Theater Watch: Aadhe Adhure is a tragic and touching play

Aadhe Adhure is a brilliant play by a brilliant author – Mohan Rakesh. You have to read some of his works to understand what you might be missing out on by not having read enough hindi literature.

The play was staged by Prime Time Theater Company and stars Mohan Agashe, Lillette Dubey, Ira Dubey, Rajeev Siddharth and Anushcka as the Nath family – Mahendra, Savitri, Binny, Ashok, and Kinny, a family torn at the seams.

Binny ran away from her home at a tender age with a man she thought she was in love with. Ashok is an aimless young man. Mahendra himself has been an unemployed man, and is a house husband. Kinni is a 14 year old girl not happy with making so many compromises in her everyday life, and crossing the threshold of being just a kid. And Savitri is the bread earner of the family, a woman with many wishes and desires from her and a woman who is perennially unhappy with the fact that the others in the family are not doing their bit. Not enough.

The first half of the play takes you through the threadbare relationships in the family, with Mahendra deciding to leave the family one day (which he does quite often apparently), and Savitri deciding to not care about anyone else’s but her own wishes. The number of times things are left half said makes the plot intriguing and you keep looking for the dirt that has been swept under the carpet. The secrets that every family has, the unexpressed emotions that often explain the expressed ones better.

The second half introduces two new characters – Jagmohan and Juneja. Jagmohan is from Savitri’s past and Juneja is a friend/mentor of Mahendra. How the endgame takes you to a very subtle understanding of human desires and how people keep looking for something more than what they have. The meaning of “Aadhe Adhure” is revealed here. That is what the play is all about.

As a cast, Mohan Agashe who plays 5-6 different characters (including Mahendra, Jagmohan, Juneja, etc.) , Lillette playing Savitri and the Rajeev playing the son are the pick of the lot. Rajeev has the angst of KayKay Menon, the way he carries himself. Lillette is the center piece of the play and is wonderful in her portrayal of a middle class woman, conservative in her life but liberal in her mind and actions. Mohan Agashe, with his subtle changes across the different characters that he plays is phenomenal. The personality swifts from the forgetful but lecherous boss to the playboyish Jagmohan, to the pedantic Juneja, and to the broken/frustrated Mahendra are extremely well played out.

It’s a two act play, and the set (which is the Nath household) is detailed but static. In fact, it is one of the more detailed sets that I have seen in recent times. Maybe, because, it must be a fairly old play. And the set is true to a low income household from a few decades back.

This one is not a comical fun play. Rather, it’s a play that makes you think too hard, and I am sure the Experimental Theater at NCPA (especially the side balcony seats) is not the best place to enjoy it from. But it’s an excellent play and must be enjoyed.


I would strongly recommend watching this one.

Movie Review: Lincoln is intense, awesome, and gripping

When I started watching Lincoln this weekend, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. All I knew was that the movie was centered around the Thirteenth Amendment – which led to the abolition of slavery of colored folks/ blacks in America.

The movie starts with a scene from the civil war, somewhere after the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Lincoln and his famous  Gettysburg Addressthat we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. And quickly jumps forward to the point where Lincoln has been re-elected (1865) and his first term is nearing an end. It is at this stage that he decides to pursue the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment in the House of Representatives with all his energy, strength of character and conviction, and guile behind it.

The movie does a brilliant job of representing the three facets of Lincoln – the President, the lawyer, and the personal family side. The quality of reasoning, as you’d witness in some of the scenes (with Seward, Stanton, Stephens, Yeaman, Beasley, and others) can  be appreciated way better when you notice the next moment of deep agony and self doubt he has as a father and a husband. The iron hand that deals with the matters of the nation is as weak as any father’s hand when it comes to a quasi-rebellious son who wants to enlist. His relationship with his wife Mary is handled delicately, yet adequately. Daniel Day Lewis brings to life one of the most respected historical figures for not just America, but across the world. As Grant observes – By outward appearance, you’re ten years older than you were an year ago. To which Lincoln replies – Some weariness has bit at my bones.


There is a scene where the attack at Fort Sumter has started and after an inordinately excessive amount of shelling the Fort still is holding up. Waiting for the final confirmation to arriveStanton Is all worked up. And that’s the moment Lincoln chooses to launch into another of his trademark stories. Stanton – “I don’t believe… that I can bear … to listen to another one of your stories right now!” Ah! The moment.

The other standout performances in the movie – Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens is funny as well as deeply relatable. The scene where he holds himself back while absolutely humiliating Wood and Pendleton– “How can I hold that all men are equal, when here before me stands, stinking the moral carcass of the gentleman from Ohio, proof that some men are inferior, endowed by their maker with dim wits, impermeable to reason with cold pallid slime in their veins instead of hot red blood…. So low and flat that the foot of man is incapable of crushing you!”

Stevens sums up the story – “The greatest measure of the nineteenth century, passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America”. I was hoping that the movie won’t conclude the way it did, for I did not want to be reminded of the folly of men that leads to assassinations.

The screenplay and dialogues are absolutely impeccable. While the creators might have had it easy with several documented records of what was said on several occasions (speeches and what nots), it’s thir ability to create those moments and the set pieces that lead to those conversations. What elevates the movie further is the acting and the camera work. I am reminded of Side by Side,  and I have a feeling that this movie is shot on film, and not on digital. All the actors have pulled out their finest – Sally Field as the mother, David Straithorn as Seward, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in that tiny role as Bob, James Spader as Bilbo and Bruce Mcgill as Stanton.


As the preacher said, I could write shorter sermons but once I start, I get too lazy to stop. – Lincoln to his Cabinet

I can go on and on and on about why should watch this movie. But the short of it is that you MUST WATCH this movie. This is the kind of movie that gets my 5* rating.

Akaash Vani – Good Premise, Extremely Boring

AkashVani hits at an important issue  – a small town issue. The one that revolves around parents demanding a sacrifice off their children when it comes to matters of marriage, and the apparent sacrifice that some children do make and regret/ hold their parents guilty for. It also touches on the more serious issue of marital rape. Yet, all that is good about the story is undone by the weird snail pace and extremely meandering screenplay.

