Thursday, January 10, 2013

Leaving behind...tamil cinema and the consumers

I love the movies. For movies are the medium that can transport one in to a different world altogether. And I love going to the theatres. The large screen viewing and most importantly the sound effects gives me more high than anything else in this world. OK, next to Filter Kaapi and South Indian food :)

I am in Chennai and I want to catch a movie that's released this weekend. Let's see what the options are for me
  • Try to get a ticket in Sathyam - for me, this is the theatre that provides the best movie experience in Chennai. But very hard to get tickets on the opening weekend since I am not the only one who thinks so :). Including the online booking charge, seat selection charges and parking charge (two wheeler) the average ticket price is about 150 for two (2*120 per ticket + 40 booking charge + 10 seat selection + 10 parking). But getting a ticket is next to impossible since there is a huge demand to watch movies at Sathyam from celebrities to politicians to the general public. And Sathyam is the first theatre to open up bookings
  • Devi - This theatre is very closest to my heart. I mean, this is the theatre where I watched Speed. A theatre which showed what Dolby and DTS is. On the largest screen projection (till date). I mean, you get in to Devi Paradise and sit in the middle. The way the whole theatre is designed and with the huge screen takes you in to that different world that I spoke about. But then this is a theatre which has the following
    • Power Cut - Yes, if power cut for that area is during any show, then there will be a disruption in the movie. You will have one "Yellow Bulb" glowing in the middle of a movie
    • 90's Projection - I am bound to compare projection quality to Sathyam. At least have a projection quality as close to Inox and PVR. If you can increase your ticket prices, can't you invest in a digital projector?
    • Hopeless Parking - one of the worst parking facilities in the city and the worst exit a theatre can have. I mean, this is the largest theatre in the city - both Devi and Devi Paradise can accomodate 2100 people for a single show. And you have an exit in to a single lane at the back side of the theatre. In case of any emergency, it is actually better to stay inside the theatre than getting out. And how much do they charge for a bike parking? A whooping Rs. 20
    • And then there are very normal seats, rest room having a single door entrance, over priced food (for the quality), etc...
  • Despite all those, I still some times visit Devi because she is like your first love. Cant really get rid off :)
  • PVR and Inox - they are the ones that are next to Sathyam in terms of the movie experience. The projection quality and sound systems are good but not as great as Sathyam. But since both are in malls, you are bound by the parking rules of the mall and not a theatre. The parking time-slot is not in-line with movie length (for Indian movies).The parking problem is also with Escape in Express Avenue and that has been a reason for me not visiting Escape. Inox is also famous for the website where it is ridiculously useless. It is not just slow (even Sathyam gets slower during any new release)  but is just stupid when you keep getting server errors. PVR is definitely better than Inox in these aspects
  • I don't even want to talk about theatres / malls like Mayajaal, Abirami and AGS. The thought of these theatres bring in a lot of negative energy in me that its very hard to control the filth coming out of my mouth
  • And then, you have these small theatres all around the city which are not able to attract crowd because of these large multiplexes. But do they have any of the qualities to give a good cinema experience? But their prices? Nothing is less than 95 + taxes. Just go to ticketnew.com and try to reserve in any of the theatres such as Kamala, SSR Pankajam, Sangam, Kasi, etc..And even Abirami Mega Mall. The only exception is AVM Rajeswari which still has ticket prices at around Rs.45. The question here is if AVM Rajeswari an NGO or running a business?
And it doesn't end there.
  • Mayajaal can price its tickets in its own way - 200, 300 during the first two days of a movie. Rest of the days it depends
  • The online booking of Inox is crap. But let's say you want to try booking in person. You got to use the mall parking which you will end up paying anyhow even if you don't get tickets in person
For some detailed analysis of what's the ground reality of the theatres and malls, please read this, this, this, this and this.

I, as a consumer, would like to see the Viswaroopam DTH issue only from that background. For a family of four, if I need to catch a good movie in a theatre, the expense would easily touch around Rs. 1000. And with that you don't even get a good movie experience. So why will I come to theatres? All these theatres which are doing business with the Rs. 120 ticket pricing are doing because of the floating young population in the city. For a couple working in an IT company, may be it doesn't matter or probably they don't realize about it.  But it is not a matter of affordability but about the value for money. And the main factor that we forget here is  that it's for entertainment. You have to get entertained not stressed out.

Note: If you look at Bangalore, the ticket prices are even higher. Tickets are at least Rs.150 on a week day and on week ends its about Rs. 200. That way it is better in TamilNadu at least. But that can't be a justification for not providing value for money. TamilNadu has more number of theatres - it ranks second in India, next to Andhra. So the volume is huge and there is a potential to make good amount of money if you do the business right

As I said earlier, I have a huge liking for the movies and the experience a theatre provides. It is completely indistinguishable from watching a movie online, TV, laptop or for that matter a Home Theatre. But that's only for movies which have that technological marvel. I mean, movies like Life of Pi, Avatar, Lord of the Rings, Iron Man, Die Hard, Enthiran, Sivaji, Yudham Sei are amazing to be seen in the big screen. Why Yudham Sei in that list? Because of the background score. The impact that it can create in a theatre with good sound system. But then what about movies like Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanum, Pizza, Attakathi, Boss Engira Baskaran, OK OK? They are casual movies right? I am OK to see them on TV or online. I am willing to pay and watch them. An year or so back, I still had the interest to catch every movie in theatre and in the first weekend itself. But not anymore. I am inclined to see any movie in Sathyam only and to get a ticket there is pretty difficult. But I am willing to wait. I am willing to wait for even couple of weeks and enjoy the movie wholly instead of catching up in a useless theatre.

