Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Decision Book - Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschappeler

'The Decision Book' is a thin book, all of 173 pages. It contains 50 models for strategic thinking. Split into 4 parts - 'How to improve yourself', 'How to understand yourself better', 'How to understand others better' and 'How to improve others', it has the best fifty decision making models in the world, all compiled in an easy to understand manner with visuals and graphs. Some of the models are.

The Eisenhower Matrix (important and urgent), SWOT analysis, BCG Box (Market share versus growth - question marks, stars, dogs and cash cows), Project Portfolio matrix (time vs cost, focus on learning and alignment with vision), John Whitmore model (SMART goals, PURE (Positive, Understood, Ethical) goals and CLEAR (Challenging, Legal, Environmental, Agreed, Recorded) goals, Rubber band model (What is holding you back and what's pulling you in a dilemma), Family tree model (Who recommended the product to you and who will you recommend it to -promoters, passive users and critics), The Consequences Model (don't defer decisions, make them promptly), Conflict Resolution model (Escape, fight, give up, evade, compromise and consensus)

The Flow model (Challenge vs ability), Johari's window, Cognitive dissonance model (either change behavior or attitude), Double loop learning model (objectives and values - actions - results - is vs should and loop back to action or double loop back to objectives and values), AI model - Appreciative inquiry (fault finder, dictator, school teacher and AI), Small world model (find the person who can help your product and ideas through friends).

The Drexler- Sibbet team performance model (making a group into a team through development and performance - orientation, trust, Goal clarification, Commitment, Implementation, High performance and Renewal), The Team model (soft and hard skills on scale of 10), Gap in the market model (Cost effectiveness, prestige and awareness on 3 axes), Hersey Blanchard model of situational leadership (instruct, coach, support and delegate), Role playing model (six thinking hats), Result optimization model (finalize plan three times to optimize)

Many more - like the fashion, music, political, status matrices. It's a good book to read and use when you need it. Certainly one to have in the library for ready reference.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Tingya - Movie Review

Tingya is a 2008 Marathi movie about the love of a farmer's young child and his bull Chitangya. The film focuses on the plight of small farmers. Tingya's father is in debt to the local landlord, pays high price to the seed company, finds the bullock Chitnangya injured after it falls in a leopard trap and decides to sell off the injured bullock. Tingya does everything in his power to save his beloved Chitangya.

The settings in rural Maharashtra are incredibly scenic. Tingya's friendship with his neighbour Rashida is shown beautifully. But its his love for Chitangya that breaks your heart. Till the end we are hoping that the boy saves his beloved bullock.

Lovely performances. Superb movie.

Dhyasparva - Movie Review

Amol Palekar's 2001 movie focuses on Raghunath Dhondo Karve (1882-1953) a reformer and the son of Bharat Ratna Maharishi Karve. A professor in Mathematics Raghunath spent his lifetime trying to promote birth control and started the first birth control clinic in India. Raghunath faced much resistance from the orthodox society but fought on for his entire lifetime without recognition.

He married a widow and faced resistance from his community. He chose the area of family planning and birth control to give some semblance of respect and control back to women in an area that they were so helpless. He and his wife chose to remain childless.

A nice biopic about a forgotten hero who doggedly fought the orthodox system every inch of the way.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

L 7 - Movie Review

Koni's friends produced this movie and he invited me as usual to watch it with him on the first day of its release. Now Koni has always come and watched Ram's movies on the first day of their release with me so we have this quid pro quo thing going (wonder why we are watching all others' movies). Last Friday he booked tickets at GVK One, and I landed up.

There were about 10 people in the theatre but that was to be expected considering there was little advertising/publicity and no big stars. But I found the story interesting. A newly married and much in love couple rents a new house to live in. After some odd experiences they suspect that it is haunted. Some scientific experiments confirm that some energy is holding back the lady of the house within its four walls. The young husband seeks the help of a god man who reveals a terrible secret - that the lady of the house survived a death junction because of the ghost (who has been sacrificed) and now the ghost wants revenge. (This part is kind of chilling.) The ghost gets most of her revenge before the couple escape. All bad people, as far as we are concerned, as dead. The legal system has not yet kicked in. But overall entertaining. All boxes ticked - decent story, performances, comedy, sex, suspense.

