Tuesday, January 30, 2007

LSE - IV: Classroom Humor

There are things, which happen rarely to people (or) things that people rarely do. The reason I am, who I am, is because I do those rare things consistently.
I am taking an Accounting course called Corporate Financial Reporting. In case you are not aware of what this means, understand that Accounting is a painful, detail-oriented subject that demands a lot of patience fom its practitioner - much similar to those signal processing courses (which involved case sensitive things like f(x) and F(x) ). There was a homework due in class yesterday and I did my due diligence and asked people how long it had taken them to do this homework. 1 hour was the most popular estimate. So I got up at 8AM for the 10:20 class, finished the homework exactly at 10:10 and rushed to class. On the way to class, I stopped momentarily to take a print out - expecting the worst - but thank god - the printer gods were sleeping, so I managed to sneak out a printout.
There is that feeling that you sometimes get - when you enter the class. It screams that something is wrong. When I opened the door to my class room, I got that feeling. Its nothing specific. Its the whole molecular structure of the class. A combination of million things that combine to tell you that something is wrong. I was late by 10 minutes - so with class door half-open, I noticed the professor was a different guy and I didn't recognize most students. So I closed the door and stepped back out of the class. Confused. Was this the wrong room? How can it be? I distinctly remembered walking in here last week. So I logged in, went to the course registration page and saw the location for this class. Double checked that with where I was. Correct location. "maybe its a guest lecturer today" - my mind began to wonder. "how can this be the wrong class. you have been coming here for 3 weeks" - my mind began to push me. So I took a deep breath and walked into the class. The students gave me a confused look, probably thinking "why is he here again" . I went to the last row and sat down. But that nasty feeling didn't leave me. I was uncomfortable. Slowly my mind cleared and the professors words began to trickle down my ear and into, what was left of, my damaged brain. Have you experienced, what those psychologists call as 'the moment of clarity'? If not, experience it. I highly recommend it. The lecture didn't sound like Accounting. It was boring but definitely not Accounting-boring. Then I saw a guy, who I thought was a first year. I began to realize that I, after all, may be as think as I drunk I am not. So I slowly opened the laptop and checked what I should have checked 3 minutes ago.
Class Timings
Well. It turned out my class began in this room at 12:40PM. And I had been coming for the 12:40 class for 3 weeks. So now I had a choice. Leave immediately and risk being embarrassed. Or sit in this lecture for 2 hours. It was tense. Such decisions aren't made by ordinary men. It requires careful thought, skill and experience gained as a result of - years of avoiding embarrassment. Every second I thought, I felt heads turning in my direction. They must be wondering. Then I decided, I just couldn't sit in this lecture. I'd rather be embarrassed than sit through an unnecessary lecture. So I picked up my laptop and began my walk towards the door. For the first few steps, I heard nothing, I began to relax. The next second I heard something that chilled my bones. Laughter. A couple of people started laughing. I quickened my pace. More people started laughing. In that haze and confusion, this strange thing called 'intelligent thought' suddenly decided to make an appearance inside my head only to alert me to the fact that the professor had stopped the lecture. My only objective was to somehow reach that exit door and leave. My worst nightmares were coming true. I distinctly had a feeling, that the Prof was staring at me now. By the time, my hand touched the door knob, the entire class was laughing. I didn't have anything funny to say. No quip that would absolve me or lighten the situation. I just turned back, gave a big smile and ran out of the class like a man possessed. I had walked into a first-year Operations class.
I rushed into the actual class 10 minutes late. The incident was behind me. I had jabbed myself hard, repeatedly, to wipe the silly smile off my face. I was a serious student now. Only for so long though. The professor put his slide out and said "so lets review today's homework" and that cold feeling crept back up my spine. I had done the wrong set of homework problems.
Previously: LSE-1 LSE-2 LSE-3

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Winter Prom 2007

The first time, I heard about this thing called 'prom' was in 'The Wonder Years' TV Series. I was impressed. People dressed up big time for such events. Men wore Tux/Formal Suits (sometimes Dinner Jacket and bow tie + vests). Women wore those fancy formal dresses - typically formal gowns. The promenades typically happened in 11th grade and at the end of high school. For many kids its a big event. The romance coeffecient for this event is supposed to be unbelievably high. People usually go an a desparation spree to grab dates for this event. The event has a formal dinner and dancing (sometimes aided by the live band). People network, introduce their dates to other people. Its all very gala. I guess at that age - your date would define your status on that prom night. If you get stuck with 'The Blob' - your night ends before it even begins. The dancing ranges from swinging, various forms of social dance and typically ends with slow dance (the live band adds to the romance by singing 'unchained melody' or equivalants). So with the romance set at a all time high, the prom king and queen are elected (a vote on the most popular guy/girl). Conversations with friends, yield that the night actually extends beyond the slow dance and ends with some real hot lovin' and that more than anything else seems to be the major concern for parents sending their kids to prom.

I was in 12th grade when Wonder Years was aired. I was juggling time between Balsu IIT coaching class (which I promptly dropped) and Lakshmi coaching center for Math Phy, Chem. My 12th std class had 3 girls. At the end of the year, my math teacher gave us all a lecture on how doing badly that year would ruin our lives irrepairably. We were given a valedictory function, which scared us even more. Then we were sent on our way for a arduous 3-month preparation towards board exams, TNPCEE and engineering counselling. No prom, no winter jackets and no slow dancing. Looking at a 'The Wonder Years' made me feel, I lived in a different galaxy altogether (Of course things are very different today).

