Friday, September 29, 2006

How do you organize/organise your books?

Recently, Bibliobibuli asked, Do you organize your books by subject? Or by size?

That was a really easy question for me to answer because, for as long as I remember, I have been arranging my books by subject - I have several shelves devoted to World Lit., many more to Asian contemporary fiction and still others to biographies, reference books etc., but after reading the article that bibliobibuli pointed to in the Design Observer, I decided to colour coordinate my books (temporarily and just for fun). I have pictures of the end result - messy maybe, but hot or wot? ;)

How do you organize your books?

Shashi Tharoor

The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, steps down in just a few months and several candidates have emerged to take his place, among them the Indian representative to the UN, Shashi Tharoor.

The Security Council is conducting regular straw polls to try to narrow down the list of contenders and the South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon has emerged as a front-runner with Shashi Tharoor in second place. I don't normally pay much attention to politics, but Shashi Tharoor's nomination, should excite the writing community (and readers, too) because he is the author of several books, some of which are listed below:

In an interview with Spiegel, a German magazine, when Tharoor was asked how he is able to make time for his writing now that he is a full time diplomat, he had this to say:

"...I find it increasingly hard to juggle the two. First the evenings vanished, then the weekends. I began a novel three Christmases ago, but I haven't touched it since. It's not just time that you need, but also a space inside your head to create an alternative universe -- one populated with characters and issues and situations that are as real to you as the ones you encounter in real life. If I win, I will have to stop all personal writing for the duration of my tenure. If I lose, I will have all the time in the world to write."

Aww, I'd hate for him to stop writing!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Word on the Street, Toronto 2006

Attended the biggest outdoor book bash in Canada yesterday! What's that, you may be wondering - it's " The Word On The Street Book & Magazine Fair." which takes place annually just as the trees are starting to paint themselves in glorious shades of colour from the earth's palette in order to welcome the fall.

The highlight of the festival (for me) was being able to witness the first Transatlantic book-signing using "Long Pen", the machine devised by Margaret Atwood, which allows writers to sign books from virtually anywhere in the world! In this instance, she was in the Waterstones Bookstore, Edinburgh where she read from her new book "Moral Disorder" and then proceeded to sign books for fans. I like reading the grande dame of Canlit, but not enough to buy her book at $32 - I'll pick up a copy when I see it in soft cover. Other authors also using Long Pen at the festival were Kate Mosse of "The Labyrinth" fame and Thomas Cahill (although I am not sure of Thomas Cahill because I didn't stick around for his reading).

Please do check out Cereal Girl's blog - she's done some fantastic posts on the "Word On The Street" event with great video clips, mini-interviews and so on, she also has terrific posts on other things Canadian - it's well worth a visit, go now!

Read more about the Long Pen signing here and also check out Photo Junkie's
remarkable picture blog with Margaret Atwood at work with the Long Pen, here.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Almond by Nedjma

The Almond by Nedjma

Translated from the French by C. Jane Hunter
Grove Press, 2005

This book, according to its publishers, is about the sexual awakening of a young Arab woman. The woman in question is a 17-year girl from a traditional North African Berber village who after spending 5 years as wife #3 to a much older man in a terrible, loveless marriage, runs away to the big city of Tangiers to live with her fun-loving aunt Selma. In Tangiers she meets a man who sweeps her off her feet and engages her in a passionate and torrid love affair. It is at this point that the book disintegrates into the young woman's audacious celebration of her varied sexual adventures. Don't get me wrong, the prose on every passion-soaked page is beautiful, (and the passages on self-love are very interesting) but how much of it do we need to read in order to grasp that here was a woman rebelling against her repressive upbringing? To me, it was made abundantly clear after her first sexual encounter, I certainly didn't need to read about 15 other ones!

There have been many books on sexual awakenings, "The Sexual Life of Catherine M" by Catherine Miller is one that comes to mind, but "The Almond" has generated the most buzz because the sex life of a Muslim women is not often the subject of contemporary literature. "The Almond" went flying off the shelves in Europe, the readers hoping perhaps that Nedjma, the author, might might open a window into a closed world, however, it appears to me that the content, especially descriptions of some of the barbaric rituals inflicted on young, African Muslim girls were written for shock value with the explicit and almost pornographic sex scenes included only to titillate.