Thankfully it was different unlike most of the movies Koni likes and subjects me to. I think L 7 is the number of the house but knowing the director's penchant for the dark energy, it could be something else too.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Vijay Lokapally's Interview on BBC

Vijay Lokapally' interview on BBC on 'Driven - The Virat Kohli Story'

Driven, The Virat Kohli Story - Vijay Lokapally

There are three reasons why I think Vijay Lokapally's book on Virat Kohli is so timely. First, it comes at a time when it is important for the world to know what makes Virat Kohli what he is - the real person behind the phenomenal success. Second, that it brings to fore the values that one needs to imbibe (young and old alike) - hard work, standing up in adversity, honesty, ego, discipline - to achieve the kind of success he has. Thirdly, it gives an insight into his mind and how he thinks - subtle vignettes that are enough to change fortunes if one is alert enough to catch them.
Bloomsbury, 221 p. Rs.399
'Driven' is such a lovely title for the book and I loved the cover picture too. Even as I am writing this blog Virat Kohli has nonchalantly, but with utmost responsibility, carried the team over the line with an amazing 154 not out against the Kiwis. He displayed minimum emotion after his hundred and made clear his indication that he wants to finish the game - that there is no place really for personal milestones when the job is not yet done. He simply is 'driven'.

If the adjectives one picks to describe Virat Kohli are normally - intense, aggressive, competitive, disciplined, phenomenal, talented, successful, adaptable - and one has to pick one among them as the one that impresses most, I'd pick adaptable. It's something that also comes out of this book (and the body language I see on the television of course). He is intense no doubt, aggressive  and competitive and that aspect showed enough in his earlier games in his frowns, his burning eyes, his aggressive I-don't-care-about-anyone-else gestures. But now one sees a subdued, a smiling and responsible young man, with the kind eyes that only a champion can have. He has obviously adapted so quickly to the needs of the situation, his responsibility as a role model, and that includes his attitude and body language - when he does not really need to because he is playing so phenomenally and everything he does would be excused. (So much more commendable in these times of needless aggression.) He is driven enough to get that right too and tempered himself down against all that he has built up, for his survival and success, and for just that, I'd give adaptable the biggest vote.

This aspect comes across in Vijay's book amply, especially Virat's quote about man management in the chapter on leadership - about ego. Admitting that man management is not an easy skill Virat said "You have to start with a blank mind, understand the individual and set aside your ego." Such maturity at his age. Wow. Our leaders can learn from him. (One more huge lesson for the leaders, and this is why Ian Chappell loves him probably, is that he always plays to win, never for a draw. To win, he realised, one must not be afraid to lose.)

Then comes the second aspect to him that makes me admire him. His discipline and focus on his work. I love what he says about how the routines he follows are boring and that it is important that he follows his boring routine to perform at the level at which he does - and that is a level no one is able to fathom yet. We are finally getting to see true excellence in an ocean of mediocrity. In that one statement about boring routines he has thrown a clear light into the life of high performers - the discipline that has to be maintained, the practices that have to be followed, the methods that have to be honed and driven deep into the subconscious - so the outcomes can be achieved. Discipline that has made him one of the fittest athletes in the world. He has given up eating rice and wheat, has punishing dietary and fitness routines. Someone said - he does not even drink a glass of water that's out of his routine. After that phenomenal knock that knocked Australia out of the ODI World Cup he comes to the television and says something like - 'this is how I train so that when my body is on empty I can still run like I am running the first run.' How punishing can that be. Now how many of us wanting success have pushed ourselves beyond the limit, made sacrifices, practiced the basics so many times with so much focus, pushed limits at every possible time. Pick your routines and kill them absolutely. Train your mind to enjoy the pain, the boredom, the hard work and the detail, because it will pay off. And bring peace.

