Tuesday, April 26, 2011

ETE: The Final Run

It's back and this time, it's come with a vengeance. Starting this time next week, the End Term Theory exams would have begun and I am shit scared! Of course, there's no need to wait for next week because the practical exams are scheduled for this week. How very nice of them.

So, let's have a look at the subjects. This time, it's a mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. Now, the good consists of two simple subjects that will not require much preparation. CE-212 comes first to my mind. It takes nothing more than 5-6 hours to study thoroughly and anybody (like me) who's done the tuts regularly will find it easy. Sadly, its practical exam, scheduled for Thursday, will not be the same. Then there's CE-242. Now, this subject can actually be very difficult but because of the highly liberal marking, it's become simple. ITs practical exam, which may or may not happen, if not a matter of worry either.

Now, for the bad. CE-222 comes first to my mind. No, it's not difficult, at least not the theory paper. It's the fact that the paper tends to be very long. And of course, the over-stretched practical, which we haven't even completed yet, and the practical exam that's already caused sparks to fly between the faculty. Oh, and ten tuts to submit by tomorrow. We're screwed! If that's not enough, BM-201 and ES-201 are two dastardly subjects that are infinitely boring and impossible - simply impossible - to master! It'll take some heavy duty ratta maarna to get over these two, although I am optimistic.

Finally, the ugly. IMA-01 has the potential to be the most difficult paper of all, but the prof doesn't let that happen. If he withdraws this privilege however, his paper could pulverize many CGPAs. And then... CE-252. Need I say more? This subject has become so complex since MTE-2 that even the professor has stopped trying to solve questions anymore. But that won't have any bearing on the paper, which is sure to be the worst one yet. I've been studying this for weeks but even then I am supremely confident of blowing it. The only saving grace is that its practical exam may be converted into a simple quiz.

So, with exams over my neck and time running out quickly, this could be my last post till mid-May. But I'll be back with new stuff and of course, the End Year Review. See you then.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Bombay, What Are You?

Maximum City: Bombay Lost & Found
By Suketu Mehta

It's perhaps the only city in India that represents the entire nation in one single sweep across seven reclaimed islands. Yet, Bombay (Mumbai now) is also a city that tries to project itself as being different from its mainland protector. That was until the mainland struck back.

In a riveting, mentally exhausting yet enlightening description of India's financial nerve centre, Mehta takes us on a journey through the underworld of Bombay, into its nightclubs, into his own home and finally, into the neo-politics that changed the city for ever.

The narrative is engrossing to say the least. But it also leaves your mind numb. At several points, I've had the desire to close the book because I just could not bear it anymore, but every time the writer would come up with some tiny tidbit that would take me back to my days in Bombay and keep me going. At several places, I connected strongly, and at others, Bombay seemed like an alien city. Perhaps that is befitting of a city as diverse as Bombay.

The best part about the book is the first-person narrative it gives on a wide range of issues. So, the author personally meets ganglords based in Bombay, bar dancers and Bollywood biggies and takes us into their world. His description of the Shiv Sena as a party without ideology is thoroughly accurate.

The bottom line: Maximum City is a fabulous read for all, particularly for those who live or have lived in the city. But be warned: this book is not for the faint-hearted.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Exec Ed it is

It's been a year since I joined Kshitij and I've had a wonderful time. Writing has always been something significant for me... I write not to become famous or show off, I write because my existence depends on it. It was through this very blog that I managed to join the group despite the rules against admitting second years.

A year of learning at twice the required speech and meeting some of the friendliest people I ever met culminated at the final Farewell chapo, where we wished our fourth years seniors goodbye and also welcomed the new team.

So, here are some of the new faces that will lead the magazine for a year:

Central Team: Kunal (Secretary), Palak (Asst. Secretary), Sailee (Joint Secretary)
Editor-in-Chief, Hindi: Keshav
Coordinator, Finance: Shaurya
Designer-in-Chief: Swapnil
English Editorial: Rueben (Editor-in-Chief), Sushobhan, Waqar and Zubair (Executive Editors)

It's not about the post - it's about the responsibility. Bringing out one issue is hard enough - three (four, we hope) is even harder. But with a great team in first year (to ascend to second year) and some recruitment strategies that might click, we're sure that we can do it!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A Fun-Filled Evening

It was nearly canceled and when it was finzalized, it took forever to prepare for it. But it happened at last. Xenobia: RKB's first ever Bhawan's Day on April 16, 2011 was a great success!

