Sunday, June 29, 2008

Achievements and Needs!

When I was in the first year (first semester to be more precise) of my 4 yr Engineering course, English was one of the papers in curriculum. It was a class full of guys and needless to say nothing was taken seriously and the classroom was loaded with fun. When material physics, industrial chemistry and engineering papers were ignored, English naturally went for a toss. However, I remember one topic that our English professor threw in as a topic of debate - "Should great scientists necessarily be eccentric?". Even though we didn't have a serious debate then, I remember thinking about the topic once in a while, though with a slight variation. I used to think about the great achievers who revolutionized their field and what it took...

To summarize my observation in one simple word that I'd call the reason behind their achievements, I'd say 'despair'. My favorite lines from the book 'The Art of War' keeps echoing in my ears.

Never make your enemy desperate. Always leave a room for escape; for desparate soldiers fight for their life and it's tough to match them in a combat.

The way I see it, great achievers have been pushed to the corner of their lives and made desparate by the society and back they came with a bang. At least from the limited knowledge that I possess, I don't find too many traditionally rich people revolutionizing things. They make better profits and perhaps contribute to some charity but there it ends. But the urge to do something out of the box, the urge to invent, the urge to make a difference; has all been driven by crisis and helplessness.

Today, I see quite a few people who are not so happy with their jobs (including me) and some of those go to a level of losing their sleep because of this restlessness. But the fact is that there is a convenient working option in hand, giving you the money and the status quo that you badly need and unfortunately we've always been trained to think - "A bird in hand is worth two in the bush". Unless we are really desparate or atleast start believing we are desperate, I don't think there is a way out of the self-constructed prison made of golden bars!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What makes a great movie?

Like everywhere, films are a major source of entertainment in India but the scale is much different. Many are die-hard movie fans and there had been quite a few incidents where the fans even sacrificed their lives for their favorite stars. What began as a mass entertainment medium, has grown in the depth and the technology; and today it is not an overstatement to say India is making world class movies (though less in number).

The moment I say world class, the comparison starts. We have too many film industries to compare with - hollywood movies, French movies, Russian movies, you name it... That said, it is not uncommon to find this educated, hi-fi, cosmopolitan dudes (I didn't quote dudes, so no second meaning intended :)) and their encomiums about unknown faces in unknown film industries. Weird names like 'Vandiserslkjao Eroiolklasnsd' (God knows how their parents name them) fill the air and Indian movies are bashed, slandered, abused and equated to mud. The common reasons mentioned - no great actors here, screenplay is not at 'the genius' level, stories aren't so strong. As much as I don't disrespect the unknown talents of the unknown artists, I find it hard to accept that there are no 'good' films produced in India.

Now comes the tricky part. What makes a 'good' film? The common conception is movies that are extremely tragic, slow moving and on a very deep subject; making the audience sob and providing the scope for the artist to demonstrate all that s/he is capable of. I beg to differ here. Unlike filthy rich people who spend a million dollars to get a wall hanging in auctions, a commoner (most often) doesn't look for heavy themes and amazing performance in a movie. His ultimate point is entertainment and if he comes over to the theater to watch a movie, he shouldn't look at his watch every now and then. That is what he considers solid entertainment and the value for his money; and this is not a trend restricted to India alone. Movies like 'x'man where (x = super, spider, bat, etc :)) are all illustrations of this reality.

Personally, I like movies with a heavy subject, crafted screenplays and amazing flow but I'd say the three items below are the basic qualities of a good movie

(a) The audience never look at their watches
(b) The movie doesn't impart any evil into the minds of the viewers
(c) The movie doesn't try to justify something at the cost of entertainment/screenplay

As long as these criteria are met, anything is acceptable as a good movie. What makes a good movie into a great movie is the performance of the actors/actresses, the screenplay, the way the director handles the subject and to an extent the music. When these combinations work out well, the result would be an excellent movie like Shawshank redemption, Tare Zameen Par, Bommarillu or Mozhi. Every country is different and so is its culture. The beauty about movies is that they can transcend these cultural barriers and impress anyone who loves them. I wouldn't accept nullifying this beauty by comparing two movies from a completely different cultural background, with a motive of degrading one of them. A true movie lover would spot and appreciate the beauty in every great movie without any prejudice!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Survival of the Fittest

This is not a post on Darwin's theory though it is a derivative of the theory. Darwin indeed did a great job in analysis of the process of evolution. Imagine the years it has taken for the human race to find out this naive reality* or to re-discover this reality, to be more precise. Though there are so many attributes that Darwin explained, I like one part the most - "the survival of the fittest". He goes a step further and defines what is fitness in his own words.

