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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Mobile Tracker

I am back from an eventful trip of Agra and got few tales to tell. I was visiting to be part of my beloved brother-in-law Gaurav's wedding celebration. My wife, Rashmi, along with two kids had already gone 10 days back and parked herself amongst the celebrations and preparations.

At this time of the year, I was expecting Agra to be very cold but it was not, the temperatures were bearable and only got cold warranting additional layer of clothing after dark. However, the cold was potent enough to take pollution to another level and cause cough and cold. As the result, pretty much everyone in the family is still recovering from the seasonal cold.

So going back to the wedding preparation, shopping is one the major activity and Rashmi was involved in it with all heart and soul, not to mention she loves shopping anyways. During one of her shopping outings to the busy bustling market in narrow shopping bylanes of Kinari Bazar, she manage to 'misplace' her phone. Upon quick review and examination of the crime scene she was convinced that it was flicked by one of the fellow shoppers while she was busy picking up the right saree. At that moment I was shopping in the market at the other end of the city with Gaurav, I got her call from my in-law's phone that she has lost the phone. I tried to play it down and asked her not to worry, but knowing her nature she was certainly more disturbed by the fact that someone managed to fool her and took advantage than the actual loss of phone. When we reached home later that night, I was right and it was the only matter on her mind and how she wished that she can lay hands on that thief. She managed to calm down after a while but only to reignite the topic yet again.

In all this commotion, I did not notice the SMS which was blinking on my phone, "Keep this message - IMEI #...", right then I realized that all is not lost, the phone was Samsung and with mobile tracking facility (it works like this, you enter the numbers on which to send SMS in case the SIM Card is changed in the phone). The message is from the number which was currently assigned to the phone, viola!! we can now trace the person who has the phone, right? Wrong!! Not so easy, saga had just begun...

My resourceful elder bro-in-law Manish called the number and did perfect social engineering to make him believe that he has won a lottery from phone company and he gave out the address albeit not the detailed one but we now knew that the phone was in the Moti Katra area of Agra. Next wise thing that we did was to make an written police complain in the nearest police station along with the request to officially track the phone number and take action. The local policemen were of the nonchalant view that you get us the address and we will do the rest, we had to convince them that getting the address is their job. The mobile tracking facility was only available at the newly formed Vigilance Department and this required a separate visit to their unit. Ultimately, by using the influence of DIG we managed to connect to them but only to find out that the number being used is new series and the phone company has not updated their records yet, will take another day for that. Another day had passed and we knew that some Sunny from Moti Katra is using the phone blissfully unaware of the fact that he was being traced.

The next day I got another SMS "Keep this message - IMEI #..." only this time the number was different, this meant that either the new SIM was inserted by Sunny or the phone had changed hands. We rushed to update the Vigilance Department to update them for the new number which happened to be from the old series, they gave us the address which was of some Rajkumar Verma in Moti Katra. The impulsive rage was to go to the address and retrieve the phone and give them some 'kharcha-pani' which would have made Rashmi very happy but better sense prevailed and we agreed that it is best to go along with the poilcemen to the address. With these proceedings, another day had passed.. mind you the wedding ceremonies were in full blast while this was happening in the background.

Next day, Rashmi and Gaurav went to police station expecting to be escorted to the address but they were told that most of the policemen were out on duty and will take lot of time to call them back, suggested to come early in the morning tomorrow before they go on patrol. Mistake, never leave any police work to next day as you don't know whats gonna happen tomorrow.

After the night of Devi Jaagran, we woke up late and it was left to Manish and me to complete the 'simple' task of retrieving the phone. Taking along Gannu baby who does not leave sight of Manish for a second, we went to the police station and found deluge of people spilling over the place. Apparently there was some burning case of marriage gone bad from last night, we came to know that the bride had refused to get married and these represatatives had gone to the district collector for 'justice' and he had guided them to the local police station in-charge. Since he was the one who was suppose to help us find our phone, we had not choice but to wait as he was super-busy with the case in hand so we chose become the spectators.

As we eves-dropped on the case, we came to know that the inspector sahib was running a make-shift court room and hearing the appeals from both the parties involved. Argument after argument, we knew that it will take a while before the judgement is announced so Manish went home to dropp Gannu baby. After he was back, the court proceedings were at peak and after listening to the entire story from the 'Samaj' people, inspector Sahib declared that since the girl is adult nobody can force her to marry but she will have to get married the same night to someone else otherwise that may result in honor-killing. At this the bride's side offered him Rs. 15,000 so that he remains witness to this judgement, at this the grooms side got agitated and said that even they will ensure that the boy gets married same night as it was matter of their honor and as a token they too offered Rs. 15,000 to the inspector sahib... everybody applauded and the justice was atlast done! The old wise man from the crown concluded by saying "Aapka dimag to bahot hee zor se chala hai, kya insaaf kiya hai!!". The crowd dispersed and now it was our turn, the inspectore sahen said that since it is lunch time now, the police jeep will drop him at his home and return to take us to the address. And thus we waited further.. soon to realize that there is no point in waiting for the jeep, we should take our own car as it was already 3pm.