Thanks to my class guys, I was made co-compere at the event. Scheduled to start at 6:30 PM, it started at 7:30 PM, which shouldn't surprise anyone. It started with a major goof-up: RKB's "new" website, which is still offline, wouldn't show up on the screen, so it had to be replaced with some video from CineSec. Anyway, once that accident was overlooked by the Director and other VIPs, the cultural show began.

Sadly, each programme was taking such a long time that they had to forcefully cut short and Kartikeya's song, sadly, deleted altogether. That was followed by a prize distribution ceremony that had to be speedily dealt with and then some speeches that nobody was listening to.

Then we went to eat. Unfortunately, the food was pretty bad and left us disappointed. What's more, the girls had to be rushed back to SB to meet their curfew. So overall, which the Bhawan's Day was a good event, it could have been better.

PS: There was an unofficial DJ Night. Unofficial, of course.

Friday, April 15, 2011

This is Embarassing

I walked into the CC, to computer number 5 and settled down to read my e-mails and wall posts. But before I could open Firefox, my eyes settled upon a PDF file with the solutions to Paper 2 of IITJEE-2011.

Oh dear, dear. How could I resist? I opened up the file to get a glimpse of what I had missed. And, as expected, I failed to understand a single question. Imagine my embarrassment when some question on hemiacetals, which I could confidently answer just two years back, seemed like Greek and Latin to me!

Ah, but such is the effect of Engineering education at IIT: you forget your basics and learn to live on jugaad... that wonderful, indigenous invention that has singlehandedly taken us towards becoming a superpower! It feels sad, just how much we've fallen from grace. Today, if some little coaching kid asks me to solve a problem ("IIT bhaiyya, yeh solve karenge?") I'd be so screwed I might drown myself in a tub of water!

Tough Choice

This was probably the greatest week I've had so far at IIT Roorkee. Check out this schedule:
Sunday: Holiday
Monday: Class
Tuesday: Holiday
Wednesday: Class
Thursday: Holiday
Friday: Class
Saturday: Holiday+Bhawan's Day

So,for every working day, we actually had more than one holiday!

However, I might have made a grave error of judgment this time. From Thursday, I was given a chance to represent IITR at Punjab Engineering College's (PEC) fest for a parliamentary debate. PEC, being an engineering college, isn't that hot on the PD scene (neither are we) but 6that's actually good because our chances of winning are better.

And then there came, out of the blue, an opportunity to jointly compere Bhawan's Day. Now, here's a real dilemma: it's my first, and maybe last, chance in IITR to compere an event, something that I did with finesse in my first year. But this was the last PD of the year and it could cement my place in LitSec.

At the end, I decided that since there were so few people in LitSec anyway, they'd take me again for future events, and I'd have more control over that in third year. But to compere at Bhawan's Day, and probably for the last time in IITR, would be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Now however, as Bhawan's Day approaches, I'm not sure I made the right decision.

This is going to be a poor Bhawan's Day - that's a fact. We just don't have the kind of infrastructure that the others do and a lot of conditions have been imposed. It has to be really formal because the Director will be there. What's more, the person I was supposed to compere with does not like to work as a team - so we've decided to quietly split the work, although the Bhawan Secy wanted otherwise.

The event is about 36 hours away, I don't have the list of events yet, I haven't invited the girls and Kshitij is still off from being ready before the End-Term Exams. I think I should have just gone to PEC and enjoyed some good debating.

Amul Babies and Identity Politics

Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan has committed yet another faux pas by calling the Congress scion Rahul Gandhi an 'Amul Baby,' a reference to the little girl in the Amul ads. Although he was quickly admonished by virtually the entire political spectrum, his words highlight just how personal Indian politics is getting.

Ideally, parliamentary democracy is about the system, the ideology, the party, not the person. But we've been seeing, all over the world, just how much the system is changing. So, in the UK, Gordon Brown was personally indicted by the Opposition for his own lack of leadership and supposed fiscal decisions. In Australia, Kevin Rudd's (poor) leadership was used as an excuse for the entire Government to be pulled down by his own party.

