Magic In Mussorie by Atul Sethi : A Book Review

Wow, it feels good to be back here.

I think it’s been two years since I’d last written something here. I’ve been writing a lot along my photographs on my Instagram account (follow @watchherworld) (shameless plug, nametag to scan at the end), but that has mainly been random thoughts and short stories.

But I’ve been meaning to get back to these pages and I’m planning to develop it further. I might finally buy a domain for myself. Let me know in the comments if WatchHerWorld still sounds cool to you or should I look for some other name?

And now, to the book review.

Author: Atul Sethi

Illustrator: Vikas Upadhyay

Publisher : Puffin Books, Penguin Random House

Verdict : 6/10


The Magical Mussoorie.

‘Magic in Mussoorie.’

It’s catchy no?
Anyone who’s been here, stayed here, roamed it’s hilly streets, had the midnight icecream or Lovely’s omelette or thukpa from Kalsang; anyone who has frolicked in it’s snow, looked at the sky change colours, the winter line, the morning sun; anyone who has enjoyed a ride down the ‘Queen of Hills’, would immediately gravitate towards this super interesting looking comic book just for its name.


The cover page catches you as well. It has all the major elements of the story on it. You pick up the book and you look at an old book, two guys caught in the tornado, some kind of downward spiralling clock, a mystical monastery with people in Tibetan masks. Oh, and ofcourse, there’s Ruskin bond himself!

There’s a tiger, the two young boys playing cricket with a royal looking guy over the hills of Mussoorie on the back cover.

You immediately start wondering how the hell are all these things coming together? Every element is a little out of the ordinary, a little magical. The summary on the back cover introduces us to all the major plot points and promises a thrilling adventure ahead.


Nakul and Kuku, the two lead characters of the story are the typical protagonists. Nakul, a sincere, intelligent, curious, brave and a thin chap with glasses. Kuku, his foil. Round and short in appearance, always hungry, afraid of thunder, and a source of humour. Nothing very fresh here, to be honest.


But the charm of the story is not in its protagonists. This isn’t about them. This story is actually about Musoorie, and it’s place in history. It’s about the hidden stories and lesser known facts. It’s about adventure and exploration. And for someone who has been in Mussorie and has called it home, it is like visiting your everyday spots with a new lens on, witnessing the eventful past it holds.

“Nakul Sahej and his friend Kuku stumble upon an antique book while on holiday in Mussoorie. The book turns out to be a magical one that transports the two back in time to the
Mussoorie of over a century ago. Meeting historical personalities of that time-like Sir George Everest, who lives in a sprawling estate
on the outskirts of Mussoorie, as well as the young maharaja of Punjab, Duleep Singh, who has been exiled by the British and is spending a summer in the hill station-Nakul and Kuku get
involved in an intriguing adventure that sets off a series of events which can change the course of history!

Action-packed and unputdownable, this thrilling adventure is the first in a series of comic books set in the Garhwal Himalayas.”

The Art

The art brings back fond memories of the Amar Chitra Katha. It’s beautiful and detailed and what I liked is that each scene is covered from many different perspectives and angles. Wides, Mids, Closeups; as a filmmaker, I could readily identify that language. Vikas, who’s a Shimla based artist, has done a brilliant job on this one. (Vikas Upadhyay | Behance)

The language is pretty contemporary English with a few hindi lingos to go along with. Easy to read and enjoy.

The Flaws

I did find the end quite abrupt though. It left a lot of open plot points and seemed like a compromise to be honest. I understand that creating a comic book takes a lot of time. Each page, each frame of that page takes time and consequently money, to develop and the writer probably had reasons to close it at the 60 pages that is it at right now. Personally, however, I would’ve liked to know what happened to the characters from the past and what changed in the present, considering quite a lot would’ve been disrupted in the time-space continuum. And also, I did not see how the characters were affected by what all they went through. What changed within them, what did they learn? I think that is something that could be been worked on.


But then again, I might be judging a children’s book too harshly. All in all, Magic in Mussorie is a fun, brisk walk through the mystery and the history of the hilltop I call home. I would definitely recommend people, especially children to go through this and learn to look at their surroundings with eyes full of curiosity and wonder and search for their answers in every new corner, every new person, and every new sunset they see.

