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…

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Vayu

 

 

A few days back, an over-estimation of my driving time for a meeting and the resultant spare time at hand, bestowed upon me a princely 30 minutes of bliss amidst a beautiful space called VAYU, albeit, housed within another exalted one: Bikaner House.

Post India’s independence and the subsequent disposal of the Indian royal era, Bikaner House lost its noble residents and instead was bequeathed with government offices and alas, even a bus depot. It suffered its unfortunate fate until Vasundhara Raje, the artistically inclined first woman chief minister of Rajasthan petitioned the courts to move such agencies elsewhere. Furthermore, my dear friend, Malvika ‘Mala’ Singh (publisher of the legendary Seminar magazine), decided to get involved in putting together the ‘ new’ Bikaner House, now considered Delhi’s ‘it’ place for interesting experiences… be it Art, Fashion, Cuisine or just about any discipline which exudes a degree of pedigree. Priya Pall, who is the curatorial Director there ensures that quality is maintained over quantity and I am confident that this incredible bunch of women will continue to positively redefine Delhi’s style quotient to its maximum.

Coming back to VAYU… there’s a fair amount of reading that you can do on it because its had its paeans sung quite impressively across print and pixels…. the coveted New York Times & edgy blogs such as the Brown paper Bag will tell you all and more, so what can I add to a space which has already been accepted and appreciated?

To me, what matters most is the energy of a space… and the love and detail that has been put in to ensure that the energy never stagnates. Between owners Vivek Sahni and Dave Chang, an inherent sense of style and evolved aesthetics is almost a given, yet what this quaint shop has working in its favour (besides the environs) is the fact that its not quite a shop at all. Instead, its a leisurely set of rooms, with a warm and chic ‘air’ about it (wish they’d popped in a cafe though; what I’d give for that perfect cup of latte!) where one can amble, relax, take in a beautifully curated India and never want to leave. You’ll rarely be jostling for space, or feeling cramped (the high ceilings…sigh…) because VAYU simply seems to understand the joy of experiential shopping. The attention to detail is admirable as is the team; the manager Jimmy Golmei is a sartorial delight and VAYU amicably, and sophisticatedly, drives home the point that for any space to be special, all things (animate and inanimate) need to come together holistically to define its ethos.

But then again, don’t take my word for it… As always, I’ll let the images speak and as always, I’ll insist that you visit it yourself for self interpretation and perhaps, for that overwhelming sense of gratitude that one often feels when surrounded by good taste.

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

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Italy

 

I’ve always been biased towards Europe…. the fact that this delicious pie is made up of so many parts, each slice with its own delightful and distinct spirit…the fact that the old and the new coexist within the same geographical boundaries with such ease … the fact that history romances modernity is near perfect proportions… and the reality that one can literally hire a car and drive from one experience to another on the most scenic routes known to man are perhaps amongst the few ingredients that enrich my penchant for Europe. And yet, there is much I have to see there… there is much to be absorbed…much to be shared… and these are the journeys I much look forward to.

Italy! A country I have visited several times and yet, it fascinates me more each and every time. I do however believe, that I still have to take in the true soul of this country… yet, i must admit that it remains one of my most favourite destinations in the world… for within (and besides) the usual suspects i.e. its Architecture, Art, Style and History lie several of its hidden secrets. You need to simply walk in its cobblestoned alleys, manoeuvre its mysterious canals, drive through its usually gratifying countryside and feast on the multitude of all that satisfies one’s senses, (and never in the garb of a tourist.)

Much more to be said and shared when i actually visit Italy next and soak myself in its magic once again, but till then, thought of sharing a few images made in Florence (Firenze) and Milan (Milano).

Have a Pizza today ! Celebrare!!

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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

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Chapter Open.

I’ve never read a single book in my life (other than my school text books) and yet, I house a significant library, both at my home and in my office. I’ve also published 2 books of my own plus I write my own blog and sometimes, also for leading publications as a guest writer. Never ever have I felt the temptation to read (other than Rumi’s quotes) simply because my world in purely visual, the books in my library are coffee table books full of wonderful images and my own books are also based on photography. What this essentially implies is that I am more than content in my world of visual nirvana where words are merely used to express thoughts connected with strong imagery.  Yet, I have scores of friends who are avid book readers; some almost go weak in their knees when they get their hands on a paperback or hardback they’ve been (im)patiently waiting for; so whilst I’ve never understood the euphoric moments of such beings, I’ve always respected the literary types for their passion and knowledge. Recently however, I almost secretly wished, perhaps for the very first time, that I had the interest of reading in me and what triggered this rare desire was a simple book shop!

Chapter 101, a bookshop located in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon (now dismally renamed as Guru Gram) is pure romance! It is owned by my friend, Raju Singh (a fact that i was not aware of when someone suggested that i visit the store), a book-crazy banker and entrepreneur to fulfil his lifelong dream of owning such a bookstore. In their own words: “A den, a private retreat, the charms of a classic understated era… Chapter 101 is a bookstore intended to build a quiet literary atmosphere with carefully curated books beyond the bestsellers. It draws on the quiet to create a space where people are encouraged to spend time with the books and browse at leisure – a safe space for revisiting the time-cherished classics and also to find a new favourite among contemporary authors.” To drive home the point that there is pure passion behind the concept, the store is also managed by Rohan Dahiya, a young author, blogger and visual artist whose love for books drew him to the store.