In India, identity politics has been established over years. In the North East for example, it is strong. The BJP could form a Government in far away, mainly tribal Arunachal Pradesh because its candidate for Chief Minister held such sway. YS Rajashekhar Reddy brought fortunes to the Congress virtually on the back of his own achievements. LK Advani and Manmohan Singh had a fierce contest through their parties as to who was a better leader. In all these cases, the individual, his talent, his ideals, his style of functioning have made all the difference to voters who couldn't even vote for him directly.

Is identity politics a good thing? Well, that depends. Certainly, we need capable individuals: unless the parts are good, how can the whole be good? But then again, identity politics does not focus on the parts, but rather, just a small part. YSR Reddy was a great leader, but his cabinet was supremely corrupt. Yet, the party was voted back to power. LK Advani put up a poor campaign and his entire party suffered.

Whether good or bad, identity politics is here to stay. You could say that the Congress is the progenitor, with its obsession with the Gandhi dynasty. But there are other parties that have gone well beyond the Congress in this field - some parties being run by a single individual and no organization.

What will be the biggest display of identity politics. 2012: Uttar Pradesh. We'll be watching.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

11:00 PM and We're Back!

The hostel was quiet. There was an air of emptiness. Perhaps many had gone home for the weekend (the first one since the Mid-Term)? Or, perhaps, they were missing civilian life, pun intended!

Our return into the IIT Campus through the old KB gate marked the end of an eventful journey, one of the few times that the entire class came together as one, a lot like what Archi students are used to doing.

The Tehri dam made us all proud to be students of civil engineering: the glow on everybody's faces was clear as we stood by the Chute Spillway. We realised that the next great monument, the next great 'Temple of Modern India,' to use Nehru's words, could be made by one of us. The feeling you get when you know that you have the ability to take your country forward by leaps and bounds if truly impossible to explain with words.

The State of Uttarakhand is the most beautiful I've ever seen. The only sights that evoked equal response from me were the rocks at Marine Drive in Mumbai. Although the nausea took some of the edge out, it could not hold back the sheer wonder of the rocks, hills and terraces that are so intricately woven into the fabric of life here. In Roorkee, nestled inside our cosmopolitan campus, we seldom realise just what sort of life the locals lead.

And of course, we gained a new sense of respect for our professors, without whom the trip would not have happened (as has been the case in the EC Dept for years now). The trip was a momentous occasion that served the dual purpose of pleasure and learning. Never again will be talk in disgust of Indian engineering and never shall we forget our Tour to the Tehri Dam.

(Series Concluded)

Dinner and Gossip, Served Fresh

The road was narrow and only one bus could go through it at a time. So, we waited. But then, we got hungry. So, we chose a nice little hotel in Rishikesh to enjoy a dinner, probably the first one we've had which included a full class.

The food was good. The gossip was better. White Boy and Yaar had been married off in the bus with full celebrations to the tune of Bollywood musics. And mind you, the Professor was in the same bus, so it was a risk. But he was a sport. Now, it was time for the reception and the guests from the White Boy side were congratulating the new couple.

But there was a surprise. The Prof expressed his desire to be introduced to the newly-weds so that he could bless them. Now that was unexpected. What followed was a merry discussion on everything imaginable - the sporty side of Civil II Yr, the image that Civil Engineering enjoys (which jumped leaped and bounds because we were the first to have our Tour, that too with 99% attendance), future career prospects and a host of other topics. Then, the professors regaled us with some nice music (unexpectedly catchy), followed by an instantaneous GPL of God-wannabe and the CR.

As usual, the matkas didn't participate. Maybe that's how it's supposed to be: the older you get, the more cut-off you feel. Life!

The Gift of Bollywood

When you think about it, what actually unites the North, South and Northeast of this vast and diverse country? Cricket? Well yes, but apart from that. Bollywood! During Partition, India and Pakistan started off just about at the same place when it came to movies - with Bombay and Lahore being the twins of the subcontinent's movies. Sixty something years later, Pakistanis sing Bollywood tunes.