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change"

If we try to re-define the definition given in 1859 to the current world, what would characterize a 'fit' individual? To be frank, the thought scares me. Can you smile on the front and stab from behind? You are fit! Can you get all the affection, care and advantage from someone and cut his throat with blood as cold as ice? You are fit too! Can you wait for the right time to hit the person who trusted you so much and hit straight at his weakness without the slightest hesitation in mind? You are the hero of 2008! What kind of society have we developed? What kind of believes have we developed? Have we really 'evolved' to lose all the happiness that our ancestors had? Million thoughts cross my mind before I wink.

Perhaps this process of evolution (towards artificiality) is irresistible in a system and that is why the orchestrator decides to pull down the curtains once in a while and set things back to the starting position just like a kid playing with a toy-train places it back where it started, to avoid it from getting derailed. After all if we (mortals) worry so much about ecology, ecosystems and ozone layers which are nothing more than paintings drawn by our mind with varying clarity and ambiance; the creator who made the magic happen, the eternal energy that man is unable to get to, and the driving force that keeps life going, has to think about it. Isn't it?! Though I hate Kamal for a lot of his personal traits, I couldn't help quoting a line from one of my all time favorite movies 'Anbe Sivam'.

"Only when it goes beyond comprehension, we call it God!"

How true...

* I know that certain conservatives still consider the theory to be false. But in my honest opinion, I strongly believe (as many others do) that the theory is a reality. Further as a practicing Hindu, I trust in what the religion symbolizes. Right from Dasavathara to animal-human forms of God; the religion portrays the theory of evolution all through. See video below for a sample and I'll come up with a separate post on this pretty soon!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Dasvatharam and Chaos theory

As I mentioned in my previous post, Dasavatharam was yet another ordinary movie in my view and honestly it doesn't deserve a second post. But when Kamal fans start extapolating its greatness especially with respect to chaos theory, butterfly effect and Kamal's genius in closely knitting these into the story line, it is my duty to convey whatever I felt on those lines.

To begin with, what is chaos theory and what is butterfly effect? If you are too good at Maths and equations/scientific notions are everything for you, you should be able to comprehend the wiki definitions of chaos theory and buttefly effect. But if you are a layman like me, the illustration of this concept is pretty simple. Let's assume that there is a huge mountain strip whose peak is as high as Mt.Everest. Assume that I'm letting a small bouncing ball roll off the peak. If I let go of the ball from two different positions even inches apart, the place where this ball lands up is going to be differing to a great extent - perhaps two different countries altogether. This extreme sensitivity to the initial state or the starting point is called butterfly effect. Why is it called so? Since weather is a chaotic system, the displacement of air that the flap of a butterfly's wings can alter the path of a tornado... Sounds silly? Imagine this way... If a tornado is at its infancy where air pressure is starting to build up, and that eye is displaced a few inches by the flap of a butterfly's wings, then this small displacement (like the positions inches away on Mt. Everest) can cause a huge difference in the end point of the tornado. Perhaps, it can even stop the tornado if the flap happened to counteract the pressure that was starting to build. So the butterfly actually didn't make or break the tornado consciously but it just happened as a conaequence of its flap especially since the tornado was at its infancy. Chaos theory talks about the seemingly random (randomness is always interesting) dynamic systems (systems that involve constant changes in state) that are sensitive to their intial states as in the butterfly effect. This could be seen as the modified version of 'Karma' that Hinduism describes.

