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.

Mar 6th, 2014 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Electronic gadgets, Ideas, silicon valley, Technology, Video

Shoe phone. Yes, you read that right. That is what the original cell phone was called when it was unveiled on April 3, 1973 in New York by Marty Cooper of Motorola. Marty and his team worked on the phone and beat the behemoth AT&T by demonstrating it first. Guess it was not a surprise then that the first call Marty placed on the shoe phone was to Joel Engel at AT&T.

It took Motorola  10 years after the phone was unveiled to bring it to market. Today, the cell phone has shrunk in form factor and is used by billions of people around the world.

The “shoe phone” is also known as  the “brick” phone and it weighed about 2.5 pounds and get this the talk time was abut 20 minutes. We certainly have come a long way from that 20 minutes. Today, our cell phones have 100 of talk time minutes and we can recharge the phone in a few minutes and get back to talking again.

Marty Cooper (85) was in San Jose earlier this week where he received the Maverick Innovator’s award at Cinequest, Silicon Valley’s annual film festival. A passionate believer in competition, he does not favor monopolies of any sorts, especially in the telecom industry. He is  a big believer in revolutions and thinks there are 3 kinds of revolutions that we may see very soon. These 3 revolutions are in the field of healthcare, education and eradicating poverty.

We met with Marty just before he got his award at Cinequest and had a long tete-a-tete with him about the shoe phone, Agent 86, startups, telecom subsidies, his parents, growing up in Chicago and the teachers that influenced him. Watch this space for the interview. Yes, that tete-a-tete will be made public, while we edit the video in private.

Here is a peek at our video interview with Marty about the shoe phone.

Feb 6th, 2014 | 4 Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Diaspora, Living In America, People, San Francisco

San Francisco-based Dholrhythms is celebrating its 100th event of Non Stop Bhangra (NSB)  a monthly event of dance, music and fun.

NSB’s big celebration is on  Saturday, Feb 8, 2014 at Public Works in San Francisco and we are giving away a pair of tickets to a lucky winner. Details at the bottom of the post.

Headlining the event is Panjabi MC, UK-based musician and DJ. Others include regulars like  DJ Jimmy Love, Rav-E, Pavit & Mehul on Dhol, Amar on Visuals, DJ  J. Boogie of Om Records. The night will be hosted by Mandeep Sethi, a California grown Emcee, who is active in India’s emerging and vibrant hip-hop scene. Sethi was featured in @MTV’s Coke Studio track  Peekaboo.

We are doing a ticket giveaway for this big music/dance party in San Francisco. We are giving away a pair of tickets (2 ticket)  for the event. All you have to do is leave a message on this blog post and we will pick a winner at random. Do remember we will need a valid email ID to reach if you win the tickets.  The deadline for the  ticket giveaway is midnight of Friday, Feb 7, 2014

Please note you have to be above 18 yrs old to attend the event.  Don’t fret if your comment(s) does not show up on the post right away.

Take a peek at video clips of  PanjabiMC and NSB that will give you a sense of what you can expect…


 



Feb 3rd, 2014 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Hollywood Films, New York, People

Philip Seymour Hoffman, an Oscar-winning actor and director (1967-2014) was found dead in his Manhattan apartment this morning. He reportedly died from a drug overdose. The 46 year old Hoffman had been drug free for nearly 20 years. He leaves behind his partner and 3 children.

I first read news of Hoffman’s sudden death on this Superbowl Sunday on Twitter via @WSJBreaking. Within minutes Twitter was flooded with tweets with the #PhilipSeymourHoffman, #hoffman and #PSH hashtags from people all around the world paying tribute to this talented and brilliant actor.

Hoffman was known for his incredible ability to portray different characters in such a convincing manner that you almost forgot at times that he was acting. Take his role in “Capote” for example – the metamorphosis was so complete and convincing that you felt it was Truman Capote talking to you and not Hoffman. It was not a surprise then Hoffman went on to win an Oscar for his role in “Capote” in 2006.