So, when I heard about a prom at the end of 2nd year, I thought "wow! a prom for old farts" - Well it was a prom for old farts. This wasn't really a prom prom. It was just a big fancy Ball. But at least my childhood aching to be part of this prom extravaganza was getting fulfilled. $130 was a fat ass bill to pay. I pity the parents who send kids to prom. A formal gown for women is freakin expensive. A bus was supposed to take us to the Henry Ford Musuem, the huge huge place where the ball was to be held. Milli-seconds before starting, after 700 times of asking each other "is this okay?, is the tie allright, is this too much" - my wife announced that she couldn't find our tickets. Usually its my fault. But I have adapted to marriage. It is simple evolution of man over time. I gave the ticket to my wife as soon as I got it. So I had this sudden upper-hand for the first time in my marriage. She lost the ticket. Imagine my good fortune! I could trade this for eating-potato-chips-on-the-couch-watching-cricket for the rest of my life. Nano seconds before the bus was set to leave, my good fortune got better and I found the tickets myself with no help from my wife. I still have that superior condescending smirk on my face.
The ball itself was a spectacle. Everybody were dressed really well. Women were looking really hot. The venue was breath-taking. Huge. It had samples of many vintage cars the Ford had made so far. A separate line-up of Ford cars that were used by various ex-presidents. The live band played all those vintage songs from Jamie's got a Gun, Sweet Child O' mine and I will survive. Networking happened. Introductions were exchanged. It wasn't quite a long night - started at 9:00PM and ended at 1:00AM. I was strangely reminded of our farewell party at Crescent Engineering College. In the final year, starting from industrial tour to get-together, farewell, symposium, we danced at a drop of a hat. Mainly to 'Kaasu mela' - 'maana madrai' (minsara kanavu). We had no shame, no shyness. After dancing to such fine songs, I couldn't take a step down to dance to the songs played in this ball. But seriously, I have to confess, there is an element of self-conciousness. I was dancing fine in those ISA parties in grad school. But now I've lost it. Finally, I condescended and stepped on the dance area. Mainly because I had an inkling that a slow song would be played. And they ended the event with a slow-song and for some funny reason I dont recollect the song anymore. The event ended with many happy faces. Some people kept falling down - because of the drunkenness. Some had to helped back to the bus. Most of us spent time taking photographs. Well 3 more months of this and then we all go different ways. Again.

Friday, January 26, 2007


It is amazing how things breakdown at an alarming rate. I had an important phone call at 6:00 PM. My class got over at 5:30 leaving me enough time to get home and get ready for the call. My wife was supposed to pick me up. When she called at 5:30 a classmate offered to drop me home. I cancelled her offer and took up my classmate's offer.
We walked 10 minutes in this biting, freezing cold weather. We reached the car. Well! what do you know? 'Panchar'! Flat tyre cliche is all that I needed. I quickly called my wife. Ringing. Ringing. Ringing. She doesnt pick up for 6 minutes. Imagine 6 agonizing minutes where you are cursing everybody you know in this world with every possible curse word. Nerves are getting fried everytime the phone hits the voice mail. Its 5:46. I run back to school. 5:51. Connect my laptop to the internet. Get my wife on MSN. "oh! you forgot the cell phone in the car. I see. I understand" - I scream. 5:56. She is stuck in traffic. I give up. I called up the person, whom I was supposed to call, and rescheduled the meeting to another day.
6:05 . I am sitting at home with absolutely nothing to do. In 5 minutes its altogether a different world. Almost as if nothing happened.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Destiny, Philosophy & Rajinikanth

There is one thing people cant fault about Rajinikanth. He has packaged profound philosophical stuff into neat pithy sentences that can be grasped by a layman. I would consider this whole 'telling hard things the simple way' as one of his biggest trademarks and an important reason behind his popularrity. A common man can relate - some of Rajini dialogs - to something in his real life. That brings us to a pertinent example -

"Kedaikarthu kedaikaama irukaathu. Kedaikaama irupathu kedaikka've kedai'kaathu "

(If you are meant to get it, you'll never not get it. If you aren't mean't to get it, you will never get it) - The charm/pithyness of the original language is lost in transalation - but its still 'ok'.

Although the meaning was partly obvious the first time I read it, I can truly see what he means now. Especially since I got to see both halves of the sentence come true for me. There has to be a term called 'Rajinikanth moment' to rival 'Kodak moment'. I am not kidding.

Monday, January 22, 2007

On Masala Mixes

The lip sync doesn't match 100%. But awesome editing and perfect mood creation for one of my favorite songs. Seriously good imagination.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

World Cup in WI - II

I am telling you, its all because of me. Its all because, I wanted to go there and watch a world cup match.

Applicants who require visas must either reach their nearest office or mail their passports along with $100 and join a long waiting list.

"This is the worst public-relations nightmare that the Caribbean has ever created for itself," said Josef Forstmayr, managing director of Round Hill Hotel and Villas in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

George Goodwin, chief executive officer of the local organizing committee in Antigua and Barbudam, added: "Ticket sales are not going as robust as people had originally hoped."