Coming to the question of what Dasavatharam to do with this, I honestly find it difficult to answer. The most common interpretation that Kamal fans give is that the course of action is being changed by each and every role of Kamal and there lies the beauty of the film. Well, let us think... If that is the case, there are so many (or should I say all) movies that have destiny playing a role. A crossing dog causes an accident where a young girl is made a widow or a rash driver hits a petrol pump that kills hundreds; are some common examples of this pattern. So it doesn't have anything to do with Dasavatharam in particular, is my point. Kamal/Ravikumar has just found out an alternate name for fate.

Second point is on the butterfly effect. Anyone sensible would understand that this should've happened only at the beginning of the movie if at all it happened. So Kamal is dropped with a huge Vishnu idol and since the Vishnu idol hit the bottom of the ocean and it created a δx differntial in the tectonic plate, it changed the course of a Tsunami and that tsunami changes the fate of a state. Accepted. But if this is the case, how does the scientist character or anyone for that matter infer that it is because of this incident and narrate that in a public gathering? It's like someone in New Orleans explaining which flap of which butterfly caused hurricane Katrina. To me the whole Nambi sequence nothing more than a baseless accusation on the Saivites. I've observed Kamal pointing out to saivism and saivites particularly on the negative side during his interviews (see video below) and this has taken it to new heights.

The incident that he points out in this interview is a contest between Jains and Saivites (Pandiyas) on the greatness of their Gods and the jains started the contest saying they could prove their greatness failing which they'll commit suicide. When they failed, half of them ran away and the rest committed suicide. This incident comes to Kamal's mind even when he is drunk and he takes this as a negative example while there are a million other points to quote about the changing culture.

The article on Kulothunga chozha in wiki would throw some light on what actually happened in the reign of the king.

Put together as much as I admire Kamal as a good actor, it is surprising when his fans call him 'Alwarpet Andavar' (God from Alwarpet) and quote 'I'm not an atheist like Kamal because he is my God'; for he is neither Einstein nor Vivekananda to be workshipped scientifically or spiritually. :)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dasvatharam -- Tamil movie review

If someone observes the most blogged topics in the past couple of days among South Indian movie fans, it would've been Dasavatharam in one way or the other. It has been in queue for quite a long time and finally it hit the screens last Friday creating a lot of expectations especially among Kamal fans. With a lot of different opinions coming up on the movie, I wasn't sure what I was supposed to expect from it.

Today, I watched the movie quite unexpectedly and if you want a single word review for the movie I'd choose to say - 'mess'. Not that I totally hated the movie but it is a totally uncorrelated sequence of incidents where one should not think beyond the current scene or try to correlate the previous scene with the current one.

Spending 65 crores to just make sure that someone does 10 different roles in a movie is somehow indigestible. An action-packed movie of James Bond types was the target but unfortunately it wasn't even close to it. It was a desperate effort to interrelate butterfly effect, Indian history, bio-nuclear warfare, castism and a hell a lot of other things; which couldn't fail worse than this. If Sivaji took up 9 different roles in Navarathiri, it was clearly organized and well presented. Over here, you could see Kamal everywhere and in every role that if some new character is about to enter the screen you are surprised if it is not Kamal! I still remember shouting 'Oh... don't tell me that is Kamal too' when a nurse character is introduced into the movie. Thankfully it wasn't. :) Further with tons of makeup on his face, he could hardly express anything and if you see a completely odd inhuman face that resembles the faces of animated characters like Shrek, Hulk or alien nation then you could make out that it's Kamal. Such a monotonous/unnatural makeup! It's better not to talk about the crappy Graphics...

Outline of the story - biological weapon being manufactured - misuse attempted - hero tries to save the world - sequence of incidents and never ending chases/Kamals that follow. I could compare this movie to Pudhukkottayilirundhu Saravanan by Dhanush - absolutely no logic, no correlation except that Pud.Saravanan's title card clearly says 'No logic...Only magic'. You will not be looking at your watch and feel frustrated in the movie but nonetheless anyone would've expected a lot more from Kamal. The only relief in the movie is the 'Balram Naidu' character - minimal makeup, timely jokes, excellent expressions. The happiness on his face when he meets another Telugu guy is just so natural...

