Beauty and the Beast, New Delhi

Delhi, bizarrely, for such a major capital city does not have anything resembling a thriving theatre culture.

Hardly any big overseas professional shows of any genre come here as part of their world tours.  No ballet, no opera, hardly any orchestral concerts.  No travelling Shakespeare, no pantomime at Christmas, no Broadway productions, no West End shows.

All of which makes the Disney production of the musical Beauty and the Beast, showing this week at the Thyagaraj Stadium, even more special.

For Beauty and the Beast is totally and utterly 100% spectacular, in a totally and utterly 100% world class way.

This production is sensational.  No other word for it.

Everything is brilliantly done, fabulously executed – oh, the whole evening was a delight and a revelation.

A massive stage set, lighting that was breathtaking, seats that turned 360 degrees to allow the already restive audience to follow the show as it unfolded around them (more on the audience later), and a young energetic cast that danced and sang their hearts out.

I loved it.

I flouted rules and filmed bits of it (I know, I know, wrong of me, but they were always intended for this review, I promise).

So, here you go, enjoy these few illicit moments from a fabulous evening :

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The beast, Edwin Joseph, with a voice that is simply amazingly stunning.

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Right, now for a few thoughts.

Delhi audience #1.  You applaud, dammit, at the end of such a brilliant show.  You do not get up and start leaving before the finale.  And for those of you who managed to stay in your seats and watch said rousing finale, I repeat, you applaud.  As in you put your hands together and applaud.

There were whole rows of folk just watching.  No applause, nothing. What is wrong, people, with showing a bit of support?

Jeez.

Delhi audience #2.  You arrive on time.

Delhi audience #3. You do not wander in and out, and out and in during the show.  Constant to-ing and fro-ing disturbs everyone else.

Delhi audience #4.  You do not sit and check your email/Facebook/sms on your phone (even on silent mode) because that distracts others around you.

I don’t have the heart to criticise you, oh ill-mannered Delhi audience, for your chattering, restive children because

(a) they all learn by example and what example were you all giving last night and

(b) they were children, after all.

Anyway, that’s quite enough about an audience that could do with better manners.

I do have one last question, though : why, oh why were all those brilliant young members of the chorus not mentioned in the programme?  There was a massive cast, but only the principals were named, whereas all the stage crew were (deservedly) mentioned.  The members of the chorus sung and danced and cartwheeled their young hearts out and they deserve a mention in the programme.

I would’ve loved a cast list for the night, to know which Gaston, which Lumière, which Babette etc was performing – all those roles which had 2 actors would benefit by having a list for the particular show.

So, hope I’ve got the correct Gaston here for the 5pm show on 23rd December – Hitesh Malukani was super, with exactly the right amount of braggadocio for this great role.

Edwin Joseph as the beast, I have mentioned above –  a stunning fab voice.

Meher Mistry as Belle – lovely voice, great acting skills.

All in all, a fabulous show.

Bravos all round!

Follow up review of Adidas Climachill Cosmic Boost shoes

I received a fairly alarming message from the good folk at mapmyrun.com.  It started “On your last leg…” which at my age is a tad disconcerting.

Here it is:

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Almost as alarming as the one I received (& ignored) 2 weeks ago, mentioning a midlife crisis.

I know they are talking about my shoes, and not me, but at my age, these comments hit home 🙂

Anyway, there you are.

Hardly seems possible, but I have run 493km since July 14th in my lovely Adidas Climachill Cosmic Boost shoes.  They still seem (and indeed look) so new that they don’t feel (or look) on their last legs at all.  Unlike their owner.

Running every day in these shoes through the Delhi monsoons has been a breeze.  They really do not hold the water, and they dry off so quickly.

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On those days when the rain was more like mud, I have washed the shoes and they dry pretty quickly, too.

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So instead of lumbering along in sodden shoes and thick sodden socks, I have been able to run through rain without worrying about it.  And that factor has seriously helped my running.  I just run on, regardless, rather than trying to dodge the puddles and mud.

Take last Sunday, for example, at a promo 10km run by the good folks who run the Bengalaru marathon*** & who are (oh happiness) bringing a full marathon here to Delhi next year.