Friday, January 19, 2007

Dr. Evil

The details of my life are quite inconsequential... very well, where do I begin? My father was a relentlessly self-improving boulangerie owner from Belgium with low grade narcolepsy and a penchant for buggery. My mother was a fifteen year old French prostitute named Chloe with webbed feet. My father would womanize, he would drink. He would make outrageous claims like he invented the question mark. Sometimes he would accuse chestnuts of being lazy. The sort of general malaise that only the genius possess and the insane lament. My childhood was typical. Summers in Rangoon, luge lessons. In the spring we'd make meat helmets. When I was insolent I was placed in a burlap bag and beaten with reeds- pretty standard really. At the age of twelve I received my first scribe. At the age of fourteen a Zoroastrian named Vilma ritualistically shaved my testicles. There really is nothing like a shorn scrotum... it's breathtaking- I highly suggest you try it.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Avar great Kantri

If you are living under some illusion that there are intelligent people who will take care of governing India in the future - take a look at this.
The President of India asks a question on Yahoo answers. One can argue that this may not be the appropriate forum to ask it - but hey! to be fair to him he was looking for an 'out-of-box' answer and I am willing to give him some benefit of doubt.
But the 'marana pethal' that follows is unbelievable. Starting from Vijayanthi IPS, one after the other 'big shot' personality gives, imprecise, emotionally unstable, gooey, childish, mind-blowingly-immature, preachy, nonsensical, ovely-sentimental drivel as answers. It seems like the intellegensia of our country has been replaced by Bollywood 'dayalock' writers. I couldn't read beyond the first five responses, I had to quickly poke myself with a crowbar to distract myself from dullness of the answers. So let me know if you find one answer that could have actually been written by an adult.
The 'Greatest Idiot in the World Competition' recruiters have moved from cricket stadiums, where they were enticing 'indiyan cricket fans expressing lofty opinions on Indiyan kiriket to some network TV ', to set up camp in Yahoo answers. The candidate pool here is awesome.
p.s: I really think its a stage managed Yahoo advt.

Art Buchwald

He passed away recently. He was a regular feature in 'The Hindu'. Appeared in the last page like forever.

Some of Buchwald's observations:

During the Watergate scandal, Buchwald explained that the sound in the 18 1/2-minute gap in the White House tapes actually was Nixon humming.

"Just when you think there's nothing to write about, Nixon says, 'I am not a crook.' Jimmy Carter says, 'I have lusted after women in my heart.' President Reagan says, 'I have just taken a urinalysis test, and I am not on dope.'"

"Have you ever seen a candidate talking to a rich person on television?"

According to Standring, Buchwald had a parade of celebrity visitors, including several members of the Kennedy family, and he still loved to joke with people. Standring visited Buchwald to present him with the 2006 Ernie Pyle Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, calling him the "patron saint of political satire."

"Every time you think television has hit its lowest ebb, a new program comes along to make you wonder where you thought the ebb was."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Lightning Strikes Everyday - II

In some state of 'whatever' intoxication, I mistakenly assumed that I was a normal human being with regular capabilities. Sometimes you forget who you are and the curses that you live with. I had a homework due for 'Corporate Financial Reporting' ( I know! its so unbelievably exciting) class and 2 minutes before class began I realized that I had not taken print-outs of my homework and quickly ran to the library. In that rush, I forgot who I was and why I existed.
I wrongly believed that I was capable of taking print outs.

40 minutes later, I realized why I hadn't gone near the printer so much in the last decade. I had long given up any hope of being able to take print outs (I can't book tickets to India also - but thats a story for a different blog post). The IT support staff were poking around my laptop and one kept saying ' its funny maan! there is no reason why the printouts should not appear'. Familiar story - only I knew the answer. I couldn't really tell them that it not a s/w-h/w problem and that it was just me. I paid lip service and asked them to check if the laptop was connected/online. I finally gave up and moved the HW file to a temp drive and gave the drive to the IT guy and told him "can you take it far away from my - zone of presence - and try a print out. I'll be as far away from the printer as I can possibly be". I literally left the library and cameback after 2 minutes. He had the printout waiting for me.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Happy Birthday To All My Readers


May your 'punnaku' be tasty, your tail straight, and horns colorful. May you mate/shit in private and provide Vitamin D milk with minimum water. May you not kill each other in the 'jalli kattu' of life but limit yourself to traffic jams.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Guru: Review

Manirathnam, is one my favorite directors. Someone, I consider to be clearly the number uno as far mainstream Indian cinema is concerned. He is probably one of the few directors who would command a box-office opening worthy of a big star. There is a buzz about his movie isn't there? A lot of people are curious, skeptics of Indian cinema peep in and check out what he has to offer. In the recent past, he has increasingly shown interest in making Bollywood movies. I have never understood why. Bollywood is a market, which has a different culture and acceptability towards the artsy-commercial stuff that Mani tends to throw out. Before this movie began, I was curious if he would even connect with Bollywood sensibilities. He has. But in the process has become less of Manirathnam, which isn't really a good thing. Manirathnam, as he has done for the past 20 odd years, comes to this movie, armed with his magic kit, his unique narrative technique, and probably the best technicians any director can ever hope to have. And he weaves this tech-savvy magic on us that sets up the movie to begin on a different plane. Every time, I sit to watch a Mani movie on the first day, the nerve tingling experience is incomparable. I have literally grown up with his movies and it is a pleasure to follow the arc of his creative offerings so far. How will his title credits look like (It is sometimes white characters in black background, with deathly silence, in Yuva credits appear like cars racing through the road, in Roja they appear with machine gun chatter as background music. Here, credits appear 5-10 minutes after the movie has begun in a very creative 'newspaper printing' type of way and curiously gives a senior like MithunDa top credits)? Will this beat 'Iruvar' as his best movie ever? What has he got to say this time?

