Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Goodbye 2015

The year MMXV A.D. approaches its end. It’s time to reflect on the year gone by and decide the course for the year to come. The more things change, the more they remain the same. Yet, every passing year leaves behind its own share of memories. Overall it wasn’t a very likeable kind of year with issues snooping around at the back of the mind. 
  • Major change: Shifting to another place and hunting for a new one, a major exercise in itself.
  • Memorable Experience – River rafting in the Ganges and having to hang on to dear life in the rapids as the raft overturned and people getting swept away to the next raft. More adventure than we had bargained for. But memorable all the same. Then there was the musical concert, the play seen on a screen and finally being part of mega service launch. And securing a phone invite via social media. And some more dentist trips.
  • Achievement of the Year – Completing a month long fitness challenge. And feeling quite good about it. Although other attempts did end midway.
  • BookMarks - Started a new section on the blog, dedicated to the books I complete reading. 9 entries made this year.
Now for the resolutions for the next year: Be Healthy & Happy and keep everyone around happy. And I am certainly looking forward to 2016. After all it has that one extra-special day. 

Wishing all readers a very Happy and prosperous 2016.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Ten From Twenty15

As we approach the end of the year 2015 A.D., it is time to look back at some of the news/gossip/events and non-events to remember the year gone by.

1. The Question of the Year
There were other critical questions: Who was driving the car? Where was Rahul Gandhi? 
But the biggest question was: Why did Katappa kill Bahubali? It might only have been a movie, but its cliff-hanger ending raised this pertinent question. There are many theories abounding on this (Quora). To find out, we will have to wait for the sequel to come out next year. (MovieNotes)

2. Picture of the Year - Two Contenders 
The Shocking One: Little Aylan Kurdi’s body lying on the Syrian shore which finally shook up the world to the growing immigrant crisis.
And the Happy One – An old lady watching the red carpet procession of the Boston premiere of "Black Mass" while all around  her are busy taking pictures.
With apologies to Kipling: "If you can enjoy the moment, while people all around are taking selfies… you are a human”

3. Multi-lateral Contest of the Year
There is civil unrest in Syria against the current ruler Assad. But rebels have formed two groups, one of which is the Islamic State or Daesh. US supports the rebels fighting Assad, but not IS. Russia enters the arena to fight IS but supports Assad. Turkey while fighting IS ends up shooting down a Russian fighter plane. Newly rehabilitated Iran joins the fight against IS but does not like the Saudis. While we figure out who is fighting whom and what stake they have, it’s the Syrian populace which is bearing the brunt of this war.

4. Attire of the Year 
Beating down heavy competition from a monogrammed pin-striped suit was a wedding dress. Only thing no one was quite sure what its colour was? Was it Black and Blue, or Was it White and Gold? Opinions were divided, battle-lines were drawn (Yours truly was in the White & Gold camp). Till finally it was declared that like beauty, even colour lies in the eyes of the beholder, with the rods and cones of the eyes creating all the difference in what we think we are seeing.

5. The Family Tree Conundrum – Indrani Mukherjea
One fine day, media wakes up to the news that one of their own is involved in murdering her sister. Only the victim wasn’t her sister but her daughter. And with every passing day came in new information concerning previous husbands and children. It was one entangled family tree with new branches sprouting every day. That a murder had been committed was almost fogged up by this obsessive media coverage is another matter.

6. Device of the Year – Ahmed’s Clock
While Apple and Samsung came up with their own watches, it was a simple home-made alarm clock which landed a teenager in big trouble. 14 year old Ahmed Mohammed was arrested for bringing his self-made alarm clock to school because his teachers thought it was a bomb. 

7. India – the nation of bans & controversies
The year started with a ban on the AIB Roast. Then the ban on MSG – Messenger of God. After the Censor Board, joining the banning act were the various departments of the Central & State Governments – they banned beef, non-vegetarian food (except fish), porn (later unbanned), alcohol. Some termed it as rising intolerance, a curb on freedom of expression, some returned awards. Some of the bans were found to be rumors, others had apparently been in place for years. But most of the controversies were just political stunts aimed at polarizing vote banks in the light of the assembly elections. 

8. Twitter - The Universal Complaint Channel 
If you have a grouse and want to raise a complaint, just put it on Twitter (with proper hashtags and marked to the right handles). Whether it was people needing help from government agencies (foreign ministry and railways were quite efficient in this regard) or Sachin Tendulkar getting his baggage misplaced by British Airways or yours truly unable to get a mobile signal, Twitter was the channel to air the complaint. Your complaint will get an immediate response, sometimes to hilarious consequences. 

9. Dialogue of the Year
Prime Minister David Cameron bellowing – “Acche din aayenge, zaroor aayenge”

10. Meme of the Year
It was a battle between Sasha Chhetri (a.k.a. the Airtel 4G girl) and the mischievous tiny yellow pill shaped creatures. The competition was intense but the minions have managed to have the last laugh.

Some notable omissions from the list

  • The Serial Killer of the Year: Vyapam Scam
  • Around the World in 80 Days contest - Modi vs Kenyatta, its a close contest
  • Farewell Tribute: Paul Walker in Furious 7 & Tribute to Jonah Lomu by his teammates.

That was 2015, amidst all the doom and gloom filled with its own little happy moments. We head into 2016 where amongst other things, we will get to learn why Katappa killed Bahubali and praying that the acche din come fast. 

Wishing all readers a very Happy 2016.

Monday, December 28, 2015

MovieNotes: 12 Years A Slave

Title: 12 Years A Slave (imdb)
*ing: Chiewetel Ejiofor, Lupita Nyongo, Michael Fassbender, Bendict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt
Language: English 
Director: Steve McQueen
Genre: Historical, Biography, Civil Rights

Basic Premise
Solomon Northup, a free black man, living in New York is kidnapped and sold as a slave to work in plantations. The movie follows his hardships till he is finally able to secure his release from slavery.

What Works 
  • Brilliant acting by the lead cast and a tight storyline, which focusses only on Solomon’s journey. 
  • The depiction of slavery and the horrible treatment meted out to the slaves is disturbing while making for a fascinating watch at the same time. 
  • The violence is depicted in a hard-hitting but understated way. You are repulsed by the events on screen while not making it unwatchable.
  • Its a tale of hope and undying spirit. Solomon doesn't give up his chance of securing his freedom even after encountering many a failure in his way.
What Doesn’t 
We don’t get to see what Solomon’s family went through in the years he was missing. It seems as if his family and friends had forgotten him totally.