The first half holds better than the second half. First half takes you through the juvenile and teeny bopper affair of Akaash (Kartik Tiwari) and Vani (Nusrat Bharucha). Barring the inane and randomly corny dialogues, the chemistry of the lead pair keeps the first half together. Towards the end of the first half, the twist is introduced. Vani’s sister elopes on her wedding night, and vani is left to deal with devastated parents being preached at from every possible social angle, a phenomenon very common to urban and semiurban middle class families. With their world devastated, Vani makes the only clichéd compromise she could – she agrees to get married as per her parents’ wishes.

Except that the marriage is a bad idea, and the husband is an educated prick of the worst kind that all real and pseudo feminists would love to hate. He expects the wife to cook, not work, not study further, submit to his carnal desires at night (willingly or otherwise), takes jab at her for everything, and so on and so forth. This is the point where you can witness the quiet marital rape that an entire section of Indian women submit themselves to. Why? Because a divorce would further devastate their parents – ek bhaag gayee aur doosri ka divorce ho gaya! What should Vani do?

The movie just goes on and on and on and on by this time. The entire second half is a disaster in that sense. The same thing, if said, in less than two hours would have been excellent cinema. But by the time its done, you hate the movie for being so bad that you lose your appetite for even Chicken Momos.

Quite like Pyar ka Punchnama, this one loses momentum the moment it decides to move from quips to sentiyapa. Luv Ranjan has to figure out his ability to edit sentimental moments. There is a 5-10 minute capsule which is beautifully cut, but badly edited. It takes you through the life of Vani immediately after marriage. Moving from one day to another and back, and one scenario to another and back, it’s a beautiful scene. Except, that you get the point in the first 2-3 minutes and the rest of it is just excess baggage.

He reminds me of a different version of Sudhir Mishra, whose movies would be a different thing altogether, if he finds himself a good, ruthless and independent editor.

The other sore thumb was the music. All the songs should have had one stanza less. If not in the album, then at least in the movie.

The movie has a few positives – The story does not take the usual course, and in that sense, the script/ central theme is good. The only action sequence is the way Nusrat slaps the prick. It deals with small town sensibilities and the “love marriage issue” in these setups quite well. And also, the end scene is quite brilliant, I’d think.

The lead actors have acted very well. There are times whenImage Kartik Tiwari is not adequate for the intentisty the scene demands, but he holds quite well otherwise. Nusrat Bharucha is quite brilliant this time round. I was not convinced with her in PkP.  The friends and support cast is ok. I hated the entire love-senti section of PkP, and I am convinced now that Luv Ranjan should stick to fun moments  and jabs in his movies.

Overall, extremely passworthy movie. If you have downloaded a copy, keep skipping every now and then and finish the movie in about 45 minutes. You may actually like it then.

I am going with 1 on this one. Its closer to 1.5, but then, why be generous on this one?

Django Unchained… Great, but not quite Awesome

Dj2Why is Chritoph Waltz nominated for best supporting actor. Isn’t he the lead actor? Isn’t he the most noticeable presence in Django? Isn’t he the one that makes Django a finer film than it is?

Django Unchained starts with the freeing up of Django (Jamie Fox) by Schultz (Waltz), goes on to explain what Schultz is doing, and the eventual Django-Schultz relationship that leads them to the search of Broomhilda, Django’s wife sold as a slave to Calvin Candie (Leonardo Dicaprio). Stephens (Samuel Jackson), the slaver/butler of Candie spoils the party for Django, but Django does get unchained.

At its heart, Django Unchained is the story of a freed slave searching for his wife with the help of a bounty hunter, its a stark take on the slave-master relationship, a western style movie. Like most other Quentin Tarantino movies, the devil in the details is what you come to admire. Scenes full of great screen chemistry and extremely intelligent dialogues, a brilliant screenplay, and some over-the-top but exhilarating performances. DJ3
Does it work this time? The style, the blood and gore, the flourishes, the slow sunsets, and the larger than their surrounding pivotal characters of the movie are all there. Yet, the movie does not measure up to what fans like me have come to expect of QT. Or, rather, it measures up, but does not surpass the standards that have already been set. The movie keeps you glued, but not in the way Pulp Fiction or Inglorious Basterds or Kill Bill does. For the QT haters, the movie might be an argument why he is over-hyped.

Waltz’s Schultz owns the movie, even though he is stylistically not very different from Col. Landa of Inglorious. But his charisma supercedes everything else in the movie. Jamie Foxx’s Django is good. Again. But not so good that you remember him long after it’s over. I personally did not like Dicaprio as much here. To the extent that I found his style and intonation inconsistent over the movie. In a rather short role, Samuel Jackson is stand out brilliant (what’s new about that one, you may ask). The slave who cDJ4annot imagine a slave being a free man and being accorded the respect of a free man, his sharp eye that catches the details (like the one of a good butler), and his unwavering loyalty to Candie. In fact, the two people/ characters you remember and think about long after the movie are Schultz and Stephen. Tarantino makes a guest appearance as well and blows himself up. I guess he was having a blast making this one!

Dj1There are three specific scenes that I loved – the first scene where Waltz comes in on a cart looking for Django, the scene where Django and Schultz are having a heart to heart conversation and the deal is struck, and the scene where Django and Schultz meet Candie the first time. Oh and you can add the scene of negotiation that happens later as well. Supremely well crafted scenes.

The most awesome thing about the movie, however, is the soundtrack. Sheer brilliance. It’s western. Its inspired. And its thematic. There are several points in the movie where the soundtrack takes the movie to a different level altogether. It starts in a very The Good, The Bad and The Ugly way, but has the texture of a war film, and the tempo of a period drama.

Tarantino fans – You are going to watch it anyway. Lets again have cerebral debates about every scene. But do tell me if you think its in the expected league or not, honestly and without fanboyism.

This is a clear 4 on 5. I am not yet at decimal points, but otherwise its not quite a 4.5, but higher than 4 movie 😉

And yeah, the D is silent.


