Wednesday, April 23, 2014

'Tis Election Time, Folks

India is in the midst of its biggest festival - the general elections. And this time the battle is really dirty. Helped by the internet and social media, untruths, slanders, allegations all are floating around in this political cesspool. And a campaign which started on the planks of "development", "anti-corruption" & "empowerment" has now turned into slew of  "hate speeches", "communalism" and slander.

And in the midst of all this comes this awesome rap campaign video by Javed Jaffery.

One may not agree to his political leanings but the video sums up all the issues facing the country as well as anyone can. The issues are laid bare but again no solution to counter them is presented. Yet the video for all the negativity it shows does bring about a whiff of fresh air in this increasingly brutal and dirty campaign

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Encounters of the Weird Kind - Indian Currency

Travel - the best way of learning about this big bad world and its ways. Sharing with readers a "weird" experience that I had recently.

City - Bangkok. 
It was evening time and we were passing time in one of the shopping malls in the main market. While walking around a man stops us. He is accompanied by a lady and a kid. What follows is a pretty weird conversation.
Him: "Excuse me"
Me: "Yes"
Him: "Which place are you from"
Me: "India" [no alarms here]
Him: "Which part of India?"
Me: "Mumbai" [no alarm bells yet]
Him: "I am from Dubai.And would be visiting Mumbai soon. Can you tell me where I can buy sarees from?"
Me: [slightly confused but] "there are many such shops all over Mumbai"
Him: "Ok. What currency you use in India?"
Me: "Rupees" [now am curious on the way the conversation is steering]
Him: "So is it like the Pakistani Rupee or different?"
Me: "It is different" [Confusion deepens]
Him: "Can I see the currency?"
Me: "Don't have any at the moment" [which was the truth as only Thai Baht present at that time. But now alarm bells have started ringing]
Him: "Please check you may have some"
Me: [Slightly perturbed now]: "No i don't" [And am not going to take out my wallet here in front of you]
Him: "You must be having some. My friend told me that I needed to get dollars stamped to convert them to rupees and thats why I wanted to look at the currency"
Me: "I don't think so" [Now alarm bells became sirens]
Him: "I want to see the rupees"
Me: "Well I don't have any" [Situation becoming increasingly uncomfortable]
Him: "Its Ok & Thanks"
Me: "OK"
End of conversation. All this while neither the lady nor the kid said a word. And then both parties walked away. We tried to disappear as fast as possible from there.

Maybe it was nothing. Maybe it was just genuine curiosity on his part. Or maybe it was some scam which I managed to successfully avoid.
But I certainly was left perturbed by this almost desperation to see Indian Rupees in a foreign country.

Anyone else with a similar story?

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Winter Olympics without the Indian Flag

Our great sports administrators have finally done it. They have ensured that India is out of the Olympic movement. The corrupt and power-hungry nincompoops, heading the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) whose only interest in running the sports bodies is the money which they can make out of it,  have ensured that the Indian flag is not raised at the Winter Olympics being held in Sochi. 

Here is how the events unfolded?
In December 2012 the IOC suspended IOA due to non adherence of rules and corruption charges. This came after Mr. Kalmadi (who had been earlier suspended on account of Commonwealth Games corruption charges) was reinstated as President of IOA. The IOC wanted fresh elections. Our useless sports administrators finally (reluctantly) agreed but the election date was set after the commencement of the Sochi Games. IOC then refused to lift the suspension. And hence IOA cannot participate in the Games.

A truly miserable state of affairs. All this sums up why we are where we are in the sporting world. Closer to the bottom inspite of having the second biggest population. It becomes worse when one sees countries like Zimbabwe (with bigger social problems) and Tonga (a tiny Pacific island with no winter to speak of) figuring in the list of participating countries while India does not. We always joked about India's poor performances quoting Baron Pierre de Coubertin's Olympic motto - "Participation is more important than winning". But this time the Indian flag is not even participating.

