Saturday, July 30, 2016

Rain and strike..on a beautiful day

 

I had a wonderful day today. A bandh had shutdown the state of Karnataka today. All shops ,companies and public transport was shutdown. But the roads were free. And it was slighty drizzling all through the day.It was the perfect day for a drive in Bangalore city itself. Clean, traffic free roads all through the city. I travelled all the way to Whitefield, and went up to Electronic city, just because the roads were open. It was a beutiful experience cruising lazily across the city.

This may sound strange. I wish everyday was a bandh at Bangalore. And everyday was as beutiful as today.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Bangalore flooding

 

I was going to write about the incessant rains in Bangalore on the weekend, but looks like the rains beat me to it. After 15 hours of continous rain, Bangalore is now officially flooding.

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The city is back to being the city of lakes, as two of the biggest lakes have started overflowing. But those living near the areas are trying to cash fish that the floodwaters have brought out. They even got the boats out for rescue.

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Another city under flood attack is Gurugaon. And the media is still calling the city that name, and not by its ‘new’ name Gurugram.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Kabali


20 minutes into watching this movie, I could feel the director's dilemma. How can one tell a credible story of a reformed criminal gangster, who now has a heart of gold, full of regrets, while still meeting fan's expectations of Rajnikanth, India's only true superstar. Well, he has mostly succeeded, but the director's ending , I felt, just ruined all the fun.

I have never done this, but it was my first Rajni movie, first day, first show. Don't ask me how I was lured, but maybe I just wanted to see what the hype and hoopla was all about. So I got to watch this movie from the 3rd row of an AC multiplex in Bangalore, at 9am on the first day itself. It was crazy. Fans were screaming, whistling, cat calls and claps. Grownups were behaving like kids. When we first see him, Kabali is a 60 years old, just released from prison, and he is soon surrounded by his loyal supporters, who now run a charity organization. But first, he visits the current leader of his rival gang and beats them all to pulp, for revenge.

This is the dilemma I was talking about. This contrast was too much for me to handle. During the first half, he is trying to find out what happened to his beloved wife, and just after intermission we find out that he has a daughter, and his wife is also well and alive. Ok, so everyone is alive. What is the need to continue this story then, when there is no need for revenge, the old man just got his family back. He should now just retire and spend the rest of his days with them.

Instead, circumstances cause him to return to his gangster way of life. More kills, more thrills. Sure , this is fun. But just when he has become the undisputed Don of all of Malaysia, the director decides to tell his story, and has somebody else walk in and kill him.

I could feel the shock of the audience when the credits rolled. No more claps, no whistles. I guess it was too much for them to bear. They all just walked out quietly from the theatre.

PS: That one hour flashback was like a one hour documentary. That should have been fully cut.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

FullTextRssFeed is back . Again.

 

Today morning when I opened my RSS feed reader, I was intrigued by the higher number of articles to read. Then I noticed the new entries were coming from the dead feeds from FullTextRssFeed.com. Its  a free service which converts short summary RSS feeds to fulltext feeds, so you can read entire articles without visiting the feed site. This is specially useful to me, as I frequently try to read these from my company network, where my employer has blocked many good sites under other asuumptions.

Fulltextrssfeed feeds were not working for a very long time now, but its good to know they are back, and I can go back to my reading.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

HMT is now popular after its demise

 

Found this documentary about HMT, apparently it has become more popular after the company shut down.

 

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Lost on Youtube

 

I spent the day wandering through youtube, and got lost. Again.  Today there are innocent refugees seeking asylum in other countries, and the video game culture is now as big as an atheletic sport. All in the same world.

 

But first, cute wolf pups.

 

 

 

 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Your password is not strong enough

 

For me, this is the scariest youtube video I have watched in a very long time. Watch how a university professor uses a mulit-core computer running on GPUs to break through passwords stored in encrypted (MD5) form.

 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Miss the music of the 90s

 

I was born in the eighties, and grew up during the 90s in India. Those were the best days of my life. Undoubtedly. And I have always missed those wonderful days, now more than ever. Its surprising that growing up, I felt that a good plush job in a stable industry and living in the city was the way to live and aim for. Having lived both these lives, I can confidently say that no amount of money can buy happiness, and that innocence of childhood. And the simple joy of the 90s.

We were a middle class family growing up in a small town, far away from city influences. We were not poor, but every expense was closely scrutinized and justified. Frugality was the code word at home, the only code to live by, after integrity. Terms like pocket money and 'casual shopping' never existed in our dictionaries. We did not have cable TV at home, opting to settle for the free-to-air doordarshan national television channels. We only saw 'fast-food' in some television programs , or the occasional hollywood movies we watched (after screening by adults) on our trusty old VHS player and CRT television. I had a cycle, a Hero Ranger, probably the only luxury I could call me own. And riding it, I felt like I owned the streets. Its amazing to now realize that such a simple life is all one needs to be happy.

Today, however, there is an attempt to 'buy' happiness. New clothes every week, new phones every few months. A new car every few years. Eating out, endless movies at the multiplex and hours at a stretch at malls. Not to mention, all those booze and smoke people take in.

