Posted in featured, Food, Restaurant, Review

Que Rico – Spanish cuisine in Lahore!

A chance meeting with a friend led us to having had lunch today at Que Rico, the Spanish restaurant in Lahore. Ever since my return from Spain last year, I’ve been wanting to try out Que Rico, just to savour the Spanish delicacies, aromas and flavours.

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Que Rico is located where Yoglicious, The Urban Cafe used to be. We met the man and brains behind Que Rico, Taha Hammed, who shared with us his desire to bring the Spanish cuisine to us in Lahore. There were some teething problems, as he shared, but he has everything under control.

The general ambience was rather welcoming, and we were given a table next to the window. The weather was pleasant and we could have had sat outside, but opted for inside. We were greeted rather warmly and were looked after well by the servers and the floor managers (there were two!)

We were served a welcome bread basket (some delicious, crisp bread) and mango shots, which were fun to have but clearly over-hyped.

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The welcome bread was actually pleasant and salsa dip on the side was just perfect
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The mango shots were just a hype– nothing Spanish about it. 

 

I insisted in the Tapas, and while they were somewhat different than what I had experienced in Barcelona, I was still excited. We got the Croquettes and Chicken Taco.

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Croquettes- a miss! 
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Chicken Tacos- a hit!

The croquettes were basically mushrooms wrapped in a batter friend potato cover. It tasted just about all right, but nothing that would set it apart as distinctly Spanish in its flavours. The Chicken Taco, however, were a huge hit, and I fell in love with them. The right amount of salsa, guacamole and chicken just took me back to La Rambla in Barcelona.

The drinks were Passion fruit for me and Chilli Ginger for my friend. My drink was served in a beaker (that prompted shaving a conversation about using beakers in chemistry classes in school) into which the server poured in passion fruit. The beaker was served inside a bowl that had dry ice emanating from it. A gimmick which was used to keep the drink cool. The Chilli Ginger was a breezy drink that hit the spot.

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The passion fruit drink was brought in this beaker, which itself was placed in a bowl with dry ice
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Chilli Ginger drink 

For the main course, we opted for the Duck on a bed of quinoa. It was a very daring move on our part to go for the duck, and so we did. Sadly, the duck meat wasn’t soft at all, as mention in the menu. The owner Taha later explained how the duck is Brough in from Germany and kept in storage, and it all depends on how well the cook cooks it: overcooks or undercooks. In our case, it was overcooked. He profusely apologised and invited us again next time to have a better experience. The quinoa was much much better so we ended op finishing the quinoa.

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Sadly, the duck meat wasn’t soft and the owner bravely admitted that to us 

 

The churros were served to us to complimentary, and it wasn’t anywhere near the actual churros I had in Madrid– it looked the same but tasted rather different.

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Churros were tough and inedible

All in all, Que Rico is a brave on its part to enter the Lahore’s food market. There ‘s a lot of competition out there, and surviving as a Spanish only restaurant may prove to be a tough battle. However, Taha, and the other managers were adamant to succeed, and shared with us their future plans. We wished them all the best, but in all honestly, I don’t see myself going back there, mainly because when I am paying 2500 rupees for my meal, I want something worthy out of it. I could have easily gone down to a local Pakistani restaurant and got a better tasting meal for much less amount.

Having said that, I wish Que Rico lots of luck!

Posted in featured, Food, Restaurant, Review

Ganache Cafe — Zero Panache

Upon the invitation to try out a new cafe, I tagged along with my friend to try out the newly opened Ganache Cafe at Mall 1. I had heard about Ganache before, who was quite well known in the Lahore market for their delectable desserts. Even though they somehow never publicized themselves like the other more prominent bakeries out there, Ganache Cafe seemed to have made its arrival with a bang right amidst other popular eateries.

While walking up to the cafe, it was clearly obvious how packed the other restaurants were on a Thursday evening. Ganache Cafe was eerily empty, but we still went ahead and decided to give it a try.