Then comes the third aspect, the unknown aspect that only those who know him well know, which is his first principles. First and foremost, that he wants to win every single game and that he wants to win it by himself no matter what the odds are. I loved that story of how he told his manager that he would get the first innings lead for Delhi - they were 0 for 2 chasing some 366 - and got a double hundred or so. The team comes first and not his records - a malaise that kept India behind for years. That he never gets angry with his bowlers if they bowl badly (whoa, you'd think he would chew them up like some of our gentler giants did on a regular basis but no, he supports them), That when the going gets tough he gets tougher and backs himself to come off - like against Australia or any of those chases he has orchestrated so that India can win, sacrificing flamboyance for sheer effectiveness. That he will back himself and stand up for himself and those whom he loves - like the time he asked for a business class ticket for himself or the way he backed Anushka Sharma against trolls. That he has this incredibly high regard for women - a lovely passage where he expresses concern over growing violence against women. He spends time with underprivileged children. Virat is loyal (RCB for eight years, same coach since ten years old Raj Kumar Sharma etc), has great respect for seniors, for people. On Teachers Day 2013, Virat gifted his coach an Octavia Skoda, a beautifully orchestrated gesture.

All this at 27.

In my mind are etched at least three visions. The first is the photograph on the front page when Indian Under 19 won the World Cup under Virat - and we discussed that intense look in his eyes and knew he was no ordinary talent. The second when he and Gautam Gambhir stopped the usual spineless collapse that normally followed a score of 32 for 2 with Tendulkar and Sehwag gone in the 2011 World cup. To me it was that partnership that knocked Sri Lanka out of the World Cup and Dhoni came and took over the second half. India owes it to these two battlers from Delhi for that partnership and setting it up. Third comes the Australia knock in the 2015 ODI World Cup after which he said famously something to the effect that - when it all seems like its lost, you must still hold on to your vision, your dream, your outcome and fight for it. Words that every person fighting a tough battle will resonate with. He exemplified it then. (One other haunting image of a young ten year old Virat with his father who is laughing wholeheartedly while wearing his helmet, that's on the Internet.)

Just as we saw the spark in Sampras, Federer, Tendulkar, Bolt, Messi and so many other greats, so we saw the spark in this lad. And its wonderful to see how at the peak of what the game has to offer to its athletes, when its so easy to take what's come and relax, he wants to challenge himself every moment and reach some pinnacle only he can see. It appears that for him, there is no other way to live.

Vijay Lokapally's well written book touches upon Virat's early years, his breaking into junior cricket and the transition of the boy to a man. In that powerful chapter Vijay narrates the heart rending story of how an 18 year old Virat turned up at the ground to continue his innings (he was unbeaten on 40 over night) after his father Prem Kohli passed away in the early hours at 4 am. Despite the team management telling him that he could stay back at home, Virat chose to play and scored 90 - a knock that saved Delhi the blushes of a follow on against Karnataka. How much ever I think about it, I cannot get my head around it. What kind of stuff is this boy made of? And then you add the rest of his journey, how he adapted to various forms, to pressures on and off the field and you realise that it's a story worth knowing. Worth living, emulating or just plain imitating. One also cannot help thinking that in all this fame and success, Virat must be thinking of what he could have offered to his father, the person who drove him to practice every day, were he alive today.