Guru is a biopic of an ambitious 'bijinez' man called Gurukanth Desai from a village called 'idhar' Gujarat. As it progresses, the movie morhps his name to Guru-Bhai and suggests enough allusion to Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of Reliance Group of Companies. This probably fuels the pre-relese rumor surrounding the same issue. This is obviously a high-quality movie. As expected from Mani, its technically slick and raises the visual experience. Nobody tells us stories like these. Movies, are mostly about 'a different/violent/rational/indigestion love story' and I hate love stories. So after the first 30 minutes, I was already glad that any semblance of romance in this movie was limited to something as un-romantic as Guru marrying a woman for a Rs 25,000 dowry. She is a capital investment to his ambition and for that he is prepared to marry her (even if she is tad older than him). He doesn't even ask her permission. He gets her because he can convince her father that he is loony enough to marry the 'mad' daughter - thereby making this the best romantic Hindi movie, I have ever seen. This movie then takes us through his struggle, his opposition, his ups, downs and his questionable ethics.

All the details in Guru's life have a strong parallel to Ambani's life. From debentures, fake export-import, Shell-station-boy(ambani was in Yemen), bribing of ministers, newspaper rivalry to paralytic brain stroke-leaving right hand paralyzed. The key similarity is the shareholder meetings in stadiums, which was really Ambani's unqiue feature. He was among the first to utilize the public share issue concept in a big way. There is inescapable evidence that this movie is a fitting tribute to Ambani. However, there is a conceptual choice that Manirathnam seems to have made in this movie. It is not a detail-oriented movie but a more big-picture kind of a movie. He wouldn't tell you exactly why Guru was so successful in business but just focus on the top-level fact that he persevered and was successful. He wouldn't tell you exactly what the case/enquiry/commission against him is, he would limit it to a superficial chatter, where words like debentures and shares come up very often. He focuses on breadth and not depth. Consequently, you wouldn't know why Guru wins but you know that he wins. Contrast this to a cliched but excellent example like Godfather, where you are told details of 1 event and you know exactly what needs to happen for the hero to suceed a mafia coup or win a enquiry commision probe. 1 event is told in clear detail, while a biography is narrated. Guru does not describe any single event in great detail. It skims over a lot of things but you get the larger point.

So its a design choice that Manirathnam makes - to focus on the larger picture of ambition, never-say-die and the archiacness of Indian legal system. There are pros and cons to this. The pro part is obvious so let me focus on the con part. A logical argument/ a joke/ a persuasive speech is like a bridge. You have a starting point, from where you hope to reach an end state. An argument, a joke (with its punch lines) gets you from this starting point to the end state. The end state being victory or a humorous situation. The audience should be convinced that the argument was strong enough (in other words the bridge was long enough) to connect the start and the end state. Here, it is not. Mainly because you aren't told much details of whats going on, you struggle to connect. You aren't very sure why his fiery speech produced a certain result. Or why some of the things he said resulted in a business contract. You are just told that it did and you have to run with that. Citizen Kane or Godfather II connected with the audience because you are clearly aware of the causality. Here, especially in the last scene you aren't sure. The adrenalin popping crescendo that Mani builds so well does not lead to a big enough payload in the end. You are not sure if it left you with a good taste in the mouth (it doesn't leave a bad taste either). A more judgemental director than Manirathnam might've delivered. Mani just hovers in the key moment of the movie and takes a familiar ambiguous and righteous stance. You wish that he hadn't done that. You wanted a better payload after all the build-up and you don't get it. But Manirathnam has been poor with endings all along. If Bombay was ridiculous, Kannathil was wierd, Yuva and Guru superimposes utopia over real world.

This movie does well to recreate the 1960-1980 ambience. The details to create a period movie effect, the Gujarat customs, et all have been appropriately researched and executed. I was hoping he would capture Bombay the way he did in Nayagan but then Rajiv Menon, inspite of being really good, is no P.C Sreeram. The Bombay trading floors, the 'english babu' personalities, the 'khadi clad' people remind you that India was a much different place a few decades ago. This movie neither has a fight sequence nor serious violence. There is rivalry ofcourse, a very curious one between a newspaper reporter and Guru. I am assuming that there were many reporters who were against Guru and Mani just focusses on one such reporter. Otherwise the rivalry is dispropotionate. Another interesting aspect is that the whole world of Guru is condensed to 4-5 people. His arch rival (MithunDa), the owner of 'Swatantra' newspaper, is also his father figure. MithunDa's daughter is Guru's god-child who marries Madhavan, another arch-rival of Guru. All key characters, conveniently, also have a deep emotional connection, when typically none would exist. Yet another Nayagan parallel (Naser Vs Kamal). The scene where he sees the wedding photo of Vidya Balan and Madhavan is so similar to the Nayagan scene except this one has a lesser impact. The world of Guru is condensed. It is condensed so to potray a greyer relationship status of 'I like you personally but its a different story profesisonally'. It showcases the conflicting emotions that many characters have to go thorugh to ensure professional success while being aware of the personal harm it can cause to those near to them.