01 Exterior

The layout of the cafe is exactly like The Deli and The Pantry. It wasn’t a very welcoming entrance and felt slightly cold and unwelcoming. We made our way down to the basement level, where they had placed the salads and desserts on either side. The menu isn’t extensive and after hearing the recommendation from the floor manager, we opted for the Risotto and Shepherd’s Pie. “They are our best seller items,” said the manager.

For drinks, we ordered Raspberry Lemonade and Fresh Juice. We had to pay the bill initially, which turned out to be Rs. 2195/-.

As we made our way up, we wondered why there aren’t more people. We had the whole cafe to ourselves. So we took out our laptops and started working on our assignments. Soon enough, a group of 3 people came and sat on the table behind us. Thank God, we said, otherwise this would have been a very sad experience being the only one in the cafe.

It took about 20 minutes for the food to arrive, and sadly enough, none of the dishes looked like what they are supposed to look like. The risotto looked like porridge, and the shepherd’s pie didn’t look like a pie at all. “Let’s taste it. Looks can be deceiving!” The risotto was slightly bland, tastewise, and it came nowhere near a proper risotto. The rice just seemed to be one big porridge-fest and didn’t really have any taste to it. I know it may seem unfair to compare, but when you are paying a hefty price for your meal, you expect to get what you asked for.

08 Risotto

The shepherd’s pie was just minced meat with potatoes and cheese. It had no taste and we weren’t sure why we were still eating. I’ve had my share of shepherd’s pie in other places and countries (and even made some on my own) but this pie at Ganache was another level altogether, not in a good way.

09 Shepherds Pie

 

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Just check out what a real shepherd’s pie should look like. sigh. 

 

By the time my friend was done with his meal, it was only then, did they bring his drink— as it turns out they mistakenly delivered his drink to the other group of people sitting behind us. Just the fact they mixed up drinks in a cafe where only two tables were occupied showed the poor customer service, I must say.

The Fresh Juice was basically Shezan Mango juice mixed with Club Soda. It was obvious as we’ve had enough Shezan Mango juice to taste its distinct flavors. My raspberry lemonade was basically Vimto with Club Soda, which fared slightly better.

Since we were so put off by the food, we opted to have desserts from The Deli, which really hit the spot for us. “We must come here to The Deli next time!” was our common sentiment.

Given that this is a new cafe, we decided to give it a chance as all new places go through teething problems, but little things, such as not setting up the table properly, late delivery of napkins, mixing up drinks, among other things just didn’t cut it well. I felt like telling them all to give me a chance to come and train you all so customers can feel more welcome at the cafe. Ganache Cafe should be given a chance, since the competition is tough out there, and perhaps this is just a soft launch. I noticed the customers at the table behind us had left half the chocolate cake and half the pizza uneaten. They were complaining about it, so that only reaffirmeded our own experience.

Oh, we couldn’t make sense of the Abida Parveen painting in a cafe like this. Totally out of theme.

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All in all, Ganache Cafe is a miss for now. Perhaps, if they act on customers’ feedback, they can improve the quality of their food and retain their customers.

Posted in featured, Food, Restaurant, Review

Sumo- A 失敗 (Shippai) Japanese Experience

After several months of waiting, I finally managed to try out Sumo, the Japanese fusion eatery located in DHA. Situated snuggly above Mandarin Kitchen, I was expecting to be blown away after reading rave reviews of Sumo on various online food groups and in Sunday magazines.

 

01 Exterior
Sumo is on first floor, above Mandarin Kitchen

 

Having arrived at 11pm, after having attended a Qawaali musical night out, the restaurant welcomed us in warmly and gave us great seating next to the front window.

For a few seconds, I felt like as if I were sitting in a restaurant somewhere in London. That feeling was merely a mirage as everything went downhill from here on.

We were given a welcome drink, which was basically Perrier and 7-up, with a lot of sugar in it. It didn’t really hit the spot as we were coming in from the cold weather outside. Maybe this welcome drink will work in the scorching summer heat.