The heavens opened just before we set off –  while we were all warming up –  and it drizzled much of the time, and then absolutely poured down again (around the halfway point of the race).  At one point, it was raining cats and dogs, but I didn’t even think about my feet.  My glasses, yes.  But not my feet, and I didn’t feel that chilling dampness in my feet when I eventually splashed my way into the Jawarharlal Nehru Stadium & the finish line.

The shoes are still in great condition, with only one teensy lose thread (below) which I actually noticed right at the start, only a few days after I started wearing the shoes back in July.  It seemed churlish to bring this up in my first review of the shoes, because everything else was perfect, so I didn’t.  Even now, to be honest, the lose thread has stayed the same, not getting worse, so it’s no big deal.Adidas Climachill_2019Will I buy these again, when, sadly, I can no longer ignore the warnings from mapmyrun.com?

Definitely.

*** And yes, indeed. Adidas is also a sponsor of the Bengalaru Marathon.

Indian Summers

How is it possible to be so out of step  – and, perhaps to coin a phrase – so out of thinking step, with pukka critics, with the folks with a day job, who review TV for a living, who get paid to pass judgement?

We just finished watching “Indian Summers” last night, and when Episode 10 was over, the mood was, “Thank the good Lord THAT series is done and dusted”.  But, hey, what’s this?  Everyone else seems to have loved it.

Can it be me?  Am I the one at fault for not liking such a super expensive period production?

Perhaps my critical instincts are not honed enough.

Or, perhaps, more prosaically, me a Brit, married to an Indian and the mother of two gorgeous Anglo Indian children, and living as we do here in India, and my husband having grown up in Simla…perhaps our critical antennae are tuned a little differently.  I say “our” because, for the record, hubby was as underwhelmed as I was.

We were given the boxed set last month, while on holiday in England, and once back in scorching Delhi, we settled down to watch it with great anticipation, naively imagining something as fabulous as “The Jewel in the Crown”, perhaps, or “Heat and Dust”.  I mean, after all, in the aftermath of such a totally gorgeous, glorious, fabulous production such as “Downton Abbey”, here comes a period drama about India in the last days of the Raj…ooh, yes, what could be nicer.  Gorgeous frocks, gorgeous scenery, drama.  We imagined it all.

Not a bit of it.

Frocks first of all, because it’s the easiest thing to deal with.

Why does Ms. Walters wear that same rather peculiar dress, looking more 1960s than 1930s, over and over and over again?

Why does Leena wear the same dark green sari over and over and…

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Now onto that gorgeous scenery.  My sister (who kindly gave us the DVDs) mentioned that it was filmed in Malaysia.  Perhaps if you don’t know India, don’t know Simla, it might have worked, but since we do and we do, it didn’t.  The look, the architecture, the vegetation, the sounds, the tea plantation – none of it looked nor felt Indian.  Sorry, but it just didn’t.  It looked and sounded like tropical Malaysia

Now I am going to have to tread a little carefully in my next comments, in this age of uber PC-ism…but sorry, the Parsi family did not look remotely like a Parsi family.  Ditto those orphans, who looked nothing like Ango-Indians, not even remotely like mixed race children.  It would have been so much more dramatic, I think, to have had children who looked the part.  Especially the oddly feral little boy Adam.  If he had looked pale and half European, I feel he would have been a much more haunting and dramatic presence.  More unsettling.

And, yes, on a point of order : I may be wrong here, but I do not believe in a million years that the Viceroy would have done bad Indian accent, head waggling impersonations.

And as for the slow, oh-so-slow lingering camera angles…that just went on and on and on…my goodness me but they did drag things out.  The action sort of speeded up in the final 2 or 3 episodes, where suddenly all the wandering plot lines were yanked together, but then – blow me down with the proverbial feather –  just when you thought they had dispensed with the slow filming, we have Mr. Dalal running in slow-mo.  And we have long, lingering footage of Mr. Dalal and Alice dancing …it’s OK, we get it.  They love each other and are gazing lovingly at each other across a crowded dance floor.  We.  Get.  It.

So, yes, actually – very disappointed, both in the muddled storyline and the seriously mediocre acting (other than the fabulous Roshan Seth, who dazzles.  And who is the only one in that family who really looks and sounds like a Parsi).

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Who is the hero of the piece?  Ralph Wheelan and/or Mr. Dalal?

Are we actually supposed to like Ralph?  I do hope not, because my only thought was that by marrying a woman whom he thinks is rich but is actually skint, at least this scheming manipulative man would be getting some kind of comeuppence.  What a nasty, two-faced hypocritcal bit of work he is.

