Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The career of an MBA

I will start will a disclaimer first, the post is not applicable to the true-blood CEOs in the making that some b-schools produce.

In India as education by rote ensures your academic mobility (look at the percentage scores required to get admission into any stream of education and with only the academics as a barometer). Of course the entrance tests for engineering and medical ( medical is probably again a seperate case, because well... its a life saving profession, even though mistakes in other feilds are the one of the main causes for doctors to come in) could be shown as proof against 'rote', but a look at any of these exams (except to some extent IIT-which people who have got through think was way simple, for the rest its particle physics) will show that 'rote' rules. And you have a lot of engineering seats, not to mention the management quota, so that you never have a problem finding a seat.

Ok, to cut back, after your mundane degree you can then study further or pick a job. With IT jobs in plenty the adventurous or 'i dont know jack shit' kinds will go that way. Anyways after 2 yrs of cribbing about IT jobs, our guys are back at the doors of the b-school. I have met quite a few b-school aspirants and grads, and there are very few who know why they are there.hmm...dont ask me why i did it either. But through the rigours of the b-school everyone does become a survivor 'a bring it on mentality' which is partly developed already by an average indian s struggle to exist and this skill is just honed further. So all this finally culminates in the 'placement process' where the HR does not know anything about who they want, candidates have some vague idea of what they want with even vague ideas of what companies do the pay in the end becomes some sort of a differentiator.

The question is, is this system bad? Not necessarily, in the Indian context that refinement of the survival skills is just enough because people tend to figure out what they want in a few years time and hence you end up with excellent managers. Whats the downside? Management education does not produce enough quality research, you do not have best minds making a bee line to become professors and a distinctly unprofessional approach during the first 1-2 yrs of work.

Will this change? It has got to, simply because the 'knowledge' class competes with every one from the world. To put it in perspective, for a lot of present generation urban indians graduation and post graduation are a given. Not the same for western nations. The people who survive in the west are fiercely motivated. The chinese et all are are aliens :) they just work anyway ( for social mobility) and they can work hard. So if hasty career decision is made, it will just take that much time to unravel that mistake.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Tricks to derail Fed-ex

Who or what will stop roger federer? he is actually an alien masquerading as a tennis player. It is a deception of monstrous proportion, made to decrease the morale of normal human tennis players who make a mistake or two. You should look at the evil gleam in his eyes as he plays those amazing shots, the devil is creating an empire. The food he consumes is an alien vitamin, how does he not tire after the game? I tell you, its an alien. So, how do we defeat him:

1) Get him ot play will smith, that will zap him ( with help from tommy lee)
2) Get him to play serena williams. she will show him the daylights.. err in tennis only please
3) shilpa shetty??? those long racially abused legs could hold a surprise or two
4) bush: he would start speaking, confuse and confound fed and win
5) dharam paaji: those blood curling screams from paaji "kameene mein there khoon...." will scare the shit out of any alien
6) last but not the least: our own Rajni, he hits the ball once, it s been hit hundred times.

but best strategy, get him coached by greg chappell.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Black Swan Problem

Logic is the fundemental basis of science. Is logic something hard and fast? Can it be brought down to its lowest common denominator? I really dont understand logic to that level. But in a simple framework you tend to use logic itself as a set of rules. The whole number A > whole number B > whole number C => A>C. That is mathematical logic. The Sun has been rising the on the east always, it is almost certain that it will rise in the east t'row.

Philosphically, the Black Swan(seemingly the theory was first put forward by Karl Popper) problem is considered a true blood. If all your life and in science if you only see white swans does mean that Black Swans' do not exist? (Actually they apparetnly were found in Australia). Even more interesting, inductive logic is true only again by induction. That is some logic isnt it?

PS: None of the thoughts above are mine, they belong to a book on infinity.

When does logic fail? Is the application of logic merely a reflection of the amount of information known about a particular subject. Lets say that we suddenly solve the mysteries about the seemingly expanding universe, would logic then apply? I would think so. You cannot really apply logic to things you have no information about.(If aliens have existed all this while, why have not contacted us-Fermi Paradox types, the damn thing being we know a vast little about aliens). That is the problem many of us face with behavioral analysis too, we dont really know the motivations of others so we cant really apply our logic to it. Logic could possibly be the infinite number line, but only when the space is defined. Till then we can even have a colored swan i.e. if the chinese want a colored swan.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


This is the era of competition. "May the best man win" is an axiom that is played across geographies. What happens to the people who are not good enough? They will have to settle at a place in the value chain which is in-line with their skill level. The ultimate 'Ayn Randes'que celebration of capitalist instincts.

Will people be able to do this easily? After all we all passed through academics and have played sports where you end up or losing. It should not really matter as long as each individual feels he is giving his best. But it does not end up being so simple. It is one thing to lose your job, its something beyond to live with the fact that your job has been taken over by someone you consider'racially' inferior. Or someone who does not belong to your group. That is protectionism comes into place, that is the reason you have anti-outsourcing protests.

Of course, what needs to be understood is the fact that the 'best man' is a generic term for a total package. Someone in Europe can be very talented, but when compared to someone in India with somewhat lesser talent but coming in at atleast 40% cheaper, the companies will take call. Right now the trend is for 'cheaper' quality but this if may change in the future. Even more frightening is the prospect that someone who has been the best in his field for years ( a steel technician in US) will find that he has to increase his skill sets, take a pay cut, move to a more cost effective location, change his field(with age learning new skills to change fields becomes that much more difficult) or find himself out of a job. This is where governments of the land come in. They provide the back up in terms of financial incentives for salaries or facilities for retraining. This is where India could find itself hammered for some time. US and Europe have for long had a social security net, but India could find itself hardpressed for financial resources if a large portion of our work force becomes redundant because of alternative cost-effective locations. A large number of educated youth entering the work force means that new skills will easily be learnt(Indians know the art of survival) but re-skilling remains an underlying problem.

Compassion for others, caring for the poor etc are virtues across all religions precisely because if every individual were to become a cut-throat capitalist then people who have no skill have no hope of survival. The governments are the only hope then and that is dangerous.

