Bhrigu's question

कभी जो याद भी आता हूँ मैं तो कहते हैं के आज बज़्म में कुछ फ़ित्ना-ओ-फ़साद नहीं - मिर्ज़ा ग़ालिब

Location: the valley, California, United States

Bay Area, Strategy Manager, Haas- U. C. Berkeley, Marathons

Monday, December 26, 2005

New year resolution

Young At Heart. Words & Music by Carolyn Leight & Johnny Richards
sung by Frank Sinatra

Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you
If you’re young at heart
For it’s hard, you will find, to be narrow of mind
If you’re young at heart

You can go to extremes with impossible schemes
You can laugh when your dreams fall apart at the seams
And life gets more exciting with each passing day
And love is either in your heart or on it’s way

Don’t you know that it’s worth every treasure on earth
To be young at heart
For as rich as you are it’s much better by far
To be young at heart

And if you should survive to 105
Look at all you’ll derive out of being alive
Then here is the best part
You have a head start
If you are among the very young at heart

And if you should survive to 105
Look at all you’ll derive out of being alive
Then here is the best part
You have a head start
If you are among the very young at heart

Happy Holidays. Have a great 2006

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Gaurav Sabnis is not a Libertarian

Confirmed. Gaurav Sabnis is a faux libertarian. He wrote this piece. Quote:
Today there is a similar debate going on about Microsoft. It is being portrayed as this giant evil corporation whose domination can never be shaken off by the world. And that government regulation is the best way to "protect" us from these anti-competitive measures of the the company.

I don't think so. I believe Microsoft deserves its success, and that Anti-Trust laws are unfair, anti-merit and extremely Orwellian. I also believe that Microsoft will meet its match unless it keeps satisfying its customers
Perhaps, he hasn't read OSS guru/hacker Eric Raymond's articles. Perhaps, this is a good time to begin. He should start by reading this article by Raymond and critique it on his blog. The title of the article is "Why Libertarians should not love Bill Gates." [Btw, one of the authors of the Halloween documents mentioned in that article was Sepia Mutineer, Vinod.]

More essays by Raymond are here. "Why am I an anarchist" is a must-read.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Company - a review

I wrote this when Company was released. This is re-posted in response to Jabberwock's review.

Company - a review

Yogi Berra, known for his malapropisms once said, "It's deja vu all over again". I'm just back from the theatre after watching Company a film directed by Ram Gopal Varma and the statement by Mr. Berra seems to resound with meaning!

It is the retelling of a story that every male kid in Mumbai is familiar with, probably as familiar as they are with the characters in the Mahabharata and their filial battles thereof. It is the saga of Dawood Ibrahim and Chota Rajan, close associates who turned against each other and turned Mumbai into their bloody battleground.

The narrative begins with the promotion of Chandrakant Nagre, aka Chandu played by newcomer Vivek Oberoi, from a small time hoodlum to lieutenant of an up and coming don, Mallik, played by Ajay Devgun. The first half of the film covers the ascent of the duo. Ram Gopal Varma has chosen two vehicles to cover this period. One, a sleek editing style which is like watching a documentary in fast forward, a mind whirling changing of frames that cover business deals and murder in one breath interspersed with a few dialogues that cover the growing awareness of Chandu. The other vehicle is an ominous sounding background score by Sandeep Chowta that seems to tell the audience that disaster is just round the corner, but while they're waiting, they could tap their feet!

This part of the film is used to make brief forays into various relationships between Chandu and his mother, played by Seema Biswas and his wife, Kanu, played by Antara Mali. Her transformation from a demure lower class girl to a fashionable woman under the unstated influence of Saroja, Mallik's girlfriend, is quite staggering. Saroja (Manisha Koirala), is a character that could've been well developed. This lady seems to be fighting some inner battles while exhibiting a semblance of a conscience, a rarity in the 'dark side'. The ensemble is complete when Srinivasan, a diligent assistant Police Commissioner played by Mohanlal chases the protagonists to Hong Kong.

The second half of the film covers the ongoing schism between Chandu and Mallik and its aftermath. The hot pursuit of Chandu by Mallik which leads to Kenya is once again sleekly edited and the narrative moves from frame to frame. The end of the film is quite surprising and kudos must be given to Ram Gopal Varma for not falling for the trap of sermonizing or eulogizing. It is exactly as it would happen in the underworld – at a time and place when one least expects it.

The entire cast has done a remarkable job in bringing the limited shades of their characters to the fore. Unfortunately, Varma could've developed most of the main roles much better than he has done. Manisha Koirala not only looks stunningly beautiful but underplays her part with gusto. While that may seem like a contradiction in terms, you have to realize this is the same woman who cried through an eminently forgettable film called Mann just a few years back. Her role, probably the most important in the film, since she causes the schism in the first place had such potential that you're left wondering why Varma did not develop it further. This is an Ajay Devgun whom we've admired for his work in Thakshak, Zakhm and Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and he doesn't disappoint. Seema Biswas as Chandu's mother is brilliant and her character is rather well thought out. She doesn't instill any values in her son and her main job as a mother, seems to be to provide ample encouragement to his misguided endeavors.

