Friday, August 30, 2019

Original Quotes

I've finally realised why I grow horizontally every year - I'm a tree! I have to add to my girth every year. Its how we age.
If a four year child full of anxiety refuses a hug, not based on their gut instinct, but because its from a stranger, we are creating a generation of children whose mistrust of the human race is acute and deeply ingrained. We should be worried. Very, Very worried.

What we did was, instead of punishing the ones who were doing the wrong things, we created rules that suspect EVERYONE. We created more such rules, until it was impossible to trust anyone at all. Did those rules do what they were supposed to do - protect? The crime rates tell us they didn't. So, is it time to go back to being a society that punishes the criminal without generalising the crime? A society that views the crime as the exception, not the innocence of people? The crime is the exception. Remember that. 
Propaganda is a weapon that can only be used on the unaware, or the unmindful. Our purpose in life is to ensure that we are neither. 
On the Big Bang Theory and its characters: None of them is funny. Each of them is patently ridiculous, except maybe Leonard. 
We Indians are polyglots by osmosis. 
Explanation: There are so many languages being spoken all around us that all we have to do is show up. A person working in Bangalore will have heard at least 4 languages - Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada. A person working in Delhi will have heard Bengali, Hindi, Haryanvi, Punjabi, for sure. See, its that simple.
कुछ लोग न, समझ में नहीं आते. उन्हें समझना नहीं चाहिए, छोड़ देना चाहिए। :) 
Monarchy should be close enough to appear real, and distant enough to appear surreal.

Trust needs to be earned. Love is automatic. 
The average person's confidence in their non-existent abilities is truly admirable. To me, it is also enviable. 
They've got it all wrong. Stupidity and having to deal with other people's stupidity are the 2 leading causes of suicide.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Butcher of Tarain - Muizuddin Mohd. Ghori

Son: So I have to read about Mohd. Ghori. Will you help me?

Mom (recollecting whatever little history i remember): Haan he was called The Butcher of Tarain na...

Son (shocked): NOOOO! That's not what they taught us at all!

Mom(now shocked): Arre! How can they completely erase the massacre of thousands of Indians from our own history books? That man slaughtered people for the sake of slaughtering them. He and his army kept killing even after they had won.

And today, I checked online. Apparently, other than my memory, nobody else remembers "The Butcher of Tarain."

Film Review: Batla House

Before I start the movie review, I have to say this: Dear People of India, if you spent 15th August, 2019, safely in your houses, without news of bomb blasts, mob violence and so on, please thank the thousands of unknown, unnamed officers who have done things that you and I will never know about. Peace is not an automatic thing. It is the fine art of well-balanced cross fires, and every Indian only needs to remember that this is the same country that saw serial blasts as a matter of course. This peace is a LOT of hard work. Unfortunately, we have created a world where peace is an expensive luxury. India is no exception.

On that note, here is the review of Batla House:
What do you do when you have to tell the story of an encounter, the 2 year investigation leading up to the encounter, and the 2 years following the encounter in a crisp 146 minutes? You call the scriptwriter and editor of Batla House, and beg them to do it for you.

What's great about the film 

Another personal note: 
What I have grown to love about John Abraham's movies as a female viewer, is the fully clad women. They are women with their own well-developed personalities, they are fully clothed, and they are not eye candy. For that alone, I will walk into any John Abraham movie. This movie is no different. This is not a point that will matter to many others, but over the years, I have been so sick of the way women are portrayed in Indian cinema, that this one thing matters much.

The Writing 
Even in Mission Mangal, which is a movie that released at the same time as this one, the characters are put in stereotypes. Not here. Every character here is nuanced and has a place to fill that is uniquely their own. There isn't a huge ensemble cast, but the one that is, has enough space on screen to register its presence.
The script itself is taut, complete and not jarring. 

This is one movie that could have been replete with hajaar dialogues, ideology, theorising, back and forth debate. Yet, it restricted itself to presenting the facts, allowing the protagonist exactly one outburst in the final courtroom sequence. How can a movie about an emotionally charged subject be made so objectively? That is a feat that should not be ignored.

The Editing 
I have already mentioned this - 146 minutes run time - the PTSD of the officer in charge, the complete investigation, the 2 harrowing years after the investigation, and not one loose scene. Not one scene where your eyes wander, wondering what the scene is doing in the film. The editor deserves kudos.

