Tuesday, July 30, 2013

You are crazy to do this!

With friends like these... How many times we have said this expression in joy of having such friends and embarrassment of being the victim of a prank? There is never a shortage for tales to support this fact. The latest I come across is a tale of a man from France and his bunch of friends from India. So our protagonist the French man, lives in Paris, and is a school teacher. It is a wonderful job. Let me be clear. I am not about about the satisfaction of dispensing wisdom to the seekers of knowledge but about the vacation days in an academic year. No matter where or what you teach, there is a lot of vacation time for you. I am not sure about the salary but none of us can match this field in terms of vacation days.

So our French man has recently opted for a co-location scenario and ended up with having an Indian as a room mate. This presented a good opportunity to learn from a different and rich culture. Luckily for him, his room mate is an enterprising person. Before long, he added a lot of friends from India to his list of friend. As he was acquiring more and more friends from India, the summer vacation was approaching. While he was contemplating the best places to visit in the world, India was also shortlisted. With strong recommendation from his new friends, the French man finally decided to choose India as his summer destination. All his Indian friends reassured him about the best time he will soon have in India. So, he booked his tickets to Mumbai. He earmarked a few places with almost negligent outline of a plan. He decides improvise it on ground. Then the day approaches faster than he envisaged. The French man is flying to India the next day. He and his Indian friends are drinking. They drink a lot to the point his Indian friends could hold it inside them. They blurt out. "My friend... you are crazy to go alone into a country you have no idea about".

All is well that ends well. The French man has already seen Bangalore, ate in Frazer Town, took a shower in Cubbon Park (thanks to the monsoon season)and enjoyed the local bar where the music was too loud even for having a conversation while sitting right next to each other. As I write this, he continues his adventure and is somewhere in Tamil Nadu having more fun. But with friends like these, he could also have dropped his plans for visiting India.

Tags: Musings,France,India,Vacation


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Photos: Waiting for the groom

This was taken at Musee du Louvre, Paris

Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran

Please visit the page of Photokkaran. Don't forget to "Like" the page if you enjoy the pictures.

Tags: Photos


Movie Review: The Wolverine

I am not a comics fan. When X-Men was released in 2000, I stayed away from the movie. Later, I was hooked to the series after watching the excerpts on a long flight. The movie is about a group of misfits and teamwork. X-men are talented but it only makes sense when they are all working together. Among the X-men, Wolverine/Logan is the person who stands out because he hates teamwork. He can easily survive alone. With the unique talent of longevity that comes with self healing power, he has been doing that for centuries. So it is no surprise when the maker decide to create a spin-off from the X-men series featuring only the moody loner, Wolverine/Logan.

The role of Wolverine/Logan has been safe with Hugh Jackman for over a decade now. It is not only the physique but also the intensity brought into the role that has made us love Hugh Jackman's Wolverine/Logan. But the first outing, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, introducing the spin off was a letdown. Although it featured a lot of action scenes, it failed to connect emotionally. I thought the series was dead after the fiasco. When you are talking about Wolverine, all sins are pardoned when the next trailer is launched. Luckily, they have changed the director in the second outing.

This time, James Mangold is at the helm as the director. With him on-board, I hoped he would combine drama and action in this series just like how he did it in the remake of 3:10 to Yuma. Unfortunately for us, James Mangold infuses a lot of drama but fails in the action department. The movie starts off at an unspecified time after X-Men: The Last Stand has ended. At this point of time, Logan is a disillusioned warrior longing for Jean Grey(Famke Janssen). When the immortality has driven Logan into a recluse, Yoshida beckons him to Japan to bid farewell. Upon reaching Japan, Logan has to protect Mariko(Tao Okamonto) from Yakuza and Viper with the help of Yukio(Rila Fukushima). 

To watch Logan struggle with his demons is interesting. It makes the character more human. In the end, a lot of fleeting appearances of Jean Grey at many places in the movie spoils the experience. When the director and the script writers focuses on Logan's struggle, they spend less efforts on bringing a strong villain to movie thereby forgetting the series is also about action. By moving the setting to Japan, it provides an opportunity to match Logan's adamantium claws with samurai swords. The only action sequence that stands out is the fight on top of the bullet train. The first action sequence during the funeral is also good. But the shaky camera and the 3D works against it. This movie would have been far more enjoyable if the makers had used the traditional approach.