It is a hard-hitting movie about slavery and almost in-line with Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a book I read recently. Slavery was wrong and nothing can justify what atrocities men put on others all for the sake of profit, while invoking God to justify their brutality. It is a most disturbing part of our collective human history. 

Rating – 9/10. For bringing out some of the harsh realities of our “human” history.

Previously on MovieNotes – Spectre

Thursday, December 24, 2015

BookMarks #9: Uncle Tom's Cabin

Title: Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Life Among the Lowly) 
Author: Harriet Beecher Stowe 
Genre: Fiction, Slavery, Civil Rights 
Setting: USA 
Published: 1852 

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is set in mid-nineteenth century America, where slavery and slave trade are rampant. It depicts the life of the slaves and their owners. In the book we come across all kinds of slaves and masters. 
Tom is a genial, negro slave working in one of the plantations in Kentucky. Faced with financial difficulties, his master Arthur Shelby, agrees to reluctantly sell him to a slave trader along with a negro child, Harry. Harry’s mother, Eliza overhears the plans and runs away with her child. To ensure his master doesn’t get into any more trouble, Tom chooses to stay and agrees to be sold off, leaving behind his wife and children at the plantation, . 
Eliza manages to unite with her husband, George, who has also made his escape from a cruel master. They successfully manage to escape to Canada with help from many different folks, black and white, along the way. 
Tom, is bought by a plantation owner, Augustine St. Clare. St. Clare is an easy-going man who is not comfortable with the idea of slavery but doesn’t do much to negate it. He often gets in an argument with his cousin, Ophelia about the slave trade. Coming from the North, Ophelia, abhors slavery but the negro slaves seem to offend her more. St. Clare has a daughter Evangeline, or Eva, on who everyone dotes on. She reads the Bible to Tom, who seems to believe that she is an angel. Eva dies at an early age leaving everyone affected deeply. St. Clare agrees to make Tom a free man, but before he could get the papers in order, he is killed in a brawl. St. Clare’s wife reneges on his word and instead of granting freedom, she sells Tom off alongwith the other slaves. 
Tom is now bought by Simon Legree, who is depicted as a harsh owner, concerned only with his profits. He plans to make Tom his supervisor. When Tom refuses to use the whip against a fellow slave, he is enraged and whips Tom. Although his body takes a lot of punishment, Tom’s spirit is not broken. Tom’s refusal to divulge the details of the slave women who fled the plantation enrage Legree to such an extent that he gets his supervisors to beat him up till his death. Tom dies from the injuries sustained in the beating but his spirit changes the other slaves who seek forgiveness from him. His erstwhile Master George Shelby from Kentucky arrives just in time for a final word before Tom’s death. Moved by his beloved Uncle Tom’s death, George goes back and releases all his slaves. 

The book depicts the terrible conditions of slavery in America. As you read the story, you are filled with disgust at the treatment meted out to the slaves. They are treated more as a commodity than as humans. Often they are also referred to as just creatures, not worthy of being called human beings. 
Reading the book now just 150 years later, one wonders how such a system could even exist and why the slaves never revolt. One gets the feelings that there were more white people who found the system abominable than the slaves themselves. Also the slaves who have a rebellion streak all are shown as mixed blood. 
The story is quite evangelistic in nature with the author constantly reaffirming the power of the Bible and stressing the importance of being a devout Christian for both white and blacks.

Trivia: Uncle Tom’s Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th Century and the second highest selling book after the Bible. And it is also credited with helping the cause of the Slavery Abolitionists thus acting as a trigger for the US Civil War. 

Previously on BookMarks – World War II in Photographs 

Sunday, December 13, 2015

COP21 - The Global Climate Deal

Everyone agrees the world is on the brink of a climate disaster. Everyone also agrees that something needs to be done to avoid it. Unfortunately, everyone wants everyone else to take this initiative.

At the COP 21 conference in Paris, leaders from across the world got together and decided to do something about it. After lots of discussions and deliberations, they finally came up with a single agreement on tackling climate change (Proposal). The key areas identified are as follows
  • To keep global temperature rise "well below" 2.0C (3.6F) and "endeavour to limit" them even more, to 1.5C.
  • To limit the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by human activity to the same levels that trees, soil and oceans can absorb naturally, beginning at some point between 2050 and 2100.
  • To review each country's contribution to cutting emissions every five years so they scale up to the challenge.
  • For rich countries to help poorer nations by providing "climate finance" to adapt to climate change and switch to renewable energy.
This is major first step but given that we are already losing the climate battle, more needs to be done. It is widely believed that 2C is the maximum global temperature rise beyond which the damage to the environment would be irreversible. Weather patterns are becoming increasingly erratic, floods and droughts are becoming common place and if this pattern continues, some of the small, low lying nations might completely disappear off the face of the Earth, and quite a few animal and plant species will become extinct. Given that the temperatures have already risen by nearly 1C, we are getting closer and closer to the environmental apocalypse. It is certainly a grim picture.

Although an agreement is in place, the action plans and targets set for controlling emissions for each country are voluntary. And this is where complications arise. The developed countries who have already contributed to temperature rise are now keen to ensure that no further rise takes place. The developing nations also aspire a developed status but that would mean an increase in energy consumption which would contribute to the temperature rise. But why would the likes of China and India wish to remain under-developed? They want the developed countries to take a larger burden while ensuring their development continues with the cheaper sources of available energy. 

Then comes the problem of funding. Who will bear the cost of developing more efficient energy sources when fossil fuels are still available cheaply. The world is not going to run out of coal and oil anytime soon. Only drastic climate constraints might lead to the closure of these industries. We certainly need cleaner energy, but it has to be low cost and efficient and easy to use. Till the renewables are able to fulfill these criterion, the hegemony of oil and coal as energy sources will continue.

While the bigger debates go on, as to who does what, there are ways in which individuals can reduce their own carbon footprints and do their tiny bit to save the environment. After all every drop counts. The most obvious way is to consume less, but that's detrimental to the growth of the economy. And if the economy doesn't grow, then investments into better energy resources can't be made, leaving us to consume more hydrocarbons. A vicious cycle. 

But we can as individuals certainly contribute to lower our wastage. And it doesn't even have to be at a very large scale. And these are already known to us - Minimize use of electrical appliances; Don't waste water; Carry a shopping bag to the market; instead of taking plastic bags; Plant trees; Walk instead of driving; Use public transport; Use paper instead of plastic; Do not take prints of every document in office. The printer certainly is the most environmentally-unfriendly item. We print reams and reams of paper, most of which is just thrashed. And there are many more ways we can all do our little bit. Reduce, Reuse & Recycle has to be the mantra.