Hoffman made his debut in the early 1990s on TV and went on to act on and off-Broadway plays, films and TV.  He got his break in films with a small role in “The Scent of A Woman.” After nearly 20 years of acting he made his debut as a director in the film “Jack Goes Boating” in 2010. He was a prolific actor and left behind a significant repertoire of work for us.

Brutally honest, a little nutty and generous is how people who interviewed Hoffman described him. In this interview with Terry Gross of NPR’s Fresh Air Hoffman mentioned that he discovered acting in high school. And in this interview he talks about the surprises of being a film director and what he discovered and learnt in the making of his first feature film.

He was indeed “The Master” of  his craft and left us all too soon. Sadly, we do not know what internal story he was struggling to use his own quote and what led him back to taking drugs, a habit he had kicked when he was in his 20s. He was all too acutely aware of his addiction and how he had kicked it. Many who have interviewed talk about his brutal honesty and apparently he was a miserable man according to The Guardian’s Simon Hattenstone, who met him in person for an interview. Hattenstone found Hoffman to resemble his movie characters and wrote:

“He spoke in the same fractured, tortured sentences as he did in his films. Nobody did crippled communication quite like Hoffman. Hoffman was a lumbering, grumbling bear of a man.”

Philip Seymour Hoffman was an intelligent, intense and brilliant actor and he will be missed.

You can find a list of Hoffman’s movies here. Here are a few video clips from his films.

Hoffman in one of his early films “Magnolia.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Feb 1st, 2014 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Festivals & Events, Film, Hollywood Films, Ideas, San Francisco, silicon valley, YouTube Videos

In September 2012 we launched on our TV show that is broadcast in about 8 to 9 cable channels in the San Francisco bay area – all the way from North Bay (Marin & Petaluma) to the Peninsula (San Carlos, Palo Alto, Mt View) to  South Bay (Milpitas & Gilroy)  and to Davis on the east.

The TV interviews are also available on our YouTube channel.  And here’s the link to subscribe to our YouTube channel.

Here’s a round-up of our TV interviews for 2012 where we featured technologists, entrepreneurs, filmmakers and newsmakers from in and around the San Francisco bay area.

 

Nov 17th, 2013 | 1 Comment
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Diaspora, India, Interviews, Living In America, People, YouTube Videos

Meet Rajiv Nema “Indori,” who will have you in splits within minutes of meeting. This San Francisco bay area denizen has been a fixture at Naatak, a 18 year old theatre company that has a loyal following in this area. When Rajiv Nema is not on stage or in front of a camera, you can find him working in a tech company. You see, he trained as a engineer, but his heart is in theatre and acting. In front of camera you ask? Yes, he whips out his trusty little iPhone (thanks god to Steve Jobs and his brilliant team in Cupertino), and shots these funny videos that have made him a YouTube sensation. Mention “the Indori guy,” and folks from Indore in Madhya Pradesh will recognize him instantly. Forget Indore, way down South in the garden city of Bangalore I discovered folks that were loyal followers of the “indori” guy.

A couple of weeks ago, we had Rajiv Nema on our weekly radio show at KZSU, Stanford. For a full “68 minutes,” Rajiv Nema was on a roll and in fine form as I flitted from one topic to another. We spoke about his beloved city of Indore, Indori accent, how he courted his Nicaraguan wife and proposed to her via the fax machine (remember the fax?), his YouTube video, Naatak, and his work at SAP and its new exciting technology called HANA. I have never laughed so much during my weekly radio show.

Take a listen to the interview yourself as Rajiv Nema regales you with entertaining and funny stories.

And here is a video from Rajiv Nema’s YouTube channel, where he proposes an Indori accent for your GPS navigator in the US. Now, imagine driving a Prius where you get turn-by-turn instructions in good ole Indori accent, when all you can follow is English and Tamil!