10 Welcome drink

 

08 Menu
They go back as far as 1990, and aim to provide a “truly contemporary Japanese experience.”

 

From the small plates menu, we ordered the Edamame and Chili Calamari Salad. The Edamame, I ordered purely with the aim to relive my sushi experience at Sushi Samba in London, and yes, I truly did enjoy these Japanese beans. The Calamari salad, however, was a very average affair. Nothing to write home about.

 

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Edamame- My fav thing all evening!
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Calamari Salad

 

From the Sushi menu, we ordered Angus Beef Tataki and Crunchy Maki Tempura. On their own, both these dish were satisfactory and we enjoyed them. They tasted just fine but didn’t have the wow factor that one expects with the hefty prices. However, if we start comparing these dish to the sushi we’ve had from proper, authentic Japanese restaurants, then they fail miserably. I was reminded that Sumo is a Japanese-Fusion restaurant, so hence the taste not being entirely authentic.

 

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Crunchy Maki Tempura

 

 

14 Angus Beef Tataki
Angus Beef Tataki

 

The real disaster happened when the Hibachi Chicken arrived. Bland, tasteless and full of oil, this dish was merely inedible. I had it because I was hungry, otherwise, I think I would have not eaten it at all. It made me think whether the restaurant was recycling their leftovers or not (mind you, it was almost midnight by the time the main course arrived).

15 Hibachi CHicken

What could go worse? The complimentary dessert. It baffles me that the eatery would actually serve their customers with a fruit trifle, which is as Pakistani as a dessert you can get. Not good. For a restaurant like Sumo, that claims to provide a Japanese experience, this dessert totally ruins the Japanese experience.

 

16 Complimentary dessert
The Ultimate Pakistani Dessert in a Japanese Restaurant! Hah!

 

The total bill for two persons came out to be Rs. 6345/- A rather pricey place to be for average food at the most.

 

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Comment Card– They didn’t give any option below average! Sigh!

 

I know I may seem a little harsh here. As my friend and I were recalling our sushi experiences in restaurants in the US and UK, we felt like Sumo failed on many levels.

So here’s the deal: if you are used to having proper sushi from eateries abroad (for me personally, my sushi experience at Sushi Samba was more than awesome!), then Sumo will disappoint you, and if your sushi experience is limited to Pakistan (Wasabi, Fujiyama etc), then you will like Sumo. As for me, this was my first and last visit.

Sumo, your experience has simply been “shippai” -ied.

Posted in Bollywood, Movie, Review

Padmavaati

My biggest fear while watching Padmaavati was that it will be like Bhansali’s previous outing Bajirao Mastani. Both movies are based on historical characters, set in 13th century or so, revolving around a love triangle set in an era where matters are solved through battles. My fears were wiped away as soon as Padmaavati started and I knew I was in for an exciting ride into the times and lives of this woman known as Padmavaati.

Before I get into the movie, I did some research and it’s interesting to see where the source material for the movie came from: an ancient Sufi poem, Padmavaat, written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540. The epic poem revolves around Rani Padmini, Queen of Chitoor, who is wife to Ratan Sen, and Sultan of Delhi, Allaudin Khilji, who goes out of his way to get Queen Padmini. This is the basis for the movie. There is a lot of debate of how far the truth is, and allegedly the two men are indeed historical characters, but it is still not sure whether Queen Padmini actually existed or not.

Why the controversy? Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali has indeed taken some liberties with the characters, for which he had to face a lot of protests and uproar from the Indians. One, the Rajputs are very upset for glamourizing the role of Khilji, the Muslim tyrant who desires Padmaavati; two, the women are very upset for making the movie more about the love angle rather than focusing on Padmavaati’s ultimate sacrifice; and three, general historical inaccuracies, and oh yes, Queen Padmavaati never really danced in front of so many men and women, as is shown in the movie.

Padmavaati is a grand, opulent film with the typical Bhansali’s excesses: huge sets, hanging chandeliers, royal costumes and jewelry, swords and shields, large forts and huge cinematic landscapes on which battles are fought. There is a lot to feast on visually—with each nose ring and necklaces, to the embroidery on the costumes and head gears, to the decorations of the rooms.