Soon along with two policemen, we were in the narrowest possible lanes of old Agra, kind where you would even doubt taking a two-wheeler. After few turns, we were able to trace the mohalla of Rajkumar Verma but he was not to be found at his him, police enquired with few people and got hold of his father and promptly ferried him inside the car, as the maruti 800 was full now, I told Manish to go ahead and I shall manager my own way. As this was happening in the market, we were surrounded by group of people, and the car moved along, for me the only possible means of transport there was an rickshaw (a manually pulled three-wheeler) and hopped onto one, before I could give any instructions, he started following the car, guess he witnessed the entire episode and knew his role.

Along the narrow lanes he managed to chase the car efficiently but soon lost out when the roads became broader. I reached the police station after some time, Manish updated me that the police wanted to eat something to celebrate the catch, and he gave them Rs. 200 with which they ordered special Daal Pokodas. Also, they called his son and asked them to bring the phone to police station and get his father back, quid-pro-quo (not is so many nice words, rather using classiest of the expletives). It was 4pm and we were starving and didn't know how long Sunny is going to take to come to police station so Manish called him again posing as police officer and confirmed that he gotta come fast. After that phone call, he switched off the phone. We waited for another hour and the much longed pakodas came, we were not were hopeful that policemen will share them with us but they proved us wrong and gave us one plate and tea along with that, who say our police doesn't have heart??!!

It was now 6pm and there was no trace of Sunny, his father told that he works late and can only come around 10pm... we thought it will be best if we went back home took bath (yes we started early and expected to be back in an hour) and ate something. So informed the policemen and came home, after 30 mins we get the call that the phone has been delivered. We went right back and did the paperwork and explained them again how the mobile tracking works, Sunny's father was right there and he can later explain to Sunny how he was traced.

We took the phone and got the hell out of there wondering what is going to happen with Sunny's father, I am sure he will have to pay hefty amount to get out of this mess.

When we got home thanking God that the phone was found, Rashmi asked without even checking the phone, was the boy punished, was he remorseful, did he apologise?? After the whole day at Police Stattion, we couldn't care less...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Little Manhattan (2005) and August Rush (2007)

It was just a coincidence that I happened to watch two movies this weekend, both were based in the backdrop of Manhattan, my most favorite place in the World!! I have spent one the best years of my life there and have very fond memories of the place and these two movies made me reminisce that phase of my life.

Little Manhattan is a beautiful little movie about pre-teens having to face the complexities of the human relationship. Now in this is the phase in our lives when we are basically introduced to the nuances of human relationships and at that age (or rather at any age) we are ill-prepared to handle it. The basic premise is about a ten year old boy discovering love and the other emotions that are part and parcel of that. But the movie goes beyond just a cute love story and also deals with the Kids relationship with the world that is basically controlled by 'the grown-ups' and how he grows as the result of the entire episode.

The characterization is impeccable and the whole mood of the movie is spot-on. The locations in Manhattan add to the character of the movie, in fact become one of the important characters in itself as the movie moved on. An absolute must see for everyone. (9/10)
p.s. this may remind some of you the television series "The Wonder Years" but don't compare as this one is not half as much corny as the series.


Music is everywhere all you need to do is listen carefully. This is what the movie "August Rush" is all about and makes the point that we all are connected through music and the universe communicates via music. This also reminds me of the Hindu Spirituality concept of "Aum" and the belief that the sound of it's vibration created the Universe and the whole Universe is nothing but materialization of sound waves. This movie, in the simplest term is a "lost and found" story where a couple loose each other and their son who is raised in an Orphanage. As expected the life of the kid is a constant struggle but he holds it through as he has gift of music and although he can not play an instrument or sing but he can listen to music everywhere and believes that it will connect him to his parents. He runs away from the Orphanage and comes to Manhattan to find his parents, the story then takes us through his learning of music, playing guitar on streets, then Julliard and eventually in the Central Park Spring concert. Does he find his parents? Watch it to find out, you will not regret it. This one is a nicely acted and directed piece, it may be a bit melodramatic and unrealistic for some but I would say give it up and go for it. (9/10)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Big Lebowsky and Twenty Bucks

The Big Lebowsky (1998) - Watch out, the Dude is on a mission.

I have been fan of the Coen bros and been partial to even their less than perfect work, you can call me a fan. Of all of Coen bros movies, I had missed watching this one, however I had heard a lot of about it, both positive and negative but never got chance to see it after it's theatrical release in US in 1998 when I was there. Now due to it's strong psychedelic content, it was never released in India or shown on TV. There is no nudity or violence yet as the drug abuse is depicted (not exactly glorified) it was never released for all the conservative mediums. Actually it is movie with the point of view of our hero, who is The Dude and doesn't miss a chance to be 'high'. He is a slacker, a bum and a goofy character with bunch of cool yet looser friends who dont give a hoot about the world, morality and heroism. The story is nothing to write home about (actually this movie, you can not write home about), it's the witty characters and lines that makes this movie special. I was in splits watching the John Goodman character, our own The Dude (yes, he calls himself that), Jeff Bridges is not bad either, he sleeps-walks the role and for this instance, it is actually a . There are other bunch of crazy characters and are superhigh. And yes, I loved the music, the absurd dream sequences and the carpet that held the room together. Not recommended for everyone, viewers discretion advised, for the rest, it is enjoyable ride about nothing. (8/10)