Unguard, fight to survive.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Religion as a basis for hate

Religion at its root is the best of all propaganda. Since, the propaganda is about something(God) that cannot be seen or shown, basically everything works. The need for meaning is real, so I do not attempt to make a case of existense of God or otherwise. What I am interested in is the 'propaganda' part of religion. Non-believers must be brought ot line, your life in propagation of religion will take you to god, you are a messenger of god...all this plays to a persons ego. The problem is not when this ego is used individually, but when it becomes a collective manifestation. (of course the problem will be corrected only if approached at the individual level). When combined with the nascent urge in people to hide under the 'face' of the mob, what you have is violence. And it can go to any extreme. The religious riots in different part of the world are a testament to this. Of course my argument is a gross simplification. There are factors like religious and political leaders, persecution, race, caste, economic conditions etc. Can religion be fought at the mass level?
Not until a person who can prove divine qualities across religions and says that he has met all god and they are equal ( ya right). But for the problem ot decrease in magnitude:
1) Make everyone play sports. Most of games tend to detriorate into wars anwyays. The pent up energy will go out. While this is seemingly stupid the argument has some merits. We rarely take out some of our emotions out and mob violence is a kind of response ot it. Maybe games.
2) Make people go after money like there is no t'row. Group violence tends to have economic under currents to it. In an equal society will that be the case?
3) Abolish religion, make it go underground. The extreme case.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The art of 'jhol'

'Jhol' it sounds like a drinkable, but given the fact that i am callin it an art you might be thinking it is a dance form. Well err. .. maybe it is . But essentially 'Jhol" refers to the Gujju clans' ability to resort to extra-legal means to solve all problems. This could include simple things like tax evasion and comples things..again tax evasion. Also, getting around licenses, bribes for open get the idea... basically any sort of ghapla.

The best part about jhol is that everybody does it and it increases munafa by giving you more taka :). So if everybody must be doing it and it has tangible benefits, then it must be right. That s the logic generations after generations of Gujju's are brought up on. They will not have any qualms to break or bend any rule as long as the munafa is clearly seen. It did come as a surprise for the us poor souls to understand what exactly was going on. To learn how to do it is another matter.

The ability to do jhol is probably what the differentiator is after the choice of a good biz proposition. After all as guru would say, its abt munafa

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Are we all inherently racist? Probably not, biased? mostly yes. It is how evolution has come through. Why do animals move in groups? Because a group automatically shares responsiblity and increases possibilities. Even similar plants grow together (wierd logic, got to be verified). So we have an inherent bias to identify ourselves with a group. The group could be anything, religion, technology, professional, afflicition(alchoholism) etc. But the thread is the same, the need to connect to someone who is similar to you. Are internet based groups any different, no? The need is always similar. The manifestation might be virtual, but still an outsider there would remain one.

The present storm over Shilpa Shetty being abused(breaking news-courtesy IBN) in a reality show is hilarious at times, raises questions and becomes pathetic at worst. She was called names and made to feel like an outsider. C'mon mate, the show is reality T.V. In the Australian version you had a woman held down and a man rub his crotch against her face (by mutual agreement of contestants), you could have them acting ( ala WWF) or saying things that would grab eyeballs. The channel could of course have edited what they said ( it runs 24/7 and only a part is telecast) but they need the publicity. Thats why its run in the first place and the contestants are paid big money (and the final prize). Of course our news guys need space too, so her 'gandhigiri'(thats becoming an abuse) is played up and our 'poor beti' gets loads of sympathetic comments.

The government of India takes notice and says: "Racism and discrimination have been long eliminated in India and we cannot tolerate this" (What about the atrocities on dalits?) . Prince Charles once remarked on a seeing an improper light fitting- "was that changed by an Indian?"
Racism is always going to be there somewhere underneath and will find its way of expression sooner or later and when people are put in a prison it would get nasty (put your family in a room for just 10 days and lets see how well your nerves hold out, these guys are competing).

In the larger context, racist violence is something which needs to be taken care off. The kind of racials slurs ("Asians" etc) will be gone in sometime because of economic reasons(or reverse could lead to further xenophobia...loss of jobs/threat of national integrity-France) . Understanding of cultures is important, anyone who is in business would know that, but most others will not spend the time and they will see the presence of someone different as a infringement of personal space. There are instances of a positive bias too, gora in India, tam-bram group(not for style of course :) ) gujju-madu (again not always). But these instances are rare. Most of the time it is just a response to the loss of a certain way of life. Racism is always a sign of systemic weakness. A lack of firmness in dealing with it would lead to long term fissures in the way a society is framed.

The African American categorization and perception in America is a racism of class and color. The Dalit subjugation is a kind of persecution to maintain power structures. Asian groups, Muslim groups in western world face culture issues. The west wants globalization, but they are not yet ready for it at the people level.

Love your work

I have had this running discussion about the need to work with suchi, pradosh and now my bro. Suchi is the category that says thinks that work is the very important part of life and the balance is in doing everything you want to do with 'work' as a fulcrum. Dude and me would rather pursue arbit stuff (the simple question for me is: if someone leaves me a lot of money would i work with money as the end? No) . Of course getting paid for what you love to do is probably the best thing to happen.

My bro's logic is pretty good tho': Feeding oneself is a natural process (think mother's womb), for food you need to work. Zimple. If you love your work, even better that ways.

Actually, the logic for work is pretty difficult to beat. If you believe in God, whatever religion you follow, you must work. If you dont, you really do not have any basis of living other than enjoying this life. So work hard to earn money to live life to the max or to leave a mark in the annals of history. Of course you have all these phenomenally motivated individuals, from the guy who delivers your paper daily at the same time to business barons who take the concept of work to the next level. The really rich, their motivations to work is something that should be taken note of. Their need is probably higher than the instinct of survival.

