Tuesday, August 12, 2008

On India's first Gold at Olympics

Daniel Johnson, an economist from Colarado College recently made a model to predict Olympic gold medals tally. He found a 96-98% correlation between the number of medals won and the following five factors: (i) GDP per capita, (ii) total population, (iii) political structure (democratic, authoritarian, military or communist), (iv) climate (the number of frost days) and (v) home-nation bias.

While most developed nations clearly fit the model, India and China are gigantic exceptions. $800 million expenditure by Chinese authorities may offset (i) and (v) of the five factors. Heather Simmons of NYT best explained India's state in one single phrase: "Mysteriously, a non-athletic nation."

The funny thing about the whole debate is that it is Bindra's gold that is being used as a backdrop to it. If not for his Gold, the debate would have never taken place and a billion+ ppl would have happily watched yet another action-scandal packed mysterious murder case in Gurgaon being reported at 180 decibels with gushing adrenalin in racy-catchy-rhymy breaking-news headlines that are terrible at pretending to be the ones challenging institutions and culture.

China won its first gold in 1984 when India was still busy buying color televisions after the 1983 win. But a 1983 win in England is enough to offset everything and eclipse the nation with decades of complacency. On the other hand, China started its economic reforms in 1970s. A twenty year lag / lead there.

BBC is running a wonderful series called "Against all Odds", a program about atheletes who have been excelling against extreme odds and still made it to the Olympics. The series features a marothoner from Cambodia is forced to run on traffic filled roads. He regular dodges chaotic traffic and slows down at traffic jams and lights. What is insightful here is, he is obviously an exception. He would love all those 'infrastructural resources' like better shoes, nicer tracks to train on, time keepers telling him where he stumbles, and carb rich food to give him the extra oomph, etc. What is more important than sporting equipment here is probably the little eco system he trains and lives in. Doing it alone is Herculean or Achillean in this case. Volleyball and basketball may be less obvious, but they do have their own little cocoons to live in.

There is something more important to do with culture that can fundamentally sets people's lives and destinies in stone: Expectations and Measurements. If a culture expects its inhabitants to grow up into worker bees or ants and measures success in their lives by the amount of pay loads they carry, they would never be flies or butterflies. If the expectation is to get a software job by 21 and get married before 30, Lance Armstrong would be the pinnacle of failure. But thankfully, people like Bindra help set new expectations, and it may not be long before measurements show off some of those expectations.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Singh joined Facebook

(The "is" part in the title makes me write a Facebook style story of the movie.)

Happy Singh chases wild goose.
Happy Singh is sad that village head's family is in trouble.
Happy Singh is traveling to Australia.
Happy Singh missed flight.
Happy Singh updates relationship to "It's complicated" with Katrina Kaif.
Happy Singh added King as friend
Happy Singh added Kiron Kher as mom-like-figure.
Happy Singh has updated first name to Singh
Singh is Kinng
Katrina Kaif updates relationship to "committed" with Mr. D
Happy is Happy with friends (X, Y, Z and A)
X, Y, Z and A have left the group - "Underworld Mafia".
X, Y, Z and A have changed their profile pictures.
Happy Singh and Katrina Kaif are now married.
Happy Singh posted a new message in the group: "Sikh Community".

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Wall-E, a top earth class delight

Here comes yet another lovingly made movie from Pixar. 

Remember the first time how you felt touching Apple's smooth, shiny-white magsafe power adapter with cute little ears to wind up the cord when not in use? That is pretty much the tactile equivalent of how you feel when you watch the movie. 

The movie is so lovingly made that most frames are better than the gorgeous mac screen savers (on apple displays) ever made and so lovingly told that the boxy-masculine-rusty-power-toolsy guy Wall-E is nothing but adorable. His binocular shaped eye-cameras are shiny, expressive and filled with life.

Wall-E is a waste compactor machine-bot left behind alone on the planet by earth-fleeing humans who couldn't stand their own pollution resulting from centuries of unabashed buying and wasteful consumption at large. It is 700 years since humans have left the planet and in the meanwhile the bot develops a personality. It is more of a 'He' now than 'it'.

He has a set routine. He goes for work, looks for any interesting items in trash (spork, rubrik's cubes, tonnes of cigarette lighters, christmas lights, 5G iPods - no leaks there. Still a 5G iPod in 2708 AD !), and keeps compacting trash for the rest of the time. The movie is endlessly inventive and speculative here in verbal-silence while at the same time speaking volumes on the worst of American foods: twinkies which have infinite shelf life. 