On performances, Abhishek Bachan has probably done the best role of his career. His role constantly reminded me of the DeCapiro's role in The Aviator. If the Manirathnam effect stays true this is the best ever role he will get to perform ever. Kamal Hasan, in the 20 years following Nayagan, has done some splendid performances but he still can't do a movie that convinces everybody that he has left Nayagan behind. This is the 3rd biography that Manirathnam has come out with. Kamal Hasan and Mohan Lal have played Varadaraja Mudaliar and M.G.Ramachandran in the previous two biogrpahies that Mani has made. Abhishek has stepped on to an elite list. He reminds us so much of his father. Especially when he faces Roshan Seth and casually talks about his invalid right hand. When he ended the sentence with 'saala' - I almost thought it was a cut and paste of an Agnipath dialog. The rest of the cast, even if it includes MithnDa and Maddy have a negligible role to play. Aishwarya Rai can't act. If she can't act in a mani movie, she is pretty much done. She looks very beautiful though. This movie is out-and-out an Abhishek Bachan movie. Mani has a curious way of making a character grow old in a movie. Its not black-hair to all-grey hair. There is the paunch, the thick glasses, the semi-greyness. Iruvar and Nayagan had all these. Very believable. Abhishek's role is so parallel to both those roles. He comes across as a fine actor. He plays the ever positive 'bijinez' man, who will not take 'no' for an answer. A person who believes everybody else around him (including his father) is a fool. The scene where he is travelling to meet a 'honest' minister for a favor is my best scene of the movie. He sits nervously in the helicopter worried that he has only been granted a 10 minutes audience with the minister. His lackey reminds him that the minister is 'honest'. "Do some magic gurubhai" he implores, reconciled to the fact that Guru's success is because of his 'magic'. Guru is all smiles when he greets the minister, but it doesn't begin well and the minister begins to insult him. The smile never dissapears, but you know its hurting him inside. Then the way he turns around the situation - simply brilliant from conception to execution. A classic scene where an awesome director meets an excellent actor. Roshan Seth is one of those charming actors, I like so much. The amused smile that he gives to Guru, which sort of indicates 'Kid! i like you. you've got spunk', his presense is so wonderful. It is sad that such actors figure so less in this movie.

Songs shouldn't have been part of this movie. This album was the most dissapointing and poorest of Mani-ARR combos that I have ever seen. I didn't like most songs. I am pretty sure they would be horrible in Tamil and so I never bothered to listen to the Tamil version (Anybody reading this! Please dont watch the Tamil movie). I hate movies that have songs. It never fits. The sooner we get rid of this culture the better for us. Given that - nobody picturises songs better than Mani. He has reinvented the art of picturizing songs. Sadly here its all absent. There were points where I thought Mani was guessing 'maybe this is how songs are picturized in hindi'. Maybe he has no clue. The dances are awkward, the picturization isn't all that great and the songs look more out of place than it usually does in movies. In interviews, he keeps talking ever so often about losing interest in songs and mentioned that it is incredibly boring to picturize them. So maybe he has lost interest.

Overall Guru is an excellent movie. It is a typical 'elistist' movie from MR and you just have to sit down and wonder if the layman would understand a movie of this quality. In Guru, Bollywood would get to see a real 'hatke' movie put into a commercial bottle. No rich sets, no houses with 7400 bedrooms, nobody wears an expensivee dress, and there is minimal make up. The usage of English is negligible. Pure Hindi words are used. You could count a handful for 2-3 English words in this movie. It is as un-bollywood as it can get. Why is it good? Mainly, because this is an inspiring story. It gives us a historical perspective. It critisizes those archiac and stupid laws, the businessmen of the earlier era had to break, to modernize India. It is a no-nonsense and a very serious movie that keeps you interested and entertained till the end. In an interview MR mentioned that he has finally learnt Hindi enough to find out if the dialogs and the the way they are said meets with his expectations. With that learning curve accomplished, hopefully, in his next movie with Aamir Khan, he would deliver something close to his best. The incredible expectations surrouding every movie Manirathnam makes it is almost impossible for him to exceed even the least of those expectations. It is a curse he has to live with. In this case most of the audience do not know him or have no real expectations from him, which should help the cause of the movie. I wouldn't put this anywhere close to his best - 'Iruvar'. I would probably rank Guru 3rd among his 3 biographies.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

World Cup in West Indies

Do remember the time when India toured West Indies in 1997-1998? There was a journalist callled R.Mohan, who worked for the 'The Hindu' newspaper. He has since left the paper 'under a cloud'. Possibly because his name got entangled in the match fixing controversy. That particular series was a really boring series with very few high points. Boring because of India's slow and painful batting. Sidhu took a lifetime to hit a double century in Jamaica and Ganguly batted even slower, inexplicably so, to take away any hope of winning in Trinidad. This was an uninteresting 5-Test series, between two really low-ranked out-of-form teams, which India lost it in one mad session, in Barbados, getting all out for 81. Ganguly was dropped for the rain-washed Guyana test and Bengal went on its 365th strike for that year. But my intention is not to review that series.

R.Mohan was a decent sportswriter. Typical of the cricket writers who worked for 'The Hindu' he would never express a real opinion. He would always play it safe and make sure that he was on the good side of most players. I am positive all writers for this newspaper do this so that they can get those 'exclusive' interviews from the players. ('The Hindu' was the only paper to praise Azhar and Kumble when even they didnt have any clue as to why the 5 people who matter thought that these 2 could play this game called cricket). Between 1997 - 2003 Kumble bowled at least 2 out of 6 balls down the leg-side, could never bowl to left handers, was De Silva's whore until he retired, and batted like an idiot (Sachin's first ODI game as captain in SL comes to mind). But R.Mohan would insist on calling Kumble as 'accurate' or use words like 'laser precision' etc. Whenever this Kumble took 5-wicket hauls on a rank turner at Kanpur or something - R.Mohan would be quick to call Kumble a 'gentle giant' or something as nonsensical as 'he hit back at the critics with his performance'. But I still liked R.Mohan mainly because he wrote well inspite of having to be politically correct.

