May 31st, 2014 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Film, Film Notes, Hollywood Films

Maleficient - photo courtesy Walt Disney StudioMaleficient” is is an old story with a new twist that worked for me. When I went in to see the film I was unsure what to expect. But, at the end of 90 odd minutes I must confess I quite enjoyed watching the film.

Reimagine hearing the story of  ”Sleeping Beauty,” from the perspective of “Maleficient,” the wicked witch, who cursed Sleeping Beauty.  That is what the film is about and it takes you to a whole different world of fairies and elves and magical powers.

Maleficent is a fictional Disney character  first introduced in Disney’s 1959 version of “Sleeping Beauty.” This year marks the 55th anniversary of the film. I must confess I have not seen the original film.

We meet a young and happy-go-lucky Maleficient (Angelina Jolie), who lives in the moors with other fairies and elves. We watch her friendship with a young and awkward young Stefan (Sharlto Copley) grow. Things take a horrible turn when Stefan unexpectedly turns against his fairy friend.

To fulfill his burning ambition Stefan betrays  his love, and ends up being crowned as the king. Maleficent is devastated and is deeply hurt. And out of that hurt is born a sense of revenge. When Stefan’s child Aurora (Elle Fanning) is born Maleficient casts that famous curse.

Stefan packs off his new born child in the care of 3 fairies to a far-off cottage. How Aurora grows up and what happens to Maleficient makes up the rest of the tale that comes with an unexpected twist. You see she thinks Maleficient is her godmother.

I only wish they had shown the 3 impish pixies: Knotgrass (Imelda Staunton), Flittle (Lesley Manville) and Thislewit (Juno Temple) a little bit more. These impish fairies provided the comic relief with their pixie charms and antics with a little bit of help from the wicked witch Maleficient.

Maleficient” is Robert Stromberg’s directorial debut. He previously won 2 Academy Awards for production design for “Avatar” and “Alice In Wonderland.” This might explain why the production design of “Maleficient” is striking. It is something that you do notice, especially the fairy world that is a mix of bright and happy colors with darker elements.

Linda Woolverton wrote the screenplay for this film. She previously wrote “The Lion King’ and “Beauty and Beast” for Disney.

Jolie looks the part of the wicket witch with her striking makeup, horns and black flowing gown. You needed no convincing. She plays the role with great ease and infuses her character with unexpected sympathy that went down well the audience from what I could see. She clearly seems to have enjoyed playing the role of the wicked witch.

Fanning is a perfect foil to Jolie’s dark and somewhat brooding character, who is intent in extracting her revenge.  She sparkles in her role as the young teenage Snow White.

For someone like me, who grew in the pre-Internet world and read  conventional fairytale books this film was an interesting departure. In conventional fairytales the world is presented in black and white terms – the good are really good, while the bad are truly wicked. Now imagine a fairytale character that is an amalgamation of good and bad and you will see where the reimagining of the character started. And oh! if you are wondering about the title “Maleficient” it seems to be a combination of malevolence and magnificent and that should give you a hint of what you can expect to see. And since this is a Disney film good almost always triumphs evil, does it not?

Maleficient” releases in San Francisco bay area today.

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley and Juno Temple.

Director: Robert Stromberg

Time: 97 minutes

Photo courtesy: Walt Disney Studio.

 

 

 

May 17th, 2014 | No Comments
Category: New Delhi

“India has won.” That was the tweet Narendra Modi sent out to his 4.09 million followers on May 16, 2014. In a stunning victory India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Narendra Modi was voted into power by the Indian electorate. He will form his new government in the next few days. A regional leader from the western state of Gujarat, Modi’s stump speech during the elections was specifically about economic growth and progress.That message clearly resonated with  most Indian voters in a powerful way. Now, Modi and new government will have to deliver on their promise to the electorate.