Here are few points that I want to raise
  • When a big star's movie is released, all the theatres are going ahead and buying them. They are not willing to take other movies even if they may be good. How do the theatre owners justify that? For example, when Billa-2 was released, "Naan-E" did not find any screens. But later when people realized Billa-2's box office, the theatres started giving more screens to "Naan-E". This includes Sathyam Cinemas as well. As a consumer I am OK with this. But you got to remember that there is a producer / distributor behind "Naan-E" as well. Who is going to cover their losses?
  • If the answer to the above question is "Big star's movies have big opening and we can do business", then you gotta let Kamal do his business. If he is not asking for any Minimum Guarantee and as a producer if he is willing to take the risk of releasing the movie ahead in DTH, what is your problem? If people do not come to theatres because the movie is a flop, then give more screens for Alex Pandian and "Kanna Laddu" and run them. But you cannot stop Kamal from releasing it in DTH
  • I read couple of other point of view about this issue here and here. The sad thing about that is there is nowhere consumer is in picture. Like producers want to be happy, distributors want to be happy, theatre wants to be happy. But what about us? Who cares man? This is what you get here. If you want, you watch it. Otherwise shut up
  • Abirami Ramanthan seems to be interested in solving all theatre owners problems. I am just wishing that he can spend few minutes every day to think about removing the "Mall" from Abirami Mega Mall, for it is not one
  • Somehow, every time I think of Tamil movie's state, the movie Aaranya Kaandam figures in it. For it is one of the awesome movies ever made in Tamil. But what happened to the producer and director? Because of the then government which had a media house, the producer (SPB Charan) bleeded losses. The media house wanted to distribute the movie and the producer restrained. Because of that the movie never got released for close to 6 months (that's the story I hear). The movie released only in few screens and was taken out of theatres within couple of weeks. The producer never had any money to market the film and eventually ended up selling an audio lab (Kodandapani Audio Labs) that's next to my house. There is a multi-storey apartment coming up there. How do the theatre owners justify this?
If you have this new medium, movies like Aaranya Kaandam, Ammavin Kaipesi, Neerparavai, etc...may even directly release in DTH if the theatres are busy releasing big star movies. Now with that Tamil movies would be better. If these movies get more audience, naturally every other director would be forced to provide good movies and not crap. I am somehow not able to digest the fact that Siruthai was made a hit and these good movies don't even run for few days. And now looks like Alex Pandiyan would follow suit (I have nothing against Alex but just that the trailer suggest the movie to be in lines of Siruthai and Saguni. If it's a good movie I have no qualms about it).

The theatre owners are just scared that there is a new competitor for them in the way of DTH operators. But they are wrong. Either they are unaware or they refuse to accept the fact that Netflix in India is not long way. But then will I watch Avatar or Hobbit or Iron man 3 in Netflix or at Sathyam? I would any day come and watch it in Sathyam. And Viswaroopam too.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

The mask and the man behind it

The Super Hero Within. Super hero movies are misconceived by people with concepts having really super powers to save the world. Like some one who can fly or some one who can defy gravity and go all out against the evil. Well that's what hollywood has taught us. But then you have movies like Batman Trilogy (by Christopher Nolan) where the true identity of super heroes are shown. People do not need super heroes who can fly and fulfill their fantasies. When things are real bad, they need inspiration. They need hope that things will be better. They need some one who can re-kindle their motivation to go against evil. Some times all they need is some one to show them a path, a person, an ideology that goodwill always triumphs. The mask is only to hide the fact that there is a real, ordinary person behind it. An ordinary person who has got that will. The man behind the mask does not matter. But the man behind a super hero movie matters a lot. When all the previous versions showed Batman comically, Nolan really managed to build the true super hero that every one relates to. That, not just in movies, even in our world when things go wrong, a super hero can emerge. Like an Anna Hazare. An Abdul Kalam. And turn things around.

Well, I am no big time movie buff. And what said above was my version of a super hero. Mysskin who has claimed to be watching world movies and has given some of the best tamil movies ever certainly cannot go wrong with that. And in all the pre-release interviews, Mysskin has repeatedly conveyed that "Mugamoodi" is not a regular super hero movie. Well, at the end of the movie, one feels at least he could have taken a normal super hero movie. But the budget requirements would require Rajini to be part of it and that would be mean a different script that will suit Rajini. I have watched "Anjadhae" and "Yudham Sei" umpteen times. What really stands apart in these movies is the characterization. Mysskin's movies have lot of characters and each will make a distinct impact on you by the time you leave the movie hall. The visualization and background scores will create that impact. The amputated friend in "Anjadhae", the father who gets shot and his son who just runs sideways towards the climax in Anjadhae, the two obese on a bullet in "Nandalala" and "Yudham Sei" is full of such characters. "Mugamoodi" doesn't have any of them. May be a couple which don't make much of an impact.

