Thursday, July 17, 2014

Movie Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

I haven't read the novel by Mohsin Hamid on which this movie is based on. The title is very catchy, generating curiosity. The name will let you arrive at some preconceived notions about the book and also the movie. Some of it might turn out to be correct while others seems to be wrong. Anyways, since I haven't read the book, I will not be able to tell you if the adaptation is a faithful one or not. But I will be able to tell you if it is an enjoyable movie or not.

The movie is directed by Mira Nair. This gave me another reason to be looking forward to how the movie will unfold after the initial 5 minutes. In the initial five minutes, you pretty much know you are watching a thriller. This is a new genre for Mira Nair. How will a director who is known for sensitive portrayals of human relations and emotions give us a movie which deals with suspicion and hatred in the format of a thriller. The end result is not disappointing. At the same time, the movie is not groundbreaking cinema.

Changez Khan(Riz Ahmed) is interviewed by a journalist Bobby Lincoln(Liev Schreiber) somewhere in Lahore. The situation in Lahore in tense following a kidnapping of an American professor. Changez is already on the watch list of CIA operatives and is under surveillance. With the Pakistani cops searching for the kidnapped professor, the city is ready to erupt in violence. When the world is coming apart, Changez tells his side of the story to Bobby.

It is easy to get hooked to a thriller set against a political backdrop. Mira Nair does a good job. Her work is commendable in setting the suspense and also the crowd scenes at the end. The script contains a lot of cliches. Yet, it is engaging. The most interesting part of the movie is the revelation about fundamentalists. They come in different forms and their motives are self-centered. As usual, Mira Nair picks up some of the great talents from India and mixes it with the international cast. Riz Ahmed, Liev Schreiber and Kiefer Sutherland stands out in the cast. Om Puri and Shabana Azmi in brief roles leaves a mark while Kate Hudson looks out of place in the entire movie.

If you are looking for thriller to kill time, then pick this one up.

Language: English

Genre: Thriller

Rating: ***


Monday, July 14, 2014

Prioritizing is not child's play

A few weeks back, a friend of mine was looking for a new job. Before appearing for an interview, she appeared edgy. In order to help her alleviate her self doubts and also to get her prepared for her upcoming interview, I started asking her mock interview questions. These were questions I would ask if I were the hiring manager. While answering, her answers centered around prioritizing the current tasks for a couple of questions.

When I heard the term "prioritizing" for the second time, I couldn't help smiling. My reason for smiling was simple. By reverting back to the previous answer for a second question, my friend was committing a faux pas. Sitting at the other side of the table, the interviewer has already heard her when she said "prioritizing" the first time. She could have thought of something different. Then, she could link it to her earlier answer as supplementary to the original answer. That would have been equivalent to neatly tying up all ends.

Although I smiled, the challenge faced by any professional is prioritizing the tasks before them. When you are a follower, you expect your leader to figure it out for you. When you are a leader, you expect your follower to have this ability to figure it out. I have heard people saying "Everything is a priority". It is said in two different tones - one very emphatic with a don't-come-back-to-me message and another helpless with please-figure-it-out message. It is because everything is indeed a priority and has to be done before the unpleasant hits the fan.

Ironically, most of us know about Steven Covey's magic quadrants. In fact, some of us can quote it without batting an eyelid. Yet we struggle to put a task in the appropriate quadrant. What you think is the right quadrant might not be what your boss or your colleague think is the right quadrant. How do we bridge this gap?

Tags: Musings,Priority,Interview,Stephen Covey

Friday, July 11, 2014

This is MI5...

Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine who works with a major energy company. He had an interesting anecdote to share. In the past, there was a hacking attempt on the company's intranet. Unfortunately, the company did not realize they were being hacked. As soon as these attempts started, the CIO received a call.

"This is MI5", introduced the caller at the other end. "We would like to meet you in person. Your intranet is being attacked". It was a disturbing news. The CIO looked at his schedule and said, "You may come by on...". The CIO was trying to set an appointment which was 2 days away. The caller cut the CIO off. "No, we are on the motorway. We will be arriving at your facility in 20 minutes. We want to see when we reach there".

Let me assure you it was not a prank. The hacking attempt was from outside the country. Coming to think of the whole incident, there are two lessons from this incident. The energy business is essential to any country. We may not realize it. Any attack on this infrastructure can create chaos. No wonder why it is a touchy subject. If you doubt this statement, have you been in a blackout in a developed country. If you have, then you know what I am talking about.

The second is more humbling as far as I am concerned. I was under the illusion I did an important job changing the way people live. There are other jobs in the world which touches the lives of the people deeply and strongly.

Do you have similar anecdotes to share?

Tags: Musings,Hacking,Energy,MI5

Monday, July 7, 2014

Photos: A lonely hookah

A lonely hookah is waiting for a customer. This was shot in the Camden Lock Market in London.

