Lalala…

Yes, I’m a late bloomer but so what… and whilst I have no desire to ‘moonlight’ as a film critic, this just had to be shared…

Lalaland is an intriguingly sensitive story about dreams, passion, love, defeat, heartbreak, fate and so many other yarns beautifully and indeed, masterfully woven together using the thread of music and more specifically, jazz. I’ve always believed that brilliant cinema, like Art, should never be actually be reviewed … because that would mean the passing (and also possible mass acceptance) of a judgement based on the opinion of a solitary individual, one that may or may not reflect the soul of the masterpiece as understood and embraced by another. Art demands individual interpretation by all, each taking away something special from it… each understanding its fabric through their own will… each reminiscing about its mysterious impact on their very spirit.

Damien Chazelle, the 32 year old genius director first gave us ‘Whiplash’ and now this! No prizes for guessing who’s going back in time to discover more of his work…

Emma Stone… her performance almost warrants the creation of a new word in the dictionary as a new descriptive … an ubiquitous ‘outstanding’ and other such obvious parlance would perhaps be grossly inadequate to describe her brilliance.

Lalaland is a modern day classic … I’m sure many would have watched it by now, but for those who still haven’t, do so now… The film (and specially these words from an audition scene) will make you rethink about your own life, and, if indeed, the morning after has not obstinately pushed you back into the rigorous imprisonment of your routine existence, you may just have found yourself (and your purpose of existence) all over again… Enjoy!

Here’s to the ones who dream

Foolish as they may seem

Here’s to the hearts that ache

Here’s to the mess we make…
She captured a feeling

Sky with no ceiling
The sunset inside a frame
She lived in her liquor

And died with a flicker

I’ll always remember the flame
Here’s to the ones who dream

Foolish as they may seem

Here’s to the hearts that ache

Here’s to the mess we make…
She told me:

“A bit of madness is key

To give us new colors to see

Who knows where it will lead us?

And that’s why they need us”
So bring on the rebels

The ripples from pebbles

The painters, and poets, and plays
And here’s to the fools who dream

Crazy as they may seem

Here’s to the hearts that break

Here’s to the mess we make…

Standard

Leela Raas

If you happen to travel to Udaipur, chances are you’ll be staying in or around the Pichola Lake (which is really the key reason you’d be there in the first place). There are several hotels, ranging from authentic Royal fare to India Modern. And then there’s the Leela.

The Leela Group is India’s creator of modern royal experiences in hospitality, and though, this aspect of India is celebrated in different forms ranging from elegant to trying-too-hard by a few of the other leading hotel chains of India, none has managed to present the grandeur, detail and luxury levels that the Leela has achieved. Interestingly enough though, I’ve often heard two opinions about the Leela properties, some consider it a bit nouveau and loud…and others swear by its exquisite detailing and the luxurious  experiences. Personally, I believe that the Leela lays it out like none other… and my stay there was a joyous testimony to all that I’ve believed in about the ethos of the brand. Sure it can seem overwhelming to some, but were not our palaces the most intimidating of all? It may also seem busy to some, but we must not forget that India is intrinsically a land of maximalists: Look at everything around us…Our food; Complex flavours and a multitude of spices….Our temples: years spent in carving the toughest rocks into masterpieces… Our miniatures: Painstakingly worked on with even the finest detail not escaping the artist’s fine brush…. Our festivals: veering between loud and colourful and celebrated with a manic frenzy… Our clothes: exotic weaves, rich embroideries and lush silks!… I could go on and on… What part of India is minimalist? I feel that what the Leela essentially (and very generously) manages is do is celebrate the real India, albeit in a new, modern  and unapologetic way, whilst also respectfully honouring its craftspersons, its artists, its colours and its very spirit (you won’t find cheap knock-offs of any Indian craft here!).

A visit to all their properties is highly recomended, and the Leela Udaipur, whilst being another wonderful example of the levels of luxury one can dare to venture into amidst the minimalist (pun intended) laments of the modern times we live in, is also a veritable tribute to a great city and its mystical & rich past.

I do hope you enjoy the images that I have made and someday, the property itself.

Indulge!

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

Standard

Transported!

It happens often… that one keeps seeking treasures elsewhere even whilst they exist right under our noses OR more commonly, the ironical belief that if something is in the vicinity of your home, city or even in your country, it’s simply not as special as something which is hard to reach, often even impossible. Its human psychology; we covet what is distant and seemingly hard to get and in turn don’t even realise what we’re missing in the easily accessible.

