Indian Summers Season 2

I have no excuse.  No excuse whatsoever.

A little under a year ago, in this very same blog, I shared with you my thoughts on Indian Summers, a TV drama that…well, let’s just say underwhelmed me totally.

Hey, why mince words?

I thought “Indian Summers” was absolutely terrible.  Truly terrible, despite all that money thrown at it.

Here are a couple of relevant stats (courtesy of the thinking man’s paper, the Daily Mail)

  • Indian Summers is Channel 4’s equivalent to ITV’s Downton Abbey
  • It’s the most expensive drama commissioned in the channel’s history

Anyway, obviously when Season 2 came out, yes, of course, we HAD to watch it, just to see if it was as bad as season 1.

Actually, I approached Season 2 with the hope that perhaps the good folk over at Channel 4 had put a bit more thought & attention to detail into Season 2, and corrected some of the more glaring mistakes/errors/inconsistencies.

Whatever.

No such luck.

Season 2 was every bit as bad as Season 1.

So compulsively bad in fact, that, hooked like addicts on the sheer awfulness of it all, we simply has to watch it right to the weird, rushed, inconclusive end.

But that was the end, I gather.

Channel 4 has mercifully pulled the plug on what should have been a fantastic series and which was, on the contrary, a total disappointment.

I won’t bore you all with repeating the litany of inappropriateness from Series 1 – the locale, the people – because the series is now over.

When the end finally came, I realised that there was not one single major character about whom I cared.

Not one.

Ralph Wheelan?  Nah.  He got his come-uppance.

His wife? Nope.

His sister?  No. Despite her horrid, spivvy husband and her inter-racial love affair, Alice remained boringly one dimensional throughout.

Cynthia? Shudder.  What a truly appalling character.  I cannot for a minute imagine that in colonial Shimla, in the 30s, a woman as common as Cynthia would have called the social shots.

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Tell you what, though  – what I’d love more than anything else is to be proved wrong here, with someone promptly telling me that Julie Walter’s character was based on a real-live person, and then I can re-evaluate the whole thing.

The only nice Brit is that young Scot, Ian McLeod.  And he turns “native”, so there you are.

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On the Indian side…well…they are all portrayed more sympathetically then the Brits, but they are by and large so totally stereotyped.

Roshan Seth is great, and one of the few truly good actors in the series.

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Ayshsa Kala’s character is appealing, and she has the most winning smile and sparkly eyes.

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Don’t get me started on Art Malik as a Maharajah wearing costume jewellery.

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Anyway, it’s all over, a series that was addictive because of its awfulness.

PS: And clearly Channel 4’s answer to “Downton Abbey” it was not.

How good is the Anker Solar Charger?

It’s very good, to answer my own question.

I have nothing but praise for the Anker portable solar charger.

I bought it before I went climbing in the Himalayas 2 summers ago, and it worked brilliantly, charging mobile phones mainly, both mine and my fellow team member’s.  Even though there was no connectivity for most of the climb in Ladakh, it meant I could use my phone to record video clips.

Some days, I attached the charger to my daypack (as in the photo below, which is not mine.  It’s from the internet) & I even charged my phone on the go.  Initially I did worry about the charger getting scratched on boulders (it didn’t, of course).

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Once we arrived in camp in the afternoons, out would come my charger and it would sit quietly there, as we all unpacked and set up camp.

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Super impressed and it is now a regular on all outdoors-y type trips, where power could be a problem.

Here are the charger’s vital stats:

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It has 2 USB charging points.

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It weighs in at 14.7oz / 417g so isn’t a liability in your day pack.

Totally recommended.

No one at Anker knows that I blog.

I paid for the charger myself, and bought it online.  As you can do now:

All the photos are from the internet.

AND…as I was looking for photos online to illustrate this review, I found this one, and learned a useful tip, which will be put to good use later this summer, when I’m back in Himalayas – hurray!

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Reviewing the Kalenji hydration backpack

Running in Delhi’s killer summer heat means that hydration is beyond a must.  It is, without exaggeration, a lifesaver.

I usually run with a handheld water bottle, but it doesn’t hold enough for the searing temperatures these days, so I have switched to using my Kalenji 2L backpack, and what an all round improvement.

Firstly, I have way more water available, but almost as importantly, because I’m not gripping a bottle, I am running more relaxed.