  • With Mysskin, you expect even the title card to be different. You do not want to waste time spent on the title card and want to get straight in to the movie. Why spend the first couple of minutes in the title card display and that too designed in older hollywood sci-fi movie style?
  • And why design scenes like flipping through the pages of a comic book? Something that we have seen in batman movies? Nothing wrong in showing a comic book style scene. But why like an English comic book?
  • When a character in the song itself plays a gimmic on the director saying "Manja saree la oru dance", why be a stereotype and have a bar song? That too the steps and sequences almost similar to "Kannadasan Karaikudi" in "Anjadhae". "Kannadasan" was definitely a differently choreographed song but why again?
  • The movie looks heavily inspired from "Batman" series with Girish Karnad playing the role of Fox and the other old man playing the role of Alfred. And scenes where the Mugamoodi stands on top of buildings and the suit sums it up. You almost feel that you are watching an imitation. But then Mysskin doesn't make those characters strong. Just because he has said this is not like your other super hero movies
  • With his other movies, each character had a role to play and their characters are "created". May be except the heroine. When I mean created, they are born out the brains of the man behind it - Mysskin. But here every character looks weak - be it the old guys, the police, the Villian or the Super Hero himself
  • The interrogation scene where Nasser gets hold of a bad guy and how he makes that person open his mouth was brilliant. But the same Nasser is made to appeal to "Mugamoodi" saying "we need your help". You could have got the guy who played as inspector in "Sivaji" movie and get away. Why build a character only to waste it?
  • Of course, the name "Mugamoodi" was coined by the hero out of an accident. He didn't intend to become  a super hero but when gets caught in a scene where he is scene as a funny super man he just picks a name called "Mugamoodi". But he really becomes one and when Selva (as the Kung Fu master) calls out "Mugamoodi. Nillu", it looks funny. Same goes with how Nasser saying "Mugamoodi. Unga help engalukku vaenum". You gotta watch it and you will feel miserable
  • Mugamoodi asking the master "22 varusham munnadi neenga yaaru", master saying "22 varusham munnadi" and the scene transforms to a flashback. "Angusamy" (the villain) repeatedly saying "Unga master epapdi setharu theriyuma" and narrating the past. I mean, this is not the way we expect a flashback from you Mysskin. We are used to this kind of flashback in Tamil cinema for so many years
  • And the super hero. With a tag line of "The Super Hero Within"? You don't even feel that there was a hero in the movie. Great. That's how Mysskin's movies are. But you will feel the character. Which doesn't happen here. If you wanted to inspire people, you gotta have a scene like how Judas narrates to JK in Yudham Sei and asks "Unga thambi tangachingalukku nadandha summa irupeengala"?. Where are dialogues like "Aal balathalum, pana balathalum thoratharan. Evvalavu dhaan da odradhu. Ippo naan thoratharaen. Nee odu"? "Konjundu moolai vechuttu nee ivvalavu pannum bodhu. Yaen da dei. Neraya moolai vechu naanga evvalavu pannuvom"
  • The villain? Again looks like inspired from "Joker" in Batman but deliberately made not to look like one. You are only hoping that it would end soon when he tries to show the psycho side of his in the climax
  • K seems to be repeating the same type of background score as Yudham Sei. Period.
Of course, there are couple of Mysskin "touch" in the movie as well. Like Jiva's friend Viji who keeps saying "Paathu da". And says the same when  he dies as well. A very short romantic interlude in the middle of a chase. Well that's about it. A couple. In the end, it looks like some one asked Mysskin, if he can ever make a masala movie and this looks like his attempt. Yes, it is not a regular super movie. It is a masala movie attempted from a director who cannot make one.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Third World War

Remote village pond down south TamilNadu

The Third World War will not be fought for countries gaining supremacy over each other. It will not be fought with guns and weapons of mass destruction and bio chemicals. It will be fought with drought and food scarcity. And the war will not start because of top military admirals and leaders' decisions and will not be fought with drones and tanks. It will be fought on the streets and by normal people.

Above is a picture of a remote village pond down south TamilNadu near by native village. This picture is after two months of south west monsoon (if it had set on time). The monsoon is delayed and water that is distributed for irrigation has not begun. Mettur Dam is the primary water storage for irrigation down south and normally the water is released from Mettur by first week of June. It would take a month and by around middle of July water would have reached these villages. The dam hasn't been opened yet and not even a single drop has reached these villages. The entire cauvery river is dry across all the districts.

There is acute power shortages in the state - we cant run the motors to pump water from the ground. And even if we manage to pump the water, the water is salty after years of prawn and other farming. Plus the Tsunami that mixed a lot of sea water with the ground water. There are no rains in TamilNadu till October anyways and this time there are no rains in Kerala and Karnataka for us to receive water in the Cauvery. We will have cars and houses and loans. We will just not have enough food to feed our people. And this is a situation of a place where our ancestors cultivated thrice in an year.

And why will we even change ourselves? There are campaigns shouting to leave the planet earth for the next generation. I wonder if we will even have enough for ourselves.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mayakkam Enna...

