Monday, 12 December 2011

A vintage treasure chest

I'm a sucker for all things vintage, but sadly I don't have enough space in my humble home to hoard them. I recently found this little shop that sells vintage sailor equipment and was very fascinated with it. Needless to say, every traveller needs at least some of these pieces. Check it out...

Where: Mr. Rauf Khalifa’s shop, outside Food Inn restaurant, Opp. Colaba Polica Station, Colaba Causeway.
Why: For vintage sailing equipment
What: Now you can navigate your way into the wide open sea with a treasure chest of sailing equipment from the days of yore. This little shop, inconspicuous by its presence houses a variety of telescopes, compasses, clocks, old telephones, sextants, hourglasses, ball clocks, diving helmets, horns, bells, lamps and lanterns. It also has mini kits that include a compass, small telescope and a magnifying glass that one can use as a gifting item. It’s the perfect haunt for a sailing enthusiast or even a vintage items connoisseur to add these to their list of collectibles. The shop also keeps limited vintage home décor items like mini gramophones, flasks and miniature bikes.
Price range: Rs. 100 onwards

The Yash Chopra train and hotel suite... Switzerland

In a career that spans 50 years, one can only imagine the number of accolades filmmaker Yash Chopra might have received. Adding another laurel to his collection is the title of ‘Ambassador of Interlaken’, recently bestowed upon him by the Swiss Embassy; together with the naming a train and a hotel suite on him as well. I had the good fortune to interview him on this occasion. Here's an article that was published as part of a special supplement on Switzerland that was distributed with The Times of India.

Every Indian’s passion for cinema is driven by the unforgettable love stories deftly crafted by celebrated filmmaker Yash Chopra. His larger-than-life representation of simple stories, combined with heart-warming performances, iconic music and breathtaking visual imagery, is what makes him the legend he is today. He was also one of the first few filmmakers to shoot his films outside India, adding an aspirational value for his viewers. Switzerland alone has been a prime location for more than ten YashRaj Films, igniting the fantasies of billions of Bollywood fans across the world. As a tribute to Mr. Chopra’s contribution for promoting Switzerland through his movies, he was awarded the title of ‘Ambassador of Interlaken’ for his outstanding contribution to tourism development in Interlaken on April 8, 2011 by the Mayor of Interlaken Urs Graf. In addition to the award, a commemorative silver plate—replete with Mr. Chopra’s name and signature—will be placed at the centre of Interlaken, along the Höheweg. Mr. Graf exclaimed, “Mr. Chopra’s contribution to tourism in Interlaken, as well as all of Switzerland, through his films has been extraordinary. He has further promoted the relationship between Switzerland and India through the voice of cinema.”

When asked about his love affair with Switzerland, Mr. Chopra revealed, “I came here for the first time 50 years ago, and fell in love with this place; and 25 years later, I decided to make films here. Filmmaking is a very stressful job, but here, I’ve worked peacefully. The people here are so kind and helpful with everything you need; I didn’t face any problems.” Vijay, Darr, Chandni, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, Mohabbatein and Veer-Zaara are among the many films that were shot here.

The Yash Chopra Train
Together with the honorary Ambassadorship, Jungfrau Railways also named a train after Mr. Chopra in a grand ceremony that took place at Kleine Scheidegg. The alpine horn resounded with a warm welcome as the CEO of Jungfrau Railways, Mr. Urs Kessler greeted Mr. Chopra with words of praise. Mr. Chopra then, together with his wife, Mrs. Pamela Chopra, inaugurated the signboard on the train that revealed his name with by popping the champagne. The humble Mr. Chopra said, “I really didn’t expect it. The only other person to have a train named after him is the founder of Jungfrau Railways, Adolf Guyer-Zeller. After 100 years, they name a train, and that too after an Indian; it’s a huge honour!”  Now, movie buffs, the world over can relive epic moments from YashRaj favourites that were shot on Jungfrau Railways trains like the song ‘Zara sa jhoom loon main’ from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaaenge or ‘Tu mere saamne’ from Darr, to name a few. Recalling his shoots aboard the trains here, Mr. Chopra reminisced, “Mr. Kessler and his team made it so easy for me to shoot in the trains. They used to give me an entire compartment and extended their help in anything else I required. I’m really thankful to them for their cooperation.”

The Yash Chopra Suite
To add to his overflowing collection of awards and accolades, the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa named a deluxe suite after him. Aesthetically designed with black leather sofa sets and exquisite lamps, the Yash Chopra suite comes with the magnanimous view of the Jungfrau mountain range, an elegant bedroom and two bathrooms. Lending a personal touch are the posters of his favourite film Veer-Zaara, which adorn the walls of the living room as well as the bedroom. When asked about his feelings about the honours bestowed upon him, an emotional Mr. Chopra revealed, “I feel that all of this is not my achievement; it is my industry’s and my country’s. Today, they have honoured an Indian. I’ve been in films for more than 50 years and God has been grateful to me and given me many accolades, but the honour I have received here has been the ultimate.” 