The success of COP21 can only be measured in the years to come. It certainly is a major step, but we as citizens of the world can certainly do our bit to help the cause. Otherwise...

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

MovieNotes: Spectre

Title: Spectre (IMDB)
*ing: Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Ralph Fiennes
Language: English 
Director: Sam Mendes
Genre: Action, Spy, Thriller

Basic Premise

James Bond is on an independent mission assigned to him by the deceased M. He discovers that all his past enemies had a common connection which links back to his own past as well. Spectre. Meanwhile Spectre is also trying to pull the rug Bond’s own organization and take over the entire world’s surveillance. Bond survives Spectre’s evil designs and once again saves the world.

What Works
  • The movie sticks to the standard Bond formula, which has been perfected over the past fifty years.
  • The action scenes are good as is the acting, though being a typical Bond movie doesn’t give too much leeway for the actors’ histrionic abilities. And the brief witty repartees help cope up with the storyline.
  • Daniel Craig plays a more conventional James Bond this time around unlike his previous three appearances.
What Doesn’t
  • The preceding movie was Skyfall, and Spectre pales in its comparison.
  • The makers are trying to tie up too many loosed ends, so the story keeps jumping around, hoping that the action distracts from the gaps.
  • Sam Smith’s rendition of “The Writing’s On the Wall” falls flat, and it sounds worse when compared to Adele’s Skyfall
  • The roles seriously limit the actors. Would have certainly liked to see more of Christoph Waltz.
  • Continuity goof-ups like the train-fight in which all the fellow passengers just disappear.
  • Can also be named as the ghosts of villains past.
  • We come to the very basic question – What is the relevance of James Bond in today’s digitized world? And the answer is still open to debate.
  • This is the era of cinematic universes. And even the Makers of Bond movies are falling into that trap. Earlier Bond movies were standalone with passing nods to the previous films. With Spectre the makers are trying to connect all of Craig’s previous appearances in one overlying story-arch. Which also brings us to the question - Is this Daniel Craig’s last Bond movie? 
  • Voldemort vs Moriarity was fun. Especially given that we all (i.e. Indian audiences) do know what “C” stands for :P
  • Useless factoid – Lea Seydoux is a descendant of Marcel Schlumberger.
  • Disappointed to see that India was not a member of the 9-Eyes program. There goes our Security Council seat.
Rating – 6/10. Faltering storyline while following up on the expectations setup by Skyfall partly redeemed by the slick action.

Previously on MovieNotes – Bajrangi Bhaijaan

Monday, November 09, 2015

Bihar 2015: What Next?

The Bihar assembly election results are out. The people of Bihar have given the green signal to the “grand alliance” of Nitish, Lalu and Congress to “govern” them for the next five years. And continuing the recent election trends in India, the margin is a decisive one with 178 out of the 243 seats going to the combination. 

The election results came as a bolt from the blue for all analysts on the social media. Since the results have come in, everyone of them is trying to fit their own hypothesis on the results. How the votes added up, how the numbers compared with the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, which caste vote bank voted for whom, what was the impact of X's speech in Y's constituency etc. All this while conveniently forgetting that it is only the actual voter who matters. And voters are smart. After all as they say in Bihar, "खाओ पियो नोच के, वोट डालो सोच के". 

While watching all the action from the outside, I built up my own hypothesis on the happenings.
  1. The coming together of the "Grand Alliance" was based on sheer survival instinct. Lalu had been in wilderness for long and can't stand in any elections himself. Nitish was licking his wounds from a big ego clash with Modi. And Congress was clutching at straws to stay relevant. To stay relevant in national politics, they had no option but to stick together. The Assembly bye-elections earlier had proved that they could succeed if they stayed together.
  2. The Grand Alliance was able to ensure that their votes weren't divided. How they managed to convince their disparate "vote banks" to vote for a single candidate is a major achievement in itself. And also ensuring that their were very few rebel candidates in their midst. An equal seat-share between RJD and JDU while leaving a decent chunk for Congress worked out quite well for them. [I thought Congress's share was more than deserved, but they provided big time returns. Wondering where did Congress find so many winning candidates]
  3. On the other hand, BJP's allies were more trouble than their worth. The likes of Manjhi and Paswan had only their own self-interest in mind. Thus the squabbles over seat sharing, and the presence of rebel candidates in places. 
  4. Nitish Kumar, had one major factor going for him. There had been actual, visible, all-round development in Bihar under his watch; improved law and order situation, better roads, improved electrification, couple of big industrial projects being set-up, upcoming centers of higher education and an overall improved image of the state. The ego-battle with Modi was the only dent in his otherwise clean image (a factor only for the internet analysts and not with the voter on the ground).[But then when has anyone voted for development in elections]
  5. Some of the utterings by the BJP leaders and their associates, duly publicized by a hyper-ventilating media also impacted their own vote-share. Beef, Cow, Pakistan, Caste, Reservations, Bihari DNA etc. - they helped generate some votes, but alienated another chunk. Not sure whether this गाये पे चर्चा experiment should continue any longer.Although the phase -wise voting patterns do indicate that this may have worked in BJP's favour.
  6. Lack of a local leader in the BJP. We never knew who would become the CM of Bihar, if BJP had won. While the Grand Alliance had Nitish as the declared CM candidate from the beginning. 
In the end, keeping all theories aside, politics was the only winner. Nitish retains his fiefdom with Lalu's presence keeping him in check. Lalu gains time to build his empire for his sons. Congress gets some breathing space while BJP needs to introspect and rethink its strategies. Also, the Central government needs better engagement with the rejuvenated Opposition, otherwise the Parliament will not function at all.

So, the key question remains. What next for Bihar? The continued शुशाषण of Nitish, as has been the case for the last ten years, OR a return to the Jungle Raj era of Lalu, the previous 15 years? If one goes by the social media, people (read BJP supporters) have already concluded that it will be the latter as Lalu has won, while conveniently ignoring the "development" under Nitish? A case of selective amnesia? 

I was recollecting the results from 5 years back, when Nitish Kumar was the star. It was quite funny at the time to hear people going gaga about him and talking about change, when he had just been re-elected. Now the same people are quite "upset" blaming the "illiterate, casteist" voters of Bihar, because they chose to re-elect Nitish again. Or is it because his shifted allegiance from social media darling BJP to social media pariahs Lalu and Congress? 