Twenty Bucks (1993) - The journey of a twenty dollar bill
I had the DVD of this movie for a long time but I never got around seeing it until I saw it's promo for the Sony Pix. I decided to dig this DVD down and watch it last weekend. The cast is endless, there are so many big names like Brendan Fraser, Elisabeth Shue, Steve Buscemi, Christopher Lloyd, Jeremy Piven, David Schwimmer, William H Macy and so many other. It is a story about the fresh twenty bucks from the ATM machine and it's journey in this world. There are atleast 10 stories interconnected with each other without the characters knowing about it and the connecting point is the Twenty bucks.

The script was very tight and some of the stories were less interesting than the others but overall a good effort. I liked the story of the two conmen with contrasting personalities, the best. It is nothing great but a good watch. (6/10).

Friday, July 3, 2009

Terminator-Salvation, Chaplin, Accepted

I want to write about three movies this time.. I was able to catch others on cable TV but not in totality so shouldn't comment on them.

Terminator-Salvation (2009) -
After T3, I was not sure where this franchise was leading to, it was more or less 'terminated' and thus I was did not know what to expect in T4. Although may not be a milestone like the first two in the series, this one definitely salvaged the dying series and I can look forward to some real resurrection to come.

The story is simple and is basically both prequel and sequel, where John Connor needs to save his teenage dad (who will return to past for T1) in order to save his very own existence. To some it may sound preposterous, illogical and full of holes but hey guys it is sheer fun and adrenaline pumping action! Two moments in the movie stand out to me, at the titles when the famous terminator score start playing and then in the climax when we see the T800, the digital Arnold coming to life that will eventually rock the world going back to the past.

I gotta say this, poor poor Christian Bale, in The Dark Knight, Heath Ledger stole the show and here it is the anti-hero Marcus who walks away with all the adulation and deservedly so. Sam Worthington who plays, half-machine half-human, with gray shades to his character makes the movie rise above average.

The special effects are nothing special but are good, the mood of the movie is dark and for Terminator fans only. (8/10)

I just can't help and ask why did Kate Connor wear so much make-up throughout the movie while everyone looked so messy? Why?

Chaplin (1992) -
There are some movie where you feel like need to stand-up and applaud, this is one of them. Richard Attenborough's biopic on Charlie Chaplin's life is honest and touching portrayal of the legend's life full of controversies and idiosyncrasies. Robert Downey Jr's performance proves that why is he one of the best actors of our generation, such is the earnest way he has played Chaplin. He has also adopted the physicality of Chaplin beautifully, not an easy task considering the slapstick comedy that Chaplin did.

The movie is technically very simple and easy to watch, there are many characters and the movie moves at a fast pace and you just don't realize when the 150 mins are over.

A true masterpiece and must watch. (9/10)

Accepted (2006)
I thought it would be another cheesy teen-age high school movie with juvenile jokes but I was wrong. The movie handles a very sensitive question, albeit in a casual manner, what is education?

The teenage protagonist Justine Long (Jeepers Creepers), has been rejected from all the colleges and does not know what to do next. Being over-smart and criminally inclined he decides to create a fake college and it all goes too far where hundreds of rejects show up for adminssion to his 'college' as all are accepted there. He decides to continue the farce and creates his own rules for education and learning until of course his lies are caught and is dragged to court for accreditation. The movie ends up on high note and tries to create a paradigm shift on what we call formal education.

An interesting watch, I would recommend it. (7/10)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wanted - Seeing is believing

If you like fast-paced action thrillers, you are bound to dig this one. However, the action is over the top and hard to believe so if you are looking for 'sensible' real action then pass on it.

The movie is about closely guarded group which has been around for 1000 years, call themselves "Fraternity". They are here to maintain the balance in the world and kill the people in order to do that. So basically they are mercinaries that act on the "web of fate" orders and are suppose to carry of the executions without fail or else there will consequences.

The movie is deftly supported by excellent visual effects, not off-the-shelf visual effects that we are used to seeing nowdays but this is cutting edge stuff and the sound design is also very well done. The movie moves at a fast pace and does not give you much time to analyse the logic behind the action. There was not much scope for the actors, McAvoy, Freeman and Jolie, to showcase their acting talents but all do a decent job.

There are shades of "Matrix" and "Fight Club" but nothing is lifted that could cause copyright issues. (8/10)

Monday, May 4, 2009

Taken - A fast paced action thriller

Frankly, I didn't know Liam Nesson had it in him... I always regarded him as a good actor but never thought he was capable of doing such an intense and old-fashioned action thriller! The plot is really simple, Liam Nesson who plays a semi-retired CIA, uses his professional training and skills track down his daughter who has been kidnapped into the world of slave trade. It is not the story or the plot that makes the movie work, it is his excellent acting and the convincing non-stop action. The movies does not give you any time to pick loopholes in the story (there are many), you just go with the flow.

