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Friday, 18 July 2008

Ten Manifestations... Whiffs of stale air and breathtakingly boring to say the least!

I happened to watch Kamal's magnum opus, mega "ulaga" release yet painstakingly slowly brewed "Dasavatharam" - Yaaaawn! And if you ask me, it was an utter waste of all the man days that it took to get this movie made. This post is not going to go down well with the many Kamal fans [read- fanatics] or those who looked at the recent media/critic reviews of this movie... So, look away now if you have to.

I believe Kamal's self obsession probably lead him to make this movie in the first place - "Naan dhan greatest actor". All of that was quite evident from the way he was speaking on television news channels (Rewind all the way back to the day this flick was released). South Indian fans [read- maniacs] will be glad to put him on a pedastal - and make him a megalomaniac in the process. "Aascar" Ravichandran may not write off all the millions he spent financing this but Himesh's string of countless hits has definitely ended. Someone needs to tell Kamal that he can only bray, not sing a tune.

So what went wrong? It had absolutely no story to speak of, and the twists and turns were predictable. In the end, it turned out to be a routine film rendered more aggravating by its incessant near-miss plot structure. You desperately want to like the film for its maddeningly zany characters played out by Kamal Hassan. Alas! There’s only so much life an actor can pump into a moribund script. It once again proves the old theory that, without a proper story and script, no film, however big the actors are, can succeed.

In fact, it is very easy to dislike the film and get dissatisfied with the much hyped ten performances… But first, let me also mention the 11th role that Kamal Haasan has performed; that of the script writer, which he has failed miserably… The biggest failure of Dasavathaaram is the lack of a proper story, a tight screenplay and well connected characters. One gets the feeling that because Kamal Haasan wanted to make history by portraying ten different characters, he created them. Otherwise, one cannot think of any justification in him appearing all sorts of get-ups.

An incomprehensibly mediocre movie, it’s a shame that Dasavatharam is the best that someone with 35+ years in the Tamil movie business can come up with.

A total mess of a story is compounded by a mostly so-so performance by Kamal Haasan (except in some roles like the Indian intelligence officer Balram Naidu, Patti and Rangaraja Nambi) and below par music.

Since Kamal Haasan also takes credit for the story, screenplay and dialogs in Dasavatharam, it’s only right that the major discredit for the movie should also accrue to this manga madaya (stupid fellow).

If the overall story - with the distracting side stories - is a jumbled mess, the dialogs are hopelessly banal. No life in them at all. Even a movie like Mozhi featuring a bunch of B-grade stars like Prakash Raj and Prithviraj had better dialogs.

Much of the movie centers around the efforts of a U.S.-based scientist Govind Ramasamy (Kamal Haasan’s primary role in the movie) desperately trying to safeguard a deadly germ vial (containing a strain of the Ebola virus?) and prevent it from falling into the hands of a really nasty element called Christian Fletcher (Kamal Haasan again).

The fight to grab the deadly vial that starts in the U.S. ultimately ends in India after many boring detours. And oh yes! The vial... In the movie, Govind says, the vial should be stored at an optimum temperature- neither too hot, nor too cold. Doesn't the climate of Tamil Nadu fall under the 'too hot' category? I wonder...

Some of the roles that Kamal plays in Dasavatharam like the activist Vincent Poovaraghan, George W.Bush, the singer Avtar Singh, the 7-ft tall Kalifulla Khan and the Japanese martial arts expert Shingen Narahashi were very poorly fleshed out. It was as if these characters were included just to hit the magic number of ten and justify the title of the movie. An example once again of the sloppy work by Kamal in the story department.

Makeup work for the many roles Kamal Haasan plays in Dasavatharam is a mixed bag. While the makeup was decent for the Indian RAW officer Balram Naidu, Rangaraja Nambi and Patti (grandma), it was sub-mediocre for some of the others, particularly Christian Fletcher and George Bush.

Mallika Sherawat’s pole dance number in Dasavatharam is one of the crudest and most disgusting dances I’ve had the misfortune to ever see in a long life. Plain awful. From what I have heard, even the late Silk Smita used to do a better job in these voluptuous dance scenes. None of the songs had any magic in them. Himesh Reshammiya’s music failed to evoke much enthusiasm either.

One of the few saving graces of Dasavatharam was Asin Thottumkal’s performance. In her role as Andal, a conservative Brahmin girl from the temple town of Chidambaram as well as in an earlier brief appearance as Kothai, wife of a 12th century Vaisnavite devotee Rangaraja Nambi (Kamal Haasan), Asin brings some life to this dreary movie.