Anyways, my best wishes to my home state. I certainly hope that the development continues while the fringe elements (cutting across political lines) are kept in check. And then hopefully, the promised अच्छे दिन will truly arrive.. And as for the people of Bihar, you can only hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

P.S. My post after the 2010 election, Mostly still relevant. (Link)

Monday, September 21, 2015

BookMarks #8: World War II in Photographs

Title: World War II in Photographs
Author: Richard Holmes
Genre: Non-Fiction, History, Photographs
Published: 2000

It is often said that a picture speaks a thousand words. This book is a compilation of the major incidents of the Second World War through the photographs taken during the war. The book is divided into seven chapters with each chapter representing one year of the war from 1939 to 1945. The chapters begin with a short depiction of the key events of the year which is then followed by a series of photographs from those events.

The photographs depict a vast range of subjects. Some depict bravery like shots of men fighting in the battlefields with different kinds of weaponry at their disposal and Men and women trying to protect their homes from the attackers. Others depict the backstage actors, who are sitting far removed from the battle-fields while directing the operations - the various leaders across the world trying to get a grip on the situation including some candid behind the scenes shots. Some depict victory and triumph and surrender.And finally there are the ones showing the price we pay for war depicting the devastation caused by the war. The photographs are from all over the world giving an idea of how widespread the fighting was going on.

Some of the pictures provide news, others propaganda material. Some of the photographs are posed, many are unposed taking directly in the very theater of war, quite a few at great risk to the photographers themselves. Makes me wonder abouth the bravery of the photographers. We celebrate the soldiers’ bravery? But what of the people who tell their tales.

Previously on BookMarks - The Jungle Book

Thursday, September 10, 2015

BookMarks #7: The Jungle Book

Title: The Jungle Book
Author: Rudyard Kipling
Genre: Children’s Fiction
Published: 1894

Like most of my generation, I was introduced to the story of the Jungle Book, through the animated series which came on TV in the early 90s. The adventures of Mowgli and his friends were a staple ingredient of Sunday morning TV viewing. Now all these years I had thought of reading up the novel yet never got down to doing so till now. And then came a surprise for me as “The Jungle Book” turned out to be not one novel but a collection of short stories. Mowgli’s adventures comprise only three of the tales while the others narrate different wildlife tales.

The book comprises of seven short stories 
  1. "Mowgli’s Brothers" is the story of how a human baby, Mowgli got adopted by a family of wolves and how he has to leave the wolf pack to fight the tiger Shere Khan.
  2. In "Kaa’s Hunting", Mowgli gets kidnapped by the Bandar-log and is rescued by his friends Baloo and Bagheera with the aid of Kaa.
  3. "Tiger, Tiger" goes back to main story where an outcast Mowgli reaches a human village and his troubles in adjusting to the human life. Mowgli aided by his brothers also gets into a final decisive battle with his arch-enemy Shere Khan.
  4. "The White Seal" is the story of a young seal Kotick, who searches the oceans for a place away from human beings who hunt baby seals.
  5. "Rikki-Tikki-Tavi" is a mongoose who defends his adopted human family from a pair of snakes.
  6. "Toomai of the Elephants" is a story of a young boy who tends to working elephants set in Indian jungles. He gets the privilege of watching an elephant’s dance. 
  7. "Her Majesty’s Servants" is the story of a night-time meeting of a group of animals all employed in different divisions of Her Majesty's Army. Their meeting is overheard by a British officer.
The stories are all set in late 19th century British India with the exception of the White Seal. The stories mostly depict anthramorphised animals with humans often being the secondary characters. The tales are also intended to be a good moral lesson for all.

Extra – Just to revive the memories of our good old (or young) days

Previously on BookMarks – Mrs Funnybones

Previous appearances of Kipling on NishantzWorld – Bombay & If

Monday, September 07, 2015

BookMarks #6: Mrs Funnybones

Title: Mrs Funnybones
Author: Twinkle Khanna
Genre: Non-Fiction, Anthology
Published: 2015

Tagline – “She’s Just Like You and a lot like me”

“Mrs Funnybones” is a collection of columns by the movie-star turned columnist Twinkle Khanna.

There are in all 26 articles, indexed A to Z each comprising of anecdotes from the writer’s life, sometimes tail-ended with a little life lesson. The inter-connecting theme being the writer’s own life revolving around her family and her work. And while the writer herself is a film-star and belongs to a family of film-stars there are no Bollywood “inside” stories.

The columns are quite witty and the reader rushes through them at quite a rapid pace. The book reads like a series of blog posts (which it really is). However what I liked the most is the end of the article commentary. It’s not just the events but what you can take out from them that makes life what it it mostly enjoyable and sometimes just bearable.

Overall it made for a thoroughly enjoyable, light reading. And my biggest learning – the word “illeism” i.e. the act of referring to oneself in the third person.

Previously on BookMarks: Moby Dick

P.S. The book's style of presenting a slightly fictionalized version of oneself reminded me of my own feeble attempts some years back (link)

Thursday, September 03, 2015

BookMarks #5: Moby Dick

Title: Moby Dick
Author: Herman Melville
Genre: Fiction, Adventure, First Person Narrative
Published: 1851

“Call Me Ishmael”

Thus begins this tome narrating a tale from the mid-19th century whaling industry. The story follows Ishmael, who joins a whaling ship Pequod. The Pequod is led by the mysterious Captain Ahab who is fixated on hunting down Moby Dick, the big white whale, which had been the cause of Ahab losing one leg in a previous expedition. It’s a chase around the globe till the Pequod finally meets Moby Dick, an encounter with tragic consequences to the ship.

The story flows like a whaleship journey (average one taking around 3-4 years). The reader moves along with Ishmael as he goes to Nantucket in search of a job aboard a whaling ship. We learn through him the different aspects of the whaling industry. He makes a new friend, Queequeg and together they are recruited aboard the Pequod which is due to set sail for its three year journey in hunting sperm whales for their oil. Once the voyage has commenced, we meet the ship’s captain Ahab. Here the narrative shifts from Ishmael to Ahab with Ishmael's character retreating to the background. Ahab is interested in only one whale, Moby Dick. For him collecting sperm oil is just a collateral business. His monomania affects the crew, some of whom are reluctant and fearful of him, but they still follow his orders. Finally after a long journey cutting across the oceans, Ahab gets his wish. He finds Moby Dick and gives chase for three days but the whale not only eludes his capture but finally destroys the Pequod. All the Pequod’s crew except for our narrator Ishmael are killed.

