Category Archives: Uncategorized

Movies beyond the Mundane…

One of the perks of the internet is the ability to view life beyond your immediate surroundings, to live vicariously in someone else’s space through a combination of Twitter, YouTube, Facebook etc etc. My favourite remains though the movies, and in the spirit of transporting myself I decided to watch cinema beyond Hollywood, and here’s one of the better ones out there, ‘Salinui Chueok’ or Memories of Murder, a Korean movie.

Film Poster

Based on a true story of the first recorded instance of a serial killer in South Korea, the movie is based in a small village close to Seoul where a series of rape murders start in 1986. These murders carry on for a couple of years during a period of political upheaval & change in the country. Very different from the Hyundai & Samsung driven Korea of today.

Brilliantly shot, the movie tracks the murders and the three policeman looking into it. All three are completely different characters, achingly fleshed out. Detective Park, the slightly arrogant local cop, his partner Cho Yong, a combative aggressive personality & finally Detective Seo who has volunteered for the assignment, coming in from Seoul. The plot is taut & the other characters flit in & out perfectly…the weary police chief, the police woman consigned to serving tea who then creates the connect between the killer & the victims, the reporters uncaring of the consequences, just looking for the big story, the suspects ranging from the mentally unstable to the chillingly calm, the victims, each of them fitting perfectly in the plot.

For a movie that ends up with the case remaining unsolved, it keeps one interested through out. The inter play between the detectives, the local ones attempting to fabricate evidence against suspects who are obviously not the killers & the city cop who uses logic & numbers to try & find the killer. There is an air of irony towards the end where both the detectives change characters & become the other one. The director, Boon Joon-ho has done a marvellous job of scripting an intriguing time, where Korea was on the cusp of it’s industrial glory, still rooted in tradition & agriculture, his closing scenes reflecting the change in Korea & finally in people.

Fields

Like most Korean movies there are strong elements of the macabre & the characters are all real in their actions & emotions, nothing is over the top. As an introduction to world cinema, and more specifically Korean work, this is one of the best to start with.

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The Return of the Gin Martini…

My journey starts with one inescapable truth in life, the sun has set somewhere in the world. And that means it is time to get a drink. Not just any drink but one of the classics… I love searching for classic drinks, it is a fun obsession and one that takes you through an intriguing maze of bars, drinking culture and interesting people.

Fine ArtFor the sake of tradition, let’s start with the ubiquitous Martini, not the bastardised version with vodka but one of the 6 original drinks, with gin! An interesting read on this is  The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury. For those really interested one can buy it on www.amazon.com for about `1800 including shipping.

Interesting fact, Martini® is actually a brand name for one of the world’s most visible bottles. Regardless of where one is in the world the chances are you will see a bottle of Martini® on the back-bar. It is essentially a 120-year-old European brand, selling in millions of bottles across Europe and fast becoming one of the largest brands in Russia (Fun reason why Russians are fast adopting it, more on that later) If you are an advertising fan, here is an example of classic Martini® turn of the century work. Martini Poster 1

Martini® is vermouth (dry, extra dry or red), drunk mainly as an apéritif, similar to how we drink tea in India! It is also a key component in the classic Martini and used well gives balance to ensure the drink does not come out too dry. It comes in a couple of varieties, Extra-Dry, Bianco, Rosso etc.

My journey starts in Delhi, not because it is the political capital of India but because I believe Delhi is fast over-taking Bombay in terms of quality of both bars, and drinks. Bombay still has some of the best hotel bars in the country, but cocktail culture is best absorbed in a more intimate, younger environment, which most hotel bars do not provide. Being someone who has drunk all over India at almost all bars, one of the perks of my job, trust me on one thing, you would rather spend time at a buzzing bar than one stuffed with old fogies! On an aside, Delhi has the least amount of bars & retail licenses per square feet/population density. There are approximately 450 odd bars in Delhi, conversely Bombay has over 1800! 