The writer/producer Luc Besson (Leon, Fifth Element, The Messenger) and director Pierre Morel (District B-13) were very clear about the target audience and set out to make an out and out action movie where the good guy uses his brains remain one step ahead and brawns to kick the crap out of bad guys just in time so that we are always at the edge of our seats. They succeeded very well and remained loyal to the genre. A must watch for the action fans. (8/10)
p.s. Please don't ask me if CIA guys were so skillful then why bunch of them could still not trace Osama?!!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My first online article

Years back in the 90's I was subscribing to weekly newsletter from Capt. Vinod Nair's Absolute Solutions group and one of them got me thinking and I started to scribble around my thoughts on it and it took the shape of somewhat an article and I thought I would share it with Captain and he was kind enough to publish it in the next newsletter. Fyi, Capt. Nair has now transformed his company into Kimmaya Consulting Pvt. Ltd.

Here is the article:


Almost in every aspect of our lives we follow the standard set for us by the society. There is an unspoken agreement between us and these rules and standards and most of us subscribe to that. To make my point clear I will give an example, last month 10% of the people in New Jersey became overweight without gaining a single pound because the Public Health board declared that the idea weight for an adult of average height is 175 lbs. and not 180 lbs. There are millions of ideas and notions floating around at any time in this world, but a certain idea becomes a standard of society after it gets the agreement of the majority or the authority (religious, political etc.). This process is very subtle but it is happening all the time.

So, what I meant to say is that before we aim for any goal we got to break our mental barrier set for the limit of the achievement and not blindly subscribe to every standard set to us by the society (by no means I am implying to set the ideal weight for yourself to 250 lbs. and pig out!). Winning and loosing are merely frame of mind and are relative, what's important to live life powerfully is to understand - responsibility and generosity. Responsibility and Generosity for ourselves and people around us and not being stingy and keeping the channels of communication open. Instead of living our lives from past, we should generate our lives from the future. Designing new possibilities for the future and living them everyday, in fact this is what I believe "I am who I say I am and I am the possibility of my future". The "time-tested" model of living life is based on the fact that we learn from our past and identify ourselves as a product of our past. Our past defines who we are and we believe in that. Just imagine how powerful would that be to live our lives from the immense possibilities that our future hold for us. A future which is totally free from the stories and preconceived notion hardwired into our minds over the years: I can't do that, I am not that good, May be someone can do it but not me, I could have done that if I had more time or money, It's too late to do it… you take your pick from this or I am pretty sure we all have the required ingenuity to come up with a reason to NOT live your life fully.

We all have these reasons and we say that this is being content with what we have achieved so far. Nice argument but wait, is it really so? I think the fact is that we make up these reasons because we don't want to accept our own strength and greatness!

It is basic human nature is to adapt to the situations and create a "comfort zone", declaring your dreams will make you to step out of that "comfort zone". Here is an example, please excuse me because it is a little graphic. If you put a frog in a pot of boiling water then it will jump right out of it, but if you put the same frog in the normal water and boil the water in the pot gradually, the frog (poor soul!) dies. This is very similar to how we react in life, we adapt to any worsen situation and keep adapting until it stifles and kills us!

Now if we come out of our comfort zones and declare to the world about our dreams and aspirations then "they" will hold you accountable for the results. And we will have to deal with "their" inflated expectation, but aren't we more worried about our own expectations? Right then and there you fret about the failure, the dreaded word and it is we who give it the power which renders us powerless. And there you have it; this is the moment of truth where we can either be a stand for our power and greatness or simply surrender. It is us who can choose to retain our power and not give it away to the failure and stand for our possibilities of our future. Fear of failure emerges from the made-up stories of fear and anxiety from our past and the true possibility is free from any stories of past, we have to BECOME that possibility of living life from the promises of the future. We have no control over the past but we sure have all the power to generate new possibilities for us and live them every moment.


Links to my blog from 1999 and some exerpts

I was initiated into the world of Blogging by some of my classmates at Stevens Tech Hoboken, NJ and here is the link to it -->

Travelogue: This was one of my first trips with buddys after I returned from the US.

Description of our Trip to Lonavala on Sept 30th, '01 Weekend

Dear friends,

So, we are back from a short yet highly eventful Lonavala trip. Here is my travelogue for the trip:

Niru, Pauli and myself decided to board the Pune bus from Dadar TT and make our respective local trains station as the meeting spots. I met Niraj bhai at Mulund around 2 PM and later we all got together when Pauli arrived at Kanjurmarg around 2:15 PM. This was the first time I was traveling in Mumbai local train after a long long time, it was no different than traveling in NY subway with a broken AC.