  • Your best friends for life need not always be in good terms with you. They can be completely pissed off with you when you introduce your girl friend to them. They soon can accept that girl in to the gang. Your best friend can be your worst enemy when you realize that he and your girl friend are in love. You can then come back to terms with them over a booze calling that girl as "galeej" and the girl would split them  up. You will even curse them on their marriage "en girl friend-ayae correct panni kalyanam panran" and yet superficially wish them good luck in their marriage. And few years later when there is a huge mess up in your life, the same best friend will be the first one to show up
    • Selva has probably shown a very realistic picture of friendship. This is not the "nanbaen da", "surya nna yaaru theriyuma, natpu nna enna theriyuma" kind of friendship. But something that we are used to in our lives
  • When Dhanush walks out on the streets after getting rejected from the advertisement agency and seems the old lady sitting in the platform the entire scene is shown with a glow around the lady. There is sunlight from the left side of the frame, that diamond ring glitters and there is an element of beauty in those wrinkles of old age
    • The scene is completely from the eyes of Dhanush where his immense interest is in photography is not within the four walls of advertising photography but rather out there in the world. And he can see beauty in normal lives where even the husband of that lady says he hasn't scene his wife so beautiful in all these years. And for that compliment, its a simple "OK" reaction from Dhanush
  • When Dhanush meets his "God" Mathesh Krishnamoorthy with the photographs taken from the forest, he has a "Vibhoodhi" on his forehead. And that's the only scene where he has it in the entire picture
    • That's probably the most important moment that he has been waiting for. He has been shown as a simple, sensitive and probably little emotionally weak person who is desperately looking for a break. Something that a very normal person will do even if he is completely not used having a "Vibhoodhi"
  • The scene where Richa breaks down to Shankar in the car after the wedding mess up, she sums it up saying that her husband is a genius. To that complaining neighbor she says "en purushan kirukkana irukkalam aana nallavan". Dhanush's number is stored as "Genius' in her mobile phone. "Pirai Thedum" song has the following lines sung by the female voice "Vizhiyin andha thaedalum, alayum undhan nenjamum purindhaalae podhumae yeazhun jenmam thaanguvaen"
    • Shows how much she believes on him and just that she doesn't understand him completely. The reason why she never gives up on him. And a woman like that, a woman who is that strong, can definitely make a huge difference on any man's life - however messed up he can be
  • The climax where Dhanush comes back and says that he needs to speak few more words. He starts saying about Richa. After the first word that he utters he clears his throat and continues. The most emotional moment for him where he was not able to continue without clearing his throat. 
    • For a moment I thought Dhanush was kind of an asshole when he thanked only his friends and didn't even mention about his wife. Probably it's one of the brilliant climax by Selva where when the friends were all on tears and proud about the achievement and few even say "He is so smart", "Such a lovely couple", "So sweet right", both the lead characters display amazing maturity in the relationship. When the friends start hugging Richa, she would just peep over them to look a the TV and Dhanush would be looking straight in to her eyes. I think that just sums it all
  • "Kaadhal en Kaadhal" song was probably wrongly placed in the film. I don't think at that moment, Dhanush was so pissed off with they way the relationship is. The song goes by Dhanush completely pissed of with the girl and the relationship and wants to get out of it and the friend consoling him saying that it is not worth worrying off and just move on. Dhanush and Richa aren't completely into it and its just starting to build up and more importantly the friend doesn't know that Dhanush is into something. If this song was placed right after the scene where Sundar's father offers a drink for both of them it would have been brilliant
    • Having said that, may be the song is not about Sundar actually consoling Dhanush but rather its Dhanush consoling himself - showing what he is going through in his head. In middle of the song when the lyric goes by "Aayiram Sonniyae Kaadhula Vaangala", you can see Dhanush hitting his heart and then pointing his head. And after the song is over when both of the were completely drunk Dhanush says "Ulla vechukkavum mudiyala, Sollavum mudiyala". Same goes to "Oda Oda" song where the comic character jumps out of his ear all of a sudden and alternatively displays the other world that he is in. It even spits on him showing the times where one would be at the weakest moments of their life. So may be it is all about himself
Of course there are numerous brilliant individual scenes all over the movie. One of the weirdest editing to the marriage scene right after the fight between the two - with a brilliantly placed long shot where you will wonder if it is Dhanush or Sundar getting married.  Dhanush saying with a sarcastic smile "Goyya bayangara kaduppula irukkaen" in the bar when someone asks "Thambi love failure-a". The scene where Sundar is sitting in the forest room with Richa in the bathroom, Dhanush enters in to the room and you will actually see Sundar's feet on the fingers and not firmly placed - :)

And I don't want to mention about Dhanush or Richa's acting and GV's BGM, its all over the place that they have done a wonderful job. I personally liked GV's silence in the background scores. It just gives you that additional time to capture the emotions on the screen and this is in line with the tricks that Ilayaraja played for years to give you that feel of the film. GV definitely has got wonderful years ahead if he continues like and it holds true if he has not lifted the scores of this film from somewhere else.

My respect for Selva has completely multiplied by this movie and this movie is just a reflection of what went on Selva's head. And not everything would be explicitly put across as dialogues or scenes but you would just need to feel it - easier if you had been in similar situations. I still keep wondering what really went on in Selva's head because lyrics like "Aaathadi aadu mekka raasa vandhaaram...Aadu thinna yechi pull maeya vandharam", "Karu naakum kaara pulla, karupatti nerathu mulla, yedupatta nerathu tholla, nee kalavani" sounds brilliant and still keeps me wondering.

And women - of course, you are the emotionally strong species here. If you decide and be firm on a decision, you can completely ridicule a situation as if everything is OK when there actually is a storm around. And it would simply show on men's face. It is this simple thing for which we will never understand you. And the very same reason why we need you as well (though we may never accept it in front of you).

Monday, August 22, 2011

All we need is a change...

By now, the entire nation knows about Anna Hazare and there seems to be huge huge following for him. I went to Marina beach yesterday and there were about 2000 people near light house supporting Anna. I was definitely amazed to see such a huge crowd of normal ordinary people of this country. I saw people from all walks of the life, middle class aunties, oldies and lots and lots of youngsters - people who are probably in to the first or second year of college.

And there seems to some difference of opinion amongst different set of people:
1. People like Nandan Nilekani and Arundhati Roy seems to be okay with the "right for protesting" but definitely not OK with a single man dictating what the government should do

2. The opposition (if at all we can call it one) seems to be on the same line - "we are against the way the government handled the situation" but they don't speak if they support or disagree with the bill

3. The government - it seems that it is completely indifferent to what is happening in the country. It definitely handled the situation badly but doesn't seem to be thinking about breaking the impasse

4. And the public - almost everybody is with Anna. Frustrated, having lost hope with this country, they desperately need a change and are willing to support anyone who is willing to make that change happen.

