Saturday, May 18, 2013

Review of Aurangzeb

Deep in the cavern of the infant's breast; the father's nature lurks, and lives anew”.  Starting the film with these lines from Roman poet, Horace, the mood gets set early on for this tour de force.
Set in the nouveau-riche landscape of Gurgaon, with fields adjacent to glass towers, luxury cars amidst paddy fields, rustic gun toting agents of ubiquitous real estate developers talking shop next to swanky swimming pools, the film gets the setting absolutely right. This goes on to become an essential set piece of the plot and is a huge plus for the film.
 ‘Aurangzeb’ then goes on to weave a plot of ambition, deceit, filial relationships and makes for a compelling case. The viewers is subjected to familiar situations, and then made to make hard choices. Is it family first or your integrity? Is it personal ambition or filial duties, which is more important. What’s the definition of success? Is a rich and powerful patriarch more successful than an ‘unsuccessful’ old man who has been able to raise his children with good values? Can there be a moral compass in a family that speaks the same language. Are the seeds of corruption sown in the children while they are their schools itself?
          Arjun Kapoor goes on to prove that ‘Ishaqzaade’ was no fluke. With the colossus of an actor in his middle age, Rishi Kapoor yet again makes a mark and key performance from all others involved, the film is shining example of consistence, good research and relevant plot. The film makes for a gripping viewing and the 2nd half outdoes the 1st with a fitting denouement.
The makers of ‘Aurangzeb’ clearly overestimated my knowledge of history and expected viewers to get the hint from the title. Initially cynical of the title, in retrospect I feel it’s justified having watched one of the best films this year. 4.5 Stars

Monday, May 13, 2013

Indian summer

When the land is parched, and throats dry

the hot air blows and the birds go shy

When the dogs incessantly pant away

and little children refuse to play


When lips are dry and salt streaks the skin

when tempers flare and patience runs thin

When the streets are quiet, and ponds all flaked

the sky is pale and land is baked


When the air hangs still, and trees don't sway

the plants dry out and hope fades away

When the haze is history, killed by the wave

and the distant wintery dream, the only solace


Let’s, then spare a thought for those who toil

trudging in this heat, the sons of the soil

Labourers, rickshaw pullers, farmers, all along

for dignity in labour, ‘sweat’ is their sweet song


The unforgiving summer should make us realise

the calamity next year will be of a bigger size

Conserving Mother Nature, is the only way wise

her wrath en masse, else will be the price


Friday, May 10, 2013

STAR TREK- Into the Darkness

- ‘Dark’ seems to be the theme word of choice to get one’s attention these days. The metaphor usually stands for the dark side of one’s own self and hints at the fact that your biggest enemy resides in you, in this case your own race.

Now for the uninitiated, there are two series of films that deal with inter galactic explorations. One is the Star Wars, and other Star Trek. The latter, is set in a time when the earth is habitable and thriving in its modern Avatar while the former ie, the Star Wars, is about floating old men, bald captains and glowing tube lights used as swords.

Star Trek is a story of the crew of USS Enterprise, who go into space odysseys to discover new facets the final frontier. This is the 11th edition of the Star Trek, and the space ship in its latest commission is in hands of a feisty young turk, Kirk. A protégé of the aging former captain, he follows his gut rather than the laid down rules, in most situations. These hunches of his often put him in loggerheads with those around- esp the half human, half machine Spock (with his long side burns). As 1st officer, Spock is 2nd in command and the advisor to the captain. The colloquies that result between two as a result, make for the most interesting piece of straight faced humour one could hear. Delivered in textbook English, the tautology in the script and wry humour keeps you wearing smile all thorough the movie.

There are two sub plots that involve personal cum professional relationship between the 1st officer and wife Uhura and the friendship between the Captain and 1st Officer. How, the talented and brave Captain saves the earth from doom is what the story is about. Rest assured, there are dollops of other planets and their moons and inter galactic space shown. With Solar system as its home turf and the rest of the galaxy the workplace, the backdrop of space and space age Earth involved to keep your senses entertained. 4 Stars

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Politics and Poetry

Bide your time here and have the exit plans prepared.
Destined to doom, for this nation is for sure
Policy paralysis is at times, at others, its soulless core bared
This rot at the base has no known cure.

