Feb 24, 2017

A year of Science Fiction

I have been intending to write this post for a while.

For the past year, I am getting fascinated by the world of science fiction.

As with many of our generation, TV was the first channel that introduced science fiction to me. I remember seeing Star Trek TV series and Johnny Sokko and Giant Robot in late 80s.

But books, they open new wonderful worlds for the readers. In the past year or so, I have read some phenomenal science fiction books.

Some of these being:
1. Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
2. Micro by Michael Crichton
3. The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

I also saw the movies Andromeda Strain, Jurassic World, Jurassic Park (second viewing) and Interstellar in the last year or so.

Science fiction is a mesmerizing genre. The imagination of the author or the movie-maker astonishes me as much as the story fascinates me.

Michael Crichton stands out with his out of the world thinking and imagination. Andromeda Strain is a novel written in 1969. The story is as thrilling today as it would have been four and a half decades ago. For me, alien would be like the one in the movie Alien or Independence Day. But Crichton delves into physics to give you a micro-alien which is like grass. Immune to the most powerful of storms or man made weapons.

My latest reading - Cixin Liu's The Three-Body Problem was a totally different experience. A story spanning over 4 decades, the protagonist mixing real life with that of a virtual reality base game. And the universe sending threatening messages through cosmic microwave background. The story is fantastic. The philosophy of planet that an extra-terrestrial race progressing rapidly due to the fragility of its planets existence is amazing.

The book is being adapted into a Chinese movie as well. I await the movie eagerly!

I am also looking forward to complete the trilogy - Dark Forest and Death's End.
I hope they stand up to the expectations set by the first book.

I leave you with the trailer of the movie Andromeda Strain. Remember it was early 70s when the movie was made.



Dec 25, 2016

Dangal - Stunning, brilliant and soul-stirring!

"The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war." - Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.

The trailer made sure that we view Dangal in the first week of release itself. Haanikarak bapu and his dhaakad chhoriyaan tell a story so stunning, that you are moved!

The story begins with one Mahavir Singh Phogat from a village in Haryana, who is one of many Indian sportsmen who has accepted defeat at the hands of family responsibility and reality of sportsperson's future. Despite being skilled and dedicated, he accepts a life where he does a 9 to 6 job. He hopes that his yet to be born son will get him and India a gold medal in wrestling. His hopes are dashed when he has 4 daughters in a row.

A physical fight between his daughters and a village boy opens his eyes. He becomes their wrestling coach. He changes their lifestyle, kills their dreams of normal life, kills their childhood, by imposing rigorous discipline on them. A loving and quiet father transforms into a possessed and fiery tyrant.

SPOILER ALERT! 

The girls see the light when one of their friend tells how girls are mistreated as a burden and the responsibility shirked off at first possible opportunity like child marriage. That transforms the girls too.

Rest, as they say, is history. The story speaks about the tension, the sacrifice and the dedication that champions are made of.

To overcome odds, Mahavir keeps increasing the stakes, like making his girls wrestle with male wrestlers. Like taking on entire society by training his girls.

I am reminded of the chapter "10,000 hours rule" from Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers. An outlier these girls are, their father only creates those 10,000 hours for them.

The movie never lets you off the intense vise-like grip of the wrestlers in the movie. The father, played by Aamir Khan, Geeta Phogat, played by Fatima Sana Shaikh and Babita Phogat, played by Sanya Malhotra, are brilliant. So are those playing side roles of Sakshi Tanwar as mother, Girish Kulkarni (as the jealous and bureaucratic coach) and their first cousin (I don't know his name).

And don't forget, the kids who played Geeta and Babita. They are mesmerizing.

In short, the movie is brilliant. Take your kids for sure, for they need to know what perseverance is. In Sanskrit, तपश्चर्या !

Baba Rancho's words in 3 Idiots resonate , "Don't worry about success, just ensure excellence!"

Do see this song.... This, the real Mahavir Singh Phogat, the Haanikarak Bapu transformed and revolutionized our nation by training his daughters and inspiring thousand more Geeta and Babitas!

Its a true story of Geeta Phogat and Babita Phogat.




Dec 14, 2016

4G to 5G Buzzword Compliant Passage

This report in The Guardian reports how NIC of UK is distressed about lack of 4G reach in UK.

It will be interesting to see how follow up is done and depth is improved.

Perhaps something country like India can observe and emulate.

The most amusing part of the Guardian report is the use of the phrase, "buzzword compliant".

Any new technology comes with its own set of buzzwords and adjectives and their combinations.

Oct 2, 2016

M S Dhoni - An Untold Story is a wonderfully told story of Mahi!

Sometimes a simple linear story line is the best way to tell a story. Simple stories are best told in simple ways.

M S Dhoni - An Untold Story is such a simple tale. Neeraj Pandey has created a great movie on one of the greatest sportsperson of India. Great, not because he was talented. That he is. But great because he had the strength to choose cricket despite the pressures of having a normal life. Great, because he aspired to achieve something beyond what he could have settled for.