I used to read R.Mohan's Tour Diary without fail during India's tour of WI in 1997. This diary appeared in the SportsStar. It was a very interesting diary where he logged his experiences,observations, adventures of the past week (SS was a weekly magazine). The only act of courage that Mohan ever did in his journalistic career was call West Indies unfit for hosting a World Cup. India by then had hosted 2 World Cups. Although the convenience, scheduling, arrangements, and operations in the 87 and 96 WC were poor and much critisized, India did a creditable job. Mohan compared the manner in which World Cup was conducted in India and Australia and concluded that the facilities, hotels, transportation, lodging and communication systems were too horrible in WI to even imagine hosting a World Cup. He claimed that even if they dramatically improved in the next 10 years WI would still do a horrendous job with the World Cup. The analysis on different venues and hotels were really detailed and a reader could easily see why WI was unfit to hold a world cup. WI had just applied for/or had just been given permission to host WC 2007 at that time. The news of this article reached people in WI and it soon spread to taxi drivers Bell Boys and everybody's uncle. So the next week's tour diary was very interesting. Mohan narrated as to how he was ill-treated by 'all and sundry'. Co-journalists were rude to him, Taxi Drivers began to pick up arguments with him. So even the small motivation for him to be not so politically correct would have dissappeared.

So its 2007 and World Cup in WI is nearing. Looking at news items where WI is making a fool of itself during WC preparations makes me believe Mohan predicted correctly. They aren't just screwing up within the West Indies but also screwing up as far as visas for touring spectators are concerned. All these are indicators of an organizational disaster of epic proportions. Don't be surprised if there are schedule disruptions, game disruptions or tourist inconvenices in WI during Mar/April. The arguments (selection/otherwise) between different countries that comprise the WI haven't stopped also. They maybe one of the richest boards in the world, but I personally don't think they have the facilities or the organizational unity/discpline to conduct a tournament of this magnitude.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Vagina Obsession

I was seeing a movie yesterday and there is this girl who says 'naan oru appanukku poranthavala iruntha unnai naan summa vida matten' (if I were born to one father, i wont let you get away). She is fighting with someone on a property related dispute. That someone apparently has cheated her or turned hostile and is on the verge of stealing her property. So she shouts these words to him. I can understand there would be angry words fight etc. But seriously! why drag her birth issues into this? I am sure the property dispute and its resolution is completely unrelated to the number of file systems mounted on her mom's operating system some 20 years ago. Why has our country made this such a big deal? This whole 'my mother slept with only one man' dialog has been used to define the virtue, bravery, result-oriented'ness, competence, handwriting, and tactical ability of the child. How is her mom's sex life in anyway connected to all these things?

Why are we so obsessed with the vagina, the hymen, virginity? People are obsessed with talking about it. It comes masked as feminism, honor, valor, dignity and before you know you would have had your first vagina conversation. Have we run out of things to talk about. So many thousand years of existence and human beings have become bored? I mean - it is not even logical. Lets suppose this girl's mom slept with the entire population of Bombay. Among all the sperm cells that was ever deposited in her vagina, only one little sperm cell is gonna crawly-crawl-crawl up her fallopian tube and mate with her egg. So it is a biological impossibility that her daughter be born of multiple fathers. Even if sperms of 70,000 men were mashed in a blender and sent up via a fire hose into the fallopian tube - only one man's sperm will eventually mate. But our country apparently does not know this and makes a big deal out this. It attaches virtue to vagina and a whole lot of emotions, which simply a puny little vagina cannot handle. Little do all these dialog writers know that some N generations ago most of their ancestors were either raped by moghuls or some 2000 years ago they lived in tribal systems where mating with multiple partners was not so uncommon. Given all I am still not able to figure a direct relation ship between that girl's mom's sex life and her ability to win the property dispute.
Maybe among animals it would be a shame if the female parent of a lion cub just mated with one lion. So the threateneing words you would typically hear from a lion cub would be 'naan pala appanukku poranthavala iruntha..." (if I am really born to multiple fathers I will not let you getaway easily)

Sunday, January 07, 2007

That Four Letter Word

Sudhish Kamath has released his movie That four letter word. It has been a huge effort from him to put together a cast, secure funding and exposure for this movie. It is fruition of 7 hard long years of perseverence. Many people dream of making a movie, only a few people achieve it. I have personally romanticized about making a movie until the point where my mom or my friends asked me to shut up and go to study. To make that jump requires a leap of faith in the system and in yourself. At the risk of embarassing myself and making myself laughing stock - it is something I will forever regret not doing.

In anycase, as I have mentioned ad nauseum, I am sure Da Jilako, ozdude and myself are happy that our classmate went on to do it. Regardless of the eventual outcome or the 'result' - I personally think the experience of making a movie is a huge learning experience in itself. Here are some promos for the movies. I thought the title credits were innovative and I look forward to seeing the movie. Sudhish's website and the movies website constantly advertise the (free) screenings of the movie. Do see it when you get a chance.

