Dec 24, 2011

Mission Impossible : Ghost Protocol Review

Ethan Hunt is moving towards pre-Daniel Craig era James Bond while Bond, these days, is getting more and more intense, much like Hunt of the first MI.

This fourth episode of MI is a perfect Hollywood masala movie that has some spectacular action scenes, unbelievably cheesy lines, humour sprinkled in generous amounts throughout the movie and great effects. Story line, script...well these have been adapted well with above objectives perfectly aligned! Honestly, when you see the movie you don't care!

The movie begins with a typical mission going wrong. Hunt is then summoned from a Russian jail to find what was lost in the mission. To put it lightly and concisely, Hunt and his team does that with panache.

The hunt for the lost package takes them from Russia to Dubai to India. They enter break a jail, get into Kremlin, their car drowns in a river, Hunt climbs the highest building in the world and so on. Each of the sequences is a classy piece of adrenaline pumping action. Do not miss the Burj-Khalifah stunt - it is spectacular. I have heard that Cruise has executed it himself. If true, congratulations to him for a super stunt!

Tom Cruise is excellent in this edition. So is his team. Especially Simon Pegg with his wonderful one-liners. As an Indian viewer, I wanted to see Anil Kapoor's contribution to MI. He is alright as a lecherous billionaire but there is nothing more to his role.

This part is fantastic. Don't miss it and during the movie or after it refrain from asking too many how and why kind of questions!

3.5 *s out of 4!

Trailer of MI4:

Dec 10, 2011

Deool - Marathi Movie Review

The brilliance of Deool lies in the direction,brilliant dialogues delivered with panache and superlative acting. Actually nothing is amiss in this movie. No weak links at all.

Marathi cinema is moving ahead and brilliantly. There is a line in Deool where Dilip Prabhavalkar speaks out his dilemma about faith and modern belief. That is the gist of this movie. Where do we draw the line?

The first half is brilliant background building of the small village or खेडं  and its people. There is a leader, a wise man, a simpleton, their wives, their mothers, mother in laws and so many others who create a beautiful village.

A simpleton Keshav's viewing of incarnation (or is it a dream or an illusion) turns the village upside down.
While Keshav is steadfast in his faith, the rest of the village loses it for this sole chance of turning their village into a rich religious place! It is easy for me to state in a single line what the story is about, but it is the cast that creates the magic on the screen.

Nana Patekar and Sonali Kulkarni are brilliant as the chief couple of the village. Dilip Prabhavalkar as Anna is subtle and gentle in speaking the truth. But the movie belongs to Girish Kulkarni as Keshav. The subtle message is unmistakable.

The technicals of the movie are also amazing, the photography is magical. A small serene village where the moonlight is bright, the scene is magnificent.

Go see the movie right away. If possible go to the closest cinema. Do not miss this movie.

Trailer here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfzctPCpb2A

Nov 25, 2011

Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything

One of the finest science books I have ever read!

I began this book to take a break from my usual thriller or management books. This was recommended to me by one of my cousins. Never did I think this would be such a pleasure to read!

From the beginning of the book to the end, Bryson keeps us engaged, interested and fascinated in this journey from the birth of Universe to today.

My recommendation, read this and let every child and student, with slightest interest in Geography, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy and even Mathematics, read this book.

http://www.billbryson.co.uk/books_shorthistory.html

What a high class way of generating interest in topics otherwise clogged with formulae that don't get inside your head or postulates about which you keep wondering...how the hell did scientist xyz think of this!

It is a one book wonder!

Oct 3, 2011

Impressive MCGM Service

No, it is not sarcasm nor is it a critical take.

Recently, we had to run to the Mumbai Municipal Corporation for a couple of transactions. By process, due to involvement of third party, it was a time consuming process.

In addition, We expected slow service and apathy from MCGM. We were wrong, dead wrong.While the third party, a leading bank, was sticking to the stated timelines, MCGM was better in almost everything that made our task easy.

From helping us write a requisition letter to redirecting us to the right people to getting the necessary work done - we saw fantastic service everywhere. The officers were all helpful. Not just helpful, but courteous and helpful. Now that goes a long way for people who generally avoid Govt. offices. And without any corruption or even hint of that.

This was the Kandivali West Ward Office. I decided to put this on blog. It takes us one event to criticize these offices which are perpetually overloaded with work and unbelievably understaffed. Look at Mumbai MCGM and compare its employee to population ratio to that of any Western country and you will realize how overloaded these people are. For profit organizations of any industry will give anything to learn how to achieve such utilization ratios.

The main reason I am blogging this is that while we are quite generous to ourselves when we criticize organizations like MCGM, praise for them comes very very rarely. I wanted to tell this example to point out the change. Can they improve? YEs of course. Are they trying? I am sure they are.

Considering their pressures and conditions, I had a great service experience from them.

Jul 16, 2011

Mumbai...After the anger passes...

The Mumbai blast has further affirmed the cynicism and the exasperation we have all carried for so many years. What followed the blasts? This time the blasts were lower than the earlier ones, the emergency response was better considering the rains were there.

As has been in history, the Mumbaikars stood by each other. Help was made available from every neighbourhood. Heroic stories of students saving lives and so on....
For a change, the Government communicated well and in time with people through TV, radio...

What was same or worse as earlier?

