Sunday, December 02, 2007

Book Review - Games Indians Play

Games Indians Play, by V Raghunathan, is basically a book which tries to explain the “Indianness” of us Indians. And for a change, the author uses scientific explanations instead of the usual philosophical ones!

Games Indians Play tries to use the Game Theory and behavioural economics to answer the question – why we are the way we are. This makes for an interesting combination. The book is sprinkled with juicy “games” and “surveys” – basically analogies to real-life situations. In these surveys, the author gauges the response of people to certain situations. These responses, when extrapolated to the collective context of one billion people, go a log way in explaining the Indian behaviour.

Although the book only explains the negative traits of us Indians (which are numerous to say the least!), I would not view this as a pessimistic book. After all, to solve a problem, one needs to know what is wrong in the first place. However, I was expecting V Raghunathan to offer some solutions too. It’s a pity there are none forthcoming!

All in all, although the book doesn’t tell us anything we don’t aready know, I would recommend this book for the interesting use of game theory to offer explanations for our Indianness. Also, the fact that the book is less than 180 pages helps!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Rush Hour 3

What do you get when you combine Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker? Of course you get a bad stomach ache as a result of rolling on the floor for 2 hours; and you get to watch non-stop action at the same time! That’s Rush Hour 3 for you. To say this movie is hilarious would be the understatement of the year. If you wanna watch this movie; let me warn you – do not; I repeat Do NOT attempt to eat or drink anything while watching it. You’re sure to spill (or spit) it all over the person in front of you.

The plot is not all that fresh or anything. It revolves around a worldwide underworld alliance called the Triad. When the Chinese Ambassador announces that he has uncovered the identity of the Triad leadership, there is an assassination attempt on him. Jackie Chan, who plays the bodyguard-friend of Ambassador Han, now joins his old-time friend Chris Tucker in the search for the Triad and their leader. This search takes them to Paris, where most of the movie is shot.

There’s not much to write about the rest of the movie or the story. Its all up to Jackie and Chris. The non-stop comedy; and obviously, the stunts make the movie worth every penny and every moment that you spend on it. Its amazing how a 50-something Jackie Chan can direct and perform such wonderful stunts. There’s also some eye-candy in form of a cabaret in Paris ;-) The movie was apparently rated PG-13 in the US for violence, sexual content and foul language. How right they are. I would definitely rate it as A.

The verdict, just like the movie and and this review (I hope so) is short and sweet - don’t miss it for anything!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Dude, Where's My Country? - Michael Moore.

Its been an astonishingly long time since i read a book. Almost a year probably. Well, the drought has finally ended. I recently read the non-fiction - "Dude, Where's My Country" by Michael Moore; which is an anti-Bush Government book - plain and simple.
[By the way, Michael Moore is also the author of Stupid White Men, which has been made into a movie.]

The book has left me with mixed reactions. I totally agree with some of his thoughts, while totally disagree with dew others. I relate to many of the incidents and situations, while I would like to distance myself from a few.

To start off, its a book primarily intended to slam George W. Bush and his Govt. Secondly, it is primarily aimed at Americans. The name itself reflects it. It is basically one big question asked by an "aam aadmi" of USA to his President.

However, that doesnt mean that people from other countries should not be interested in the book. Reasons being many. The book gives instances of many shocking policies and incidents that are being given shape by the Bush administration. Some of these relate to internal policies within USA, like health policies and tax cuts. But others relate to world affairs.

The book exposes the shocking indifference to World Peace and the shocking selfishness that the Bush administration has supposedly displayed in recent years. From the 9/11 incident, to the Iraq war, to its policies aimed at controlling the Oil deposits in the world (which apparently was the primary reason for the Iraq war anyways), to the Bush family's friendship with the Bin Laden extended family - it all makes you sit up and take notice.

Some of the things depicted are nothing new to most countries. Like the administration making national policies designed at filling their own pockets. We have seen our babus and netas increase their own salaries time and again in the recent past.

But what is different in this case is the impact of some of their policies on the rest of the world. Like environmental policies for instance. And military ones (remember Vietnam and Iraq??). So also for their policies on controlling the Oil of the world.

Well, i have been judgemental regarding the wrong things so far in this post :). Instead of commenting about the book itself, i have strayed to the policies et al. Regarding the book. Micheal Moore has been extremely harsh on the Bush administration. But I personally feel that most of the criticism in the book apllies to most, if not all, of USA's previous administrations. The govts of USA stand for values and principles that are exactly opposite to what the people of USA stand for (or atleast thats what I gather from the book).

Moore has laid down action plans to remove the Bush administration from power next time around. That aside, he also has few very simple values to follow to make not only USA, but also the World a better place to live in.

