A VISIT TO COORG & IT’S COFFEE PLANTATIONS

 

Coorg or Kodagu is a stunningly beautiful and verdant place in the Southern state of Karnataka, India. Driving through Coorg’s rolling grasslands, misty mountains and thick forests studded with coffee and pepper plantations is a wonderful experience. Of course, you need to overlook the potholes dotting the road as you make your way through the gentle and winding roads of Coorg, which is often referred to as “Scotland of India.” Over the years we had read quite a bit about Coorg and enjoyed their coffee, honey and spices. And yet, we had never visited Coorg and it was time to rectify it.

A couple of years ago we went on an unplanned road trip to Coorg. Armed with our smart phones and Google map we jumped into a compact Suzuki Swift and left Bangalore in the wee hours of the morning. We hit National Highway 48 (NH48) that connects Bangalore to Mangalore, a port city located on the Arabian Sea coast of the state. NH48 runs almost like a straight line from Bangalore to Mangalore on the western coast of the state. Continue reading

BOLLYWOOD’S FITOOR RELEASES FEB 12, 2015 IN SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA

Fitoor is a new Bollywood film starring Aditya Roy Kapur, Katrina Kaif and Tabu (who acted in Mira Nair’s The Namesake). Abhishek Kapoor of Kai Po Che and Rock On is the director of Fitoor, which is an adaptation of  Charles Dickens’ novel The Great Expectations. Tabu plays the role of Miss Havisham and Kapur I guess plays the role of Pip, the young orphan.

Folks are already obsessed with the songs from Fitoor, which means obsession. Will this obsession with the songs turn into a obsession to see this new Bollywood film is the $64 million question. Will it be a boxoffice success for director Kapoor be like his previous film Kai Po Che?

Fitoor releases on Feb 12, 2015 in a clutch of theatres in the San Francisco Bay area. It looks like Fitoor could pose some serious competition on the opening weekend to Hollywood’s  Zoolander and Deadpool that release on the same day.

STEPHEN COLBERT & YAMINI JOSHI COOK INDIAN FOOD

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Trust Stephen Colbert and his team to find an ingenious way to highlight that American is a nation of immigrants. Immigration is a hot topic button in this year’s Presidential elections. “Immigration makes some voters nervous,”says Colbert. And how does Colbert address the immigration issue on his show? Through food. Yes, that is right – food is that great connector between various communities and what better way to address this issue by breaking bread in an immigrant’s kitchen?

Colbert visits  Yamini Joshi of The League of Kitchens, a New York-based organization that connects people through food. Joshi is originally from Mumbai, who now lives in Queens, New York. She teaches Indian cooking through her League of Kitchens immersive classes.

In this 2-part episode (January 5, 2016 ) Colbert first talks to Lisa Gros of The League of Kitchens on how and why she started the organization.

And then we see Colbert try his hand cooking Indian food  in Joshi’s kitchen that is funny and awkward in some places. Predictably Colbert breaks out into a Bollywood dance with Joshi. The duo dance to Roop Hai Tera Sona from Kabhi Kushi, Kabhi Gham.The pair ends up making ghee, a sabzi or vegetable dish and roti. What was interesting is that Joshi used coconut in her long bean dish. It got me thinking if that was a Maharashtrian or a Gujarati dish, or was it a South Indian dish? It was captivating to see Joshi use an old kitchen equipment for grating coconut. I remember folks using this old tyme coconut grater over 25 years ago in their kitchens. Today you will be hard-pressed to find that grater in a regular kitchen. Many have migrated to grating coconut in a food processor or that trusty and indispensable “mixie.” I was also intrigued on how Joshi broke that coconut with a hammer. The old way of breaking a coconut is to bang it against a piece of concrete and crack it open! In the US most of us end up using frozen coconut pieces for our cooking.

You can read more about Joshi’s journey from Mumbai to New York and how she became a part of The League of Nations. And may I say I love that cheesy poster of Naan of Your Business. Whoever came up with that poster design was influenced by Bollywood movies from the 1980s and 1990s.

FILM NOTES: MAASAN

FILM NOTES: MASAANI finally got to watch Neeraj Ghaywan’s directorial debut Masaan, an Indo-French filmThe film generated a lot of buzz on my Twitter time line last year. Masaan won two awards at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival. The first was an award from the International Federation of Film Critics (Fipresci), and the second was Prix de l’Avenir award that it it shared with Nahid, an Iranian film.

I was intrigued since Maasan is not a mainstream Bollywood film and yet generated the kind of buzz largely reserved for a good old masala Bollywood film. Though it was hard, I did refrain from reading any reviews or commentary about the film. I wanted to find out for myself what was it about Masaan that got people talking. And boy! did I discover an absorbing film about young people and their desires, love, hopes and struggles in one of the oldest cities in the world – Varanasi or Benares. The film is about what happens when young, educated Indians clash with  traditions and middle-class morality in a conservative town in India. There is none of the loud dialogs and arguments Bollywood is famous far. Instead, what you see are low-key moments about love, exploring sexuality and breaking the caste and class barriers.

There are a couple of reviews I did read after watching the film. The one by Anupama Chopra in The Hindustan Times was spot on – praising the film and pointing out some flaws in the narrative. The second by Deborah Young in the Hollywood Reporter, is more incisive, saying “while the film waves a big flag for personal liberty…The end of the bribery story is morally jaw-dropping.” Truly great reviews both. And worth reading.

Smartphones and Facebook are changing the way young people discover, meet and explore. And yet love in India is not an easy proposition. “India is changing” is something you often hear when you visit India. Yeh hai India or “this is India,” is another common refrain, implying that nothing changes. And that is the conflict you see richly celebrated in Masaan. Go see the film.

