Friday, September 15, 2023

Jawan - Movie

 I went to Jawan and sat quietly suppressing my natural urge to comment on SRK. But here i can let go and release my angst. Actually it was not that bad. Bit like Bharateeyudu or Indian as it was called - a vigilante group teaching the corrupt system a lesson.

Starts with a bunch of young ladies who team up with a bald leader with a bandage and hijack a metro - they demand money from a businessman who has somehow been responsible for farmer debts and then - repay them all. Robin Hood then goes on to do many such good acts - health minister etc. Turns out he is a jailer of a women's jail - an experimental jail it appears - full of innocent women who have been falsely accused and incarcerated but who are now committing all sorts of crimes thanks to their handsome jailer. There are some of their back stories and I dreaded that thought that they might show all their back stories. Thankfully they stopped at two.

Turns out that there is another chap - a patriot who was killed by a desh drohi - but did not die and landed in Tibet where he meets a young Tibetan who grows up, becomes a refugee in India and becomes a police officer too. Anyway this man who does not die has forgotten his memory (lucky guy!) and is living a chilled life with his old army pals. The stories intersect and the bad guys are killed.

There was a song sequence after the movie which everyone sat and watched. We bought popcorn for 600 bucks and realised it was stale. When we complained they replaced it. But it was too much to eat. On the way home we opted for bandi idli instead of midnight biryani and found that it was great idea.   

Neeyat - Movie

 Watched this classic which is apparently based on 'Knives Out'. It does make you want to bring the knives out for sure.

The poster tells you how it could be!

So a rich businessman who somehow reminds you of Vijay Mallya is hosting a party in his English villa which is conveniently placed on the edge of a cliff. He invites a motley crew of friends and relatives - a drug addict son who craves for his father's love, his girl friend who looks sober enough but obviously not because she is hooked to this drug addict (and who has visions of one Deepa Challam who died in a factory accident which will play out later), a huge tarot card reader, a solo event manager, a weird assistant, a girlfriend who is supposed to tell jokes but forgets them after the first one, her young associate, one obviously gay loser uncle and most importantly a CBI officer who dresses like a senior high school student and spouts stuff like she is in a quiz. 

Well, people start dying - actually it starts with the death of a young dog who accidentally laps up some poison and dies happily - I would have too if I was stuck with this bunch. Anyway they die one after another in a most bizarre manner and you feel they will all get up and walk because that is how fake it all seems until it is finally revealed who the killer is. (Hey, truth be told, I actually forgot who killed who, but I remember why the detective did what she did)

Anyway, the good news is that that movie ends. Do they actually pay to make such movies? Stupid question - as long as there are people like us watching such movies they will be made. But I think this was one movie I could not handle in one go so saw it in some 10 instalments. The brain cannot take it.     

Thought for the Day - We Tend to Make Things Bigger or Smaller in Our Imagination

 It is what we imagine that becomes our story. Reality could be painful but we could colour it the way we want and it seems bearable, beautiful even. On the other hand it could be beautiful, and we could paint it ugly and mess it up.

Or perhaps it is better not to call it anything and simply look at it like it is. In our eagerness to make it mean something we label them, give the drab reality a name, and voila it becomes that.

Reality as it is may not be bearable to most. Like they say, perhaps truth is not easy to see or face, and hence God gave us imagination so we can escape reality.

In our reconciliation with the truth is our release. The truth that does not exist beyond this moment. 

That is the truth. Now the challenge is to stay with it. The now. Without painting it.     

Sportstar Conclave - Focus Telangana

 This is a lovely initiative by Sportstar, our fav sports magazine, where they tour around the country holding conclaves and inviting sports personalities and administrators to speak about the state of sport. I was invited to speak on why cricket in Hyderabad was at crossroads and my co-panelists were Arshad Ayub and  Vijay Mohan Raj, former teammates of mine from the winning Ranji Trophy team. The program had several sporting icons - Gagan Narang, Mithali Raj, Sindhu, Prannoy, Gopichand to name a few.