In the hands of a competent director, every scene is a piece of art- I mean I could easily take lots of pics and frame the scenes. The pacing of the movie works really well, and surprising moves at a decent pace to keep us audience engaged. The script worked well, the dialogue was not heavy handed—it was understandable enough for someone like me (otherwise I rely on subtitles in movies with heavy Urdu!)

The only part one starts to lose interest are the few moments before the explosive finale. It does tend to drag a little, and one song Khali Bali could have been shortened, or removed altogether. But it doesn’t ruin the movie watching experience.

Having said that, I cannot help but praise all three main actors: Ranveer Singh as Allaudin Khilji, Deepika Padukone as Padmavaati and Shahid Kapoor as Ratan Sen.

ranveer-singh-padmavati-7591Out of the three, Ranveer Singh comes out the strongest, for his role is the meatiest one. He plays a Muslim tyrant, who is hungry for power and wants to be the Sultan of Delhi. He is told about Padmavaati, and is hell bent on ‘seeing’ her. It is his desire for her that forces him to camp outside her fort for six months and striking a deal eventually to get to see her, with some disastrous consequences. Singh brings his usual energy to the character, and does an extremely incredible job of humanising an otherwise vile character. There are moments we hate him, and there are moments we feel for him- which is a trademark of an accomplished actor. Ranveer Singh has gone on record to say that essaying the role of Khilji, a character with such dark and evil shades, had a negative impact on him in real life, and actually had to work hard to come out of it to regain a sane mind. Singh is a brilliant, dedicated actor and I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins all the major acting awards.

Deepika is not far behind in terms of strong acting, and I was worried she might do something similar to her role in Bajirao Mastani, and thankfully she doesn’t.

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Her eyes, her facial expressions, her body language are all so masterfully handled. She is currently my favorite Bollywood actress and with this role, she has another feather in her cap.

Shahid Kapoor, who is another brilliant actor, does a fine job of playing Ratan Sen, even though his role isn’t as fleshed out as Khilji’s.

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Despite that, Shahid Kapoor stands out in some of the more intense scenes, as well as the battle scenes. I was reminded of Shahid Kapoor’s role in another brilliant film of his Kaminey.

(On a completely different side note, both Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor have made me set some serious health and fitness goals– they have the perfect bodies with six packs and all, which I have noticed Bhansali loves to show in his movies! There are some homoerotic moments between Khilji and the male eunuch which had overtones of male bonding, including one where both of them are in the same bathtub).

I will also mention two other characters that stood out: Mehrunnisa (Aditi Rao Hydari) who is Khilji’s wife, and Malik Kafur (Jim Sarbh), a male eunuch who is Khilji’s right hand man. Brilliant acting all round.

The songs were adequate and Ghoomar actually stood out the most, with its mesmerizing dance sequences and music. The action sequences were fun to watch, especially when the arrows are shot and the catapults are used. There have been some complaints of some shoddy CGI work and unnecessary use of 3D, which wasn’t really an issue for us since it was 2D for us (yes, there are some moment when CGI is indeed shoddy, but at the moment it didn’t really matter for the movie was intense!)

Over all, Padmavaat will be a film that many will remember in years to come and will always be referred to as that definitive film on love, war, valor and sacrifice.

Which brings me to the finale—OMG! I was blown away. It is an ending that will stay with you for a while after the movie ends. It was such an unexpected ending, I didn’t even imagine it would end like this. The entire end sequence, with its loud background noise and ongoing battle, this one little sequence involving Deepika just tugs at you emotionally.

Bhansali and cast and crew—a job extremely well done!

4.5 out of 5

Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor
Rating: PG
Synopsis:  A period drama, the story unfolds as Allaudin Khilji, a Muslim tyrant, longs for Queen Padmavati, and the ensuing battles he faces with her husband Ratan Sen, set in 13th Century India.
Running time: 163 mins
Seen at: Cinestar, Xinhua Mall, Lahore

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Food, Restaurant, Review

Patli Galli – Awesome Location, Average Food

Any new restaurant opening gets us Lahoris excited. After all, we are the food capital of Pakistan. The new restaurant becomes the must-place to visit, and social media is abuzz with reviews- whether good or bad- and everyone jumps on the bandwagon to try out the new place. They become the be seen and be heard kind of place Only time defines how long the restaurant will stay open or survive in a tough market out there.
Of late, there’ve been a bunch of restaurants that have opened up, and Patli Galli is one of the latest ones.