I don't mean to put you off the book, but do be warned that this book is quite graphic - like one Amazon reviewer puts it, "...this book is simply a catalogue of every kinky sexual activity one could think up" What redeems it is its sometimes exquisite prose, the cultural commentary on the women in rural Morocco and ummmm, the cover. Sorry, couldn't think of a third redeeming factor, but now that I've mentioned the cover, I think it was quite a clever idea to have the woman swathed in cloth with her head and feet covered - symbolising her repression perhaps? But then I notice that the belly has been left exposed, so are we being prompted to see her just as a body, a piece of meat and not as a person? Upon further reflection I think the cover was the most interesting part of the book.

For further reading - Moorish Girl
& fellow blogger, An Academic Life

Addendum: Who is Nedjma? Noone really knows. Nedjma is a pseudonym. The author has never revealed her real name, never been photographed and her family and close friends are not aware of the book she has written. The few details we have of her tell us she's in her early forties, is unmarried and childless and has a white collar job that allows her to travel often to Europe. She will never reveal her identity for fear of reprisals from Islamic fundamentalists.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Book launch: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Look who's back! For those of you who don't recognize her, this folks, is the author of one of my all time favorite reads, "Purple Hibiscus". Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is back with the epic "Half of a Yellow Sun" "Half of a Yellow Sun" is the extraordinary story of the Ibo people's fight to form the independent nation of Biafra. The war of secession began in 1967 after thousands of Ibo were massacred and driven out of northern Nigeria by the Hausa, another ethnic group. When the fighting ended nearly three years later, as many as 2 million people were dead, most of starvation and disease. This is a remarkable novel about moral responsibility, about the end of colonialism, about ethnic allegiances, about class and race—and the ways in which love can complicate them all.

The launch was co-sponsored by Random House and The Centre for Women and Trans People at U of T (part of the "20th Anniversary Writer Series"), admission was free and there was a table laden with some really wonderful food. I tried everything that looked foreign to me and that included some cassava, fried banana with beans and a lovely brown grain rice. I also enjoyed the beef patties which I think are Caribbean in origin.

Chimamanda was introduced by none other than Michael Ondaatje who told us that Chinua Achebe was absolutely right when he described her thus: "new writer, but ancient storyteller"

Chimamanda, as you can see, is a really pretty lady. She read from the first chapter of her book and the narrative grabbed me immediately, after that she took questions from the audience. I would say there were about 50 of us (maybe more) and as in most cases, the audience was mostly made up of women. I struck up some really nice conversations with the ladies on either side of me, both of whom had lived in Nigeria for a few years when they were younger and were very keen to read this remarkable novel.

In the question and answer session I found Chimamanda to be incredibly eloquent, engaging, interesting and friendly. She said she was inspired to write this novel because she believes that there is a lot of misinformation with regard to the Nigeria-Biafara war. People in Nigeria don't like to speak about it and it is not taught in school. Both her grandfathers lost their lives in the war and till today Chimamanda's mother has trouble speaking about the time her father was in a refugee camp. I get the feeling that by writing about it, the author has been able to confront her history and that of her people.

When asked if she has a schedule to write to, she said she writes when the words come and usually at night when everything is silent. She joked that when the words don't arrive, she climbs into bed and cries!

Someone wanted to know how she felt about her book being described as a successor to such twentieth-century classics as Chinua Achebe's "Things Fall Apart" and Chimamanda said laughingly that Chinua Achebe is probably the only Nigerian author known to people in North America and thus she is always compared with him, but she also quipped that her family lives in Achebe's childhood home and she's probably imbibed some of his vibes.

For more on the book, do listen to an interview the author gave BBC 4 HERE

For a Nigerian blogger's review on "Half of A Yellow Sun", please go HERE

I will post a longer review once I'm done reading the book and I will also try to post something about "Purple Hibiscus".

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Book Meme

The lovely Bhaswati of At Home, Writing has tagged me for a book meme, so here goes:

1. One book that changed your life?

"The Purpose of Your Life" by Carol Adrienne. Before I read this book I was creating my life by default, Adrienne's book, which makes use of the principles of metaphysics, was the first to open my eyes to the fact that we create our own realities through our thoughts, attitudes etc. and to the possibility of becoming a conscious creator. I am totally indebted to her.

2. One book you have read more than once?

Recently I read "Madame Bovary" for the third time. Not only do I adore Flaubert's writing, but there is something so sad and haunting about the main character that I keep revisiting the book hoping to find what exactly it was that made her throw away all that was good and wonderful in her life for a few moments of reckless pleasure.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

Oh, that's easy, it would have to be a volume of "The Essential Rumi". I would read his poems over and over until the words disappear and I am permeated with the essence of his sayings.