Our talk was from 58.25 minutes to 1 hour 26 minutes! Check it out to find out why cricket is at cross roads in Hyderabad.This short thread was on Twitter.

But apart from that, there was a galaxy of sporting talent on the stage. It was good meeting my friend Vijay Lokapalli who moderated our session, Das, VVS (who invited me), Vijay Kumar, Mr Durga Prasad and others.  

Thanks Sportstar for all the good times and good memories. And for this opportunity to be on your panel. Enjoyed it. 

Birthday Girl - Haruki Murakami

 At 42 pages, this was a brilliant read. For brevity of course. Murakami otherwise tends to take me on a long wild goose chase and unlike Ray's films which leave me with images, story lines, feelings (even I have feelings!) - Murakami leaves you with a sense of where is this going to. He is just on the border of real and unreal.

Anyway this book starts with a waitress in a restaurant who turned twenty and has nothing to celebrate it with. She goes to work and finds that she is assigned the task of serving dinner to the rich owner of the restaurant - an honour only given to the head waiter. The owner meets her, grants her a birthday wish and then its over. The girl narrates it to her friend and we never know what the wish was and whether it came true and what.

One of those books where you feel like hitting the characters with rotten tomatoes. Thankfully it was a small book and will help in boosting my annual score. But I will always remember it for being that exasperating book about a birthday wish we never hear about. Hopefully the last Murakami for a while though I can handle these small ones.

Satyajit Ray - Suranjan Ganguly

 In search of the modern - says the byline. It is a study of modernity in Ray's work and the author Suranjan delves into films like 'Pather Panchali', 'Aparajito', 'Apur Sansar', 'Charulata', 'Aranyer Din Ratri' and 'Pratidwandi' in the search for the modern.

Took me down memory lane. During COVID I watched all these movies and I realised how Ray is such a great storyteller - almost all the movies are clearly etched in my head, the characters, some scenes, the general mood. Of course I don't understand it as deeply and technically as some but this is good enough for me.

Enjoyed reading it. What struck me was Surajan's insight into the human psyche. He accurately describes the finer points of relationships, the dilemmas that each one has as they navigate the complex space of human relationships - there was a para that was brilliant which i felt I could reproduce - about the man, his sexual timidity, his confusion. Of course many men would identify with this and it is not a unique thing to a few which is what makes the insight so powerful.

Thanks Abhinay for the gift. And to think it was published by Indialog! 


Saturday, September 9, 2023

Exprovement - Hersh Haladker and Raghunath Mashelkar

 The book is about achieving exponential improvement through converging parallels. What the authors are saying is that when we begin from scratch, we do not make exponential gains or radical progress. It is only when we begin with a new perspective instead of trying to improve an existing thing, do we make exponential progress. 

The key is that for any radical improvement we must have a 'what could be' - a pretty radical change in what we envision (like landing on the moon when no one conceived the idea instead of saying we'll fly higher) and - know 'what is'. The delta change between what could be and what is drives the change. So choose - improvement or exprovement.

To exprove - ask he right question to start with (like the Walkman guy who put a small bx in front of his team and said he would like his stereo player to fit into that) and then look at parallels in unrelated areas (nature, similar or diverse products). The ways it can come is through disruption (creating the next big context), innovation (creating something that fits into a futuristic context, through application of a new technology), design thinking and behavioral economics.

There are tons of examples and lovely stories of how designers and innovators from different walks of life have achieved exprovement. How a football team learned to exprove and thus win by using microprocessors driven devices and technology that measured everything - from hamstrings, players movements, pitch density, diagnostics, garments etc, Huge results. How toys aided exprovement in space exploration, or even landmine detection, how Formula One pit stop efficiency made drastic changes to a toothpaste line, how popsicle technology aided creation of ice glaciers or ice stupas in Ladakh, how pizza boxes have devices that could tell whether the temperature was right and the same technology can be used to detect cancer, how a sixties fad like a mood ring can detect health issues by giving biofeedback.