The fundamental problem today is that people have lost confidence and trust in this government. And when I say government it is not about Congress. Why I say this is because, yesterday at Marina, I saw a small group of girls shouting "We want change in power". It is not about changing this government and getting a new one. If that happens all we gonna have is a new government which is going to be UPA or NDA - and there seems to be a prediction that if election comes, UPA will win again. With a change in government, nothing is going to change in our day-to-day lives. We are going to get the same treatment from the policemen, ration shops, government offices and a dont-care-attitude from the fellow citizens. Traffic signals are going to be broken, roads are going to be bad, poor will not get access to proper healthcare, food and will sleep in roads - nothing will change. What every Indian (in India and abroad) wants is a change in our daily lives - things that we interact on a daily basis. Things that will make our life better. We want a complete overhaul of the system that we are in. And I believe that's the reason everybody is inherently in the roads.

What Nandan Nilekani said in his interview is that through technology and automation these basic interactions of the general public needs to be cleaned up - made transparent, accountable and efficient. And he said that bringing Lokpal will only create another independent committee like Prevention of Corruption Act, CAG, etc... And here are few more views from different parties involved:

1. Government
From a government's angle (I'm not talking about Congress here), I think it is actually a larger problem. For example, Team Anna were demanding for a public place to conduct the fast. And they wanted it indefinitely. Huge crowd may actually come in and the government definitely needs to think from security angle. The first thing that happened after Ramlila Maidan was chosen as the venue was that, right in the morning, we saw policemen, sniffer dogs and massive equipments sweeping the grounds. Being a country with not-so-friendly-neighbors and an equal amount of enemies within, the government will have to worry from security angle. What if a RDX blows up on the venue (Delhi being national capital too)? We will blame the government again. Secondly, we have the parliament where representatives from different parts of the country are functioning. As Nandan pointed out, there are definitely good people out there. And some serious business does take place. I do not know the ratio of good to bad politicians there, but I know people like Jaiprakash Narayan are sitting out there. And the Standing Committee seems to be very good where it healthy debates happen. And these are people representing different sections of the society - the tribal, Muslim, Dalit, Urban, Rural, etc...and the bill needs to be debated from all angles because it is going to affect the entire functioning of our country

2. Alternative theories
There is also another round of views about the people who are behind Anna. If you look at the kind of people who are behind Anna, most of them are from Urban living. That's how it started at least and now it is spreading to the towns as well. The movement has spread through the media and Internet. And people in the Cities and Towns are the ones who have access to these - especially Social Media. Now, we cannot enact a law obliging the demands of certain section of the country. And that too due to mass following. I am not for this - but for example, tomorrow, India being a Hindu dominant country, what if some other person starts an "Anti-Muslim" movement and there is a mass following to it. I mean, people are not that stupid but it theoretically it is possible - the government is probably thinking about this too? And this thinking is probably beneficial for the larger benefit of the people. Or probably this is how government is run - you cannot decide Just Like That.

3. Political Parties
None of the political parties seem to be "actually" supporting the Lokpal bill. All parties are actually raising their voice against the way the government handled the situation. Nobody is mentioning that they are OK with "these these points in Anna's version" and not OK with "these these points in Govt's version". I have read both the versions of the bill and what Anna's version is trying to create is something like a parallel government. There is going to be a central Lokpal which will look at larger problems like 2G scam, black money, etc...and every state will have Lokayukta and similar setups at district, panchayat levels. Now this is actually parallel governance. No where in the world this is present and it may be dangerous also. Let's not debate that. But the political parties - they are not going to be OK with having a parallel government.

And this is my take considering all these:

Yes, this whole movement may be started by the Urban population. And probably it will spread slowly to other places in the country. But Urban population are the ones who have seen things outside the country. They have been exposed to how proper governance happens in other developed countries. The rural population and the poor have in-numerous problems that they cannot even think about all these. When people are worried about next day meal they will not think about all these. So there is nothing wrong in the movement being started by the Urban population. It is for larger benefit of the entire country.

And the views that things needs to be changed at grass root level - like fundamentally people are corrupt and we need to change that. Yes definitely people are corrupt. I download pirated music and somebody doesn't obey traffic rules and somebody else doesn't pay taxes properly. People are definitely corrupt. Now here is where the definition of corruption needs to be made clear. Corruption in my opinion is altering a way of working/decision for the benefit of a single person or a group. When such alteration takes place, it results in a deviation from doing things the way it needs to be done which either results in sub standard service or no service. Now, coming back to the point of people being fundamentally corrupt. I download pirated music because - either i don't respect or value the service that I get or I cannot afford to buy one. And there are no proper laws to check it. Now, last week I bought an app for replacing the stock keyboard in my Android. Now, that cost me Rs.200. But I bought it because, I used it before and I found it to be helping me and making my life easier. And it was affordable to me. So I bought it. Now I pay taxes properly. In fact, I declare my Savings Account interest and pay even Self Assessed Tax. Why do I do this? Is it because I want to contribute to the growth of the country? No, it is because there is a law and I can later by scrutinized. Now this is fear - fear brought in by enforcing laws.