Did you know?
  • Not many people are aware that the first Yash Chopra film to be shot in Switzerland was Faasle in 1984.
  • Among the many films he has filmed in Switzerland, the song ‘Yeh hum aa gaye hain kahan’ from Veer Zaara is his personal favourite.
  • Parts of the song, ‘Ho gaya hai tujhko to pyar sajna’ from Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge that were supposedly in London were actually filmed opposite the Victoria-Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa. 
P.S.  My visit to Interlaken and Jungfrau was at the invitation of Jungfraubahnen | Jungfrau Railways

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

PHOTO FEATURE - Shimla , Himachal Pradesh

This post is dedicated to my brother Deepak, whom I lost earlier this year. Being the same age, we were obviously quite connected; even though we stayed in different cities for the most part. However, my first trip to Shimla (while he was staying there) was certainly one of the most memorable trips with him. It was during winter and it was snowing. We ate ice cream with snowflakes falling in it and played cricket in the house's backyard. A crazy dance by the fireplace at home followed. It was a trip I'll never forget... Here's to him and his zest for life...

I have this love-hate relationship with Shimla. I love the colonial feel of this town; the never-ending Mall Road, buildings with slanted roofs, the Indian Coffee House, the colonial structures… But, I hate the commercialism that has taken over it. It is flooded with tourists all-year-round. Still, it remains close to my heart. I visited Shimla twice in the past two years itself, but my fondest memory of this quaint town is of playing cricket in the snow-covered backyard of my cousin’s grand colonial home, and then dancing around the fireplace after a very cold, snowy day. Hmmm, some moments can never be replicated.

So, I’d like to share with you some photographs from my last trip to Shimla in a bid to relive those wonderful moments.

Built during the British colonial rule in India, Shimla's Mall Road is replete with shops and restaurants alike. But it is the string of colonial structures, such as Christ Church and Town Hall, sprawled throughout its stretch that make Mall Road special to me. I particularly love that all vehicles, with the exception of maybe cycle richshaws, are banned from its main street; making it ideal for walking. Hundreds of tourists keep the main street crowded every year, so you'll also find the usual tourist traps here.

Christ Church' prominent lemon yellow building displaying Neo-Gothic architecture was built sometime in 1800s and is the second oldest church in all of North India. When visiting, make sure you check the visitor timings. When I visited last year, it was open to visitors from 8-11a.m. and at 5p.m. in the evening.

The Municipal Library building, adjacent to Christ Church, displays Neo-Tudor architecture. The Tudor style is still visible in portions of the new additions to the many colleges of Oxford and Cambridge.

Undoubtedly one of my favourite places in Shimla, the Indian Coffee House makes the best filter coffee I've had in northern India. I cannot help but have two cups on every visit. This place has a true old-world charm with casual, cosy interiors, old, ragged posters, a blackboard menu and waiters in these unique old-style turbans. The only drawback is its food. Only the idli seems to be edible, the other items lack taste. Still, a must-visit.

A striking statue of Indira Gandhi at the Ridge on Mall Road. Shimla houses the Indira Gandhi Hospital, Medical and Dental College. I really like this photograph for the sheer grandeur it seems to emanate.

A virtual tour of the Louvre Museum, Paris

 The exterior of the Louvre Palace and Museum

Most people who visit the Louvre Museum in Paris are in search of Leonardo Da Vinci's Mona Lisa. As was I. Considered one of the world's most famous paintings (one that has been featured in several Hollywood films as well), the coveted Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile has been the topic of debate for centuries. However, my desire for seeing it up close to really decipher the secret behind that smile remained unfulfilled as this is the one painting that is kept at a few metres distance from viewers, with an exterior glass case, owing to the numerous visitors that flock here every single day. Here are a few glimpses of one of Da Vinci's most popular works.

Interestingly, this painting was stolen from the Louvre in 1911 and returned to it in 1913.

The thing that fascinates me most about the Musée du Louvre is the grand glass pyramid erected over the entrance. It is said that attendance to the museum has doubled since this glass pyramid was constructed.

The Louvre exhibits almost 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 19th century, sprawled over an area of 60,600 square metres. ‘The world’s most visited museum’ houses sculptures, objets d'art, paintings, drawings, and archaeological finds, and receives more than 15,000 visitors each day, 65 percent of whom are tourists.

                     Ground Floor: Egyptian, Near Eastern, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities

First Floor: The Winged Victory of Samothrace

The collection is divided among eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; Prints and Drawings.

The Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese

                                              First Floor: French paintings from the 19th Century

I met this artist who was replicating an Italian sculpture at the museum's Ground Floor

Psyche and Cupid by Antonio Canova

Ground Floor: Etruscan and Roman antiquities

To check out detailed information on the various collections housed in the museum, frequent exhibitions an more, check out their official website here. You can also buy tickets online to avoid queuing up at the museum.