Perhaps the statement of the Michelin restaurant owner who said 'creating is not copying' and went about completely changing the way his restaurant went into developing a radically different cuisine - lots of experimentation and space to do that. Another interesting story is how a gamer used gaming technology to make physiotherapy more fun for patients who otherwise drop off. Banks who lend time, kites that store energy...limitless ideas to choose from. The answers appear to be all round if you care to look.

The key to exprovement then is to look at the Delta graph - define what could be and look at what is and find ways to get there. Ask the right questions to start with (questions that make the team ponder, taht are based on the desired outcome, that use parallels to form the right perspective and that define what could be). Then draw parallels. Stay optimistic, engage the right team, know that stupid is good, make mistakes and keep persisting.

It's a fine book to read and one that can be used at every place- home, industry wherever. It is also what I learned from 'Measure what Matters' by John Doerr who talks of the process of how to 10x the result. I enjoyed reading it and I am sure will recommend to those who are interested in such kind of thinking. Well written, crisp and well presented. I realise its not easy to pack so much information and so many diverse examples in a easy to read format and they have achieved that. More so because I believe it could an important book that could change people's perspectives on how to make radical change. Good one Hersh Haledkar and Raghunath Mashelkar.        

The Last Queen - Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

 Rani Jindan is Sarkar Ranjit Singh's youngest queen, a commoner who he loves and marries at a later stage in his life. How he identifies her strength of character, clarity of mind and her love for Punjab and makes her his queen, how she manages to handle all the palace intrigues of the zenana, how she handles his death, the subsequent fall of their kingdom, the British taking over and separating her from her son and how she fights in her own way right till the end.

Born of a small employee who trains dogs at the royal palace Jindan, with help and support from her brother and mother, makes a tryst with her destiny by going to Lahore with her father who somehow wills her to become the queen or concubine of the Sarkar. The palace intrigues are well portrayed, somehow she made it come alive and I could visualise it all pretty clearly. A lover after the death of her husband, her loyalists, betrayal from those closest to her, seeing her brother being murdered by the Khalsa, fleeing from the British and finally even living a few years in England before breathing her last there itself.

Fascinating story, However not Chitra's best in terms of energy. There were times when I would skip the detail because the narrative dragged and flagged. Times when she went on telling the story. 

The Fry Chronicles - Stephen Fry

 Stephen Fry's autobiography is expected to be funny. He does not try to be funny - he just tries to be honest. And honest is the most funny when we look at how honest it can get. Fry is Jeeves to me and it is wonderful to hear of all the names that I admire and look up to - Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Ben Elton - all favorites of mine are great friends of his from college days.

Like a lot of us do Fry also suffers from an imposter syndrome and it comes through as he attempts to make sense of his life. From a childhood, privileged one would think, public school education, going down the wrong path - a few vices, even a small jail term for some schoolboy felony. But he comes out of that and finishes college, picks up a job as a teacher, joins Cambridge, discovers his love for theatre and acting and writing and just immerses himself into that life. He meets Hugh, Emma, Ben and a host of others, discovers that he is more tuned to gay relationships and settles down with a partner from his campus. Success, money, cars, TV - all by the time he is thirty. He writes of the people he met during his acting and writing career, brilliant minds. Somehow I felt that twang of envy when he writes about Hugh Laurie with whom he partnered many scripts and dramas, akin to what Naseeruddin Shah wrote felt about Om Puri in his bio. Emma they knew would pick up an Oscar someday even then and Ben was brilliant - one of my most precious possessions is his book/play 'Gasping'. Of course he mentions that lady director who meets him in the morning at the sets, picks off a hair form her lips and says - been licking my girl friend last night.

For all the success and fun, the decade or so of sexless life, the girl he fell in love with perhaps who finally married Hugh, there is a bittersweet element to it all through. A measure of the uncertain, of not knowing when it will all be taken away, found out, not knowing if what he feels is true or some illusion - Fry comes across as vulnerably as he can, opening himself out as much as he can, daring the world to take a shot. And for that, I completely love and admire the man. It took me a while to read it, not an easy read and I like where it ends - with his first snort. Another book perhaps.   