As always, I find it unfair to give away too much in a blog (the images will speak as much as they can) as it is my belief that spaces created with such love are meant to be experienced to be able to assimilate the romance that they permeate.

Whilst i may still never get down to reading a book, I do see myself visiting C101 several times… to listen to the great background music, to enjoy the (free) coffee (and hopefully some interesting company), and to witness several enlightened individuals select, from the multitude of options available, a place to rest their derrière on, to browse through an inspiring and rare collection of published treasures whilst simultaneously experiencing what i am sure would only qualify as induced literary orgasms.

PS* Raju Singh, whose baby this wonderful store is can be spotted in shorts matching his hair in one of the images.

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

 

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The Sky below us…

 

Whenever I fly (not metaphorically), one of the most difficult choices I’m faced with each and every time is deciding between the window seat or the aisle seat. The aisle seat enjoys the advantage of easier (and quicker) access to the loo and to frequent walks on long hauls (hate jumping over someone napping in the adjoining flatbed!)…the window seat on the other hand offers an uninterrupted view of a forever evolving canvas through the small rectangular transparent gap right beside it. I eventually take the decision based on how full the flight is, praying silently that its not, so that I can enjoy what I call “Glimpses of God” for at least the duration of the flight.

The sky above, as we see it every single day, is a fairly mundane experience when compared to the dramatic vistas one is treated to if one were to peek into the sky from above. That, my friends, is sheer poetry in motion… it is God’s domain, and man’s opportunity to actually experience what it must feel like if the “Gods were actually looking down upon us”. The sheer volume of it, the colours, the textures, the rays of the sun and several other elements come together to create the perfect awe-inspiring visual; one only needs to look, and take in the wonders that lie before us, to imbibe the magic of nature and feel deep gratitude to be able to behold an intense canvas that no artist in the world can ever create!

I thought I’d share some of the images that I have made from this vantage point; though spread across a few flights, do remember that these images are a mere mortal’s attempt to capture momentary, yet privileged flashes of God’s magic. For when has it ever been possible to cage a spirit?… and specially one that incubates life itself.

PS* Please excuse any marks/scratches on the images as the images are made through the double glass of the aircraft using a smartphone. I have also added a grain to the images to bind them into a cohesive story.

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

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Pa Pa Yah!

One of the perks of being “socially relevant” is that you end up knowing most of the other “socially relevant” in the city, country or planet, depending, but obviously, on the degree of  illustriousness that you have acquired. I am in no way blowing my own trumpet (though it sneakily may seem so), but am merely acknowledging my good fortune of having access to some the finest creators and their art in a slightly more direct way as opposed to, say, my access to them had I become an accountant (and a miserable one to top it all) if destiny had not played her hand in my life 30 years back.

Anyway, one such artist at work in India, and certainly one who’s painting a great montage on the culinary canvas of India is my friend, Zorawar Kalra. Now Zorawar is an interesting guy…I used to know his father, Jiggs Kalra, rather well years back, as we were the two turbaned guys who got featured in newspapers and television quite often; him, as the seasoned maestro of Indian cuisine and me, as the new kid of Indian fashion. I recall often seeing a young shy Zorawar in a ‘patka’ (an alternate headgear worn by members of the Sikh faith) with Jiggs then. Years later, with both of us having ditched our respective headgears, I bumped into him again recently as a strapping young man who had chosen to use his legacy and take it to a completely different level! His company today runs several restaurants, the best known amongst them being Farzi Cafe, Masala Library and Pa Pa Ya amongst others, and needless to say, they run them exceptionally well. (Trivia: incidentally, he could easily dub for Farhan Akhtar; its uncanny how similar they sound)

A few weeks back, my friends and I enjoyed an intimate evening of bonding and revelry in Pa Pa Ya in New Delhi; we were elated by the quality of the food (obviously the first pre-requisite for any good restaurant) as also by the energy abound in the space. A couple of days back, I visited Pa Pa Ya again, with family this time, and was delighted with the consistency that I experienced in both, the food and the service all over again (huge credit here also to Karanbir Singh Gulati, the GM)… the same flavours, the same warmth…to me, these two are the backbone of any good restaurant, and all those who’ve managed to maintain these well are bound only to succeed. The other thing that surprised me were the number of people in the restaurant (besides the ones waiting for a table); it is my belief that a fine dining restaurant that achieves this kind of patronage has a sure fire winner on its hands (though i wish they had some private dining areas for some of us who like a bit of privacy; the last time, we created one of our own in their sumptuous wine cellar). Pa Pa Ya also boasts of an architectural edge, one that only it enjoys, that of having the highest ceiling in India for a restaurant, and that sense of vertical scale indeed does add a unique dimension to the overall experience. Also, pay heed to the unique serving dishes and the presentation itself.

Finally, to me, what really matters most and in this case, certainly does manage to blow me away each time is the food! Its fresh, the flavours are exquisite and the fusion is unique without trying too hard.

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I would highly recommend a visit to all those who have already not sampled Pa Pa Ya, and since I’m not a ‘paid to sing paeans’ blog, I’m going to leave it to you to decide whether all that I’ve said holds true or not.

Zorawar, my dear friend, kudos to you for living the dream…both your father’s and your own… and do enjoy the ride, its only just started!

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

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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

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