But how come most people are lazy in some spheres? Is it laziness choice or is it part of the natural order too? Or are people looking for the one thing which will always push them to do more? In the final analysis, it becomes motivation. Motivation is what differentiates people, it makes people slog their asses off. It is what makes Fedex want to win repeatedly or a Rossi to risk his life. The best part of that is the fact the motivations of different people is different. Can people be motivated externally? I dont think so, the click should come from between. A good proportion of the population just lives but the group of people who are motivated make all the difference.

But I can hear a comrade already laughin his ass off: Yes, mate, motivation is everything. But can you tell me, what should I be motivated to achieve? And I see myself going: Money, fame, happiness, mental satisfaction, world peace :) , moksha even.....this that hmm the hell does it gotta be motivated..thats how it works...I dont know :)

You can convince someone that there is something that matters, but in your heart you dont know or even worse, you cannot know.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

African American President?

Barack Obama, the young democrat upstart has announced his intentions to look at running for presidency in 2008. He says he shall take the final decision on Feb 10 after extensive analysis and consultation. Known for his anti-war stance, he is a 2nd year senator and the youngest of all the candidates. He is close to Hillary Clinton and could go face to face with her if he were to announce his candidature. He has been calling for a new kind of politics and a fresh look at issues w.r.t America's global position.

What is interesting is the American acceptance of Obama as President. The conservative white voter would be strongly against him, but if he is elected it could represent a marked shift of image of America. An African-American at the helm now is probably what is the best thing for them. He will be seen as some who can inspire the black population and would probably be trusted more by leaders around the world. Though the other African American Condi Rice has had a notoriously hawkish stance on issues, the leader of a nation is some thing different. He could end up trying that bit too hard tho'.

Martin Luther might still smile in his grave. If not in 2008 hopefully in the coming decade.

French Connection:Royal-Sarkozy

The candidates for the French Presidency are out. On first impressions you have the charmy Ms Segoline Royal, the charmer, a mother of four and willing to listen to all parties concerned. On the other hand you have Mr Nikolas Sarkozy, the right wing, anti immigration anti this anti that. These are tumultous times for France, the country is questioning its role in the post-imperilast globalized world. They need their sphere of influence, which is achieved through continuous back-channel diplomacy. In fact if any conflict-country wants to talk, France would be the best bet to start off among all the Western nations. Be it through the support of former French colonies, understanding of Russia and China or even consideration of the Iran issue. France is sometimes as being perceived as being away from 'Isreal' centre. Their need for influence in EU and world makes the country an important piece in the world sphere.

The country itself might be going to the dogs, rationalization of govt held companies, social security, racial tensions (they have large immigrant populations) primary among immigrants among different cultures and the French need to be different all make the elections in France an important milestone in Global Politics. Sarkozy has the experience and the guts(the fact that he is still there after taking Chirac on for the best part of a decade is testimony) , while Royal has the charm to make the average guy feel secure.

Let the games begin.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Kashmir-Essentially Politics

The general cannot decide on Kashmir without the agreement of the parliament. More to the 'good' general image. I dont really understand who is our man trying to fool? The west certainly, but any political observer of pakistan knows the amount of power the army wields. They can cobble together a solution if and only if they want to. The solution is pretty simple from the Pakistani side, accept the status quo with the LOC as border and hope that Indians give some concessions for free movement across border making Kashmir a kind of joint rule.

The solution is not really beneficial. It pays to keep the insurgency running so that Indian forces are tied up. The right wing cannot give up on the islamic population of the valley(much less the conversion of Hindu India as the Laskhkar woudl have us believe) and they need to play up the threat of Hindu India for funds from the oil rich Arab countries. Pakistan has no real economy to speak of and they would become an Afghanistan if their primary identity of being different from India is changed. Of course, we people are similar in many customs but the people are never the rulers in any state-are they?

The commie's never had a role in Pakistan and the liberals cant do much without their integrity being questioned. So, the army would play the key decision making role. With the infiltration of right wing propaganda in the army, the decision could well be towards indefinite continuation of the support od armed conflict against India.

PS: Of course the long running water dispute is a different angle to the whole argument and I am not considering that here.

The decade of 2000-2009

I came across a blogpost (The Decades To Be Forgotten) pointing out that whereas we had 1920' s to 1990' there is no such term for the decades beginning now. It is so very true that we couldnt possible call all the decades as 2000's.

Attempts are being made. BBC has adopted the word 'noughties' (maybe knotty ies or naughties? ) . Acceptance of trends does not take a long time. The word 'metrosexual' made its appearance in record time. It takes a marketing guy to frame a word that describes a new trend or product. We are yet to get over the 1900's (c'mon it was the end of the century or the millenium even) and most of our events are backdating now.

But as the new generations come of age in this era you shall get the names that go with it. For example it was not as if the entire world populace of 60's was 'swinging' its jsut a term attributed to a group which became generic. In the same way we have the best of 4 yrs to adopt a name for this decade and I hope the name shall be found.

Gilbert Arenas-M.V.P

It might be a long shot, but the way Arenas is going this season he might be the one man who can beat Steve Nash's alround dominance. Kobe's huge season last year did not win him the M.V.P (which i think he probably deserved), but Arenas is different or rather he is perceived as different. He is a leader on the field and a great blogger off the field. He is actually one of the new faces of the NBA with probably Dwayne Wade and Lebron James(of course Anthony has a disciplinary problem now). He averages 29.7 uptil now with 3 50+ games and that can only improve from now on. More importantly his team looks upto him in all crunch situation and they do not have a problem with him taking the fame. He can hit clutch shots ( as he did again with the 3 pointer over the Jzz) and he makes a difference to the Wizards line up. Maybe his time is this year, but given his attitude and confidence you can be rest assured that his time will definitely come very soon.

Of course till then the wizards fan can always cheer "M.V.P", the fans need to believe that they have a champion player among them. I have not yet watched Arenas play. I have been reading his plays on the net and the guy does not like losing(nobody does, but there is something different). And loads of attitude. "I felt the ball go in" "Pre-shot celebrations" and the like are his trademarks. Go Gilbert Go.

Saddam Hussein- Martyr?