I had written this one for the Caferati readmeet which I could not go for due to some last minute thing that came up. So, I think I should post it here. The theme for this readmeet was going to be renewal


It was the June of 2004, I think. We were having a chat at the Barista. The one on MG Road in Bangalore. It wasn’t a singularly profound conversation. We were discussing music from the era where Mohd. Rafi was at the peak of his prowess. His flawless voice, and the smooth turns his  voice could take from one song to another and within a particular composition, and that surge of emotion that only he could handle at those high notes. We both loved him. The world might be divided on whether Kishore Kumar was better than Mohammad Rafi, but at the least, the world is not divided on the greatness of Rafi. The discussion started with the song that was playing  in the background – mujhe dard-e-dil ka pata na tha (I knew not of the pain of love, why did you come into my life), mujhe aap kis liye mil gaye! We discussed many more, our favorites, the poetry, the rendition, the love and the tears. And we realized the common favorites in the process. “Aap ke haseen rukh pe aaj naya noor hai, mera dil machal gaya to mera kya kasoor hai”. A new light shines on your beautiful face, how am I at a fault, if my heart did a double take!

And yet, here, today, in 2012, as the end of world is near, we bump into each other. This time, in a crowded mall. R City Mall, it’s known as. Had we been in touch? I wonder. I know all about your vacations, and your son, and the work that’s made you travel from here to there, and the friends you’ve met. I also know about the Thai place where you were dining last week. And I am sure you are clued in about me as well. Though, I haven’t met you in these 8 years. There were those couple of conversations that we had. Yes. But what did we talk about? Guess some congratulations and some work. Do you remember what it was? I don’t. And my guess is the same as yours. That it must have been something really… really important.

We talk about a lot of things. And we talk about the noisy mall. And that we should meet again. At a quieter place. Because there’s much to catch up on. Much beyond the frivolously inane facebook, twitter and foursquare updates. Because we, as individuals, are still the same. It takes a while for us to talk about the real updates from our lives.

It’s at a mall that I visit almost every week. And so do you. And yet we have missed each other almost every time. Except this one. You know what I loved the most – the way the conversation started – “aap ke haseen rukh pe aaj naya noor hai!, we had said almost in a chorus.


Someone I met the other day shared a factoid with me – The median number of friends in the pre-facebook era was 4. In the post-facebook era, it’s “0 (zero)”.
There is a little something about Mumbai that you never take time out to appreciate.  You “bump “into your friends invariably at Phoenix Mills, NCPA, R-City Mall, Leopold, Bandstand, etc. The city localizes everything in small pockets, and has these nerve centers for everything. And in this process, this city increases the odds of your bumping into someone. Despite the city being so huge.

Your friends. An accident. A serendipity.


Movie Review: Les Miserables

I watched Les Miserables yesterday. And I came out with mixed feelings, even though, the genres don’t affect me much when it comes to liking a movie or not (with the exception of horror movies, that I hate in general).

Few opening remarks
1. I had not read the epic book before watching the movie. I am aware of the theme, the critique and the story in general. But it’s not a literary piece that I have read in depth and have an opinion on.
2. The movie is largely true to the book. Few creative liberties had to be taken to contain the huge canvas
3. The movie is a musical. A lyrically musical movie. 100%. No general dialogues. Is the book like that?

With that out of the way, my real feelings. Oh, it’s a movie that has made with one and just one purpose. To try and win an Oscar. And everyone has given it their best to deserve a place at the podium. Almost the entire star cast is top of the class.

It’s so difficult to imagine Hugh Jackman, the man who played Wolverine, being Jean Valjean. The kind of transformation he goes through from one frame to another is a wonderful lesson in acting. His body and his personality changes with the evolution of Jean Valjean.

Russell Crowe as Javert has one of the more unidimensional characters in the movie, and yet he adds such strain to it that you can feel the depth of his conflict, most in his monologues atop the church and castles.

Anne Hathaway has a short role, and she shines as Fantine. From the mother to the bitter prostitute.

Eddie Raymond as Marius is another revelation. I am not sure about his body of work, but he delivers almost every moment. Except for one. The scene where Jean Valjean tells him his story, and asks him to keep it a secret from Cosette. In that one scene, he falters.

Amanda Seyfried has a pitiable role as Cosette, amongst these stellar characters. Not in the book, but in the cinematic adaptation, Cosette’s story has several flavors. Not here.

The surprise pack for me were the short but extremely beautifully played Eponine (played by Samantha Barks) and Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone). Eponine’s ten minute screen presence makes you root for her a lot more than you’d for Cosette. Huttlestone adds the right amount of innocence to Gavroche. At a certain point, you’re almost sure (if you have no idea where the movie is headed) that the revolution will happen not because of a cause, but because of Gavroche’s rallying voice. And it would be unfair to not mention the Thenardiers – played by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter (last remembered as Bellatrix Lestrange). While Sacha is top draw, Helena continues in her Bellatrix zone.

YET, and this is the point where I am no longer an intellectual – the movie wasn’t theatrical entertainment. I didn’t really enjoy watching it with nine other folks in the theater. The last similar movie that I saw was “Thoda Sa Roomani Ho Jaaye”. And I saw it on TV. The movie requires a heavy heavy level of concentration. In the lyrical moments, there are such tiny variations that reveal the change of momentum, that when it happened first, I missed the moment of guilt of Valjean.

It’s a movie not for faint hearted. It keeps you on your toes. It works you mind, your vocabulary, and your appreciation of subtlety. It wants you to focus really hard for the whole of 158 minutes of run time. And worse still, if you haven’t read the book, then it jumps. It doesn’t always logically explain, or wait for the explanation to sink in.

It’s a great work of art, but do you really appreciate the art? Or, are you looking for entertainment? If it’s the latter, save this one for a different day. Its a must watch. In peace.

Movie Review: Inkaar

Long long time ago, there was a screeching song – Inkaar nahi karna.. hadh se bhi jyada tum kisi se pyaar nahi karna.

The crew that went for the show loves Chitrangada, and there is a general belief that the ravishing babe knows how to select good scripts. The other factor in consideration was the Director, Mr. Sudhir Mishra, who has traditionally delivered interesting movies based on interesting pretexts – Hazaron Khwahieshin Aisi, Is Raat Ki Subah Nahi, Khoya Khoya Chaand, Chameli, Ye Saali Zindagi, etc.