For the above reasons to start with, I feel Vijay Lokapally has done a great service by penning this book and he does it just as he only can. Diligently, carefully, doing all the research necessary, meeting people - friends, coaches, administrators, players, seniors - taking notes, capturing the picture just right. No wonder Virat said - "that's me" - at the launch of the book. Unlike many biographies that are written by people with little knowledge about the subject except what is already available in public domain, Vijay knows Virat well and has covered his progress as a young cricketer. And it is this old loyalty again, this respect for a senior journalist who has contributed to his growth that stands out (there is a lovely picture of the author and Virat in the book that pretty much shows the comfort the two share). It is not one of those let's-ride-on-the-popularity books - I don't think Vijay would ever do that - it's a book that starts out to genuinely present Virat Kohli as the person he is which I believe is so important. 'All through the book launch, as legend after legend praised him to the skies, Virat  kept staring at his shoes, a gesture that showed his humility and groundedness, and when he spoke, spoke of nothing else but the author and his accomplishments' - this I find is a sign of greatness, of unbounded generosity of a person who has put his ego aside. It's no mean task to do that at this age and stage of his life and we instantly realise that this ego is what comes in the way for us, the rest of the world. I am now even more of a Virat fan, and if I had any small reservations earlier, have none. That's what the book has done.

Vijay's popularlty among the players as a journalist was only too evident when he launched the book last week - probably the biggest launch a sports book could have had in India for sheer firepower on stage. Ravi Shastri. Kapil Dev, Anil Kumble. Virender Sehwag and Virat himself on the stage and a great many more in the audience. A true recognition of the service Vijay has done to the game and I am so happy for him.

Well done Vijay and here's wishing the book a lot of success. It's a book that any reader can benefit from, cricketer and non-cricketer, and use to excel in the arena they choose. It's a book about a genuine role model, a leader and one that the billions in India can take inspiration from. Considering just that perspective even, Vijay's book is as perfectly timed as a Virat Kohli flick. 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Bicycle Thief - Movie Review

For its sheer brilliance you can mention it as seen each time you see it. For lack of any other movie to play I offered The Bicycle Thief to a motley bunch - from a dismissive 9 year old to a I-want-to-see-happy-films wife to a 25 year old who loves science fiction - and they stayed glued to the movie throughout.

Vittorio De Sica's 1949 masterpiece finds place in any list of the greatest films ever made. From the first scene he grabs you. Poverty, unemployment in post World War II make lives difficult. Ricci gets a job but he needs a bicycle. He has already hocked his bicycle to keep his family going. To get the bicycle and the job his wife pawns the bedsheets. Ricci manages to lose the bicycle on the first day. He and his son Bruno search for the bicycle almost find it but are forced to give up that search. Ricci finds the world unjust and decides to take things into his hands. He is rescued by his son in the end.

The journey of those two days shows Ricci's state of mind and more importantly the growth of his ten year old son, who senses his father slowly losing it. The kid is brilliant. You could watch it any number of times.

Nice Link - 50 Films to See By 14

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Hindutva or Hind Swaraj - U.R. Ananthamurthy

U. R.Ananthamurthy was a literary heavyweight, a Jnanpith award winner among many things. He was openly hostile to the rise of the Hindutva nationalism in India and was critical of Narendra Modi's pitch to become the Prime Minister of India riding on the Hindu nationalistic wave. URA said that he would leave India if Modi became the PM and was subject to much harassment after Modi won the elections in a landslide victory. URA would have been distressed by the turn of events and one last time before he passed away, he summoned up his ideas and put them together in this book. A manifesto, says Shiv Visvanathan.

The book looks at Savarkar's concept of Hindutva versus Gandhi's idea of a Hind Swaraj. URA says that the Modi manifesto is to follow the Savarkar idea of Hindutva which is different from Gandhi's idea of a Hind Swaraj. While both Gandhi and Savarkar seemed to agree upon things like removal of untouchability and removal of the caste system, Savarkar's idea of Hindutva is based on one's roots, one's nation, one's punyabhoomi. Only Hindus can lay right to their punyabhoomi and rule it and all else shall be subservient to them. Hindus will live as one happy lot with no untouchability and such caste stuff. All converts shall however be converted so the Hindu base will remain strong and will rule happily ever after. But what about the Muslims and others? What about the caste system? How can one wish these away by simply saying this is what I want? A bit idealistic.