India’s general elections, the largest in the world, were held over a 5 week week period. Nearly 67 % of eligible voters cast their votes in this elections, and for millions this was the first time voting. Counting of votes began on May 16th, 2014 and within a couple of hours it became clear, which party was going to win. The winner was BJP and in his home state of Gujarat Modi’s party won all 26 seats. The ruling Congress Party was handed a stunning defeat by voters.

According to The Election Commission of India out of 543 seats, BJP won 282, Congress (the incumbent party) got 44, Tamil Nadu’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam bagged 37 seats  and West Bengal’ All India Trinamool Congress got 34 votes.

US-India Relations:

After years of neglect and missed opportunities it looked like the US-India relationship had turned a corner in the 1990s. The US-India relationship saw a robust growth under President Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the outgoing leader of India.

President Obama famously invited Prime Minister Singh as his guest for his first state dinner nearly 6 years ago. US-India relations were meant to be “the defining relationship” of the 21st century. And that is how President Obama described the relationship during his visit to India in 2010. That defining relationship hit a fairly rough patch in the following months. First there was tension over economic and commercial issues and then the relationship reached a crisis point with the Devyani Khobragade affair

A fresh new wrinkle appeared on this fraying US-India relations when just before the general elections US Ambassador to India Nancy Powell put in her papers. Who will be appointed as the next US Ambassador to India is the question on many people’s mind.

Productive and joyless is how Ashely Tellis of Carnegie Endowment describes the current state of affairs between US and India. In an article published 3 days before the Indian elections Tellis describes the relationship as one of high stake and high gains. Tellis’ prescription to the US administration is if Modi is elected to power then “Obama administration ought to reach out publicly and generously to Modi as soon as it becomes clear that the Indian nation has chosen him as its next prime minister. A congratulatory call from Obama to Modi followed by a visit to India by a U.S. cabinet member or higher-ranking official would go a long way.”

And if you look at what has happened in the last 24 hours it looks like President Obama’s administration is reaching out to the newly elected Indian leader. President Obama called and spoke to the Prime Minister elect Modi on the phone and invited him to visit the US. According to a White House Press release  ”The President noted he looks forward to working closely with Mr. Modi to fulfill the extraordinary promise of the U.S.-India strategic partnership, and they agreed to continue expanding and deepening the wide-ranging cooperation between our two democracies.” 

And Secretary of State Kerry tweeted “Congrats to @narendramodi and BJP. Look forward to working w/you/growing shared prosperity/security w/world’s largest democracy.”

White House National Security Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice sent out a 2-part tweet saying “President Obama just called Gujarat CM #Modi to congratulate BJP on its success in India’s historic election (1/2)”

“@SusanRice US looks forward to working with #India to continue to build a strong partnership between our democracies (2/2)”

Ben Rhoades Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications & Speechwriting tweeted “@rhodes44 After the largest democratic election in history, US congratulates the BJP for its victory and looks forward to working closely with new gov.”

Modi was denied a US visa in 2005 because of the 2002 Gujarat riots. The Supreme Court of India gave Modi a clean chit on the riots that took place when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. It looks like that visa issue is in  the rear view mirror since President Obama has extended an invitation to Modi to visit USA.

It will be interesting to see how the US-India relations shape up under Modi’s new government and who will be appointed as American Ambassador to New Delhi.

May 14th, 2014 | No Comments
Category: Business, Entrepreneur Interviews, Ideas, silicon valley, Start-ups

 

Meet Silicon Valley startup LUMOback Tech’s Charles Wong. Trained as a medical doctor, Charles decided to take that fork in the road and go the tech route. He got his MBA from Stanford, and went on to co-found LUMOBack Tech. They raised money both through the traditional Venture Capital round and via Kickstarter, the crowd funded route.

The startup is in the new space of Wearbale Technology that is expected to see a strong growth in the coming years and 2014 is labelled by some as the year of “Wearable Technology.” The startup has 2 wearable devices in the market- LUMOBack and Lumo, both of which help you correct your posture. LUMOback not only helps improve your posture, but also alleviates your back problems.