4. One book that made you cry?

Forget cry, "The Kite Runner" made me sob. Even now, when I think of some of the passages in the book, my heart feels heavy. A beautiful,beautiful book.

5. One book that made you laugh?

I hate admitting this but I so seldom read any funny literature, my melocholy nature won't allow me to! Oh, wait a minute, I remember laughing my head off whilst reading "Adrian Mole Diaries" by Sue Townsend! I think the series was more popular in Britain than in North America, but I could be wrong.

6. One book you wish had been written?

Wow, can't think of any - will have to return to this question.

7. One book you wish had never been written?

I really can't say.

8. One book you are currently reading?

I am about to embark on "Half of a Yellow Sun" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie of "Purple Hibiscus" fame. Her new novel deals with a seminal event in African history - the struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria in the 1960's. I am hoping to meet the author at a booksigning tomorrow...

9. One book you have been meaning to read?

"Beasts of No Nation by Uzodinma Iweala. This is the story of Agu, a child soldier fighting in the civil war of an unnamed African country. Comes highly recommended.

Now for five more bibliophiles: Bookfool, J of Thinking About, Lesley's Book Nook, Melissa and Gautami, consider yourselves tagged! :)
I'd love it if you all played, but I also want you to know I won't be offended if you can't!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Movie Review: The Namesake by Mira Nair

(Click on the poster to watch a trailer of "The Namesake")

Yesterday we had the privilege of attending the screening of Mira Nair's 'The Namesake" based on Pulitzer Prize winning author Jhumpa Lahiri's book of the same name. Mira Nair, dressed in a gorgeous red silk "churidhar kurta" and a smart lime green jacket, addressed the audience of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) before the show, stating that she had always wanted to turn "The Namesake" into a movie because it gave her the chance to unite the two cities she grew up in, Calcutta and New York, turning them into one. I guess what she meant is that this story of belonging to two places at one time, could have been her story, too, as it could have been the story of countless other immigrants (myself included).

For the uninitiated, Jhumpa Lahiri's novel is the story of a Bengali couple from Calcutta (Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli) and how they set out as a young married couple for Cambridge in Massachusetts where they bring up their small family ( a son, Gogol and daughter, Sonya) with Indian values and customs that seem to clash constantly with the values of their adopted country.

The movie was screened at the historic and elegant Elgin and Winter Garden theatres and I was hooked (as I am sure the rest of the audience was too) right from the time the introductions rolled on the screen. I love the rustic, earthy backgrounds that Ms. Nair used to run the names of the stars and how the names were written first in a very attractive Bengali font and then artistically scrambled to give us the English names.

Tabu and Irrfaan Khan were very ably cast as Ashima and Ashoke Ganguli. I have seen them paired in the movie, Maqbool and even then I thought the chemistry between them was more beautiful, natural, tender and pure than any other screen pairing. Tabu was just amazing as Ashima Ganguly. The scenes of when she arrives in cold, grey New York (the book was set in Boston, but I guess New York's close enough) as a young, foreign and lonely bride and how she goes about trying to make a life for herself and her sweet, caring husband had me totally captivated. Ashima Ganguli was heart-wrenchingly homesick but she had the commonsense to realize that this was her destiny and she had to lead her life, no matter how difficult it was, with grace, gravitas and dignity, and Tabu played her to perfection.

Coming to Gogol, Ashima and Ashoke's American-born son, who finds himself torn between obeying the old-world traditions and pursuing his own ambitions/desires, I am not sure Kal Penn of "Harold and Kumar" fame was the right choice for Gogol. Personally I thought him rather old-looking for the role. I guess it's just as well that Nair chose to make Tabu's character (Ashima Ganguli) the focal point of the movie and tell the story from her perspective rather than use Gogol like the book did.

There oh so many beautiful moments in the film, too many to describe here, but let me assure you you will be mesmerized, moved and captivated with the simple and delicate way Mira Nair has potrayed the story of the Gangulis for the screen. She has the ability to capture those tiny moments when suddenly everything is illuminated - a smile, a grimace, a gesture, a blush, a fleeting furrowed brow. Like someone I know said, she creates sheer poetry on the screen.