Gandhi also said all Hindus can live together (one of the fundamental problems we have) but all others should also live happily with the Hindus as equals. Now how can we share our punyabhoomi with the Muslims seems to be the area of dissonance.

Both arguments are dreamy and romantic simply because these issues cannot be wished away like that. The idea of a united India came into existence only after Independence. We were a bunch of some 565 or so kingdoms and British establishments, each ruling his or her own kingdom as a separate country. Now there were Hindu and Muslim and Christian rulers (if we take the British into account) and each did what suited them best. Now would I have any great allegiance to one king or another is a question one must ponder over. They were not my kings, they did me no favour, One is as good as another or as bad as another. If the Hindus and Muslims fought on the basis of religion, they also fought together against the British. If the Hindus must get together they must also look at how they will repair some of the fundamental concepts that are laid down about the caste system. How will any parity ever be done? It's a royal mess that we are oversimplifying.

However the idea that one race is superior, that the land belongs to that one race, that other races must be shown their place or converted back or shown the door, that by building strong armies and attacking our neighbours we will develop as a super power is an old one that Hitler sold to his country. The idea did not work even after killing off some six million or so Jews, though they probably felt they were on track for a while. In a world that's coming together too fast too soon, these are ideas that are bound to fail faster and with more disastrous consequences. After so much progress, we are still talking of dividing, of separating, of rejecting, of fighting and killing. We are still trying to make sense of who is a Hindu and what is he or she entitled to, what will be practiced - the law or the scriptures - how will it be applied. When will we conveniently keep silent and when will we speak about nationalism. No one knows. But we're ready - for murder and for suicide.

The book is written as a set of ideas, concepts. I was more inclined to read it because I knew that my friend and editor Keerti Ramachandra, who is also a fantastic translator (Kannada and Marathi to English), translated the work.  URA's anguish pours forth and it is as if he is trying to get the point across and make us see the right path. But the path is clear and we have chosen it and we will have to bear the consequences of it as well. Modi won with a huge majority. He still enjoys immense popularity - people expect him to take the country to the high road of development where we will all be rich (or better than we were), some unwanted elements will be removed, some irritants will be silenced but its ok as long as we benefit. At a time when it looks like Trump will in all likelihood take over the White House, we all know that we are not in an age of reason. We are in an age of social media, of falsehoods, of instant fame, of wafer thin convictions. Anything can be sacrificed to stay in power, to get some money. We are in the age of short sighted pygmies and we all know it. No point fighting it. Enjoy the ride. Our leaders reflect us.

Friday, October 14, 2016

My Father Balaiah - Y.B. Satyanarayana

Mohan gave me this book to read. After that I heard this book is shown in the Rajnikanth movie 'Kabali'. The cover looked interesting. The story even more so.
Harper Collins, Rs. 350, 211 p

Mr. Y.B. Satyanarayana writes the history of his family in a dispassionate manner (similar to the unemotional narrative of Viktor Frankl in his masterpiece I felt). What's interesting about his family is that they belong to the Madiga caste which is among the untouchable castes in South India. Hailing from a village Vangapalli in Karimnagar district, the Yelukati family suffers the discrimination of untouchability and rises above it thanks to the one weapon they had access to - education. Not to mention the huge part that the Indian Railways played by giving equal opportunity and treating them like normal people.

The first visual of the book is a haunting memory. Of the author's grandfather Narsiah carrying his wife's body to bury her (she had died of cholera and no one would help) along with his young son. The distressed Narsiah is too fed up of the caste politics in the village and leaves behind his home, his land of two acres, his full grown harvest and walks off. From living in a settlement outside the village to having their land taken away (of the 50 acres gifted by a nawab 48 are taken away by the local landlord), to not having access to schools and education for their children, having to drink from separate wells, working for no wages, surrendering their women at the whims of the landlords the untouchables find no hope. Narsiah's son Ramaswamy however learns to read a bit thanks to a Muslim priest (the Hindus won't let them into the schools - but when it comes to the politics of power untouchables become a part of Hindus as claimed by Gandhi). But the untouchables are not allowed to read even.