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MANSOUR A

Patli Galli

Located in Phase 8, DHA, which is opposite the airport, the drive up to the restaurant was a fun one (thanks to the great company in the car). The first thing that hit us as we got out of the car was how chilly it was tonight. “Let’s hope there are enough heaters here.”

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MANSOUR A

The Entrance to main dining area

The entrance was very welcoming, and on the left side, you get to witness the chefs preparing fresh food before your eyes. With flames roaring from the woks, to the chopping up of the veggies, to the spices being put in the Pakistani dishes, our appetites increased on our way to the table.

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MANSOUR A

Main Dining area with a central bonfire

With a central bonfire, which turned out to be more of a decorative element rather than warming up guests, we seated ourselves inside one of the wooden benches covered with tents. With ample lighting, the location felt magical, as if we’re sitting somewhere outside of Lahore.
Before anything else, we were served with a small cup of soup broth- yakhni- which really hit the spot for us. The yakhni did a perfect job of warming up our hands as we held the small glasses, as well as warming up our insides as we slurped on it.

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MANSOUR A

Menu- with a shot of Yakhni!

Basanti is Pakistani

WokStar is Chinese

Project TK is Burgers etc

The menu is basically split up in three parts: Pakistani (Basanti), Chinese (WokStar) and Burgers (Project TK). Since we felt like having Pakistani food, we opted out of ordering anything from the Chinese and Burgers. After much debate, we settled for Chicken Handi, Chicken Malai Boti and Palak Paneer, along with Roghni Naan and Saada Naan.

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MANSOUR A

Chicken Handi

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MANSOUR A

Chicken Malai Boti

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MANSOUR A

Palak Paneer

The food, in all honesty, wasn’t all that great. I have personally have had better Pakistani food at other places such as Spice Bazaar, BBQ Tonight and Andaaz. Of the three dishes, my favorite has to be the Chicken Malai Boti. The naan were wonderful, served to us warm, so no complaints there.
I really wanted to like the food but found it rather average. It’s not that it’s bad or anything, but it’s just not anything new. We’ve tasted this food before, and so it made us wonder whether we would make a trip out here again and again for this kind of food. I can easily go down to BBQ Tonight, which is closer to my home.
Perhaps we didn’t order the right food, and so I am not willing to write them off. They are a new establishment and every chance should be given to them to prove themselves as a strong contender in the food market of Lahore. We have decided to try out the Chinese and Burgers on our next trip.
Having said that, we totally fell in love with the location, despite the fact that there weren’t enough heaters and stray cats enjoying our meals with us under the table, and would be happy to come back in a less chilly climate. So full marks to Patli Gall for giving us an awesome ambiance.
Patli Galli can become the go-to place in Lahore if it maintains to keep the quality of its food consistent because the location will definitely draw the people in. I am not sure though how they will manage in the scorching summer season.
Since this was a treat, the host paid for our meals, but I guestimated that it was Rs. 1000/- per person (main course, drinks, and tea).
Posted in Bollywood, Movie, Review

Kapoor and Sons (Since 1921)

 

In the Asian culture, family is a very important element. There have been countless movies that revolves around families, ranging from the brilliant Piku to the high profile but phony Dil Dhadakne Do (though in my opinion Monsoon Wedding is the best movie that deals with the breakdown of familial relations and ultimately redeeming themselves).

We meet two estranged brothers, Rahul (Fawad Khan) and Arjun (Sidharth Malhotra), who are forced to return to their home in Conoor, India from London and New Jersey respectively, to be with their grandfather, Dadu (Rishi Kapoor) who had a heart attack. The brothers’ parents are also there, Harsh (Rajat Kapoor) and Sunita (Ratna Shah). Rahul is a successful novelist in London, and exemplifies the image of a man who’s achieved everything in life. He is according to his mother the “perfect child.” Arjun, on the other hand, an aspiring novelist, is seen as someone who’s confused in life, having attempted several things in life, but never completing them. He’s the “black sheep” of the family.