Nov 8th, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Bollywood, Diaspora, Film, India, People, YouTube Videos

Bollywood and Beyond captures the mantra of 3rd i San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival, which is celebrating its 11th year of the festival this year. The festival is currently underway (November 6-9, 2013) in San Francisco. The festival feature one big Bollywood “hit,” while the rest of the festival has an interesting mix of films, documentaries and shorts on South Asia.

This year’s focus is on Pakistan, and there is an interesting clutch of films that show you different facets of the country. And then there are some fantastic documentaries and shorts like Sushrut Jain’s Beyond Boundaries, Sabiha Sumar’s Good Morning Karachi Nishta Jain’s Gulabi Gang, Pratibha Parmar’s Alice Walker Beauty in Truth, Abhi Singh’s Bhiwani Junction, Meghna Gupta’s Unravel  and Wilbur Sargunaraja, India’s first YouTube star’s Simple Superstar.

Shudh Desi Romance, a screwball comedy featuring Parineeti Chopra, Sushant Singh Rajput and Rishi Kapoor is the Bollywood film that screens at the historic Castro Theatre on Saturday, November 9, 2011.

Here is the link to the schedule for 3rd i Film Festival.

 

 

Nov 7th, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Diaspora, People, silicon valley, YouTube Videos

Aki Kumar, or Akarsha Vasantha Kumar has been quietly building up his musical presence in and around the San Francisco bay area for the last few years. Originally from Bombay, Aki discovered blues music while studying in the bay area. He learnt to play the harmonica, also known as the French harp from a local blues musician, and thus began his journey as a blues musician. He has recorded with others musicians. He is featured in the latest CD by SF bay area blues musician Little Jonny’s  We Got It Goin’ On! And there is even a track named after him in that music album.

A couple of weeks ago, we had Aki and Little Jonny down at  Stanford KZSU’s  radio station, where we spoke about music and they played a few songs for us. You can listen to Aki and Little Jonny talk about it here.

When Aki is not playing music, he works as an engineer for his bread and butter at a well-known technology company in SF bay area.

Oct 31st, 2013 | No Comments
Category: Books, Movies, Music, Televison, Diaspora, People, silicon valley

Naatak's God of CarnageGod of Carnage (English)  is an absorbing play that highlights those inner thoughts and conflicts present in any relationship. Naatak, a San Francisco bay area theatre group is staging the play this weekend (November, and 2, 2013) at Cubberley Theatre in Palo Alto.

We watched the play last week and were riveted to our seats. The subject matter is something most of us can identify with – those unwritten norms and social rules we follow in our every day life. But, boy how quickly that pleasant facade breaks down when we are confronted with a social dilemma, especially if it involves your children and a playground fight. That is what God of Carnage is about in a nutshell. Imagine a schoolyard fight where one kid gets his teeth broken and that becomes a bone of contention between two sets of parents. Can you imagine the fireworks if one set of parents were overly concerned, while the other set treated the matter lightly? Now imagine two sets of diametrically opposite parents and you get the idea.

Naatak has adapted God of Carnage for a South Asian audience. The four actors - Divya Satia, Pooja Shrivastav, Puneet and Harish Agasthya Sundaram had us all captivated with their excellent timing and delivery of dialog. All four  actors were especially good in the second half, when the tension between them  builds up and their unspoken thoughts come tumbling down.And boy! how those thoughts tumble down.But, what about the 2 kids that fought in the playground? For that you need to see the play and find out how they resolve their playground issue.

Mukund Marathe directed Naatak’s God of Carnage and Soumya Agasthya produced it.

Originally written in French by Yasmen Reza, the idea for God of Carnage was born from an anecdote that Reza heard from a parent in her son’s school. She wrote the play in 3 months and deftly mixds humor and satire to tell the story of these two couple and their attempt to resolve a schoolyard fight. Reza’s forte seems to be dismantle and lay bare the ‘social hypocrisy” of the middle class as The Guardian put it.And she excels in it.

Christopher Hampton translated God of Carnage into English.

Photo credit: Naatak