Narsiah heads off to Jangaon, walking a distance of 70 kms with his young son,  and gets a job in the railways. For the first time the untouchable family feels equal - they are allowed to live in the same quarters as the sudras. Though they still have issues they find some confidence. Much thanks to the Englishmen who did not discriminate as the higher castes did. Ramaswany, who later becomes Balaiah, knows how to read and understands that education can make his children get out of the hell hole so he decided to educate them all. His family comprises of 13 children (one from another wife) of whom three die as children. But Balaiah does not compromise on his resolve to educate the youngsters. Not only does he educate them - he also inculcates in them a rigorous discipline of waking up at 4 in the morning and studying. Three of the nine children study well and become PhDs and serve as academics including the author who was the Principal of Dharmavanth College. (I remember the name of the college because it would play the Inter-collegiate tournament and we would meet it in early rounds - one good cricketer by the name of Laxman, an all rounder would play for that college).

Back to the untouchables. One wonders what kind of a mind would have separated one creation of God from the others by branding them as untouchables and giving a set of rules to be applied specifically to them. But that is what happened somewhere in the Hindu scriptures and have been religiously followed by many - even till date. The untouchables cannot live in the same areas as the higher castes, they have to live outside the town - check out the Ambedkar colony's in every town and you know where they belong. They could not hear the vedas or recite them or their mouths and ears were to be filled with molten lead. Ok, In the villages since molten lead was not easy they could pretty much beat them to death (still do). They could not wear clothes as others did and had to wear clothes in a way that showed that they were the untouchables. They could not touch people or things of course and the objects they touched were to be purified by water first (including money - which for some reason was touchable by the higher castes - could be taken from the untouchables). They could not wear foot wear, turbans, garish clothes, have loud celebrations, certainly could not pray in temples, draw water from wells. They could not go to schools and had to sit outside the class on a separate mat and not touch anyone or drink from the same water. They were pretty much condemned to serve, do the most menial jobs, be available to the doras and bear the brunt of their anger, greed and lust. No law protected them and Hinduism's laws had various punishments only for them, no rewards. What kind of a perverted mind could think this up and why, is something one could ponder over. And what kind of minds followed it and perpetrated it is another thought. After all these were people too - two eyes, nose, mouth, two ears, legs, hands, red blood. They were not animals (I believe animals were treated better - in fact they still are). The little gains that they got were thanks to the reservation system but they are still at the bottom of the pit, just finding some economic stability even after so many years. Politically they are marginalised and are only used as tools or symbols. Surprisingly, like the black man tried to ape the white man after slavery was abolished, the untouchables tried to ape the upper class in their effort to be accepted and approved.

'My Father Balaiah' is written by Satti, or Sattiah, later named as Satyanarayana by the kind Principal of his school in Secunderabad who did not want the bright student to face discrimination in future. From the Englishmen to the many brahmin teachers, the railways to the Muslim priest, many  people of different castes and communities helped the family in its struggle to find an equal place in society. But what remains significant in a life of poverty which the family braves through together are the barbs and insults that remind them that they are different. The incident where Satti plays with his friend who belongs to a higher caste inside his home and is thrown out by the cook for sitting on the sofa is chilling. The taunts of the upper caste boy who comes second in class to Satti with their frequent references to their caste, the open discussion on how people with reservations are taking away jobs meant for the meritorious in a national level conference, the constant questioning of his ability to be head of an institution are all incidents that he faces. For every bad experience there are good people too but at all times, said or unsaid, Satti feels that he is different, that he has to prove that he belongs. As the book ends one senses that we are still far away from that dream of being equal. In fact we are more polarized than ever before - community and caste have become bigger issues than ever.