After some enthusiastic discussion and catching up on our last few days we got down at Dadar. Earlier Manish has notified me that him and Sameer will be reaching Lonavala around 6PM so we were in no apparent hurry to reach there. This fact compounded by the unusually humid day encouraged us to indulge upon the "famous" Dadar Super King Samrat "Lassi". We had some Lassi and Niru wondered about the kind of money the small Lassi shop owner must be making after looking at the nonstop flow of customers. Pauli and I agreed that he must be making a bundle.

After coming out of the shop I looked around to have a good look at the Dadar buildings and haphazard co-existence of uncountable people and vehicles in the same space. It was amazing that it has been like this for years and made me wonder who manages this from getting chaotic. And then I heard Niru saying that he wants to pray at the Hanuman temple near by. I accompanied him and realized what makes everything flow so smoothly which apparently looks so chaotic. Over the years, in the western world we tend to get very chauvinistic regarding our control over life and life forms, the apparent enforced sense of security...

Pauli and I realized that we don't have any shorts which might be needed if we later decided to play in waters. After a little bargaining by Niru we got the tickets for the Lonavala AC bus which was a relief not having to sit in nonAC bus on a hot afternoon. Bus was leaving in 15 minutes so we quickly shopped for the shorts from the road side vender and got on the bus. As mention on the ticket, the Bus left exactly at 3:30PM, we were impressed by it's punctuality, something we don't take for granted here.

The traffic situation has hugely improved after several the flyovers mushrooming all around the city (later I took some more trips in car and confirmed this). This also might be due to that fact that I was used to get stuck in the traffic going back up to couple of miles so I feel its needless to get impatient to wait in traffic for few minutes.

Journey to Lonavala took about three hours, a little more than expected due to longer halts and slow driving of the bus. Niru made us notice that the bus stopped right in front of a wine shop, may be the driver knew our "intentions" well!! Niru called Sameer on his cell phone to tell him about our arrival and asked to meet us at the neighborhood restaurant "Rama Krishna" while we had some refreshments there. While we were busy having some food there, I noticed from corner of my eyes some figures pass by and coming back to us and yelling our names... they were none other but Sameer and Manish, they had almost missed us eating outside. Can't blame anyone, some of us were meeting after 8 yrs!!! After the usual discussion of changes in our physical appearances, we proceeded to talk about the recent terrorists attacks and it's affect on economy and job market.

To give our plans the final shape we had to decide where we would be staying for the night, Sameer suggested the Karla resort by MTDC. I had heard some nice things about it and since Sameer had brought his car along we had no problem in driving down about 7 miles and check out the place. The cottages at Karla were located at a comfortable quiet surrounding and we immediately decided to take the double bedroom cottage after one look. After getting settled and a quick shower we immediately ordered drinks from the bar on the resort and then our "mehfil" had officially started. Sameer, Pauli and Niru started with RC and myself with Manish had Kingfisher. I "tried" to take some pictures with my "Advanced Picture System" camera and it died out on me... Before I lost track, we were discussing about the business opportunities and how we can get together use our respective "skills" to that. Sameer gave some business ideas and we brainstormed to that until there was no brain left to storm- the deadly magic of alcohol. Oh yes, our discussions were continuously interrupted by a schoolgirl (her age was disputed among us) passing by our window from time to time, she belonged to the family staying next door.

Then we had to order some food since the restaurant was closing at 10PM, so we got some food and kept it inside to eat later. Switching our discussion to women and who had whom, how and where we proceeded to our JNEC days and whereabouts of some long lost friends. Then I got hungry and Manish supported me, also we were on our third bottle of beer. We both ate most of the food, leaving half plate of rice and some gravy for Sameer (who didn't want to eat), Pauli and Niru. Niru forced even some more rice of Manish's plate! Around 1AM, our dinner was over after Pauli and Niru ate the left over and then we decided to go for a walk. Niru, Manish and myself went ahead and soon Niru found the two dogs outside and made them his pets. Within minutes and few steps later they became best buddies!!! The walk was laborious since I and Niru were barefooted and pebbles on street were causing pain. The newfound pals of Niru were following him religiously, except for some occasional straying along the way, but Niru's commanding voice (it was 2AM) brought them back to him. Later, Pauli and Sameer joined us and we went for another round of the resort with Niru's pets following. I smelled some problem when these two men's best friends were joined by their 4-5 other roaring bigger friends. Fortunately the situation got quickly under control and we were home safely. Niru duly rewarded his pets with the left over bones from our food which they relished upon!!

We were then back to our rooms and watching TV, talking about the new actresses and then Niru thought about his new homemade shayari which he had recited to me few days back, it had some of his very intimate feelings... but call it the after effect of alcohol that he could not recollect it. After few minutes we lost interest and asked him to think about it next morning. But Niru was relentless, he sat in the hall with both hands on his head trying to figure out his shayari. It did come back to him but by then I was in bed and so was everyone else, we had to come out and Niru recited his shayari in his trademark style and I must say, it was well worth all the efforts. (I request him to share it with everyone in his next mail)

After a good night sleep, we got fresh and checked out from resort in time. The plan for the day was to visit the Bushy Dam and Lion's point. We had some breakfast at the same "Rama Krishna" restaurant and rented a camera for the day. After reaching Bushy Dam we were disappointed since the water falls had dried up on the mountains. But after being pushed by Pauli we decided to hike up, we found a small stream (can't call it a fall) and some locals enjoying the bath under it. After they left Pauli went in with all of his clothes on, he seemed to be enjoying it a lot, I decided to check it out and found that the small stream wasn't all that small after all, it was fun!!! Later Manish and Sameer too joined us and we kept insisting Niru to join but our proposal didn't interest him a bit, he stayed out and kept taking our pictures. We were in the fall for some time before it got crowded by some school kids. We dried up in Sun and went down to change near our car. After quick Wadapav session we headed for the Lion's Point. It was a steep drive along the ghat and we enjoyed the view, Sameer had tough time driving car.