APJ Abdul Kalam's says that let's start by teaching the kids to be good citizens so that at least next generation will be good and not corrupt. And Nandan's view is also on the same line - instead of changing the people he is trying to change the last mile of the system that people access. This is definitely good. This is what will probably scale on the longer run. This is basically starting from ground up. But I beg to differ here. There needs to be fear amongst everybody (all walks of the life) that if someone does something wrong (against the law) then there is going to severe punishments. And this needs to start at the top level. We cannot have people like Raja, Hasan Ali, Deve Gowda, Yedurappa, Jagan Mohan Reddy walking freely in the country. The law should be made good enough to give faster punishments to people like this. Why start at this level? Why not from the traffic signals? Because if there is a law to first check the ministers - he is going to fear the system and act properly. He will ask questions to his ministry - then to his officers - then to the executives - to the people at the bottom of the chain. Now that way at every level things needs to be checked. Making people change is definitely not going to work - because of the fundamental nature of human being. Even in developed countries, people when intoxicated they run over pedestrians. If there is no one on the road, you may get mugged. Somebody might come in to the convenience store and ask for the money. If you don't give it you may get shot. This is in developed countries. So basically we human beings, given a chance would like to go over the law and do what we feel like doing - our mind is still fundamentally animal. But under normal conditions, when we are in a society, the fear of getting punished is what keeps us under control. And that needs to be brought in. Through laws. Through tougher laws. A whole generation needs to be toughly punished to bring that fear in people. And this can start only from the top.

You cannot say that "I cannot sack Raja due to coalition dharma". Now how mean is that?When the entire nation is debating and agitating about this bill, Sonia Gandhi leaves to US for some medical treatment. Okay, she is not occupying any government office. But as a leader of a political party and how influential she is in the country, she doesn't believe in the country's healthcare and flies off to the US. Because she can afford it. The power and money that can get her anything in this world. Cut through few years back, Vajpayee needed a knee replacement surgery and it got done in our own AIMS, Delhi. Now as a leader, you need to demonstrate to people of this country. People want a change right now and have no more patience.

All we ask is better roads, portable water, good shelter, affordable healthcare. To make our lives better. Nothing more than that.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Kanchana...

The movie "Kanchana" seems to be a runaway hit with huge crowds flowing in the cinema halls. The movie seems to be a hit mostly in the towns and rural areas and moderately in the cities as well. I saw couple of reviews (online and in the print) which claimed the movie to be good and particularly they mentioned about the comedy sequences. It seems that "Kovai Sarala" (as mom to Lawrence) and "Devadharshini" (as "anni" to Lawrence) have done a very good job in the comedy scenes. This definitely kindled my interest and I started seeing the clips shown in TV and online.

The scenes that were claimed to be humorous definitely didn't even bring a smile in my face - I don't think I have a bad sense of humor. The so called scenes involved Lawrence going to "choo choo" and asking Kovai Sarala to come along since he is a kid at heart. Other scene was the introduction of Lakshmi Rai where they mock about the length of her skirt. Cut there and the next scene will be Lawrence jumping and being carried as a kid by Kovai Sarala, Devadharshini and yeah guessed it Lakshmi Rai too. And Devadharshini all through the scenes speaks in a worst possible modulation thinking it is actually funny.

I haven't scene the entire movie and mostly will not after seeing these scenes. People do say that Sarath Kumar has performed well. So may be those portions of the film is actually better. But what is irritating is the fact that these scenes are actually being projected as the most funniest scenes in the recent times. Add to that, today, being independence day, Sun TV is airing some special program on this movie. The interviewer is actually very intelligent in asking questions like "How did Kovai Sarala manage to hold Lawrence in her iduppu?". For which the Lawrence kept on explaining things and everybody were ROFL.

It was so disheartening to see where these guys are taking Tamil cinema to. What is currently happening is that the industry is giving all possible crappy movies and in between a little better one (read not-so-crappy amongst the crappiest ones) becomes a run away hit. This is what one of my friend told me - "dei...Venghai laam compare pannum bodhu paravala da". That's where we are now instead of comparing against "Yudham Sei", "Aaranya Kaandam", "Nandha Lala", etc...

I firmly believe on a quote by Kamal Haasan "You cannot blame the audience saying that they are not mature to enjoy high quality cinema". The audience are actually well matured and they definitely appreciate good movies. All you need these days is that little bit extra promotion for these good movies. If Kamal has thought about the same and did only the typical masala movies we wouldn't have had "Kuruthi Punal", "Virumaandi", "Anbe Sivam". Though there are so many other movies of his that can be mentioned, the reason for mentioning the above is that these movies paved way for some of the good movies that we see today. Ameer, Bala, Sasikumar and the likes saw and grew with these kind of movies and resulted in Paruthiveeran, Naan Kadavul, Subramaniyapuram, etc...

Let's not get in to a debate if Kamal copied / inspired from Hollywood or Korea or whatever. But, I would say that he was at least 10 years ahead of what the rest of the industry was thinking. And those were days where you did not have internet. Probably people didn't understand what he was trying to communicate through his script. Probably he was bad at the script. Probably he gets confused and can't give a clean screenplay. But he tried. He pushed things. If I look back now, even Alavandhan was an amazing movie.The movie introduced camera technology for close double action sequences, some of the amazing stunts and visual effects.

What if Alavandhan, Kuruthi Punal, Virumandi were released now? These would have been blockbusters for sure. From my view it's probably a loss for Kamal from the timing point of view. But I immediately get reminded of the dialogue in Devar Magan by Sivaji Ganesan: "Vedhai vedhacha udanae pazham saapadanum nna mudiyuma...innaiku naan vedhaikkaraen...nee pazham saapduva...apram un payan saapduvan...apram avan payan saapduvan...idhellam paaka naan irukka maataen...aana vedhachadhu...naan...idhellam enakku enna perumaya...?"