However every cloud has a silver lining. Although India cannot participate in the Games, Indian sports-persons can are still eligible to compete under the Olympic flag. Hence 3 Indian sports-persons are contesting the Games as Independent athletes.

To Shiva Keshavan, Nadeem Iqbal & Himashu Thakur, we Indians are proud of you. Even though the IOA may have let all of us down and you have to participate under the Olympic flag and not the Indian flag, you will still be representing the Indian Sports lovers. Best wishes to all of you.

These athletes have come up without any facilities or real aid from the IOA. If one wants to see how the challenges are winter sports participants face, check out this video of Shiva Keshavan training. There are  no luge facilities in India, so he simulates the competition arena on roads while facing extra obstacles like people, vehicles and animals. Hats off to the spirit.

So in a way it makes me happy that our athletes are participating in the Games but officials are not. The athletes get to compete while the officials don't get their foreign junket. As for the politicians running for the IOA top posts, I don't think that they would even be aware of an event like Winter Olympics.

I hope the government is ashamed (unlikely) and attempts a cleanup job of the IOA. Hopefully  the new IOA will have administrators chosen for their passion for sports and empathy for our sports-persons. Then the ban would have served its purpose. Hopefully the Indian flag comes back soon into the Olympic arena (Or is it too much to wish for?)

Saturday, February 01, 2014

MovieNotes: American Hustle

Movie: American Hustle
*ing: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner
Director: David O Russell
Language: English
Genre: Biopic (based on true events), Crime

  • The Trailer releases, I check the star cast - I want to see this.
  • The Movie releases, the reviews come up - I have to see this.
  • The Award season begins - I have to definitely see this.

Ergo I saw the film.

Basic Premise
A pair of con artists are blackmailed into conducting a con operation on behalf of the government agencies. The end results are interesting to say the least.

After all, as the tagline itself says - "Everyone Hustles to Survive"

Movie Notes
  • "Some of this actually happened" - A fantastic opening credit to keep you further hooked, in the unlikely event of you not having already been hooked on.
  • Best Scene - Opening scenes  of a balding man spending time to strategically brush his hair to ensure that no spot is visible. Brilliantly enacted by Christian Bale.
  • The movie moves at its own pace. Like the opening shot, takes its time to describe the characters. The characters are carefully built up as the story picks them along. Sometimes the pace seems dreary but it also keeps a suspense of something big about to happen.
  • The patience for enduring the slow buildup is the reward in the form of the final twist in the tale. You feel that there is a twist in the game, yet when it came forth, you still got surprised. 
  • For different reasons the climax reminded me of (a) The Shawshank Redemption (for the buildup), and (b) the character of Sirius Black in Harry Potter (mentioned in passing in Book 1 and then going onto become a major character in Book 3)
  • Robert de Niro comes in for one scene. Yes, he is the Godfather.
  • Acting wise Jennifer Lawrence doesn't get much screen time but stands out  even in this cast.
  • One look at Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld and you would be hard pressed to imagine that this very same actor was playing the Batman barely two years back. Forget his acting (which is great, by the way) don't think there are many actors who make this much effort to get into the physique of the character.
  • Another movie which captures the 70s life style. For some reason I feel that the 70s had the most distinct look among all the decades gone by.
  • Most annoying part of the film - How do they keep mispronouncing "Sheikh" as "The sheekh". If I was the sheekh I would have stopped doing business with these fellows for just this very reason.
Rating - 9/10. The kind of film which slowly grows on you and then finally entraps you. Overall a great watch.