Thursday, September 7, 2023

Murder Mystery 2 - Movie

 And then we got enthused and watched Murder Mystery 2 where the Maharaja wants to get married and invites the two detectives and well - murders happen! Not as good as the first though.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Murder Mystery - Movie

 So Anjali picked this movie and it looked like fun and after a while I realised I had seen it and we still continued watching it because it was fun! Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston - perfect!

Monday, September 4, 2023

Growth Lab for Seniors at School of Management Studies, University of Hyderabad

August 23 and 24. Started off differently but ended very well. So happy to meet the senior batch and to discuss what they could do to improve chances of getting good placement. We followed the same formula of Why, How, What and Who and that gave a lot of clarity.

With the final year  MBA students, SMS, University of Hyderabad

Ford vs Ferrari - Movie

 We found this - Anjali and I - and loved it. Real stories are the best.

Thandatti - Movie

 This movie drove me and Anjali nuts because we searched for a comedy and found this one - about a patriarch who dies in a village of crazies and a cop who is about to retire who tries to solve their issues. Some crazy violent scenes and it ends funnily on a very sentimental romantic note. Shades of Love in the times of Cholera.

Thankam - Movie

 2023 Malayalam. Story of a gold rider who is killed in Mumbai and the subsequent investigation and findings. Based on a real story.

Shiv Shastri Balboa - Movie

 2023. A die hard fan of Rocky Balboa who heads to America to live out his retired life with his son finds that he has to fight just as his idol did.

Maamannan - Movie

 Tamil. Caste bias. Nice. Watched Stalin for the first time.

Thought for the Day - Laughter Can Hold Sense When You're Losing It

 I got this thought the other day - how its better to keep a smile with you, to hold things lightly. It helps you to hold things without losing it, to not be rigid, to see possibilities without getting attached to one outcome.

I feel it helps to hold a smile and when we are losing it- it means we are getting attached to something. When we get attached to something, we cannot do a proper job of it.

So Smile. Smile. Smile.

Growth Lab for Freshers at the School of Management Studies, University of Hyderabad

Two day Growth lab on the 7th and 8th of August for the first year students of MBA at the School of Management Studies, University of Hyderabad. 60 students started the workshop and 20 finished which is a credit to them. Satisfying. 

Some good feedback which I will post in good time.

With the students

This one was the best - perfect feedback. Made all the effort, the fatigue, worth it.

Poetry Reading Session

 When Abhinay published his book we decided to do a poetry reading session at home when he came to Hyderabad. Turns out that we had more poets - Taher, Sagar, Anjali and Abhinay's friend Akhila. So he came home and the rest dropped in and we dimmed the lights, poured ourselves a drink and let the poetry flow.

It was fantastic. Way better than we imagined. Everyone read 5-6 pieces or more by turn, we had discussions and laughs. Very intense and fulfilling.

And then we all had a lovely dinner. Thanks Abhinay, Anjali, Akhila, Taher and Sagar. 

Oppenheimer - Movie

 Epic biographical thriller. However didn't grip me as much - he had not much to lose.   

Saturday, September 2, 2023

A Month Without Blogging

 It's been a month or more since I blogged. In  the 10-15 years since I have begun blogging, I have never missed it for such a long period. Once before I did because I felt that my blogs were misrepresenting me - painting a picture of me that was not fully me. This time I stopped because I could not write another blog beyond the one on Ranjan. It took me a whole month to write, rewrite - adding a line here and there, a memory, a thought.

I felt I could not write another blog until I felt this blog had been done to satisfaction. I finally did, though I will still add to it.

Much has happened since June - a new appointment that kept me busy as hell (still does), travel, workshops, a conclave, cricket and more cricket, illness and death, love and life. I will bring that part in.

But this month of silence was my tribute to Ranjan.