The most exciting part of the movie is the post credits. Luckily you don't have to wait an eternity for this portion to come. This is when Professor X(Patrick Stewart) and Magento(Ian McKellen) shows up to set the stage for the next one. I advice you to skip this one and wait for the next instalment. The man who started it all, Bryan Singer, is back as the director. Moreover, the cast is a mix of the oldies (featuring some of Bryan's initial cast and Matthew Vaughn's cast from X Men: First Class. The next installment is worth waiting for.

Language: English

Genre: Action

Rating: **


Friday, July 26, 2013

The Ring of Defiance

Although this post is about a ring, it is not about the kind of ring that you wear on your fingers. If it will peak your interest in the blog, let me tell you this is about a pretty young thing and a ring. The ring which is the topic of discussion is the kind worn on the nose. Yes, I am talking about nose rings. Let me confess. I like nose rings. For me, nose rings present a good opportunity to click pictures although most of the time I forget about taking a picture when spotting one.

There are rules for everything. We may not realize it. But this is the truth about life. There are rules about nose rings too. The outside of the left is where the nose is pierced. If you are wondering where I got this information, I got the "left" from the pretty young thing and "the outside" in the outside of the left from wikipedia. I have always ogled at nose rings but I am not as keen an observer to notice which side of the nose features the nose ring.

The pretty young thing has her nose pierced on the right side of the nose. You may ask why? To be different and not follow the traditional norms. This is understandable. Don't we all love to break the rules? That is why I call it the ring of defiance.

Tags: Musings,Pretty Young Thing,Nose Ring


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Do you want me to update your Facebook status?

"Do you want me to update your Facebook status?". This question surprised me. The chances are you are in the same boat. You are also surprised by this question. However, the question was not aimed at me. I happened to overhear this exchange. I know I shouldn't be. But, what can I do? All the multitasking skills I learnt over the years had made me process multiple channels of information at the same time.

I try hard to update my status on Facebook. I do it using the app on my phone and sometimes the web interface too. Sometimes, I go overboard updating my status. People have complained about updating too much in too little time. But nobody have, until now, stepped forward and offered help in updating my status on Facebook. As you know, dispersing information about yourself is not an easy task as there is no software yet which can read your mind and update the status. Until such  software is created, you have to do it the old fashioned way; either by yourself or make somebody do it for you.

Here is an young man offering the service to a young woman. It became more intriguing when the young woman dashed towards the young man on hearing this question. Is she going to hug and kiss him? That was the question on my mind. What happened was less dramatic than what my mind conjured up. She sat on the machine near the young man. Then she logged out of her Facebook account page on the machine. 

She was using a public machine and forgot to logout after using it. The young man was nice enough not to use her account and bad enough to tease her. You may not be as lucky as the young woman in this narrative. So make sure you logoff from your accounts while using a public machine.

Tags: Musings,Facebook,Status,Young Man,Young Woman


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Books: The Heist

Opposites attract. This is one the theme of the novel jointly written by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg. I found this book in the NY Times Best Sellers List and had no clue about the authors. But a little bit of research on Amazon and wikipedia revealed the genres written by the authors. Different sensibilities associated with their respective genres ends up in a happy marriage in this book resulting in us having a easily readable, immensely amusing and quickly forgettable thriller.

Agent Kate O'Hare is determined to nail the con man Nicolas Fox. She has already spent so much time in this pursuit. Now this mission has become an obsession for her. Fox has a way of outguessing Kate and taunting her whenever he escapes from her. Before long, they are also forced into an union for a greater mission. At the core, it is a cat-and-mouse game. During the beginning, it is between Kate and Fox and then the duo unites against a common villain.

When you read the novel, you feel like you are watching a Hollywood thriller. The story moves very fast with Fox plotting for every eventuality, overcoming the antagonist smoothly and unbelievably most of the time. If you are looking for a break from the heavy duty stuff you have been reading lately, then this is the perfect book for you to immerse yourself.

Tags: Books,Janet Evanovich,Lee Goldberg


Monday, July 22, 2013

Movie Review: D-Day

When diplomacy and international boundaries are the roadblocks, the head of the spy agency in India gives a last shot at apprehending the criminal by going ahead with a covert operation. Nikhil Advani, heavily inspired from theme which is featured many times before in Hollywood movies, attempts to transplant the scenario to the current socio-political context of India. If you are familiar with the works of Nikhil Advani, then you also know the director has left his comfort zone to attempt an entirely different genre. Nikhil's strong point is melodrama. This strong point appears at several places in this movie too but not in a positive way. In the end, the movie turns out to be a watchable fare because of the screenplay, the way in which the movie is shot, editing and some of the actors.