The Direction
As I have realised after Mission Mangal, the Director and his/her vision pretty much defines the movie. Nikhil Advani picked up a tough topic, and then he executed it flawlessly and meticulously. Not once did i feel, "Aisa thodi hota hai?" No plot holes, nothing that makes me want to come home and do fact checking.

The Nuancing 
When the guy Dilshad is in his village, he sports full facial hair. But when appearing as a bechara in court, he is completely clean shaven.
The spoof on PC was too hilarious to miss.
The officer who part supports John's character - he has given a perfect, nuanced performance. LOVED it.

The Background Score 
It was not just music. I noticed that the background sound was used to create an effect all through the movie - whether it is the house of Sanjay, or the Batla House area where loudspeakers form a background noise all the time, or the village where they go to arrest the accused. This was one time when the background sound was outstanding it its contribution to the storytelling.

The Technicals 
Cinematography, Sound, Art Direction, everything played its part quietly and to perfection. My only gripe is with the house of the police officer. For an honest Delhi Police officer and a media wife, that was a rather lavish Delhi house. Other than that, everything else fit quite well.

The PTSD of the officer 
The way John Abraham struggles with his PTSD is woven so beautifully into the narrative of the film. We don't realise what people who deal with crime on a daily basis have to go through in their heads. This was a necessary reminder.

To sum up
This was a movie I loved. Though the movie itself doesn't lend itself to drivel and preach, there was a dialogue in the movie that has forced me to think a LOT since last night.

After Tashkent Files, this is the movie that deserves attention. These are the films that we should show budding filmmakers and tell them, "When you have to tell a difficult story, do it like this. Learn from this cinema."

Friday, August 23, 2019

Janmashtami par/ जन्माष्टमी पर

"जन्माष्टमी है, 
कृष्ण पर कविता लिखते हैं. "

पर कृष्ण पर कविता 
कहाँ लिखी जा सकती है? 
राधा, यशोदा, बलराम, 
रुक्मिणी, देवकी, वासुदेव 
अर्जुन, अभिमन्यु, मीरा, 
यहां तक की कंस भी 
बरबस घुस ही आते हैं 
कृष्ण की कविता में. 

गीत गोविन्द से कृष्ण लीला तक 
कृष्णा की गाथा मांगती है 
राधा, यशोदा, बलराम, 
रुक्मिणी, देवकी, वासुदेव, 
अर्जुन, अभिमन्यु, मीरा
कंस, और 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Oil Paints and humble vegetable dyes - Meme

I quite enjoy making these memes... This one was in my head for at least 3-4 days and finally it came out like this.. 

Friday, August 16, 2019

Movie Review: Mission Mangal

What do you do when you have a kickass story, the budget to cast 2 of the best actors in the industry, and a lovely ensemble cast? You go out and make a memorable movie. But like Super 30, this turned out to be a movie where the story was better than the story telling. 

And THEN, the importance of the Director comes through. It takes very special talent to botch up such great raw material, and Jagan Shakti has that rare talent. 

Do go, because it IS a story worth knowing. 

But don't believe all of it. The mission must have had a LOT of challenges, but the budget, the 9 day cyclone, a punishment posting, a rickety office with just the cat, 3 days when scientists doubled up as painters and interior decorators, and a comical internal politics villain were not among them. 

In fact, the government approved the entire 450 crore budget, the skies were clear, the project was not in isolation, but was led by the highest interdisciplinary team at ISRO. The team had 14 men and 3 women, and I don't think their gender mattered to anyone involved with the mission. 

I so wish that the director had stuck to showing us the scientists exactly as they are - human, methodical, thorough, precise, hardworking, going to work every single day, thinking ahead, making a little progress, checking the impact of any idea on all the allied disciplines, the sheer complexity of the project and how one goes about making such a massive thing happen. 

There was also no need to create stupid subplots that deal with religion based discrimination, teenage children angst and a husband who stays home etc. Especially since none of these was true. The women did have some issues at home, yes. The children were studying and they missed their mothers. But there were no injured husbands, no thwarted NASA ambitions, none of that. Where do you guys think up such stuff anyway? Every single senior scientist who worked on that mission had spent over a decade with the agency! 

What works for the film 
The acting
This is a no brainer. The casting was perfect and the acting really tried to make their laughable plot holes look credible. Really. 