Sooni Taraporewalla has written a wonderful screenplay rich with humour and yet, able to make you cry (and cry the audience did, there was a rare dry eye towards the end of the movie) to ably back up Nair's direction. The music was composed by Nitin Sawhney.

Although this is a movie on immigration and displacement made by a director who is an immigrant herself, the movie has universal appeal because, as Mira Nair has said,
this story encompasses the tale of millions of us who left one home for another, who have known what it is to continue the old ways with the new world, who have left the shadow of our parents to find ourselves for the first time

Some other not-to-be-missed Mira Nair movies are:

Monsoon Wedding

Salaam Bombay!

Mississippi Masala

Vanity Fair

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

13 September , Roald Dahl Day!

(pic courtesy Leninimports)

Had Roald Dahl been alive today this would have been his 90th birthday. I was in Wales recently (Roald Dahl is a son of Wales) and they were getting ready to celebrate this day. Since I can't be there for the celebrations I thought I would dedicate a post to the great man. As a tribute to him perhaps we can each leave a comment stating why we love his work and our favorite Dahl book/movie. Or, if you prefer, write a silly rhyme and make the man proud! ;)

I love Dahl not just because he was silly and funny but also, when I read him as a kid he made me feel like kids are so much smarter than adults! My favorite read is probably his series of "Revolting Rhymes", a collection of Roald Dahl poems that re-interpret the fairy tales; they are just brilliant!

I offer you one of my favorites:


I guess you think you know this story.
You don't. The real one's much more gory.
The phoney one, the one you know,
Was cooked up years and years ago,
And made to sound all soft and sappy
just to keep the children happy.
Mind you, they got the first bit right,
The bit where, in the dead of night,
The Ugly Sisters, jewels and all,
Departed for the Palace Ball,
While darling little Cinderella
Was locked up in a slimy cellar,
Where rats who wanted things to eat,
Began to nibble at her feet.

She bellowed 'Help!' and 'Let me out!
The Magic Fairy heard her shout.
Appearing in a blaze of light,
She said: 'My dear, are you all right?'
'All right?' cried Cindy .'Can't you see
'I feel as rotten as can be!'
She beat her fist against the wall,
And shouted, 'Get me to the Ball!
'There is a Disco at the Palace!
'The rest have gone and 1 am jalous!
'I want a dress! I want a coach!
'And earrings and a diamond brooch!
'And silver slippers, two of those!
'And lovely nylon panty hose!
'Done up like that I'll guarantee
'The handsome Prince will fall for me!'
The Fairy said, 'Hang on a tick.'
She gave her wand a mighty flick
And quickly, in no time at all,
Cindy was at the Palace Ball!

It made the Ugly Sisters wince
To see her dancing with the Prince.
She held him very tight and pressed
herself against his manly chest.
The Prince himself was turned to pulp,
All he could do was gasp and gulp.
Then midnight struck. She shouted,'Heck!
Ive got to run to save my neck!'
The Prince cried, 'No! Alas! Alack!'
He grabbed her dress to hold her back.
As Cindy shouted, 'Let me go!'
The dress was ripped from head to toe.

She ran out in her underwear,
And lost one slipper on the stair.
The Prince was on it like a dart,
He pressed it to his pounding heart,
'The girl this slipper fits,' he cried,
'Tomorrow morn shall be my bride!
I'll visit every house in town
'Until I've tracked the maiden down!'
Then rather carelessly, I fear,
He placed it on a crate of beer.

At once, one of the Ugly Sisters,
(The one whose face was blotched with blisters)
Sneaked up and grabbed the dainty shoe,
And quickly flushed it down the loo.
Then in its place she calmly put
The slipper from her own left foot.
Ah ha, you see, the plot grows thicker,
And Cindy's luck starts looking sicker.

Next day, the Prince went charging down
To knock on all the doors in town.
In every house, the tension grew.
Who was the owner of the shoe?
The shoe was long and very wide.
(A normal foot got lost inside.)
Also it smelled a wee bit icky.
(The owner's feet were hot and sticky.)
Thousands of eager people came
To try it on, but all in vain.
Now came the Ugly Sisters' go.
One tried it on. The Prince screamed, 'No!'
But she screamed, 'Yes! It fits! Whoopee!
'So now you've got to marry me!'
The Prince went white from ear to ear.
He muttered, 'Let me out of here.'
'Oh no you don't! You made a vow!
'There's no way you can back out now!'
'Off with her head!'The Prince roared back.
They chopped it off with one big whack.
This pleased the Prince. He smiled and said,
'She's prettier without her head.'
Then up came Sister Number Two,
Who yelled, 'Now I will try the shoe!'
'Try this instead!' the Prince yelled back.
He swung his trusty sword and smack
Her head went crashing to the ground.
It bounced a bit and rolled around.
In the kitchen, peeling spuds,
Cinderella heard the thuds
Of bouncing heads upon the floor,
And poked her own head round the door.
'What's all the racket? 'Cindy cried.
'Mind your own bizz,' the Prince replied.
Poor Cindy's heart was torn to shreds.
My Prince! she thought. He chops off heads!
How could I marry anyone
Who does that sort of thing for fun?

