Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Authentic Kerala Fare

What's it called: Kalpaka

Cuisine: Kerala


This newly refurbished restaurant is minimalistic and neat with prompt service.

Menu basics:

Authentic Kerala fare, right from appams down to the traditional fish curry and the simply delicious Syrian beef fry. A south Indian restaurant is incomplete without the omnipresent thali. And, Kalpaka is no exception. And maybe that what brings the throng of food lovers back to its humble tables. The thali had the usual accompaniments but what sealed the deal were the two yummy chutneys – the usual green chutney with a tinge of coconut after taste and another sweet and sour concoction with ginger, which according to me, was quite innovative. And yes, the fried fish was a no frills affair – simple and tasty.

By now, it would be apparent that Kalpaka is a non vegetarian’s unabashed delight. But vegetarians have their share too. I spotted words like aloo, gobi and paneer on the menu but didn’t give it more than a cursory glance. And let’s face it – Kalpaka is not a place you venture if you are a vegetarian (unless you want to binge on their awesome thali). But, the best part of the meal is the dessert section dominated by the classic dal payasam which is simply out of this world. Period.

Signature dishes:

The Syrian beef fry is a must try while the fish curry would bowl you over with its subtle yet predominant coconut flavour. And yes, the Dal Payasam is guaranteed to take you on a gastronomic high.

The highs:

Food that’s simply delicious and friendly service.

The lows: 

I’d heard a few concerns about hygiene (apparently, their older restaurant was a shabby dump) but the place seemed just fine to me. But, I’d still suggest that you don’t venture out to the first floor.

Give it a shot: Definitely!

Meal for two: Rs. 400/-

Timings: 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM, 6:30 PM to 11:00 PM

Location: 144, TTK Road (Next To Music Academy), TTK Road, Alwarpet, Chennai -

Telephone: 044 28112348

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Movie: Alice in Wonderland (2010)

Title: Alice in Wonderland

Director: Tim Burton

Cast: Johnny Depp, Mia Wasikowska, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover and Matt Lucas

The plot, in short:

Tim Burton’s highly stylized take on Alice’s tryst with Wonderland veers away from the Lewis Caroll’s masterpiece by a wide margin. Unlike the original, Alice (Mia Wasikowska) isn’t a little girl, traipsing wide eyed in Wonderland (or Underland as in this case) just in time for the famous tea party with rabbits in fancy waist coats. Here, Alice is an eighteen year old woman, nearly engaged and bored enough to escape into the Underland which she’d always dreamt about as a child. But, all is not well in her idyllic pasture as the tea party has a dilapidated appearance with the beautiful tea cups, chipped and the ambience in total shambles. Alice meets the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) and a bevy of interesting characters like Dormouse (a feisty little mouse), Tweedles (Tweedledee / Tweedledum both played brilliantly by Matt Lucas), Abosolem (the caterpillar), a Cheshire Cat and March Hare. Alice discovers that Underland is controlled by the terrifying Red Queen (Helena Bonham Carter) and she has to find the vorpal sword to kill the jabberwocky on Frabjous Day. With time running out, Alice has to defeat the evil queen and restore Underland to its former owner, the White Queen (Anne Hathaway).

Why I like it:

Slick and stylish, Burton’s Alice in Wonderland blows your mind away with its creative brilliance. Incredibly colourful, the scenes are vivid and Burton’s Underland is a beautifully mystic World with landscapes etched carefully to symbolize the mood of the moment. Burton’s fascination with the vintage Victorian era clearly continues in Alice in Wonderland, be it the costumes, creatures or ambiance. Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter steals the show with his intense portrayal of myriad emotions – from unpredictable rage to unbridled happiness. Mia Wasikowska matches Depp with an incredibly innocent performance as she turns from the gentle lady to a champion warrior. However, it’s Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen who plays the cruelly evil queen to perfection, displaying her quirky side with matchless √©lan. The supporting cast sufficiently backs the lead protagonists and the special effects bring Underland alive with a visual eloquence that casts a spell on your senses. Though predictable (inevitable, really) at patches, the screenplay by Linda Woolverton moves at an even pace backed by the awesome background score by Danny Elfman. Tim Burton recreates Alice in flamboyant tones, creating visually stunning pictures, adding flashes of his creativity to an ancient fable with enough chutzpah and cheek (albeit with a dash of abstract) to leave a lasting impression.


If you are a die hard fan of Lewis Caroll’s version of Alice in Wonderland, then Tim Burton’s highly stylized edition would leave you disappointed.