The role of the Railways in providing a huge escape route for the untouchables who served as bonded slaves and which provided a sense of equality by providing quarters etc is immense in integrating this huge segment of people belonging to different castes and tribes. In one fell swoop Gandhi successfully branded the entire lot as Harijans and they all became one big vote bank with no voice. Whatever rights Ambedkar won for them in the Round Table conference by seeking separate electorates for the untouchables were marginalised by Gandhi. In the politics that played out the untouchables became Hindus after being treated as outcastes till then, thanks to the power of their vote. But again thanks to Gandhi's fast to death and the relinquishment of the demand by Ambedkar under his immense pressure, the untouchables gave up their hard won political gain. Till date it shows - there is no untouchable leader nor an untouchable group that has a clear voice.

Harper Collins allowed at least three typos to get through. Sad. The book offers many new perspectives into the lives of the untouchables and certainly makes some points without dramatizing anything. Once more the power of education to pull people out of the unequal system becomes evident. They have the same brains too pal - in case you guys thought they probably had smaller brains. With a bit of hard work the author beat the higher caste boys in his class. So much for keeping them out of the system.

There are many familiar names in the book - of places mostly. I loved the way Balaiah takes his large family on a 12 day trip to Rishikesh and Haridwar, takes a tonga ride with them around Delhi, the way 20 odd people live in a small house, how they sell coal and make some money, the incidents at school. Nicely told and a tale worth telling.

Nice Link - 17 Books To Read

2 done - 'Haroun and the Sea of Stories' and the 'Confederacy of Dunces'. And such starkly different lives for the two authors!

Cedar Rapids - Movie Review

There are movies where you have no expectations and they sail through beautifully. This was one such. It's all about a naive insurance salesman who is sent to an insurance conference full of sharks (or so you think) with a goal of winning the award that their branch has been winning for the past three years (the guy who has won them in the past is dead - suicide or some experiment gone wrong).

Tom Lippe, our hero, flies through the challenge and meets some really interesting characters, hops into bed with a married woman, breaks up with his old teacher-lover, bribes the boss to get the award and saves the branch.

One hell of a movie. I loved it.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Born Free - Movie Review

Another animal movie with the animal lover at home Anjali. This time the 1966 classic 'Born Free'. The Adamsons who live in Kenya bring up one cub lioness Elsa. When the time comes to send Elsa to a zoo, Joy Adamson refuses to send Elsa to a zoo. Against all advice and precedent, she tries to set the domesticated Elsa free in the wild.

Elsa struggles with living in the wild. But Joy's persistent efforts and George's support pay off. The couple leave Elsa in the wild. When they return after a year, Elsa visits them with her own cubs.

Beautiful movie. Loved it. I love the 1960s movies.

Eight Below - Movie Review

Eight guide dogs on an Antarctic mission are left behind by the team because of an impending storm. The idea is to come back for the dogs in a few days but conditions worsen and the dogs are left chained in the storm. The dog guide Jerry Shepard (Paul Walker) wants to go back to rescue his dogs but no one is willing to finance the expensive mission to the Antarctic.

Jerry meets the scientist who won acclaim for his discovery and whose life was saved thanks to the heroics of the dogs. But the scientist is unwilling to help. Dejected Jerry almost gives up - its six months since the dogs are left behind. But then the scientist decides to use his grant money to fund the rescue mission and the team goes back with almost no hope of finding the dogs alive.

Jerry finds six of the eight alive and brings them back. Lovely piece of work. Enjoyed watching it with the dog lover at home Anjali.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Nice Link - How A World Champion of Public Speaking Prepares for a Preparation

How to prepare for a presentation
1) What's the message? Can I say it in 10 words
2) What's the title? It should make the audience curious
3) How am I going to grab my audience? How will I frame my problem in an innovative way in the first 45 seconds
4) What are the 5 main points - optimum is 3.
5) End on a high. Keep recency effect in mind.

