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.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

I Shouldn't Be Alive: Chris Moon [Discovery Channel]

Today, I was watching a program on Discovery called “I shouldn’t be alive”. This is actually a series.. every week they show a different story. The one I saw today has kind of impressed me deeply.

Today’s episode was about a guy named Chris Moon. Since I dint watch the programme from start, I don’t even know Chris’s nationality. Nor do I know the year when these events occurred. Regardless, I felt extremely humbled. Read on to know more…

Apparently, Chris was in Cambodia for some reason. He was leading a couple of mini-trucks through the remote roads when he was captured by soldiers of the Khmer Rouge. For those who don’t know, Khmer Rouge is “credited” with the second-highest mass-murder in human history, second only to Hitler. Their practice of taking innocent farmers out of their huts and into the fields and executing them in hundreds, is said to be the origin of the phrase “killing fields”.

So Chris was with a couple of native Cambodians, among them Mr. Houn. They were all kidnapped by the Khmer Rouge and taken deep into the jungle. The program goes on to show how they survived 3 days and 3 nights of ordeal in captivity, before their patience and calmness prevailed and they survived. First of all, Chris never lost hope. Secondly, he showed extra ordinary presence of mind. He reasoned with his captors, even tried tactics such as praising them and saying he’l spread the word about their “goodness” blah blah. I don’t want to get into all these details.

Point is, on the third night, they walked from 7 pm to 5 am and crossed rivers and land-mine ridden jungles in the darkness to exit the Khmer-Rouge territory and reach the safety of the Government-controlled territory. This itself is mighty impressive.

But there’s more to it. 2 years after his brush with death in Cambodia, Chris was in Mozambique, working for the UN (I think). His work was to detect land mines and remove them safely. Years of civil war in Mozambique have resulted in the entire country being severely riddled with land mines. I remember watching a program which shows that a large percentage of Mozambique’s population is adversely affected by these landmines – directly or indirectly. For instance a double-digit percentage of them are handicapped or maimed for life because of accidentally stepping on one.

That’s exactly what happened to Chris too. He accidentally stepped on a landmine and was badly injured. He had to be airlifted, but that dint do him much good. Chris said in an interview that "There are times when the pain is so intense that at that point in time, dying seems a better option". One of his legs was blown off below the knee and one of his hands had to be amputated too. Now comes the real motivating part. In spite of all the physical and emotional dents, Chris recovered and a couple of years later, participated in a Heptathlon somewhere in the deserts of Africa. He completed the event with only 2 natural limbs – the other 2 were artificial! Hows that for “Never-Say-Die” spirit??

But this keep-going attitude is not the only lesson I learned from Chris. He was working selflessly deep in Cambodian jungles and mine-infested areas of Mozambique. That’s what caught my attention. There are thousands of volunteers from organizations like International Red Cross Society and the United Nations Organization; who have given up comfortable lifestyles and are working for the betterment of the poorer sections of society.

It is this display of selfless genuine, International Humanity that makes me feel insignificant. For, here I am sitting at home or in my A/C office and commenting on lots of issues. But will I ever actually leave my comfort zone and venture out to help where it matters? I do hope so.

I conclude this post by bowing in salute to all those countless unsung heroes who are doing what matters to bring the standard of living of our fellow human beings to humane levels.

Rang De Basanti!

I had written this article as a comment on my friend's blog Rahul Prasad's World. I think it still holds today. So am posting it here.

Hi guyz,

Let me start off by saying that the reason i'm posting the comments on this group is because i want to make sure other ppl who commented on the blog read it.. (there's a chance they may not follow up on Rahuls blog :-)

ok... now where do i start?? oh yes.. now we have ppl who see RDB and come out of the theatre saying that the message of the movie is "Go out and kill every minister who's taking a morning walk"!!!.. So let me now make a list of what messages these same ppl wud have taken from some other movies:-

  • BLACK:- "Kiss every handicapped disciple"
  • Mohabbatein:- "Please do not do anything in college except falling in love..and then break every rule of ur institution for ur love to succeed"
  • Swades:-Take every KaveriAmma from India to US... or some bull-shit llike that

COME ON GUYZ, WAKE UP!!! The essence of RDB is not to take up violence... the movie just took an example of those5-6 friends and their story... .. Of course it has never happened to me.. i mean if i had a frnd who died because of some asshole's corruption AND if the same asshole was hell bent upon tainting my frnd's name post-humously (just to save his big fat rear-end), then i dont know wt i wudv done.. but since such a grave incident has never happened to me, i hv no business criticising the violent means adopted to seek justice..

The message of RDB is that it is everybody's responsibility to change the "system".. u must agree with me that v have all tlked about this way too often.. whatever happens, just criticize the "system" and thats it.. RDB urges the youth of India to take responsibility.. because we are the future of this country.. and i think thats the message we shd take from the movie instead of debating over meaningless issues..

And i'm really shocked that ppl comment on minor irrevelant issues like screenplay and all.. Yes i agree that all these go a long way into making a complete package, but in the context of movies like RDB, there are more serious issues to discuss.. for example i agree that there is a slim chance of police lathi-charging the frail old mother of a ..well.. of someone who's no less than a hero..but thats hardly a topic for debating..the point here is.. RDB aims to move evry1.. it aims to motivate the youth to participate in the country's affairs because every right is accompanied by a duty too.. if u hv the right to live peacefully its ur duty to keep peace too..

As far as i'm concerned there has never been a movie more motivating than this in terms of patriotism (with the exception of Swades maybe).. there have been many "good patriotic movies" before..i cite the example of Sarfarosh and Lakshya.. but these have all blamed Pakistam rather than facing our own shortcomings.. RDB stands out in this regard..

And regarding comments of patriotism breeding violence, well,... that comment make absolutely no sense whatsoever as far as RDB is concerned. .mayb it does in case of Sarfarosh, Lakshya, Border, Zameer, Deewar and a host of other such movies, but not in case of RDB. I absolutely agree that international humanity is the need of the day, but first we need to get things in order within our own country.

In a nutshell RDB tells u that its possible for the masses to come together to change the so-called "pathetic state of affairs", that instead of blaming the system, we shd realize that v r as much part of the system as the police, Govt, army, blah blah... And one such dhamaka is necessary to wake up the masses.. u need not go and kill a corrupt minister..just act within ur own capacity.. whatever u do, just dont shy away from ur responsibilty by taking the cover of "i'm an non-violent person"...