The narrative moves at a leisurely pace with the title character being first mentioned only in chapter 36. More than a story it’s a treatise on the whaling industry. The writer often diverting into the details with the hunt for Moby Dick being almost incidental to his treatise. The reader learns a lot about the whaling industry of the mid-19th century e.g. the whaling towns, the hierarchy in the whaling ship and the salary structure, the multi-racial nature of the crew and their various roles on board the ship, the ownership of the oil from the whale etc. The book provides a comprehensive description of different types of whales (as per the prevalent understanding of the time e.g. the whale is a fish with horizontal fin), their physical structure, details of the harpoons used in the hunt, and how a whale is hunted, the process of collecting the whale oil, the uses of sperm oil, even the potential impact of such widespread hunting on the whale population.

The author worships the sperm whale, in his opinion the most magnificent creature on earth. He provides lots of references to myths and religion. There are section with interpretations of various religious works to suit his philosophy of the whale, including stories from Bible and Hinduism (referred to as Shasters). Moby Dick is a scholarly work dealing with everything from mythology to evolution to classification to the commercial exploitation of sperm whales.

The book also provides a glimpse of the life in mid-19th century. Also shows how much political correctness has come into today’s writing and life in general. I don’t think calling a person a cannibal would be appropriate in present time, although may have been completely apt for that period. Or telling an African-American crew member that he would be sold for less than the price of sperm oil.

In short, Moby Dick is the story of one man’s monomaniacal obsession for vengeance leading to his ultimate doom while simultaneously providing a comprehensive discourse on the subject of whales and the whaling industry.

Previously on BookMarks - More Salt Than Pepper

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

BookMarks #4: More Salt Than Pepper

Title: More Salt Than Pepper: Dropping Anchor With Karan Thapar
Author: Karan Thapar
Genre: Non-Fiction, Anthology, Memoirs
Published: 2009

“More Salt Than Pepper” is a selection of columns written by Karan Thapar for the Hindustan Times over a period of eleven years.

The book is divided into multiple sections, with each section clubbing up four to six articles.The articles are short (each comprising of 3-4 pages), with each having its own theme. But what a wide variety of themes do they cover – there are nuggets from the author’s own life, ranging from his school days to his anchoring work, his places of work and visits, the various personalities he has interviewed, a few “inside stories” of the everyday life in the high-flying circles, even about the proper usage of the English language and many more.

“More Salt Than Pepper” reads more like a blog (with lots of posts) than a book. Reading it provides quite a few insights into the author’s personality and the factors shaping them. One also learns that there is much more to a person than the image he/she have put on for the public consumption. 

The book is quite engaging although some articles have become dated as the reader has a benefit of hindsight into some of the “contemporary” events. It just shows how time shapes up our perspectives.

And to me the biggest learning in the proper use of the suffix Mrs. & Ms. In reference to ladies.

Previously on BookMarks – The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings

Friday, August 14, 2015

India @ 68

15th August, Independence day – that time of the year when the President makes speech on its eve, the Prime Minister addresses the nation from the Red Fort and yours truly posts a blog about the state of affairs of the country, a tradition which has now entered its 9th edition. (Here is the 2014 edition)

The shape of the country changed slightly in the interim with a long standing border issue resolved with Bangladesh. It was a case of geography-ception with an Indian enclave within a Bangladeshi enclave within an Indian enclave within Bangladesh. 

How is the nation doing as a whole? My hypothesis is that the Brownian theory of motion applies to the nation as well. We see one incident, we outrage till another event takes its place and then we outrage about that. Aiding this chain of outrages is the knee-jerk actions of the people in-charge. 

Which brings me to the subject of bans. Some prominent bans (meaning with widespread media coverage) were the roast, the beef, Maggi and porn. Some folks have a beef with people eating beef, others have a beef with such kind of people. The beefs continue and so does the ban. Maggi was banned by Government agencies and then unbanned by the Courts. Maggi passed by the testers in Singapore, USA & UK and failed in India which implies either (a) our norms are more stringent (Wow) or (b) Maggi supplies inferior quality products in India (WHATTTT?) or (c) simply our testing labs have some issues (hmmmm….). And finally on the porn ban – government compiles a list of sites to be banned, issues the “banned” list and then decides to lift the ban. Overall resulting in a comprehensive list of sites available in official public domain.

While the Government is busy with bans and post-ban activities, the Prime Minister has been on a whirlwind world tour and giving speeches and doing yoga and creating slogans and taking selfies. All these efforts, of course being made, for bringing the promised acche din. Meanwhile the Opposition leader holidayed, then got recharged and suddenly started speaking. The Congress is hell-bent on opposing the very same bills it had proposed which the BJP had opposed during its stint in the Opposition but is now trying to get passed. These parties seem to be taking the word “Opposition” too literally. As the President said in his address to the nation, Parliament is becoming an arena of combat rather than a place of debate.

History has always been a winners' tale. Only issue now, in the age of internet, nobody knows what actually may have happened with many claims and an equal number of counter-claims for each historic/mythical leader/event/fact/action/non-action etc. And gullible social media encourages widespread circulation of such nonsense (e.g. INDIA being derived from Independent Nation Declared in August (Quora link). By this logic why wasn’t Pakistan named as such?). Unless you are deliberately hate-mongering why can’t one just do a simple google check before sharing anything on social media.

Coming to the social media. We have a very active social media. But why is it so full of hate mongers. Every issue/event/speech is lent a divisive flavor to it. Whether it’s a hanging or a terror attack or a movie or even personal lives of prominent people or bans, every event is seen through the divisive prism by the social media hate mongers. We really need independence from these now.

In the past one year, we have a new Nobel prize winner, Kailash Satyarthi. While we praise his noble work, we should make efforts that such work is not needed in the first place.

On the movie front, the 100 crore club is now history. 300 crores & 500 crores is the in thing now. Blame it on inflation. 

On the sporting front, the Saina-Sania conundrum continues with both having become numero uno in their respective fields of play. Indian sports have been in news more for the power games being played off field than the ones on the field of play. True for cricket, football, hockey, boxing. Only Kabaddi has come into prominence in a positive light with the advent of the ProKabaddi League. With a year to go for the Rio Olympics certainly need to sort out the mess or all progress from London may get lost.

But enough of all the negativity. These are times of opportunity. With depressed crude prices and global slowdown, if the government acts (and it can certainly act when it wants to), we can certainly hope for good times (sorry achhe din) ahead.

