Of Movies And Big Screens

Four months into 2014, and I remember that I have a blog which I swore to maintain. Who did I swear to? Myself. Does this mean that I die if I don’t update my blog? No, since I haven’t updated it, and I’m quite alive. Does this meant that swears are pointless? Indeed. But why am I mentioning this? To increase the word-count of this post Because why not? Then why am I writing this post? I know you’re all dying to be blown away by another one of my literary masterpieces and the last few posts have made you hungry for more. And I decided to throw you all a bone.

A few days ago, I was sitting at the Nescafe in the college with Kilol and Fahad, when the topic of movies came up. FabFahad mentioned that he doesn’t watch English movies because “laptop screen pe movie dekhi nahi jaati“. Kilol seemed to agree with this sentiment, in the sense that everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

After my initial urge to smash Fahad’s head in with a hammer had subsided (not Kilol’s though, she’s cute), I began to wonder about this. What is a movie experience? How would you define one? Movies are unique in way – they’re completely different from other forms of artistic media of expression like books and music such that they’re specifically shot to be shown on the big screen. A book publisher chooses a typeface and font size, but the author may not specifically recommend one. A musician may want his music to sound in a particular way, but may not have issues over its method of distribution (digital or physical media). As long as they reach their customers, they’re happy.

Movies, though. Filmmakers are extremely specific in the way content is delivered. The choice of aspect ratios, the nuances in sound mixing and many more are pondered upon meticulously by them. Because they want the viewer to be lost in their world to guarantee as much immersion as intended. (This is the cornerstone of the smoking-message debate). I understand this.

Certain movies like Avatar and Gravity simply do not work outside the cinema hall. Avatar is probably the best example. I remember watching it in 2D at PVR and being completely blown away by the visuals. So profound was the effect that I convinced myself to ignore the (many) plot holes and errors in the film. Notably, Avatar and Gravity made a lot a money owing to their use of 3D, which convinces many studios to start producing 3D films and converting films shot in 2D to 3D during post-production. The re-release and subsequent success of Titanic and Jurassic Park to name a few reinforces the fact that the audience cherishes a grand movie watching experience. The rise in the sales of large-screen TVs, Blu-Ray players, home-theatre systems further provides proof of this phenomenon.

Till now, this felt like an essay I’d write in an English exam (basically full of bullshit to inflate the word count), but this post isn’t about the others. It’s about how feel. Looking back at all the hundreds of movies I’ve watched (claiming to be a movie buff in the process), I realized that most of them weren’t seen in the theatre. They were either seen on my TV, laptop or even a tiny phone screen. If you were to hold me at gunpoint and ask me to rattle off my favourite movies of all time, it would closely resemble IMDB’s Top 10 list.

I saw The Shawshank Redemption on my 21″ Sony TV on Zee Studio, which had censored a lot of portions. Just like it did then, Red’s concluding monologue about the Pacific Ocean gives me goose bumps till this date.

At the age of eight, when my beautiful little face was contorted by pockmarks (thanks a lot, VZV), dad brought home a VCD (remember those?) of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. My jaw still drops when the Battle of Helm’s Deep is fought.

Owing to its length and severe lack to time due to exam preparation, I saw The Godfather: Part II in four instalments on my 17″ monitor with god-awful speakers and running subtitles to decipher what everyone was saying in Italian accents. Al Pacino’s wide, bulging eyes, when he slapped Diane Keaton right across the face, will remain etched in my mind.

I saw JJ Abrams’s take on Star Trek on my 40” TV which begins with a stunning set-piece immediately followed by some of the most iconic movie themes I’ve had the pleasure to experience. In a hilarious reversal of status quo, I tried to recreate the experience by catching its sequel in the theatres, but nothing came close to capturing the sense of awe I had experienced with the first one.

There are many more additions to this list, notably Psycho, L.A. Confidential, The Dark Knight, The Matrix, Inception, Toy Story 3, Looper, Primer… none of which I managed to catch in the theatre, irrespective of their release dates. They’re all examples powerful, though-provoking, cerebral cinema which I aspire to watch whenever I decide to watch one. And I don’t think I need a cinema hall for that.

If I were a filmmaker, I’d probably be offended by someone remarking they were underwhelmed by my creation simply because they saw it on a smaller screen. By extension, I believe good cinema is only one which can convey the desired emotion irrespective of its medium of distribution. Otherwise, many classics won’t be held in high regard, as it’s safe to assume a majority of the movie-going population hasn’t seen many of them in a cinema hall.

