Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Fine Food Story

Food Story located on Dhole Patil Road, gets its food right. It surely is one place to try out Hyderabadi, Mughlai & North Indian Cuisines in style.

Different regional & international cuisines are now offered on platter for the discerning Puneri. Amidst all the eating a joint jostling for space, an interesting eatery aptly named Food Story was sort out by me. Suitably located at Dhole Patil Road, it offered Hyderabadi, Mughlai & North Indian cuisines as authentic as possible. I decided that I should try out the food at the interesting award-winning eatery.

The moment I entered the restaurant, I found the place to be quite casual, despite its rather formal appearances. Spaciousness was the keyword here, with tables kept at neat distance to avoid crowding & chaos. It would have helped if the music was a bit mellow and on lower volumes. Nevertheless, one assumes that one could request for lowering the volumes and being able to have good chitchats with friends and family.

I love starters to the core and so had to begin the meal with some good ones. Hyderabadi, Mughlai & North Indian cuisines are filled with some amazing kebabs & other starters. Amongst the vegetarian options, I loved the Aloo Ki Katliyaan (Rs. 210) which is simply mashed potato with pepper & coriander. Despite its appearance of an Aloo Tikki, the delicate taste tantalized your taste buds. The Subz Navratan Kebab (Rs. 275) is an acquired taste, as it happens to be an combo of chopped veggies & nuts with saffron. Despite its heavy ingredients, the smoky flavour allows it be light. Another acquired taste, according to me, would be the Malai Broccoli (Rs. 275) which has the oft-hated veggie marinated in cream, cheese and cooked in tandoor. I personally like the crunchiness of the broccoli, which went well with the great combo of cream & cheese. The overall mildness complemented each other. The Bharwa Kumbh (Rs. 275) which is mushroom filled with cheese, spinach & nuts, was a good choice as despite the odd combo, the flavours were not overwhelming.  The Paneer Dudhiya Kalmiyaan (Rs. 235) was just about decent.

The non-veg starters are what intrigued me a lot. The Murgh Seekh Gilafi (Rs. 350) turned out to be just the perfect kebab I was looking for. It has chicken mince coated with bell peppers & boiled eggs. Tender and well spiced, it allowed you to savour it delicately. The Seekh Barkhasi (Rs. 450) turned out to be tangy & spicier kebab, which I am sure, is quite a popular option at the restaurant. This kebab made of minced lamb with 25 Indian spices cooked over charcoal, creates a tantalizing smoky taste, which is unlike others. The mild Shikampur Kebab (Rs. 250), which is pan-fried lamb & lentil cutlets are a meal by themselves. It is another winner here. I personally loved eating the Patthar ka Gosht (Rs. 450) which happens to be their specialty. It is lamb, which is flavoured with pathar ka phool  and has been shallow fried on a special stone. The tender meat dish is a must-try here.  
Coming to the main course, I happened to try out the ever-popular Nalli Nihari (Rs. 525) & Haleem. It was worth the wait as both the dishes were as perfectly authentic as possible. The meat in Nalli Nihari just comes off the bone and has rightly spiced gravy, while the Haleem was the kind one could find in Hyderabad. Though the Gosht Kachi Akhni Biryani (Rs. 435) was a fine attempt, it did not click with my taste buds as I found it to be more like a pulao than a biryani.

Overall, visiting Food Story located at Dhole Patil Road turned out to be a good choice as it managed to stay true to its promise of serving authentic meals at good prices. The good service meant that food was served on time with a smile. Attentive is the keyword here. Try out the cocktails here which are quite tempting & perfect for the food served. Whatever your mood or event, feel free to try out Food Story but do not assume it is for budget seekers. Even though being reasonable than most five-star restaurants, it is not your roadside thela to go with Rs 500 in your pocket. Go figure!

ADDRESS: Ground Flr, City Point Bldg, 17 Boat Club Rd, Dhole Patil Rd, Pune
CONTACT: 020 41216576, +91 9021831119
TIMING: 11:30 AM-3:30 PM
                  7:30 PM-11:30 PM 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Murder She Wrote!

For successful writer Carola Dunn, writing mysteries is more complicated, as it requires more reasoning and less emotion. She speaks about her novels and her popular character, Honourable Daisy Dalrymple.