It's the ultimate war that we have won, not just without, but also within. We have South Indians who strongly dislike Hindi dominance, we have North Indians who are ignorant about the ways of others part so of the country, and we have our Northeast, which dislike anything and everything that the rest of the country may offer. But Bollywood is the great exception: everybody knows the oldie goldies, the songs our parents grew u listening to and we probably imbibed along like in our mother's womb.

This love for Bollywood was on full display on the way back to IIT Campus. We were a tired lot - the people in the front were particularly lazy and were sick and tired of listening to Mafioso being bashed up by the good citizens. Finally, truce was declared and celebrated with a good old game of antakshari. With Jadoo on our team, we already had a great advantage, not to mention Lovely's penchant for singing old classics. I myself came up with a few old songs and once we finally exhausted every song with an 'H' that we could think of, the clock struck ten - tick, tick - and we had won!

But the music didn't end at that, oh no! We kept going at it until we were truly tired out. You could say we sang ourselves to sleep. All in a good day's work form the people of India!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Misadventure in Accountability

The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill must, first and foremost, be applauded for its spirit. Meant to replace the Judges Inquiry Act, the new Bill simplifies greatly the procedure for impeachment of a judge of the higher judiciary who is found to have violated norms expected of a judge.

The Bill seeks to give legal sanctity to the "Restatement of Values of Judicial Life," adopted by a full court meeting of the Supreme Court of India in 1997 and lay down grounds on which a complaint against a sitting judge maybe made and dealt with. The current system is long and laborious and if often met with political interference. Many-a-times, the judges accused of criminal activity continue in the judiciary because of the protracted process. The new bill seeks to eliminate these problems.

However, in its attempt to bring accountability to the judiciary, the Bill errs on two points. Firstly, and this is not a very strong point, the assumption that judges can sort themselves out. The final investigation into the alleged antics of a judge of the Supreme Court or a Hugh Court is to be taken by other judges themselves. In case of Supreme Court judges, it will be taken by judges who might have shared several benches with the judge in question. Can a judge be expected to remain impartial in such a situation? Would that not be against the very notion of fraternal relations between judges?

The second, and by far the most important point, is the inclusion of the Attorney-General of India in the National Judicial Oversight Committee, which will take up individual complaints. The Attorney-General is a member of the Bar and is expected to argue cases before a judge, who in turn is supposed to adjudicate without fear or bias. If the same Attorney-General who is arguing a case (on behalf of the Government, of course) also has the power to seriously harass the judge through a complaint, frivolous or otherwise, then that would constitute a serious conflict of interest and weaken the entire judicial system.

Clearly, these two problems stand in stark contrast to the noble cause with which this Bill was drafted in the first place. However, it is not too late: Parliament has the power to introduce any amendment to a Bill it deems fit, and fixing these errors should be a priority. Nobody wants to see the ignominy of a Justice accused of illegal transactions refusing to step down and then begin shifted to the Sikkim High Court (as if Sikkim does not have a right to justice). The sooner we can pass a better Bill, the better.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bhukkad, we are...

After we were treated to the visual display of some of India's best Civil Engineering, it was time to be treated to some of the best food we could get a few hours from the RKB Mess. Enter, the Canteen at the THDC Project Site.

The canteen is small and quaint, but is not designed for the gigantic lines of the kind RKB inmates have gotten used to. So, while the line was pretty smooth as long as the girls and the professors were in it, all hell broke loose when the boys stepped in. Forget about seconds, anybody who had food on his plate was attacked by a mod and the plate was stripped dry in seconds.

Puris, paneer, curd, rice and dal: it was pretty decent food and we were an extremely hungry lot of kids. The matkas (M.Tech people) were left shell-shocked by the way their younger IIT counterparts jumped at the food, dropping a container of pickle in the process. The professors just kept away, although Mrs. KSHP did fail to extract her son from the milieu (presumably, he liked it). Of course, no harm would come to her child.

The CR could be seen holding his head, declaring all his classmates to be junglees; the Prof asked whether people were taking seconds, and we said that they were taking fifths and even sixths! But eventually, a pretty interesting king of rasgulla for desert and lots of water from the water cooler, all under the view of mountains with giant electricity lines on them, ended our sojourn to a place that some of us might work in some day.