Anyone who has seen Mohanlal in Malayalam films before are well aware of his potential to fit so precisely into the character that he is playing, that one tends to forget that he's acting! But it is Vivek Oberoi who carries the heavy burden of taking the entire weight of the film on his rookie shoulders and does an admirable job of it. While he is no Manoj Bajpai, this lad has potential.

So how do I rate this film? Well, it did not disappoint me, since my expectation of Hindi films post Kabhi Kushi Kabhi Gham is abysmally low. However, I did expect more from Ram Gopal Varma since I rated his 'Satya' very high. While he did a great job in showing us the top rung of the underworld without sugar coating it or justifying why they are the way they are, the protagonists seemed to be far tied up with the inertia of their actions to have multiple facets to their selves. The role of a minister, Raote, played by Ad man & playwright Bharat Dabholkar is irredeemably badly crafted. There is also too much of Satya in the film to be ignored and that brings the feeling of déjà vu to the fore.

However, it is not your run of the mill Hindi film. It is far better than the usual fare dished out by the Johars and the Chopras. In fact, Varma takes a dig at Karan Johar and does not hold any punches while depicting Salman Khan's underworld connections. The downside of the film is that it will not be appreciated or even understood by a cross cultural audience, who do not have background information on Dawood Ibrahim and Chotta Rajan.

Rating: *** 1/2

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Missing link

1. Is the cartel running a regulated blogosphere that prevents leftists from creating their own blogs or group blogs?
2. Are jackbooted, leather jacketed staats polizei forcing people to read those blogs?
3. Does Amit Varma have no right to restrict comments in the blog and prefer emails to cut down on the comment-abuse?

If the answer is no to the three questions, the longest comment is a waste of space.

P.S. I am not in the cartel.

Friday, December 09, 2005

CS Monitor: India's costly love affair with gold

The CS Monitor writes:
In India, nearly all that glitters is, in fact, gold. With a stockpile already worth $200 billion, Indian gold purchases jumped nearly 40 percent this year, making the country the world's leading consumer of the precious metal.

Gold may seem like a savvy investment as its value hits a 22-year high. But experts say it may actually be weighing down one of Asia's fastest rising economies. It would be better if the money locked up in the glistening yellow metal went instead to finance new start-ups or better roads, boosting the Indian economy over the long term, economists contend.

Read the full thing.

The article gets it spot-on with regard to the distrust of Indians with the financial markets. The markets are very speculative and prone to indiser-trading and fixing. Therefore, there is very little faith in such institutions and consequently, a whole conservative ethos around gold has taken root. Also, gold being personal propertyand a good, there is practically no document trail, making it attractive to tax-evaders.

The way to reduce this obsession is to not simply to make more financial institutions, but to make the civil justice system more effective and far-reaching. Strengthen existing laws, institute broader prison terms for financial fraud, and get the government's various Ponzi schemes out of the financial sector.

Related article in the Economist: The Little Yellow God.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The loss of culture

The makers of SaReGaMaPa have sold the programme down the river.

With the elimination of good singers and the "green light" to at least a couple of undeserving ones [Paresh and Ujjaini], Gajendra Singh may regret public voting, the MDs may regret it, but the marketing folks in Zee must be opening champagne bottles. It is after all a ratings & revenues game. Once rotten programmes like Indian Idol and Gurukul opened the bottle and let out the genie of ratings/public voting, I bet Zee had no option but to follow suit, either by creating a programme to compete with them or by using an existing programme. Since SaReGaMaPa was readily available, they may have simply used that as a vehicle. In any case, the programme had steadily lost its high-quality output since Sonu Nigam's departure and this seems to have brought back the programme on page 3s and other fora. 3.5 million votes is a big deal. I would hazard a guess that the number of people who watch the programme but do not vote is much greater than 3.5 million. But 3.5 million SMS mesages at Rs. 6/- per message (as mentioned bya friend in a usenet newsgroup) means a lot of revenues for the telecom companies as well as the tv channel.

The name "SaReGaMaPa" is a misnomer. It bears no relation to the earlier programme of the same name. This one is a reality show. Filmi dialogue, crying buckets of tears, clips of participants romping around, participants acting out "roles", choreography, use of participants to promote malls/charity stuff and so on, ad nauseum.

Oh, its gotten me hooked. So much for my good taste!

All this was written for introducing new laws. Quizman's laws
1. All popular culture is dictated by the lowest common denominator.
2. Simplistic, mass-oriented output (tv, books) will always generate more revenue than high-quality, long-lasting good output.
3. The marketing folks will always dictate the creative content, regardless of supposed "no-interference" policies.
Now, all this begs for a niche of tv channels/magazines that provide material for people with triple digit IQs. In the United States, the govt is one such vehicle. NPR & PBS exist to develop and broadcast programmes that stimulate the intellect. The public library system exists to spread higher culture through books and events. Not only that, it actually spreads liberty, by broadening mass-awareness. These outlets spare us from the crass garbage generated by the popular commercial channels, kitschy books, and magazines.

Alas, in India, DD seems to be leading the rush towards cultural suicide. Why can't DD follow the PBS model?