This post/rant ends here. Have a drawn a conclusion? I think I have. But can I say this with absolute certainty? Definitely not. I clearly had higher expectation from this post. Part of me hoped I’d get a clearer answer when I end it, but that hasn’t happened. I can say that Fahad’s opinion is incorrect, but surely cannot vouch for the validity of mine as well. I can feel a sense of frustration welling up inside you, as you realise this post will end in the top wobbling. I’ll leave the decision up to you.

P.S: I wasn’t lying about the head-smashing. I can totally do that.

Head-smashing

Head-smashing

P.P.S: It just struck me that Fahad may be referring to poor posture leading to a general sense of discomfort. In which case this rant was totally pointless.

A Test of Character for the Red Devils

A Picture of Despair (Photo credit: /u/hubwub on /r/reddevils)

22nd September 2013 shall forever be a turning point in Manchester United’s history. It will be seen as the moment when United players and fans alike were asked the question. A question of character. Of resilience. Of having to do what is necessary. Fate will be rewritten as per how this questions is answered.

Phenomenal scenes at the Etihad stadium were witnessed today. United’s new manager – one after nearly twenty years – attended his first derby game. Moyes has managed Everton for a while now, and isn’t a stranger to ruthless derbies. The Merseyside derby has been contested fiercely each year. But this was an entirely new level. The Manchester derby is more technical than physical than its Merseyide counterpart. And David was tactically outplayed in every department.

City figured out United didn’t have a plan B. United haven’t been able to withstand pacy games for a few years now. After Ronaldo’s departure and a sharp decline in Nani and Young’s forms, the speed has been sucked from United’s traditional counter-attacking play. United depend upon slower teams in the Premier League and a reason why their record against Chelsea is poor is because of the latter’s speed in play.

But that is all history. The Ferguson era is over. We cannot dwell on glory-days gone by, like other clubs. We must look ahead. Just like Fergie did when he lost 6-1 to City. He attacked next season and won the league right under their noses.

Another Important Defeat (Photo credits: The Daily Mail)

Another Important Defeat (Photo credits: The Daily Mail)

Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United F.C.

It’s all in the past. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Which is why today’s 4-1 humiliation at the hands of one of our biggest rivals is an important loss in this transitional period. It goes to show just what is wrong with United today. This isn’t David Moyes’s United. This is Alex Ferguson’s United being handled by David Moyes. Moyes has to bring some sweeping reforms into the club and make players adapt to his style. Having a manager who isn’t comfortable with the current style won’t help. This may backfire (like Pep’s Bayern) initially, but the other alternative isn’t working.  When Ferguson was appointed as United manager in 1986, he didn’t have a tip-top trophy-winning squad. These were unfit, pot-bellied players having tea at halftime. Fergie transformed this into Europe’s biggest club, but it took time. He eyed long-term success and he achieved it. He brought in the Class of ’92 who were the harbingers of trophies. Moyes has to do the same.

There isn’t a dearth of talent in the youth system. Januzaj and Zaha are already sparkling and Lingard is turning heads in the youth squad. Tom Cleverley’s presence in the dying moments of the second half today showed a transformed midfield. Rooney is approaching new heights as demonstrated by his performance against Leverkusen and his stunning long-range free-kick today. The main problem is underperforming players like Young and Nani, who’re clearly past their prime now.  Tough decisions have to be made. Moyes isn’t one to shy away from them as he had no problem in letting Rene and Gill leave. They must learn to adapt or exit gracefully.

Rebuilding Manchester United is a tough task. It will take a lot of time. The last time it happened, it took six years. But it was effective for twenty. Hopefully, that time frame will be lowered now. We must show faith in our new manager, just as we showed in our old one, during his early years. I’m completely prepared for trophy-less seasons in the near-future.

As for us fans, this is our question. Of character. We must show our trust in Moyes. We must not lose faith. We must believe.

In conclusion, I’ll leave you with my Facebook rant just after the match.

All you Manchester United “fans” who turn their backs on this club at an inkling of poor form, your fickle nature disgusts me. If you can’t be with your team during defeats, you shouldn’t show up for their successes. We’ve been through worse and we’ve always risen from the ashes. We will rise again. Glory Glory.