Tags: Photos


Friday, July 4, 2014

Photos: Sharing is caring

This is one of the pictures taken during the Reading Food Festival. The couple were sharing food. As the saying goes, sharing is caring.

Tags: Photos


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Why does some icons fade?

It has been quite a while since I have left Alleppey (or Alappuzha depending on your preference). These days, I have very minimal interaction with the town now. Most of the time, I am just passing through the city via Collectorate junction and Medical College junction. This way, you see only the periphery of the town. Dealing with periphery doesn't mean the traffic menace is any less than the other big cities in Kerala. With considerably less radius than rest of the big cities, Alleppey or Alappuzha does stand on it's own in terms of traffic menace.

A couple of days earlier, I passed through the town. Before entering the town, I was entrusted with a mission. Find some interesting books for an eight year old. Simple as it may sound, it posed a difficult challenge for me. My knowledge of book stores in this area is 20 years old. The town has changed a lot in these years. When I knew the city well, one of the best shops for comics was situated between Seemati theater and Veeriah theater. I have forgotten the name of the book store. I was not even sure if this shop was still in business. It should be in business even today if you consider the number of Indrajal comics and Amar Chithra Katha comics sold in this small shop in those days.

Fearing loss of time resulting from traffic if I ventured into that part of the town, I looked for other options which will prevent me from taking a detour. I decided to rely on the internet to find a book store using the phone-a-friend option. Although I was presented with a couple of options nearer, they turned out to be of no use. I found the little shop tucked between Seemati theater and Veeriah theater finally. The name of the book store was "Good House". It is ironic that I had forgotten the name of the store despite the habit, memories and the experiences it gave me. When I finally entered the shop, I couldn't find any comics. The collection of the books have also changed over the years.

After being lost for a few minutes and absent-mindedly checking all the shelves, I asked the person at the counter. "Don't you have comics?". The smile he gave me in return is difficult to explain. Here is someone asking him about the glory days of the book store. It was as if no one remembers what the store offered in the olden days. Now the books on the shelves are not as great as the ones that were on display decades ago. Here is someone who came searching for the past. The smile contained both pain and happiness.

In fact, when he was smiling, both of us went down the memory lane to connect in a time which will never be regained.

Tags: Musings,Alleppey,Book Store

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mr Bilal, you may need to adapt as Kochi is not the old Kochi

Kochi pazhaya kochi alla. A local goonda warns Bilal while the latter in searching for his mother's killer in the Malayalam adaptation of the Sons of Katie Elder. Bilal, who was a terror in that part of Kochi once upon a time, comes back after many years of exile. Kochi has changed a lot in the mean time. So, it is a warning for Bilal before he embarks on the path of violence. Bilal's response provides the most memorable quote unquotes of movie dialogues exuding underplay and unmistakable machismo.

Anyone returning to Kochi (technically Ernakulam) these days are in for a shock. "You will not recognize Kochi". This is what my friend warned me. It has only been 4 years since my last visit. What can happen to a city in a span of 4 years that can leave me surprised? Those were my thoughts to his warning. After crossing Edapally junction (and of course Lulu mall before reaching the junction), I had trouble finding the turn to Elamakkara. After missing the first turn, I had to slow down and look hard for the Edappally High School. Luckily, I found it and made the turn just in time to reach my home.

The Kochi Metro is reshaping Ernakulam right from Alwaye. Anybody who has been to NCR region or Bengaluru knows the great divide which starts from the middle of the road to the sky created by the Metro. This is now happening in Ernakulam. The Metro pillars are going up in rapid speed. With the construction of Metro gathering momentum, the city is looking like Gurgaon pollinated with Pune. Ernakulam resembles Gurgaon just before Commonwealth Games where there were barriers and pillars going up in a frenetic pace in order to complete the Delhi metro extensions. Ernakulam resembles Pune because the roads have become narrower just like it was when a string of overpasses were being constructed in Pune.

Because of the Kochi Metro, I can hardly recognize any of the old landmarks. It is extremely difficult to navigate in the city especially if you are visiting after a long time. Now, a junction in the city resembles like Bengaluru. As soon as you stop, people approach you from all sides displaying something to sell. They speak in Hindi giving it pan-India feel. The only difference is in the way they begin their sales pitch. They call you chettaa instead of bhaiyya. I thank God for small mercies. 

What warmed my heart is how people have adapted to the influx of non-Malayalam speaking people and this was witnessed in the Indian Oil outlet on NH 47 just after the Vytilla junction. The attendant in gas pump was instructed the next car to come forward in Malayalam accented Hindi. "Aage aao... Aage aao".

Tags: Musings,Kochi,Metro,Ernakulam

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