The Lion's point had a nice view, but the weather was not that pleasant in the afternoon scorching sun. After looking around at a movie set at the point and having some beer the weather turned nice and we stayed for some more time. But we all were very tired and decided to head back since the weekend was almost over. We did our accounts and got the tickets for the bus back to Mumbai and departed from Lonavala with promise to our Puneyites to meet soon, may be when Hitesh is here. The trip back home was uneventful except for occasional gravity defying jumps on the last seat of the bus. It all made sense when we touched Chembur in couple of hours, this driver was fast. Niru and Pauli wanted to utilize the time saved in bus journey and have a quick session of drinks. We struggled around in Chembur to find a good bar but failed. Then we took auto to Kanjurmarg (Pauli's area) and Niru with Pauli had drinks while I ate. After some more career and life discussion, it was time to part. We said goodbye to Pauli and then Niru got off the auto at Mulund. I was back home with some chikkis and lot of new memories and old ones refreshed.

Check out this space for pics of the trip...


Thursday, April 23, 2009

The India Unlimited

Yes, it can be much worse than Mumbai!! We may crib about the inefficiency and corruption of government officials in Mumbai but in comparison to the grim situation in U.P. & Bihar and other northern states, we may be living in (fools?!) paradise. In fact we just can not extrapolate and generalize "India" based what we experience in Mumbai. Allow me elaborate further on this...

I am currently in Agra where the polling is to take place on 7th May and canvassing is at its peak. To get the flavor of latest happenings, I read the local newspapers and found it full of news of political candidates adventures, misadventures and deeds, also news of petty and not so petty crimes and rampant corruption. Somehow it felt that there was no law & order machinery in the state or if at all there was any, it was busy with something more important on its priority list. After inquiring further, I found that considerable effort was being made to provide the "unheard of" uninterrupted electricity to the Bhim Nagar 'ghetto' on occasion of three-day festival of Dr. Ambedkar Jayanti. Well, at least it was nice to see government making some effort, no matter how partisan their action was. It might not be amusing to other residents as the electricity-cut was extended few more hours in rest of Agra to facilitate this.

Subsequently I happen to have the pleasure of having dinner with a prominent budding politician of the region and I got to savor the delicacy of dal-baati-choorma along with some flash-news on political situation in the region from the horse’s mouth. The major concern was the deep rooted corruption in the system which was more of a rule than exception. Some incidences to support this were quoted to me, here they are.. Principal of a city college never goes to office and attends to his business and arranges for his daily attendance on paper. Citizens get fined indiscriminately for electricity theft to fulfil the electricity-theft fine quota, also some citizens are allowed electricity theft at a fixed price. Students give Rs. 2000 to get photostat copies of answers of exam papers. Those who don't pay-up are framed in copying and cheating case. Teachers who get government jobs after paying hefty bribes, outsource their job to unemployed youth for Rs. 1000 per month and never go to teach. For all political parties and citizens, it is more of finding ways to fit into this well-established system than to even think of eradicating the evils of the corruption. In fact, despite knowing its well known and obvious illegitimacy and immorality, it is now accepted and 'laundered' into mainstream society.

Not that there is no resentment, there is a constant sense of a lost battle, but like a lost soldier at mercy of the enemy who can only hope that the prevailing and overpowering enemy (corruption) might spare their lives so the efforts were on to befriend the enemy despite resentment. But yes, there is no doubt that here in the heartland of India, both public and politicians have surrendered their arms and sold their conscience, either happily or grumpily and become slaves to the monster called corruption. And nothing could be more demoralizing for the Indian democracy. Is it the start of the end of it? Unfortunately, all signs do point towards that. For now, I will be happy living in my fools paradise and pray that situation 'here' improves before it become worse like it is 'there'.

p.s. while I write this, I find that our celebrity politicians from Mumbai are in the region canvassing and asking for votes and they too are in the same rut of divide and rule and nobody gives a damn about corruption or development. Sanju baba feels he was tortured in jail because his mother was a muslim and not because he helped the bloody terrorists bring RDX to bomb Mumbai city!! Both Shatrughan Sinha and Shekhar Suman are busy proving who is the real bihari babu. Raj Babbar does not remember anymore where his loyalties lie. They should know better and should not take advantage of an already divided public but all politicians seems to be doing exactly that. Is there some messiah out there waiting to show the miracle and clean this rot? Sorry, I don't have an answers or any clear solutions to this.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"The Life of David Gale", "Eastern Promises" and "The Eye"