I set out every morning at about 5.30/5.45 at which time I don’t need my cap, so into the pack it goes.

A small snack – inside the pack.

My mobile phone goes into a zipped compartment, accessible from both sides, and the head-phones have their own exit.  Way safer than having the phone in my hand.

Can’t think why I haven’t been using this backpack every day.  Certainly makes for more streamlined running.

Totally recommended.

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I bought the backpack myself, and told no one that I blog.

Actually I lie. Technically, one of my running group, Samiksha Mehra, bought it for me from Decathlon in NOIDA. (All of which is to say that no one had/has any idea that I blog!)


MOTHER’S DAY (on Mother’s Day)

This is a cute, feel-good, happy-ending film that belies the truly awful reviews it got.  Check the one in Time magazine –  ouch, it’s harsh.

My daughter Anjulie took me to see it today, on Mother’s Day, and, given the reviews, we went expecting the worst.

It is fluffy, entertaining, doesn’t make you think, made me cry, and all ends happily, so what can be wrong with that, pray tell?  Admittedly, we both agreed that had it NOT been Mother’s day, we probably wouldn’t have gone to see it.

But we did, and we enjoyed our afternoon together.

Jennifer Aniston looks good.

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Ditto the gorgeous Kate Hudson.

Atlanta, GA - Actress Kate Hudson is all smiles as she films on set in humid Atlanta for her new film "Mother's Day". Camera crews were spotted filming scenes at a park. AKM-GSI September 28, 2015 To License These Photos, Please Contact : Steve Ginsburg (310) 505-8447 (323) 423-9397 steve@akmgsi.com sales@akmgsi.com or Maria Buda (917) 242-1505 mbuda@akmgsi.com ginsburgspalyinc@gmail.com

Julia Roberts is totally under-used as a character, and has a truly awful hair do that does nothing for her.  Until she smiles.

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There is a slight Indian connection which we all appreciated here in Delhi.

Yup.

That’s about it, really.

Not great cinema by any stretch of the imagination, but perfect for a Mother’s Day outing with one’s daughter.

THE MAN WHO KNEW INFINITY

Hmmm…

How strange to leave the cinema after watching the divine (& still dishy) Jeremy Irons and that nice young Dev Patel, and yet feel a little underwhelmed.

“The man who knew infinity” is a lovely film, a nice film, but not, I fear, a great film.

It is visually gorgeous, and the period detail is perfect.

Lovely clothes, sweeping vistas, India looking  –  well, very much the way India looks in this kind of film, Trinity College Cambridge looking drop dead fantastic (and I say that as an Oxford graduate)…it’s all visually smashing.

It’s just that the central plot –  the relationship between a young Indian genius and his Cambridge professor – is, well, pretty much just that.  The relationship between S. Ramanujan  (Dev Patel) and G. H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons) IS the film, with any other subplots hardly making any waves.  Ramanujan’s marriage, the outbreak of World War I are there, strands in the narrative, but they could just as easily not have been there, to be perfectly honest.  The story would hardly have been impacted.

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Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed the film and absolutely loved the look of it.  It’s just that it wasn’t one of those sweep-you-off-your-feet kind of films, and I had so hoped it would be.

Jeremy Irons is superb, and totally dominates the film.  Every scene he is in, is yet another testimony to how wonderful an actor he is.

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Dev Patel is nice, but is Dev Patel being an Indian with a sing-song-y accent.  He sounded just like his character in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and I don’t think he should have.  I liked Shazad Latif’s accent way more. And I think he is underused as a character, by the way (Chandra Mahalanobis, that is).

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So yes, nice film.

Beautifully filmed.

But I feel it could have been a wonderful film.  And it isn’t.

Putting the Adidas Supernova Glide 6 running shoes through their paces

In the two short years in which I’ve been running, I have discovered many things.  Many, many things, and all of them good things.

Except, perhaps, the habit I have of getting too fond of my running shoes, which means that the arrival of a lovely new pair is always accompanied by sadness and regret at the passing of the old pair…

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Thus it was that when my lovely Adidas Climachill Cosmic Boost began to wear out, I had to take the inevitable “old & new” photo.

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I loved my Climachill, and did a follow-up review, just so I could talk about them again.

But time (and daily running) take their toll on shoes, and so enter a new pair of Adidas shoes into my life.

