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Monthly Archives: July 2012

I want to go to there: A tribute to Tina Fey

I want to go to there: A tribute to Tina Fey

Sometimes, I think of myself as Tina Fey. Not because I’m very funny, was head write of a brilliant sketch show, wrote and acted in my own sitcom, win awards or wrote a hilarious book…I kinda have a scar on my face.

Sometimes, I think of myself as Tina Fey. I think of a time when people will pay me to write a book about my life as a writer. 30 Rock, like Community has a small but dedicated audience that keeps the fandom alive. 30 Rock is a show about a sketch show like SNL that Fey writes and acts in along with Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski and Jack McBryer. The characters and plotlines are so ridiculous that I’m inclined to believe that that is how TV works. Starting her career with improv comedy with almost no audience to becoming a writer on SNL , writing the brilliant Mean Girls and creating her own show, Fey is the man.

(Also, she dates Matt Damon and John Hamm on 30 rock. For real)

Sometimes, I think of myself as Tina Fey because she is open to showing people her ugly side. On 30 rock, we have seen her wearing spanks and sleep eating an entire pizza, sporting a moustache and peeing in a jar to drive a roommate out. Yeah, I can be badass like that too. Do you want a picture of my feet?

Sometimes, I think of myself as Tina Fey. A simple Google search will tell you that she changed how women were perceived in television and comedy. She was the first woman who become the head writer for SNL (where she played Sarah Palin in a few sketches) and how she made nerdy, hot.  But these are big important things she completely under plays….ok, wait, I’m the opposite of that. My bad.

Sometimes, I think of myself as Tina Fey because in my head, Amy Pohler is my best friend.

Sometimes, I think of myself as Tina Fey because, god, I would be a cool mom. If I must write letters, I’d rather write “May she play the Drums to the fiery rhythm of her Own Heart with the sinewy strength of her Own Arms, so she need Not Lie With Drummers” instead of the kind Rani Mukherjee writes.

Sometimes, I think of myself as Tina Fey and try not to take things too seriously and be utterly funny and ridiculous.

– Sharanya

The clash of the knives

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The clash of the knives

When I see Sam making oysters with champagne jelly, I immediately think, “That’s awesome, that’s going to be a good dish for him.” Which is really ridiculous, because being vegetarian, I have never eaten oysters, I don’t particularly like champagne and also, this is Masterchef Australia on TV, so I have no idea what it’s going to taste likes.

My earliest memory of food shows on TV was Tarla Dalal making custard flavoured coffee or something. Then the point of a food show was to teach you. With ingredients and perfect instructions, you could whip up a little somethin- somethin and give yourself a good pat on the head for being a great home maker.

While we still have an entire channel, called Food Food dedicated to ‘how-to’ shows, shows like Masterchef and Top Chef have become so popular on prime time television, that I’m amazed.

My dad doesn’t understand why my mother and I watch these shows, when we never actually cook any of it and we are tired of explaining that that isn’t the point.

How many people watch it and actually attempt to make any of it? (I always get inspired and go chop potatoes with purpose, like chefs do. Then I get tired and just cook them with butter and eat it. Which is still something honestly, because after 10 seasons of Project Runway I have never attempted to sew a fierce and fabulous dress)

Like this New York Times article points out, while these shows don’t really teach you to cook at least they teach you to be more confident in a restaurant (the article also discuss why Julia Child revolutionized food shows on TV, so read that). Gone are the days when ‘foie gras’ was the fanciest food term we knew.

Here’s my opinion (hey, enough with the groaning) on what’s cooking on TV these days.

Top Chef vs Masterchef Australia

On Masterchef Australia, the contestants are all amateur cooks who’ve left their day jobs to cook and their passion is so apparent, it’s endearing and you get invested in their journey.

Top Chef has trained chefs vying for big prizes. They already know they are good and can get pretty pompous about it. And yet, it’s an extremely entertaining hour of TV.

The judges on Masterchef Australia, Matt Preston, George Calombaris and Gary Mehigan have amazing chemistry and are very funny.

Top Chef has Tom Colicchio, who is very good and Padma Lakshmi, whose comments I cannot bring myself to believe. I think Tom Colicchio just humours her critique, which is almost always about smooth and crunchy texture or some such.

Masterchef Australia is dramatic, yes, but the calm, clean setting and the incredible niceness of the contestants makes this a reality show like no other.

Top Chef on the other hand is dramatic and fancy and has huge egos being hurt every other second.