The movie starts with a sexual harassment case brought upon by Maya (Chitrangada) on Rahul (Arjun Rampal), with Dipti Naval playing Mrs. Kamdar (social worker brought in to help resolve the conundrum). Except that it isn’t as black and white as you would imagine. Arjun ain’t ready to accept, and he is a glib talker. And Maya has too many skeletons in the relationship closet as well. The thin line between “favors are fine” and “you’re harassing me now” is what the movie keeps revolving around.

The goods – Plotline. So, to set the score right, the script is interesting. Yet again, Mishra does it right. Office culture, flirtatious relationships, office romance, sexual favors, harassment suits, etc. have been depicted once by a gentleman with a Bhandarkar surname. Yet, this one is closer to being, rather than the gloomy picture that he loves to showcase. And it is, unlike most trash that wants you to take side, this one is balanced.
The soundtrack is quite good as it gels with the movie, and there are a couple of very good songs. The couple of Kanwaljit scenes are actually brilliant and key to understanding the movie. The climax is good, but could have been better. The first half, where it ends, could have just added 15 more minutes to wrap up the movie. The way the relationship between Maya and Rohit is unveiled is interesting. And rather than show a Maya, Rahul and true version of everything, they’ve kept things reasonably ambiguous throughout.

The bads – First up, horrible editing. The movie should have been at least 40-45 minutes shorter, and it would have been an awesome crisp movie. But then, we haven’t known Mr. Mishra’s movies to be well edited. Read the list again. Then comes the dialogue. The movie has some hilariously bad dialogues that I don’t want to get into. Better dialogues could have saved the movie. Third, the waste of two glam ladies- Dipti Naval and Chitrangada. Dipti Naval almost isn’t herself. She is bad in this movie, which she has never really been anywhere else. Not in my memory. Chitrangada looks as gorgeous as she always does, but she is off color in the acting department this time. No one expects anything, so why waste e-ink on him. Though, to be fair, he is actually decent. Or, maybe its my lower expectations and some halo effect. Even Shivani Tanksale is wasted. The best guy is Vipin Sharma as Guptaji. And lastly, while the movie is setup quite well over a lot of rapidly moving scenes that alternate between versions of the story, the damn things goes on a tad too long before it gets anywhere. The suspense is interesting to start with, but you need newer conflicting angles for things to stay interesting. Not a cat fight. Unless you are into LOLCAT videos.

Endnote – 2 of the 4 enjoyed the movie. 1 is coming around, and saying it wasn’t that bad. And me – well, I wouldn’t have missed not watching it. But it ain’t the too bad. It’s a 2.5 on 5.

Review: (Tata Motors) Vista D90

So, a few weeks back I got to know about the Vista D90 promo being run jointly with Blogadda, and one thing led to another, with my eventually getting to spin the Vista D90 around for a couple of days. T&C – few tweets and FB posts, followed by a blogpost reviewing the car. Expressed intent behind the initiative– instead of the “expert reviews”, the Vista team wanted a “user review’ of the car and they wanted to reach out to bloggers who apparently have a decent enough reach and audience. So, if you were to search right now, there would be a fair number of bloggers (about 30 I believe) who’d be talking about their experience with Vista D90.

So, to cut the long chase short, what did I think of the car and the experience? [Album Link]

The promo itself, I believe, is a great idea. Subject to you having enough clarity about your target audience. It’s a contest that should work quite well for the younger audience where a sizeable number might be looking to buy their first car. That’s the point where the opinions of people around you matters a lot. And I believe that me having posted random tweets and fb statuses and pictures about the car would at least remind you that there is another car that you may want to look at within your consideration set. Irrespective of your existing opinion of Tata’s car-set.

Two suggestions for the program – 1) Give a letter to the participants stating that the car has been issued to them by Tata Motors for the assigned period. I had a minor run in with a traffic policeman who wanted to understand how I, without being a Tata employee or a dealer employee, was driving this car around. 2) The promo mentioned 3 days, but in effect, it was about 48 hours or so. I am not complaining about the duration, except that the mismatch should be avoided. Even two days is good enough! 😉

The car now. Bunch of positives. Few negatives. And from there, it would depend on the relative pricing within the segment, and a bit of customer friendliness.

On the positive side, the engine is powerful, and delivers good acceleration. The thrust you feel, if you’ve been driving Maruti all your life (with the exception of Swift), might rattle you the first time. The car spikes on you in traffic. And that is the single biggest USP of the car.

The handling and control you feel while navigating stiff traffic is also very zippy. It’s a good car if you want to drive rash. And explains why most Indica/ Vista drivers on the road are so rash. It’s makes you feel comfortable as you cut your way through the traffic.

The car feels very solid and stable, especially at 40+ kmph speeds. All of you who have grudges against Mumbai roads where the smoothest of the roads isn’t smooth enough, and your car makes you feel that vibration quite a bit, this one holds you quite stable and still. I also liked the seat. The lower lumber support is helpful.

Compared to the earlier Vista variants,  this one seemed a little sharper in design. Slightly longer nose, and somewhat better rounded outer body. The alloy wheels looked good. More importantly, the turning radius was good. Had no problems taking sharper U-turns in and around the place. The ground clearance (which becomes a factor if you drive a City or a Cruze or one of those cars) is right, given the number of speed bumps it avoided near my apartment. It still needs to be tested in Bangalore though! The triple barrel headlamps looked quite impressive, though the same cannot be said for the depth of light in high beam mode. Good fog lamps. OVRM, follow me home headlamps, blah blah – technical razzmatazz to position the car as a premium hatchback against jazz et al. And most of them have been executed well. The dual color design also can be used as a way of keeping it interesting visually. Instead of the black that you can see in the image alongside, if it had been white, it would be pretty wicked, right? The USB/Aux points are conveniently located (I hate how they are located in my City by the way). And there is an additional charging point for the back seats, which is a rather nifty addition.