The screenplay by Nikhil Advani, Suresh Nair and Nikhil Vyas(the last two of Kahaani fame) is non-linear. The movie without wasting time puts us right in the middle of action in the first few minutes. The protagonists Wali Khan(Irrfan Khan), Rudra(Arjun Rampal), Zoya Rehman(Huma Qureshi) and Aslam(Aakash Daahiya) tries to nab an unsuspecting Goldman(Rishi Kapoor) after ambushing his convoy in the parking lot of the hotel where Goldman has arrived to take part in the pre-wedding party of his son. That is when the action is abruptly halted on the screen for the director and his screenplay pals to tell us how this operation was planned. This is a technique you see through out the movie. The trio shows us a scene and then take us through the chain of events that led to the scene. This can be at times confusing. But this is also a good way of laying out the movie to keep the viewer hooked to the proceedings. Most of us walk into movie with certain preconceived notions.This technique helps in shaking us out of it. To make the viewers feel they are in the midst of action, the cinematographer has used the shaky camera technique. This adds to the thrill.

It is a doomed operation. The plans do not work and the four operatives are abandoned by their country. To make matters worse, Goldman and the Pakisthani officials are on the lookout for these four operatives while Ashwini Rao(Nassar) who authorized this covert operation tries to get these operatives back to India. The role of Ashwini brings out the bureaucratic and political idiosyncracies. This forms the second half of the movie where Nikhil Advani decides to concentrate on the emotional turmoils of each operatives. This slows the second half especially Rudra's angle. This is a totally unnecessary backstory. Little is said about Aslam. They could have done the same about Rudra to make him more mysterious to the viewer. The whole movie is about suspension of disbelief. Telling nothing about Rudra would not have made us stretch this ability of ours more than what we have done already. Wali's backstory is essential for the plot while Zoya's is amusing which shows the difficulty of balancing work(especially espionage) and life. The second half could have been racier if Nikhil Advani had played the role of a ruthless editor to chop off the songs and also Rudra's love for the prostitute played by Shruti Haasan. Luckily for us, the director returns back to main theme after being lost for a few minutes.

Performance wise, the movie belongs to Irrfan Khan, Rishi Kapoor and Nassar. Irrfan's character, Wali, is complex to portray. He has been undercover for almost a decade for nabbing Goldman. He is also the man who convinces Ashwini to take up this mission but eventually is imbalanced by the fate of his family. At the end, he becomes a broken man unable to decide where his loyalties lie. The role is safe with Irrfan. Rishi Kapoor shows the various faces of Goldman very well. Goldman rarely becomes angry and when he becomes angry, you better stay out of the way. Otherwise he is always reasoning it out with everyone, even with his captors. These are the scenes which is enjoyable to watch because we know Goldman is playing with his captor's mind. Nassar is a surprising choice for the role. Hindi movies are not his forte although Nassar has effectively portrayed similar roles in Tamil movies. Nassar brings out the patriotic nature and the determination of Ashwini very well. Luckily, the director has allowed Nassar to dub in his voice thereby not diluting his performance despite having a pronounced South Indian accent.

There is a lot of blood and mutilation in the movie. So it should be out of bounds for kids. The movie is good attempt in making a thriller while heavily borrowing from Hollywood. There is a good amount of planning done on the project to customize it for our palette and also for how to tell a story. This is the best part of the movie. You may choose this movie if you have nothing else to watch in the multiplex.

Language: Hindi

Genre: Thriller

Rating: **


Sunday, July 21, 2013

Whose problem is it in the first place?

At modern work place, escalations are becoming the natural order of conducting business. Recently, a friend of mine received an escalation about his team members. It is a good lesson for all who are handling mischievous escalations in order to bring our attention into trivial matters thereby satisfying the ego of the escalation's originator.

One morning, my friend was patched into a teleconference call without advance notice. After spending couple of minutes on the call, my friend realized the meeting was regarding a promised deliverable which did not make it to the customer's inventory on time. The customer-facing  managers were shouting at my friend for missing the deliverable. This is also surprising as my friend is not directly responsible for the delivery. He is the one who is making sure the right resources are available for the customer-facing managers.

When the noise levels were gradually raising, my friend responded with a cool head. "When was this deliverable due?". The answer came promptly and quickly, "Yesterday!". So my friend said, "You are coming to me after missing the deadline. There is nothing I can do about it. If you had come to me a couple of days back when you knew there was a likelihood of missing the deadline, then I could have done something".