"The Life of David Gale" (2003) is a suspense drama about the man who is on death row for killing his colleague and the irony is that he has been activist against capital punishment all him life. The movie has huge socio-political overtones and that might be the reason this movie was panned by most of the right-wing critics (Roger Ebert gave it a zero!) despite having the names such as Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslate, Laura Linney and director Alan Parker (Midnight Express, The Wall, Mississippi Burning). For me these were good enough reasons to check this movie out. I found the movie engaging watch, however the suspence was not terrific and also the characters were inconsistent (may be director meant it that way). I found the movie a bit too long at 130 mins and regressive at times but definitely watchable for some great performances and intriguing plot. I would reccomend it, definitely deserves more than a zero star (7/10)

"Eastern Promises" (2007) is a detailed study into the lives of russian mafia in the underbelly of London. I have never seen London this dark in any of the movies so far and the director David Croneberg (A History of Violence) makes the characters so real and creepy that you would want to avoid 'this London' at all cost. The story is nothing much write about, it is the character development and acting that wins it for me. Viggo Mortenson plays a driver cum handyman of russian mafia boss Armin Mueller-Stahl (see him for the first time, he is real creepy), plays father of the french actor Vincent Cassal. They are into smuggling of all kinds including human traffiking and Viggo needs to hide and wipe clean a crime that can lead his boss to jail. Naomi Watts plays a nurse who wants to expose them and this endangers the lives of her family members. There are some scenes that are very graphic in nature and should be avoided by anyone with feeble heart. I simply found Viggo's acting, detailed characterization and nuances the highlight of the movie and it is a must watch if you appreciate dark crime drama. (8/10)

"The Eye" (2002) is a Mandarine movie from HK that has been remade in several languages including English and Hindi. Pang brothers are the directors and out there to scare the hell out of you but only partially succeed. The movie has some scary moments but they are few between and are predictable. What is appreciated in the movie that there is no gore, the elements of horror are created out of visual and sound designs, also, the acting was natural. Good watch for horro fans (7/10).

Monday, March 16, 2009

The original coolest dude - Clint

Man I wanna watch 'Gran Torino', I have read some great reviews and all the people I who watching have been raving about it. I have been a fan of Client Eastwood for a long time now, he is coolness personified!!! And what a terrific career he has had and still going strong at 78. It would be very difficult for me to pick my alltime favorite Clint movie but I can try some of my favorites (in no particuklar order):
1. Dirty Harry
2. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
3. Escape from Alcatrez
4. Unforgiven
5. In the line of fire
6. True Crime
7. Absolute Power
8. Mystic River (only dir)
9. Million dollar baby
10. The bridges of madison county

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Success - We all want it, but what is it?

We all crave for success, it is by far the most driving factor in our lives. So, what is success? Could it be described as the desirable outcome of the efforts? If this is so then the success is very well defined even before we start our efforts in that direction. When I think about it there seems to be more to it, would we still call it a success if we suffered all the way to it? Success is also in the process that we follow to achieve the outcome so that we are happy doing it, and simply meeting that outcome is not enough. Makes sense to me, so it is both the outcome and the process that we choose to follow to achieve it, are important aspect of the success then. What about the people who we come across during our process to achieve success and their happiness? I presume they are also equally important, as barring few tasks that we can achieve solo, most of what we want to achieve is dependent upon others. So, we also need to take care of the people aspect of our journey or process to reach success.

So, let's see, we have the our desires, our efforts, the journey and people that constitute our success. What if our goal shifts during the process? it can very well happen, as there are so many factor that can affect us and the predefined outcome does not excite us anymore after a while on the journey. We evolve as grow and our desires to go through changes, our priorities change. So, our predefined outcome may not be written in stone, it can evolve and change.

As it is turning out now and I spoke through all this, that success could be defined as a continuous journey where we aspire to fulfill our desires while being happy and keeping fellow travelers happy and progressively evolve the collective goals that we want to achieve.

Try to put this in context of your life at work, home, project or team work and see if this fits in.

Calling for some action - Judgement Night and Running Scared

I was craving for some fast paced action movie as it was really long I watched any but I was also not in a mood of "one-man-army destroys evil empire" kind of movie either so it was tough to find any good movies in this genre. After sifting through racks of movies I picked two as the premise looked promising- Judgment Night (1993) and Running Scared (2006).