The other saving grace in Dasavatharam was the special effects, usually hopelessly crude in Tamil movies. Some of the Tsunami scenes as well as some of the action scenes were nicely done. Speaking of the tsunami... Coincidences galore! And how can I forget- a bullet punctures an unfortunate fellows neck and ends up killing his cancerous cells! You can have all the laughs you need for an eternity.

Dasavatharaam reminds us of all the weird things crazy people do just to get noticed or make it to the Guiness Book - eating 500 burgers, standing upside down for two days, walking backwards for three weeks, dancing on a buffalo’s back, fighting with a donkey or some other equally silly antic. Kamal Haasan tries a similar attention-grabbing gimmick - for the first time, 10 different roles in a movie. So what? It’s still a lousy movie and overall a bad freak show.

If a crappy fiasco like Dasavatharam is all that we can expect from Kamal Haasan after forking out $15 for a ticket, it’s time this dinosaur of the Tamil movie industry moves on to less taxing pursuits, like aadu, maadu maikara vela (a cowherd, grazing goats and cows).

Bottomline: Dasavatharam is just another freak-show. Like all these asinine tricks people try to get their name into the Guinness records book.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

'That' Unforgettable Sunday

Great players - and Roger Federer is unarguably that - are best judged by whom they have to fight for major titles. Federer might have won more grand slam titles if a certain Rafael Nadal did not exist - and he would almost certainly be a French Open champion by now after making the final three years in succession - but he would probably not be quite as good a tennis player. Nadal has made Federer a better player and vice-versa.

Roger Federer does not own the Centre Court of SW19. Nobody does, nobody ever has. The most singular arena in sport does not go in for being owned, rather it will lend itself on a complex lease-hire system and is always ready to foreclose at the cruellest and least convenient moment. The court will let people have a taste of ownership, but then it will kick them out on to the street without a moment of remorse. It is an arena that dotes on its favourites and is generous and sporting to everybody else, but it is also the cruellest arena in sport. Those whom the place loves best end up suffering the most.

Which man has ever had a better right to call himself owner of Centre Court than Bjorn Borg? He won 41 successive matches at Wimbledon, the bulk of them on Centre. But in the end, when love was at its highest, the supreme court turned against him. Not the people, only the place itself, allowing a foul-mouthed interloper called John McEnroe to beat him. The one thing you can never do with Centre Court is to take it for granted.

Home matters. It is an atavistic thing. Everything to do with territory is about breeding and feeding. And it is a fact throughout nature that the holder of the territory has a considerable advantage over the invader, not only because he knows the place but also because being at home gives him strength. There is a species of fish for whom the mere fact of being at home makes it the certain winner of every fight over every invader. Other species are less clear-cut and I suspect that tennis players are among them. But Federer has as much claim to ownership of this court as Borg. The question remaining is whether or not he can take the step that was beyond Borg.

Sports psychologists make a big thing of the idea of making friends with the place of competition. They tell you to get the arena on your side. You will see competitors in all sports walking aimlessly about, idly playing with a ball, or just sitting about. Some do mental exercises, visualising themselves winning, others just absorb the vibes, telling themselves that they like the place, that the place likes them. Everybody just wants to feel at home - that's the crucial thing.

But Centre Court is always capricious. Sometimes it seems not so much like a court as a courtesan - beautiful, generous, but always capable of withdrawing her favours for no apparent reason, just because she happens to feel like it, or more usually, because she has a thing for a younger man.

The wresting of Centre Court from Borg was the biggest happening in men's tennis in the Open era. Now, more than a quarter of a century later, we have another great champion fighting to keep his ownership of the greatest arena in sport. It is Federer's place and so Federer has the edge, at least to start with. But you presume on Centre Court at your peril. In the end, it always eats the ones it loves the best.

It’s hard to play Rafael Nadal. It’s also hard to play Bjorn Borg at his peak, when the old warrior was making his myths with his wooden excalibur. Hard to play either of them, close to impossible to play them both at the same time, and yet that’s what Roger Federer was forced to do on D-day. And in the end, it was too much for him.

It was Nadal’s day, or rather, Nadal’s night; an epic of shifting fortunes and alternating advantage, a match that came down, in the end, to a question of will. And Nadal was the stronger, if not by much. The champion who has everything was edged out by the challenger who did not know his place, who simply would not stop challenging.