The Prince cried, 'Who's this dirty slut?
'Off with her nut! Off with her nut!'
Just then, all in a blaze of light,
The Magic Fairy hove in sight,
Her Magic Wand went swoosh and swish!
'Cindy! 'she cried, 'come make a wish!
'Wish anything and have no doubt
'That I will make it come about!'
Cindy answered, 'Oh kind Fairy,
'This time I shall be more wary.
'No more Princes, no more money.
'I have had my taste of honey.
I'm wishing for a decent man.
'They're hard to find. D'you think you can?'
Within a minute, Cinderella
Was married to a lovely feller,
A simple jam maker by trade,
Who sold good home-made marmalade.
Their house was filled with smiles and laughter
And they were happy ever after.

-- Roald Dahl

Cinderella, Read by Alan

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Book Review: Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors

# Format: Paperback, pp. 368

# Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)

#Genre: Historical Fiction/Royalty

History has given us some extraordinary love stories: there's Anthony and Cleopatra, Victoria (Queen of England) and Albert, Abigail and John Adams and a favorite of the literary world, Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. While all these stories are endearing and I will read them over and over again, my favorite is that of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. As a child, when we spoke of the Taj Mahal, our voices would drip with awe, not just because of the alluring splendor of the marble mausoleum but because the thought of a grieving king building this beautiful monument to his dead wife who was not royal (he met her in the marketplace where she was selling trinkets to passerbys) was at once so romantic and tragic.

So imagine my pleasure and delight when I came across a book that delves into the history of the Taj Mahal and the love story that sparked its creation. The book I refer to is "Beneath the Marble Sky" and its author John Shors was inspired to write it after a visit to the Taj Mahal in 1999.

The story is told by Jahanara, the Emperor's favorite daughter, (perhaps because she resembled Mumtaz Mahal the most). Jahanara's is a sweeping tale that takes us from the time she was a little child in the imperial harem located in the Red Fort, to the death of her mother (Mumtaz Mahal) at child birth, to the building of the Taj Mahal and her (Jahanara's) romance with the architect Isa, to the turbulent last days of Shah Jahan when he was usurped from his throne by his cruel, second-born son Aurangzeb and made to languish in a room where he could only see, never step into, his beloved Taj Mahal.

The author is a wonderfully descriptive writer and although he uses language and descriptions meant to evoke 17th century Mughal India, the lust and lavish period detail never overwhelms. He fills the pages with descriptions of opulent palaces, decadent harems, court intrigue, public beheadings and so on, but always at the heart of his novel is the simple, passionate human story of Shah Jahan, Jahanara and the people they loved.

In case you're wondering, there is no need to know anything about Indian history before you read this novel, but I will admit that it was a wonderful experience to see figures from my school history books, like the fiercely Muslim Aurangzeb, the chivalrous Shivaji and the Sultan of Bijapur come alive under Shors' lively pen. If our history books in school had been just half as engaging I would have scored much better grades!

In closing, I will have to say the author did a great job narrating the story through a 17th century Mughal princess. As one reads the story one really does feel for the Emperor( who lost his beloved wife and is betrayed by his own son) and his brave daughter Jahanara. It was a very engrossing read and as I neared the end I realized it was going to be hard for me to say goodbye to the characters - and isn't that a surefire way of knowing you have just read a very good book?

Sunday, September 10, 2006

TIFF event: The Making of a Bollywood Blockbuster

Some friends and I were at the "Making of a Bollywood Blockbuster" (a TIFF event) last night. For those who wish to read about it, do check out my "other" blog Anthropologist Wannabe. Be warned, however, it's rather long-winded, so check it out only if you're a diehard Bollywood fan!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Toronto International Film Festival 2006 (Sep 7-16)

Why is September my favorite month? Well, apart from the fact that school has begun (which mean more free time for yours truly), its end of harvest time on the Niagra thus making way for the Niagara Wine Festival and Fall (my favorite season) is on the way, it is also time for the Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF,one of my most favorite cultural events of the year!