Judgment Night (1993): I was apprehensive about picking up this one as I belonged to early nineties and action movies in this era had hang-over from the eighties action movies typical of Stallon, Schwargnegger (sp.?), Van-Damme kind of action. But I still picked this as the cast had names Cuba Gooding Jr., Denis Leary and Emilio Estevez and this one is story of bunch of fast friends with diverse personalities running and hiding from a gangster to save their lives. The story unfolds in one night and is very fast paced and has thrilling moments. Some part could have been more intelligently shot but overall it is a good gripping thriller. (7/10)

Running Scared (2006): I wasn't expecting much from this as I am not a big Paul Walker fan I liked what I read on the synopsis. This one again is story of one night full of action and drug deal gone wrong, dirty cops, domestic violence, violence against women and kids. Some of the scenes could be very disturbing, definitely not a movie to take your date or kids. It was fast paced and the action is non-stop, has the underbelly of New Jersey as backdrop. Paul Walker, Chazz Palminteri( The Usual Suspects, Diabolique and Vera Farmiga (The Departed) acted very well and lived upto the characters they were playing. The cinematography is grainy and dark and very effective for the mood of the movie. I don't know why this one is not more popular, may be because lack of big league actors, but it sure is a must watch. (8/10)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Suprbad is Super cool!!

I just stumbled upon this movie as I appreciate Seth Rogan's (Knocked up, Pineapple Express) work, I think he is cheekily good. He does not play main lead here, this is a teen movie of school kids trying to party hard before they move on to Senior High. All three are minors and can not officially buy alcohol and this movie is all about their misadventure and endeavors to get some and then 'get some'. I would even dare to call this 'pulp fiction' for teens, the dialogues are crisp and real (beware of how bunch of horny teenagers would talk!), awkward situations, unintentional violence, irreverence for almost everything and everyone around, this got it all!! Great acting and past paced unpredictable script.

Not for prudes, this movie may upset them, but it is very real and very very enjoyable. (8/10)

Slumdog Millionaire

To start with, "Slumdog Millionaire" is not an Indian movie, it is not about India either, it is about director's perception of the slums in Mumbai, India. Some part of it is bang on target and then most of it is just manufactured emotions manipulated with poverty and saga of love. Is it a brilliant movie? I believe NO, it is very nice effort, a lot of hard work, a lot of technical finesse, but that is about it. It is made in a half-baked 'Bollywood" style, which suits the 'west' as a full-bollywood style is not very palatable to them. So the director chose to narate the story in a style which is neither here nor there but digestible to the western audience. Combine it with some great technical contribution, good music, average acting and you got "Slumdog Millionaire".

A. R. Rahman got two oscars for his efforts, in my view this is not his best work though, he has done much better in past only this time he got to piggy-back on the strong lobbying studio and producers. For me "Slumdog Millionaire" was a vehicle that introduced A. R. Rahman to the west and Oscars Academy.. and I want to mention Gulzar and Poolkutti in the same breath as same is the case for them.

In short, this movie had a good first half and a very average second half, at times I felt the direction was childish and characters were just not Indian enough. (6/10)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Two Disaster Movies

Hi Friends, I happen to check out two 'disaster movies' - "Right At Your Door" and "28 Weeks Later".

"Right At Your Door" reminded me of another disaster movie "Cloverfield" which is based in New York and was excellent. This one is low budget indie movie, based in Los Angeles, it is mostly indoors and more of the drama than a thriller. It is all about the relationship, chaos, death and sacrifice. The characters did a marvelous job to create the sense of panic and chaos in a finite setting, the credit also goes to the director. It is enoyable movie, nothing great, not a blockbuster or massic movie. (7/10)

"28 Weeks Later" is sequel to Danny Boyles "28 Days Later", as the name suggest it depicts the UK 28 weeks after the virus ourbreak. This one has more action and gets down to business right away, however the erie feeling that one gets in the first part is missing. This one has more gore and zombie fights. Not as good as the first one but still a good watch. (6/10)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Over the long weekend

Although I was working over the long weekend, I still managed to catch few movies on DVD. I made sure that I caught up on the "super-hero" movies - The Dark Knight, Iron Man and Jumper, listed in the ranking order. I also watched Tropic Thunder and Wall.E.

Most of you must have seen them anyways so no detailed review, here are few lines:
The Dark Knight - Hands down show of the Joker, Heath Ledger. He has done a tremendous job and left behind a legacy that he will always be remembered for. I can bet my car that he will certainly get an Oscar for this. The other striking thing about this movie is that it is not in the realm of fantacy Batman world, director Chris Nolan created a believable, relate-able world and Joker makes it very very dark! Also worth mentioning is work of Aaron Eckhart, brings out the contrast in his character. (9/10)

Iron Man - A fun movie, non-stop intelligent action and charm of Robert Downey Jr. makes this movie above average. Also the special effects are mind-blowing. I can see few more sequels on this one and predict they will be equally successful as I myself am waiting for them. (8/10)

Jumper - This one is about the breed of human that can teletransport themselves, known as Jumper. The concept was good, but that is all that is good about it. The movie disappoints, worth a one dekko though. (6/10)

Wall.E - A very cute, though provoking animation movie, the animation and sound design is terrific. A futuristic tale about humans and robots. I found myself appreciating the technical aspect of this movie than the content itself. (8/10)

Tropic Thunder - I might have missed few jokes in this movie as I am not in touch with the latest in Mtv pop culture so did not find it very funny as claimed by the critics in west. It was ok movie with some good comic performances by Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black and Tom Cruise. The best part about the movie was the MTv promo in the DVD, I found it funnier than the movie itself. (7/10)