Play your cards right, and choose to avoid a fight
expend energy judiciously, avoid puritanical flights
With critical mass reached, the elephant is dragging its feet
It’s end inevitable, the wounds are beginning to bleed

Economic pundits galore will paint a picture clean
asking you to feel good, for the GDP numbers they glean
But the human resource indicators tell another tale
as every single man's credibility here is up for sale

The govt servants afloat in corruption neck deep
every civil servant, has cash stashed in heaps
Black money not the only thing that's black here
the goons occupy the bureaucracy,  their currency is fear

The president an institutional puppet, the Prime minister too
With flailing hands they lead the nation to its doom
Ministers caught with their in hands in the till
The policing gone corrupt, there’s none a righteous kill

Once enlightened people, now descend to the dark ages
Every loud voice asks that the women be kept in cages
Sanity is in short supply for education has been rationed
Thanks to the education scams the ruling class has fashioned

The seeds of ignorance have been sowed so well
Reaping benefit are the politicians, with ‘education’ they sell
Like swarming bees, we have a generation of ignoramus
rioting, raping and remonstrating, proving their ‘machismo’ thus

But if you choose to stay, do make a difference with your vote
speak in NDA’s favour, Narendra Modi should be your rote
should you not heed the advice, do choose your price
an alignment to all vices and thus a cut to the ‘democratic’ size

Friday, May 3, 2013

Ode to the artist

Colouring the canvas with long strokes
with a quiet picture that's in his mind
Paint thrown in a unique combine
with generous dabs and a longish wind

The quiet backdrop acquires a life
colourful in form, muted in desire
Shapes and patterns for space they vie
pools of water along streaks of fire

Ripples from the mind collapse on the shore
distressed hands, their tool of choice
Along the way, they create a life
A thousand words and a single voice

Every sinew, twitch and unending nerve
contribute to the failures or the victory
Lost battles buried in the colourful den
the emergent art is for the world to see

Canvas into oil melds with seamless ease
pain and paint, one ends and other begins
The longest minute and shortest hour
each plays its part as the painter wins.

Monday, April 22, 2013

GI Joe- Retalition - Movie review

GI Joe- Retaliation - Jon M Chu decided to move on to action genre from the vertigo inducing world of dance he created in Step Up-2 et al. But sadly, he flatters to deceive in this underwhelming no brainer. The first edition of this franchise worked hard at creating characters and coming up with wonderful gadgets that made the GIs believable yet superhuman. This edition destroys most of the good work of the previous one and falls flat in the face. A triumvirate of GIs take on the might of an entire army and succeed. A city is decimated yet it's business as usual in the lawns of White House as they felicitate their war heroes- which are only a handful. Even the Bond has been humanised off late and no brainers such as Expendables 2 have garnered all the mileage this genre holds with their tongue in cheek brand of action. With limited charisma of Dwayne (Rock) Johnson and diminishing Star value of Bruce Willis, this one is one of those films you'd even skim through even on HBO. 3 Star

Dredd- movie review

Dredd - A sci-fi co-produced by Arun Nayar and directed by Peter Travis, whose most notable venture before this was Vantage Point, is set in dytopian landscape of a post apoclyptic America. The plot is set in a super city that has super skyscrapers, super flyovers, super slums and super crime rates of over 17000 homicides a day. Rest assured, the premise alone was sufficent to take me to the theater.The film is supposedly based on eponymous comic strip and this screen adaptation surely doesn't disappoint. When a judge Dredd and his apprentice get trapped in the biggest crime district, they are forced to take on an entire army raised by the druglord in their own kingdom- a 200 storey monolith. The urban warfare that follows keeps one enagaged with a near ominous feel akin to The 'Dark Knight Rises'. It's a must-see for Sci-Fi fans. 4 Stars.