Review: Man of Steel

Man of Steel theatrical release poster

Man of Steel theatrical release poster

I was one of the rare persons in my friend-circle to not be too excited regarding Man of Steel. I’d read that Chris Nolan would be returning to reboot the Superman series, and having done such a fantastic job with the Batman series (which no one would touch by a long stick after the sad demise of Batman and Robin), I was intrigued. However, when I found out that he would be involved only in the production and story, and not directing, my heart sank a little. It plummeted when I found out Snyder had been handed over the directorial responsibilities. Admittedly, I’m not a huge fan of Snyder’s films. I disliked Watchmen, generally and hated Sucker Punch. Of course, I loved 300. I was worried that there might be too many slow-mo sequences in Man of Steel as well, which would destroy the movie like Sucker Punch. Nevertheless, a little Nolan touch couldn’t hurt, so I had to know how the movie was.

It all starts off in Krypton. The planet’s core has become unstable and will soon lead to the creation of a singularity which will consume the planet. Pike sends Kirk and Sulu to disable the machine which is killing the core. Unfortunately, it’s too late and Vulcan is dest–

Wait. Wrong movie. I can’t be blamed, though. Because this is exactly how Man of Steel opens. Krypton is being destroyed, villains to fight, too late to stop it, yada yada yada. There’s also some babble about some Codex or something (reminiscent of the babble in Prometheus) to be sent with Kal-El to Earth, which is seen to by Jor-El. Zod is there to ensure this doesn’t happen.

On Earth, Kal-El (now Clark Kent) hops from job-to-job, falsifying his identity and disappearing after being forced to reveal the full powers of his superhuman strength while saving people around him from dangers. In second act, the film alternates between real-time and flashbacks continuously as you see Clark’s childhood, teenage and young-adult days as he struggles to cope with his unusual powers. None of this is particularly confusing, and I personally felt this portion was handled nicely. Lois Lane (played well by the charming Amy Adams) is also introduced as a beauty-with-brains Pulitzer-prize-winning journalist who tries to decipher the Superman’s real identity. Halfway into the movie, Zod arrives to seek out Kal-El, leaving us with a massive and really, really long battle sequence which constructs the film’s finale.

Now you’d be an idiot if you walked into a Superman movie and detested the action. Clark Kent isn’t an intelligent detective like Bruce Wayne was. So there’s less of intellect and more of bad-guy bashing, upholding humane ideals and dealing out justice. The supposedly true embodiment of America. Here is where Zack Snyder seems to take over the reigns of the horse and boy does he race well. The action sequences are unlike anything you’ve seen before. This is CGI-porn at it’s finest. We haven’t been strangers to massive on-screen battles which leave large cities in ruins (consider the Transformers movie series or more recently, Marvel’s The Avengers), but watching just a few individuals battle it out is a sight to behold. There’s a particularly gripping choreographed fight sequence between Zod and Kent where they fly through the city trading blows. There’s no slow-mo involved anywhere and yet you’re able to keep track of the action.

There are a few problems though – ones which cannot be ignored. The film was shot in 2D and converted to 3D, which explains why the colours look terrible. It’s a pity Nolan (as Producer) allowed such a travesty to happen, as he’s always been particular to shoot movies in good ol’ normal 2D, opting for IMAX cameras only in The Dark Knight Rises, and ignoring 3D even then. When you see Superman flying over green pastures bisecting hordes of zebras, you want to see it in glorious, gorgeous 2D.

There’s also the excessive use of shaky-cam which may lead to bouts of dizziness for the inexperienced. Znyder also prefers to zoom in really quickly onto the subjects in certain scenes. This, too, is used a lot, but works to a large extent.

Maybe Znyder tries too hard. Maybe he doesn’t. Maybe it’s perfect. But many may not agree with his skills here, and opinions are certain to be divided on this.

But he does manage to extract great performances from his cast. Russel Crowe as Jor-El manages to make the otherwise boring opening act watchable. Kevin Costner and Diane Lane portray Clark Kent’s adoptive parents who love their son, but know that he’s destined for greater things. They’re instrumental in convincing Superman (and you) why he shouldn’t reveal his powers to the rest of humanity. Michael Shannon is terrific as General Zod. Here we have a villain who has a fairly justifiable agenda to conquer the Earth and pursue Clark Kent. He’s every bit as menacing as a villain and is equals Superman’s ability. He’s ruthless and unrelenting in his quest to fulfill his mission. Henry Cavill is also fantastic as Clark Kent/Kal-El/Superman, exhibiting just enough vulnerability when required, and bringing the action-movie-man looks when the time comes to battle. Surprisingly, however, it is Antje Traue as Zod’s sub-commander Faora who kicks ass in the final act. It’s difficult to explain how, or why, but you’ll understand when you watch the film.

