It’s snowing fun
Saurabh Malik

White or sunny Christmas, all roads are leading to the hills. So, don’t make celebrations an uphill task. Just zip up your jackets and enjoy! 

ENTHUSIASM has snowballed into excitement, already. As early “soft and slumberous snow” in Shimla brings along with it the sublime promise of a White Christmas, the out-to-chill crowd is already packing up its bags for a rendezvous with Santa Claus in the hills on December 25.

Guys, you have guessed it right. As city residents pad up to unwind on the winding road meandering its way to the region’s celebration capital, the big day is all set to witness a flurry of activity in the hills.

“The pledges of celebrating Christmas on the dance floor in the city discotheques and night clubs have already been buried under the forgetful snow by the teenyboppers as they make plans for storming Shimla with the hope to enjoy the feathered rain,” says Vineet Sharma of Sheetal Travels-17. “For so many of them, this is, perhaps, the first time Christmas comes with such a solid assurance of fair celebrations as almost a decade has passed since Shimla witnessed footfall due to heavy snow on the big day.”

Well, just in case you do not know White Christmas, more often than not, eludes tourists thronging Shimla every year. Last year also, they had to return home without enjoying the snowscape. The phenomenon has led many residents to wonder whether White Christmas in Shimla is an illusion after all.

In fact, Punjab and Haryana High Court advocate-cum-regular frequenter to Shimla Raman Kumar Sharma says you actually have to meticulously turn the pages of memory’s album for snaps of snowcapped fun on Christmas.

“Everyone in the country speaks of White Christmas in Shimla, though I am sure only a few can recall hurling snowballs at each other on Christmas more than thrice in their youth,” Raman asserts.

Gearing up for another trip to Shimla, he says: You see, the concept comes from the 1954 Bing Crosby-Danny Kaye starrer White Christmas. The classic, directed by Michael Curtiz, featured Irving Berlin’s songs including the titular White Christmas.

The flick ended on a happy note with snow falling on pine trees and people raising glasses in honour of the romantic twosome. Since then, some of the travel agents and hoteliers in Shimla have been selling the concept to the people in the plains for attracting them to Shimla during holidays. On an average, about 50,000 tourists arrive in Shimla around Christmas.

This time around, there’s another reason for you to be in Shimla, along with other tourists, says Ankit Gupta of the Himani chain of hotels in Chandigarh and Shimla. “Christmas this year is on Tuesday. So if you take an off on Monday and combine the holiday with the weekend, you can practically party for four days without really allowing your work to suffer,” he asserts. “Likewise, New Year’s Eve is on Monday”.

So, prepare for a fortnight of partying!

Idols come to town
Aman Minhas

ALREADY running late, when one of the organisers was overheard saying he was embarrassed, we thought the event had been called off. This is the flip side of talent hunt shows. It springs celebs in numbers and starry attitudes in multiples. But our prayers were answered and Indian Idol-3 contestants Amit Paul, Emon Chatterjee, Puja Chatterjee and Ankita Mishra walked into Hotel Shivalikview’s boardroom. Here to perform at Leisure Valley-10, the chirpy, friendly and naughty heartthrobs looked like any 20-something. As they spoke, one realised fame hasn’t gone into their heads. Here goes…

Under the spotlight

Indian Idol has transported these small-town youngsters to the glam world and they have enjoyed every bit of it. The talkative and notorious Emon, a Sonu Nigam look and sing-alike, who sported a hair band a la Abhishek Bachchan style, was quick to respond, “It has changed our lives and given us a chance to meet big judges and improve.” Shares tomboy Ankita, looking pretty feminine, “It has made us emotionally strong and confident.” But isn’t the pressure too much? “Yes, but nothing can be achieved without hard work. And we had good friends around,” says Puja, a trained singer.

So how did friendship grow among competitors? “We never felt like rivals. We competed while performing; otherwise we would help each other cope.” But that is how these talent hunt shows are. The winner gets everything and others uncertainty. But runner-up Amit thinks different, “Real talent and potential will never go waste. Coming so far is a feat in itself.”