And, yes, how lovely and bright and springy they look, compared to my old ones…that disloyalty again!  I really do love the bright colours, completely cheerfully OTT bright.

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The Supernova Glide 6 are sturdier shoes than the Climachill, which means that they instantly felt more cushion-y and, yes, springier than their predecessors, without ever feeling heavy, especially after the super-light Climachill.

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They are made of that nice mesh, that feels easy on the feet.  In my case, as I have big ungainly feet, the mesh makes putting the shoes on nice and easy, and they feel instantly comfortable.  Not at all tight, nor in need of being broken in, even from Day 1.

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Lacing is easy :

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The cushioning is good and has lasted well, despite heavy usage, with almost daily running.

I started the year wearing these shoes, on 1st January exactly, and have run some 752 km in them thus far, including my first ever full marathon.  And then my second ever full marathon.  So, sadly, in exactly 3 months these beauties are now up for replacement.  Overdue, in fact.

They have travelled well and often in less than 3 months, running on many surfaces, from the roads of Mumbai and Delhi for my 2 marathons, to the beach in Sri Lanka last week, and the pavements and parks of London:

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Great shoes, that don’t feel tired or worn out, despite their 752km.

Would I recommend them?
Definitely.

Would I buy them again?

Yes, indeed.

Will I get all sentimental about retiring them?

Oh most definitely.

FRACTURED WORLD FRACTURED LIVES by NEENA NEHRU

Not sure that a disclaimer as such is really needed, just because I’m privileged to count a talented woman like Neena Nehru as a friend, but anyway here goes – the exhibition I’m going to review now is that of a friend, who also happens to be both an accomplished artist and also a poet.

In her exhibition at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre, Neena has juxtaposed some of her poems alongside her striking paintings, telling stories of lives that are fractured and distorted by life, by man-made conflicts, by “tectonic plates of conflicting values.”  There is no way the visitor can ignore Ms Nehru’s message, because she presents it boldly and strikingly.  We are all leading lives fractured to a greater or lesser extent:

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The artist is fascinated by faces, and constantly re-interprets them:

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Some of her faces, like the one below, have an echo of Gaugin:

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There are some striking series of paintings, which stand alone as individual statements, but are that much stronger when viewed as a collective, such as this series entitled “Adam”:

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Ms Nehru can be brutally honest at times, as in this hard hitting poem, which must surely resonate with every single one of us who has switched off a programme or a news item that was too disturbing:

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The artist makes valid visual points about how women are viewed in society:

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Be sure to study and enjoy the brightly coloured installations in the centre of the gallery.  The one below is entitled “Game of Cards” and portrays the different cards in life dealt to a woman, and how she plays them :

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And then there is this intriguing moveable installation called “Revolving Roles”:

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The exhibition is on until this weekend, so why not go and mark International Women’s Day by viewing the work of an intelligent, thoughtful woman who has her own very striking take on life?

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PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES

I saw “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies” last week in London with my oldest girlfriend (hope you don’t mind this monniker, Liz?).  We met at university in our first term, we both of us read English, and are both Jane Austen nuts, so this movie seemed a natural – if slightly curious – fit.

P & P & Z is, without doubt, the most bonkers movie I have ever seen, and I LOVED it.

It definitely helps to be P & P literate, for much of the joy and bonkers-ness of the film comes from the juxtaposition of the great set pieces of the novel –  the ball at Netherfield Hall, for example – with, well, zombie attacks.  I haven’t read the book on which the film was based, “Pride & Prejudice & Zombies.”

The 19th century “look” of the film is perfect.

The beauteous Lily James as Elizabeth Bennet is perfect casting.

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The gorgeous Bella Heathcote is an equally perfect Jane Bennet.

They are both perfect, in their Regency dresses, and ringlets.  And concealed weapons :

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If you know your “Pride & Prejudice” you are in for some great casting.  Douglas Booth is an absolutely dreamy Mr. Bingley.

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Jack Huston is fabulous as Mr. Wickham, the man we all love to hate.

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But the most brilliant character of all is the most unlikely Mr. Collins, hitherto the most unctuous man on the planet.  Until Matt Smith weaves his magic and makes him utterly fabulous.  Still a sycophantic creep, agreed, but such fun.