About the author

A journalist with over two decades of experience, most of which has been with the Times of India, Atul Sethi is currently chief of the newspaper’s bureaus in Uttarakhand. A keen lover of the mountains, he stays in the Himalayan foothills on the outskirts of Dehradun with his wife, twin children, four cats and a dog. This is his first comic book, which has been inspired by a love for all things historic and mystic as well as a passion for the ligne claire style of comic book storytelling developed by European artists of the 20th century, like Herge, the creator of Tintin.

Atul Sethi has answered a lot of questions related to the book and his journey at the book lauch organised by The Booknerds, a community of book readers and promotors whose goal is to help authors sell books. Check them out, they’ve been doing some good work for the literary souls. You can follow them on Instagram (@dbooknerds) and Facebook (The Booknerds | Facebook)

So, that was what I had to say about Magic in Mussorie. Let me know what you liked about it, what would you have liked me to explore more, how could I improve, and anything else that you’d like to tell me. Comment please!

And if you’d like to watch my world through my photographs and random stories , hit me up on Instagram. Thank-you for giving me this time, hope to see you back here soon. 😊


Emotional Advertising : Has Ebay done this right?

Chuck got it right, you know?

Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need”
– Chuck Palahnuik (Fight Club)

And how has the advertising world managed to convince otherwise sane and calculating people to do things as senseless as that?

Elizabeth will enlighten us with the answer.

“Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are slave to your emotions.”
– Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia)

Yeah, that’s where they got us.

As School Of Life explains in this video about the Dawn Of Capitalism, advertisements tug at our emotional fantasies and our higher needs of love, self actualization and acceptance and promise to be a solution for it. They lure us with what we most desire and make us believe that it will help us achieve them.

The deodorant that’ll make women swoon over you.

The Fairness cream that is the secret to confidence and success.

The Diamond that defines your love or empowers you as a woman.

But most of the times, the services or products we are provided with have little or nothing to do with our own needs.

That brings me to the latest advertisement by eBay India : Things Don’t Judge


Now people are going crazy over this advert. This has got over 2 million views on YouTube and people actually watch the advertisement again and again.

eBay has hit us right on the spot with the #Thingsdontjudge

Social intolerance is a major issue in the world today (evident with phenomenons like the rise of Donal Trump). It has always been a problem in any social setting. The need to be accepted is universal. The need to have the freedom to choose how to live and make our own decisions have been the basic desires of all humans across the planet.

The representation of a gay couple in the above-mentioned eBay advertisement has people, especially the youth of India commending the effort done by the eCommerce giant to “restore hope in Indian society” (according to a comment on the video).

I see it as a smart (the timing couldn’t have been better with the liberalization of gay laws garnering increased support world over) and commendable decision too. It is a good step towards projecting the idea to the millions watching it on television with their families while tugging them with guilt for judging the people around them for their decisions.

On the surface, the concept seems justified. Live and let live. Who in the sane mind would protest that? It gives us the acceptance we want. It gives us the freedom to be who we want to be. It takes us closer towards the perfect world we want.

Why then, does this leave a bad taste at the end of my tongue every time I watch it? The more I watch it, the more I am concerned by it.

Yes, things don’t judge. But does it matter?

If the problem is judgement and intolerance of the society, then buying things to replace society itself isn’t the solution. It’s escapism.
But isn’t it sending a good message by tugging us with guilt for judging other people? And ironically, isn’t the advertisement judging us for being judgemental?
The ring doesn’t judge you bro, but guess what? Neither you, nor the ring cares. You care about what your partner thinks. You care what people you love think.
Not the world, not the things.

We should be educating the society for a better, less judgemental world, rather than encouraging the victims to hide behind materialistic walls and make a bubble of their perfect world surrounded by things rather than the people or the values they really care about.

Hey, now all these idealistic arguments are well and good. But the point of the advertisement here; the main point – is selling the products – the ‘things that don’t judge’. It’s not a social awareness campaign. It can contribute to social awareness like it has tried to, but the main agenda will always be to SELL.