Been there, seen it all — what’s their take on reality shows, voting system and judges’ favouritism ? “We can’t change the system, but yes, our judges were very fair,” tells Puja.

What’s up?

They all are busy doing shows in India and overseas. Amit is singing five songs, including one for Shiney Ahuja. Emon too has some playback contracts and Ankita and Puja are waiting to be re-discovered. Happy with life, they are basking in the adulation from the public and government. The Jharkhand government has named institutions after Puja, Chang and Abhishek.

And how could they not sing for us? And after listening to them, we feel they deserve every bit of fame and glory!

Shining Bright
Parbina Rashid

They are newsmakers in their own right — Zulfiqar and his slum children. After collecting newspapers door-to-door and making bags out of them to sustain themselves, city’s voluntary group, Theatre Age, is now going to make its presence felt on the national scene. Asian Plateau, a centre for introspection and dialogue, has invited 15 of its boys to a five-day camp at Panchgani.

“This is the second time we’ve been invited. Last year, we presented a special programme for the participants. But, this time our boys will take part in camp activities and present a cultural show,” says the founder, Zulfiqar.

The boys, most of whom work as shoe-shiners during the day, get together in the evenings in Sector 24. Here, they get formal education and vocational training. “We are going to present a dance choreography on Vande Mataram, a ballet on Krishna Leela and an environment-based play called Poly Don,” tell the children, busy preparing for the show. The camp includes exercising, group interactions, works, short trek and other creative activities. “Asia Plateau takes Rs 3,000 a child but the fee has been waived off for our boys,” Zulfiqar informs. The camp commences December 27.

However, it comes as little relief for Theatre Age, which is now entrusted with the responsibility of arranging train tickets for the boys and also other things like decent clothes and enough money for the journey. And since the gruelling rehearsal hours is leaving them with little time for making more paper bags to meet their needs, Zulfikar is appealing all for help.

If you too want to lend a hand, call Zulfiqar at 9815145453.

First Day First Show

Air Buddies: WATCHABLE

Puppy Love

Air Buddies presents the five adorable puppies of the famous Air Bud and the love of his life, Molly. Meet B-Dawg, Rosebud, Bud-Dha, MudBud, and Budderball. Each full of personality and sports pizzaz, the five puppies are nothing but fun, and maybe a little trouble.

The puppies live with Air Bud in the Framm home, but they are becoming quite a handful. Mr and Mrs Framm decide that it is time to find each puppy a new home. The Framm’s son, Noah, is heart-broken, but he and his best friend Henry (Molly’s owner) set about the task of finding the perfect families.

The puppies decide to take things into their own paws, and they run away. Unfortunately, they innocently run straight into a sinister plot to kidnap Air Bud, resulting in the kidnapping of both Air Bud and Molly. The pups work together to find their parents, but they are not alone. With the help of the Framm’s, Henry, and a few other friends along the way, the buddies prove that a little teamwork can accomplish anything, and that love conquers all. Air Buddies provides fun, family entertainment, and the puppies make the movie worth watching. Kids will enjoy the puppies’ distinct personalities and their mischievous adventures. — TNS

Showing at: Fun Republic

Strangers: WATCHABLE

Perfect Strangers

StrangersUNCONVENTIONAL stories are being told on Indian screen. Strangers directed by Aanand Rai is one such film. It charters a hitherto unchartered path altogether.

Substitute the Indian faces with non-Indian actors and Strangers would easily pass off as a foreign film since the concept is very unlike as what we’ve seen in Hindi cinema so far. One may draw parallels with strangers on a train, but as layer after layer is peeled off, you realise that Strangers travels on a different track. But the problem is, it caters to a very, very tiny section of moviegoers.

Two men, complete strangers to each other and diagonally opposite personalities, are travelling in a first class compartment in England. The claustrophobia of a closed space and the coincidence that they are both Indians, binds them to each other.