Maasan stars: Richa Chadha, Vicky Kaushal, Sanjay Mishra and Shweta Tripathi. Screenplay is by Varun Grover.

  • Title:MAASAN
  • Running Time: 109 minutes
  • Status: Released in India in 2015, but not in the USA  
  • Country: INDIA
  • Genre: HINDI FILM

 

VIDEO: NICKI BOYD OF VERSAME, A WEARABLE TECH STARTUP

Meet Nicki Boyd of VersaMe, a Silicon Valley-based startup. We sat down to speak with her about her entrepreneurial journey and how she and her two co-founders founded VersaMe, a wearable tech company. VersaMe means talk to me and we talk to Boyd about their first product -Starling.  This is the first time Boyd is working in a tech startup and that too a hardware one, which has its own set of challenges. She shares how they started developing their Starling product out of a Sharpie pen cap before graduating to a 3D printed one and then brought in an industrail designer to finish their product.

Starling targets new-born babies and helps develop their brain. “Think of it like a Fitbit for words,” is how Boyd describes their product. 80% of a new-born baby’s brain development takes place in the first 4 years of its life points out Boyd. The way Starling works is the baby wears it and Starling counts the number of words they hear and gives feedback to the parents. Starling is the first wearable tech that tracks your word and targets the brain development of kids in their first 1,000 days is how Boyd put it.

Boyd studied phycology at Oxford University and worked in the world of private equity in London for a few years. And then she relocated to Silicon Valley to pursue her MBA at Stanford University, which is where she met her co-founders Jon and Chris Boggiano. The Boggianos studied at West Point and served in the army before they began their entrepreneurial journey.

 

 

 

VIDEO: MYTHILI KUMAR OF ABHINAYA DANCE CO. ON BHARATANATYAM & INDIAN CLASSICAL DANCE FORMS

Meet Mythili Kumar, who is the founder and artistic director of Silicon Valley-based Abhinaya Dance Co. She founded the dance company in 1980 and has won many awards for her original and innovative work in dance.

Recently, we sat down to speak with Kumar to find out more about her work as a cultural ambassador and as an educator and dancer. She came to study at the University of California, Davis in the late 1970s. She got married and settled down in the San Francisco Bay area. For over 35 years she has been involved in teaching classical Indian dance forms with an emphasis on Bharatanatyam. Besides her work with Abhinaya Dance Co., Kumar has taught in various Bay area universities and colleges like Stanford, and San Jose State University. She is currently teaching a course on dance at the University of California in Santa Cruz.

This interview aired on various TV channels in the San Francisco Bay area.

MOJAVE BY WILLIAM MONAHAN

Mojave is a new thriller film starring  Oscar Isaac, Garrett Hedlund, Louise Bourgoin, and Walton Goggins. Academy award winner William Monahan wrote and directed the film.

Monohan was a novelist before he began writing for Hollywood. In 2007 he  won an Oscar for his screenplay for The Departed. It will be interesting to watch this film since Monahan is steeped in classical literature and loves Elizabethan and Jacobean literature as he put it in an interview. “I really was educated as the classical ink-stained wretch,” he said in that same interview. “I like film because it’s big, because it’s the art that contains all the other arts. I like it because it’s difficult.”

Mojave is set to release on Jan 22, 2016 in the US.

VIDEO: CASCADA DE FLORES

Cascada de Flores is a San Francisco-based musical ensemble that plays music from Mexico, Cuba and Latin America. Their repertoire consists of original and old, forgotten music from these regions. But, what they do is package and present that forgotten and new music in new and evocative ways.

The group was founded by Jorge Liceaga and Arwen Lawrence in 1999. Over the years they have released 4 albums and are working on a new album.

Here is a repertoire of 4 songs and an interview with Lawrence about their music.

This interview aired on TV in San Francisco Bay area and in Los Angeles.

 

RIP: DAVID BOWIE

David Bowie pic by Jimmy King

David Bowie pic by Jimmy King

https://www.youtube.com/embed/N4d7Wp9kKjA” target=”_blank”>David Bowie passed away of cancer today. He just celebrated his 69th birthday and also released a new album called Blackstar. The news was confirmed through Bowie’s official twitter account.

“My entire career, I’ve only really worked with the same subject matter,” Bowie said in a 2002 interview. “The trousers may change, but the actual words and subjects I’ve always chosen to write with are things to do with isolation, abandonment, fear and anxiety all of the high points of one’s life.” You can read more about Bowie from this Guardian article from which I picked the above quote.

Update: Here are a couple more links on Bowie – Bowie’s Hong Kong Tailors: Sam and Many Melwani and  Longreads

Bowie singing Rebel, Rebel.

 

Bowie, Freddie Mercury and The Queen singing that iconic number Under Pressure.

 

And wherever Bowie is he is urging others to put on their red shoes and “Let’s Dance.” Thank you for the music Bowie.

Photo courtesy: Jimmyt King and David Bowie’s Instagram account.

 

 

 

 

VIDEO: DAN GARBLICK OF BANDAR FOODS ON SELLING INDIAN FLAVORS WITH AN AMERICAN TWIST

 

Meet Dan Garblick, co-founder of Bandar Foods of San Francisco. Garblick and Lalit Kalani met at Wharton Business School while doing their MBA. They created Bandar (monkey) sauce as a fun, side project for one of their classes. They soon realized they have the makings of a new food company and that is how Bandar Foods was born. Some of their products are manufactured in India and sold in the US. They first raised money via Kickstarter and then went the Venture Capital route.

In this interview with Garblick we find out how they worked on creating their products and marketed it, and how they raised capital for their startup. How did they handle the valuation of their startup?  Tune in to find out.

This interivew was aired on TV in the San Francisco Bay area.