All in all, for a non-American, the book is for most part, just an interesting read (a very interesting one at that). But there are a few moments which set you deep into thought. Moore has deliciously mixed facts and figures with lots of comedy that would keep you engrossed. Its also not a very big book, just 300-odd pages. I would rate this book as "definitely worth a read".

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Dor (3.5 Stars)

Nagesh Kukunoor has done it yet again. Taken the no-glamour no-frills approach and come up with yet another wonderful movie. Here's my analysis of the movie.


Dor is the story of 2 women - Zeenat (played by Gul Panag) and Meera (Ayesha Takia). Zeenat lives in a small town in Himachal Pradesh while her husband, Aamir leaves for Saudi Arabia in search of work. In the meantime, Meera stays in a village in Rajasthan and her husband too moves to Saudi in search of work. Meera's husband dies in Saudi an what seems to be an unfortunate accident. But Aamir is accused of killing him. Now according to Saudi's laws, only if Meera signs on the certificate of forgiveness, Aamir's death penalty can be averted. Dor is the story of this search for Meera and her forgiveness.


The characterisations are worthy of applause. On one side we have Zeenat who is a small-village woman; but who lives life according to principles. According to hew _own_ principles. Who believes that a person should be the owner of her own life and should be in control of it.

On the other hand we have Meera, who is the typical rural Indian woman; who has no say in her own life; who lives life according to rules set down by others.


Gul Panag has shown a lot of maturity in her role. She has done good justice to the character who is determined to save her innocent husband and a woman who stands by her ideals. And Shreyas Talpade has (needless to say) excelled in his role as a bahuroopiya who helps Zeenat in the search. He is however more of a guest appearance I would say. The entire movie rests purely on the shoulders of Gul and Ayesha. That brings us to Ayesha Takia's performance.

Well, I would say she is trying to do mature roles, but I'm afraid that this particular role was a case of too far too soon for her. Although she has done a good job of portraying emotions in her scenes, her dialogue delivery is mediocre at best.


The main thing that strikes you throughout the movie is its simplicity. There's absolutely no glamour at all. The locations are also well chosen. Only the village in the mountains of Himachal (breathtakingly scenic I should add) and the village in the deserts of Rajashtan.

The movie follows the main storyline and sticks to it. The first half doesn't seem so engrossing. But the second half is better articulated. Love is the main theme of course - That's what even the movie's caption says "How far would you go to save the one you love?" But there's more to it.

Dor also highlights the importance of having principles in life and sticking to them. Its about believing in your values and taking on the society if you are convinced that you are doing the right thing.

Then Dor sends out a message of the importance of friendship and of how a good friend can dramatically turn around your life.

Finally, Dor once again exposes the shockingly inhuman treatment of women in general and widows in particular; in rural India. While widowers are allowed to re-marry, widows are expected to spend the rest of their lives mourning their dead husbands.


I was really moved by Dor. The down-to-earthliness which is evident from start to end, the storyline and the message conveyed - all combine to make it a good movie. The similarity between the 2 women in spite of the stark contrast has been depicted really well. This movie is symbolic of feminism; but with a change. Unlike hitherto feminist movies which have concentrated on the one-off urban modern woman (a-la Corporate), this one motivates the everyday, rural Indian woman to take control of her own life.

I would recommend it to those of you who wouldn't mind a little serious, thought-provoking movie. But if you are just looking for fun or time pass, then this is not the movie for you.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Pyar Ke Side Effects

Watched this movie on Sunday evening. Really good time pass movie. Of course, its strictly for adults. And in case you have a problem with sleazy humor, then its not for you.

Whats It All About

Well, I dont see any khaas baat in the story. Just the usual. Couple in a relation, girl wants commitment, guy not ready for it; and the usual misunderstadings; finally culminating in "alls well that ends well".

Why Should You Watch It

The first half is a hundred percent laugh riot. Combine that with Rahul Bose's awesome acting and you have a winner combo there. The second half has more double-meaning comedy and not-so-double meaning adult comedy too. Not that it ever appears obscene at any moment.

Mallika Sherawat has done surprisingly little skin show; and after watching this movie, you might be forgiven to believe that she is _not_ the kissing queen - there are less than half-a-dozen of these. However, the "Oomph lady"'s acting leaves a lot to be desired. Shall we say she has not been keeping herself abreast of the acting talent? (pardon the pun ;)


If you are with gang and looking for a great way to kill time on a weekend, then go for it. Relaxed way to spend 2 hours and 45 mins. However, if you are the romantic type and are going with your GF/fiance (especially the innocent type), then i suggest you look for alternatives (like the soon-to-be-released Dor?)