The day i met a champion

The Tsunami of Dec 2005 had just wreaked havoc in south east Asia and east coast of India. Some of the low lying islands of Andaman and Nicobar had borne the brunt very badly as well. A couple of weeks had elapsed since the Navy and civil administration began the task of rehabilitating the tribes of Nicobar by supplying them construction material and food grains. The islands that had been hit most severely in A&N chain were Hutbay in Andaman chain and Car Nicobar in southern chain. Car Nicobar is an apple shaped island with nearly flat geography. The sandy beaches and flat topography made it ideal for construction of a runway. Indian Air force has a good outpost here with facility to land the biggest aircrafts. But IAF also suffered major damages during the tsunami when waves as high as two storey building swept across the island. People were washed miles into the sea on the other side. My tiny Amphibious ship made the 2 day trip from Port Blair to Carnicobar with the tent, construction material and food supplies. My CO asked me to go ashore and inspect the damages and also meet the villagers. When I returned about 30 minutes later having surveyed the damages which weren’t significant in this particular village, I reported the same to my CO. Having spent the whole night keeping the watch at Bridge of the ship, I wanted to catch some sleep for we were to leave in the evening. That’s when my CO mentioned to me that someone from my school was onboard and sought to introduce me. I was surprised at first and then thought that it might be an Air Force officer from the Base on the island. As I entered his room, I noticed that it wasn’t a man with military bearings but a middle aged man of Mongloid features and stout body. I shook his hand as he introduced himself as Mr Thomas, the village captain (equivalent to Sarpanch). The puzzle quickly fell in place as flashes of school days appeared before my eyes. Several years back, the curious question everyone asked in front of the “Best Athlete” board in the Academic block was, how could this ‘P Thomas’ win the feat for 6 continuous years. The man was right before me and he did look a strong man at an age past 50. Mr Thomas, the school champion of several years had chosen to live in his very village in this quiet corner of the world. It was an overwhelming moment.

Hai Phong to Ha Noi

Hai Phong, a port city of Vietnam, is one of the many harbours that the Me Kong river bestows upon Vietnam. The only Vietnam that I have seen is in the war movies, all of them made in USA. Hollywood, true to its cachet does capture authentic landscapes, as I was reminded of those films the moment I saw the sleepy elephant like hillocks, all verdant and covered with haze- almost symbolic of the pall of war this country has witnessed. The scene changed dramatically as we approached the port terminal. What appeared from a distance as fashionable women walking along the concrete slabs of the port- a place one usually associates with stevedores, turned out to be hired hands for sweeping the area. The dainty women in their high heels and colourful attire, sweeping the wharf off dirt, was quite a unique sight. It soon dawned on me that for every man on the street nearby, there was another woman as well. In some parts of the town, it seemed that women outnumbered men. In my bus ride across the town, I came across street side barbers who were women. It was a coincidence, when a few days later, I ran into a news article in Tokyo times, that spoke of the role that women in some countries like Vietnam had played in bringing their nation up. The streets are lined up with Karoke bars and there are couple of large Night clubs in Hai Phong which play mostly Vietnamese music and a bit of English music. The dance floors are gargantuan by Mumbai standards, and with live music and performances being part of the deal, it was a unique experience. The youth of the city prefer the street corners to such clubs though. They congregate in small groups and sit on tiny stools and consume Vietnamese herbal tea and munch on nuts. This unique hang out is all pervasive in the streets and goes on till midnight. The ride to the capital city of Ha Noi(pronounced Haa Nôi) was not very unlike an Indian bus journey. It presented a visage of the interiors and the people who lived beyond the urban areas. But the 80 Km ride was generally along a highway, which although not too wide, did not have any red lights to slow us down. The driver maintained speeds of under 60KPh even when the roads were empty as the law forbade him speeds in excess. It appeared that the police were ruthless on over speeders as even in the return journey in night, it was excruciating to see the driver not cross the 40 km mark in an empty highway. Ha Noi is the quaint capital town of the Country with many reasonably tall buildings, several eateries and a gentle buzz that’s almost soothes you. Many shops in Vietnam have the houses extending to the rear on a floor above. These shops are a continuation of the houses and at times, one has to call out the shopkeeper, usually a woman, who’s probably preoccupied with tending to her household work. The people of Vietnam have had very less exposure to tourists, much less to Indians, as it has remained a closed nation and has not advertised itself as a tourist destination. The people therefore are warm and friendly most times and sometimes quizzical on seeing brown Indian faces. The prejudice that one finds against Indians in other tourist centres was pleasantly missing here. After having a beer in the restaurant in central Ha Noi, and walking the bylanes for a while, I soothed my tired body with a refreshing massage. The prices are cheap by Indian standards and the cleanliness and ambience is 3 star. Most people in Ha Noi, mind you the capital city, do not understand English and hence having an interpreter is a must. Sometimes you’d wish you didn’t have to repeat yourselves thrice in super slow mode, before the interpreter understood you. In my stay in Vietnam, I came across a small Indian expatriate community who are a business community and deal with import-export of Marble stones. The interesting part is that they import marbles to Rajasthan from Vietnam. The road route from Hai Phong to Hanoi is replete with numerous water inlets along the coast. The magnitude of the role the river plays in life of Vietnamese is apparent. The bountiful water resource and the alluvial soil is a heady cocktail which provides coastal Vietnam with a healthy combination of succulent veggies and sea food alike. The large variety of fruits and vegetables that colours the streets in myriad hues of bright red and green spoke of the clean conditions those vegetables grew in. A trip to northern Vietnam is not complete without a vist to the UN recognised heritage site called Ha Long bay. This bay is natural extension of the elephant like hillocks’ landscape I mentioned earlier, into the sea. And when the landscape extends into the sea, it forms numerous steep green hillocks that project out of water unlike anywhere else in the world. The ticket on a boat trip in the bay is affordable like most other things here. We did finally see tourists of several countries ranging from Camera toting, bunched old men from Korea to carefree young back packers from Australia, here. The famous Dragon caves are a part of the tour. The boat crew were very cordial and sold Beer and pearls in-house on the boat. I bought a few pearls, which the girl claimed were original, on the way back, after having bought counterfeit from the shops set up along the cave trek. My advice; stick to the shop onboard. The trip to Vietnam was heart warming, with cordial hosts and pristine culture that is unique in many ways. The memories that I shall cherish include, a little girl’s astonishment on seeing brown skinned Indians for the 1st time in her life, the Grandmotherly affection from the Soup seller in Ha Noi, the Photo card seller who sprinted across the road from one customer to another, the ATM sentry who kept on smiling when my card was stuck inside, instead of helping me and the really sweet young Guide who took us to Ha Long Bay.