Rai (Kay Kay Menon), the management giant, and Rahul (Jimmy Shergill), a writer with a flop career, in their efforts to entertain each other throughout the journey, drop clues and fill in the missing pieces into stories that are never told unless, among complete strangers. Four lives are put at stake and everything is about to change…

Director Aanand Rai narrates a fascinating story and although the writing isn’t foolproof, the execution of the material catches your eye instantly. The written material has some gaping flaws, like why doesn’t Nandana walk out of her marriage when her marriage to Jimmy has already started rotting? The end too looks abrupt, with Jimmy accomplishing the task so very easily. Some situations are left unexplained! The director gets major help from two major departments — cinematography (splendid) and background score (electrifying).

Both Jimmy and Kay Kay are highly competent. Strangers should occupy the top slot in Jimmy”s body of work. Kay Kay delivers an accomplished performance yet again. Nandana Sen handles a complex role with panache. Sonali Kulkarni is perfect. On the whole, a well-made, intelligent thriller for the multiplex audience. — TNS

Showing at: Fun Republic

Write to Renee

I am a 30-year-old-man and got married in 2005. My wife left me when she was two months pregnant and moved to her parents place. She later gave birth to our daughter and never allowed me to see her. She wanted me to leave my parents which I was not ready to do. I filed for a divorce but she filed a dowry case against me and my family. Now she does not want to divorce me and wants to return. But I am not keen, as I have seen her worst side. In the meantime, I got involved with an old friend, who understands me. I want to marry her but my father does not like her. What should I do?

Kandher Sabherwal, Ludhiana

This is quite a dilemma. Have you asked your father the reasons for not liking her? Maybe it is just a misconception. You need not feel guilty about anything. If you have been true to yourself and your family and behaved in their best interests, you should just follow your heart. Have you asked your wife why she wants to return and does she have any terms and conditions now? Anyway, how does your father feel about her? Maybe his disapproval of your new friend is because he may be thinking you are on the rebound. Weigh your pros and cons well. If your intentions are honourable the correct decision will co me to you naturally.

* * *

I am a 24-year-old-girl living in a hostel. I share a room with another girl from my hometown. The problem is her attitude. She is too inquisitive. Although we both are working, we have different timings. She keeps a complete tab on where I go and when. She even knows who comes to visit me and who is my current boyfriend. I feel suffocated. How can I get rid of her? It is not easy to find alternative arrangement. Should I tell her to back off?

Shruti Nighawan, Delhi

Your situation is definitely harassing and uneasy. It is not easy to find alternate living arrangements in a big city but that is actually the best option for you. Why suffer with someone when you have a choice to move out? For the time being tell her gently that you like your privacy and you would appreciate if she just stayed out of your life. Take it easy. Do not allow the scenario to overwhelm you at all. Some people have a nosy inquisitive nature but mostly harmless. Learn to have an indifferent attitude and in the meantime find another place and live in peace.

* * *

I am 21-year-old and in love with my brother’s best friend for the past three years. Actually I have known him since I was 10 and always hero-worshipped him. But he still treats me as a kid as he is seven years elder to me. How can I make him see me as an adult who could be other than just his friend’s sister? I am depressed as I don’t know how do deal with these emotions.

Kirti Mankotia, Yamunanagar

Love is a much talked-about word, much misunderstood. Sometimes we are so much in love with the idea of being in love that we start getting obsessed over whoever is available. Please check your emotions thoroughly. May be this is just an infatuation. Love is all about understanding and companionship. Do try and chat him up in a friendly way without letting your emotion take over. Maybe you could go out as a threesome with your brother. Make him feel you are an adult and an individual. Surely his attitude will change. Subtly you can throw hints about your feelings.
or C/o Lifestyle, The Tribune, Sector 29-C, Chandigarh

Bollywood Tadka
Rajiv Bhatia

It may sound music to your ears, but after hip-hop music the boogie-woogie crowd is tuning itself to the beats of Bollywood music. It’s back with a bang in city discotheques. In fact, Mauja Hi Mauja, Ishq Da Kalma, Bhul Bahaliya, Hare Ram Hare Krishna and many more rocking songs are setting pace for afternoon and late evening parties. When good music is played in a bash, it is bound to rock the party, so now you have hit filmi numbers played in innovative styles changing the atmosphere of the parties.