Cynthia is just downright unpleasant.  And can anyone tell me why she was at the hanging?  Her role as a glorified innkeeper permitted her that?  I hardly think Dalal pere et fils coming to her all-white club was comeuppance enough for her.

So little did I like her character that I actually thought she was going to go up in flames in the final episode when she drunkenly lights candles – and why the Hindu shrine in her drinking den?

 

Not a fan.  Not at all.

And what’s with the plural “summers” in the title?  Does that mean there is more to come?

 

FYI, here’s what Channel4 said about their own show:

  • Set against the sweeping grandeur of the Himalayas and tea plantations of Northern India, the drama tells the rich and explosive story of the decline of the British Empire and the birth of modern India, from both sides of the experience. But at the heart of the story lie the implications and ramifications of the tangled web of passions, rivalries and clashes that define the lives of those brought together in this summer which will change everything. It’s the summer of 1932. India dreams of Independence, but the British are clinging to power. In the foothills of the Himalayas stands Simla; a little England where every summer the British power-brokers of this nation are posted to govern during the summer months.

    – Written by Channel4

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Hands up everyone who fears that the sequel to a brilliant movie can only be a bit of a let-down?

You can all safely put your hands down.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is every bit as smashing as the first film.

Lovely, lovely film, which had us laughing out loud –  all of us in our Delhi cinema last week.  Trouble was, we all laughed a wee bit too early, thanks to the subtitles, which inevitably ruined the timing of some of the lines.  Why DT Star Cinemas (in Ambience Mall, Vasant Kunj) feels the need to subtitle the film baffles me.

If anyone can teach me how not to read a subtitle, please do.

Anyway, other than that –  which is nothing to do with the movie, I accept – Second Best was a lovely happy film.  Well, the end…no, don’t worry, I am not going to spoil anything for you.

The stellar cast is even more stellar than usual, with Dame Maggie Smith having some utterly fabulous lines.  I love the dynamics of the relationship between her character, and that of the irrepressible Sonny (Dev Patel).

Dame Judi Dench, the gorgeous Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, and of course, the super gorgeous Richard Gere, all turn in fabulous performances.

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Film Review The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

There is absolutely nothing not to love about this film, from the rickshaw chases through Jaipur, to the brilliant Bollywood dancing –  Dev Patel, take a bow. What a fab dancer.

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Hey, just watch the film and enjoy.

And – other than this review, obviously – ignore all those boring PC reviews that talk about the film being an idealised Westerner’s view of India blah blah, bore bore.  I was the only foreigner in a pretty full house watching the movie, and all my fellow movie-goers, every one of them Indian, laughed their heads off.  Lots of them were youngsters, too, so ignore reviews telling you this film is targeted at the over 60s.

I tell you, some critics (not me, obviously) are just downright curmudgeonly and feel they have to make a moral point about everything.

This is lovely, funny film, showing India in a fab light, and so let’s please not get all preach-y.

Just go and enjoy it.

Where to stay in Bagan, Myanmar? Thazin garden Hotel, that’s where

I chose the Thazin Garden Hotel in Bagan, Myanmar for one reason and one reason only.

They have their very own 13th century pagoda in the hotel garden (with a pink Buddha) and that, to me, is a pretty fine reason, trumping just about everything else you may require in a hotel.

Myanmar_Thazin Garden Hotel_3960My decision was the right one.

The hotel is delightful, with a view to die for, it is well located, sensationally quiet and peaceful, the staff could not have been sweeter, and once they get the F & B up to scratch, Thazin Garden Hotel will be unbeatable.

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And, by the way, there is not one but at least 4 pagodas scattered around the property and the main one has a pink Buddha, and how perfect is that?

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The mood was instantly set on arrival by the sparkly sign in reception wishing us a Merry Christmas. In February.

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Courteous check in staff, wreathed in smiles.

Lovely welcome – “Sweet welcome to fairy land of wonders”:

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But for the record let it be said that the hotel is most definitely not a gastronomic hotspot.

The buffet breakfast was OK, nothing more, nothing less, with charming if erratic service.

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We had one lunch and one dinner there, and neither was memorable in any way.  Nothing wrong with the food –  just ordinary.

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(Don’t miss the nooodles, which are 500 kyat cheaper than the conventionally spelled noodles.)