Spin offs

Top Chef Masters has famous chefs of Michelin-starred restaurants making mac and cheese fine dining and tailgating with  Prosciutto and Caramelized Onion Pizzas to win money for their charity. You’d think watching great chefs do what they do best would be boring, but instead it’s actually fun to watch them squirm, navigate a supermarket and talk about their culinary journey.

Top Chef: Just desserts is hosted by Gail Simmons (who is a judge on Top Chef) and the contestants are bakers and pastry chefs. They make edible chocolate clothes and live-sized cakes and for some reason, are majorly dramatic and full of break downs and ‘my cupcake philosophy is’… type insights. I guess it’s all the glitter and fondant or something.

Masterchef Juniors will make you hate yourself. For real. There are 8-year olds who whip up Moroccan Lamb with Couscous while you cry over your overcooked instant pasta. You know, what I was doing when I was a kid? I don’t even remember, probably watching TV or something. Anyway, these kids are crazy talented and super cute. They talk about their careers in molecular gastronomy…and they are freaking eight!

Masterchef USA with Gordon Ramsay of Hell’s kitchen, restaurateur Joe Bastianich and chef Graham Elliot  (who we’ve seen on Top Chef Masters as a contestant) take away all of the nice, calm and loving warmth of the Australian version and replace it with quick eliminations, cattiness and some major negative energy.

There’s going to be a Masterchef All stars as well. See the preview here.

Masterchef India

Star Plus had their own version of Masterchef India at prime time. Yup. The first season came under much criticism because of Akshay Kumar’s ridiculous antics and then Season two had Chef Vikas Khanna, a major improvement on the khiladi. Where Masterchef India loses the plot is that it is treated like every other reality show. There are too many tears and sad stories, and while I’m not saying they’re untrue, it also takes away from the main focus of the show; the food.  Also, because of the sad stories, the passion for cooking diminishes and I wonder if they are all there for the monetary prize.

Both the Indian and US version are so far removed from the Australian version that nothing but the M motif is similar.

All this talk of food has made me hungry. Mashed potatoes. Cheese. Okay bye guys.

Ruskin Bond and what he embodies

Ruskin Bond and what he embodies

It was the summer of 2000, (I’ve always wanted to write a sentence like that) and the three siblings D’Lima and their mother were making their way up a slope, destination Landour. School was out and we’d all spent a lovely couple of days in Simla before arriving in Mussourrie the day before. Now we were off to see if we could visit Ruskin Bond and being a reading family we were all (my mother included) in a fever of excitement.

Ruskin Bond, of the unbelievable Dust on the mountain fame. Not to mention The Blue Umbrella. Bond’s home is a tiny, tiny place lined floor to ceiling, wall to wall with books and papers. The furniture sagged and was shabby in bits. And children. I remember lots of children everywhere. I don’t know whether they were neighbours or adopted grandkids but they peeked out at us from behind doors, played outside and ran in and out gleefully, for all the world. When he met us he was quiet but affable. He posed for pictures and autographed our books. He didn’t have to do all that, and even if he was just tolerating us it was still pretty great of him.

I’ve been flipping through Landour Days, a published complilation of Bonds journal entries categorised into the North Indian seasons of Summer, Monsoon, Autumn and Winter. (I say North Indian because in Bombay we have only two seasons –monsoon and not-monsoon.) It’s a comforting read. Comforting because there is something steady and solid about the image of an old writer-story teller living in the mountains, among the flowers and the snow frosted deodars. Personally, it calms me down. The business of writing has changed. No more the dream of living like a hermit on a hill or by the sea and scratching away in notebooks. Among amateurs, the fact that you write is an attention-seeking, jealousy-ridden rollercoaster. Among professionals, it’s how well you spoke at the Jaipur Lit Fest. Self publishing. Crowd sourcing. Former newspaper journalist’s who’s bylines we don’t remember. It’s cutthroat and permeated through with the restless, rushing spirit of urgency. I’m not saying that writers shouldn’t want recognition. That will never change. But writing isn’t the peaceful, patient business Landour Days makes it out to be. Subjects and themes have changed and become darker. The grimy underbelly of a metropolis. Poverty. Narcotics.

Landour Days has one entry, which I read with mixed feelings. It’s some assorted advice to young writers. “Are you observant?” Bond asks the amateurs, “Can you tell the difference between a sparrow and a sparrow hawk?” As I read that sentence, I say WHUT! The way I usually do when deeply moved. What if I don’t care about the difference? My book isn’t going to be about a bird, it’s going to be about life….life, and longing and passion and despair and about the human condition and it will chronicle the pathos and spirit of this generation. It will. My righteousness sputters itself into silence most times. Maybe he has a point. Have you ever noticed how every good book you’ve read names at least one tree? Ever noticed how if there’s a bird in a scene, the writer will name it. Details are what will make the great novel about the human condition work. We’ve got to learn the names of those trees!