While watching Man of Steel, my mind continuously wandered to Nolan’s Batman, and here’s where most of the film’s criticism lies. There’s hardly any humour. Not that there was much in the Batman series, but there was general amusement throughout the movies, something which is a staple of Nolan’s directorial flair. Not here, though. As a result, it pales in comparison to Batman Begins. It simply fails to be a satisfying reboot to reach the fairly high standard Batman Begins set (as a reboot).

What really binds the movie, though, is Hans Zimmer’s exceptional music score. You might complain that it is deafening during the final act, and you’d be right, but it makes the action sequences all the more exciting to watch. If you listen to the soundtrack while pooping, it would be the single-most epic poop you’d have ever pooped. The sound effects, especially when Superman takes flight, sound so marvelous reverberating through the hall while shaking your seats. It’s a visceral experience, with each sound punching your gut knocking the wind out of your stomach till you gasp for breath…

…which puts me in the unusual position of wholeheartedly recommending a film to watch at the cinemas, despite it being only a good film. Man of Steel isn’t the best superhero film, but probably one of the better Superman films. It is, however, an extremely promising reboot and I eagerly await the next edition. You must keep in mind that Batman Begins wasn’t the classic it’s successor was, so we can hope for a better Superman film from Znyder-Nolan-Goyer in the future.

My rating for Man of Steel: 7/10

Review: Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

I have a confession to make. I have a slight man crush on Ranbir Kapoor. He’s undoubtedly one of the finest young actors in the country right now. Not only are his acting skills impressive, his choice of movies is also generally unconventional and bold. A risk which no A-lister will generally take (referring to Wake Up Sid! and Barfi! in particular). So when I heard about his participation in YJHD, I was intrigued. Director Ayan Mukherjee had returned after a long time, his debut film being the surprisingly mature Wake Up Sid!. This raided my excitement level. The trailers didn’t look particularly promising, but hey. Don’t judge a book by its cover, right?
Never have I been so wrong.
Within the first five minutes, I knew I had made a huge mistake spending Dad’s precious money. We’re introduced to Deepika Padukone, a nerdy girl with biology textbooks being her only companion. She leads a frustrated lifestyle simply because she’s sick of studying and wants to enjoy life. So when she learns that her acquaintances (played by Kalki, Aditya and Ranbir) are planning an excursion to Manali, she leaves her place in an impromptu decision and decides to accompany them. The first half chronicles their adventures in Manali (actually shot in Gulmarg and passed of as Manali, much to Omar Abdullah’s annoyance). Initially shy and reserved, Deepika quickly loses her inhibitions when she bonds with her aforementioned acquaintances and showcases her wild side. Now since this is a Hindi movie, she inadvertently falls in love with Ranbir (named, I kid you not, Bunny. How does one fall in love with someone named Bunny?). Obviously, since this is a Hindi movie, she can’t be with him because Ranbir wants to travel the world, against the wishes of his caring father and step-mother.

This is typical Karan Johar. The cinematography and locations are prime with no blemish in sight. People break into perfectly choreographed dances given the opportunity. There’s even that moment when the leads know they’ve fallen for each other. Now since this is Karan Johar, he can’t seem to satisfy his endless appetite of marriages. So naturally, the second half there’s the wedding. That’s right. An entire half. The funny thing here is the second half is significantly better than than the first. You can imagine how the first half was, if I’m stating that I enjoyed watching yet another Karan Johar Big Fat Indian Wedding.

There are some inexplicable moments throughout the movie. An extremely experienced and adventurous trekker, Ranbir tires faster than Deepika, who you’d remember, has had practically zero adventures. The duo trek to an abandoned mountain completely obvious to their instructor who specifically advised them against it, without any repercussions. The narrative hinges itself on certain plot points which will leave you scratching your heads, most of which I cannot reveal because spoilers.