Nadal was playing with the forces of youth and change and revolution to power him on. Borg, his ally, was admittedly doing little more than watching, but he was still playing with the forces of history and the unchangeable facts of the past. It was a devastating combination and Federer, as keenly aware of the pressure of his younger rival as he is of the weight of history, was almost torn in half.

Nadal loves to put pressure on his opponent, with his miraculous movement and his ability to reach impossible balls time after time. He doesn’t just put them back in play, either: he hits deep, testing and accurate shots from impossible places. As for Borg, he won five Wimbledons on the trot and the thought of beating this record had eaten far too deep into Federer’s cool.

Half the people have been saying that Federer has been struggling all year and will struggle at Wimbledon; the other half have been saying Federer will find the old magic at Wimbledon because he’s one of the greatest players to step on Centre Court. Yesterday’s final proved beyond question that both sides were right, but the first half were righter.

Federer had won five Wimbledons on the trot, and that’s why he stumbled at the sixth. His comeback from humiliation was as great a miracle as any he has achieved in his charmed tennis life, but it was Nadal’s day. Federer played poorly to begin with and looked ill at ease, less than the serene self we know. But, oddly, this does not inhibit him. He came back with a series of remarkable points to hold serve and then came the black clouds and the rain that might have been a part of Federer’s usual Wimbledon luck. He took a break, had a bit of a think and hoped the delay might put a tiny bit of a kink in Nadal’s rhythm. He came out a man renewed.

Federer had been uncharacteristically error-prone in the first session and Nadal had been eating his loose shots in a feeding frenzy, rattling up a two-sets-to-love lead. But after the rain, he staged one of the great Centre Court fightbacks. First one set was grappled back and then in the fourth, Nadal had two separate championship points. But in an uncannily brilliant passage of play, Nadal played superbly while Federer rose a notch higher.

It might have been a humiliation. He waited until he was two sets and love-40 down before he really got into the match, which might be seen as leaving it a little late. The problem with all players who have touched greatness is that they don’t accept reality very easily, not when that reality involves defeat. He did not go easily, and not without touching the miraculous. But in the end, he went.

Rare, rare times: when two great players both play their best at the same time. At this ineffable level of sport, it’s time to pack away the superlatives and just give thanks for bloody sport; for these daft games we watch that produce such extraordinary things and bring us such extraordinary people.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Corporate Life

As 'graduands' we now look forward to what we call, corporate life. Now.... What is this 'new', cool-sounding-yet-may-not-be-so-cool style of life? Take a look... Be warned, this is only for the to-be-corporate populi. :smile:

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The Nuclear Debate

Is nuclear power the much awaited solution to the energy crisis? Let us try and analyse the pros and cons of going nuclear. After all, we are in the "post- Nuclear Age", right?

Going ‘for’ the motion:

For starters we have to point out that scientists are not sure exactly what is causing global warming. While most people would say that the so‐called greenhouse gases are responsible, the truth is that we do not know what exactly the reason is. The production of these kind of gases incremented exponentially in the last decades, but we are observing just a limited modification in temperature; while we know in the ages past there was far greater temperature oscillation‐not caused by greenhouses gases.

Of course, this does not mean we should not care about emissions of dangerous gases or other chemical compounds. Nuclear power may not be the answer to global warming but it our last and best chance to consolidate our lifestyle. Our current world is extremely power‐hungry, and we have to find a cheap and reliable energy source not just for the future but for the generations to come.

Nuclear power can be the solution here. Nuclear reactors are expensive in design and construction, but, once established, a nuclear power plant can extract energy from fission for decades with low operational cost. The third and fourth generation fission reactors are extremely safe machines: they include active and passive security systems that allow the reactor to automatically shut down with neither the intervention of any operator nor any external energy source. Some will say that exhausted nuclear fuel is still an issue, but this is not completely true. The waste with the longest half‐life can be stored in geological depots that are known to be absolutely safe for the whole and the next geological era. Additionally, most parts of the self‐breeder reactors have the ability to transmute radioactive materials, and so, they can reuse the same fuel until a short‐living waste can be produced.

Of course, nuclear power is not limited to the current fission technology: it is clear that a sustained research and technological effort can lead us to harness the power of controlled nuclear fusion in some 50 years from now. Z‐machine, NIF, ITER, you name it, the technology is almost there. We just need to convince people and politicians that this is the future.

Talking about renewable energy is not enough to solve the problem. Looking at the best estimates, we can safely say that this kind of technology will allow any advanced country to produce 20% or 30% maximum of its needs. The rest is simply a lie‐it is not and it will probably never be possible to cover 100% of our energetic needs with renewable energy.