Pusan Diaries

Busan, also called Pusan was my destination next in my pilgrimage of humanity. The last time I had heard of this city was when the Asian games were held here in the year 2002. Prior reaching this country, I had tried out all avenues on the internet to find more about the Korean culture but like other places of Far East, this one too seemed disconnected from the English speaking world. The cause, as I was to discover later, was the advanced levels of computing and sciences that the Korean have developed in native language. Korea as a nation has been at the forefront of Computer technology and internet from the beginning. It achieved broadband connectivity in 50 percent homes back in 2000; well before Europe and America. In the last decade or so, it has also emerged as a technological giant with the home-grown companies viz. Samsung, LG and Hyundai becoming truly global brands. Everything from tiny household appliances to something as large as Ships and Apartment buildings is made by one of the global Korean brands such as Hyundai, Samsung, Daewoo and LG. These are family owned enterprises and have pretty much built the Korea that we know today. The pride Koreans take in using indigenous products could be gauged from the total absence of Japanese brands on the road. Koreans have a huge American influence in their lifestyles but the English language is not among them. They have a reasonable sized film industry and a unique genre of music called K-Pop, which has fan following all the way across till Malaysia and Singapore. Everyone including the formally attired cab drivers carry digital gadgets most notable being the unwieldy large screened digital pads, which were being used for texting and translation and rather amusingly for photograph. The streets are replete with Automatic vending machines for things ranging from Hot coffee to chilled beer. The weather was the biggest winner as the Korean summer had thawed the conditions for us. The temperature for most of the day hovered around the 22°C mark, with a stiff Northerly breeze making it really difficult with two layers of clothes. I observed the Koreans break into sweat when the midday temperatures touched 25°C. The Koreans haven’t just emerged to rule the Business world for nothing. An Indian expatriate student I met there explained to me the strict work ethics with timings laid down by the Government that promulgates 12 Hrs of work every day in a five day week. The party in Pusan starts on Friday evening and doesn’t end till Sunday morning. On the weekdays, the sea front is replete with sparsely occupied eateries and the inner areas with under populated clubs. Korea is one of the safest places to be around, with homicide rates amongst the lowest in the world. Carrying a knife is a punishable offence here. The people of Korea are friendly and warm. A group of students were very pleased to host us in the University street and happy to be spending time with us despite the language barrier. The most interesting places to visit in Busan are the UN War memorial, the Yongdusan park with 120 metre tall Busan tower, the Haidong Yonggungsa Buddha temple, a passage thought Diamond Bridge, an old market called the Jagalchi fish market, and two pristine beaches within the city premises called the Haeundae and Gwangalli. The Asian games village overlooks the Gwangalli beach. Major landscaping of the city of Pusan is underway, which would accommodate more artificial beaches, harbours and promenades. The city presents a picture of regulated growth and a disciplined society. A three hour trip to Seoul (pronounced Soul), in the fast train would cost equivalent of Rs 2500/- and would have been money well spent as the 38th parallel is located in the suburbs nearby. But I was to spend that time window shopping in what was supposedly the largest and in my view one of the most expensive Departmental store in the world. In the end, Busan left me with lasting images of a populace that’s progressive and hardworking, a weather that’s unlike any we’d encounter in the sub continent, and a culture that has imbibed well the positives of west and retained Korean as the lingua franca.