According to Reuters, this 31 st year of the TIFF also threatens to be its most controversial yet, with several films examining the state of President George W. Bush's America."... Already the festival has had to issue a statement defending its decision to screen the contentious "Death of a President," a mock documentary that depicts the fictional assassination of Bush" But, hey, that's not the reason I'm going!

The festival which for some years now has earned the reputation of being a launching pad for the Oscars offers true star wattage and this year we're expecting to see Sean Penn, Brad Pitt, , Penelope Cruz, Russell Crowe, not to mention the Bollywood big guns, Shahrukh Khan, Karan Johar and Amitabh Bachchan.

Ok, and now for the movies. It's hard to whittle down 352 movies to a mere 10 or so, but according to Toronto-Life, the must-sees are:

The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach, Masters) Pic Courtesy: Wikipedia

The renowned socialist director takes another kick at the civil war can (see his 1995 masterpiece Land and Freedom) in this Palme d’Or–winning work. Cillian Murphy plays a young doctor in 1920s Ireland who joins in the IRA’s fight for independence. Drawing parallels between the yoke of British rule and the current U.S. occupation of Iraq, Loach has made a film that is sure to inflame. (S.V.) .

(John Baker has a an interesting post about the movie on his blog, check it out)

The Last King of Scotland (Kevin Macdonald, Special Presentation)

Based on Giles Foden’s 1999 Whitbread-winning novel, this film explores the relationship between Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and the reserved Scottish doctor who was his personal physician. With the Oscar-winning documentary director (1999’s One Day in September) at the helm, and Forrest Whitaker playing Amin, it’s an intriguing portrait of one of history’s most peculiar brutes.

The Journals of Knud Rasmussen (Zacharius Kunuk and Norman Cohn, Gala)

Kunuk and Cohn’s follow up to the groundbreaking Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001), this film chronicles Danish explorer Knud Rasmussen’s 1922 arrival in the Arctic, where he encounters an Inuit shaman whose daughter’s conversion to Christianity threatens their entire way of life. Epic, enigmatic and elegiac.

Away From Her (Sarah Polley, Gala)

After spending 40 wonderful years together, Fiona (the inimitable Julie Christie) and Grant (Gordon Pinsent) are forced to part—heartbreakingly—when the former’s memory begins to falter and she enters a nursing home. Based on an Alice Munro short story, this much-anticipated flick marks the feature directorial debut of hometown celluloid sweetheart Sarah Polley.

The Host (Joon-Ho Bong, Midnight Madness)

On pace to break every box-office record in South Korea, Bong’s critically acclaimed new picture tells the tale of a mutant monster that springs from the Han River and wreaks havoc on Seoul. Transcending and redefining the parameters of the horror genre, it’s peppered with sardonic humour and political commentary.

And Lotus's "Must-See's"

The Namesake Mira Nair (USA) (pic courtesy: Mirabai Films)

Based on Jhumpa Lahiri's bestselling book 'The Namesake". Mira Nair's adaptation of Lahiri's novel powerfully captures the clasp of family bonds among Indians in America, resulting in an intensely moving film. I will be going to this one!

Yokohama Mary Takayuki Nakamura (Japan)

From the Globe and Mail : the true story of a postwar prostitute infamous for catering to American GIs in Japan. By the 1990s, she was a street person in Yokohama performing her eccentric Kabuki-inspired dances. A few years later, Yokohama Mary disappeared. This documentary is a search for her that uncovers a lot on the way

Bunny Chow John Barker (South Africa)

Also from the Globe and Mail: A "bunny chow" is a big, sloppy sandwich you get at the end of a night when you've drunk too much and you just want to soak up the booze. It's a bun filled with curry and all kinds of stuff. It's a metaphor for South Africa today, according to the filmmaker. It's the story of three standup comics on the road to a big rock fair where they try to become stars. But it's gorgeous, black-and-white, widescreen cinematography, really funny, really sexy, not at all political. It's the new South Africa

The Making of a Bollywood Blockbuster:
This is a discussion of the movie "Kabhi Alvida Na Kehana" that I previously reviewed. The star director Karan Johar along with Shahrukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan will be led in conversation by Suketu Mehta whose novel "Maximum City" was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Since this movie with its theme of infedelity has caused much consternation among the Bollywood-going public, I'm sure TIFF thought this panel closely involved with the movie might be the perfect draw for a stimulating conversation. I will be definitely going to this one - I have my tickets!!!