While were were leaving the project site, nausea did not return, for some reason. Perhaps we had gotten used to it, or perhaps it was all the adrenalin we had pumped up. Civil Engineering had just acquired a whole new aura in our eyes!

What Can I Say?


Director: Tom Hooper
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helen Carter and others
Rating: **** of 5 (4 of 5)
Pros: Strong human interaction makes the movie highly absorbing
Cons: An overstretched story that tests your patience

Winner of Best Motion Picture at the 2011 Academy Awards

The life of a British Monarch is seldom easy. But for Prince Albert (Colin Firth), the Duke of York, it wasn't all the stately affairs or royal appearances that made him wince - it was the thought of having to make a speech. Once the BBC launched its radio service to all of the United Kingdom and its Empire, speeches had to be made all over the world while sitting in a little room.

But the Prince's stammering was always his handicap - one that his wife tried incessantly to end. Eventually, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) is the magician who, without any proper medical training, solves the soon-to-be King George VI's problems and is honoured in history. The story is a powerful narrative of human bonding, how Lionel establishes that key element through which, and only which, the King can be freed of his problems - trust. And when royalty is asked to trust the commons, the results can be intriguing.

The movie keeps the viewer engaged primarily because of the strong friendship that develops between the men, from the little home of Lionel to Westminster Abbey. British Royal Regalia is on full display as is British naivete ('Hitler will handle the reds'). The political linkages that the movie offers make for a delightful watch and Timothy Spall makes a fairly good impersonation of Winston Churchill.

However, the main problem with the movie is that its pace is so slow. It could have needed in just under an hour - i stretched on beyond an hour and a half. A lot of it could have been avoided but was not. In particular, the Queen (Helen Carter) played a poor role throughout the movie.

The costumes one would associate with modern British regalia were all there and the Palace was impeccably decorated - full marks to the costume and stage designers. The last moments of the movie were enjoyable as well as a relief, such was the extent to which it drained the viewer's patience.

Now, I'm of the opinion that most Oscar-winning movies are not worth it. Slumdog Millionaire and The Hurt Locker certainly were not. But what about The King's Speech? Again, my opinion still stands. It is a movie that is worth a watch, but don't expect another Titanic. (OTFS)

Excellent Turnout in Assam

The just-concluded Assembly elections in Assam will be remembered as one of the most peaceful ever, with no major militant-related incident reported in a state that has suffered from decades of insurgency. The vote was largely peaceful except for a few political clashes here and there.

Phase 1 saw about 66% turnout while Phase 2 saw over 70%: excellent figures that are above the national average. This just goes to show that India's northeast is not some failed experiment with democracy and diversity, but a living proof of its efficacy.

The final weeks of campaigning saw Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh (who is a Rajya Sabha MP from Assam but did not cast his vote) implore voters to vote for the Congress. Although there is still a slight doubt, it seems clear that Tarun Gogoi will be the next Chief Minister either on his own or in coalition with the BPF. The AIUDF could bleed the Congress ion some pockets, but the real losers would be the AGP and the BJP, whose failure to ink a pact would cost them dearly.

Another spell of Congress rule in India's most populous state in the northeast seems likely.

A Civil Engineering Wonder

Even before you enter the Tehri Hydropower Development Corporation (THDC) project site, it's clear that you're about to witness a grand spectacle. The length of the water before the dame is something like what we studied in Channel Hydraulics, except that the actual meaning of a 20 km long M2 profile is hard to understand on a blackboard.

In Fluid Mechanics, we learned that a dam has a trapezoidal cross section, except the rectangular part on top which opens up to the spillway. However, little did we think or proportions then: a top-width of just 20 m is dwarfed by a bottom width of 1,125 m - that's millions of cubic metres of clay and RCC. Now, since summer had just started and the Bhagirati never dries up anyway, we couldn't see the Head Raise Tunnels (HRTs), but at least we found out that they're drilled into the mountainside, which also houses the powerhouse (we weren't allowed to go there).

If that wasn't enough, the chute spillway is another grand creation that seems impossible for a human being and his machines to construct - yet it was done, and indigenously at that. The sight of a hydraulic jump being formed as the water leaves the powerhouse was sheer beauty for the trained eye of a civil engineer.