Another controversial thing about the movie is the disrespect for Hinduism. Perumal's idol is treated like a toy, thrown around and played with. On the other hand, dialogs like 'Siva and Vishnu had no other Gods to clash with. So they fought with each other through their devotees' or 'your God will be in toilet but not with atheists like me' were not too diplomatic. But then, it's a Kamal movie and you need to have some Kamalism in it. Unfortunately the positives didn't show up a lot but the negatives did!

In short, if you really don't care too much about the logic or correlation in a movie and all you want to see is 3 hrs of fantasy then the movie will not disappoint you. But if you expect some great acting or stellar performance or amazing story line; I'm sorry the movie is not for you!

P.S: I was quite surprised to see that the team officially lied that this is the first time in the history of 'world cinema' where a person comes in 10 different roles in the same movie. From the limited surfing I did, I found that Kamal himself has done 10 different roles in the movie 'Ellaam inba mayam' and there were people who did upto 27 roles in a film (details below)

Rolf Leslie - 27 parts in the life story of Queen Victoria , Sixty Years a Queen (1913).
Lupino Lane - 24 parts in Only Me (1929).
Joseph Henabery - 14 characters in the Birth of a Nation (1915).
Robert Hirsch - 12 roles in No Questions on Saturday (1964)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Business mind...

Everyone has some kind of aspiration, goal, liking, areas of interest or however you call it and to me one of them is business or trade to prevent any polymorphic references (okay... I'm a techie and I have to show off somewhere :D)! And that exactly is one of the features that I like in the Americans/US. Their ability to do business with nothing has got me dumbfounded on many occassions. The SSN system they have in place, the speedy judicial systems and high end infrastructure has drastically improved online marketing experience and naturally the nett sales have sky rocketed over the past couple of decades.

But an ad that came up in 102.1 KDFC FM a couple of days back took me by surprise... It was an advertisement given by a funeral agency where you pre-pay for your funeral and decide how your funeral should be conducted. It also added, 'don't depend on anyone and be unsure of your final sendoff'... Business mind is good and that is what made the British explore the world and control all the way from west to the east. But is this an acceptable level of commercialization? I seriously doubt it.

When a human being is being forced to accept loneliness and death; and in the name of independence and liberty if everyone tends to be a self-centered individual (without even the 'Colgate circle'), of what good is all the wealth and prosperity? An Indian laborer who works 12 hrs a day toiling and sweating all along has a basic assurance that there is a family to call his own, there are people who care for him and he is an integral part of the society. To me the second option is way better than minting money and rolling over it all alone shedding tears (I heard Michael Jackson does it)!

To make a long story short, India might not have the infrastructure, online marketing might not be as good, tourism is yet to be developed better but the bottomline is you are not alone there! To me that matters more than anything else in the material world...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Success - the magical word!

One word around which the world revolves around or at least it is projected to revolve around by Rs. 599.99 only/- books, is 'success'. Everyone wants to win and be successful. But how many really know how to define their success? To dig (or digg as the word has turned into! :)) a little deeper, does the word have a universal definition?

The definition of this word can vary from getting the first rank for a school goer through reaching the paramathma (the divine self) to a saint! To a project manager, concvincing a good resource to stay in a useless project is success and to a film director, a hit movie is a success. The beauty of success lies in the variety that surrounds it. Unforunately, there is a generalized version of success that is being accepted widely off late - 'money'. This evil invention of man has corrupted almost everything known to man and success is no exception. Nobody cares anymore about other virtues/talents and the ability to make money is considered to be the benchmark on the grounds of ignorance or lack of other acceptable benchmarks. The impact that this leaves in individuals especially at their early twenties through mid thirties is unimaginable. Innovation, ideas, satisfaction, interest and all the other good stuff that the education he had thought him to nurture is being pushed to the backseat by this new factor. When making money becomes the goal and the measure of victory, the fear of being looked down upon and the desperate need to score slowly retards all the above said factors he nurtured and life starts becoming more and more unhappy but more and more 'successful'.