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Don’t look for too much logic in the plot.  It’s 60% the book we all know and love.  But with zombies and the undead crashing into the story with amazing amounts of gore and equal amounts of humour.

I’ve read some mutterings about the feminism or otherwise of P & P & Z.

Suffice it to say the film is a hoot, starring girls in frocks, who can all shoot to kill.  I don’t think we need to take this film too seriously as a feminist dialectic or whatever.

It’s just good fun, people.

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(Yes, you’re right.  No mention of Mr. Darcy, the historically undisputed heart-throb of this book.  Sam Riley is OK, but nothing more.  He has the voice and the smouldering.  He even has the white shirt & the pond, in a delicious nod to his more famous predecessor.  And therein lies the problem for young Mr. Riley)

Recommended, but honestly, only if you know your Jane Austen.  Otherwise lots of in-jokes will be lost.

Paid my own way & no one in Ealing knew I blogged…sigh.

A Bigger Splash

What a strange film this is.

Fab cast –  Ralph Fiennes and the drop dead gorgeous Tilda Swinton.

Clothes to die for.  Well, Ms Swinton’s at any rate.  Her 1940s and 1950s Dior-designed look is too, too fabulous and she was a visual joy.  Those backless dresses are simply stunning.

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But as for the film overall…well, it always seems to be on the brink of delivering some huge drama, what with all that slightly faded retro look to the cinematography, and the dusty winds whipping across the scrubby landscape.  It kept feeling as though Something Significant Was Happening.  But I never quite knew what it was.

I didn’t, for example, get the point of the super elegant slightly older French lady and her younger trout-pout-y companion (daughter?).  I never quite fathomed what they were doing, nor what their point was in furthering the narrative.

I didn’t really like the buffoonish characterisation of the local carabinieri, and the autograph scene was beyond weird.  That was a moment which I thought Must Be Very Significant.  But on reflection, it might just have been rather silly.

I did like the look of the film, though it was all a tad too languorous and l-o-n-g-d-r-a-w-n out.

Yes, be honest, not sure I fully understood the plot, but neither did my two companions, which was reassuring.

But Ms Swinton was brilliant, hardly talking at all, because her ageing rockstar character has an injured throat, but yet communicating stunningly, without ever really speaking.

Ralph Fiennes was fun as an irritating motor mouth.

Can’t decide if I’m getting prudish in my old age, but there seemed to be loads and loads of superfluous full frontal nudity.  We got it, first time round –  hot, Mediterranean, old lovers, tension, passion.  No need for Mr. Fiennes to strip off every time he dived into the pool.

UNCLE VANYA at the Almeida Theatre, London

Let’s start with a disclaimer, shall we?

I’m not a “professional” critic, nor, sad to say, even a regular theatre-goer these days.  (Further disclaimer : I live in New Delhi, and so am many, many miles from anything remotely resembling London’s amazing theatre life.)

Even so, the level of bowled-over-ness and “oh-my-God-that was-amazing”-ness that was on display after seeing “Uncle Vanya” yesterday afternoon at the gorgeous little Almeida Theatre was impressive.  And that was from my 2 London girlfriends who go to the theatre constantly, and who are both terrifyingly knowledgable about the city’s theatre scene.

I was just rendered speechless and on an emotional high after a wonderful, visually exciting, moving performance.

The Almeida Theatre is an amazingly intimate space, which the staging of the play fully exploits.  From time to time the actors hop down from the stage set and talk directly to the audience.  I was sitting in the third row, and felt as though they were chatting personally, so goodness knows how the lucky audience members in the front row felt.

It seems invidious to single out any one member of this accomplished cast.  They were all excellent.  Truly.

But Paul Rhys as John is stunning.  He seems to deteriorate before our eyes during the course of the play, not just in language and expression, but also in shape.  He looks thinner and older by the end of the show.

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But every actor is truly superb.

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The set is an ingenious slowly revolving cube that means that your literal view of the scene unfolding in front of you is constantly changing.  The tempo is slow and languid and yet each time there was a brief 10 minute interval, we couldn’t believe how quickly the time had flown by.  I loved the language of the new translation, which felt fresh and contemporary without ever sounding gimmicky. It was also very, very funny at times.

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Truly fabulous.

Recommended.

We paid for our tickets and (I fear) no one at the Almeida knows that I blog…