The engineers there were helpful, although they seemed to have forgotten technical terms. So, while we asked about the need for a concrete apron in case of supercritical flow being restored after the spillway in peak season, he seemed utterly perplexed at the mere thought of supercritical flow! Still, our professor was there to explain things to us.

A view of the Morning Glory Ungated Spillways (we thought they were just for decoration) and some extraordinary roads built on the side of a steep cliff, coupled with a game of skipping stones at the dam downstream, and it was time to eat!

Oh, the Hills

Of all the states that I've lived in (a decent number), I can confidently say that the most beautiful of them is Uttarakhand. In Roorkee, it is easy to forget that we live in a hill state, since Roorkee lies in the floodplains. But most of Uttarakhand, including Hardwar district itself, is made up of hills.

While hills are indeed beautiful and the valleys in between have been the grounds for civilization in virtually all hilly areas of the world, for the modern traveler, they come with one, huge problem - nausea. I'm not sure why, but I suspect it has something do with the twisting and turning that is inevitable on hilly roads. So, with two bananas and some bread in my stomach churning around like mad, I'm able to participate in Mafia only for short period of time.

Of course, I was much better off. A lot of others committed and some kept vomiting repeatedly - so much so that even if they drank a glass of water they would vomit that out too! So, with the sides of buses covered in vomit, we finally reached our destination.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Assembly Elections: OTFS Predictions

Based on our assessment, here is an opinion of who will form the next State Governments and UT Administration. In Kerala, the momentum is clearly with the UDF, although infighting could still throw it off course. In Puducherry, the Congress is a sure winner.

In Tamil Nadu, interestingly, the AIADMK's formula of substituting the PMK with DMDK could bare fruit as the combine looks set to come to power, albeit with a manifesto full of freebies. In West Bengal, the TMC looks all set to make history. The Left bastion could finally be breached and Mamata Banerjee is the clear front-runner for CM.

Lastly, in Assam, with the fractured Opposition, Tarun Gogoi seems confident of winning a third term and that too on his own, unless the BPF emerges more powerful than it was five years back. Even then, a Congress-led coalition is virtually guaranteed. The AGP and the BJP will have to worry about their future prospects.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Sorry State

And this is what education in our country means. Saveetha University was named as one of the worst deemed universities in India. And now we know why.

Kill the Mafia!

In the bus, KP and Lovely introduced us to a new game: Mafia. Basically, it's like a poor imitation of Roadies just around and during the vote out.

You pick up a card and you are assigned a role: Terrorist, Mafia (2), Citizen (2), Healer and Police. And there is of course, God, who controls everything but can't say a word. Through a series of loud arguments (not all of well-reasoned), you're supposed to either catch the mafia or save yourself in case you are one.

The game is loud and to an outsider, it can seem superbly stupid. That's why it irritated the people in the front of the bus so much. They tried everything they could to stop the game, except of course, getting up from their seats. Starting with mild taunts, it went all the way to shouts of "SHUT THE F*** UP!," met in equal measure by the mafia gang!

And so it went on for hours and hours, until both sides got tired and we just sang some nice and sweet songs (God bless Bollywood). Of course, it did help that the nausea from the mountainous road helped shut a lot of people, including yours truly, up. But it was fun while it lasted!

Up and Early

4:20 AM. That's the time that blinked on my mobile phone while the alarm rang out. I'm an early riser by Roorkee standards, but even I had never woken up this early. A cold breeze was blowing, but that was normal. Sadly, very few people knew that and the rest were seen piling on layers of clothing, not realizing that it would get extremely hot as the day progressed.

The poor mess workers were a harried lot because of us. Breakfast at 5:30 AM: that must've been the earliest that they had ever risen in Roorkee too! It was a simple affair: bananas, milk and jam/butter and bread. But it was the first time that it was just the Civil Engineering students there - virtually each and every one. There was also one curious character: a girl. Inside RKB! Well, it was the only girl in M.Tech (Hydraulics) - I Yr, who chose to dine with her classmates than alone at SB.

