I was craving for some Mexican food from San Jose’s La Victoria Taqueira in Bangalore after seeing all those Superbowl 50  tweets about salsa and burritos. If only there was a local taqueria from where I could order a veggie burrito and get some nachos with some guac it would be wonderful I thought. While I was dreaming of Mexican food I realized with a rude shock that our trusty on-demand chef Kamakshi did not get our lunch order. Due to a technical glitch she never got the WhatsApp message we sent her the previous day. She was my Plan A for our lunch and I had no Plan B!  “Oh, let us look what FreshMenu has,” my husband suggested. And lo & behold! it seems Freshmenu, a Bangalore-based startup, has somehow read my thoughts. Oh, wait that can’t be I told myself. That is some good old marketing to coincide with all that Superbowl buzz out here in Silicon Valley of India or Bangalore.

FreshMenu had a vegetarian burrito bowl (Rs. 200 or approx $3.50)  with all the works – refried beans, corn, tomatoes and cottage cheese. Wait a minute cottage cheese? Hmm that is an interesting add-on. I also ordered a passion blueberry mousse (Rs. 60 or approx $1). Am not sure what this mousse is made of or how many calories it contains, but am mighty curious to know what it tastes like. We logged in to our FreshMenu account, placed our order and then waited for the food to appear at our doorstep in less than 45 minutes. It took us all of 3 minutes to look up th menu and place our order.

While waiting for my Mexican burrito bowl and the mousse I got thinking about my current trip to Bangalore and living a truly on-demand life. I get my grocery, food and car without much friction from these on-demand companies like BigBasket, FreshMenu and Uber. But then I said to myself “Hang on a minute. In my previous trips to Bangalore I did lead an on-demand life. I got my food from Kamakashi’s kitchen or my mom’s kitchen, my grocery from the local corner or kirana store and our transportation from our local tour and travel company, Ola cab or the good old auto rickshaw.” And then there were times when I’d whip up breakfast and lunch in our kitchen using our Philips induction stove and not the traditional gas stove top. Continue reading

My 3 Picks for SFIFF: Court, Chef’s Table and 7 Chinese Brothers

With one more week to go, here are my 3 picks from this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival (April 23-May 7, 2015). These are films that I have seen. There are lot of films I have not seen, and would like to see them. These include “The Diplomat,” “The Deep Web” “Tangerine” and “The Wolf Pack.”  In case you missed it, here is my previous post on my picks from the film festival.

1. “Courtby Chaitanya Tamhane. This is a riveting film on how the court system works in Bombay, India. We see the film through the eyes of the three primary actors: the accused, the defender and the prosecutor. You can read an extended post on Court here.

2. “Chef’s Table” is a Netflix original documentary series that features 6 chefs from around the world. What is fascinating about this series is that you get a close look at how each of these chefs evolved and found their style. Often, we forget that chefs have to be entrepreneurial in their ventures and we see that aspect of their personality too. The festival is presenting two episodes from the series. One of them is about the flamboyant, fearlesss, fire-loving  chef Francis Mallman from Argentine.

3. “7 Chinese Brothers is a quirky film that centers around a young man played by Jason Schwartzman, who drifts through life in an aimless manner. He finally finds his calling working in an oil change shop. Disaster strikes when he loses his last remaining relative and his job. How does he handle this latest upheaval in his life? That is what the film is about.

Francis Mallman from “Chef’s Table”


“Court” by Chaitanya Tamhane


“7 Chinese Brothers”

Photos: San Francisco Internatonal Film Festival

The 58th San Francisco Internatonal Film Festival is underway, and this year they have a really terrific lineup.The opening night film was Alex Gibney’s much talked about documentary “Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine.” The film explores our collective fascination with Jobs, and delves into what values shaped this iconic Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

VIDEO: Noah Cowan on San Francisco International Film Festival

Today is the opening night of the longest running film festival in the Americas – San Francisco International Film Festival (SFIFF). The festival runs from today through May 7, 2015 and is studded with a wonderful array of films, guests and talks.

We sat down to speak with Noah Cowan of  San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) about this year’s film festival and the strategic vision and direction he has in mind for the organization.

What is different about this year’s festival is the acknowledgement of San Francisco bay area values in the programing says Cowan. He describes the essence of San Francisco values that includes a wide range of components from innovation and technology to the political and social dynamics of the area.

Cowan spent many years at the Toronto Film Festival and helped curate lots of special projects especially on Asian films from China and South Asia. He helped curate two special programs on India’s Mani Ratnam and Raj Kapoor. So naturally we had to ask if we can expect to see more South Asian films at SFIFF. Tune in to find out what he has to say.


VIDEO: Noah Cowan on 58th San Francisco International Film Festival


San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) is gearing up to host the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival (April 23 – May 7, 2015). This is the longest running film festival in the Americas points out Noah Cowan, Executive Director of SFFS.