Last weekend was a testimony to this reality for me.

For some years, my dear friend, Hotelier Tarun Thakral, had been insisting that i come by and see what he’s done with his collection of vintage cars. Partially due my schedule but mostly out of sheer laziness, I kept my visit pending but finally succumbed to the guilt of not supporting a friend’s initiative and more importantly, not celebrating his dream with him. It just had to be done! After a short drive with my family (40 minutes out of Delhi on the road to Jaipur), I finally arrive at a large modern building, but nothing quite prepared me for what lay inside. Never had I seen such an amazing private effort made for the good of many….. never had i imagined that one individual could create such a beautiful space for his passion and then throw it open for others to savour. Curiosity and the passion to collect homogenous objects, the search for the rare, unique and often elusive is what impassions all collectors. Over two decades of research about the evolution of the modes of transportation forms the plinth of the collection in possession of the Trust run by Tarun, making the Heritage Transport Museum India’s first comprehensive transport museum.

The museum showcases the evolution of transportation in India and sets a benchmark in interpretation, exhibition and in communication and also houses Art and Art Objects inspired by Automobiles. As the first private museum of its scale in India, it is conceived as a didactive space that engages visitor participation in learning while remaining a family experience. A built up area of over 90,000 square feet of air conditioned space spread over four floors houses the exhibition galleries, library and reference centre, conference rooms, mini auditorium, the museum shop, and a restaurant facility.

Facts aside, whilst the museum enjoys a significant patronage of many, I can assure you that most in Delhi and India would still not be aware of this incredible space and the passionate spirit that resonates in its every square foot. My photographs could express my sentiments more accurately, but a strong word of advise, don’t lose any more time to transport yourself to this beautiful labour of love. And if you plan weekends, you’ll meet the man himself there and his lovely wife Mandeep, who will (literally) have you eating out of her hands!

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

Standard

Jaypore

Whilst my erratic and ever changing schedule has bestowed upon me a degree of remorse for not being able to accept the generous invitation from Samir Andrea Kasliwal for his birthday celebrations and also the royal one from the Maharaja Sawai Padmanabh Singh of Jaipur for Holi festivities at the palace, I am left with no option but to try and create peace within by reminiscing some sweet moments from the past.

From one of my recent trips to Jaipur (or Jaypore as it was known in British India), and before this memory gently ambles into the mind’s recesses, I thought it wise to share my joy on my very brief visit to Bar Palladio. This lovely space (not surprisingly run by a European), besides being an aesthete’s delight, was quite the gastronomic discovery, especially since one did not expect Jaipur to throw up anything like it. Much recommended to anyone visiting the Pink City… Go and enjoy the exotic embrace of the perfect shades of Turquoise, Teal and Indigo whilst sipping on a fine aperitif and savouring delectable Hors d’oeuvre. (Which I delightfully indulged in, courtesy the company and conversation of my dear friend and restaurateur extraordinaire, AD Singh).

Personally, I’ve always loved that wonderful twist that happens to the expected when expats set up something in India… the synergy of an alien mind fuses magically with the environment that only India can offer and, more often than not, throws up some wonderful hybrid experiences. The reverse also holds true, and unlike the past, where every immigrant fom Bangladesh and Nepal invariably opened a very sad, aesthetically deprived, agarbati smelling “authentic” Indian restaurant, today, one can find fine gastronomical experiences in various parts of the world run and owned by Indians.

I’ve always looked forward to such instances of osmosis…of food, of music, of soul… of love… to me, the coming together of beings, of cultures is extremely exciting and the byproducts of all such mating are generally exotic in nature. More of this spirit is required in the world today … the oneness of humanity, above race or religion has never been more relevant before.

Finally, a very Happy Holi to all of you ( for those of you who’re not aware, it’s the festival of colours in India and Nepal which signifies the triumph of good over evil and also heralds the onset of spring)… so bring in as much colour as you can in your life as well as in others lives. It really is a beautiful world full of beautiful souls… just look at all with different eyes and you’ll be amazed at the magic that you’ll be able to witness.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

Standard

Colour in Monochrome

 

Finally returned to Delhi, post a 3 hour flight and a 3 kilometre walk!! (1.5 kilometres each in Dubai & Delhi Airports…why??). Anyways, the day trip done and what was my key take away from this trip? Discovering a brilliant new development called City Walk right in the heart of Dubai! I simply could not stop making images, which, for me is a benchmark of the degree of interest something or someone has generated in me! A clever mix of luxury high street and an enclosed mall environment, City Walk is undoubtedly one of the finest I’ve seen in a long time. Its new (well..its Dubai after all!) so a significant part still remains to be inhabited yet, I have to admit, from a design perspective, this visit is not one you will forget in a hurry and in fact, i can assure you that you will keep going back for more.