History has always been that of the victorious. Most of the historical accounts from ancient times has always been from the view point of those whose armies were stronger. The printing press changed that a little bit. You could leave traces and that could be preserved. But inspite of that most of what you get to hear is from the winning side. (A kind of survivor bias). Of course countries like India with trace of formal documentation are even worse with no records. All this has changed in the era of the internet. All you need is someone who is willing to provide a ringside view at the time of war and you have history. The veracity of what is being told is not really a big issue(unless there are blatant loopholes) as long as a audience is hearing you. Be it through blogs, webcasts or plain old e-mails.

In this context Saddam Hussein may end up being a martyr. Yes, that is true. A man responsible for two wars, religious persecution of Shias, chemical warfare on Kurds and a crazy despot would become a martyr, how? Because of his image of defiance. He had taken on America which wanted oil and was hanged through a farce trial only because he was Muslim (sunni). Thats the conclusion most people are bound to make when they look back all the drama that led to his execution. Taking him to a International Court of Justice would have raised uncomfortable questions for US. Where are the weapons of mass destruction? Who provided Saddam with the chemical weapons and all his conventional arsenal? Where are his links to Al-Qaeda? So, the simple solution for to hang him.

Maybe he will be just a footnote. But as long as his image is doing the rounds on the net, his history as a figure who defied US is made. Till an alternative image comes out, the people on the streets of middle east have their decisions already made.

Mass Media

In goltland(A.P) , the word mass(famously made into a dust raising encounter with Nagarjuna) means pandering to the crowds. Thats what the mainstream media in India is out to do now. I do not watch T.V regularly (i look towards the heavens in gratitude), but whenever I watch news its the same old story.
Sahara Samay: "Abhi abhi kabhar pahuchi hi ki Abhi (Abhishek) mutne gaye hai, chaliye ispe janta ki pratikriya jante hai"
IBN Live:"This is a momentous occassion for the Bachan family. This sort of thing has not happened from the time Zeus was looking for his many brides(err..lovers). Amitabh must be a proud father(ya his son got married-marriage vs Guru was another question, yes, you are allowed to weep)"
NDTV: "Today is a sad day for humanity. The dog in front of the Amitabh family home died because of excessive flashes from the paparazzi. What has India become? Watch 'we the people' for answers"
Times Now: "Hmm...err. This sort of thing has happened before. Lets look at all celebrity hook-ups and decide what Abhiwarya(yes they have been called that, no wonder celebreity combo names and 'breaking news' have been banned from usage) will do from here"

Of course I have pretty much stopped looking at news after 15 mins of this. While it is not as if the news channels have not been any good, they have done a tremendous job in educating people about a lot of issues and have turned some judicial decisions on its head (Manu Sharma et all), but at the same time there is total lack of macro level thinking. I was reading the book Al-Jazeera and the statement that a news channel decides the content based on public opinion while at the same time moulding them to some extent. Our own media has delightfully ignored the moulding part and is interested in the eyeball share. Gore and entertainment are easy to sell. Thats why you have the crime columns in print media too. We are all influenced by celebrity lifestyles, from what we wear to what we eat. So a glimpse into their lives sometimes is again ok. But how far is too far? Especially in a country like ours where there are a lot of issues that need thinking. Dalit upliftment-how is that going to happen? Why are some parts of the country totally secluded from the country? Some of these shows might not bring in the money, but they set the agenda for the channel. I am not too well versed with regional channels, in english channel NDTV used to be the channel which took this responsibility. They do come up with pretty good stuff even now, but overall the essential deal for them is to do a post-mortem. But as Thapar got rogered by Chidambaram on the fact taht penetration of english channels is less than 5% the onus probably will rest on linguistic media and they for now do not have the means or talent to go big.

Till the time internet takes over our lives, T.V would remain an important medium. To make maximum use(message and revenue) of this proposition is something news channels need to clearly work on. They have the people all is required is the choice. The choice is to be some thing full-fledged. If you are covering fashion, the latest trends must be there. If its Bollywood, a full ringside view is required, not just who partied where. If the media channels cannot do something that they claim, they will never get teh niche audience which will bring in ad revenues.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Ends Vs Means

The movie Guru and the recent aritcle in Newyorker by Malcolm Gladwell ( ya of the blink fame, the yap yap yap God) both run on similar platforms. While the movie defends the importance of the bottomline at any cost, the article tracks the implications of the fall of enron, specifically the indictment of Jeffrey Skilling. The essential argument is this: Organizations should be purely concerned about the profits that they earn to the shareholders. Shareholders' by giving up the capital have no moral responsibility or right to claim the actions of the firm as theirs. Neither do they have culpability. They are just innocent people who have put in their hard earned money in search of returns. While in the movie, the average man makes money of Guru, but first holds him guilty of crimes and then salutes him, Skilling got a jail term because his shareholder's did not understand what was told to them or did not make enough checks to whether what the company was saying was possible.

Puttting it logically, every person who claims the profit or actions of a company would be morally culpable for the crimes that the organization he patronizes commits. That is the logic one uses against the collection of conflict diamonds, the primary importance of the self choice to force corrective action in soceity. A kind of the market based mechanism. But the markets are funny, for them some actions are criminal ( lets say a bank investing funds of a terrorist organization), but others(some one selling food to terrorists) may not be seen as wrong at all. The problem for legal systems arises when one of the actions is questioned and the society looks for a penalty. That is the case with Enron, corporate fraud? definitely yes. What if thier complex financial sheanigans worked out? And also, arent all the analysts (and God Bufett himself) not responsible for overlooking or failing to understand the corp's actions? How would the courts decide. The juries must find it compelling to brand the highly paid corp executive 'fraudsters', but the blame lies with free society when they overlook something that was bound ot happen sooner or later.

Profits as a primary motive sounds as a very enticing prospect and the people who are pursuing it might give a lot of happiness to a lot of people, but the people who are at the receiving end of the means can sometimes be final voices that determine of the life of the profit makers. That is what the market seems to indicate and the profit seekers will know that at the end of it all 'the market knows' .