I refuse to accept that as an excuse. I agree, they need to sell things. And you know what, we need to buy things too. People have material needs. It is a materialistic world and most people have agreed to it. They are always going to shop. What the advertisements should do is, give us the right reasons to buy them.

So could they have done something differently?

I am not an advertising guru, but I can write what I’d like to see.
Rather than a man thanking a ring for not judging his love for another man, I’d like to see a parent/parents (because the older generation has more problems accepting new ideas/ different ideas) accepting the love of their son who has decided the man of his dreams and give a gift as a sign of this acceptance.
Or maybe a grandmother sitting with her granddaughter and selecting what ‘designer lehnga’ to gift her soon-to-become wife.

These ideas also sell their products, don’t they?

Again, I applaud the intent of eBay to represent the different stigmas of our societies and the judgement one feels. I just have a problem with how it is presented.

There are plenty of good emotional advertisements that have sold their products and services while making the world a better place to be in.

I will be quoting from The Content Strategist : The Dangerous Power of Emotional Advertising :

According to documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, “All storytelling is manipulation,” and in many cases, manipulation is just one of the many tools brands can rely on to stand out. But to create great content—with the added goal of driving ROI—they have to tap into a universal truth. That’s the only way to make sure a gut reaction doesn’t turn into a stomach ache.

Advertisements, like all other forms of media (especially visual media) are responsible for how we perceive our relationships, our expectations and have the power to change the mindset of the masses.  I say, let it build the community rather than isolate people from it.

Let me know your thoughts about this. Do you agree, or is it just me being cynical?

FAN (Dir. Maneesh Sharma, 2016, India) – Star Studies

The brutal honesty that Bollywood needs.

Movie Mahal

fanFan is facilely about the political and psychological chasm between stardom and fandom. On paper, this seems like a very tasty proposition indeed; especially considering SRK has not made a good film in quite a while. The doppelgänger, a ubiquitous motif, suited to the fragmented, interruptive form of popular Hindi cinema, is familiar to the star persona of SRK, an avatar that he has adopted on many occasions in the past, producing an ambivalent response to the say the least. A project as narcissistic as this one could only suit the self-aggrandizing star imaginings of SRK, a man who has literally disappeared into the pretentious vacuums of stardom. There was a time when SRK knew which projects to pick, and while Fan attempts to rectify this forlorn nostalgia for the SRK we once knew and respected as both a credible actor and likable star, film audiences desire to see him…

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Film Appreciation FTII/NFAI : How to write a Statement of Purpose.

Your fingers hover above the keyboard. You stare at the blank window, bashing your head inside for some words. You scratch your head, type out five sentences; erase two. You check the form again. 800-1000 words.

And so it begins. The nightmare of writing your statement of purpose .The deciding document which can get you into that life-changing course.

Note: Link to my Statement Of Purpose provided at the end of this article.

Allow me to give you a little backstory here.

My journey in the audio/visual medium of storytelling started about two years ago when I started assisting my close friend and colleague Ashwin Shukla for editing videos for a football team in Pune.

With no prior experience in this field, I started learning from scratch.  Bit-by-bit, day-by-day, per Youtube video, we learnt new tricks and techniques and started learning about the medium in depth. We soon realised, though, that having technical knowledge is not enough. To be better filmmakers, we needed to acknowledge the medium as an art form and study it as such.

Film and Television Institue of India (FTII) and National Film Archive of India (NFAI) are two highly respected names in the film study scene in India and worldwide. So the Film Appreciation Course conducted jointly by these two institutes was the obvious choice for us to expand our knowledge. With a line-up of over seventy movies and masterclasses from directors, writers, and creatives involved; this is the best place to begin your education in cinema.

Getting into the course is no easy job as people from all over the country and even from neighbouring countries apply for the course and only a handful few of them are selected. So yeah, getting this SOP right was a must. Thoroughly nervous and tense, I submitted my form and waited for the news.

Guess what? I got it! I got selected for the course and I am definitely excited to be a part of the whole process. It is such a relief! 😀

And so I write this post today, hoping that I can help fellow film enthusiasts and students to get an idea of how to structure your statement of purpose for a Film Appreciation Course.