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Lage Raho MunnaBhai (4 stars)

It had been months since i wtached a movie. That combined with the fact that I was desperate to see this one, forced me to watch it all ALONE :). Anyway, over to the movie.


Needless to say, it has been awesome. All the main actors have given stellar performances. Sanjay Dutt, Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani have all resumed from where they left off in Munnabhai MBBS. Vidya Balan has taken over from Gracy Singh and does equal justice to the role. I have always believed that these 2 are among the _very_ few really talented actresses out there.


I am not going to narrate the entire story here for obvious reasons. It would suffice to say that in this installment, Munna turns history professor to impress Jahnvi (played by Vidya Balan), who is a radio jockey. While "studying" about Mahatma Gandhi, Munna starts hallucinating and starts "seeing" Gandhiji. Then the story unfolds...

Well, thats all i'm willing to divulge ;)


Lage Raho has as much comedy as MBBS. But it has more than that. While MBBS did have a message, i personally feel it was not a relevant one, nor a direct one. Lage Raho has a loud and clear message.

Although it has been given the name of "Gandhigiri", it is not just something to be enjoyed and forgotten. Munna takes part in a radio program where people call and tell their problems and Munna gives a solution to that based on Gandhian principles. These instances set you thinking.

In a nutshell, the movie tells you to adopt Gandhi-ism as a way of life. Now I'm not sure how much that is going to be possible in the present-day world. But atleast following a few of Gandhi's values will do our country a lot of good.


Vidhu Vinod Chopra has to be complimented for this. After all how often does a sequel actully live upto expectations? Also, Vidhu Vinod Chopra has used comedy as a means to put across the social message to the public. That proves that you can use any genre of movie to motivate the masses.

I sign off by rating Lage Raho as a must-watch. Bole to, is movie ko pakka dekhnaich mangta hai haan!

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Delhi Metro

Yesterday, i finally had my first trip aboard the Delhi Metro. I just had a (very) short trip. Connaught Place to Karol Bagh and back. Here's my two cents on the topic.


The stations are very clean - spic n span. The Connaught Place station (underground) is a junction of the Blue line and the Yellow line - its huge. You buy the ticket .. well.. its actually a token. Its a coin-sized plastic token. You use it just like your access badge at the company. When you hold it in front of the reader, the flaps open and you're through to the actual platform. The frequency of trains varies from 4 minutes to 6 minutes.

The signages and instructions at the station are immaculate. The maps of the Metro routes are clearly posted everywhere, along with detiled route information, station names and fares.

The Train Itself:

I dint have to wait long. The futuristic-looking train came along and silently slowed to a halt. It wasnt too crowded, although there were no vacant seats. The sliding doors opened and the people waited patiently for the alighters to get down first. I then boarded and was greeted with blast of cool air - the coaches are fully air-conditioned. The trains normally stop for only 30 seconds at a station but since this is a junctoin, it stopped for about a minute.

Soon, the train pulled off from the station: again it was silent and very smooth. I woulndt mind even if I dint have a seat for a half an hour ride. There's almost no jerks and even the turns are gentle (there are extremely few turns on the entire metro system anyways).

There are clear announcements in the train - to stay clear of the doors, which the next station will be, which side to alight (normally the left side). The announcements are both voice (in Hindi and English) as well as on a scrolling LCD screen. Again, there are maps above the door inside the train too.

My station was the third one and the 3.5 km ride took hardly 5 minutes and almost no effort at all. Totally relaxed, pollution-free, signal-free and enjoyable. This will be even more noticeable for longer distances - say CP to Dwarka.

Anyway, except CP, the other stations that were on the way were all elevated. I alighted at Karol Bagh, exited the station. I asked around for Gurdwara Road, which is an excellent shopping area (I had shopped there when we had gone to Delhi in 1999). I learnt that it was 3 kms away and i'd have to take an auto. I waited 5 minutes, dint find one and decided to return to CP. The ride back was as impressive (and as short) as the onward ride. This time I also got a seat and found it spacious, altough it was a plastic seat and hard on my boney bum :D


I strongly feel that such a public transport system is the need of the hour for urban India. Of course, the inconveniences faced during construction are far less on Delhi compared to what it will be in Bangalore. That still doesnt take away the merit.

But i also feel that the success of the Metro depends on the route chosen. Choose the wrong route and it becomes a disaster. The route should be a high density corridor for one. Secondly, it should be such that it saves time for the commuters compared to taking the road. Thirdly, there should be longer-distance links to city suburbs (like the under-constructions Delhi-Noida).

I feel an ideal topology would be 4 spoke centered at the heart of the city, and supplemented by feeder routes from suburbs, and a few links along the circumference.

I think i'l sign off on that thought - a clean, affordable, efficient public transport system for urban India of the future. Jai Bharat.