“Bollywood remixes are ruling in city pubs and discs,” says Saransh, city-based event and party organiser. Chips in DJ Piyush, “Party music is rapidly changing. The kind of music we play depends on the demands of the crowd.” DJ Piyush also plays at Delhi discs. The filmi numbers are going to rule at Christmas and New Year parties too.

Over the past few years, the city has come up as a happening party destination, with ten party places. And unlike few years back, when only some orchestras played old Bollywood music, now the youth can grove to the numbers at discs and pubs. The trend of hip-hop music caught here with the MTV culture striking its roots in the city. And with youngsters converging from all over the region, Punjabi music attracted almost all party hoppers. The trend became such that without Punjabi music party was not considered complete. But, the trend is changing again day by day. 

DJ Varun recalls that a few years back he stared with playing pop music in dance parties. “Most of the youngsters demanded such stuff. That time the music culture was totally different as from now,” he says. “Hip-hop and house music used to be hot in parties, but now it’s Hindi club mix and hit numbers of Himesh Reshmmaiya that rock. Bollywood commercial are also life of any party,” he adds. “Back to Bollywood,” says DJ AJ, House DJ, X-over-26 He asserts, “Nowadays youngsters are requesting for Bollywood remixes and oldies. They have made a come back in discs”.

And, well twirling all around the floor are not just teenyboppers, but also young professionals from call centers eager to lose their blues amidst the melodious tune. On reason for change in music in city discs, they all assert that change is always for the better.

Is abusing
at workplace savvy?
Purva Grover

A study says interspersing conversation with f#@*?/$ at the workplace is a good idea. So, is it time we transform into someone who swears at the drop of a hat? Let’s find out

The very sound of these words at the workplace disgusts. You often relate their frequent use with bad upbringing. And, as for individuals who voice these words, you call them uncouth. For, you believe in a decent work culture. Now, what if we were tell you that the abuses your colleagues voice might be actually helping them climb up the corporate ladder. Suggest researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) — letting workers swear at the workplace benefits both employees and employers. We spoke to city workaholics and experts to find out if it’s right to swear by the research.

There are individuals who communicate better when they swear; it helps the confidence. Agrees city-based psychiatrist Dr Simi Wariach, "Boys pick up a lot of these words while growing up, so it becomes their natural way of expressing." Call it social conditioning, but Sumit, a MNC employee is one such person who was happy when he landed in a group whose sentence formation was just like his. He says, "We don’t mean any harm, it’s not abusive or negative. It’s fun." Chips in his colleague Amit, "It enhances bonding in the team and also works as a stress-buster." Does it really?

"Short-term it might, but not a deeper level," says city-based psychologist Rajshree Sarda. "It might make a conversation flow freely in certain groups, but nothing more," she says. And this comes with a warning for one might end up being exploited in the garb of these friendly swearing ties.

For Vikram, a bank employee, swearing is synonymous with fashion statement. "It has helped me earn an image of a cool and open guy at my workplace," says the 24-year-old. Sumit, an IT professional has his own reasoning. "I would go berserk each time the printer jammed or an MS Word reported an error in saving." He adds, "The anger-led words conveyed my passion and dedication for work." Now, we don’t know how happy the HR people would be with this news!

And is swearing a guy-guy thing, we wonder. "Nope, though of course the choice of taboo words may vary," says Smriti, a BPO employee. And interestingly, its just English abuses that rule and provide her relief after attending endless calls.

Now, not all agree with this, and perhaps rightly so. Says Karan, an IT professional, "A rare use to create a comic effect is still acceptable, but you can’t be swearing each time the tea spills or a call disconnects." He questions, "It may help you grab attention or prove a point, but why would one like to do that forgetting basic courtesy and respect? Agrees Wariach, "It has definitely become more acceptable, but then it should not be directed at anyone." And, as for enhancing work efficiency, she has her doubts, "It could work for an aggressive person who may vent out his frustration and then get back to work."

Well, so now all we can say is that swearing sans hatred and anger may not be all that bad, but then it is people, place and situation specific. A f#*? as you enjoy a drink with your boss sounds okay, but then not at a meeting. Right? Surely you agree!