Promo 1

Promo 2

Promo 3

Promo 4

Friday, January 05, 2007

Idiots - II: Paging Jodi #1 Viewers

My last post on how to identify idiots came a long while ago. Another one is long over due.
Jodi #1 is a stupid show. It involves two kinds of pairs - (a) Some male TV anchors pair up with female TV anchors (b) Some TV anchors bring their family into this horror show by pairing with their real life husband/wife.
The songs are not their original creation, their dance is realy really horrible. So horrible that you cant touch a decent meal for weeks after you have watched a single episode of the show. You have to crawl to the nearest commode and vomit for 2 days to relieve yourself of the 'bad taste in your mouth'. These people are also extremely ugly and fat. Dance shows by nature are horrible. I have no idea what criteria is used to judge these people. The only people who watch this are distilled idiots. There is no art, grace or anything remotely human about this show. If a viewer sees something in it its because (s)he is an idiot. There is not even a molecule of sense left in these people.
So if you are in search of an idiot for a science experiment and cant find a person, who drives a vehicle that makes pig like noises when brakes are applied, all you have to do is find a Jodi #1 fan.

Tendulkar minus the Halo

Dear Mr.Tendulkar,

I hereby resign from the post of your 'greatest fan in the world'. I think you are full of nonsense. This is your last tour to South Africa and you have failed to deliver any impact. I have run out of patience. I have snapped. You have done nothing in test matches in the last four years. A person who sucks for 3-4 years in a row does not deserve a place among the best batsman of this era. You are not the Tendulkar of the 90s. You are some pussilanimous, ambitionless, gutless imposter in Tendulkar's clothes. When India was a 1-man team in the 90s, I thought that given a good team, you would take India to greatness. A good team is here but you have sucked beyond belief. I don't hate you. Unlike many people who don't understand cricket, I don't think you are a selfish guy. You just dont have the ability (or have forgotten it and need to be dropped from the team to remember it). However, I don't think you are anywhere close to being called 'great'. Your wretchedness in the second innings is irrelevant, but your dismissal in the first innings of each of the three tests was the last straw. You could have closed the game in each of those innings. But you sucked.
I quote George Costanza (partly) "Some of your strokes have caused me and the people of this country a great degree of heart burn." You have taken a talented, aggressive, wonderful young cricketer inside you and made him into this mediocre, scared, domesticated cow.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Resume - I

My cousin just began his job search and he asked me to review his resume. I quickly noticed that he had a 2-page resume and I replied back saying "Dude! You have to reduce it to 1 page". He was a campus fresher and it was easy to give this advise. But it is not so easy when you are reviewing a resume of someone who is not a campus fresher. I began to wonder, is there some law, a convention, or a standard practice that dictates how long a resume would be and how it should be formatted. There are ofcourse a thousand resume books but none really give us a feeling of what's currently going on. So I thought I'd use the web 2.0 extravaganza and collect public/community perceptions on how they go about building their resume or give their thoughts on some good resume formats they have come across. In this blog post I will write abaout what I like/dislike about the resume styles that I have had so far and the resumes that I have seen so far. Readers could either write blog posts on this topic (please let me know and I can link your blog here) or leave comments on resume tips in the comments section.

The Length of the Resume

India and U.S have markedly different resume styles. The constant thing, I heard from my peers and seniors in the U.S was that "if you cant say your story in 1 page, then you don't deserve a job". I believed it when I first heard it, now I am not so sure. So my resume as a campus fresher at the undergrad or graduate level was limited to 1 page. It was 1 page when I was searching for a job with a couple of years of work experience. Now during this MBA campus job search with over N years of work experience it is strictly one page (school rule). The years of work experience has been condensed to 1 page of telegram sounding sentences. Most resumes that I have seen emanating out of the U.S has been one page (of course exceptions exist).

India has been a completely a different case overall. Resumes run long. Seriously, while there have been exceptions of concise resumes, most resume I have seen are 3-4 pages long. Even for people with less than 5 years experience. The emphasis was on providing as much data as possible. And what's more some resumes have things like Date of Birth, father's name, mother's name, number of siblings, and passport number in the last page. It looked like a sheet that you would send to Doordarshan's 'Missing People' program ("kaanamal Ponavargal arivippu") Some are most of these questions could be illegal to ask in this U.S. When I was asked to interview people in India, I found most of these irrelevant and never bothered to look beyond the first two pages. I always assumed that this resume was a consolidated data sheet for the HR (HR interviews in India involved questions about father/mother/sibling occupation etc - so candidates preemptively put stuff in their resume).

It is hard to pass a judgment on what's an appropriate length for a resume. I would assume that the shorter it is the better. If you edit poorly and keep it long, it might hurt you regardless of whether searching for a job in the U.S or India. However, one thing is certain no interviewer scans a resume for more than 30 seconds to 1 minute. Anything beyond that only means that he has seen something ( a project perhaps) in your resume that he has done before or is very interested in. Otherwise beyond certain keywords the scanner of your resume is not interested in seeing every detail in your resume let alone spot your spelling/formatting/punctuating mistakes and hold it against you (But that does not give you a license to goof off in your English). So it would suffice if the resume is sort of a trailer or a highlights package of your experience than a thesis of it. I understand that at some point your work experience would grow sufficiently large for you to move beyond 1 page regardless of where you are. I can't imagine anybody compressing 10 years of experience in 1 page. So there ought to be a tipping point where resumes would begin to span multiple pages. It is up to the individual to decide if (s)he has hit that tipping point. Even in these cases, your more recent experiences would typically be more relevant and so the emphasis and space spent on things beyond 5 years in the past would bee negligible.

The structure of the resume

Unlike the case with 'length' - you will not see a resume that is 4 or 5 standard deviations away from the mean as far as style/structure is concerned. In India, I have sometimes seen the resume with some data sheet on the first page. I usually assumed that the resume came through the head hunter and the headhunter prefixed their own data sheet to the resume.