Enron Corp was one of the worlds' most famous energy companies. The company went bust in 2001 following the uncovering of financial shenigans where in cross holdings and complex financial deals were used to show enormous paper profits. The fall also took out accounting firm Arthur Anderson from the market.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Blood Diamond

Cast: Leoardo Di Caprio, Jeniffer Connely, Djimon Hansou

Direction: Edward Zwick

The movie deals with conflict diamonds and how the quest for diamonds has made Africa into a hell hole. The diamonds far from being a revenue source end up being a primary channel of funding which increases the misery on the people. The movie is about propaganda, choices, gore and is chilling sometimes. The way people are butchered, recruitment and brainwashing of children as soldiers, people losing the sense of right/wrong, the apathy of the rest of the world to conflicts and the untold miseries of people are all given a brief treatment in the movie.

The story is told through the eyes of Solomon Vandy (Djimon), who is fisherman who is captured to work as a slave in a diamond quarry. He chances upon a large diamond and hopes to use this to find his family and move to a better place. Danny Archer( Di Caprio) is a former army man from South Africa who is now a drug smuggler out to win his one deal which would help him get out of the rut. Maddy Bowen (Conelly) is the daredevil reporter who while looking for the real story of diamonds is on his track. Both of them come into Vandys life for their own reasons and fall in love with each other. Archer is the guy who has no redemption, even though he sees that he has no way out and gives Vandy a chance to survive in the end.

The movie is essentially a commentary of the state of affairs in God Forsaken Africa (God left this place a long time ago- Archer), the fact that is reinforced again and again through the acronym TIA (This is Africa). Political machinations of the common people and the western interests in the regions natural resources have meant that the common people are left to fend for themselves. The R.U.F (whose atrocities are widely chronicled) is another of the brigade of revolutionaries who don’t stop at anything to achieve their ends. That is one the problems, the no one knows what the logical end of the conflicts in Africa is. Is it a quest for power, money, identity or a combination? The puzzle may never be answered, but this movie tries to bring out as many aspects of the puzzle as possible (a bit mind numbing towards the end tho’ and certainly the chilling scenes are not for the weak hearted). As usual with slick Hollywood films some of the shots are unreal, almost as if you are in another world. But that world exists and this movie brings it out brilliantly. The romance was not probably needed in the movie (Archer did not have a childhood and this gets him love from Maddy). Caprio seems to pull off any role these days and Conelly is a class apart after Requiem (though you keep expected a similar kind of performance every time). Djimon is a perfect choice for the role of the father in search of his family and he does brilliantly. The one scene of violence when he smashes the R.U.F commander after going through everything is a scene to behold. Even when he acts as the representative of Africa, he has the right kind of emotions to show.

Sensationalist? Maybe. But overall a well made move.

Rating: 7.5/10


Cast: Abhishek Bachan, Aishwarya Rai, Madhavan, Vidya Balan, Mithun Chakravarthy

Direction: Mani Ratnam

Applause. That’s the first response you get when this brilliantly crafted movie about the meteoric rise of an ambitious man ends. The reaction was spontaneous across the cinema hall, when the main character speaks about the victory of ‘business’ and spouts the spirit of dhanda and the cult of munafa. Bravo!!! Awesome!!! (Of course, must have been the predominantly Gujju community who understands the philosophy behind this better than any one else.

Gurukant Desi ‘Guru’, is a man with a mission. He wants to go where no man has gone before. He doesn’t understand the concept of ‘no’ (Mujhe na shabd sunayi nahi deta) and rises faster and higher than anyone expects of him. The deal is to get things done. The story does go at an excellent pace: Guru leaves home against the wishes of his father to Turkey in search of work after failing in school. Through the gyrations of Sherawat, we get the idea of a man who is restless to become big. He returns to India, marries Aishwarya for the dahej money and sets off to Mumbai to do dhanda. He is uneducated and uncomplicated, but has extraordinary focus. He breaks the shackles of the existing ‘babudom’ in cloth trading and rises fast. Along the way Guru understands that rules are meant to be broken and indulges in the core idea of profit maximization. This makes the upright editor, Mithun Chakravarthy of the ‘Independent’ newspaper take notice, and he sends Shyam(Madhavan) after Guru to expose his wrongdoings w.r.t the law of the land. Madhavan does well and Guru almost becomes a villain in the heart of his beloved shareholders. In the final act Guru takes on the enquiry commission to wax eloquent on the art of doing dhanda and how he has done no mistake and gets off with a light sentence and goes on to dream higher and higher.

‘gurubhai guru bhai’ sounds like dhirubhai dhirubhai and there are way too many parallels. The wadia (if iam correct) control of textiles in mumbai, the license raj, the Indian express(again if iam right and Madhavan as Shourie?). Anyway the film succeeds because it makes you believe along with Guru that things are possible if you have the determination and the right attitude. Our man is shown having an emotional side while dealing with his wife (a surprisingly good performance from the otherwise useless Aishwarya Rai) and with Mini (Vidya balan, battling multiple sclerosis-a totally unnecessary character) and in his reverence of mithunda and his brother in arms Ghanshyam Das.

It is the showpiece of Abhishek and he delivers. With his charming smile and excellent emotions he raises the bar for himself. Of course when he says ‘ye haath bhi latka hai’ you think its amitabh speaking. Rai delivers as much is asked of her. But she is way too thin to make an impact on saris and Saroj Khan has given arguably the worst choreography to the songs. Gujju maybe, but badly executed. Madhavan looks the right amound of cool. The songs are useless but the background score is amazing. The final premise is thought provoking: Does the end justify the means? Do corporations have no other motive other than profit maximization through any means possible? If something goes wrong, who is responsible, the corporation or the shareholders?