Happy Birthday India!!!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

MovieNotes: Bajrangi Bhaijaan

Title: Bajrangi Bhaijaan (IMDB)
*ing: Salman Khan, Nawazuddin Siddique, Kareena Kapoor, Harshali Malhotra
Language: Hindi & Urdu
Director: Kabir Khan
Genre: Society & Politics

Basic Premise
An Indian man trying to help a little mute girl from Pakistan who was accidentally left behind in India, without any documents, and taking her back to her parents.

What Works
  • The simplistic storyline without any over the top action works well for the film.
  • Nawaazuddin is brilliant as a struggling journalist trying his best for the big scoop.
  • Young Harshaali Malhotra is the real star of the film with her activities taking the story forward.
  • The many actors in the small but critical roles making the film memorable
  • Bajrangi’s simplistic beliefs e.g. treating every monkey as a representation of Lord Hanuman.
What Doesn’t
  • Hard core Salman fans (not me) would be disappointed that Bhai doesn’t get to show off his usual stuff (e.g. Chulbul Pandey)
  • Music – not much to remember the movie by.
  • An excellent PR exercise for the lead actor, which shows him getting sympathy of people from all walks of life cutting across religious, political, class divide.
  • RSS being depicted in a positive light alongwith “balanced” religious fundamentalism – this is something new for the Indian film industry. Either religious people can be good-hearted or fundamentalist but this is something new.
  • Movie tries to depict people are basically same across the border but divided by politics.
  • Religious barriers are not too hard to overcome, everyone just needs to take that first step.
  • Social media can work wonders at time, but you have to make it viral first.
  • Afridi's last over blast off Ashwin in Asia Cup 2014 are now immortalized on screen. (Scorecard)
Rating – 7/10. It’s a surprisingly well made movie with lots of funny interludes.

Bonus Shot – video of the real life “Chand Nawab”, inspiration for Nawazuddin’s character

Previously on MovieNotes - Inside Out

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

MovieNotes: Inside Out

Title: Inside Out (IMDB)
*ing: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling (All Voiceovers)
Language: English
Director: Pete Docter
Genre: Animation

Basic Premise

The story is of the five basic emotions – joy, sadness, anger, fear & disgust – inside the mind of a young girl who has just shifted from Minnesota to San Francisco and how this change is impacting her behavior.


The movie is a great lesson in the field of human behaviour and psychology capturing the five basic emotions and illustrating how they control our actions. The story depicts how the human brain is constantly evolving and learning with each new experience. And sometimes big changes in our environment (like changing a location) may produce tectonic shifts to our behaviour structure. Also memories fade with time and may be wiped out but sometimes they suddenly jump up back into the subconscious. 

Without sadness, there can’t be joy. And even our saddest events may produce the happiest memories.

I liked the depiction of minion (yes them again) like creatures constantly working in our brain, removing fading memories, popping out random memories, making dreams etc.

And yes, clowns are scary.

Rating – 8/10. For capturing the basic human emotions so perfectly.

Previously on MovieNotes - Bahubali: The Beginning

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

BookMarks #3 - The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings

Titles: The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings
Author: JRR Tolkien
Genre: Fantasy

This BookMark covers four books comprising of two distinct storylines. After all these are essentially part of a single Tolkien universe (and came in one box set).

Peter Jackson’s magnum opus Lord of the Rings movie trilogy brought to life Tolkien’s characters at the beginning of the millennium. For people like me who hadn’t read the books it was the sheer spectacle which caught the attention. Once the movies had been seen, the books simply had to be read, because it’s my belief that a movie can never do complete justice to a book. A movie can create a spectacular visual landscape but the finer details only emerge from the written words.

Short Summary

The Hobbit, Or There And Back Again
The Hobbit is a tale of a hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who led a quiet and peaceful life in the Shire. However the wizard, Gandalf manages to trick him (in a way) into joining a group of dwarves in an expedition to retrieve their lost treasures which is under the guard of Smaug the dragon. Along the way, they have many adventures, frequently landing into trouble, yet managing to get out of it through a mixture of bravery, luck and some timely help. The party finally achieves its objectives and Bilbo returns to the Shire with a share of the reward. In the course of the journey, unknown to others, Bilbo acquires Gollum’s ring, which has the power of making the wearer invisible. Thus setting up the events in the Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings [comprising of 3 books - (a) The Fellowship of the Ring, (b) The Two Towers & (c) The Return of the King]

Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul,
Ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul
One ring to rule them all, one ring to find them, One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

The story is set a few years after the adventures narrated in “The Hobbit”. The ring acquired by Bilbo is more trouble than it seems. Gandalf deduces that it is the "One Ring" and needs to be destroyed before it ends up into the hands of the Dark Lord Sauron, its true master which would spell complete doom for all.

Bilbo is getting older and the ring is now beginning to show its true evil powers on him. Finally persuaded by Gandalf, he leaves the Shire leaving his possessions including the Ring to his nephew Frodo. Frodo, convinced by Gandalf, decides to take the Ring out of the Shire and is accompanied in his mission by his friends Sam, Merry and Pippin. On the road, the quartet meet up with Aragorn. They are constantly under attack but manage to escape with the aid of Elrond. Elrond forms a great council which advises the destruction of the Ring by carrying it to Mount Doom. Frodo volunteers to be the ring-bearer. A Fellowship comprising of his fellow hobbits, Gandalf, Aragorn and representatives of dwarfs, elves and men is formed to accompany and assist in Frodo’s mission. During the journey, they face one peril after another till the Fellowship gets broken up. Frodo and Sam, separated from the others, manage to capture Gollum and use him as a guide for the journey to Mount Doom. The others are involved in multiple battles against the forces of Saruman and Sauron. Many a great battle is fought leading to losses on both sides. They notch up many victories, assisted mainly by the timely arrival of aid in multiple forms (including armies of trees, ghosts etc.) finally culminating in the coronation of Aragorn as the rightful king. Meanwhile, Frodo, Sam and Gollum, reach Mount Doom. Frodo is overcome by the Ring’s powers but Gollum snatches up his “precious” ring and accidentally falls into the fire in Mount Doom, destroying the ring and alongwith it Sauron as well.


Both stories are set in the same Tolkien universe and one follows the other, with the major events flowing in the same pattern, yet they have one essential difference. LOTR is much darker in theme than the Hobbit. While The Hobbit is directed more towards children, the LOTR targets a mature audience. Compared to Hobbit, LOTR is a tad difficult to read and also is more complex in its scale. And of course the biggest difference - the titular character in Hobbit is the hero whereas the one in LOTR is chief villain of the tale.