The dashboard is a major improvement on most cars in the segment I’d think. Definitely way ahead of Maruti cars and Polo. I haven’t driven Brio so I cant compare. Better than Santro/ i10 for sure. It’s almost a big car feeling, the way it is designed. My guess is that it has been adapted from the Manza.

The integrated Bluetooth works very well. Easily paired, it tends to connect well with your address book for instance. And the call controls are on your steering. The volume is good, loud and clear. The mic tends to avoid catching too much interference. And the car has been sealed rather well to cut out most of the outside noise. And it offers you a numeric keypad in case you want to dial a number from your memory rather than having to scroll through a handbook, for instance.

The mileage is good. Having done a fair bit of the 140odd kms that I clocked on this one inside Mumbai traffic (including areas like Goregaon, Jari Mari, Kurla, Powai, etc.), coming out with a mileage of 14+ is respectable. Considering it’s a diesel car, the economics are in your favor.

On the negative, The first thing that you’d is the overall space. Not bad, but not the best in class. It’ll probably not be a choice for taller people. And if you are tall family, it’s a no no. Because the passenger seat has a space issue. The storage box comes quite low and tends to hit your knees if you’re tall. The back seats are average/decent leg space, which will work for an average Indian family. The boot space/ dickie is small. Smaller than the Santros/i10s of the world I’d think. One way to overcome this is a smart move  from the guys – a 60-40 seat split at the back, So you can fold away 60% of the back seat and create extra storage space for a 3 member travel.

The car feels very heavy at lower speeds. A typical diesel car phenomenon, but in the case of VistaD90, its enough to put you off. The initial acceleration is quite noisy as the engine makes a bit of a rattling sound. Once the engine settles down, it’s a lot more pleasant, but the first few minutes might push you on the negative side.

It is definitely not a car meant for women. Even though I come across as a sexist saying this, but that level of effort at gear 1 is not something that I have seen most women appreciate. Most of them tend to prefer cars that respond well to them at low speeds. That’s also going to be one reason why the conversion rate between test-drives and sales might end up on the lower side for this car. If Tata’s provide test drives they should ensure that people get to drive it on a secluded stretch at least once. Once you’ve taken the car to 80-100 range, you start seeing the real strength of this car.  But most test drives tend to stop at <40kmph, and in that range, this car will not impress.

The interiors need some work. The cup holders are tiny. They won’t hold a bottle. And incremental small stuff storage space is negligible in this car. Even my Maruti 800 had better storage options a decade back. The side storage in the doors is good for toll receipts, some papers, etc., but not smart enough to either hold CDs very well, or a bottle of water. People sitting in the back have no holder options.

The music experience is average. With 3-4 presets, you almost invariable want to switch off the presets and listen to the base. The bass is bad, and at louder volumes, the sound cracks. The speakers are in-the-doors, and the overall acoustics is not that bad. I just think that they should have gone in with better speakers and audio systems to maintain the premium feel.  A small noticeable glitch – typically, when my phone is paired with a car, and I am navigating on the maps, then the directions are audible through the car stereo. Here, you have to switch to BT streaming to be able to hear the instructions. Which also implies that you have to switch away from the music, unless you use your phone to stream the music as well. Perfect for iphoniacs, but not for everyone.

Probably because of the newness, I felt the gear transmission between gear 1 and 2 to be quite stiff.  Also, the reverse gear. But that should improve.

Endnote: The real USP of the car is the power and thrust. The stability, responsiveness in traffic etc only add to the experience.  The real negative is the early stage noise/rattling sensation and the space issues. Otherwise, for people looking for powerful drive at a reasonable value for money, this could be a decent buy.

Happy to drop more points if someone is interested. But overall, good fun experience.

IQR 2013 – The Reading Challenge

I have decided to sign up for the IQR reading challenge. Through blogadda, booklovers, etc. I have been getting access to some Indian authors’ work, which I might have skipped earlier. Despite my initial complaints, the quality and quantity are both improving with each passing day.

So, the target’s going to be,…. well.. I guess about 12 books by Indian authors this year. If I do more, good for the writers 😉

Review: Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola. Mera Man Nahi Dola

The movie reminded me of Harishankar Parsai’s brand of satire. Or, Orwellian Animal Farm. Where probably every prop symbolizes something bigger, something political. But that and Pankaj Kapoor are the only two saving points of the movie.

The movie is a classical proletariat vs. bourgeoisie setup, with significant doses of leftist sentiments, political buffoonery, and enough set pieces to navigate from one subtle comment to another. The everyday references galore. The dual personalities within most – one that does what seems to be “success” and the other that lives to uproot it all to find true happiness (especially after being a few drinks down). The JNU educated leftist who’d use Mao as the symbol for his revolution, the red color for his flag and messages. The commentary on media that talks about UFO sightings and highlights “pet mein murge baang de rahe the” kind of breaking news journalism, the daaru brand, the pink buffalo, the money taken for education loan from the village biggie, the Zulu tribe slaves who don’t realize they are slaves, and so on. MKBKM’s pink buffalo reminded me of the Kala Bandar of Delhi 6. A prop with great possibilities. And this time, it’s executed much better than the Kala Bandar. Vishal continues to project his love for Shakespeare with lines from Macbeth thrown in for good measure. Fair is foul and foul is fair! That being said, you can see general doses of smartness thrown, rather wasted, on this movie.

Because, in short, the movie is extremely slow and patchy in its execution. The songs end up being troublesome the way they pop up. That’s one that that you wouldn’t have blamed Vishal Bharadwaj for in his earlier movies. While Khamakha, Badal Utheya are brilliant vishal-ish composition, Oye Boy Charlie has the raat ke dhai baje feel. Vishal’s music, brilliant though, is becoming predictably formulaic. You can draw parallels between Kaminey and MKBKM track by track. Special mention for Prem Dehati’s rustic voice must be made.

The thing that raises this movie from being a well below average affair is Pankaj Kapoor. He lights up every frame that he’s present in. It’s a shame we don’t see him in more roles. This gentleman is worth more than half the actors in the industry. Maybe more. If there’s one reason why you may come out of the theater not feeling bad, it will be Pankaj Kapoor.