I spoke to a friend after a long long time and it was a surprise to see a person so happy with what he was doing and to me it was literally like watching or should I say 'hearing' a miracle. Satisfaction has become such a rare phenomenon and finding one happy person in the maddening crowd is an achievement these days. There are people who give crap saying perception is everything and if we follow our dreams we are bound to win... Well, following dreams is not crap, I'm completely for it. But as much as I'm for it, the difficulty that surrounds it is way too much unless you are already a millionaire. As long as man continues to be a social animal, his success is defined by the society and as I mentioned in one of my previous posts one success story and a million failure stories make one in a million and not every dubba-wala who has high aspirations and works smart, becomes an Ambani. How long will success continue to be defined as a measure of money? Should I have a personal definition of success and be successful in my own terms? Should I throw away even the practical fears I have and give my dreams a shot? I hope I find the answers soon... For now, it's time to meditate, assimilate and evolve!

Friday, June 6, 2008

A clash of the ti(gh)tans - TR vs Sam Anderson

When I looked back into my posts over the past few weeks, I observed something quite surprising. It's been quite a while since I attempted to be hilarious! Solitude and soliloquy had their toll and many of my posts were on philosophy, universe and high funda crap. :) So I thought why not compare 'Agila ulaga naayagan' (Universal hero) Sam Anderson and Karadi kong a.k.a. T.R a.k.a T. Rajendar who have been competing hard for the best 'serious-comedian' award through their diligent efforts... :) I haven't spoken much on T.R before but if you would like to know about Sam Anderson, you can read my previous post on him here.

Sam Anderson definitely took the lead when the movie 'Yaarukku yaarao' was released (see some niche clips below).

But karadi kong wasn't ready to give up. If Sam Anderson did it on screen, TR proved his abilities in real life. A few videos that I saw quite recently simply blew me off...

Video 1 - The emotion:

Karadi kong's reaction when a press reporter asked "why don't people gather in large numbers to hear you speaking (as opposed to someone else who could)?"

Somehow karadi kong doesn't realize that the question asked by the reporter is completely sane... :)

Video 2 - The optimism:

What could I say about this guy's optimism? A gang of thousand students is laughing at him but he still takes credit of being popular...

Video 3 - The majesty:

I'm dumbfounded and I feel as if I'm blogging in a strange language.

Video 4 - The artist:

If it took confidence for Sam Anderson to show up on the screen, it takes heaps and heaps of that confidence to talk like a combination of Beethoven and Michael Jackson (no no I didn't mean a blind guy with an operated nose)...

Video 5 - TR The Tiger

Could you snap your finger and talk over the phone? Don't say yes instantly... Re-think... Because Kong himself says he is the only person who can do it... Or perhaps he is the only evolving ape that can do it :)

Video 6 - TR the '9' sorry the person with 9 different expressions...

I feel that the Indian government did a great injustice by not awarding the 'best actor' (Of course, Other category) award to him.

Video 7 - How I feel after seeing all these videos

Coming back to the point, you know who wins the race to the 'mega mokkaiyyan' memorial cup in the end? It's obviously not Sam Anderson and surprisingly it's not TR too... It's the so called party member in Video 1 (drungan monkey) who kept clapping for all the emotional dialogs of Karadi kong... :))

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Nature, Mathematics and Libra...

Wondering where I get these weird topics from?! They just come off the top of my head... Seriously! :)

If you ask me what fascinated you the most, I might give you different answers at different times but for the most part it would be God, the universe and one magical word that drives the whole show - 'balance'. This word forms the basis of Libra and Librans are always characterized in any zodiac book by the phrase 'the golden balance'. Let's look at this beautiful thread that connects everything, I mean everything together.

Imagine several thousand tons of mass floating here and there in the universe... The masses are not just floating, they are rotating revolving, radiating energy and what not. If you imagine the universe as a plane, what are the chances of the weights being equally balanced on either side - both in terms of mass and in terms of charge? After all, isn't that the crux of Anti-particle theory? The most unbelievable part of this whole thing is that a similar setup is also present within the smallest piece man has ever known - 'an atom'. Particles of opposite charges are kept so close to each other but they don't disintegrate and they contain so much energy that keeps the electron revolving forever and when the energy from a few grams of Uranium atoms is brought out, it is capable of feeding heavy voltage lines that serve a huge power consuming nation like India. So this goes back to the discussion on quantum theory and the illusion of space that we spoke about in one of my previous posts.