A Grave-Keeper's Tale Chitra Palekar (India)

Maati Maay or Grave-Keeper's Tale revolves around Chandi, a beautiful young woman from a lower caste, whose family has traditionally been in charge of a children’s graveyard. When her father dies, there being no other male in the family, Chandi inherits the job and performs it with great pride as her sacred duty. But after she gives birth to her son Bhagirath, things begin to change. Being a nursing mother, Chandi now feels deeply affected when burying the dead children. The movie is based on story by Mahashweta Devi, a Bengali author.

Little Children Todd Field (USA)

This film is adapted from the Tom Perrotta novel of the same name and starring Kate Winslet and Jennifer Connelly and Patrick Wilson. You can read my review of the book here

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Five Foods you simply MUST try!

The lovely Susan of the delectable Porcini Chronicles blog has tagged me for a "5 foods you just have to try" meme. I would have charged full steam ahead with formulating the post had I not been derailed by a flu (sort of) bug. I'm better today so here I am with the 5 foods I think you absolutely must try!

Let's start with a drink, shall we? Sugarcane juice is my absolute favorite drink. It's not just the drink and how it tastes but the whole process of making it that is so special to me( I would never drink it out of a can). In India sugar cane juice is mostly sold from a vendor's stand, positioned on a main road or dusty street. The vendor picks the cut sugar cane from a bundle at the side of his stall and runs them through a juicing contraption (pictured aboove) causing rivulets of lemony-green nectar to flow into his stainless steel bowl which he in turn pours into a cup with a dash of lemon juice and ice. One sip is all it takes for a sugar high of the nicest kind and one glass is all you need to get fully re-energised, (eat your heart out "Red Bull" drinkers!) Umm, some people (obviously not fans) call sugarcane juice "bacteria in a glass". You do have to watch where you buy your juice from - make sure there are no flies hovering about and try to avoid the ice as you don't know what water is used to make it.

Next, let's have some Rava Idlis. Rava idli is a breakfast food or "tiffin" as we would call it in India. Rava is a type of semolina and it is soaked in sour curd with a type of lentil (udad dal) before it is ground into the "idli" batter. The batter is then put into special moulds and steamed. The end product is a nice, fluffy rice cake which you eat with a "sambhar" or lentil soup. These days, you can buy a rava idli mix in a packet. I can't vouch for how good they are, but there can be no harm in trying it can there?

For a dessert, there are days here in Canada when I would give my right arm for "Mishti doi" or sweet curd which is a Bengali preparation. I have never made "mishti doi" myself but I believe if you have cream milk, sugar (caramelised), a few teaspoonfuls of yoghurt and an earthernware pot (well, now you know why I don't make it at home!) , mishti doi can be very easily made, right Bhaswati? :) DELICIOUS, I tell you!

For a snack my choice would be Sweet Tamarind (and no, I'm not talking about the Chicago restaurant here). Tamarind is a fruit which I am sure you are all aware of because its sour pulp is used in a lot of Indian and Thai curries. While I love the pulp, I love the plain ripe fruit even more. I love to peel it and put it on my tongue , I just love the dance my tastebuds do as they are squirted with the sweet-tart flavor, yum!

And finally, after all that food let's settle down with a digestive. "Paan" is a very popular after-meal snack for most Indians. Paan shops can be found outside almost every restaurant in India. The paanwallah picks out a fresh, glossy betel leaf, upon which he slathers a white, chalky paste (lime) followed by a squirting of rose syrup, fruit preserves, aniseed (both the candied and the plain kind), cardamom seeds, clove, sweet dessicated coconut and slivers of betel nut. He then folds it into a compact, flat cone holding it together by a single clove stick. You're supposed to put the entire paan in your mouth and chew it slowly. Not only does your breath smell like perfume for hours after that, but the betel leaf and betel nut both being mildly narcotic, put you in a relaxed state of mind ! ;) In Canada, I eat paan at the Sarvana Bhavan, a restaurant that specializes in South Indian food.

Now the best part is, I get to tag three victims for the meme :)
Here goes:

Melissa from Hello, Melissa
Guinness Girl from My Mental Buffet
Booklogged from A Reader's Journal