Usual suspect 1 - Media. 
Tried to hype up everything. A smaller Hindi channel claimed 8 blasts! Someone said grossly understated...washout of evidence. What do you want from Police? Remember they are human-beings. As Narendra Shenoy put it well in his blog: "But the news networks made a pig's breakfast out the thing. They tried their level best to make it look like an enormous terror attack, and could hardly conceal their disappointment when it turned out it wasn't."

Usual Suspect 2 - Officials.
In less than an hour bickering started. Little children handle panic better. 

Usual Suspect 3 - We all.
What are we going to do after this? Show our desperation in email chains, online forums, blogs and then? Kya karoge? Bhool jaoge? Ya yaad rakhoge?

And remember, when we bolster Mumbai's defences, the remaining cities will be on radar of the terrorists. So it is something the entire nation has to worry about. And that does not happen by sulking, getting angry or finger pointing. A systematic change is made by first having the will to bring about that change.

May 6, 2011

"81% Fail" Education Quality

I have been away from the blog so long. I had the temptation to write something on the World Cup victory but by the time I woke on the next day, there were 200 good blogs already. So I only forwarded, tweeted and facebooked the links!

Anyway, so I read in Times of India yesterday that 81% of Engg. students failed in their first year. 81%!!!

1st Year students trip at first hurdle

The result tells me that 81% of the top of top students, by any means in the top 10% of their HSC / +2 and Engg. entrance cannot clear the first year?! As most would shrug and say, "They don't make any good students these days. They are paying attention somewhere else. Interested in movies and music and friends and TV. And yes mobiles are a distraction."

How convenient. Are you saying 30 years ago people did not have friends or were not interested in movies? Whom are you kidding!


If anything, this is a reflection on the kind of clumsy infrastructure we have built for the generations that are supposed to take care of our nation's future. The education, the much neglected education system and the rotten teaching quality MUST TAKE THEIR SHARE.

Ha ha! Who am I to decry this system? What do I know of the system. Just the little bits and pieces appearing  in our untrustworthy media. Would you not say that? I know sure.

Ok agreed. I am not an expert. So here is what the Economist has found out about our fabulous education system.Click on the link below and out of the drop-box click on Compulsory Education and University Education.

EIU's Global Talent Index - The graphic is fantastic yet a brutal and sad truth on how messed up our priorities are.



 In Compulsory Education (It should be more like Compulsory??!! Education) - In 2011, we are ranked 58th out of 60 countries. In 2015, we are still 58th! Ahead of Nigeria and Pakistan.

In University Education - In 2011, India is 56th out of 62 countries. In 2015, we are projected to move one step ahead to 55.

One of the criteria is expenditure per student for higher education (as % of GDP per capita). That it gives such a low figure tells us how sadly we are being outpaced by most our peers. The problem is that you and I can debate endlessly and write such articles. The powers that be continue to look in the other direction.

Jan 29, 2011

Tangled - Walt Disney's Magic Continues

The magic that Walt Disney created many decades ago still continues to mesmerize millions like us. 

Rapunzel is an ageless fairy tale that is itself fantastic. Add to that some fine creativity, brilliant direction and amazing dialogues - we have a brilliant movie called Tangled.

Tangled does not play with the main story. It sticks to the original one mostly. It is lovely and unique by the way it presents itself. As I said, the dialogues are cool. The 3D effects are fantastic.

The one scene that I absolutely loved was where Rapunzel and Flynn escape from a dam. Its action is truly great. 

This was the first 3D movie where I did not feel weary wearing those glasses. The length of the movie is just perfect. It runs at a rapid pace and comes to closure quickly too.

I think the best compliment came from my kid with this line, " I feel like seeing Tangled again!". I think that sums it up for me too - I want to see it again!

My rating - **** out of 5*



Jan 1, 2011

Ashes, India and Hofstede Index

Ashes was retained by England this week. There have been several articles on analysis and criticism of the game and series. The one article I found very interesting was this one in New York times by Huw Richards: England leaves Australia in ruins.

One paragraph that was extremely interesting was this one:
"There is more than captaincy at issue. Australia — unlike India, which has two former captains playing in the current test match at South Africa — dislikes demoting skippers to the ranks. Displaced captains generally leave the team."

Very interesting comment. I scratched my head and found it is true. Australia captains leave at the end of their careers. But their benchstrength, backup options have always been their strengths. In this team, there is not a dearth in options, there seems to be a crisis this time.


It is the example of India that has struck me. Yes, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid are playing under Dhoni, one of the most prolific captains India has produced. Also, Kapil has played under Azhar, Azhar played under Sachin and so on.

This defies the logic that the PDI in Hofstede Index gives us.
PDI in Australia is 32
PDI in India is 71

PDI is Power-Distance Index - a cultural norm that explains acceptance of superiority etc. More on http://www.geert-hofstede.com/

So how do you explain this paradox? Is there something amiss? By a simple fact - Dravid and Tendulkar are outliers and these facts do not matter to them anymore. They are far too detached from these trivias to block them from performing. And yes, Dhoni accepts their greatness and uses their resourcefulness. That is obvious when Sachin often fields at mid-on and Dravid is constantly talking to Dhoni from the slips.

One thing for us Indians to learn. Miracles happen when we break cultural norms for betterment of our performances. This Indian team is one such miracle.

Disclaimer

All the opinions expressed are of the author only. Any action taken by readers on the basis of this blog is entirely at the readers' risk and they are solely responsible for the same.