Previously on MovieNotes - Rush

Monday, January 27, 2014

Rahul Speaks To Arnab

27th January, 2014.
Venue - Times Now 
On one corner - Arnab Goswami known to kachha chabaaoing politicians for dinner daily (Avijit Mukherjee, Meenakshi Lekhi et al will testify)
On the second corner - Rahul Gandhi

So live blogging a political interview. After all जंगल में चुनाव आने वाले हैं. So blog heading to some political frontiers now. Random thoughts which come into my mind while watching the same
  • 1st impression - Rahul Gandhi sounds like a very nervous engineering student trying to remember random theorems and formulae while being grilled by the whole bunch of sadist professors. Also resorting to the same old trick. Answer what you know, need not be the right answer.
  • Why is the interview being held in 3rd person? Arnab - "what does Mr. Rahul Gandhi have to say about...." Rahul - "Rahul Gandhi thinks... Rahul Gandhi wants to do...." Highly annoying.
  • Arnab is giving him space to speak. I am amused, not surprised. Arnab is trapping him. And he is walking into the well laid trap. In India you don't talk 2002 Gujarat and expect not to be roasted for 1984 Sikh riots.
  • Mr. Gandhi can go on and on about his grand mother and father and their sacrifice. But where is his opinion?
  • Sorry Mr. Gandhi every riot is a crime. And there is no distinction between any for the brutality and criminality. "Govt. of Gujarat was abetting the riots"- Ok NaMo fans... A-A-K-R-A-M-A-N. 
  • "I was not involved in the 1984 riots" - Well thank you for clarifying your innocence
  • He is sounding worse and worse with every passing minute. DISASTER Alert
  • See Mr. Goswami, this is what happens when you let people speak. They provide better entertainment. Brilliantly conducted interview Sir.
  • Questions are being asked asked. Answers are being given. But the connection seems to have missing. Reminding me more and more of the grand vivas during the engineering days.
  • Arnab defending press. "The press does not rule the country". And Rahul jumping back on his words.
  • RTI, RTI, RTI. We passed Lokpal bill. All questions lead to an RTI. Irony Alert - From a representative of the party leading the government faced with Himalayan scale corruption charges.
  • Theme of the interview - "We have to change... We have to do...We want to bring in young people..." but where were you for the past ten years? You can't pretend to be opposing the system which you are heading?
  • "I still have faith in the prime minister" - WOW, Good to hear that
  • "Giving haircuts to the bald". Arnab G changes the metaphor. of course he can do what he wants.
  • "Congress is a very powerful organisation... it needs to undergo some transformation" - Frankly I am scared of this power
  • "I am absolutely against the concept of dynasty" -  Irony killed itself
  • I am actually beginning to feel sorry for Rahul Gandhi now. The same pity I feel when I see Suresh Raina trying to face a bouncer.
  • RG trying to smile his way out of trouble. Worked for Joe Root, whose "cute" smile prevented Mitchell Johnson from sledging him. [Aside - England still got hammered in the Ashes]
  • RG's thoughts - Arnab is asking questions which are out of syllabus
  • RG - "Maybe you find me strange". AG - "I don't find you strange" - Hilarious
  • How many "one last question" were asked.
  • Positives for RG -  Credit him for gutsing it out. Sounds sincere but not the leader who will give me my Civics textbook India.
Final comment. Arnab brilliant but Rahul Gandhi disappointed. Social media rejoicing 

P.S. waiting for more such interviews.

The Newspaper

January 27th. Day after the Republic Day. Also a normal Monday (universally agreed as the worst day of the week). Nothing unusual about the day, except for one little thing missing in the morning. 

There was no newspaper on account of Republic Day holidays.

Not that the newspaper is of much relevance in this day. Most of the days, it is is just skimmed through. The big headlines (which mostly comprise of tales of political drama / rapes / corruption) are what register while flipping through the content between the ads. Many of the supplements are barely even seen. In fact there are days when the paper goes straight to the trash next day without having been opened at all. 

So why do I still have a newspaper subscription? 
Do I take it for the news? I already get my fair share of news through the news websites and twitter (which is an excellent medium for breaking news as well as rumours) and television. In fact I read what I want to and the chances of missing news stories is quite low. So the newspaper's main news reporting function is not what I look for.