Breaking his routine, comes another bot from the stars, Eva. She is more like the tall-sleek-ipod-nano + Angelina Jolie from Mr. & Mrs. Smith and may be that graceful dancer, Martha Graham. Our man falls in love with the lady as Louis Armstrong's voice sores high in the background, making the junkyard feel like Central Park during fall.

While, I'll let you discover the rest of the movie for yourself, I do want to talk about end credits. The end credits of the movie retrace robot-assisted human history starting from hieroglyphics to Van Gogh and beyond with such elegance and sheer beauty that I would pay my $8.25 (yes! a matinee show on a weekday) just for that.  

The end credits start with computer animation, scale down to hand-drawn-computer-enhanced graphics and finally reduce to 8-bit graphics from the days of pre-historic Atari video games. It is almost like, the animation-geekier you are, the longer you are gonna stay and watch all of the end credits and the hence the treat.

I know for sure I am gonna stay till the very end, when I watch it for the second time too. And like David Edelstein on NPR said, "I envy your first-time watching of the movie".

If Jeevi reviewed Sankarabharanam ...

Story: Shankara Shastri (JV Somayujulu) is a principled chap who teaches and sings classical music. He is rich and famous. Ratnaprabha (Manju Bhargavi) is a daughter of a clever prostitute. She wants to learn music from Shankara Shastri encourages her to learn music. But for that, people get angry. Popularity of classical music is decreasing and Shankara Shastri looses his money. Ratnaprabha has a son, Tulasi. Tulasi is learning music from Shankara Shastri. In the end of the movie, Shankara Shastri dies while giving a concert. Ratnaprabha also dies. Tulasi becomes the next singer.

Performances: Somayajulu is exceptionally good. He has good make up for the role. He embodies the essence of traditional musician and appeared very believable and natural. Manju Bhargavi displayed good histrionics. Her dances are average too. Allu Ramalingayya and Chandramohan are adequate and have small roles. They give a decent comedy track for the movie.

Technical Departments:

Story - Screenplay - Direction: The story is not strong. It is weak. It not very strong. It is only a little weak. But on the whole, it is average. Screenplay is not very noticeable. It could have been better with flash backs.

There is a strong stamp of Vishwanath in the movie. Direction of a film is bit slow. There is no compactness in the film as director has taken his own time to establish characters. However, there are some situations in the film that should be appreciated.

Music: Music is good but it is all old and classical. No fast beats in the movie. This makes it a bit boring. Balu is singing good and it is difficult to tell it is Balu singing. On the whole, music is average. People will go out for cigarette drinking.


Strengths: Low budget movie, some nice situations, decent comedy track
Weaknesses: No established actors, old music, slow direction, complex dialogues in telugu, below 3 hrs.

(written by Kesava Mallela, spoofing Jeevi of idlebrain.com)

Dasavatharam - A Review

If Kamal Hassan made Matrix, he would play ALL the characters in the movie, adding another layer of confusion to the trilogy.

If Kamal Hassan did Eyes Wide Shut, it would be a self-sexual orgy set to Vedic chants.

If Kamal Hassan is in news business, it would be news by him, about him, on him, in him, over him, under him and nothing but him. Weather man played by Kamal would report about Kamal's body temperature and moisture.

If Kamal Hassan was on Chak De, he would play the Indian and Australian flags along with all the characters on the Indian hockey team and the coach of Australian team.

If Kamal Hassan is into full-time animation he would play all the 101 Dalmatians + mom + dad. The devil lady too. Also, Stuart, the dad. Stuart, the kid and Stuart, the rat. Also, all those giant tortoises on the Great barrier reef water way and the me-me pelican birds on Sydney harbor. and finally, those inanimate spices on counters and shelves in the French kitchen and may be the swap lands in the Ogre land, just not to sound exclusively elitist.

If Steven Spielberg made Schindler's List with Kamal Hassan, it would be about an army of Kamals destroying all Kamal movies, while another Kamal curating a list of all Kamal movies that are destroyed and there after restore them back to Kamal movies. Hence, Kamal's list.

If Kamal Hassan is on Dasavatharam, well, he would never be on it. Because, it has another nut case called Kamal Hassan and also because it has just the right number of Kamal Hassans on it, not one less or one more.

Rating: Plutoid / 5 stars