Nuclear power is, according to our current physics, the best we can bet on. For us, and for our progeny.

Going ‘against’ the motion:

To begin with, there is no such thing as THE answer to global warming. That would assume there was only one cause, which is not the case. Addressing nuclear energy in particular, however, there are several problems with relying on it for energy production.
The nuclear industry wants to resuscitate its product. Sorry— it already died of an incurable attack of market forces. Only centrally planned energy systems (Russia, Taiwan, the Koreas, and Japan) still propose nuclear plants.

“If a thing is not worth doing,” said economist John Maynard Keynes, “it is not worth doing well.” Even ignoring risks— proliferation, waste storage and disposal, and uninsurable accidents— nuclear power is uncompetitive and unnecessary.

Nuclear energy advocates say that it is ideal because it doesn't put off greenhouse gases. This is only true if you are looking at the final product of nuclear fuel being used in a nuclear reactor to produce electricity. It kind of falls apart, however, if you look at the process leading up to the existence of that reactor and the fuel it contains.

One of the major sources of greenhouse gases is fuel combustion. Where does the fuel in a nuclear reactor come from? It comes from the ground; it must be dug up. What digs it up? Earth‐moving machinery that operates on‐you guessed it‐fuel. Nobody has invented earth‐moving machinery or mining equipment that operates without pollution. This would seem to be a rather important oversight.

Similar issues are involved with the building of the reactor. Have you ever heard of a building contractor that does its job with no combustion fuel, whatsoever? Me neither. And what isn't powered by fuel has to be powered by electricity. That electricity has to be generated from somewhere. Diesel fuel and gasoline are definitely involved.

Furthermore, consider where uranium comes from. Because it is underground, one must dig to obtain it. It is often found in areas with trees and other ground cover, so these must be cleared away. When you cut down vegetation you eliminate some of Nature's best carbon‐scrubbers. A uranium mine isn't a tropical rainforest, mind you, but if the end goal is to reduce global warming then perhaps we need to be looking at other ways to do that without destroying what the Earth already has in place to keep atmospheric carbon in check.

Also, when one digs up the soil, it is another source of atmospheric carbon. (This is also a problem with farming, since you have to plow first before you can plant.) Disturbed earth puts off CO2 in large amounts. Again, uranium mining isn't the same as vast stretches of farmland, but if what we're after is reducing global warming, why do things that increase it even a little?

Once the reactor is built and the fuel put into it, that iss not the end of the story. Fuel still needs to be transported to the reactor site periodically. That is going to require the production of greenhouse gases. And one day the reactor will need to be retired, which will mean another reactor needs to be built.

Additionally, the building of nuclear reactors may eliminate some greenhouse gases from electricity production, but that is not the end of the story. Electricity production is only one major source. If we are not doing anything about all the carbon put out by automobiles and other vehicles, we are still going to have serious problems in the future. There are six billion people on this planet, a good many of them own cars, and still more are gaining affluence and would like to own cars one day. That’s going to add up in a hurry.

If we only consider greenhouse gases produced by power plants and don't consider other sources of those gases then we haven't solved anything. People will assume it's OK to continue buying lots and lots of cars, and that it's OK to not care whether those cars have the best fuel efficiency possible. We will also continue engaging in other behaviors that increase the amount of CO 2 in the atmosphere.

Efficient use is the nation’s largest and fastest growing energy source: bigger than oil, growing 3.1% a year. Just electricity efficiency can save four times’ nuclear power’s output, at one‐sixth its operating cost. Those faster, cheaper, safer options emit little or no pollution, and most are climate‐safe. But replacing power from coal‐fired plants with nuclear power, as usually proposed, is the least‐effective solution to global warming.

We need to look at global warming as a systemic problem with lots of different causes, which is exactly what it is, and approach the problems from that perspective. I have doubts we are going to be able to reverse the damage we have done, but if we are serious about even trying in the first place, let's do it right.

Nuclear salesmen scour the world for a single order; makers of alternatives enjoy brisk business. Let’s profit from their experience. Taking markets seriously, not propping up failed technologies at public expense, offers a stable climate, a prosperous economy and a cleaner and more peaceful world.

Bottom‐line: It’s too costly and too risky. More energy‐efficient alternatives exist.



Vox Populi...

Veni, vidi...


"Santa" Akshat comes to town!

"Santa" Akshat comes to town!
A token from a fellow blogging compadre, Akshat

Lady Cяystal relates...

Lady Cяystal relates...
Note - her creativity *swells* with every block. :)