In this interview Charles talks about how they came up with the idea for a wearable device and their first prototype. He still carries the drawing of their first prototype in his wallet. He explains how their products work and the iPhone app that helps provide feedback and help improve your posture.

This interview was originally aired on TV in SF bay area.

May 4th, 2014 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Film, People, San Francisco

It is that time of year again. ‘Tis the time of film festivals in San Francisco bay area.  This is the 19th year of the  San Francisco Silent Film Festival (May 29-June 4, 2014) that features 17 silent films along with some short films. And don’t forget most of the silent films will have live music by orchestras, and there are a handful of them that will be there at this year’s festival. It looks this year’s film festival is paying a homage to the Roaring 2o’s.

Rudolph Valentino’s ”The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse,” is the opening night film. Directed by Rex Ingram, the film premiered in 1921. This film changed Valentino’s career and turned him into a superstar of the silent films era. This was one of the highest grossing films of its time.  Monto Alto Motion Picture Orchestra will play live music during the screening of the film.

A film that caught my eyes is the 1924 “The Epic Of Everest” that traces the 3rd expedition to this Himalayan mountain. Shot by Captain John Noel, the film was recently restored by Britain BFI National Archives. This is an unusual film since it has some of the earliest scenes of Tibetan people from the Tibetan Plateau. The film also gives you an idea of what kind of preparation it took to undertake an expedition to Mount Everest.

Buster Keaton’s ”The Navigator” (1924) is the closing night film. The film was directed by Buster Keaton and Donald Crisp. This was the fourth film of Keaton, who was known for his comedic genius whose nickname was “ The Great Stone Face.”

Here is a full line-up of the films at this year’s Silent Film Festival. For tickets and information please visit the festival’s website.

Apr 30th, 2014 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Bollywood, silicon valley

Actor/director Mathew Modine starred as “Joker” in Stanley Kubrick’s iconic film “Full Metal Jacket.” What was it like to work with Kubrick and rest of the cast in the making of this film? Remember the drill instructor?  Ever wondered what it was like to work with the drill instructor on the sets of the film? It took 2 years to make the film.

Now there is an app for it. “Full Metal Jacket Diairy” is an iPad app  that takes you behind the scenes in the making of the film.

We caught up with Modine at San Jose’s Cinequest film festival and asked him about Stanley Kubrick, the drill instructor and his trip to India. And since we spoke about India, we had to ask him about Bollywood.

Modine received a Maverick Tech Innovators award at this year’s Cinequest film festival.

Apr 29th, 2014 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, India

 

“The biggest elections in the world” is taking part in India points out John Oliver in “Last Week Tonight.” his new show that debuted this past Sunday on HBO.What was interesting is Oliver spent nearly 9 minutes talking about the great Indian elections. In less than 9 minutes Oliver provides a brilliant and incisive analysis of how India’s General Elections is barley covered by American media.

“If this story is not worth covering, then nothing is worth covering.” He does add Indian stories are not being ignored by American news media, but this newsworthy Indian story on the world’s biggest elections barely registers a blip in the American media radar.

“What does it (Indian elections) have to do with the United States?” asks John McLaughlin in his weekly news show “The McLaughlin Group.” “It is not even in our hemisphere,” he adds. Those 2 lines by McLaughlin says a lot about how India and the Indian elections fare on those Sunday morning political shows on TV and cable.  If you are a political junkie and watch all those political shows on Sunday, you know that McLauglin’s show is one of the oldest running political shows.  A former Jesuit priest and a speech writer for President Nixon McCaughlin is a  Republican and a well-known political commentator.

Back to Oliver and the brilliant job he did in highlighting how American media is covering the Indian elections, while ironically Indian TV news shows are clearly influenced by American cable news. India is not ignoring our cable news he points out. First there is Narendra Modi’s use of holograph, which Oliver points out is a mix of Coachella and Tupac - 2 American music icons.  Coachella is a 3 day music and arts festival held in Indio in California, while Tupac was an American actor and rapper And the second American influence? The “Foxification” of Indian TV news channel.