Once were were done, we waited outside. Five 'deluxe' buses pulled in and we trooped inside them, followed by a head count. One bus went to get the girls, the professors and their families (in KSHP's case). Once done, we left the IIT Campus and began a long journey towards the mountains of Tehri-Garhwal.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Loveable, but Predictable


Produced By: Yash Raj Films
Director: Maneesh Sharma
Starring: Anushka Sharma, Ranveer Singh, Neeraj Sood, Manmeet Singh and others
Rating: **** (4 of 5)
Pros: Refreshing storyline, good music and enjoyable acting
Cons: Very predictable, a little unbelievable

It's a love story. You probably guessed that already from the YRF banner. But Ban Baaja Baaraat is not exactly the same as every other love story. Somehow, the movie is refreshing.

Bittoo Sharma (Ranveer Singh) is a confused young lad from DU who desperately needs to find work in Delhi to save himself from beign sent off to the sugarcane fields in Saharanpur by his father. He finds work with Shruti Kakkar as a start-up entrepreneur in 'Shaadi Mubarak,' a wedding planning company. The company finds success, but the personal relationship between the two makes it difficult to work together. They split up and then come together again and the rest you can work out for yourself.

Ranveer Singh takes the cake for his acting. He uses his eyes and charming smile to the hilt, expressing delight and disappointment without saying a word. Anushka Sharma however, just gave us more of the same silly expressions, although there were a few moments, few and far in between. All the other characters were basically just there to fill in the story, because everything really revolved around the lead couple.

The music is good, although it could have been better. Mitra is by far the best song from the movie, and it was used at all the right places. The wardrobe was poor as Bittoo wore too many clothes that looked exactly the same, although maybe that was the intention. However, if the director wanted a 'normal'-looking Delhi boy, then Ranveer's six-pack abs don't really live up to the expectations. But such are the compulsions of commercial cinema.

The most memorable scenes for me were the initial shots of the hostel where Bittoo stayed. Anyone who lived, or currently lives, in a hostel will be able to strongly relate to it. It's a great way to start off the movie. It gets very predictable at the end, and the final dance sequence is plain illogical (though not stupid, commercially speaking), the movie is one that's meant to give you8 a good feeling and leave you smiling. You won't remember this movie for very long, but it's definitely worth a view. (OTFS)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Blackmail Politics

First and foremost, don't get me wrong here. I have full respect for Gandhian methods of protest and I strongly advocate measures to fight corruption at the highest levels in India. But Anna Hazare's fast unto death for the Jan Lokpal Bill is plain blackmail politics that does not reinforce democracy but undermines it.

This isn't the first time that we have seen fasts unto death being used to win a political cause. Once, it was Gandhiji who used them to fight a colonial Government. Two years back, it was K Chandrashekhar Rao who used such a fast to stir up a hornet's nest in Andhra Pradesh; just recently, Tehri MLA Kishore Upadhyay used the same trick to blackmail the State Government of Ramesh Pokhriyal.

It is not that such methods are illegal or immoral. But they're undemocratic, they are used to bypass an existing legislative system, a system in which representatives are supposed to represent the people. They work on short-term threats to the Government and the ultimate outcome is one which is not based on consensus and hence, doomed to failure.

Overall, the politics of fasts unto death are short-sighted and do not conform to standards expected of a society government by a democratic system. Politics cannot and should not be replaced by blackmail. Although I am fully in support of Anna Hazare's cause, I cannot support his means.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Where Were You?

It took 28 years, but it happened at last. After hearing for years about how Kapil's Devils won the World Cup surmounting huge odds to defeat the tall West Indies. In 2011, the mighty Lankans were downed by Mahendra Singh Dhoni's men in blue.

The who thing has a sort of mythological ring to it: Indian warriors against the powerful forces of Lanka, the tiger and the lion in a battle to the end, and all other wacky ideas that come into my mind when I'm feeling light-headed.

Nonetheless, the final match at Wankhede stadium in Mumbai (the perfect setting) was witnessed by two Presidents and a Prime Minister alongside an ocean of humanity across the world. And when Dhoni hit that final six, it was like a dream. India has won back the World Cup!

Years later, when cricket will still be a major topic of 'serious' discussion, someone much younger, perhaps not even born yet, will ask me what I was doing when Dhoni's men lifted the Cup. I'll say, with pride, that I was in the RKB TV Room, cheering alongside my countrymen.

So, where were you?