People find my simplistic lifestyle akeen to that of a hermit. But the truth is, I am trying to live today the way I lived 20 years ago. A simple, controlled life with only the bare essentials, and nothing more. Time and time again I catch myself watching and listening to good old indipop music of the 90s. Even the best pop-star of today cannot come close to the quality of those 90s era music. After much nagging, dad finally bought us a portable audio cassette player. Otherwise knows as a walkman. It was to be used only during school trips, otherwise never to be carried outside home. And it was on this little machine that I listened to Euphoria, Colonial cousins, Silk route, and Lucky Ali. English music meant Michael Jackson, Backstreet Boys, Boyzone, and Miss Spears. Truth is, I have never bought a piece of music legally in my life. Nobody did. The sharing economy was pretty strong in those days. We would swap books and music cassettes regularly at school, something no body does these days. We would buy one of those blank audio cassettes (TDK) and take it to the local video library or repairman with the list of song we wanted, and he would get all of them recorded on that for a very small fee. The quality of the recording would be awful, but it was music to our ears. None of that 5.1 channel, mp3 AAC variable bitrate nonsense. Just good old analogue tape. Music countdown shows were a rage back then, they usually played during the evenings or just after the news, in 30 minute slots. I could never understand what was the basis of that top 10 selection, was it music sold ? or popularity ? What was the way to measure popularity ? Did they do any surveys ? But one thing was sure, the top 10 music was the only ones we knew of. So they automatically became our favourites too.

Here is some music I still listen to from those days.


 

 

 

 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Ayalum Njaanum Thammil

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2012 was a landmark year for Malayalam movies. Maybe it was the fear that the world was coming to an end that drove it, but some of the best ciritically and commercially acclaimed movies of Malyalam came out that year.  Anjali Menon’s Ustad Hotel, and Manjadikkuru, and Lal Jose’s Diamond Necklace and Ranjith’s Spirit all came out in a row. It was a privilege to know and speak the language, so one could really enjoy these movies. Of course, duds like Casanova and Shikari also were released, but maybe it was the law of averages catching up. Director Lal Jose had a hat-trick that year, and released three movies, and the most critically acclaimed of the releases that year was his Ayalum Njaanum Thammil.

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I enjoyed it immensely when it came out. And today, after a few years, I got to rewatch it. And I am blown away by the creative and technical excellence of this movie and its cast and crew. This is one of those rare gems you come by chance, and the challenge to bring to screen the story would have scared away many film makers. But in the hands of Lal Jose and his team, you can enjoy a hollywood-like movie taking place in Kerala. Undoubtedly Prithiviraj’s career best performance, and Lal Jose’s best work. The fact that the screenplay was by real doctors gives credibility and depth to the medical profession.

The movie was an intermittent flashback narrative. In the present day storyline, Dr Ravi Tharakan (Prithiviraj) is a renowned cardiac surgeon in a private hospital, but on a rainy night, an operation he undertakes to save a girl child, without her parent’s permission, goes horribly wrong. Inorder to save himself , he runs. The viewer/audience is lead to believe that he may not be a good or capable doctor, and the rest of the movie aims to redeem his true worth, through flashbacks to his younger days. The story goes back and forth through the flashback narrative, as new charachters are introduced in both timelines, sometimes the same charachter. And we learn that Ravi was once a careless, carefree, and irresponsible student of medicine. And at a certain stage in his life, he met his mentor, senior doctor Samuel, who’s relentless commitment to his patients and faith in Ravi transforms Ravi forever.

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Part of the flashback story is set in the picturesque hills of Munnar, where Dr Samuel is the only doctor at the only hospital for miles around. Here Dr Ravi will have to serve two years as an intern inorder to graduate for his certificate. Ravi hates the place, the patients, the distance from his native and girlfriend, and specially the strict senior doctor who constantly reminds him that in the medical profession, no amount of negligance can be permitted. A series of misfortunate events cause him to separate from his girlfriend, and when a chance of revenge presents itself, with the risk of hurting the life of a young girl, he takes it. Samuel reprimands him, and he stands to lose his license. But Samuel, who is know for his honesty, lies for Ravi in front of medical commitee, to salvage Ravi’s career, giving him a second chance to redeem himself. His first lie, Samuel says, is because of his faith in Ravi. This incident changes Ravi’s outlook and life forever, and he commits himself to his profession and to serve and save humanity.

The movie is about mentorship. Although it is set in the medical profession, the ideas and situations presented can be found in any profession. You can learn all you want from books and labs, but your learning only really starts when you are mentored by someone senior. I can relate to this, my own career is testimony that without the right mentors, I would have ended up in totally different part of this industry.  A mentor can break or make someone’s career. Dr Samuel is so committed to his patients, that his own personal and financial life is in a turmoil, he barely has the finances to bail out his own estranged son from the police. But he finds solace in the fact that every day he saves lives.

The movie also highlights some of the problems faced by the medical community, specially the challenges of running a private hospital for profit. And the role of media in propogating half truths. The private hospital buys expired medicine and equipments after being bribed, and the charity hospital in the hills has only a single doctor to supervise every patient.  Local politicians switch sides when issues arise. But there are two scenes which highlight the main charachters. They stood out for me.

The first is when a religious mother brings her injured son, who had an accident, to the hospital for medical care. She insists that she does not require the doctors to operate on her son. She beliefs in the power of her god, and only requires the nursing care of the hospital until god can treat her son. Dr Samuel believes they must do whatever they can to save the life of the young man. He secretly, without an explicit permission, operates on the young man, thus speedening his recovery. Nobody else in the hospital knows about this. And when the young man wakes up next day from his coma, his mother says praise the lord. 

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The other scene is Ravi’s apology to the young patient, whose life he had gambled to get his revenge. This is the scene:

 

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Gets me everytime.

But this is not even the most emotional scene in the movie. That hat goes to the late Kalabhavan Mani, portraying the father of the little girl, pleading with Dr Ravi to save her life. Mani, who started his career in movies as a slapstick comedian, shows raw talen in that scene. You can really feel his pain when he bows to Ravi and begs him for his sympathy. I doubt anybody else could have played a convincing ruthless (and possibly corrupt) police officer in one scene, and a loving, doting father to his only daughter in another within the same movie.

I doubt if this movie would ever be remade into another language. It takes guts, and commitment , to make such a movie. Like Dr Ravi, very few people out there have that kind of commitment.