The cinematography 
It is easy to overlook technical stuff like sound, costumes, light, and cinematography in a movie when they all go well. But cinematography in this movie had an additional challenge - it had to make everything credible - the ISRO control room, the images of Mars, and even the scenes on the road. They did a good job.

The costumes and the Art Direction
I can only imagine how hard it must have been to keep a straight face and deliver realistic sets when your Director is completely fictionalising the events in a laughable way. If sitting 60 feet from the screen made me seethe so much, imagine what it must have done to these people sitting 6 feet away from the BS that made these awesome decisions - "Yaar, launch se Pehle na, 9 din ka cyclone rakh dete hain. Rain hi Rain. Mission abort. and THEN.... suddenly, after Mission Abort, Rain stops..." 

The overall story 
Yes, this is a PHENOMENAL story. This is a story that deserves to be told. And heard. Seen. Absorbed. Even in its most threadbare form, even in its most fictionalised account, this is ONE HELL OF A STORY. Please don't penalise yourself for the stupidity of the Director. You deserve to see this one. 

What doesn't work for the film 
The Director 
Someone PLEASE change the director and make this movie again. Show us the real stuff. In this case, we kicked ass. Quite literally. Just show us what happened. Show us what pure hard work, grit, and rigour can do. 

The subplots 
I have already mentioned these - they are unreal, they distract, and more importantly, they are irritating. If you want to discuss teenage angst and how bad fathers are at managing it, please make a movie about that. That deserves a movie by itself. 

The stupid holes in the plot 
1. Which cyclone lasts 9 days? 
2. Mission Mangal was already in place and had a building. That means that mission had some budget before it started. Where did that initial budget go? 
3. If he did not have a team of designers at the start, where did this number of 800 crores come from? How did he know that it would take 800 crores before the design? 
4. Why make it ONLY about the women? 
5. Oh God, too many. 

And now, the fallacies (as many as I can remember, that is): 
1. The first GSLV launch was in 2001. We did not fail at GSLV. 
2. You cannot fry more than 3-4 pooris on full heat in a domestic kaDahi. 
3. You also cannot retro fit equipment from one craft to another. 
4. The entire budget of 450 crores was approved in one go by the government. The project was never stopped on account of a budget. 
5. No cyclone lasted 9 days. 
6. The home stories of the scientists are not known to us, but I am sure they did not involve a NASA application, a virgin, or any of the other fiction served to us rather unnecessarily. 
7. Abdul Kalam was alive then and very much in touch with the Mission team. In fact, he was at ISRO one day before the launch. (please see link embedded above) 

Final Rating: Do watch. 

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Lessons learnt from Spiderman: Far From Home

 I used to laugh at ppl who used to say they have learnt something from superhero movies.

Well, Marvel Studios has moved from superhero to sci-fi rather obviously.

And in Spiderman - Far from Home, I learnt 2 things:
A. Nowadays, people will believe anything. (Mr. Beck, while he was dying and trying to explain how he got his BS accepted)

B. If I get inside the illusion, I can break it.

Application of II:
Someone at home did the Landmark Forum and came back and narrated his experience. I asked him, How is it that everyone who goes through the landmark forum ends up being a passionate evangelist of the program?

We then discussed that threadbare - the evangelism practices used in this program, and why they have a good success rate. And we realised, any indoctrination is only possible through creating an altered reality, where some aspects are put in focus and some others are relegated to the background - a little like taking a selfie. And this altered reality, combined with a sense of urgency, is at the heart of evangelism and indoctrination. They don't just create followers, they create evangelists. And that, imho, is something powerful.
But if, somehow, you do not get indoctrinated, then you are 'inside the illusion', so to speak, and you can then understand it, and break it.

Monday, August 05, 2019

The new leadership skill?

Last month, it was a Facebook Group of alumni from a college. The moderators wanted the group to remain purely professional. For 2 weeks, the members requested the moderators to reconsider this. Nothing. Then, one day, some members said, "Lets have another group which allows personal interaction." 2 days later, the original group allowed personal content and created another group for those looking for professional connections. It worked.

Today, it was a WhatsApp group. Someone was removed for 'breaking group rules'. This action led to people jumping to the rescue of the person recused, and some people also exited themselves. The moderator responded by adding his own friends to ensure that the overall group size does not fall.

Makes me wonder - Is #CommunityManagement a new essential leadership skill in our world?