This is also a story of India, an India that has been waiting to display its talent and grit. Its determination. 

The story begins with Mahi being discovered by the school sports coach. Mahi's family, as with millions of Indian families, is trying to provide the best education possible to him. Theirs is a simple hope, that Mahi grows up to be someone who is able to reach beyond where his father could. Even when Mahi pushes his luck by taking risks in examinations, he ensures that his family is taken in confidence and the trust is shown to grow stronger.

He has his share of supporters in the school coach, the local sports shop owner, his friends and so on. 
His stint at Railways is fascinating. The initial hope and the later feeling of being trapped is something that is shown well.

While there is not too much of exploration of his thought process, there are hints given. I find it perfectly understandable that a 3 hour movie cannot delve into every little detail. And Indian cinema viewers would like to know as much about M.S. in these three hours as possible. 

A couple of scenes are very poignant. I did feel these scenes gave an insight into what the cold-blooded thinker M.S. is made of.

And yes, there are some lovely light moments that make you chuckle if not laugh.

All in all, the film is a great biopic. One that should be seen with our next generation. One that tells us how much sweat, blood and thought goes in achieving success.

This movie belongs to Sushant Singh Rajput. He has put everything to make this look good. And it does look very good! 

We all know Mahendra Singh Dhoni very well. I bought a new TV in 2007 and MSD won the T20 World Cup for us. These stories are common in India. We are proud of him for giving us unexpected victories and we also criticize him for prolonging victory at times or dropping veterans at times. India has a special place in its heart for MSD. We remember him for leading India to two World Cup victories!

To create his character and to make people relive all those moments is a monumental task. Sushant Singh Rajput has delivered his performance flawlessly. The famous helicopter shot is an example. Even good cricketers cannot play that... Sushant does play it beautifully. 

And as earlier, Neeraj Pandey's direction gets full marks. To create any sports scene in movies is not easy. To create so many of them deserves credit! Anupam Kher, Bhumika, Kumud Mishra and others are good in supporting roles.

One more observation, this movie reminds me of Forrest Gump for its use of computer graphics to insert the actor's face in real clips from history! Well Done!

Go watch the movie in the nearest cinema hall with your family!


Nov 21, 2015

Katyar Kaljat Ghusli - Music & Magic Interwoven

Katyar Kaljat Ghusli is the movie you need to watch to get a taste, a flavour, an initiation into the richness of Marathi Theater. This movie, rich in music, that it inherited from the 40 year old play, complimented by some brilliant acting, dialogues and direction is an absolute treat to watch.

Back in early 90s, my father had bought a cassette which had compilation of Pandit Vasantrao Deshpande's songs who had played Khan Saaheb's role in the original play. I loved the songs but then I had only heard Khan Saaheb's versions but that ensured I headed to the cinema hall to see this movie.

It ensures the dagger of music is drawn deep into your mind. What a terrific movie this is that I am fumbling for words in this post. The music is still playing in my head.

It starts with this brilliant Ganpati bhakti geet, "Sur Niragas Ho" by Shankar Mahadevan.



The movie tells a tale of 2 maestros competing for the position of the Kingdom's top singer and the King's Dagger. Both are almost equal but there is only one winner. The competition turns sour with rising ambition of one of them and then the drama unfolds.

The story is set in the 19th century in the pre-Independence era. The King, Queen and the Darbaar are excellent with the debates, the discussions and a prevalent sense of upholding justice. The acting is of the highest caliber here. 

In this star-studded affair, Sachin Pilgaonkar stands out as Khan Saaheb - a fantastic singer who deserves accolades for his singing but a vain and arrogant man. His performance is something I have never seen before from any actor. He deserves every award that can be given for acting. And don't dilute it by categorizing acting - hero, support, villain... - his performance is the best performance that can be!

Shankar Mahadevan as Panditji is stellar and so is the director-actor Subodh Bhave as Sadashiv. 
I have special praise for the supporting cast - Amruta Khanvilkar as Zareena, Mrunmayi Deshpande as Uma, Pushkar Shrotri as Kaviraj, Sakshi Tanwar as Khansaaheb's wife and the King and the Queen.

Subodh Bhave, the director-actor of this movie, makes me immensely proud. He has been a key contributor to the decade old rise of the Marathi art - cinema, theater or TV. I look up to him for more such artistic creations. I am sure he and his team will not disappoint us.

Before you leave this page.... don't miss to hear these 2 versions of the immortal song "Ghei Chhand Makarand." As a child I had only heard Khan Saaheb's version. For the first time in the movie did I hear Panditji's version (which is the first in this youtube video). As the song completes, I had goosebumps, a tear in my eye and my throat choked. Such is the power of great singing. And great singing is all that this movie is about.



I urge you to go to the nearest cinema hall to enjoy the movie in its fullest. 

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