Monday, July 4, 2011

Google Plus

Though I gave a new look to the blog about 4 months back, I never took time to post anything after that :) Sister's marriage and work took all my time. Almost. So here is another attempt to write something consistently in coming days/months. Let's see how much I keep it going :)

Last week ended with a lot of talk about Google Plus and this isn't a review about Google Plus. Rather, I was totally amazed at how Google worked out this entire strategy. It started with a month or so when Google announced its plan to support only the latest browser. And over the course of last two weeks it started rolling out changes to the search page with a new toolbar in the top. Then Gmail got changed with a similar toolbar. In fact Gmail had few more noticeable changes such as the always docked menu, people widget on the sides, etc...I personally didn't realize that Google was up to something. In fact even TechCrunch or GigaOM didn't talk about any rumors.

But now, when Google Plus was rolled and if you connect all the dots, it all starts to make sense. Now after the roll out, you will see an unified top bar with the Plus widget on the top right. So if you have many Google products opened as tabs, you are more likely to share content using the toolbar. And behind the scenes, it is unimaginable on how Google rolled out such a massive change across so many of its products - with no down time and hiccups. When users were still using their products. When data was getting stored in their servers. Unimaginable. At work, we often discuss and try to arrive at such change management/deployment practices for smaller applications. But given Google's scale, I just cannot imagine what kind of systems they have built internally.

And aptly named Google Plus, is not about a social networking product aimed at Facebook. I guess it is the next version of Google as a company. Google as how it deals with information. If you look at how Google operated before Plus - it was a company aimed at organizing world's information. It built products that enabled us search for what we wanted. And the products let user out of their sites as soon as possible. Like you don't stay on Google search results page but you click and get out of there as fast as possible. And it was only Google's algorithms that determined what results we got and what information we got access to.

With Plus, it is a fundamental change in Google's approach towards how their products work and behave. In Plus, Google has built a product where they want users to spend more and more time. They have got nice animated UI which adds few more milliseconds for every request - I heard through an inside information that a 256ms response time code gets rejected. The response time needs to be lesser than that :) The search page looks neat and Gmail has got a makeover and looks like for the first time Larry Page approved of all these changes that increases response time.

I guess the Facebook's threat of having almost every internet user hooked into their site and creating and consuming information had a major impact at the top brass in Google. Google happened to realize that the way internet is being used by people is changing - there is a people aspect to it. People are no longer searching for information. They are discovering information. The internet is becoming more like a real world. I know information that I get to know through my friends, family, co-workers in the real world. I am more likely to buy a product that my friends and family and co-workers recommend. The same goes with watching a video to looking at an advt in TV. That's how the internet is becoming too. And that's where Google was becoming irrelevant. And Facebook looked like a major threat to it.

I think Google figured this out and took a real world approach to re-inventing itself. From Circles in Google Plus to "+1" in search results, the whole lot of changes reflect this. The "+1" near every search result is really cool. If I hit on that and it gets published in my stream, my friends are more likely to check those links. Now this is gonna push the Ad rates really high. Now switch to "Sparks" where Google sends you information/videos/pictures in your Google Plus stream. Here's where Google takes an algorithmic approach to suggest you content based on your interest (Google already knows everything about us:) ). So in effect your Google Plus stream is both your social graph content (content that your friends and family share) and interest graph content (what Google's algo decide). And imagine you "+1" the interest graph feeds - Google makes huge revenue there as well.

I think Google has taken a very very long term approach towards this. It has looked at how the web and internet is going to be in 3-5 years down the line and is building products / taking strategy for that long haul. The way they have pushed the web with HTML5, Google Chrome, Android, SPDY Protocol, etc...I guess no one understands the internet business better. Of course Facebook still has a whopping 750M users and there are rumors that Facebook might launch Skype based video chat. And Facebook will be quick enough to clean up and introduce many things. Guess its sleepless nights for the folks at Microsoft.

Edit - and after posting this blog post, I happened to notice that there is a "+1" at the end of the post :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

New look...

Came across a Bing search widget for blogs and websites. It's a nice widget that can be easily added to any website or blog. You can get it here. Once it's added, a nice search box gets added to your website/blog and viewers of your website can search the website. The search result is non-intrusive and appears in a nice pop up. You see the box on the right hand side of this blog. Since few weeks, I have started getting a feeling that Google is becoming the web's Microsoft by trying to be a monopoly here - especially after the stupid drama it played against Bing. Hence I decided to add this Bing widget and let Bing also index my blog more (not that I create massive content here:)).

So, when I added this widget to the old layout, it became messy and I decided to change the layout of the blog. That's when I was really impressed with the way blogger works. I just had opened Blogger in Firefox and my blog as an anonymous user in Chrome. As I choose a layout and start making modifications, re-arranging widgets, changing the color and things like that, I just keep refreshing in Chrome and I could see the changes in real time. I am pretty sure that blogger is running Google's cloud and I am sure they will have replicated data to serve content faster to all users. With that kind of architecture and enabling on the fly changes to the blog's layout - I was really impressed. Definitely a nice product and same with the way the widgets work too. It was pretty easy to add that Bing search widget - even a novice, non-techie user can do that.

Anyways, I set to try something and ended up changing the blog's layout. So I hope to write more here...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Why Facebook?