Vishal’s movies have had some amazing moments in the past. There are these moments where two of the actors get to show the world how brilliant they are. Even Shahid Kapoor managed to fool us. Remember “hum mein gooda hai” or the Konkona-Saif scene from Omkara. Or the tiny little scenes in Maqbool – miya pyaas nahi lagti tumhe aajkal kinds. And Vishal has set the bar on those critical relationship moments so high, that anything that tends to take the essence away, seems like that leering paunchy desi on a south goa beach. In this movie, you can blame it on Imran and Anushka.

Both of them have upped their game considerably. But Anushka is not a good serious/troubled weeper. She cannot get the nuance of that father-daughter moment before the wedding. And not surprisingly, Pankaj Kapoor nails that scene without saying much.
Shabana Azmi is good, goes without saying. And wonderfully self-deprecating. The others are adequate. The eunuch in the movie is another standout act, and the little blind kid.

In summary, the movie has an insanely brilliant premise, and a storyline that seemed worthy of Vishal’s direction, yet the editing and the screenplay fails the movie. Too many loose ends, and too much of indulgence. But Vishal will be back, one hopes! I will recommend that you wait for the DVD/ TV screening of this one.

Gardish (गर्दिश में बे-मकाम फिरे आज हम ऐ दोस्त)

गर्दिश में बे-मकाम फिरे आज हम ऐ दोस्त।
होते थे कभी ख़ास, हुए आम हम ऐ दोस्त।।

थी वक़्त से इक जंग , थी चैन भी रक़ीब।
अब आज उनके हो गए मेहमान हम ऐ दोस्त।।

गलियों में ढूंढते रहे खामोशियों के घर।
हुए अपनी ही ख़मोशी से परेशान हम ऐ दोस्त।।

हर रोज़ ढूंढते हैं नया नया चेहरा नूर सा।
चेहरे बदलते हो गए तमाम हम ऐ दोस्त।।

सुबहा खिली थी धूप नयी, था नया सा रंग।
ढलने लगी हैं रौनकें, फिर शाम मेरे दोस्त।।

हर रात ठहेरते हैं, नया बुनते हैं इक ख्वाब।
हर सुबहा किया करते हैं इल्हाम हम ऐ दोस्त।।

शतरंज की इक बाज़ी बिछा बैठे हैं शायर।
हाथों में है तलवार-ए-सुलेमान मेरे दोस्त।।

Gardish mein be-makaam phire aaj hum ae dost
Hote the kabhi khaas, hue aam hum ae dost

Thi waqt se ik jung, thee chain bhi raqeeb
Ab aaj unke ho gaye mehmaan hum ae dost

Galiyon mein dhoondhte hain khamoshiyon ke ghar
Hue Apni hi  khamoshi se pareshaan hum ae dost

Har roz dhoondhte hain naya chehra noor sa
Chehre badalte ho gaye tamaam hum ae dost

Sub-ha khili thee dhoop nayee, tha naya sa rang
Dhalne lagi hai raunaqein, phir shaam mere dost

Har raat theherte hain, naya bunte hain ik khwaab
Har subha kiya karta hain ilhaam hum ae dost

Shatranj ki baaji si bicha baithe hain shayar
Haathon mein hai talwaar-e-sulemaan mere dost

The Ultimate Question

Albert and I were walking on the street. The conversation was simple. Albert wanted me to tell him why I slapped the man in the corner. “Because he was smoking”, I said. Albert didn’t think it was reason enough. So I explained.
“See Albert. Tum log bilkul bhi dhyaan nahi deta hai. Udhar chota chota bacha log hota tha. Uska saamne galat impression padenga ki nahi? But more importantly, humko gussa uska cigaratte peene par nahi aaya tha. Humko gussa isiliye aaya kyonki udhar ek gaana bajta tha. With a cigarette in my hand, I felt like a man! Tow hum bhi bola ki aaj iska manliness ka bhaaji paav idhar hi kar dene ka. You see. The whole fault is that of the song. Gaana nahi bajta to humko gussa nahi aata. Humko gussa nahi aata to hum us man ka do laafa nahi maarta. Understand?”

I was silent the whole way back after that. Once I reached home, the moment Jenny opened the door, I told her.
“Jenny, I know the answer. Saara problem ka cause music hai. Gaana, you know!”
“What answer Albert?”
“You asked me this morning na? Albert, Pinto ko gussa kyon aata hai?”

Majorly inspired by Narendra Shenoy – the man is a killer! 🙂

Suggestions and Thoughts for The Justice Verma Committee

Honorable Justice Verma,

The recent events around the widely reported Delhi Gangrape incident have brought to the fore not just the sentiments of an infuriated nations, but also several glaring shortcomings in the way our law and order infrastructure is setup and operating. Amongst the precious few steps taken by the elected government, one was to set up this committee under your guidance and invite recommendations and suggestions from citizens of the civil society towards the amendment of laws. I welcome this meaningful gesture, somewhat late and inadequate as they may be.

While the public notice invited only recommendations around the laws, I have included two sections in this document – the first section includes my recommendations w.r.t. to the laws the way I understand them, and the second section covers certain other recommendations  that I feel would be crucial to avoiding such incidents in the future.