Do I take it for the editorial views? Well, given that I normally flip through the pages, the editorial is the last section which I will read through. Also I can get multiple views on the same subject better online.

Do I take it for the event listings? Well, smartphones now have an app for just about everything. Special events, sports telecasts, breaking news items, weather alerts, traffic updates, TV listings. And all of these with alerts and alarms set in. So they do a better job than the newspaper.

So why is the newspaper subscription still active?
Mostly it is out of habit. Since I can remember, a newspaper has been reaching the doorstep almost daily (save for the holidays). And I have been hooked on to the newspaper at quite an early age. My initial introduction was to the comic strips, the sports pages and the black and white pictures. The rest of the paper wasn't seen much. As I grew up the interest range increased. I always read the paper back to front (sports news has always been a big priority). In fact still flip through starting from the sports section. Also looked forward to the more colourful supplements which came on the weekends. Had developed a habit of keeping cuttings of interesting facts, pictures, news items (All of which were discarded during major clearing exercises). Eagerly awaited were the special supplements which came out on occasion. Later on also developed a habit of attempting the daily crossword and moved on sudoku. The newspapers used to be quite thin - around 12 pages. But the time devoted in perusing it was a lot. And the day felt incomplete without having read the newspaper. Also nothing improves one's general awareness and vocabulary better than this daily habit.

Guess it is this life-long habit which I still cling on to. Even though now I just glance through the newspaper rather than reading it, and attempting those puzzles is way out of thought, something still seems amiss when the newspaper offices go on leave.

And I guess that feeling of absence vented itself out in this post.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

MovieNotes: Rush

Movie: Rush
*ing: Chris Hemsworth (a.k.a Thor), Daniel Bruhl (a.k.a German soldier from Ingloriuous Basterds)
Director: Ron Howard
Language: English with smattering of German & Italian
Genre: Sports, Biographic

2013 catch-up continues. An F1 fan should have caught this in the theatres but didn't.

Basic Premise
Movie follows the lives of F1 drivers Niki Lauda and James Hunt as they compete for the 1976 Formula 1 Drivers' World Championships.

Movie Notes
  • Speed thrills.
  • The contrast in the attitudes of the two drivers has been depicted quite well without overtly stereotyping either. Hunt - playboy, carefree, fast driving. Lauda - calculating, weighing the risks, analyzing the rewards, prioritizing and focused on the overall reward. Both crazy in their own ways.
  • However the movie is overtly focused on the drivers and the screen time for actual racing is quite low which is a disappointment.
  • The 70s era was quite different. Safety wasn't an important consideration for anyone it seems. Also don't think the lifestyles maintained by the Hunt and company could be even permitted by today's authorities. Guess, Hunt's line summed up the overall attitude - "The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel".
  • True champions are driven by their desires and targets.
  • Liked the end montage showing the real Niki Lauda talking about his great rival. 
  • ImportantQuestion - How does Thor fit into an F1 car?
Rating - 8/10. A good film but the recommended film on Formula 1 (or any sports) is "Senna" 

Previously on MovieNotes: Fukrey

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

MovieNotes: Fukrey

Movie: Fukrey
*ing: Richa Chaddha, Pulkit Samrat, Varun Sharma, Ali Fazal, Manjot Singh, Vishakha Singh, Priya Anand
Director: Mrighdeep Singh Lamba
Genre: Comedy, Youth
Language: Hindi

Playing catch-up on the films which should have been watched but couldn't due to varied reasons.

Basic Premise
Attempts to get-rich-soon landing the lead protagonists in trouble. 