We had rooms overlooking the pagoda – and it was a view I never tired of.

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Our room was large and well appointed, and the bathroom was fine.  Loads of storage space. A kettle.  A hair-dryer.

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Myanmar_Thazin Garden Hotel_3923 Loved the room bell (below) a wooden bell outside which tinkled inside the room.

Myanmar_Thazin Garden Hotel_3933Nice balcony (below):

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Lovely pool, though still pretty cold in February.  Spotlessly clean, loads of pool towels.

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I booked through Agoda.com so you should check similar booking sites online for rates and prices.

Personally recommended for brilliant location, lovely staff and That View –  with the caveat that the food is only so-so.

We paid our own bills and I did not tell anyone in the hotel that I blog or review.

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The room, above, gives on to a garden, and is not even a 2 minute stroll from the main lawn and the pagoda.

I so wanted to buy some of these delightful statues outside the spa, but they were way too heavy.

Next time.

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Myanmar_Thazin Garden Hotel_3943And once again, that view…

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Putting Adidas Revenergy Boost running shoes through their paces

At the end of September 2014 I bought a pair of Adidas Revenergy Boost running shoes, and 3 months later I think a reasonable enough amount of time has elapsed to review them.

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I am a newbie runner, meaning I am not super knowledgeable about running shoes, but these Revenergy Boost shoes suit me down to a T.

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The soles are lovely and bouncy (I’m sure that’s not an acceptable technical term, but you know what I mean) and still are after 3 months of almost daily use.  I only wear them to run, so they are not being worn all day, in other words.

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Just one thing.  After exactly 2 weeks, the inside heel areas started to bobble (see below) & so I contacted Adidas to ask if this was normal.

Adidas shoes 16.10.14Had to chase them and chase them for a reply, which when it finally came told me rather peremptorily that this was not at all a reason to exchange or replace the shoes.

OK then.

Just seemed soon for wear & tear.

2 weeks = 14 days = 22 hours of use, give or take an hour.

Otherwise, absolutely no complaints.

I bought my shoes in Delhi, and they cost me Rs9599.  I paid for them and told neither the shop, nor Adidas when I complained, that I blog and write reviews.

Will I buy another pair when these are worn out?

Yes, I think so, despite a poor after-sales experience.

What is Siri Fort Sports Complex, New Delhi like?

I have just returned from my first ever visit to the Siri Fort Sports Complex in Delhi, and at first I thought, “How can I review it after only one session there? Hardly seems fair.”

And then I thought, “Hang on, I will happily write a review of a restaurant after only one meal, so same difference.”

I used the jogging track, running with one of my running group, as we try and get fit for the Mumbai half marathon.

I was seriously impressed at this clean, quiet, green oasis, right in the heart of the city.  Ample safe parking. Blissfully quiet. After running on city roads, what a treat to run on a good track. Very clean, even the loos.

Slightly bored indifferent staff, but that is par for the course in India with any government/municipal initiative, always coupled with the obvious dread of perhaps having to speak in English with an old foreigner…as it is, this old foreigner can speak Hindi, so that was OK.

Got myself my day pass with only minimum explanation required that yes I am a foreigner, but yes I live here, and that yes I am PIO and…all OK in the end.  They even knocked Rs2 off the price, since no-one had any change.  Sweet.

As I was cooling off after my run, I was challenged by a security guard for not having said day pass.  “Gave it in at the desk over there,” I huffed, bright red in the face.

He went and checked at the desk, and dismissively told me, “Thik hai.”

“Oh,” I asked him, “so you think I would tell you a lie?”

“No, of course not madam.”

“So why didn’t you believe me. Do I look like a liar?”

“No madam, of course not”,  and he saluted, so that was that.

 

Very impressed by what I saw.  It was pretty empty at 3 when we started running, but as the afternoon wore on, and I guess schools finished, lots of children were rolling up, mainly for tennis practice it would seem

I can envisage more runs here, and a post run coffee in the Barista outlet.

Am seriously, unequivocally delighted that my tax rupees have been so well spent.

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Well-tended lawns and flower beds, and gardeners hard at work this afternoon.

Brilliant running track.

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Intriguing sculpture (below).  Guess the message is to get off that couch and into your sports gear.  Could’ve been our logo for our “Couch – 6km” programme last year.

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A slightly puzzling sign (below).