Writing novels are a tricky business. You need to know the reader’s pulse without losing sight of what you want to write. Carola Dunn, a known name for her historical romances & regency novels, knows how to write such good novels. Her crime novels featuring the Honourable Daisy Dalrymple are interesting cases solved by the charming Miss Daisy. Her loving bourgeois husband Detective Chief Inspector Alec Fletcher at Scotland Yard is reduced to helping his gifted wife, while she also handles a career as a writer. With upto 22 Daisy Dalrymple series till date and the Cornish Mystery Series, she is surging ahead to pen more entertaining books for her fans.

Many writers plan to become writers or at least are in the process of becoming one, despite being in another profession. For Carola, it was entirely an accidental foray into writing. “While my son was small, we moved a lot and I had lots of part-time & temporary jobs. Then we settled down and my husband thought I ought to get a ‘proper’ job. He had said for years that I ought to write a book because I read so much. So, I decided I might as well give it a try. I didn’t expect to complete it, but once it was written I thought I might as well try to sell it. And I was lucky enough to find an editor who loved it.” The good start eggs her to write until date.

Carola happens to be American who grew up in UK. Carola feels English in American and American in England. “Almost all my books are set in England, so most of the time I live in America physically but in England in my head. I have to look up many idioms before I use them in my writing to be sure they are British, not American. Call me a hybrid. However, the two cultures are much more similar these days than they were when I was growing up.”

Regency novels are what connect to Carola as a writer. Indian readers still are on a back foot with this genre. Carola states that Regency happens to be a period in history (1811-1820), after King George III went mad only to have his son take over as Prince Regent. “It’s the time when Jane Austen’s novels were published. In the 1930s, Georgette Heyer, another English author, wrote the first of over 30 romances set in the period. With memorable characters, excellent historical detail, and very varied plots, she set the tone for the genre.”

A layman might think it quite strange to jump genres from romance to mystery. Carola reveals, “Looking back, I’m amazed at how many of my Regencies had elements of mystery. The very first, Toblethorpe Manor, has a heroine with amnesia. No one knows who she is and that mystery drives the story. The Miser’s Sister has a kidnapping and an attempted-murder/suicide. Several have spies or smugglers, and many have villains of one sort or another who have to be thwarted.”

With different genres, one assumes a writer takes different writing process for each. Carola states, “The goal of a romance is to introduce the hero & heroine to each other, have them fall in love, overcome obstacles, and end up living happily ever after. It is a straightforward process. The goal of a mystery is to present a crime, give readers plenty of clues to enable them to solve it, and give them plenty of red herrings to lead them astray; and then to have your sleuth(s) reach the solution logically and/or intuitively, in a satisfying way.”

This, she says, makes writing mysteries more complicated, as it has more reasoning and less emotion. “That doesn’t mean there’s no reasoning in a romance or no emotion in a mystery, but the balance is quite different.”

All this talk leads to her popular & fascinating character – The Honourable Daisy Dalrymple. She is a career woman in the 1920s and a woman detective to boot that. Carola reveals that her first choice was the setting, time (1920s) & Place (England). For her main character, she wanted it to be female. “I made her the daughter of a lord so that she would be able to question anyone from a duke to a street-sweeper. However, I killed off her father in the flu epidemic of 1918-19 and her brother in the First World War, so that she would have to work for a living. Then I made her a journalist so that she would be able to go places and ask questions. She’s interested in people and usually likes those she meets, which makes it reasonable that they’ll tell her things they wouldn't tell the police. She met Alec Fletcher of Scotland Yard in the first book, Death at Wentwater Court, and they married at the beginning of the ninth book, To Davy Jones Below. Both their mothers were bitterly opposed to the marriage because of the difference in class. Daisy’s stepdaughter, Belinda, loves her dearly. Though each book is a separate story, the characters develop over the series, as my readers & I get to know them better and see how they behave in various circumstances.”

Carola Dunn
Writing a period detective novel is not an easy cup of tea, as the writer must have the knack of keeping that period alive in every way. Carola has had her share of reading done of mysteries written in the 20s & early 30s. That allowed her to feel the period and understand the people. “The rest is research, which has become much easier since the amount of information available on the internet has increased by leaps and bound.”

A writer loves his/her character like his/her child. It is the same for Carola. If asked about Daisy, she admits that she likes Daisy as a person. “I hear from many readers who think of her as a friend. They don’t even care that much about the mystery aspect, it just gives an excuse to spend time with Daisy and her family & friends! I try to make the mysteries all different from each other. They tend to be light-hearted but also deal with the emotions that lead to murder and those stirred up by the murder. Some of them also deal with serious social issues, particularly those caused by WWI.”