Voting for the Indian Elections began on April 7 and continue till May 12, 2014. On May 16, 2014 we will know the results of the elections and who will be the next Prime Minister of India.

Apr 29th, 2014 | No Comments
Category: Entrepreneur Interviews, silicon valley

A quick peek into some of our upcoming TV interviews about wearable technology, Google Glass, Tesla, design and innovation in Silicon Valley.

The Kamla Show is a weekly TV show that brings you interviews and conversations with entrepreneurs, technologists, filmmakers and other newsmakers from the San Francisco bay area. The show airs in various TV channels in the bay area and it is also available on our YouTube channel.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel and stay updated.

Apr 17th, 2014 | No Comments
Category: San Francisco, Video

 

This is Nob Hill or “Nabob Hill” in San Francisco. Yes, yes, the term “nabob” is derived from the Hindustani/Arab word “nawab“ but morphed into “nabob” when the British were in India. The first reference of the word “nabob” was supposedly in 1612.  ”Nabob” was used quite a bit in Britain to describe the riches reaped by British officials during their stint with The East India Company in India.

In the above video the building with the flags is the famous Fairmont Hotel, which opened in 1907. The hotel, which was almost completed in 1906 was damaged during the 1906 earthquake. After the earthquake local native and architect Julia Morgan (Hearst Castle fame) was hired to redesign the interiors of  this landmark hotel.

Leland Stanford  (of Stanford University) was one of the first ones to build his mansion on California Hill. It was  dubbed into “Nob Hill” around this time when the rest of the “Big Four” of the Central Pacific Railways built their mansions in this neighborhood. The other 3  ”nabobs” were Mark Hopkins, Collis Potter Hutington and Charles Crocker built their mansions in this area.

Modern transportation made this area accessible in the late 19thc. In 1873 when cable cars were introduced in San Francisco, Nob Hill was one of the areas served. A few years later a street car  dedicated to this are was introduced. In 1878 Leland Stanford and others helped bring the cable car to California Street.

During the 1906 San Francisco earthquake many of the mansions on Nob hill suffered extensive damage. In this video from 1906 you can see the extent of the damage and also catch a glimpse of the newly built Fairmont Hotel that survived the big quake.

A word of caution if you plan to visit Nob Hill area, use the streetcar or drive up in  your car. Walking up that steep California Street will leave you winded and breathless as I discovered. But then again, it is your choice and don’t tell me I did not give you fair warning.

Here is a view of San Francisco from the top of Fairmont Hotel.

San Francisco view from Fairmont Hotel. copyright The Kamla Show 2014

 

 

Apr 16th, 2014 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Festivals & Events, India, Life, San Francisco

Yoga. Ever wondered how yoga evolved over hundreds of years in India? What? You thought yoga is a new, modern phenomenon? Well, it is in a sense, but there is also a long history of how yoga evolved over  2,00 years in India. There is more than “asanas” and “poses” to the history of yoga, which is what you see at “Yoga: The Art of Transformation,” exhibit at  San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum (Feb 23- May 21, 2014). This is perhaps the world’s first exhibit of this “fitness” trend and takes you behind the scenes and presents a fascinating history of yoga.

The rich visual exhibit is studded with statues, paintings, books, post cards, video and audio clips that paint a picture of  how yoga grew and morphed over hundreds of years. The part of the exhibit that popped out for me was how the West perceived folks that practiced yoga during 18th-20thc. Often practitioners of yoga were known as “fakirs.” They led an austere life and provided a fascinating subject to photographers who visited British India. Photography was the “Twitter” and “Facebook” equivalent of the late 19th and early 20thc. And, if  you take a look at some of the postcards from that period you  get an idea of how yoga practitioners were perceived by the British and Americans.

For more information about the Yoga exhibit at the Asian Art Museum go to their website.