While there are a lot of good bars, the best are those that can consistently serve you a great cocktail, and those are unfortunately rare. It’s time owners realize that we come to bars to enjoy our drinks and there is nothing better than seeing a great stocked bar with the bartenders making classic and modern cocktails. Most bars rarely move beyond whiskies & standard white spirits. Cocktails are normally made with the cheapest spirits available and masked with liberal doses of sweet & sour mixes. That’s the beauty of trying out a Classic Martini, the nature of the drink means it is impossible to make a good one without premium alcohol.

Cary GrantThe Classic Martini has found its way across popular culture in books, movies & music, romanticizing the drink to almost the throne sat upon by champagne! Bolstering the decadence and magic around it are the gentleman who swore by it down the ages, including Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway, Winston Churchill, Cary Grant and Frank Sinatra.
Legend says that if it was not for the Martini, Churchill might not have won the war! Apocryphal quotes abound around the drink including my favorite, One martini is all right. Two are too many, and three are not enough”.

The Classic Martini is made from gin, vermouth, with an olive or a twist of lime. Nothing more, nothing less. The dirtier variety is an addition of brine from the olive jar and a couple olives  more. This is the Martini. Gin Martini

The best cocktails in Delhi are made at Smokehouse Grill, Shroom, Shalom, PCO, Setz, Magique, Ricks, Blue Bar & Shiro. Not surprisingly all these bars have experienced managers and forward thinking owners pushing the envelope. So you will find quality brands, interesting infusions and Sake varieties! The glasses are right, drinks are cold, infusions interesting and the flavors and fruits fresh and inviting.

The first stop is Smokehouse Grill at GK-2…I have to admit, I am an unabashed fan. I am not going to delve into the food, which incidentally is among the best meats in town, but stick to talking about the bar. There is a good choice of premium alcohol and some very good wines…it is not rare to see a `50,000 bottle of wine or champagne be popped for an occasion and without the pomp and fuss that one detests in Delhi! What I really like about the bar is the pricing, it’s affordable and it means one doesn’t have to stand around with a bottle of beer in their hands the entire evening. Eclectic mix of people, some extremely pretty women and a couple who are happy to wrap themselves around a couple of the strategic poles placed near the bar post midnight! 

GinsBack to the drink and make sure you get John to make it for you. He’s one of Delhi’s top bartenders and watching him shake and deliver a good cocktail on a busy Friday night in 90 seconds is quite impressive! When you order a Classic Martini make sure you ask for an imported premium gin. Any other gins are essentially spirit with an artificial flavor and should be avoided! Bombay Sapphire, Tanqueray, Hendricks are the best out there, distilled using botanical’s and original ingredients made at a single source, i.e. one distillery in the world. Coming back to the drink here, its made in the classical style, i.e. stirred NOT shaken! If there is some criticism I have it is that the straining is not perfect and you do find some ice chips in your drink. The other issue is that the martini glasses are bigger than the serving, and for a classic cocktail that is a strict no no. On the flip side the drink is chilled perfectly, which allows the ingredients to mix well…it also means you need to drink your Martini within five minutes or the heat from your hands will start breaking down the ingredients.

Referring to my point on the phenomenal rise of  Martini® in Russia is ironically because most Russian women are drinking bottles of it at nightclubs and parties. It looks elegant, much less kick than vodka or champagne and there is an innate elegance about it. 

monica-bellucci-martini

martini_rosato_jude_law_ad_campaign_advertising_2009_2010

The newest advertising campaign is all about Martini® being the world’s most beautiful drink, and to communicate the messaging they have roped in the gorgeous Monica Belluci & Jude Law to promote the brand. In the past George Clooney & the gorgeous Charlize Theron have worked their magic on television for Martini®, the Clooney campaign is particularly good, a take-off on the golden age of cocktails, with Clooney sporting a Clark Gable mustache with his customary savoirfaire. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=81OmtxZHJVA

Continuing my search for great drinks, to quote a classic from Jim Morrison…Take me to the next whisky bar!