Credit where it’s due, though. The film isn’t entirely unwatchable. This mostly because of Ayan’s masterful direction. The friendship amongst the four is beautifully done and you can feel their troubles as they to through them. There’s a wonderfully understated romance between Kalki and Aditya, which tends to become a major plot point in the future. But Ayan doesn’t unnecessarily give us mushy-mushy scenes. It’s a refreshing take on relationships; a mature one – something he has proven he can handle in his directorial debut. Of course, the two leads do get together in the end but I loved the way the eventual fate of the other two was decided.

Some scenes stand out for the emotional impact they have on the audience, although these are few and far between. There’s a powerful, poignant moment where Ranbir reconciles with his step-mother as he longs for catharsis. It’s beautifully shot and never overstated. There are no words spoken and there’s no over-the-top crying. But it manages to moisten your eyes when you least expect it.

Then there’s the cast. The ensemble cast is excellent. This is not exaggeration. Everyone hits the right notes. Farooq Sheikh and Tanvi Azmi are nicely cast as Ranbir’s caring yet misunderstood parents. Kalki is a revelation as she fits well into the vodka- guzzling adventurous-girl role torn between love and stability. Aditya exhibits the right amount of vulnerability when required as he plays a financially unstable bar owner who struggles with his gambling problem and alcohol addiction (which I learnt was basically his role in Aashiqui 2). Ranbir is great as always, oozing charm, although his character seems a little too perfect to be successful in the real world. It’s surprising how Ayan managed to extract every shred of emotion from Deepika as well. In what is arguably her best performance till date, she’s able to essay her equally incredulous character with ease, never once failing to drop the high level of chemistry she shares with her (alleged) real-world boyfriend.

In the end, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is essentially a flawed film, but only because of the incredulous plot. However it’s made immensely watchable by a fantastic assortment of actors. I’d certainly not recommend seeing it in a movie theatre, but it won’t be a bad idea to rent it on DVD (or those new-fangled Blu-Rays, if you’re classy) to watch it on a lazy weekend.

My Rating for Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani: 6/10

Competition Success Review : Code Wars 2011

What’s that?! you wonder, seeing my blog’s name pop up in bold in your feed reader. I’m sure you forgot my blog even existed, considering that the last post was months away.

But here I am. Of course, not for long. Maybe one post. Maybe two.

When Pulkit contacted me via Facebook chat urging me to write a post about Code Wars, I demanded an archive of all the questions. While he still hasn’t responded (unless you call giving the JQ finals a response), the real reason is much more different. I didn’t know if I’ll be able to bring myself to write a post about my last quiz ever as a school student. I’ve had some wonderful times while quizzing, and this was officially the competition where I retired.

Of course, my “retirement” isn’t a news as groundbreaking as I make it appear. It’s like Ramesh Powar announces retirement from ODI cricket “to concentrate on his test career”. Nobody really cares much.

If Wikipedia is to be believed, he “has had weight issues for a considerable amount of time and his weight is unknown because the ICC have yet to find a weighing scale that doesn’t collapse when he stands on it.”

But the fact is, Ramesh Powar would feel nostalgic. After all he did have his moments. So did I.

*

St. Xaviers’ tech fest Interface was supposed to be the last quiz for me. But it was so absolutely pathetic, I didn’t feel it was justified to end like this. (Seriously, look at the quiz archive.) After hours of coaxing Mom to let me go for this, I finally told my quizzing partner Saumey that I was ready to go.

Who then celebrated.

Unfortunately, the decision had come a little too late, and the school vice principal refused to send us for the competition, citing lack of transport, probably because something roughly equivalent to the size of the Olympics were being organized (aka the zonals) for which all the vehicles were needed.

Then in a move which baffled everybody, he encouraged us to go on on our own using our own methods of transport. Which was something I was initially skeptical about, but agreed. Needless to say younger kids who were enthusiastic about going to Code Wars decided not to come because “Mummy ne mana kar diya“.

Eventually, only a few of us were going and Shikhar dropped the big bomb – he wasn’t coming with us.

See, we’ve being going for competitions since the fourth grade, and I really wanted to go my final even ever with him (since it would probably be the final event ever for him too, and I didn’t want the memory of Interface 2011 to tarnish his memories of him winning at nearly every event he went to). Basically, he had the Chemistry practical the next day and refused to budge. It was disappointing, but I had to let it go.