At the end of the tale is a collection of Annexures. And reading through them I was awestruck by the richness of Tolkien’s craft. The richness of the detail are mind boggling – there are maps, there are the detailed family tress spanning generations, and there is a chronology of each of the kingdoms from many hundreds of years prior to the main events. Then there are the different calendars, the languages, the scripts and even the pronunciations of each of the various clans and species of men, dwarves, hobbits and elves. And then there is the sheer variety of characters – Hobbits, Men, Wizards, Dwarfs, Orcs, Ents and even Gollum. It almost seems like Tolkien had access to a parallel universe and the tale of the rings is his narration of events of that realm. 

It is said that the English Reading world is divided into two broad categories, those who have read the Lord of the Rings and those who are going to read the Lord of the Rings. Finally I belong in the right category (although reading the books itself nearly took as long as the journeys made by Bilbo & Frodo)

Previously on BookMarks – Ten Days That Shook the World

P.S. Having written a post about the movies a few years back, I had got a comment asking me to read the books. Finally after eight years have gotten around to doing that.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

MovieNotes: Bahubali: The Beginning

Title: Bahubali: The Beginning (IMDB)
*ing: Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Ramya Krishnan, Tamannah, Anushka Shetty, Satyaraj
Director: SS Rajamouli
Language: Telugu (I watched the Hindi dubbed version)
Genre: Mythology, Action

Basic Premise

First part of a fictionalized tale set in ancient times in fictional Mahismati, depicting a family dispute for the throne running across two generations. The competition between the two cousins for the throne is depicted mostly in flashback. The rightful ruler is slain and his wife kept captive while the cousin takes the crown. Their son, who is the image of his father, is raised away from the family. Growing up, he is unaware of his true parentage but unknowingly takes up the cause to free his mother. 

A cliffhanger ending sets up the tale for revenge (to be taken up in the sequel).

What Works
The highlight of the film is its grand scale. The waterfall scene is visually stunning as are the blue butterflies. The background music adds its own touch in bringing the stunning imagery to life. The biggest highlight has to be the climax battle scene. The visual effects of the fight scenes are probably as good as any that the big Hollywood studios have offered. Then there is the Tolkienish touch given by the script-writers who invented a whole new language for the Kalakeya tribes.

The lead protagonists Bhallaldeva and Bahubali (senior and junior) are all about rippling muscles with one of them literally taking a mighty bull by its horns and breaking it down.

The leads are ably backed up by strong support characters like Katappa and Shivagami. I really liked the depiction of Shivagami’s character as a strong authoritative administrator and fair decision maker, who treats her son and nephew as equal unlike the usual clichéd depictions offered in most movies.

The second half moves at a fast pace. And just when the tempo reaches its crescendo, comes the cliff-hanger ending. Enough questions are left unanswered ensuring that audiences will flock once again to the theaters to watch the epic (hopefully) conclusion.

What Doesn’t
The treatment of Avantika by Shivudu was wrong and its depiction was in bad taste. What exactly was the director thinking? 

Some of the VFX effects seemed to have slipped up while showing the jumping sequences

A query - How were the rulers able see the details from across the battlefield. They were reacting to every single event as if they were watching on tv screens and not from the edge of the battle-field

A couple of songs could easily have been edited out without affecting the story at all.

Dubbing created its own problems as some meanings get lost in translation (although not the makers fault)

Rating – 8/10 for visualization and depiction although the story does slacken a bit in the first half.

Previously on MovieNotes: Minions

Monday, July 13, 2015

MovieNotes: Minions

Title: Minions (IMDB)
*ing: Pierre Coffin [as Kevin, Stuart & Bob], Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Geoffrey Rush
Director: Pierre Coffin & Kyle Balda
Language: English & Minionese
Genre: Animation 

Basic Premise
The Minions are living in depression in Antarctica after failing in their attempts to retain a master. Three of their kind – Kevin, Stuart and Bob, go out in search of a master, the most powerful super-villain of the world, to serve. They find one and are taken in to service but their accident-prone ways lead to trouble for themselves as they find their new mistress turned against them.

Prequel to Despicable Me.


Minions marks the first full-fledged movie featuring the cute, little, yellow, capsule shaped, dungaree clad creatures with big, round spectacled eyes who speak in their own funny sounding minion-speak, eat bananas and have only desire – to serve the biggest, baddest villain on this planet. 

The story begins with the minions being in constant search for a new master, as their accident-prone ways leading to terrible ends for their masters. Terrible for the masters but outrageously hilarious for the audience.

The minions decide to isolate themselves but lack of a master leads to them to a depression. One bright young fellow decides to go out in search of a master and is accompanied by two of his comrades (or buddies as they refer each other). What follows is a series of adventures where the trio land up in New York, manage to reach Orlando to a convention of villains, somehow managing to get recruited by Scarlet Overkill (the biggest super-villain of them all) who assigns them a task of stealing the Queen’s crown. They are adept to the task but have the crown handed over to them after managing to pull out the Sword in the Stone. Scarlet feels betrayed although they hand over the crown via a royal decree. She turns on them and in a final face-off is beaten by the minions. The movie ends with the minions meeting up with Gru, their ultimate master.

The movie is full of hilarious scenes and the minion-speak adds to the hilarity of every single scene. Whether it is the speech delivered by the newly crowned King Bob, a rousing speech but beyond the comprehension of the ordinary human audience, or Bob making a rat friend (his pucchis), Kevin referring to Queen Elizabeth as Lacucuracha (at least that’s what it sounded like), or trying to escape polar bears, every scene is a laugh-riot.

The movie ties up neatly into the Despicable Me series (but does this mean no more Minions standalone movie?)

Mandatory India Connect – The other Minions somehow land up in India via Australia while trying to reach England and are seen dancing in front of the Taj Mahal.

Wonder what the Queen’s reaction to the depiction in this movie is :D

Rating – 9/10. Critics might find flaws about a lack of story or emotions or other such critical aspects of the art of film-making but this is a complete one and a half hour laugh riot.

Previously on MovieNotes – Jurassic World

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

BookMarks #2 - Ten Days That Shook The World

Title – Ten Days That Shook the World
Author – John Reed
Genre – Non-fiction, History

“Ten Days That Shook the World” is a first person account of the events of the Bolshevik revolution in Russia in November 1917 leading upto the formation of the government of the Soviets. As the author says in the preface – “This book is a slice of intensified history as I saw it. It does not pretend to be anything but a detailed account of the November Revolution, when the Bolsheviki, at the head of the workers and soldiers, seized the state power of Russia and placed it in the hands of the Soviets.