Okay... so that explains nature and libra in the title but Mathematics? Ever heard of Normal distribution? People tend to call it a bell shaped curve but to me it appears like the arms of a man/scales of a balance streched equally across the pivot. The reason it's called a 'normal' distribution is that it is the most commonly observed probability density function. Ok... I'm not talking Greek and Latin here. A simple example would be the distribution of employees in an office by character/sincerity/work. A major proportion of the poulation would be average, working when they feel like but making sure they don't overkill time (let's call them the mean). There will be some others who hardly understand anything and wade off their time in ping-pong tables, cafetaria and orkut (let's call them -sigma). There will be the other extreme who are stunningly talented and smart working; finishing off their work in a jiffy (let's call them +sigma). The presence of -sigma is balanced by the presence of +sigma and since the major chunk is already in the mean area a balance close to the median is established. This is precisely what normal distribution talks about and shunning off the mathematical aspects in it and focusing on the inference behind normal distribution, thinking for a moment about it like the person who discovered it; would lead to the eternal balance and the creator's magic...

Now do you still wonder why I'd say Mathematics, Nature and Libra are inter-woven?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

East and the West

I had two different topics to write today and since the other one was into philosophy, this one scored better.

I watched this amazing video in YouTube and as much I was fascinated by the performance, I was also drifting into thoughts comparing the Eastern and the Western dances.

If I compare this to Bharatanatyam (see video below) or any other classical dance forms in India or even the eastern countries, they are diagonal ends... The former concentrates on precision and the perfection while the latter focuses more on the expressiveness, the vibrations and the color. In other words, the former is more formal and latter though formal has an entirely different approach to dance. Now a simple relation of this dance to the attitude of the people would reveal that these differences are bound to occur.

A place where ethics and culture is defined by fake smiles and false courtesies, develops a dance that is actually more formal in nature while a place where an illiterate widow, completely new to politics and lacking a single quality to lead could sit on the road, grieve for her husband's death and win an election, develops a more expressive and emotional dance. The important difference made by the East in this aspect is that traditional forms of dances are so closely knit into the life and religion of its people. Discussions and debates were filled with arts and the pride of the Indian parents once resided in the artistic abilities of their kids. Until the recent ages when Indians have got the disease of shunning away their identities, tradition was a part of every Indian home. In one way or the other, every kid would be exposed to some form of dance and some form of music that completely originated in India. With globalization shrinking the world and bringing the west and the east closer (afterall the world is round and the west and the east are already close!!), I'm not sure if it eliminates the negatives on both sides but I could certainly say that the tradition that was developed over hundreds of years is being lost really fast in India.

Monday, June 2, 2008

As good lonely as it gets!

With a hectic work schedule ahead, I'm not sure if I'd be able to blog as frequently as I used to. For a while I wanted to blog on something that surrounds me - 'nothing'! Ever heard someone say solitude and loneliness are one and the same? Well, then I'd beg to differ. As much as I love my solitude, I hate my loneliness. So where do I draw the thin line, if at all the line is thin?

Solitude is when you let your mind fly high like a kite with the surrounding atmosphere drifting it away into distant and more distant horizons. You are not with any humans but you are with Nature. As Wordsworth puts it, you are with your mother and it is a divine moment of soliloquy where you talk to yourself but you are not alone...

Loneliness on the other hand is miserable. When your mind is loaded with pressing thoughts and stress, when everything around you seems to screw up and you keep looking and re-looking the 100 entry directory on your cell phone to pick the person you feel like talking to; that is called loneliness. You could be lonely with 1000 people around you and it's just the sense of belonging that matters. Perhaps that's the reason why God created man with desire and with so much attachment to earthly pleasures. Imagine a man born with no desires - he becomes instantly lonely. The biggest punishment that a man could get is to not get someone to talk to when he desperately wants to communicate, share and express something! That is the reason why the worst punishment in any penal code is the inappropriately named 'Solitude Prison'.

I hope and pray that the grip of loneliness introduced in abundance by the new city, new work and new people vanishes pretty soon!