No sooner have the brothers landed in their home after five years of not speaking to each other, are the parents are embroiled in a fight, putting all four of them in a rather precarious situation, where several issues come up.

Enters Tia, a young woman, who happens to meet both Rahul and Arjun under different circumstances. She falls for Rahul, but he doesn’t reciprocate her feelings. Arjun finds out that Tia has also been seeing his brother, which makes for a very awkward love triangle. Things start getting complicated when truths are finally being revealed, and all those simmering tension moments come forth.

It’s so refreshing to see a movie from Bollywood that doesn’t sugar coat family problems. Their fights and arguments could pass off for a fight you may have witnessed in your own family or someone that you know off. Their problems are real, where the issues are not merely glossed over a cup of tea. That’s not to say Kapoor and Sons is not without some humorous moments, mainly provided by the 90-year old grandfather whose only desire is to have one last family portrait taken; the portrait that holds the movie together.

Among the actors, Sidharth Malhotra is the weakest of them all. Though he’s improved a lot from Student of the Year, he’s overshadowed by the others. He does have an intense scene with his mother, which tugs at your heart.

Alia Bhatt is a competent actress (check out the moment when she shares a story about her own family), but her character doesn’t get much time on screen.

Dadu the grandfather, was good in parts, and his only role was to hold the family together and provide comic relief.

The parents, in my opinion, did a great job. They face real world problems: bills not being paid on time, not knowing when the next income will come on time, taking care of the sick grandfather and running the house. Throw in the accusation of having an extra-marital affair, and we get to witness the powerful acting chops from very competent actors.

Which brings us to the main highlight of the movie: our very own Pakistani, Fawad Khan.

Truth be told, I was not really a huge fan of him in his previous movie Khoobsurat, but I am highly impressed by him in Kapoor and Sons. His acting is remarkably mature and right from the start in the first family fight scene, you are convinced Fawad Khan is a brilliant actor. He brings warmth and grace, yet that slight bit of vulnerability, to his character extremely well. He slides so effortlessly from being the doting son, to a big brother to a romantic.

There is also some talk of why Fawad Khan chose to do a character like this in his second film in Bollywood. Some people have criticised him for doing such a role. To that, I will say that he is first and foremost an actor, and this is merely a character he’s playing, and he essays the character quite well. He will be getting acting awards, and he will be showered with praises for choosing to play the role of Rahul Kapoor. Kudos to the director for having show the character of Rahul Kapoor in a mature and sensible manner.

Having said that, the chemistry between ALL the actors is believable and convincing, and you very quickly drawn into their lives, for these are people you suddenly care about and feel their moments of joy, happiness, despair, anger and tears. (For those of you who are emotional, do carry a box of Kleenex!)

Along with this, the sole winner of the movie is the script: it’s real, it’s realistic, and it’s dripped in reality, which I love!

Kapoor and Sons is directed by Shakun Batra, who directed the brilliant Ek Main Aur Ek Tu, which is a huge favorite movie of mine, merely because it’s unconventional and turns the whole formula upside down by redefining what a friendship or relationship could mean.

In the same manner, Batra has taken us down this journey where there are no easy answers to life’s problems, but somehow things sort out when family members are there for each other during dark and stormy weathers. It’s all right if you make mistakes. It’s all right if you don’t know what to say. It’s all right if you need space and time away from each other. But as long as you are there for each other, a family can get through life’s problems.

By the time you leave the theater, you will have something to relate to in the movie, and something will make you super grateful to know that you have a family. It may make you want to pick up the phone and make several calls to your siblings or your parents and tell them you love them. It will certainly make you want to appreciate your own family members for their presence in your life.

Princess Diana once famously said “Family is the most important thing in the world” and Kapoor and Sons drives that point home in a movie that’s poignant, profound, humorous and surprisingly, real.

4.5 out of 5