You can watch this interview with Dr. Qamar Adamjee, Assistant Curator at the Asian Art as she walks you through the exhibit.  Or, you can listen to a audio interview with her.

 
Here is an interesting example of  a French “yogini” called Koringa.

 

And then there is this 3 minute silent film by Thomas Edison about a  ”Hindoo Fakir,” from India.

 

Mar 9th, 2014 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Film Notes, Hollywood Films, People

The Grand Budapest Hotel. Photo Credit: Fox SearchlightWes Anderson’s films tend to be whimsical, quirky and rich with details that demands your total attention. If your eyes stray even for a second you may miss an important detail. These were the thoughts that  popped into my head as I sat down to watch a preview of the film in San Francisco. I had heard about Anderson’s new film “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” but had barely read anything about it. In general I try not to read any reviews when I go to see a new film. I may see a trailer of the film and if it grabs my attention will then decide to see it. And the trailer of Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” grabbed my attention alright.

A sudden hush descended upon the theatre as the first frame of the film streamed on the silver screen. It was a visual of a cemetery that  looked more like a painting.  A young person person walks  down the cemetery path clutching a book  titled “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” And that was the start of a fanciful celluloid journey that takes you through 1930s to 1960s Eastern Europe and it is the story of a concierge and his grand hotel, which is where the rich and famous repair to have a relaxing time.  Through the film you also witness how the posh hotel decline and look quite frayed at the edges from its height in the 1930s to the 1960s Communist era when they were famously behind the “Iron Curtain.” Perhaps director Anderson wanted us to show us a glimpse of what East Europe looked in the interwar period  (1919-1939) and the Cold War era? I digressed.

Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) is the central character in “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” Set in the 1930s Anderson wrote the part with Fiennes in mind. Fiennes delivers and is utterly delightful  and charming. He veers between his usual suave self to being a bit crude and tough when the situation demands. This is not how you often see Fiennes- there is a bit of a hammy edge to his performance  in this film and to boot he is a bit of a lady’s man.

Monsieur Gustave takes special care of his clients, especially the women folks who are rich, old, blonde and insecure that came to stay at the expensive and well-appointed hotel. And therein lies the tale of how Monsieur Gustave gets entangled with a rich lady, who leaves her wealth to this smooth talking concierge. But, then you see the rich lady’s family members do not take kindly to this state of affairs  and they put up a good fight. What unfolds is a delightful tale of greed and intrigue spiked with loads of humor. But, this is my take. Perhaps you may see the film differently.

Helping Monsieur Gustave run the hotel is is his newly appointed lobby boy – Zero (Tony Revolori). An earnest and sincere worked Zero became a devoted student of the concierge and gets firmly entangled in the “inheritance” drama that Monsieur Gustave is involved. Ravolori delivers a fine performance and shines brilliantly in the film.

The film has the usual suspects that you generally find in a Anderson film – Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Owen Wilson and  Adrian Brody, But this time they are joined by William Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, JJ Abrams, Jude Law and Tilda Swanson.

The film is set in a fictional East European country of Zubrowka. “Our country is invented,” points out Anderson and “Budapest get a special mention” in the film. “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is also Anderson’s homage to the East European filmmakers of Hollywood, who made films about East Europe in sets re-created in Hollywood points out Anderson. Austrian novelist and playwright Stefan Zweig’s works inspired Anderson, who wrote the screenplay of the film.

The film is incredibly rich in details and Anderson creates a whole world where his characters live, breather, love fight and cry. The colors and the composition in each frame in the film kept me riveted to my seat. You absolutely cannot miss the attention to details that Anderson and team have paid as you watch the film. For example the cake box used in the film has an interesting backstory. Apparently Anderson wanted a box that would open in one fluid moment and Roman Coppola apparently designed the box just to do that. If you pay careful attention you will notice how the cake box opens in one fluid motion.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is an arresting tale. It is like an absorbing & charming pop-story for that little child that is ever-present in every adult.