When you are being grilled, first ask yourself if you had anything to do with it in the first place. The real reason might be something else. Why should you let yourself be pushed down for no reason?

Tags: Musings,Escalation,Manager,Deliverable


Thursday, July 18, 2013

I'll not tell THIS if you don't tell THAT

Do you remember barter system? We studied it in school. This was the way in which the business was conducted in the olden days. We still have this system in place when it comes to embarrassing facts about ourselves. Haven't we stuck a deal with our friends for not disclosing an embarrassing fact about us if we reciprocate the same. In other words, if we do not disclose an embarrassing fact about the friend. Recently, I came across this negotiation happening in real life which reinforced two facts about life. Kids are smart and boys will be boys.

The negotiation happened between two men; in fact a boy and a man separated in age by almost 2 decades. The boy is a friend's son while the man is my young friend. In a weak moment, my young friend handed over his mobile to the boy. The boy, who is 3 years away from being a teenager, quickly played around with my young friend's mobile and asked a simple question pointing to a phone entry with a sly smile. "Who is this girl?". This surprised my young friend. As far he is concerned, he is in a relationship with that girl. The relation is in stealth mode. Don't get me wrong here. The couple are not sure if this is going to work out eventually. So they decided to adopt the start-up philosophy. Operate in stealth mode! My young friend being a relationship in stealth mode actually brings a smile on my lips. All his friends, including me, knows about this relationship. Obviously, he has his own definition of stealth mode!

It didn't take long for the intelligent boy to figure there was something fishy going on. This could be attributed to whatever reaction my young friend had on his face on hearing this question. Now, my young friend want to prevent the boy from going public with this information. So what does he do? He cons the boy into an innocent conversation. One thing leads to the other and the conversation moves to school, classes, teachers, friends and then lands on the topic of girls. By steering the conversation in a calculated way, my young friend uncovers an important information about the boy; the name of the boy's girlfriend. 

Now you have figured out what happened after this startling discovery. My young friend threatened to go public with this information. In normal scenarios, the boy would not have cared. But the public also included his dad. So at the end, both of them was able to figure out a mutually convenient solution; the oath of silence. I will not tell your girlfriend's name if you do not tell my girlfriend's name. What did I tell you about kids and boys?

Tags: Musings,Boys,Young Friend,Relationship


Monday, July 15, 2013

Books: The Lock Artist

The protagonist named Mike, in this novel written by Steve Hamilton, is unable to speak. Although there is nothing wrong with him as far as his speech system is concerned, Mike has lost the ability due to a tragedy that occured during his childhood. As a result of this tragedy, he develops an interest toward locks especially on how to open them. Because of this unique ability, people befriend him at different stages of his life which always leads to trouble for Mike.

Steve Hamilton uses two timelines to tell the story. As the novel starts, Mike is on his way leaving his home behind. Very soon, Steve Hamilton switches back to a time frame which is earlier than the start of the novel which describes what makes Mike leave his home. The author does not reveal the tragedy in Mike's life till the very end. This is a good technique since it makes us want to finish the novel faster and prevents us from keeping it down. Since the protagonist can't speak, the author elegantly describes what goes through the Mike's mind. This is where the writer in Steve Hamilton is brilliant.

I picked up the book since it was categorized as a thriller. I found this to be more of a love story than a thriller. What drives Mike in the novel is the love for a girl. This love makes him a lock artist. If you are looking for a drama with a dash of thrills, then this is a good book to pick up.

Tags: Books,Steve Hamilton


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Books: The Hunter

Donald E Westlake writes this novel under the pseudonym of Richard Stark. This books marks the beginning of series named after the lead character Parker. Parker is engaged in criminal activities like robberies and armored car hold ups. He never loses sleep for neither engaging in these kind of activities nor dealing with lowlife creatures associated in this line of business. Parker himself can be considered as one of the lowlife with a perverted sense of justice.

The book is written in the style of a paperback. The plot is simple. There is a heist and Parker is double crossed. Now Parker has to recuperate, survive with no money and finally extract revenge on all those who cheated him out of his share. As you can see, it is an interesting premise. The events flow briskly keeping us engaged in the proceedings. The narratives shifts briefly from Parker's and to that of Parker's enemy. This is interesting too as we get to see both sides of the coin.

The language used by Donald E Westlake aka Richard Stark play a major role in making this book an easy one to read. He uses less words to convey greater effect. At many point, he effortlessly slips into details and a few lines later, moves back into the main plot without the reader sensing the change. If you are in the mood for a plain old revenge drama where it is difficult to differentiate between good guys and the bad guys, this one is for you!