Matka chowk
Visitor Birds
Sreedhara Bhasin

WHEN I was a child, a Visit to the Calcutta Zoo was mandatory in winter – for the unique and exotic migratory birds arrived as soon as the weather started to cool down. We were amazed by the fact that some of the birds came back again and again – crossing all the frozen lakes and meadows across Siberia. I grew particularly fond of a crane with a bad scar on its long neck – that came every year and seemed intrepid and very bindaas. He was like a maverick – egging on the others to be daredevils.

At some point, the birds stopped coming. Everyone blamed the high-rise buildings, excessive traffic, pollution and poachers for this. I looked for that crane in vain for many years afterwards and always left the lake sad yet, with a faint hope that he would be back the next year. But, he never did.

I have also grown very fond of the migratory birds at Sukhna Lake. I await their arrival every year around this time. I took the effort to learn their species and can now tell a poachard from a coot. However, when I see the waterfowls enjoying our little bulrush islands, I cannot help but feel fearful, for this beautiful piece of haven that the birds and the Chandigarh people have enjoyed for so long is also under assault – from the ever rising forces of progress. All the styrofoam floating in water cannot possibly be a good thing for the birds. People have taken to feeding them bread – apparently in a gesture of kindness — but how good can carbohydrates with preservatives be for a bird from Mongolia?

Now that a lot of the swamps are visible after the recent dredging, there are pathways to practically walk into the lake. Groups of people wander in, looking for dry branches and feed for their cattle. Dogs follow suit sometimes, scaring the wits off the birds.

The small herons that arrived last year are yet to be seen. The cormorants that come in hordes every year – a few of those are seen now. Although, the time has not yet arrived for the arrival of the entire lot – the shikaras, the stray dogs and the multitude of edible remains that are being thrown into the lake in profuse quantity are not really helping.

I asked one of the policemen about the dogs the other day. He said – "Madam, kutta hai, aayega – kya kar sakte ho? Kisiko agar na kate, to kya problem hai?" I opened my mouth to discuss the birds and decided against it.

I am not an animal rights type, but I do want to see those birds come back each year. Don’t you all?

Reese & Vaughn battling

Tension is brewing between Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn on the sets of Four Christmases. Spies have revealed that the lead pair cannot see eye to eye, adding that the tension between the stars is more entertaining than the script of the romantic comedy. According to insiders, the Legally Blonde star is quite opposed to Vaughn’s laid-back approach to work.

"Vince rolls onto set in the morning looking like he just came in from a night out, while Reese will arrive early looking camera-ready," a source said. He added, "Reese forces Vince into blocking out each scene and running through their lines as Vince tries to convince her that he’s an ad-libber and wants to play around and see where the scene goes." The two stars have different temperaments and approaches towards work, Reese is a perfectionist and Vince likes to try few different ways. "Sometimes Vince will be standing behind her and he has this look on his face that he just wants to kill her!" the source added. — ANI

Simply Music
Their music, bond & passion just keeps growing
Purva Grover

Photo by Vinay Malik
Photo by Vinay Malik

A computer engineer and a fashion designer, that’s Jay and Aléna for you, the Indo-Jazz brother-sister, who’ve made music their passion. “There’s nothing like following your heart,” says Aléna, who was in the city on Saturday to anchor at ICL. The duo, with Jay as the composer and painist, and Aléna as a vocalist, found their calling over a decade back and have performed at live concerts all over the world now.

Their music is a seamless blend of western with Indian flavours. And it’s Jay who plays the tabla, flute, piano, saxophone and cello, and as for Aléna’s instrument, she says, “I carry it with myself, right here.” An astounding vocalist, she was also awarded the French Nightingale’98. A national-level contest for the best vocalist in France, she recalls the title came with a free one-month holiday in France. English, French, Spanish and Hindi, she lends her deep smoky voice to all. As for Bollywood numbers, they try to incorporate the touch in their music too. Jay looks up to Jean Micheljarri for inspiration and as for younger sis Aléna, it’s only her musical genius brother.