If I ever do make it on the other side, I’ll have a well of inspiration and an army of heroes to thank. But they’ll always be a corner of my memory saved for that trek up a mountain and a wizened writer at the top of the hill.

 

Ten list ideas that just didn’t make the cut

Ten list ideas that just didn’t make the cut

This week, we’re letting you in on all the hard work we put in. It’s grueling hours and tons of french toast, and about a million heated debates. These are list ideas that didn’t make the cut.

Things on TV that wouldn’t work in real life. Like the dreamatorium. (But we always suspected they could, if we tried)

Our favorite catchphrases (Cool, cool, cool)

Animated characters that stole our hearts (there were too many)

Disney princesses that would make great feminists (there were too few. Okay okay. There was one.)

Favourite blooper reels

Amazing Parks and Recreation life theories

Ghetto slang we picked up from The Wire

Alternate uses for Joel Mchale’s hair

Ten reasons we would date Andy Dwyer and ten reasons we wouldn’t date Chris Tregar

Why we think we’re now qualified to be drug dealers (It all boiled down to : We watch Breaking Bad)

Fantastic Mr. Dahl: A tribute

Fantastic Mr. Dahl: A tribute

Roald Dahl writes with some serious hyper activity. That is the best part about reading his stuff. He is fantastic and fabulous all at once and his characters jump and their eyes sparkle and that’s why, as a reader, you get carried away. Some of his plots may be a little silly (George’s Marvellous medicine) but he makes it work with his style of grabbing you by the throat and shaking you till your eyes rattle in your head. Okay that was a bad analogy. As a kid, I would gaze at the Quentin Blake illustrations on the page and imagine that I too could say things like “How absolutely dashingly gorgeous, my friend. How ripping and downright lovely, small boy.” A Roald Dahl world is an exciting world on a sugar rush, whether you’re with James and company on the peach, whether you’re wreaking merry havoc with Matilda or even if you’re in the throes of a deadly adventure a la The Witches.

Other reasons I love him? If you’ve read Boy: Tales of childhood, a pleasant anecdotal volume about his boarding school years and his giant Norwegian family, I wouldn’t have to explain. A lot of Dahl’s stories are exaggerated versions of true events. (Obviously I don’t mean the Vermicious Knids, that’s just kick ass imagination.) No, what I’m talking about are honest to goodness true events that ended up triggering off some of the most awesome children’s books since the Brothers Grimm. For instance, Cadbury used to send bars of chocolate to Dahl’s boarding school as tester. The boys used to taste the bars and write out comments on a little sheet of paper. Boy Dahl remembers writing, at 9, “Too subtle for the unsophisticated palate.” It was this routine that started a germ of an idea for Charlie and the Chocolate factory.

Dahl wasn’t one of those writers who never get out and just live through their books. At school, he played at least three different sports. While at Shell Company after school, he all but begged his boss to let him travel to exotic places like Africa and India so that he could have adventures. And he was a flying ace in World War one. But how does this have anything to do with his writing? It doesn’t, but it’s awesome anyway.

Dahl is also a delightful rhymer. If he sticks a poem into a story, you can be sure that it will be wicked, funny and amusing. (Oh knid, you are vile and vermicious. You are horrid and slimy and squishous). He writes one liners filled with all manner of 1960s styles racial stereotypes (China is so full of wings and wongs , every time you wing one, you get wong number.) He jeers at America and American presidents in his books, which is even more fun by the fact that he was actually invited to the White House by Roosevelt in 1945.

So listen up, read and re-read Dahl as an adult. He will be your golden ticket (nudge nudge) out of this humdrum, adult world. If you have kids, make them read Dahl. He’ll be fun and relevant, even when we’re sharing a Churchgate slow with robots. I cannot stress this enough. Read. Dahl.

 

– Sheena

Oh Season nine! Zey zink zey are so cool wiz zeir baguettes and zeir Eiffel Tower.

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Oh Season nine! Zey zink zey are so cool wiz zeir baguettes and zeir Eiffel Tower.

Variety reported recently that How I met your mother might come back with a 9th Season.

This show is the perfect example of a great series that’s overstayed it’s welcome, even though Season 7 had great ratings. I love How I met your mother, I relate it to my real life (I want to own a bar called Puzzles and meet a man like Marshall), I quote it all the time and I think that’s how Sheena and I became friends.