Tags: Books,Donald E Westlake,Richard Stark,Parker


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Photos: A couple ready to start a journey together

Before leaving Paris, I wanted to take some pictures of Paris. After a lot of thought, I decided to go where it all started. The first place I visited in Paris was Musee du Louvre. The city and the building makes a lot of sense when you realize I am a Dan Brown fan. When I reached the place, I was not sure what I would shoot. Then that is where Paris always surprises you. On that particular day, there were a lot of couples doing wedding photography in front of the pyramid. I decided to take the pictures in stealth mode by following them. You can see the result for yourself.

Picture Courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/photokkaran

Please visit the page of Photokkaran. Don't forget to "Like" the page if you enjoy the pictures.

Tags: Photos


Movie Review: Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

At the end of the movie, Milkha Singh(Farhan Akhtar) overcomes the demons in his life and participates in a race in a land where he lost most of his family. The climax has poetic justice written all over it. To be fair, the final race is thrilling too. Unfortunately, the thrilling climax comes at a point where the movie has already tested the patience of the audience. After telling a story about ordinary yet colorful life in Delhi-6, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra chooses to narrate the story of the Flying Sikh, Milkha Singh, on the screen. There is a "inspired by a true life" declaration at the end of the movie. This is to caution the viewers not to believe all what is seen on the screen. Even though the basic premise is inspired from the life of Milkha Singh, there is a lot of elements added or changed for entertainment.

The movie starts with Milkha Singh's losing out an opportunity to win the gold medal in the 1960 Olympics. After his return, an entourage sent by the Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, comprising of Coach Gurudev Singh(Pawan Malhotra) and Coach Ranveer Singh(Yograj Singh), pays a visit to Milkha Singh in order to persuade him to participate in the friendly races organized with the neighboring country. The story of Milkha Singh is slowly revealed in the train journey of this entourage from Delhi to Chandigarh. This is how Prasoon Joshi sets his screenplay. This is a good technique to hook the audience. Like a real conversation, the narrative meanders into many things except the answer to the question that started the conversation. Why is Milkha not willing to participate in the friendly races? We all have been part of the conversations where we have veered away from the topic. This is pardonable. Now if you add unnecessary footage, slow motion and jarring background to the above problem, the end result is horribly slow and unpardonable.

The triumph of the movie lies in a few performances and the action sequences (read it as running race). Farhan Akhtar, Pawan Malhotra and Yograj Singh, after a bad start, infuses life into this movie. Farhan Akhtar has built on his physique and appearance for the role. If you look at the old photos of Milkha Singh, you can see the resemblance. Farhan, being a good actor, easily slips into the role. Anyways, this is not a complex role to play but a physically demanding role to play. This is where Farhan succeeds. Pawan Malhotra is Gurudev Singh who is Milkha's first coach. Thank god! Pawan Malhotra makes sure the role does not degrade into the regular Punjabi speaking sidekick we often find onscreen. Pawan shows his calibre in the scenes where he pushes Milkha Singh to deliver the best or the move into the next phase of his racing life. Yograj Singh represents strength and stability. The role doesn't demand much except screen presence. This is what he brings to the table. He is gentle yet tough and can train an athlete.

The action sequences are beautifully executed. Being the story of an athlete, the movie has a lot of races. Although the races end up exasperating the viewer after a while, the race itself is an exciting piece to watch. In order to keep us glued to the seat, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and cinematographer Binod Pradhan chooses many interesting compositions and angles. Moreover, the runners are real runners. You can feel their pain while running. Be it the way the runners breath during the race, the way their bodies are arched forward, the way their legs move, the way the muscles in the body ripple... You are in the middle of the race, closer than what is featured in the news channels.

There are many things which Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra goes wrong. The tone used for the movie is dark. For a movie which deals in the triumph of the human spirit, this is the wrong tone. Being a movie set in 1950s, there is a big challenge on the locales used. Here, a lot of CGI is used. The CGI may be subtle but the entire frame looks unnatural. The movie tries to cover a lot of events which mars the pace of the movie eventually. A running time of 189 minutes is an eternity when the scenes are dragged for no reason with multiple angles, slow motions and music.

It is ironic when the movie inspired by the life of the Flying Sikh turns out to be very slow. Although this is a brave attempt, the end result is not a focused one. I advice you to stay away. Give it a try if the makers a ready to trim the length.

Language: Hindi

Genre: Drama

Rating: **

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