The answer is blowing in the wind I guess. Rating: 8/10

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Hugo Vs the Devil

George 'Devil' Bush- That is what Hugo Chavez (the re-elected president of Venezuela) called Bush at the United Nations summit in NY. Although Venezuela is very small both Geographically and economically, the fact that Chavez has become the poster boy of left wing Bolivarian Revolution leading to the 'pink tide' in South America is somethign that irritates US a lot and this coupled with the fact that 11% of US oil comes from the country means that in these present times of uncertainty the US cannot really affort to fully alienate Chavez as was/is done with Fidel. Of course, Chavez considers Fidel his mentor and is trying ot unify South America(+Mexico) into an entity which can stand its own against the US. His strategy is to be charm the masses and then try to decrease income disparities through the distribution of petrodollars. Some commentators have said that as soon as his economic clout decreases no one would listen to him, but till then he can be given credit for a 'revolution' which the people have taken to whole heartedly, as his seen from landslide victory electing into his second term.

The larger question will remain for the capitalist economies, yes that is what most of the developed countries are because almost all of the European behemoths are slowly moving aways from socialism, how to deal with governments whcih are on the path of socializing the country? (Picture Evo Morales of Bolivia driving a stake through the hearts of foreing companies) State sponsored socialism was not completely successful anywhere. They have left Europe burdened with huge Government expenditures in terms of social security payments and strong unions that are detrimental for competition. In India even though some income disparities were removed, state control of productive resources left us completely incompetent in the world markets and in the 15 years that the state has relinquished control we are forging ahead. But, we are still not dependent on foreign investments to drive our future growth and our mutli party cultre ensures that there are checks are place that are atleast theoretically fool proof. The problem with state sponsored socialism is that it places an premium on innovation and private enterprise and spreads a sense of complacence in people ( especially in Venezuela which is starting from a strong petro dollar base) which can be detrimental in the long run. Make this single party and you do have a recipe for disaster. But atleast state sponsored would atleast mean that armed conflicts have been avoided and that itself is a big gain.

Overall, Chavez might prove to be rhetoric but if he achieves the Bolivarian dream of a united latin america, that would be his greatest contribution to history. Already he is bigger than a footnote.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007



Apple has released the iphone (Reuters, CNET). Amidst all the talk of the phone failing tests with consumers and being too slow, Apple did release at the Macworld event. At $499-$599 but if it does all the things people want it to doe decently well, the phone will be difficult to stop. Cingular is the only service offering it now I believe but others may soon follow suit. This would be a direct challenge for Sony Ericsson to come up trumps with even better phones. Right now I think their elegantly designed phones are way too much value for money, but an apple product is well an apple product. With the continued image management from the folks at Apple, computers would be dropped from their name. Well, they are the gods of image management, so expect some more marketing on these lines.

Overall, I think this would be quite a test for apple. Design is one thing, but offering a robust working phone is another. Apple stock is up, so the market likes it. And the market is never wrong J

Expected results of terror

ULFA(United Liberation Front of Asom) strikes again. This time their targets are primarily Bihari immigrant workers who do small roles in the economy (laborers, milkmen). This is chillingly in line with ULFA’s strategy of exterminating all foreign (yes all Indian except Assamese are considered foreigners) nationals from Assam and ensure that Assamese gets maximum use of the state’s resources. ULFA is liberally supported by Bangladeshi Intelligence ( and hence the refusal of ULFA to persecute immigrants from Bangladesh who now reportedly form a considerable amount of population in several districts of Assam) and ISI. The first time I read something of that sort the usual Pak bashing did come to mind. But the logic is compelling, almost all of ULFA top leadership is in exile of hiding. Their organization is very strong, with disgruntled youth ready to join, but the funding for arms does not require rocket science to understand. What is the ULFA trying to achieve?

Actually what are all the terrorist organizations( I don't know what the list is based on, but just for some understanding) in India looking at. The north-east is definitely divided with calls for separate nations et all ( partially valid, 50 yrs of Indian Independence has not resulted in much for them). But what can they actually achieve:

1) The reorganization of nation states does not happen in times of peace. Unless there is full scale war India will not give up any of its territory. So, who will fight an open war with us? The Chinese? No, for them the chance to become a superpower is more compelling that fighting for minor territory, they can at best provide logistics. Pakistan? They are mad enough, but they would go for a Nuclear war which could prove disastrous for them. Covert action is best for them, to paint India as a muslim-hater for some time atleast. Bangladesh? They could do it, they need land and water (and everything else) for their people. But not very likely. Combined attack? Again would need a significant event for something like that to happen. Maybe a US invasion of Pakistan and everyone would get sucked in.

2) Destabilization of the country: This could serve its purpose, but the result would mean that the people who are disadvantaged would lost out even more because no one would invest in terrorism infested areas because of chance of loss. It's a vicious cycle, no development means that more people for the ‘cause’ which means more misery for people who try to live on. This is very synonymous with the PWG which reportedly does not allow the construction of roads in AP because that would undermine their authority.

Maybe some good can come of it, if the revolution slowly included political movements to force the central govt to be on its toes. But till then, the issue would be just a thorn, and the security forces will be used to quell the challenge. And no security force on the planet is benign and this would mean more misery for the common people. So finally you are left with just hope that such carnages as of this week would not happen.

Larger questions on issue of intra country remain. Will growth in the country living behind many geographies migration to better opportunities is a given, so if native population in growth states fights immigration (as in Mumbai, Bangalore) right now we would need a work permit system for the whole country. Will write on this some more.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ancient Languagues and More

I was reading yesterday about Khipu, the ancient language of the Incas and a long running theme came into mind. Why is that ancient languages are so difficult to decipher? We can read the human DNA but cannot decipher the coded languages of our ancestors. Albeit most of the languages now have been deciphered using advanced mathematical modeling (Egyptian, Mayan and the last I heard Harappan too). The process of decoding asks a few questions:

1) Why the languages were are so complex in the first place. If we take so long to understand it, then how is it possible that it was a common language that every one understood and spoke?

2) If indeed the problems have arisen only because there is lack of proper documentation, what steps are necessary to ensure that our present day documentation reaches the future generations? I understand that each generation believes its form of communication to be foolproof but the actual experience may be different.