What’s wonderful is the refined use of a controlled, almost monochromatic palette which essentially revolves around shades of Grey and Ivory with accents of burnished rust and ochre… the beauty of architectural details and the stunning surprises that every turn presents ensure that you experience all, from a LA style Rodeo Drive boulevard to the welcoming cocoon of an intimate yet posh mall. Nature then does the rest by bringing in the magnanimity of the sky (and of course, i am sure, other elements such as rain and heat as well on other days). But on this one particular day, it was almost as if ‘the’ perfect weather had been created specially for me to be able to discover this new gem.

For now, I guess I’ll leave it to the images to explain to you what I really mean… Shopping and Eating in Dubai has a new address, and this one is the one you’ll probably never want to forget!

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

Standard

Dub-eye

 

I’m on a one day trip to Dubai today, and as luck would have it, the skies are dotted with pregnant clouds with the sun’s rays trying to sneakingly break through here and there. It’s easily amongst the most beautiful days that I’ve witnessed in my over 40 visits to Dubai in the past several years. The juxtaposition of modern man made structures rising from the desert sands trying desperately to embrace, and perhaps rival God created Prussians and teals against the sky make for surreal imagery and indeed, awe inspiring visuals.

I’ve always called Dubai “India’s best kept city”, simply because of the overwhelming number of Indians that have made it their home. Yet, it is also an evolving modern city and it is quite remarkable how its rulers have created something so modern and incredibly advanced in the middle of a barren desert. That said, Dubai has never quite fascinated me as a city simply because of its unfortunate lack of character… you know…the kind that one sees in abundance in Europe and Asia; and what disappoints me more is because its not because the UAE does not have history to fall back on. However, although stone tools have been found at many archaeological sites, little is known about the UAE’s early inhabitants. Many ancient towns in the area were trading centres between the Eastern and Western worlds. The remnants of an ancient mangrove swamp, dated at 7000 BC, were discovered during the construction of sewer lines near Dubai Internet City. The area was covered with sand about 5,000 years ago as the coast retreated inland, becoming part of the city’s present coastline. Pre-Islamic ceramics have also been found from the 3rd and 4th centuries. Still, this past is not celebrated as much as it should be in present day Dubai… I’ve always felt that its culture could have been much better integrated into the mega city that Dubai is fast becoming.

But for now, I’d rather appreciate the effort that has been put in to create what has been created and revel in the fact that i could capture the images that i could today!

Man, in his throes of modern acceptance, may have chosen to neglect the past of this great region, but God, thankfully, never fails to complete the picture by blessing it with nature’s unlimited bounty.

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

 

Standard

Blown away

A few years back, when I was involved in a rather prestigious luxury project, I used to make multiple visits to Murano in Italy; more specifically to the factories of the finest blown glass experts in the world. Needless to say, the legacy of some of those centuries old brands justified the incredible quality and craftsmanship of the products (one of the brands i was working with had made the first lens for Galileo!). To top it all, the mystique of Venice has always held me in her sway (I am indeed an absolute die-hard admirer of Italy).

But much closer home, in the by-lanes of bustling Delhi, I often experience a similar sense of excitement; when my dear friends, Gautam Seth and Prateek Jain choose to enthrall me (and many more) with their intense ideology and sense of scale in blown glass lighting intsallations. The duo run a brand called Klove but more importantly, between the two, there also runs an incredible amount of refined creativity. It’s not easy to talk about their work, because the visual experience far surpasses my verbal monologue so I suppose I’m just going to have to let my pictures do all the talking.

Keep the magic alive boys… the gullies of Delhi may never surpass the romance of the canals of Venice, but the drama of what you create comes teasingly close to what the Venetians offer…

Viva l’India?

Copyright: JJ Valaya/ All rights reserved. All images are the sole property of JJ Valaya. No part of this post/publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of JJ Valaya. This applies to all acts of use, in particular such as the reproduction of pictures and text, their performance and demonstration, translation, filming, microfilming, broadcasting, storage and processing in electronic media

Standard