Section 1

  • Need for Special Courts
    • Separate courts for crime against women need to be setup. Again, the classification on whether a particular case needs a fast track action should be driven by the category of the case and not by the gender of the defendant. However, in the case of women, we as a nation need to recognize that the odds are heavily stacked against them – right from their ability to report an incident to their ability to fight for their rights. The number of times they are abused, violated, beaten up, burnt, killed etc and no action is taken is not insignificant.
    • Fast Track Courts for Special Cases-
      • We need to put a definition, and a set of metrics around what we mean by fast track courts. I believe that a fast track court should be defined by cases that should be resolved in less than a month.
      • Independent benchmarking – We need to have real and acceptable benchmarks for measuring the efficiency of these fast track courts. For instance, a one month turnaround on cases of rape and violence is a reasonable fast track performance. The identity of the rapists, the physical and medical examination that allows sufficient evidence to be furnished, the forensic evidence collection, etc. can be easily done in this window. The tracking down of the culprits and booking them could take time. However, an active and intent police machinery will be able to track down the culprits, is my belief. Furthermore, the evaluation metrics for fast track courts should be closely integrated with the evaluation metrics for the entire law and order machinery linked to that case. This would include police and the investigating agencies as well.
    • Escalation Courts: There should be a court where complaints against the government officials handling a particular case can be registered. This could take some cues from the consumer protection forums where cases have been addressed purely on the basis of a letter on a post-card as well. Intent counts. People should be able to write in with the specific date/time/scenario where a government official/ police person, etc. harassed them or did not fulfill his duty in the most professional manner.
  • Stronger and Relevant Punishments – I do not believe that a death penalty always serves the best. However, criminals involved in cases that lead to the death of a defendant or such bodily harm that the defendant is not able to continue with a normal life (like the case being discussed right now), are worthy of no lesser punishment.
    • It is important that the judiciary revisits the several varieties of punishments that are currently codified in the books of law, and ensure that they are harsh and compensatory enough to act as a deterrent. For instance, while a penalty of 1000 rupees for talking on your mobile while driving acts as a deterrent for individuals, the confiscation of the mobile phone may act as a stronger deterrent.
    • In this case, maybe, financial punishments to the tune of 30-40% of a criminal’s existing wealth/possessions/bank balance, etc in addition to 30-40 years of imprisonment with labor (and with no possibility of sentence reduction) might be a form of punishment worth considering.  Chemical castration in case of rape, death in the case of murder, etc. might be punishments that can be evaluated by the judiciary. However, the underlying theme should not be that of revenge (a form that general public opinion might take) but that of a deterrent  for future cases.
    • Enlist experts’ support – I am not so well versed on criminal psychology or criminal law as to be able to suggest the best punishments for corrective action/ future deterrents, but I believe there is a need to enlist a body of experts in such areas. These experts need to come from four different areas – government, judiciary, academia and citizen groups. The debate and the outcome of the same should be available to public.
  • Handling of Traffic Offenses – Impound vehicles, licenses with multiple reports. The frequency and magnitude can be discussed, but the frequency cannot be more than once a month and the overall magnitude cannot be more than 5 mistakes over the lifetime. An impounded license holder or vehicle should not be allowed to operate for an year, at least. A failure to observe so can be immediately considered for imprisonment.
  • Laws about Juvenile Criminals – I think there is a need differentiate between adult franchise and juvenile crimes. A little boy stealing from a store can be called a juvenile crime, but a young lad of 16 years age raping and brutalizing a woman cannot be called a juvenile crime. I believe that when it comes to violence against women (sexual, physical, mental), children (less than 13 years of age), old people (retirees), etc. we should have a strictly low tolerance policy. I believe young ones in the age group of 14-18 need to be treated differently, and for certain case categories, treated with almost the same standards as are used for adults. A 16 year old is sensitive and aware enough to understand men/women differentiation, law and order (through the study of civics as a subject since the age of 10, I think), and societal values. There is no element of accidental mistake in the case under public attention. Moreover, the law should create a provision for special consideration of cases such as these so that the non-adult criminal is not let off without adequate punishment
  • Judiciary should open itself to criticism.
    • On cases that are pending across the nation, can the judiciary, for once, commit to clearing the entire backlog of pending criminal cases over the next 12 months? And hold those accountable who are holding back the process?
    • The judiciary needs to assess its workload. Simple enough cases take years to get decided on. As a civilian I have heard lawyers talk about how extending a case forever ensures more money to them. I have heard stories about underhanded transactions to expedite the course of action. If it is possible, it should be established a process. And these need to be aggressive goals, not passive goals.
    • Work with the bar council and other relevant bodies to act against the lawyers that impede the process of justice.
  • Bring about transparency in judicial processes.
    • The complainant should have complete transparency into the action taken on their complaints, right from the assigned police person, to the different evidences, confessions, interrogations, etc. While certain aspects need to be reviewed critically, I believe that greater transparency will ensure ore action.
    • The mugshots of all apprehended criminals and their details should be available for public with their identities on a central website. Anyone who’s been booked under such offenses should be shamed publicly.
    • Expected Turnaround Time by Case Types
      • Depending on the case type, TATs need to be defined upfront. These expected TATs should be clearly defined. A murder case that takes three years to solve, most likely, has lost most of the core evidence already,
      • The ETAs for the police and the investigation agencies should be clearly mentioned and reported to the public.
      • Under RTI, any reason for delay should be available for further explanation.

Section 2: Other Thoughts and Recommendations.