  • Its an unknown cast. Some members having done bit pieces in other films. Some others have been spotted in some commercials. Yet as you watch, the movie grows on you. Proving once again that an interesting storyline with memorable characters backed up by good acting will become a hit.
  • Don't think there have been so many characters so much interested in getting to a particular college in any story (for varied reasons) of course.
  • Choocha has to be the most memorable character in recent times. Though Bholi Punjaban and Panditji give him a close run
  • "Yes... Choocha specking" - the most memorable line.
  • There is a dreamer (our very own Choocha) and there is a dream interpreter who interprets them to pick a lottery number. An outlandish plot and yet the makers pull it off. And they manage to reference Inception as well.
  • Plenty of scope to have sequels. 
  • Songs have a very high catchy quotient. Special mention - Ambarsariya.
  • Dialogues and locations are the kind which normal people can relate to. Another key point working in favour of the movie.

Rating: 8/10. Totally enjoyable

Previously on MovieNotes: Fast & Furious 6

Saturday, January 04, 2014

MovieNotes: Fast & Furious 6

Movie: Fast & Furious 6 
*ing: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Luke Evans, Michelle Rodriguez and many more
Director: Justin Lim
Language: English 
Genre: Action

Basic Premise

6th movie in a franchise (although 5th in the chronological order) which began as street car racing and has now evolved into road heists with fast cars playing a major part. 
A government agent takes the help of a gang of "good-hearted" criminals, who have outwitted him previously, to counter the evil designs of a bigger villain.

  • Tokyo Drift is widely accepted as the worst film of the franchise, yet it is the one which is tying up many loose ends.
  • Query - Did the filmmakers (of Tokyo Drift) really think they would be able to add in that twist to the accident scene from Tokyo Drift and make it a major plot continuity point?
  • Motto of the movie - Family come first. In fact even the likes of Suraj Barjatya and Karan Johar won't be able to emphasize on family bonds the way Dominic Toretto does.
  • The credits song - We Own It (by Wiz Khalifa & 2 Chainz) is really catchy and gets stuck in the brain even though the lyrics aren't clear.
  • The action scenes are outrageous yet you want to believe them to be true. e.g. a tank exploding out of a truck. They also do not focus on blood and gore.
  • The movie works at frenetic pace. The key players move across continents in no time. 
  • The epilogue scene makes things more interesting. I am looking forward to Fast and Furious 7, though Paul Walker's untimely death has added some more twists to the story.
And finally, Rest In Peace Paul Walker. There is just too much irony in there. The man shown most committed to family in the movies dies in a car accident. The franchisee and its fans will miss you.

Rating: 7/10 - High on adrenaline. Rest do not really matter.

Previously on MovieNotes: The Lunchbox 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Goodbye 2013

Last day of the year MMXIII A.D. Time to bid goodbye to year gone by while ushering in the new. Also time to take stock and to move forward.

The year gone by began with lots of experiences to be soaked in. A play, a fashion show, a small boat trip, another in-stadium match, some travel. All in the first half of the year. Then came health issues, all minor but more of the irritating kind (guess the side-effects of being on the wrong side of 30). And most of the second half of the year was spent trying to find some time to relax. Work is interfering too much into actual life.

  • Highlights of the year - Has to be walking on the Misty roads of Mahabaleshwar; Also marking our first anniversary over an extended time. 
  • Travel Map - Misty Mahabaleshwar is the only new addition
  • Readings - Volumes have reduced dramatically 
  • Movies & Television - Cinema trips have declined dramatically while TV watching increased ever so slightly.
  • Lowlights of the year - Changes which did not come; heath irritants.
Given all that happened in the year gone by, here is my list of new year resolutions.
  • Find Time. There are lots of things to be done. But for any of my resolutions to succeed, time is the critical one. A little difficult but will be managed. After all, only I can bring in my own change.
  • Take more holidays. 
  • Explore more - New places, new books, new movies & documentaries, new experiences. And try not to wait but go for things as and when they come in
  • Stay healthier and fitter. Cut the laziness and waist.
  • And lastly, not lose a phone 
  • But most importantly keep the ones around me HAPPY
Wishing all readers a very happy, prosperous and healthy (this is what happens when you are on the wrong side of 30) new year 2014