Been discussing about Facebook lately with many people and there is a lot of action on the internet as well in terms of how powerful it is and how it is transforming the web and the way we use the web.

I was originally using Orkut and before Facebook there were plenty of social networking websites such as MySpace, Hi5, Orkut, etc...I used to wonder why there is such a big deal about Facebook that everybody is talking about. After all it is a casual website where people mostly share photos and post things like "My cat ran away", "Don't feel like getting out of bed. Lol", etc...In fact I read an article where one Silicon Valley Venture Capitalist called Facebook as nothing but a photo sharing website. And yeah, now there is a movie about Facebook and a book released. And one Russian investor bought 1% stake for $330 millions valuing Facebook at $30+ B. And that is about 1/3 of what Ford or GM is valued today (they are more than 100yrs old) in about 10yrs since it was built in a dorm. And yeah, the CEO is 28 years old and it has 500M users. Dot.

I was really very curious as to how such a simple service can be massively hit and why so many people love using it. When you really look at how users interact with Facebook, probably you get a hint why Facebook really matters and there are reasons why people spend like 40B minutes a month in Facebook (as claimed by FB engineering).

When I post a comment on one of my friends' post, FB tells in my wall post that "I commented on his post" and it appears on others' wall as "Raghu posted on that person's post". Similarly, if you look all around the way the posts, comments, photos, likes, videos appear in the feed you will notice things like "You and Amit like this post", "Kumar shared a video", "You and 330,000 people like Starbucks". Even though it is just a way of letting the information display on a page, I think this is the whole deal about it. It gives a whole human feeling/touch in terms of saying "I like this", "He said this", etc...Now that's how we interact with people and things in real world.

Few years ago, we used to maintain an address book online where we used to have the email ids of people. Now Facebook is our address book. And people in our friends list are real people. We used to have Yahoo IM friends like cooldude007, sweetgirl92. But in Facebook our contacts have a real identity. They are our college friends, co-workers, relatives, etc...And Facebook gives us a platform where we can interact with them easily. Now that was something missed out in Orkut, MySpace and a bunch of other Social Networking websites. They probably never got Social right.

And to realize the true power of Facebook and how it is transforming businesses, Honda India has a Facebook page where its customers regularly post complaints and Honda's representatives respond mostly within a day. Now that's a traditional manufacturing company being so active in Facebook. I read somewhere that a massive Colombian people revolution against the Guerillas started as a single Facebook page created by someone who was utterly angry against the Guerillas.

And Facebook can probably give a very tough life to Google too. Google today is probably the single company that has access to all the data that is getting created on the web. They make their money through the advertisements that they place on the web by crunching all these data created in the web. Google's vision itself is about organizing information on the web. But the question is, what if all the information that is getting created in the web is created inside Facebook and Google has no access to it? For example, if you look at the companies that Google has bought in the past, like Blogger, Youtube, etc...these are products where internet users were creating data and Google wants all the data that is created on the web. What if people are creating Facebook Pages instead of blogging...Video links being posted in Facebook instead of Youtube. Facebook already has massive amount of organized data. Google invests so much amount of time in figuring out who created what kind of data, who is looking at what pages, etc...But Facebook already knows "Raghu likes this Page", "Aamir likes Sachin Tendulkar". It already has access to organized information and that is probably a big deal. These days, your competitor need not always be from your own domain. Microsoft would have never thought that Google will be its competitor and Sony wouldn't have even imagined about Apple (iPod). Probably the same thing might happen for Google as well (Facebook).

And as a software developer, I am really amazed at the scale Facebook is operating and how their systems are built. I am already a fan of the "Facebook Engineering" page in Facebook. I am amazed at even imagining the kind of social graph that Facebook will be storing in their servers and how it will go through those graphs to tell me one small information like "You may also know Sunil" based on the "n" degree of connection in my social graph. And if I am a fan of "Sachin Tendular" page and there is a post on Sachin's latest six in the Nagpur test, probably I and 330,000 other people would have "liked" the post. If it visit that page again and when Facebook says "You and 330,000 others like this" that is actually massive operation behind the scene at run time. Cannot imagine the data storage and caching that Facebook has built.

I am really amazed at how Facebook is actually transforming our lives and the social, political, economical impact that it can have in the future. And this is something that will be interesting to watch out as more and more people stay always connected.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mannipaya...

...from Vinnai Thandi Varuvaya. Another awesome melody from ARR. And probably the only song that I know till date which has piano running through the entire song. Guess its Stephen Devassy at work. The song starts with lots of piano and as Shreya Goshal picks up stunningly it would appear as if the piano stops. But if you happen to listen using headphones and give closer attention to center-right of your head, the piano portion stay almost for the entire length of the song.

And I don't know how Shreya is able to render this song such flawlessly. I used to remember when she started singing in Tamil she used to miss a lot of "zha". But that is probably because of Yuvan since he himself doesn't pronounce "zha" properly. Since then, Shreya has improved a lot and I am really wondering how she is able to change her pitch / tone according to the lyrics and sing this one so beautifully. I am even more wondering how ARR would have explained all these to her and got the job done.

Needless to mention about ARR's portion of the song. He almost picks up fast numbers or high pitched songs when it comes to singing by himself. When it comes to melody where most of the songs are sung at lower pitch, ARR does it at slightly elevated pitch - examples include Dil Se Re, New york Nagaram and this one. And when he gives a fresh tone for the "Anbirkum Undo" thirukkural, it creates such an impact on you. And guess that "Anbirkum Undo" and other thirukkural portions are probably samples of the "Thirukkural" album project that he and Blaaze are working on.