To start with, I suggest you should read about your course and try to find out what are the requirements for it. For example, this particular course by NFAI/FTII requires individuals with prior experience in cinema and storytelling. It is not a course designed for beginners who would like to get a gist of the medium. It is also not for people who wish to learn the technical aspect of filmmaking such as script writing, cinematography, editing, etc.This is an intensive course for film enthusiasts to grasp a deeper understanding of the aesthetics and techniques of filmmaking.

This is an intensive course for film enthusiasts to grasp a deeper understanding of the aesthetics and techniques of cinema.

Once you know the course is right for you, you need to explain the reason in the statement.


You need to make an impact with your introduction. The person who is reading these forms must be going over thousands of such statements. What will make him/her stop and read your statement through?

I started my statement with a backstory of my cinema knowledge prior to my visual education and what it meant to me before I had any exposure to world cinema. That helps me put out the need for this course to exist as I did not have enough knowledge to appreciate the medium during my school years.

Note: Do not write the statement in a monotonous manner. You need to provide a hook for the reader to continue into the document. Use gramatically correct and fluid language with variations in scentence lengths to keep the pace interesting. (Eg: The starting of this post)


I continue my story of how I first got into the scene and how I learnt the techniques through books and youtube videos. Basically, it is to show that I have put an effort from my side to try and understand the medium and to get better in it.

I further mention my working experience to solidify the fact that I am fully invested in the field and that this course would be important for me to be a contributing member of the film industry.


Conclude your reasons for joining the course in a short paragraph and do not forget to mention that you are well aware of the requirements of the course and you are ready to give your 100% for it.

You should also mention if you plan to use the knowledge gained during the course to educate further and contribute to the community.

End the statement with a finality. I chose to install in them the belief that I respect the medium and so arises my need to better appreciate it.


Provided above is the link to my statement. Do feel free to read it and get an idea of how to structure your own statement. I wish you good luck for your endeavours and hope that I helped you on the way. 🙂

Please comment and let me know what you think of my statement and by all rights, post suggestions to make it easier for others to write theirs.

Good day, Chunkies!

I know, I have been away for a long time. What to do, it has been a crazy past four months!

With assisting my friend and Cinematographer Ashwin Shukla and Director Shabnam Sukhdev on a beautiful shoot schedule in the Himalayas, transcribing all the audio for the same project, doing so many new commercial projects and of course, getting college assignments done; yeah, it been a pretty busy time. 😀

This was a recent product shoot I did for my assignment. I had not shot any packaged products yet and this one is the first in my portfolio.

GoodDay Chunkies
GoodDay Chunkies

It was supposed to be a simple, clean shot but I didn’t want it to fall into the conventional boring still. I love the suggestion of motion in still images and therefore, I decided to have the cookies falling into the box.

I suspended the biscuits with extremely thin thread from a boom-pole above the box. I later photoshopped them out, of course.


Chunkies Light Diagram
Light diagram and setup for Chunkies



Keep in mind while shooting product packages, to not let the box flare. I used a black cardboard cutter (you can use any black opaque , flat object to cut the light)  on the 60×60 softbox to avoid flaring on the box, otherwise it would have lost color and definition.

Cross lighting on the cookies and the edge lighting from the back give a nice moulding as well as seperation to the product.And finally, to add a little suggestion of drama in the background, I overlayed it with crumpled paper texture. 🙂

And finally, to add a little trace of drama in the background, I overlayed it with crumpled paper texture. 🙂

I hope you like the picture and be sure to like and comment. 🙂

I’ll be putting up some stills from my trip to Dharamshala soon, so look out!


Pretty Pink Macaroons

I have been fascinated by these cute little desserts for a long time now. They are utterly gorgeous.  I had been obsessed with the cute pictures of them all over pinterest and wanted some of my own.


Raspberry Macaroons
Raspberry Macaroons
Raspberry Macaroons II
Raspberry Macaroons II
Raspberry Macaroons III
Raspberry Macaroons III
Raspberry Macaroons  IV
Raspberry Macaroons IV
Raspberry Macaroons, Close Up

Coffee Swirl

I can’t believe it. It took me so much time to do a simple shot like this.

What I wanted to do was something along the lines of this award winning photograph for Millicano coffee.