  • Enable better and easier reporting of crime
    • Every police station should have women officials for responding to complaints from women, registering the FIRs, etc.
    • Setup hotlines for specific complaint categories with dedicated mobile units at the back-end to reach the scene of the crime as quickly as possible.
    • Take the FIR registration system online where an individual can request to register an FIR and provide supporting evidence if any online. Why should the system expect a victim who has been harassed and abused and violated to reach a police station, get harassed again by the policemen and still not be able to report their case.
    • The verification layers should be built in the form of approved identity papers (such as Aadhaar, Passport, etc.) and a mobile number based verification of complaint so that the system is not abused by stray criminals as well.
    • Simplify the process of registering an FIR. We can take cues from the consumer protection forum, which has occasionally taken actions on letters on a post-card even.
  • Financial Support –
    • In such cases of brutal violence against individuals, the state should fund the medical and rehabilitation expenses for the individual. At the highest quality institutes of healthcare. Without requiring media intervention.
    • These numbers should be readily reported to the individuals and a centralized repository where RTI activists, NGOs, etc have access to the information (without requiring a 4 week lag).
  • Policing the police
    • Police stations should be monitored through video surveillance as well. The video records should be made available for any case where the role of the police is suspect.
    • A clearer explanation as to why it took three weeks for the police to file a chargesheet in this case. I believe that this process should be brought down to 24 hours.
    • I believe that amendments to a chargesheet are an allowed process, and hence the murder case could have been brought at a separate point. But the first chargesheet should have been filed much earlier.
  • Independent Reporting and Benchmarking
    • Independent group of bodies for benchmarking the performance of different police stations should be setup.
    • It should include the number of walk-ins to the FIR desk, the number of FIRs registered, the number of cases open vs. closed, the distribution of cases by number of days they’ve been open, or have taken to close, the number of cases that are discarded, the number of cases that were closed due to the lack of evidence, etc. Break them by categories.
    • The Ministry of Home Affairs should step in to evaluate these reports which are published in major dailies across the country for public consumption as well as localdata being published in the city editions of top 10 largest circulating dailies on specific dates in a quarter (to start with).
    • The Ministry of Home Affairs should respond within a week to report on the identified weakness in the system, and the recommended follow-up.
  • Technology enablement
    • Deployment of video surveillance cameras with capability to take high speed photographs of the license plates, process it, and issue challans or raise SOS flags – especially in the more sensitive areas.
    • Centralization of criminal/crime database. While law and order is a state government subject, there are elements that need to be centralized for the better safety of the citizens, and for providing an air of comfort and well being in our country.
    • Put data warehousing, analytics, and reporting systems in place that are capable of aggregating information, analyzing it, and in many cases be able to identify the hotspots of criminal activities, the time of the day when such activities peak, and so on. It is a long process which will become better with time and more information being fed to the system, but we need a starting point.
    • All PCRs, traffic vans, etc. need to be centrally integrated so that the criminal databases are available to all at the scene of investigation itself. One should not be allowed to roam freely in Haryana if they have a murder case pending against them in Gujarat, for instance.
    • Move away from paper-pen challans to electronic challans. This will also ensure better tracking of incidents, culprits over a period of time.
    • We need better integration between telecom providers and police so that an SOS signal/call coming to a hotline number can be immediately tracked to a location for rapid action. We  cannot expect a dying person to always call and report their exact whereabouts and what condition they are in. Strong SOS trackers are a good investment. We need these SOS mechanisms to be advertised heavily through all channels of communication.
  • Police force strength/ staffing –
  • Assessment of staffing levels of police in different coverage areas. Furthermore, compare it to the crime rate (reported) in that area. Build a classification system that identifies the area as safe to high risk. Accordingly, adjust police personnel deployment at the field leave. Increase beat durations, frequency, and number of personnel as required. Let there be no other city to get the dubious distinction of being the rape capital. Let there be no area in the city where the civilians are scared of walking around. It is my country and it is my right to walk around in the city even late in the night without fearing for my life.
  • Geographic areas need to be clearly demarcated for police action. One of the case facts has been the debate between various police stations’ PCR vans about whose jurisdiction area the incident comes under. We lost precious few hours that could have saved the victim.
  • Availability of backup medical and support units if needed. Mobile security units with superceding authority to take action in any area beyond their immediate jurisdiction for swift action.
  • Upgrade the police force – in their ability to use technology, move rapidly, create enablers at short notice to deal with a crime scene. I think that the bus and the criminals in this case could have been tracked and apprehended within the first hour of the incident

The timelines for such initiatives cannot be several years. The technology for several of the above recommendations is already in place globally, and we need to work with international agencies, maybe, to get these deployed in the swiftest possible manner.

A New Year Post

The end of the last year being what it was, hope is one thing we should always hold close. So, with a lot of hope on a lot of things, let’s begin the new year on a positive note. And here are the ten few I hope to revisit at the end of 2013 and say yay!

  • Now that the cooling off period is over, I hope I am able to put some of my thoughts and ideas and plans in action and see them succeed or fail.
  • I hope that in the next three months, I am able to finish the drafts of the two different books that I am working on. One of them is an easier one, but the other one is giving me sleepless moments (on that note, there aren’t too many things that give me sleepless nights)
  • Become better and staying in touch. There was a time (and some of that perception still sticks) when I was expected to be in touch with everyone. With work, and changing (deteriorating) habits, I have not really been staying in touch. I was never a big fan of facebook as a source of knowing what your friends are doing, but have succumbed to its ways over the last few years. So, all you long lost friends from school, college, TCS, Inductis, Diamond – don’t get surprised by that sudden call from an unknown number. One of them could be just me wanting to say hello.
  • Anger Management. From being someone who had 1-2 severe angry moments in an annual cycle, I have improved to 1-2 such cycles every month. Maybe more. Need to watch that. I don’t have any specific reason singled out for the lower patience level these days, so I guess the road ahead will be harder.
  • I hope to take some concrete steps to further my interests in the education/teaching area. The biggest barrier – serious teaching requires a PhD. Education, however, does not as much.
  • This year, I want to pick up the guitar again, and get back to practicing regularly. I don’t think I am going to take the stage again (you are welcome!) but the therapeutic effect of playing an instrument is something that I miss.
  • I want to mentor 2-3 startups this year. Over the years, given the workload, I have always shied away from or taken only peripheral interests in the startups that friends, juniors, team members have invested in. This year, I want to do away with that excuse. And by mentoring, it could mean anything – right from helping review and evaluate the idea, help bridge the network gaps that many early startups face, to, if possible, financially support them.
  • Last year and a half were tough on the personal front in a few ways. I hope that all those problems are over now, and I can continue to be positive about everything. And that takes me to #9
  • I need to seriously start taking care of my health before it completely breaks down. I have had instances of back pain and flares, and the problem from eons back continues to bother anyways. Plus, the bags under the eyes with all the stress, the extra weight and fat that needs to be donated to the almighty. So, much to be careful about, rather than spend a lot of time caring about them later on.
  • Leave the comfort of the armchair and be more active in the community. This is going to be tough. It’s convenient to opine on everything from the comfort of your living room. It’s difficult to stand in the sun and make things happen. A lot of small communities that I was a part of earlier have taken a backseat. Excuse is the same, but I must take the blame. I need to get back in action, in short.

There are about 1543 other things that I want to do, but I guess this list will be a good reality check at the end of the year. Till then, keep reading, supporting, and most importantly, being a friend!

A Very Happy New Year To You. May this new year give you the strength to achieve your dreams, the courage to take the difficult decisions, the tenacity to follow through with them, the joy of giving to others, and the satisfaction of having lived a life of no regrets. May you find inner peace.

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