Considering the amount of mysteries she has written, the fan following must be strong & interesting. “I’ve written 22 books in the series, so clearly I have enough readers to make my publishers happy. I hear from a lot of them. The letters/emails I like best are those that say the Daisy books have helped them through times of trouble or illness by distracting them from their woes. That’s a great compliment,” Carola reveals. Since her books are her children, she does not like to keep any favourites.

Fans eagerly await the next book to come from Carola’s writing stable. She reveals that she has just finished a fourth Cornish mystery – series set in Cornwall around 1970. “It’ll be out next autumn. In the New Year, I’ll be starting on another Daisy book. In the meantime, the second Daisy book, The Winter Garden Mystery, will be reissued (March, I think) and the most recent, Superfluous Women, will come out in paperback,” Carola ends.

Creativity (and a thumping good at that) never stops coming to its admirers. One is assured that Carola Dunn never keeps her pen down and allows fans like us to be delighted with more books.

All of Carola Dunn books, mystery and Regency, are available as e-books. Readers can visit her on Facebook and on her website – www.CarolaDunn.weebly.com.

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Life of Rafi

Singer Mohammed Rafi cannot be forgotten. Sujata Dev makes sure that you don’t via her biography on Rafi – Mohammed Rafi: Golden Voice of the Silver Screen. Published by Om Books International, she speaks about writing his saga.



The name Mohammed Rafi just brings out nostalgia & love for good music. Though much is written about him, a authorized biography has hit the town - Mohammed Rafi: Golden Voice of the Silver Screen by Sujata Dev. Om Books International are the publishers. A Rafi fan, Dev is the Managing Director – Third Generation Mobile Pvt. Ltd, Co-chairperson – National Committee of M&E, ASSOCHAM, Founder Member-Senior Vice President –  Indian Broadband Forum, Member of Executive Council – International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and Society Member of the Governing body, IIM, Shillong. She speaks about her reasons for choosing to write about Rafi and decodes the legend for the readers.  

Mohammed Rafi is the stuff legends are made of. Was that the reason to write this biography?
Mohammed Rafi is one of the most versatile singers who left indelible impressions on the canvas of time with his melodious voice. In his four decades of outstanding career, he sang 5,063 songs with innumerable music directors whose careers were established because of him. The legendary music director Naushad, who was responsible for giving Rafi a foothold in the film industry, referred to him as the ‘Emperor of Playback Singing’. He is one such legend of the Golden Era who worked with the best singers, lyricists, musicians & music directors of his time without disappointing anyone. He was the voice for all the lead & lesser-known actors. A man who never restrained himself when it came to giving and helping people was fondly called ‘Rafi Sahab’ by the whole industry. What more can you ask of a legend?
For me, Rafi Sahab was a natural choice. My grandmother introduced me to the singing of Rafi in my early childhood, describing the soulful voice as God’s voice. I grew up listening to Rafi Sahab’s voice, and even without realising, I fell in love with his melodious voice. This book is not only a tribute to the ‘Immortal Singer’ but also my homage to my beloved grandmother.

What are the aspects of Rafi’s life & music covered in the book?
The book answers everything that you would like to know about Mohammed Rafi; his childhood, family, family-life, career, relationship with his co-singers, controversies, mysteries surrounding his death, his fan following, the ‘Farishta’ that he was known as and much more. The book covers the essence of that period and the industry in which Rafi struggled, flourished and ultimately ruled. The book is accompanied with a DVD, which captures footsteps of Rafi & what went into the making of this book. 
Sujata Dev

A lot is already out in the public domain about Rafi. How is this book different?
Life of a great legend like Rafi obviously has been talked about in media in the last many years. What intrigues me the most is his illustrious career that stretched almost for four decades and so I dove deep into it. This was the toughest part of the research, as those days had no computers or records. Many stories & figures came to me from different sources like existing books, blogs and Internet at large but to authenticate them was not easy. For eg., the number of songs Rafi Sahab had sung... 
Discovering Siddique Chacha who continues to live in Lahore (now in Pakistan) and interviewing him. It is he who gave lot of insight into Rafi’s childhood and his first marriage to Basheera Bibi. The facts about the legend’s death and the prevailing circumstances were enigmatic and I tried my best to unravel it. That meant meeting Doctor Chandiramani, who attended Rafi Sahab on that fateful day. Besides the family, a few close associates recounted the last few hours of Rafi Sahab’s life.
The controversies that the 2 great singers Lata Mangeshkar & Mohammed Rafi had over royalty and Guinness book have been detailed, by taking into account the existent situation that could have lead to these controversies. I met over hundred people from the industry before I could complete this book. The accompanying DVD has many of these interviews and stands as testimony to incidents in the book. 