Watch it. It's 1.25 minutes of sense.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

I Never Danced At The White House - Art Buchwald

I read Art Buchwald's column in 'The Hindu' as a school kid. I was impressed with his wit and irreverent sense of humour and read it regularly despite not understanding some American references and the political references. When I was asked many years later to write a column for the 'New Indian Express' I made up my mind to write a column like Buchwald. I titled it 'Unintended' and it generally satirised a lot of things that bothered me. Art inspired me in many ways and I am glad to report that while it lasted the column had a decent fan following.

So when Vinod gifted me a copy of Art Buchwald's 'I Never Danced at The White House' I was delighted. I read it at the pace of a column a day, wondering how easily he lampooned the President and showed what the ordinary person on the road thought of the politics of war etc. I remember a quote that said something like 'my idea of telling something funny is to tell the truth'. Art said it like it was and he was funny.

The book has sections titled 'What is a Watergate?' , 'Where is the President?', ' A Slowboat to China', 'How is everything in Paranoia?', 'Apathy Landslide.' 'The Facts of Life', 'We're Number One', 'Working on the Rail Road', 'Shame on you Burt Reynolds', 'Depletion for humans', 'Binding the wounds', 'Uncle Teddy goes to sea and 'No More Bombs'. Needless to mention Art was best at the time the Watergate scandal broke out and he picks on President Nixon mercilessly.

Not all columns are political of course. He takes off on teenagers, friends, television and what not. Brilliant stuff.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

M.S. Dhoni, The Untold Story - Movie Review

Sushant Singh convinces you in the first frame that he will play Dhoni as well as he can. The swing of the arm, the decisive movement as he takes his sweater off, a touch of the elbow. He never lets up once he gets under MSD's skin and that's a huge plus for the movie.

Not to mention the huge aura that MSD carries with him as a winner and as a human. I am an unabashed MSD fan. so it's easy to love MSD, his ways, his thoughts and his smile. And because we already love him, its easier to love all that he has done and experienced already. Only thing, it had to be convincing and Sushant ensures that.

So we get a peek into his small quarters in Ranchi, his father's job as a pump operator, his clear thought process that somehow sports would make him a nawab, his friends, his early successes and failures, his disappointments, his job as a TTE, his loves and losses. One falls more in love with MSD by the end of the film and one really craves to see the original - and when Neeraj Panday finally shows the real MSD in the end Shobha said 'that was worth it all'. MSD smiling and handsome, casual and charming, after the World Cup win in 2011. I'd have loved to see the original in the cricket scenes - wouldnt have made a difference - would have enhanced it even.

After seeing the movie our admiration for this boy from Ranchi only grows so much more. You realise that somewhere along the line MSD figured that its best to let his actions do the talking. How he held his own among the big town boys, figured his way and lived on his terms is amazing. His romances were nicely shown, his heartbreak at the death of his first love was touching. So was the vulnerability he experiences when he is not sure if he will play the next match.

A tad long I felt, but its certainly worth watching. I recalled watching the India A tour when he whacked the Pakistan bowlers all over, long hair and all, the century in Vizag against Pakistan and the unbelievable knock against Sri Lanka and his guitar strumming gesture, the metamorphosis into captain cool, the greying beyond his years and the many accolades he won for winning the T 20 World Cup and the 2011 World Cup. Was one rewind session almost.

Great show Sushant Singh. If you failed to get one move right, this would have gone down the drain. From the walk to the talk, the gaze to the shots, perfect. One only hopes MSD is as smooth as Sushant is in the romantic scenes! Highly recommended. 

Pink - Movie Review

Watched Pink a week ago with Vasu. Taut. Relevant. Makes its points well.

It starts with an injured boy and two of his friends. Three fleeing girls. A party gone wrong. The boys are rich and powerful. They come after the girls. All working, middle class girls who are trying to live up the great dream. The girls are in the dock for some trumped up charges - soliciting, prostitution etc. Enter Amitabh Bachchan, a lawyer who had some mental issues.

He takes over the case and turns it around.

Well made. Nice performances. But I had some issues. Like an overly sympathetic judge. Normally the bias starts there. Also a rather weak court room buildup of the case for soliciting and prostitution.

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