnamed place between Snowline and Lahesh cave.

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Above (from left of photograph): the cook, the guide, biwi, porter 1, porter 2.
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This place was cooler than Triund. May be around 5 degrees. Our guide and his team set up some wood on fire. We heated ourselves, we ate and we slept. And we waited for the next day in anticipation. It was going to be a 5 hour climb up and 4 hour climb back, we were told. Half the tourists who try to reach Indrahar pass, give up mid-way, we were told too.

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We left for Indrahar pass early morning the next day and after a lot of steep climbing, reached the pass in about four and a half hours. ‘What has been the slowest time taken by any one to climb this?’, we asked our guide. The answer was six hours. We felt happy about our speed. ‘What has been the fastest time taken by any tourist to climb this?’, we asked our guide. Two and a half hours was the answer. Our happiness was short lived.

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Climbing down was even tougher and took almost 4 hours for us to reach back our tent. It was a mostly painful walk back. ‘This is pure unadulterated pain, climbing down’, I made a remark at one point.

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We stayed for one more day in Mcleodganj, gave rest to our tired bodies, packed our bags and returned to Delhi.

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Above: we wait for our bus back to Delhi, at Mcleodganj bus stop.

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Above: the last picture that I took during this trip; a selfie from inside the bus.

We reached Delhi early morning today. Biwi flew to Goa a short while back. I will leave for Ambala tomorrow for a wedding shoot. This was a picture story from Himachal Pradesh. Bye.

movies, Review

The Fencer – movie review

The Fencer is a a simple feel good cute movie, where everything works – the acting, the setting, the visuals, the sound, the story, the music. And yet the only reason I don’t feel like giving it anything more than 7 on 10 is because – well it is such a risk-free movie. You would know it when you watch it. To those wondering what the movie is about, the trailer should do the job. To those who have seen Shahrukh’s Chak de India (and loved it – which I guess should include everyone, because how can you not love Chak de??), this one is basically the Russian version of Chak De India (produced by Finland), with far lesser drama (different style of telling a story if you may; nothing against more drama) and with the women hockey team replaced by a team of cute kids who are learning a new sport. And Marta, love you – you were awesome (you would know what I am talking about once you have seen The Fencer – it’s definitely recommended).

PS: I saw this movie as part of the International Film Festival of India. The producer was happy to announce that Finland had selected The Fencer for Oscar submission.

movies, Review

Moor (2015) movie review

I might not have seen many Pakistani movies, but this one, from a production and aesthetics point of view was as good as any big budget movie – from India, Europe or Hollywood. I saw it yesterday as part of the International Film Festival of India, in Goa and for the first 10 to 15 minutes, I was like, WTF – is this really a movie from Pakistan? Such stunning visuals, such impactful sound-track…. And the music, mind-blowing!

But here’s the thing, by the time the movie ended, I was sure I could not rate it more than 6.5 on 10. 🙁 As a movie the story didn’t lead up to anything great at all. I think the writer made the story-telling more complex than was needed (for an otherwise simple straightforward story about corruption and honesty). Also – there were too many different colour tones, which didn’t feel right at times. The effect was jarring. There was this weird lack of coherency in story-telling that made me uneasy several times, after first half hour. Though I must add that the movie never slipped away totally. It kept coming back to being watchable and enjoyable (without distraction).

Some actors were good but there were many average and some below-averages ones too – which was a major turn off (the first dialogue scene itself was so fake). There were few actors (including the lead actor) who worked perfectly well when they didn’t speak much, but didn’t look convincing many a times when they had dialogues – they looked and felt like theatre artists. Must add here that the lead actor and the actress were stunning to look at. Really really good looking. On this note, let me also mention that the main villain was a look-alike of Kulbhushan Kharbanda. Just FYI.

As a summary, I would say that in spite of some super strong aspects (cinematography, sound, music, overall context and some good actors), Moor kept getting randomly over-dramatic (in an abstract fashion) every 15 minutes – till the very end. It almost felt like two different people had made two kinds of movies and then they had been put together by an editor. One director would let emotions carry forward the story, another would make characters speak to each other in a randomly dramatic fashion. So essentially, this was good attempt at being a great movie but IMHO could not get there!

movies, Review

Much Loved (2015) movie review

This movie is about the life of prostitutes in Morocco. Every fifteen minutes, someone fucks someone. And there are some amazing things about it. The movie, by sheer means of visual storytelling, conveys how prostitutes can be loved, raped and abused, just like anyone else, even when all the three actions, on a physical level, are just sexual acts. You also get to see prostitution as just any job. You see the challenges with this particular job – the boycott by family members and neighbours, feeling of loss of power with powerful clients / police etc. This movie offers a fine, realistic glimpse of the life of prostitutes in Morocco, portraying a very neutral look at their lives. You relate to them on many levels (good days at work, bad days at work, cracking jokes with friends, finding support and solace in friends in times of despair etc.). All the actors are great and look and feel authentic (except the few Europeans – who looked very caricaturish).

Above are the things that I liked, but there are issues with the movie too. There are passages which feel either repetitive or longer than they need to be. As a feature length movie, it falters many a times in the ‘pace’ department. It just keeps randomly slowing down, now and then and that’s some major turn off, for a movie that otherwise has so much visual stimuli to turn you on, quite literally.

PS: I saw Much Loved last night in Goa as part of the International Film Festival of India.