You are a Rafi fan. What is it about his voice that makes you want to listen to him?
The ‘Soulfulness’ in his voice is so profound. There is something mesmerising in that melodious voice. He has sung songs of varied genres. Rafi could just set the right tone and draw s listeners into it. Rafi had a tonal range like no other. Music directors created compositions especially for him and lyricists believed their words created magic only when Rafi sung. Truly, his voice is the one that conquers every heart.

Your professional background is quite different from a writer. Are they intertwined?
The researcher in me always dominated over the ‘Rafi fan’ that I am. The logical mind always questioned every data or figure that I came across and the resultant is an analytical approach of Rafi’s illustrious career. As a Rafi fan, I often came across statements like ‘Rafi Sahab’ has sung about 30,000 songs in his career' and then some other source would say 26,000 but logically I found these numbers to be unrealistic. Mathematically, with five major studios, even considering two shifts a day for 365 days (which is humanly impossible), one cannot sing that many songs. This process of authentication & validation of facts was a contribution of professional background. The research & analysis of his vast repertoire itself took two long years and finally the biography was completed in four and half years.

On a last note, why should the readers buy this biography?
I tried to address many aspects of Mohammed Rafi’s life, besides his talent as a singer. This book will help every Rafi fan to know their idol better. Besides, anyone with interest in the evolution of the Indian film industry, playback industry or the Indian music industry at large could find this book worth reading.

Mohammed Rafi: Golden Voice of the Silver Screen

AUTHOR: Sujata Dev

PUBLISHER: Om Books International

PUBLISHED: May 28, 2015

GENRE: Cinema      

LANGUAGE: English

·        PRICE: Rs 595 

PAGES: 272 

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

An idol re-revealed!

Mekhala Sengupta reintroduces actress-cum-filmmaker-cum-social game changer Kanan Devi via her book Kanan Devi: The First Superstar of Indian Cinema, published by HarperCollins Publisher India.



I confess I had heard about Kanan Devi, but not got to the point to truly knowing her or understanding her position in the Indian film industry. This Bengali beauty was one of the early successful singing actors of her generation, filmmaker, social game changer and first lady of Indian cinema. However, there is a more to Kanan Devi. Kanan Devi: The First Superstar of Indian Cinema penned by debut author Mekhala Sengupta & published by HarperCollins Publisher India sets the ball rolling to truly knowing Kanan Devi. 

Kanan Devi is an interesting but rather offbeat topic to write about. Mekhala preferred to reply to this question in a slightly indirect manner. “In the early to mid-eighties, I was a young officer in Mumbai in development banking. I learnt & sang many of Kanan’s hit songs in Hindi at public performances. A group loved pre-playback singing music. I knew absolutely nothing of her extraordinary life. It was only when I mentioned this almost 27 years later to someone in Delhi that the rags to riches story was mentioned. I read a little bit about her and decided her story had to be told. Therefore, the book took shape.” Once Kanan’s actual hardships at that time was revealed, Mekhala just marveled that despite issues, Kanan held onto her beliefs of a better world. “She viewed adversity as a challenge that had to be dealt with. She did not just accept, compromise or crumble. She worked hard & succeeded in her lifetime without a godfather, lineage or resources. This had to be showcased to a new generation.”

Mekhala Sengupta
The term powerhouse equals to Kanan Devi. The book covers that element and features how she influenced others & her image back then. Mekhala reveals, “She was a huge box-office star who appealed to both the intelligentsia & front benchers. Much loved & admired, she symbolized glamour & hope and her voice touched hearts of those who heard her. She started fashion trends and changed fashion. She handled many different characters – first coming across as a feisty girl woman, then a society girl torn between her love for her artist husband and the aspirations of her affluent but non-artistic father, a singer who continued working after her marriage and so many others.” The book helps us appreciate how Kanan brought her own USP to each role, in both the character’s spirit & form it took on screen. 