I took this as an inspiration, and tried to do something along this line, with a few changes.
I took this as an inspiration, and tried to do something along this line, with a few changes.

I couldn’t figure out how to do this shot ( I still can’t) , but I tried to work along with whatever comes. I think the above shot uses brushes in photoshop to create the liquid diffusion. I guess.

In my first attempt I used a small fish-tank and splashed a cup inside. I wanted to put the cup inside the frame to signify the immersion of oneself in the coffee experience.
Next I tried swirling the water with spoon while adding coffee powder/coffee + water.

Didn’t happen.

For the simple reason that I couldn’t swirl fast enough to freeze the action.

Coffee Swirl I
Coffee Swirl I

As you can see, the swirl didn’t happen. But I like the way the coffee crush is falling, as if in a meteor shower.

So the next week, my professor at college lended me his portable coffee frother to make the swirls. This time, I shot it in a small glass cup with a softbox from behind.

Coffee Swirl II
Coffee Swirl II

I really loved the swirls I got this time! 🙂

Goan Walls, Colours and Life

Today, I decided to visit my last year’s catalogue and look through the pictures to see if I find something I might have missed. And I was not disappointed.

These two pictures (yes, it’s a diptych) were taken while walking around the Goan streets. Beautiful solid colours here, in stark contrast are balancing each other in the complete frame and individually too.

Very few Old Goan buildings are coloured exactly alike and solid colours are used for front facades; interiors are usually in paler colours/white with solid colour highlights.

This rendering or piping in white is the result of the unwritten rule during the Portuguese occupation of Goa that no private house or building could be painted in white. Only churches and chapels enjoyed this privilege, as white was associated with the Virgin Mary and therefore the virtues of purity and chastity (both desirable in Goa), but, surprisingly, Goan Hindus also respected this practice.

As a result of this code, an interesting and aesthetically pleasing trend developed, as competition among neighbours gave impetus to variety.

Goan Walls, Colours and Aunts
Goan Walls, Colours and Life

Seen here, the woman is in the everyday dress/gown and the man in a beautiful royal blue kurta.

General Merchant
General Merchant
House Number 140

Love : Happiness : Toby

“The only creatures that are evolved enough to convey pure love are dogs and infants.”
Johnny Depp

You read that right? Love : Happiness : Toby

Now who’s Toby? And how did he suddenly spring up? From where?

Somehow. From somewhere. ❤

My friends and myself, ordered a home delivery from a nearby restaurant that one day, around two weeks ago.

Ting tong! The delivery boy rang the bell.

Clank! We open the door, hungry.

In comes trotting, this handsome, tiny guy, floppy ears, thin to the bones; into the hall, into the bedroom, straight to the bed and off to sleep!

All hunger left to the winds, we went in, and started cuddling with this cute little bundle of brown fur, smelling of mild shampoo and milk, oh so heavenly!

His eyes. Stark green and huge. Complementing the golden brown of his fur, his eyes made him a beauty. An instant hit. 😀


He was scared though, not eating anything, not saying anything, not licking anybody, just sleeping all the time. We tried searching for someone who might own him, but to no avail. So, we decided to keep him. 😀

Took him to the vet, got his vaccinations and deworming done. After being force fed Cerelac and curd rice for a few days, he started eating on his own and has now taken a liking to Pedigree these days. 😀


The point of this post, apart from introducing Toby is, urging people to adopt.

“A dog is not a thing. A thing is replaceable. A dog is not. A thing is disposable. A dog is not. A thing doesn’t have a heart. A dog’s heart is bigger than any “thing” you can ever own.”
Elizabeth Parker, Paw Prints in the Sand

You need to understand people, you need them more than they need you.

Pets, dogs in particular, teach you how to love. Love like no other.

And god knows, the world needs it.

There are hundreds out there, especially in India. It’s okay if you cant keep one at home. You can volunteer at a rehabilitation and rescue centre, feed dogs outside your door, in your neighbourhood, Help in any way you can. I promise you, it wont go to waste.

That isn’t a huge price to pay for unconditional love, affection, importance; a smile, a laugh; a stress-buster,  isn’t it?

Learn to love people. 🙂