Language apart, most of the ancient civilizations seem to use complex technology ( or simple applications) and then suddenly they disappear. This trend is clearly absorbed. The Incas built Machu Pichu, a modern city on the high mountains and left ostensibly because there wasn't enough water, the Mayans built temples and observatories and left, the Harappans built a whole civilization and then abandoned it. I cannot recall more, but I remember way having read about more cultural groups of people who seemed to love the build the disappear mode. The best part is we cant even figure out why they ran away, forget decoding how and why they built the things they built.

The importance of history as a means of understanding evolution cannot be questioned. If for example our ancestors knew about an impending natural disaster and decided to abandon ship, then such tools would be use to us even now. For all our scientific advancement, some of the largest causes of death and loss of property are natural disasters. Further, if as we assume our ancestors lived in harmony with nature, we could possibly get some clues for incorporating the same in our way of life. Wishful thinking?

Possibly, but the mysteries of the unexplained seem way more interesting that the dull nature of the known.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Kabul Express

Director: Kabir Ali

Cast: John Abraham, Arshad Warsi

A journalist ( John) and his photographer go to find an interview with the deposed taliban.Tthe taliban is hunted, and the remaining few are trying to escape to pakistan, which closes tis borders. Along with a local afghan guide these two go after taliban prisoners to speak to them. An american journalist goes after them in search of a story too.A taliban warrior kidnaps all of them and takes tehm towards pakistan.

Through the journey they realize that the motivations of differnt men are differnt and msot of the people are pawns in a larger game.Some really stunning images through afganistan, good banter between the lead actors, decent background score and good acting from the afgans ensures the pace is held.
Except for a little shallowness in the characters it could have been a great movie.

Good one time watch.

Rating: 7/10

Dhoom 2

Dhoom 2-eye candy.

The plot: A(Roshan) is a master thief who wants to leave his footprints all over the world by carrying out dare devil-minutely planned-and oh so cool type robberies. The task of matching wits with this bloke falls to ACP of police Jai (AB Jr) and his bumbling sidekick Ali(chopra). Along the way Roshan falls for live-the-moment aspiring genius thief Sunehri and Ali gets to say all sorts of things to different versions ( there are twins) of Bipasha("you want to make baby?" for example-he does manage to pull up some witty one liners tho) . There are enough twists and turns and emotions to keep the reels going and the movie ends wiht the indications of Dhoom 3 (SRK as villian ) coming along.

You have to watch the movie for one reason. Roshan, is just stunning. Dancing, scheming, biking, roller skating, playing mind games..the man is cool ( why not him as James Bond), except he doesnt emote well. Aish as Sunehri is good in parts ( why dint anyone think of her in bikinis grooving ot party music before? ) But she does look old. They form a great pair.

Bipasha does what she is good at, flaunt those curves for Chopra(and the rest of us) to gawk at. Some of the stunts are well choreographed and the editing is pretty slick. If this is what mindless movies are all about, we wouldnt mind more

Rating: 7/10

The Prestige

Line 1: Christopher Nolan delivers again.

Rating: 8/10

Cast: Christian Bale, Hugh Ackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine

Plot: A friendship gone wrong, a rivalry that took them too far, an obsession that destroyed everything.

Two individuals who want to become the greatest magicians are fighting a battle of wits against each other. One is a natural magician and the other is a performer. A tragic event makes them mortal enemies and from then on begins a chase for the greatest trick and the need of each individual to belittle/kill/wound the other. The games they play against each other, destroys the individuals their family, but gives the audience of the magic what it wants. The prestige, the final part of the act when the magician reappears in front of the audience and the moment when people cannot seem to believe what they see and applaud. The story unfolds in 4 different time zones(time is the key player with Nolan) and finally culminates in the finale. All the actors ( except possibly Johansson who is stone faced except in one scene) give excellent performances. The pace of the movie ensures that 'you watch closely' throughout. The editing is taut, and the setting is near perfect. The direction is pure brilliance when you consider the complexities of the plot.

The review does not give the names of characters or the full details as I believe you have to watch this one.


Babel : The problem of (mis)communication

Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett

Direction: Alejandro González Iñárritu


Already touted as one of the top picks of this year, the movie is about a biblical fable about humans being unable to build the tower of ‘
’ because of communication problems between people due to differing languages.

In the modern day Babel, the problem arises when a touring couple Pitt and Blanchett try to battle it out in interior
after kids trying out a weapon shoot the woman. That is the beginning of the complex tale of different families across different continents all that are related in some way to the bullet shot.

There is the tale of the illegal immigrant Mexican caretaker of the couple’s kids, who goes to attend a wedding in , gets into a tangle and loses almost everything that she has.

There is the Japanese father, who sold the gun in
to a guide and who is being questioned in relation to his wife’s suicide. His sex-starved deaf-mute daughter represents the people who are actually mute, while the rest of the movie is about people who can hear and speak but refuse to do either.

There is the Moroccan father who sees his rustic life coming apart after learning about the actions of his kids, but still tries to save them.

There is the Moroccan guide who shares what he has to help the American’s. The cynical tourist group shows how vulnerable western nationals feel in alien societies.

But the most important character in the story is definitely Alejandro and his direction. The movie is an assault on the eyes and you are transported instantly across , US, ,
seamlessly. The nuances of each society are given enough screen space for the viewer to appreciate and hence understand how bad things could go. And the world view of the deaf-mute, her perception of silence in a disc and here silent world in the midst of everything is spectacular.

The shooting blamed on terrorists and you have the judgment pronounced without even the chance of a trial. (The Moroccan officer stands out) The immigration officials refusal to understand the plight of the Mexican woman who has carved out a life for herself is stark while the media’s reaction gives you a chilling idea of what is possible in a world where you do not understand your surroundings.

The acting is good throughout, with the Japanese girl and her father exceptional. Pitt and Blanchett had no option but to look good, but the director has chosen his cast amazingly well. ( You could recall Che from Motorcycle diaries as
Santiago here J) . The characters and some scenes are bit too graphic and sometimes unnecessary (the cut chicken, the peeing-love scene, the naked Japanese girl), but they end up making you appreciate the vibrant nature of the surroundings. A little bit too long at 142 min.