Celebs have two images – one that we hear from media and the other that we see for ourselves. An author has the privilege to know the real celeb. While researching, Mekhala got some insights of the extraordinary woman. “The first impression was that given Kanan’s origins, how she dealt with adversity & extracted herself out of her grim origins, she showed sheer determination in skilling & tooling herself, never wasting time or giving up hope to make the best of any situation she found herself in. She kept working on herself. There was hard work and sacrifice. She has stated that hers was a childhood without playtime. The fact that she was a powerhouse emerged later on finishing the book, when I looked at her as a modern person would.”

A well-done research work throws in extraordinary facets. Mekhala calls this research ‘a process of discovery’, as it meant countless reading between the lines on what she wrote or said and what she left unsaid (and the reasons behind it). “As a start, we all identify with our parents in a way and we carry their names. Kanan knew nothing of who her biological parents were. There were just foster parents. When do these things happen? I have tried to be a true biographer to bring the facts to light and the sheer scale of accomplishments that Kanan achieved in her lifetime, that she could be introduced just as herself, as Kanan,” Mekhala confesses.
“She viewed adversity as a challenge that had to be dealt with. She did not just accept, compromise or crumble. She worked hard & succeeded in her lifetime without a godfather, lineage or resources. This had to be showcased to a new generation.”
The one aspect, which stuck Mekhala the most as a woman, has to be Kanan’s steely resolution, decisiveness & determination. “These are the phrases that come to mind about Kanan. Typically, women dither or get self-sabotaged with emotions hijacking mental states, disempowering them, while men successfully can compartmentalize their emotions away to address the tasks. Kanan maintained very high standards of excellence and kept working towards improving her knowledge and skills base.” 

Indians, I feel, do not give due credit to most who probably are not on the constant popularity wave. Mekhala wants to share unlike opinion on this. “Due credit? Popularity wave? What are these terms speaking? If we define look at a condition where people relate to another and want to emulate them, the popularity wave terms becomes clear. In an analogy, good food comes from good ingredients, which is put together in a way so that it appeals. The fact is that a good story is a good story. An inspiring story or a charismatic person always remains so because of the particular energy & passion they bring in their situation. It is a question of putting their quest in life in their generation in the context of the current generation. In generic terms, a struggle is a struggle in whichever period you put this in.”

Mekhala’s own journey is something extraordinary. The former banker & financier studied at studied at Lady Shri Ram College (Economics Honours), Moore School of Business, Columbia (Finance & International Trade) and London Business School (Investment Management). Her musical foray includes studying Dhrupad under Dagar Brothers. Mekhala prefers calling herself straightforward rather than unusual. “I am not publicity shy but do not crave it either. About my life journey, I have made some serious money in past avatars and have taken some serious knocks as well. Life’s canvas has also taught me that it is vital to have passion and energy in life as also some detachment. Your life is yours alone. It is important to know yourself and to understand what motivates you and then follow your dreams and not live life as dreamt by another for you. And humility & compassion are needed to stop being a self-centred megalomaniac.” Clear-cut she definitely is!

"Typically, women dither or get self-sabotaged with emotions hijacking mental states, disempowering them, while men successfully can compartmentalize their emotions away to address the tasks. Kanan maintained very high standards of excellence and kept working towards improving her knowledge and skills base."

A true author worth his pen has his or her list of favourite books or literature. Mekhala confesses to admiring imagery & humour in literature. “I have read George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Lawrence Durrell and Gerald Durrell, Alastair Mclean, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Tagore, Mustafa Ali, Premchand, Sarat Chandra, a good deal of science fiction and vast accounts of mythology & folklore from different parts of the world. I have also read a lot of non–fiction, in terms of books on management books and brain entrainment.”

Kanan Devi admirers will surely pick up Kanan Devi: The First Superstar of Indian Cinema. But it is a mission for reintroducing Kanan Devi to an even younger audience. Mekhala feels the readers will discover a woman whose life was filled with hard work & struggle that she achieved success without any godfather, lineage, resources or affirmative action. “She had to be ruthless as a street fighter as the situation needed, but retained her compassion & humility where it was needed. Kanan rewrote her life story and was a true self-made woman. This story & message had to be showcased to a new generation and what I plan to achieve.” It is time we get acquainted with a true heroine of reel & real life.

       KANAN DEVI: THE FIRST SUPERSTAR OF INDIAN CINEMA
AUTHOR: Mekhala Sengupta
PUBLISHER: HarperCollins Publishers India

PUBLISHED: October, 2015
      GENRE: Cinema                                 
      LANGUAGE: English 
      PRICE: Rs 350  
P    AGES: 228