Watch it for:

Brilliant characterization, mind blowing special effects, an engrossing story, cheeky dialogues, stunning visuals and opulent landscapes take you to a whole new World where things are impossible only if you believe them to be.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Book Club: A Tiger at Twilight and Cyclones

Title: A Tiger at Twilight and Cyclones

Author: Manoj Das

Publishers: Penguin Books India

Pages: 354

The plot, in short:

A Tiger at Twilight begins with the erstwhile Raja of Samargarh’s return to his abandoned palace in Nijanpur after years of self exile. Along with his sick daughter and half-sister, he embarks on a mission to kill a man-eating tiger menacing the town. In this quest, he’s ably assisted by a few of the noted villagers including Dev, the owner and manager of a resort. But as the hunt intensifies, things take a mystical turn as bizarre occurrences force the parties to acknowledge the power of supernatural.

When Kusumpur, a small coastal village is destroyed by the cyclone, life comes to a standstill for the villagers, despite the struggle for independence raging fiercely around them. The son of a zamindar, Sandip helps restore the village. But, as the colonial government plans to fill up the beautiful river running through the otherwise drab village, Sandip and the villagers are strongly against this massive destruction. In the process, Sandip is accused of murdering the contractor of the project which forces him to flee the village and embarks on a journey which takes him to the heart of the turmoil where hatred is widespread and communal violence was rife. Powerful yet poignant, Cyclones are all about the symbolic storms which shook the nation in one of the bloodiest part of history.

Why I love it:

Manoj Das captures the somber ambience of the rustic villages to matchless perfection. Tinged with mysticism, his tales take us to the heart of the country amidst age old folklores and curses handed down across generations. The stories are poignant with a sense of urgency, a sliver of fear and the necessity of walking down stormy lanes. The triumphs are as important as the losses which are an integral part of the circle of life.

In A Tiger in Twilight, Das narrates a tale of suspense as the party tracks the elusive man eater while the school teacher, a member of the expedition, falls irrevocably in love with Heera, the mysterious half sister of the Raja leading to an explosive end with shadows of death tinting life with its pallid brush. Cyclones is a powerful depiction of the turmoil during the Indian independence leaving a trail of destruction. Sandip’s sense of feeling lost after falling in and out of love, watching his town destroyed and the country going up in flames leaves a melancholic effect.

Glitches: ---

Read it for:

The intense narration, powerful portrayal of the rural life, beautiful descriptions of ancient India, the thin lines of family ties and revelations which leave you pensive, all told in a simple yet engaging manner.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Book Club: The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova

Title: The Swan Thieves

Author: Elizabeth Kostova

Publishers: Little, Brown

Pages: 564

The plot, in short:

Renowned painter and contemporary artist Robert Oliver is arrested and enrolled in at Goldengrove, a psychiatric facility after he was caught in the act of attacking a painting called Leda in the National Gallery. Psychiatrist and closet painter Dr. Andrew Marlow who is in charge of Oliver is faced with the task of making the obstinately silent artist speak out the motives behind the attack. But, all he has is a stack of letters in French dating back to 1879 and the permission from the artist to speak to those close to him – his divorced wife and ex-lover. The journey not just takes Marlow into the lives of the women closest to the artist but also to the heart of the French Impressionist era leading to a startling discovery seeped in the history of art.

Why I love it:

After a smashing debut novel, The Historian, author Elizabeth Kostova weaves yet another interesting yarn. The Swan Thieves goes back and forth in time, from modern America to the countryside of ancient France in 1879 where impressionist art was at its pinnacle. Kostova’s vivid description takes you to the breathtakingly beautiful coastal town of Etretat, alleys of Paris and right down to the National Gallery, even the impeccably neat house of Oliver’s ex-wife. The intricate detailing captures the ambience, like the smell of linseed oil or the myriad facets of art which gives a glimpse into the world of creative expression. Moreover, Kostova’s characters are well etched and the story moves at an even pace leading to startling revelations and a slice of history’s hidden moments.


Despite a narration which keeps the reader engrossed, there is a certain feeing that the book is a tad too long. The characters, in spite of being distinctly different individuals, are connected by a single thread – they are all artists. At points, each character overshadows the other, blurring the intensity. Robert Oliver’s silence and the absence of a direct story from this artist’s point of view make him look like an idiosyncratic genius with a resemblance to a Greek God!

Read it for:

An interesting saga with quirky characters, an in-depth picture of the French Impressionist era with its history of excellence in art tinged with shades of suspence, the mystery called Beatrice de Clerval, a tale of treason and a passion for love (forbidden or otherwise), life and art cutting across centuries and cultures.