But I can’t watch it anymore. I mean, I will still watch Season 9 if and when it does happen but I will hate it.  The last two seasons, with the exception of a few episodes, have been painfully humourless with plots as weak as Barney’s moral ideals.

Since the possibility of Season 9 has been announced, I have been talking to people about what they want from the finale. Most people said they are only watching it because after the amount of time in invested in caring for this mysterious mother, it would be a shame to not know.

The end of Season 7 had Victoria and Ted driving off into the sunset and the big reveal was that Robin was getting married to Barney.

Here are things I hope the next (last?) season manages to do –

A good justification for the Barney and Robin story arc. When the Canadian and the player first started dating, it was a mess. After Nora, there was less legen-dary and more bleh-really? With Barney turning into an annoying puppy. In Season 7, Barney was in the perfect relationship. Quinn was fun and feisty and didn’t turn Barney into a wuss. And bits like the Quintervention and Broath were hilarious. They get engaged and, while I truly love Robin and Barney, I thought Quinn and Barney would make a better couple. Now that Barneys decided to make a go for it with Robin instead, there’d better be a damn good story.

Give Marshall more to do! With the death of his father and him becoming a father himself, his story has been the emotional element of the season but hopefully next season he’ll go back to being funny.

With Lily…actually she’s entirely unnecessary, so who cares.

The mother! While I don’t see why anyone would marry the needy Ted, I need to know who the mother is, and soon. Unlike a lot of people, I don’t want the last scene of the show to be Ted meeting the mother. I want to know the mother a little well before, I want to see Ted falling in love, I want to see them dating and mostly, I want to see every loophole, clue and hint filled and tied up; Rachel Bilson’s roommate, the St. Patrick’s day party, the economics class and everything else. We already know Victoria isn’t the mother because the economics class happened way after he had met her.

One theory that I read online and love is the Barney’s sister theory. When Barney meets his biological father, he talks about a daughter in college. She could have been in the eco class, the party, Rachel Bilson’s roommate and she would be at Barney’s wedding, where Ted meets her….it’s a possibility.

Of course, there are a lot of theories. Whatever way they decide to bring the mother in, just please make it funny!

It would be a shame if the finale was disappointing. That’s 7 years of my life I’ve already given you, HIMYM, make it worth it, please!

Drinking, TV style

Drinking, TV style

I spent most of last week watching the US version of Shameless. The show, the plot of which revolves around alcoholism and poverty, is a scrappy affair that builds interest steadily, explores characters and keeps a good hold on plot development. It is a kickass viewing experience and much of it was dominated by the main character Frank Gallagher, an infuriating yet endearing drunk who lets his family of six scramble around to deal with life while he downs drink after drink and eloquently blames the government. Watching the show made me realise that in most of my favourite shows, alcohol and alcohol abuse are either plot devices (for a few episodes) or is a dominant background character (if there is such a thing.) Jimmy McNulty and Bunk Moreland at the railway tracks were the rambling, pissed off drunks. Hank Moody from Californication was the player. Don Draper was the smooth scotch swiller. As for the gang from How I met your mother, I mean why do they even have apartments? They might as well pitch a tent at MacLaren’s and brush their teeth with beer.

There’s actually probably a lot of thought that goes into TV drinking. Drinking is not really drinking unless it’s DRINKING. Being hammered isn’t really being hammered unless the plot requires you to be HAMMERED. Getting bajaed isn’t really….I should stop. Well, as long as you get the point. If I were on TV, I could be in a bar for the better part of the day and still go home to tighten up my essay on socialism and the post-modern world. I’m never drunk till I’m required to be. In an episode of Community, a drunk dial leads to a merry vodka shot meets scotch montage of the person that got drunk dialed, putting ‘em away. The idea is that Jeff needed to settle the equation by drunk dialing Britta who drunk dialed him first. And it had to be genuine. Ding Ding. Plot point. A TV binge also makes for great comedy. Take that episode where Ross drinks himself silly when he found out that Joey and Rachel were a thing. For weeks that speech “L is for love,” was funny even out of context.

So far the best TV Drinking I’ve seen is on NBC’s Parks and Rec where the characters lose all sense of reality after downing, ‘Snake Juice’, an invented drink. The acting was so top of the line- no slurring or exaggerated stumbling- that it amazed me. The morning after scene was even funnier. I wish I could go to work with pillows scotch-taped to my head. What are your favourite TV alcohol moments?

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