The 'objective' part of the resume was something, I struggled with for a while before I dropped it eventually because it was perceived as superfluous. Data sheets, job application form, pre interview formalities usually take care of this part. Campus freshers who clearly want design, development over testing or vice versa write this preference (until they become desperate for a job :-) ). Otherwise it is the context of resume content + the job you are applying to - that takes care of your 'objective'. For more experienced people, who are laser precise about the job they want this section could be used to indicate the HR on what they want.

In most resumes I have seen a 'summary of skills' section. It sums up the key skills the person knows in different domains. Sometimes its technical skills and sometimes it is domain related skills. It potentially is a useful section. However, it has been abused to a large extent that it has become of little use to the resume scanner. Most people who have this section, have filled this up every possible skill that exists out there. For example 'programming skills summary' has 'C, C++, Java, C#, VB, ..." and the same person knows all the OS skills from 'BSD UNIX ....Windows .. Mac'. This has reduced the credibility of this section. I wonder if people still make judgement calls based on this section.

Usually 'Education' comes before work experience when you are applying via campus. I have heard that some people put education in the end when they are trying to switch jobs (i.e applying when you are working as opposed to when you are a student). However, I have seen education appearing before Work Experience of lateral hire resumes. My theory on this is that if a person had an education that he wanted to highlight then putting it at the beginning started the resume on a strong note. As much as people like to believe the opposite, I am pretty much convinced that strong brand names of educational institutions, distinctions, academic achievements GPA give an impression of the strength of the person candidacy. It impresses everybody who matters. However, the lack of all the above attributes does not significantly diminish your chances of an interview call. Its a good to show-off kind of a thing. In resumes the education section has the name of the university, place, graduation date (almost all recruiters guess your age based on this), in the next line is your specialization, GPA etc. Underneath each University/degree people highlight their achievements, awards, thesis topics etc. Each item occupying 1 bullet point. Resume's of non-campus freshers tend to drop their GPA etc and don't have any bullet points under academic achievements unless it is really really spectacular. GPAs and other academic achievements are typically forgotten after you graduate and become irrelevant.

Work Experience Resumes in India vastly differ from that in the U.S in this regard. In both places work experience is listed in reverse chronological order (most recent experience first). There are subsections to the work experience section. Each subsection is typically a job/designation you held in a company/across companies. Each change in designation, job either within the company or by moving to a new company results in a new section under work experience. The resumes I have seen in the U.S people have such sections demarcated by company-designation names in bold font. The header of these sections has one line bearing the company name, second line has their designation, business division. After this a series of bullet points follow written in sharp telegram sounding sentences (CAR - context Action Result - format). Each designation a person occupies in a company has a separate section and a set of bullet points. The CAR format is really effective. More effective if each bullet point is limited to 2-3 sentences. A quick glance would tell the recruiter succintly what this person has done. It is clear and less ambiguous. I would highly recommend the bullet point - CAR format to anybody.

In India many resume that I saw were radically different. This work experience section runs upto pages and the following format is extremely common and popular. For each company, the person lists the projects he/she has done for the company. The projects are explained in a descriptive format. First there is a descriptive paragraph containing a semi-detailed explanation of what the project is all about. It is not described in bullet points, it does not (yet) describe what the person did in the project. It describes the big picture of project in some detail. Then follows some bullet points of what the person did for the project. I have never understood this format but I was forced to build such a resume by my employer when they wanted to send my resume to clients. Most IT services companies have a specific format in which they require employees to build their resumes. This resume is used by managers to either pull a person to their group or send it to potential clients. I unnecessarily wrote 3 pages of thesis like resume content, knowing fully well that the client would never read much of it. From personal experience of being a 'client' I know that at least most US/UK based clients are perplexed to see volumnious resumes from IT services companies. I was very curious to find out the research these IT services companies had done to come to a conclusion on what the most 'client preferred' resume formats were. It is my opinion that no such research was done and maybe it was somebody's bright idea. The clients upon receiving such resumes, ofcourse, don't go through every word of it. They just scan pages to see if the skills they are looking for is mentioned. This trait of 'lets see if he got this' is true both in the U.S and India

For example if I were scanning resumes for a position that pertained to Linux driver development, I'd quickly look for projects that had such an experience. If such a project was mentioned, I'd look where this person did this project (Sometimes when your company sends you to scan resumes during career fairs, you have watch out good projects from dubious companies. I'd see an excellent device driver project done by the person when he was working for 'Shanthi Technology Solutions'. No mention of a client name. This means that chances are high that the project would be right out of a George Pajari book). If I am convinced that the project, its content and the person is legitimate on primafacie scan, I'd recommend that he/she be called for an interview. From talking to colleagues this is how shortlisting for interviews typically work. Projects that are not relevant to the job positions are usually overlooked until the interview stage.

The bottomline is such projects, which decide a call for an interview become very crucial. The more clear and powerful your experience is, the higher your chances of being called for an interview is. For example if your generic description of the project is impressive but your personal contribution is vague - you kill your chances of getting an interview call.

I have listed my opinions and my experiences with building resumes or scanning resumes. It is possible that I may have over generalized or incorrectly stated certain assumptions. This is the reason for writing such a blog post. I want myself and many others like me to be disabused of certain resume-related notions and benefit from public contributions on this topic. So if you have a different opinion on resume content/style and you have different experiences regarding shortlisting scanning resumes, please share them either in your blog post or in the comments section.