What is different about this year’s festival I asked Cowan. The actual festival itself won’t feel different to long time film festival audience he points out. What is different is they have reorganized the programming to reflects the tastes of the audience. “You can find your own tribe,” is how he puts it. If you like bigger movies, you may prefer the Marquee section. Or, if you like beautiful films from around the world, you may like the World Visions section he adds.

What is the long term strategic direction of the festival? “There is no other place like San Franciso Bay area in the world,” he says. In the past they ignored San Francisco Bay area values and are acknowledging it this year’s festival. These bay area values include an interest and curiosity in technology and innovation, lifestyle, environment and food among other things. So, this year they look at film styles that reflect San Francisco bay area values on technology, innovation and lifestyle he adds.

This video is a highlight of our upcoming extended interview with Cowan.

Here is a trailer from Stanley Nelson’s “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.”


Noah Cowan on San Francisco International Film Festival

Noah Cowan

Noah Cowan

Noah Cowan is Executive Director of the San Francisco Film Society (SFFS) that hosts the annual San Francisco International Film Festival.

Cowan joined SFFS last year, and prior to that he spent a lot of his time at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). His last post was as artistic director of the Bell Lightbox at TIFF.

In this interview we talk to Cowan about why he moved from Toronto to San Francisco and the various facets of the 58th San Francisco International Film Festival that runs from April 26 to May 6, 2015. This is the first year where Cowan has worked on the festival from the start and we wanted to find out about his vision for the film society and the film festival.

We wanted to know how they chose Alex Gibney’s film on Steve Jobs “The Man In The Machine,” as their opening night film. Or, how they came to choose Alexander Winter’s documentary “Deep Web,” a film about Silk Road and bitcoin. Both these films are about entrepreneurship and technology, the twin subjects that are of deep interest to people in the San Francisco bay area.

Besides technology, food is another important ingredient in this year’s festival and Cowan shares some of the films screening at this year’s festival.

Finally, we talk about his favorite film and growing up in an artistic family in Canada.Curious to know what is Cowan’s favorite film (s) tune in to find out.

You can follow Noah Cowan on Twitter.



San Francisco Film Festival Highlights, The Man In The Machine to Mr. Holmes, Deep Web to Green Porno

The lineup of films, guests and events for the 58th San Francisco International FilmFestival (SFIFF)  was announced yesterday. This year’s festival is an interesting mix that reflects the “spirit of the bay area,” as Noah Cowan put it. Cowan is the executive director of the San Francisco Film Society that hosts the annual film festival, which is the longest running film festival in North America.

Alex Gibney’s “The Man In The Machine,” on Steve Jobs is the opening night film on April 23, 2015 and Michael Almereyda’s “Experimenter” about Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram is the closing night film on May 7, 2015.


Between the opening and closing night film is a veritable treasure trove of  179 films from 46 countries. There is something for everybody in this festival right from the big, marquee films like “The Diplomat” to “Far From Men,”  to the 1929 restored silent film “Monte-Cristo” to documentaries like “Court” by Chaitanya Tamhane to “The Wolfpack” that won the Sundance Documentary Grand Jury Prize and “Meru” that won the Sundance Documentary Award to “City of Gold,” about Pulitzer-winning food critic Jonathan Gold of Los Angeles.

Film festivals are also a great venue to catch premiers of new films. “Mr. Holmes” will have its US premiere at the festival. Directed by Bill Condon the film stars Ian McKellen, Laura Linney and Milo Parker. McKellen plays a 93 year old Holmes, who is now in retirement, but that does not mean he has given up on his detective work.

Isabella Rosellini’s wonderful film “Green Porno” that looks at the sex lives of animals and birds right from ducks to sea urchins. Rossellini is expected to attend the festival.

And for the first time SFFS is collaborating with Alamo Drafthouse to bring a program called “Dark Wave.” Curated and co-hosted by Tim League of Alamo Drafthouse the program features independent horror and sci-fi films like “Cop Car” and “Good Night Mommy.”

Films are just one aspect of the festival. There are live music performances and curated talks with filmmakers and actors. You can listen to director Guillermo Del Toro on April 25, 2015 at the Castro Theatre. Del Toro will receive Irving M. Levin directing award. And on the following day April 26, 2015 you can catch actor Richard Gere, who will receive the Peter J. Owens Award for excellence in film acting.

This year’s State of Cinema features Douglas Trumbull, an inventor and special effects pioneer who worked on “2011: The Space Odyssey,” “Blade Runner,” and “Close Encounters of The Third Kind.” You can catch this talk on Sunday, May 3, 2015 at the Sundance Kabuki Cinema.

Finally, there is a terrific mix of film and events that reflects various aspects of San Francisco bay area from its iconic entrepreneurs to the historic Royal Road – El Camino Real to musical performances by Kronos Quartet, the avante garde jazz ensemble. And then there is a special live program called “Boomtown: Remaking of San Francisco,” that looks at the boom and bust cycle and how does the city deal with these changes?

You can explore and find out about the various film, talks, live events and ticket information by visiting SFFIF’s website.

Stay tuned for interview with Cowan, who talks about the highlights of the festival.