And do they have sibling fights? “As kids we used to fight a lot, but now we don’t, in fact, I really miss him. We even discuss music over the phone.” Aléna lives in Singapore and Jay is settled in Bangalore. And what else interests the twosome? “Computers for Jay and Latin, Salsa and Ballroom dance for me,” says Aléna. “I have been learning Salsa for the past few years and it has now become an addiction,” she says. And, next on Aléna’s wish list is a music video, where she can do a little Salsa. She’ll be back in the city next month with her bro for charity concerts.

Exhi Watch
Riot of Colour

Photo by Pradeep TewariIntricate weaving, splendid designs and delightful colours, and bringing to you all this are 18 weavers from different parts of Himachal. The first exhibition of its kind Bunkar Utpad Mela-2007 is an exhibition cum sale of exquisite handloom products created by weavers under the Integrated Handloom Cluster Development Scheme — Kullu. Wrap yourself in Kullu and Kinnauri shawls. These pure wool shawls in vegetable dye colours are priced at Rs 5,000 onwards and take over 45 days for completion. A border or a full Kinnauri pattern comes with intricate fine embroidery. Yak wool shawls (Rs 1,000 onwards) and Kullu Pullan (Rs, 10,000) too bear the stamp of individuality and creativity of each of the self-help groups participating. Nehru jackets for men in tweed and tones like beige, blue, brown and black are priced at Rs 600 onwards. Plain or fine checks, these are even reversible. Complement the attire with pure wool mufflers (Rs 200 onwards), pair of gloves (Rs 50) or an over coat. Talk typical Himachali traditional products and there are grass pullan (footwear that keeps you warm), Kullu caps and Lahauli socks.

Himachali dolls, brass figurines, body oil and scrubs are also on offer. The buyers can avail a discount of up to 20 per cent. — TNS

At Panchayat Bhawan-18, on till December 26

Charitable Nicole

Actress Nicole Kidman, the face of Channel No.5, will donate the substantial damages she has won over claims of snubbing the perfume by flaunting a bottle of a rival fragrance, to charity. Kidman’s solicitor, John Kelly said the actress intends to donate the substantial undisclosed damages to the United Nations Development Fund for Women. The 40-year-old actress was not present at London’s High Court for the settlement of her libel action against The Daily Telegraph. Kelly told Justice Gray that the Hours actress had gone through a lot of embarrassment and distress over the story, which appeared last month. — ANI

Chak de Chandigarh

AnubhavBIG 92.7 FM, in its endeavor to provide wholesome and quality entertainment to its listeners has brought on board RJ Anubhav with a new breakfast show - ‘Chak De Chandigarh’. The RJ, who has worked with many production houses and radio channels and written scripts for various projects, will be on air from December 17, every morning between 7 and 11, Monday’s to Saturday’s. Starting-off with a general topic for discussion, the show will have interesting sections, like ‘Sector 927’, in which Anubhav will visit various sectors of the city and speak to listeners on civic and social issues faced by them at their locality. — TNS

Little Interview
Mentor Mika

After the success of Maujan hi maujan. (Jab We Met) and Ganpat (Shoutout At Lokhandwala), Mika is busy playing the mentor to Shweta Tiwari in Sahara One’s reality show Jhoom India. Mika, who was in Delhi recently, spoke to Life Style about the show.

What made you to be a part of Jhoom India?

I am a singer and it gives me the right platform to showcase my talent. Also Jhoom India has a good team of singers, actors and judges. And shooting for that, I found that I have gone many steps up.

How would you assess Shweta Tiwari as a singer?

It is quite a challenge to train Shweta whom Suresh Wadekar tagged as ‘besuri Shweta’. She is good in acting and has the potential to be turned into a good singer.

What about the wild card entry?

The wild card entry in reality shows is turning out to be more entertaining than the main competition. Jhoom India format has such an entry inherent to the show.

How did Jab We Met happen?

Director Imtiaz Ali contacted me. I liked the song and added Punjabi flavour to it.

What are your future projects?

One of my albums is ready. I would love to sing in films only for my close friends.

— Dharam Pal

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