Singapora Singapora

The bustling city nation of Singapore marks the southernmost part of continental Asia, as was mentioned on the plaque reading out the way to the beach on Sentosa Island resort. Singapore is a name all of us have heard of. But, to visit this place meant culmination of a series of figments that my mind had engendered using the bits from the aggressive tourism advertisement campaign that this tiny hub of a nation has unleashed on the world. Singapore, a tiny fishing town of 1950’s is today the region’s most enterprising centre, which headquarters almost all major MNCs. Its strategic positioning in the major Air routes and sea lanes has been the secret to its success. The urbanscape of the Singapore is almost flawless in its methodology and precise in its execution. The planning of roads, walkways, flyover, underpasses and over bridges with neatly landscaped garden almost make the experience surreal to my Indian eyes. The perfection of town planning, aided with electronic surveillance, digital monitoring of citizenry make it the perfect modern town. Some of the first that I saw here was the door bell style Zebra crossing, wherein one had to operate a button to ‘demand’ for a red light, digital updates on the number of parking slots vacant in the town via an electronic board in several place in the town, neatly cordoned off areas around construction sites to prevent mishaps, malls integrated with Subway stations among others. It needs no iteration that one needs a large sum of money to survive in this business centre. Having been invited across town by a friend of mine, I got a glimpse into what it means to live in this city. The rent of his house was equivalent of Rs 80000/- for a salary of about Rs 2 lakh. The cell phone and Cable TV bills run into almost 5-6 thousand INR. Car is an unaffordable luxury here as govt charges a huge tax to dissuade people from congesting the limited road ares. Volkswagon Polo, which costs about 7 lakh in india comes to about 18 lakh in Singapore. Buying a house in Singapore would set you back by several crores. I visited the well advertised Sentosa Island with its underwater world. For the first time in my life did see the trained dolphins dance to the tunes of the instructor. Needless to say that all this comes for a relatively steep ticket and one is forced to admire the value people of Singapore attach to packaging and presentation. With almost no natural resources that originate here, this country has learnt to sell things that are simple, only better packaged. The ‘Night safari’ was a treat as well, as again, the animals though few were well fed and seemed interested in showing off to the spectators. Every time the toy train passed by from the same tract of land, the beast was miraculously replaced by another species of animal. Clockwork precision, good presentation and cleanliness scored for the owners. The local cuisine is a mix of Chinese, Indian and other SE Asian flavours. A significant number of Tamil people who originate in India comprise one of the minority communities there. They confine themselves to an area called ‘Little India’. The perfection in planning of Singapore is almost unsettling and the strict rules might stifle a free spirited Indian. The city evoked words such as ‘quarantined’ and ‘anti-septic’ with its perfect model of city life. In retrospect, I feel we Indians have a lot more bestowed by Nature and a dazzling History as well to showcase.