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Only sad note – rubbish “hidden” behind a wall, right next to ticket booth, and a “Swachh Bharat” poster.  No litter otherwise in the complex, which was such a treat, so this was unnecessary.

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Pick it up, fellas, don’t chuck it underneath the hoardings, behind a wall.

BREAD & MORE, VASANT VIHAR, NEW DELHI

It is 6.30 pm on a bitterly cold New Year’s Eve when I go into the pretty bakery “Bread & More” in Vasant Vihar.

There isn’t much bread on the shelves, but before I can say a word, one of the staff members tells me fresh bread will be delivered in half an hour.

How late will they stay open, I ask.

Till 10pm I’m told with a smile.

And are you closed tomorrow, New Year’s Day?

No madam, we open at 9am.  9am-10pm every day.

Impressive.

Since this branch of the original GK bakery opened in our neighbourhood, we have had nothing but brilliant service, and even more brilliant bread.  The baguettes are as near perfect as you could wish for –  and that is always the litmus test of a good bakery.

Charming service, pretty décor, even a little outside pavement café a la française – le tout est parfait.

Highly recommended.

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We haven’t tried any of the cakes, for no reason other than we are not “cake people”, but everything looks delicious and I have heard great things.

 

And what I also like is the fact that in a city not known for prettying up things –  anything to save money and cut corners – “Bread & More” is pretty.  They have lovely lighting, for example.

Judge for yourself:
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India_New Delhi_3226How nice is that?

Check out their website for addresses.

For all pet owners in Delhi – VETLAB

With a menagerie of note in our house, trips to the vet are frequent, and – sometimes – as the critters get older, they need an xray or a blood test.

Over the years I have been several times to the excellent VETLAB.  I go to the Central Lab, which is in south Delhi, and haven’t visited their East Delhi Lab, but I have nothing but praise for the small but efficient set up near Dhaula Kuan.

Just 2 days ago I had to take my ageing cat (16 years and still toddling along) for a chest x-ray.  The staff couldn’t have been sweeter, helped me with her (you know…cats and lying still and flat on command…).  The x-ray was processed in 10 minutes (despite a power cut and the time taken to wheel the portable genset out into the street) and the report was quickly typed up for me, and all for the princely sum of Rs500.

Not uber luxurious, but clean, efficient, kind and rapid.

What more do you require?

Personally recommended.

Here are the contact details below.

 

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The Hundred Foot Journey

It’s not that any film with the  glorious Helen Mirren and the equally glorious Om Puri will automatically be brilliant…well, actually, now you come to mention it, yes, it will, and yes “The Hundred Foot Journey” is.

This is one of those genuinely feel-good movies, and to see it in Delhi (where I live) made it even more special.

The story line is simple.  Indian immigrants, fleeing mob violence in Mumbai, and the death of the family matriarch, end up in the South of France and decide to settle there and open an Indian restaurant.

They end up in the South of France more by accident than by design, since their old rattletrap of a car pretty much makes the decision for them, giving up the ghost just outside a perfectly bijou little hamlet in France.

They find a property and start to rebuild the restaurant they had in Mumbai, before it was burned to the ground.

The only problem is that their chosen venue is right across the road – about 100 feet away, in fact – from a one star Michelin restaurant, owned and run by Madame Mallory, played to perfection by Helen Mirren. I don’t know why I was surprised at the excellence of Ms Mirren’s French. Stupid of me, really.

Throw in yet more racism – tackled head on by Madame Mallory – and oodles of “snobbisme”, and a burgeoning romance or two, and the result is a gorgeous, happy, genuinely feel good film.
Seeing it in India, Om Puri’s muttered Hindi asides (many of them asking advice of his beloved late wife) needed no translation, and the audience clearly loved him and his approach to the patronising snobbery of Madame Mallory.

It was fun watching the crucial (& cross-cultural) masala omelette test. I guessing having lived away from Europe for so, so many years, and having come to expect/require a dash of masala on everything, the idea of experiencing a masala omelette for the very first time is cute –  we dilliwalas certainly enjoyed Madame’s reaction.

There is no great message, no particularly heavy insights to be gleaned from “The Hundred Foot Journey” – so just sit back and enjoy the film.
It is visually lovely, has a feel-good ending, so what more can one ask?

Ms Mirren and Mr. Puri are excellent.

And as for the gorgeous Manish Dayal…well…

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