The book begins by giving a background of the various parties involved in the revolution and its lead-up. It then proceeds to narrate the events of the revolution in Petrograd as witnessed by the author. The initial pages make for some heavy reading, especially for readers not familiar with the Russian revolution. There is quite a good chance of getting lost amongst the various factions of the Bolsheviki, Mensheviki, Cossacks, Cadets, Yunkers, and the multiple workers’, soldiers’, sailors’ and peasants’ organisations and their different leaders. Liberal usage of Russian terms adds to heaviness in the reading. Sometimes it does become a bit difficult to keep track of who is on which side. However the opening chapter does a good job in trying to explain the stands of the different parties during the lead-up to the events of November, 1917. 

The book is an account from the author’s perspective. The author details the various committee meetings he attends, and re-tells the speeches he hears there. The speakers are mostly unnamed but they give their perspective to the cause. Then there are the multiple speeches quoted from the sessions of the Duma in Petrograd alongwith the reactions of the audience. Overall the book gives a feeling of reading from the notes of a diary as the author tries to take in the multiple events happening at various places at the same time all connected to each other, and part of one big revolution.

The events described in the book show how challenging it is to execute a revolution. The leadership maybe willing and ready but are the masses ready to act? And what happens to the various government agencies which are in place? The revolutionaries might replace the leadership of the various government bodies but the workers in those organisations might not be sympathetic to their cause leading to more suffering for the public at large which might set the stage for a counter-revolution to throw out the revolutionaries. Also it stresses the need for a revolution to be “quick”, otherwise anarchy prevails leading to further revolutions, the Bolshevik revolution being a good example as it was the second one within the year.

Overall, "Ten Days That Shook the World" is a good read about the events in the Bolshevik revolution. It details out the events but leaves the interpretation to the readers although the author's bias towards the Bolsheviks does clearly come out.

Previously on BookMarks – The Call of the Wild

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Battle of the Bulge

In the last days of May, found an "event" on Facebook, which some of my friends were "going to". Turned out it was a 30 day abs challenge which people had decided to take up. Well, it seemed interesting enough, so me too decided to join this "movement". After all, the most visible effect of the sedentary lifestyle enjoyed by most office-goers including yours truly is a nicely developed paunch giving a well rounded appearance to your personality (Pun intended).

Getting rid of this paunch has been a ongoing battle for long, albeit a losing one. Exercise regimens have been initiated and let go. Multiple fitness apps have made their way in and out of the mobile phone. But somehow every single routine has collapsed for some reason or the other. With all these experiences behind me, I looked up the following chart, which was the cover picture of the event.

It was a set of 4 exercises (Sit-ups, Crunches, Leg Raises & Plank) to be done with increased repetitions over a period of 30 days with a rest day every 4th day.  The first few days looked light enough. So I decided to have a go at it. Printed out the picture and started striking out the routines as they got completed. The exercises were followed on a daily basis as per the calendar. So daily after returning from work, I would look up this chart and follow the instructions. 

Day 1 - 15 sit-ups, 5 crunches, 5 leg raises and 10 second plank. This was done easily without breaking any sweat. Although I did wonder if I would be able to manage the Day 30 routine with 125 sit-ups and 200 crunches. Decided to cross that bridge when it came and take it a day at a time. So day after day, the routine was followed with increased repetitions. The duration also increased from barely 10 minutes on the first day to almost 45 minutes by the end of the month. And somehow, I did manage to complete all the days without a single failure [started cheating a little on the plank in the last week though].

Some tips on how to keep it going
  • Do not look at the activities for the last day. Its a huge number but you can get to it by the end of the month.
  • Do the exercises in sets of 5 repetitions and have some background music to keep you distracted.
  • Take a little break between different exercises, but finish in the same sitting.
  • Keep having small sips of water in between
  • Keep a print of the schedule. Use a pen/pencil to cross out the exercise set as you complete. Nothing motivates better to do the next step than crossing out the previous completed step.
  • Try to maintain the same time daily.
  • Follow as per the calendar dates. Makes it easier to keep track and complete.
  • Find the next challenge to keep the spirit going
Overall Result - The weight has reduced slightly and the belt is definitely getting tighter. And it does feel good to have been able to complete 200 crunches at one go. The first battle has been won. But the war is still on. 

Here is the link with videos of how to do the exercises (Link

P.S. Taking up a new challenge for July. After all success breeds more success.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

MovieNotes: Jurassic World

Title: Jurassic World (IMDB)
*ing: Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Irrfan Khan & Dinosaurs
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Language: English
Genre: Science Fiction cum Action

Basic Premise
Jurassic World is a dinosaur theme park. But corporate diktats need a newer, bigger attraction to ensure a better looking balance sheet. This results in the unleashing of a monster which needs to be put in control.

Jurassic Park was probably the first contemporary English movie most Indians my age would have seen. It sparked a dinosaur craze, with dinosaurs starting to appear everywhere whether as merchandise, in fun fairs, almost every school science project or even appearing in puja pandals (news link). Even planetariums began having shows about dinosaurs in addition to their usual space related stuff.

Jurassic World is the 3rd sequel to Jurassic Park though it mostly ignores the actions from the 2nd and 3rd film of the franchise. The movie is set over two decades after the events of the first movie and it is full of tributes and references to the first one. The references sometimes act as a self-parody as well.

The key feature of the whole story is the subject of "control". Humans believe that they are in control and can play with the genetic make-up to create bigger, more menacing animals for their entertainment, while increasing their cash-flow. There is another group which believes that they can train and control the dinosaurs for use in military, as a kind of modern day cavalry unit. But as Irrfan Khan's character points out we feel that we are in control, though that's not always the case.

Acting wise, the humans do not really have much to do. Once the Indominus Rex is let loose, most of the human actors just keep running trying to escape the big dinosaur's jaws while the rest make a semblance of fight (mostly in vain). It needed the combined effort of multiple other dinosaurs to take out the new monster in their midst.

The dinosaurs maybe bigger, the visuals more spectacular but they are unable to generate that "wow" effect which made the original such a cult hit.

Mandatory India Connect - Irrfan Khan. He gets one of the lead human roles playing a character of a quirky billionaire who wants more "teeth" to boost up his park's revenues while at the same time making philosophical statements about humans never being in control although they might feel it to be the case.

Rating - 7/10. Not much story-wise, but a good one time watch. The makers may have succeeded in adding more teeth, but the story did not have the bite of the original.

Previously on MovieNotes - Tanu Weds Manu Returns