Rating: 7.8/10

Bhaagam Bhag

Direction: Priyadarshan

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Lara Dutta, Arbaaz Khan, Govinda, Paresh Rawal

Plot: Two lecherous, scheming lead artists of a drama troupe are forced to look for a temporary heroine of their play in London. One of them Akshay manages to find Lara Dutta, but everyone soon realizes that the girl comes with a lot of baggage and the plot changes to a murder mystery in the second half.

During the course of the action, an idiotic drug dealer and his stooges mistake our protagonists to be undercover agents and that adds to another line of confusion. The search for a heroine creates a tussle with Shakti Kapoor’s Guru, whose goons also add to the action.

Rajpal Yadav as the friendly cab driver who gets a bad deal steals the show whenever he is there with his with knowing smiles (you just gotta see how he instructs Govinda the way to pick up desi girls in ) and quirks.

The movie is an amazing mix of situational comedy and few well timed one liners. The coming timing of Akshay is simply stupendous and Govinda when given the chance does well(he is given the role of a dehati here and eases through it, the comic timing and the dances are all still there) and Paresh does his now patented ‘bumbling’ idiot gig very well. Lara Dutta looks good, says the right things and does not prove too much of a distraction. It’s an out and out Akshay movie with the rest of the actors played their parts perfectly.

The movie starts off with ‘pyaar ka signal’ with ‘oh so sexy’ tanushree dutta matching paces with Akshay and Govinda. Some beginning that. The only negative of the movie is that the second half is stretched by atleast 20 mins and you start yawning as the jokes get repetitive. Maybe some editing there and you could well have one of the best comedies of the year.

Rating: 6/10

I see you

Cast: Arjun Rampal, Vipasha (Introduction), Kiron Kher, Chunkey Pandey, Sonali Kulkarni, Sophie Chowdry and Boman Irani

Direction: Vivek Agarwal

Plot: Rampal, is the lead anchor of British Raj, a desi take on events in London. He is your typical flamboyant star who is sure of himself, the life he wants to lead and has woman written all over him. Women interest him, but he does not believe in love or anything further.

One fine day he walks into his house and meets Shivani(Vipasha) who claims she is a spirit of a person lying in coma in a hospital. After the initial shock, he understands and comes to terms with the fact that the woman can only be seen and heard by him. He sees this as a problem that needs a solution. A rapport builds between the two and they explore London through each other’s perspectives. Raj gets involved more and more into Shivani’s life and ends up falling in love. Of course you have the bad element angle of organ trading et all and the film ends beautifully with the spirit going into its body and the recovered Shivani not recognizing Raj at all and the end suggests a beginning again.

I guess Vipasha actually decided that she needs to look like a spirit and refuses to emote. Inspite of a few decent shots, she lacks the charisma to have a presence across the whole movie. London is shown in a simple unobtrusive way and some of the scenes are really done well. The need to talk through the phone, the playfulness of the lead pair give a ‘feel good’ effect.

The music is good in patches. Almost like the pitch of the third test in South Africa. Some very good trance beats and very poor lyrics and really arbitrary tunes. I really don’t know why the Rampal home production would choose a romantic flick for our man. A Dhoom type candy flick would have served the purpose way better. It is very clear though, Rampal for the life of him finds it very difficult to act.

The rest of the cast is simply non-existent or is not required at all. Kiron Kher emotes well as the mother who has to decide whether to keep her daughter alive or to kill her. Boman Irani as a stupid psychologist plays the part. Sonali Kulkarni(what a fall from her DCH days) and Chunkey Pandey(who is the colleague and close friend of Rampal in the movie acts pretty well, showing that the ‘Aankhen’ charm is lurking somewhere) as a garrulous couple are irritating and Sophie as the seductive (why the hell was such a character required?) co-anchor is an eye sore (yes, believe me she is).

All in all, the movie is unobtrusive, and you can watch it if you need to eat some popcorn.

Rating: 5/10


Movies have always intrigued me as a medium of entertainment. I am one of those who lose themselves in the movie and leave the analysis part to when the movie is actually completed. I also believe that any movie can be watched once, because what a individual takes from a movie purely depends on his tastes and moods. You could hate a movie that you watch and watch it after some time and end up loving it. The art of movie making is to understand the offering to the movie watcher. Is the product an art, is it a medium of escape (you can call it entertainment) or is it a transformational product that is trying to bring about a change in the audience by giving a message. You never know which aspect might lead to a commercial success. Movies evolved from theatre and hence the evolution of theatre is a key aspect that shapes the way we look at movies. In India the idea of theatre was primary roadside shows that used mythological stories as a base to bring out the abilities and the message if that was intended. Through the era of economic degradation our movies provided the chance for the average man to transport himself into a magical world where anything was possible. That is, cinema was a pure source of entertainment. Therefore hero worship, rags to riches, good over evil were all underlying themes. You did have geniuses who combined entertainment with very poignant story telling, so that their art was showcased too. But, segments of the country have moved on and in an era where we all are judged by how good we are, this segment of the audience has come to demand a certain amount of quality for the money they spend. Since, this group is economically quite important, movies have improved in technical quality while still maintaining that sense of the impossible. (Foreign locales, sculpted bodies, heroes fighting with 50 goons etc). There are also movies that cater to the still evolved audience through stereotypes, your sentimental family stories and the crass comedies. But such segmentation is what is clearly needed as a clear marketing mechanism. So, you have multiplex movies, rural movies, family movies etc. Where does this leave the art of movie making? That falls in the lap of a single individual, the director. He is the person who chooses the amount of detail that is required in a movie, the kind of acting required, the way the story is treated and transforming a story to a product. So what is a hit formula? Simple, there cannot be one, because the products are different. You can just hope that the you make a movie which has an intent, a single product or a multiple product (art and entertainment, art and message etc). The success is increased by using an actor/actress who is seen as aspiration, having hummable songs (yes, this is our own unique Indian trait, we need octave kind of music which makes us ‘jhoom’) and good technical quality. The result finally rests with the market and how they classify your product. The good thing about movies in this era is that with revenue streams being available you can also de-risk your product. That is your best strategy.