Then on Friday (the D-Day), I got a (huge) text at 4 in the morning from Shikhar, which stated that he was coming. To this day, I haven’t quite understood the reason why it took so long for him to reach that decision, but I really don’t care.

Then I celebrated.

So basically, we were set to go. Accompanying us was the audio-cum-video editor guy Mayank (who’s Code Wars participation story is exactly the same as Shikhar’s, me celebrating and all), Shubham (a really, really weird kid), Tirthankar (Mrittunjoy’s brilliant brother – more on him later), Ashmeet (another potentially great quizzer) and of course, my quizzing partner (whose name you should remember by now). I think I’m missing someone’s name, which should be okay as long as they don’t chase me with knives or something.

Shikhar was going meet us at Chattarpur Metro station (which is the nearest Metro station to DPS VK, a piece of information I got from a source who calls himself “the dolt“).

Anyhoo, we began the long ride to the metro station, almost certain that we would be late. Finally, we made it and squeezed ourselves in Shikhar’s Swift DZire. There was little trouble in locating the school, but thanks to Nokia Maps, we made it.

(Important note here. Shikhar will tell you in the comments section or in subsequent blog posts on his blog that we took no assistance of GPS whatsoever. He’s lying. Do NOT listen to him.)

After reaching the familiar school, I saw absolutely no familiar faces. Just lots of people hustling around. Instinctively (being close to that wooden-floored auditorium), I began removing my shoes when I found out that it was locked. We were then redirected to the library, where we had to wait for further instructions. It was really odd, but I think that they did this because they finally realised that the audi simply wasn’t big enough to accommodate everyone. (I realised, later, that this was not the reason).

So after catching up on some latest Guinness World Records in the library, Saumey spots the New Era team (aka Arch Rivals #1). We go and have a chat, when Vidit from Manavsthali shows up (aka Arch Rival #1). He has the Junior Quiz prelims sheet, which, IMHO, was tough. I realized from their discussions about the questions that I had really grown old and stayed out of touch from the world of quizzing for a long time now.

After a long and agonizing wait, we were led to some random classroom (lets just call it RC1, because, why not?) for the crossword prelims.

And boy were those hard.

They were great, but hard. The grid had been shortened to a mere 20 questions, as compared to 50 from last time. I had great difficulty in figuring out some, and of course, in the process, slashing out correct answers to favour the wrong ones instead. When we were through, I had absolutely no hope of qualification. Aur mera shak sahi nikla.

We stayed back for the quiz prelims, which was equally tough, if not more. There were some silly errors, like the question in which I wrote PalmOS, when the answer was acutally webOS (which is the OS on Palm devices), in response to why HP Touchpads suddenly became so cheap. It was a little sad, as just the previous day I had seen this topic emerge on Twitter and didn’t bother to investigate.

As soon as we were through, we were notified of the crossword results. The time was about 11.40, and we decided to leave instantly, as we both had to get to FIITJEE. We caught an auto, and headed back to the metro station and back home.

–Official end of day 1–

Then the wait for the results of the quiz prelims began. Towards the end of the second class (which was Physics) my phone started vibrating with message alerts multiple times. I knew something was up. After the class was over, I found out that we had qualified. Shikhar had texted, tweeted and called about the results. I let out a sigh of relief that was characterized with such an immense release of heat from my body, I think it single-handedly contributed to the phenomenon that is global warming.

I had also learned via their website that Prempal and Arnav (AKA Arch Rivals #1) had failed to qualify again! The jinx carried out. Vidit (AKA Arch Rival #1) still made it, though.

I went home. Told parents that I had qualified (Mom: “Another day?!” Dad:”Do I have to drive you there?”) and went back to studying the wonders of alternating current. (Did you know that an inductor with high impedance can actually make power consumption negligible, thus virtually giving us free electricity?)

Also, unlike last time, Shikhar and I decided to do at least something about Techathlon. So at about 12:20 AM the next day, when I was just setting up the laptop, I got a phonecall from some unknown number.

Me: Hello?

*silence*

Me: Hello?

Person at the other end: Bhaiya, second waale ka answer ‘Seagate’ hona chahiye.

Consider this: I had just studied physics for three straight hours and Tirthankar (who’s in the seventh grade) calls up and gives the answer to techathalon! Holy crap is this child dedicated!

Me: Whoa, well done. Go to sleep now, it’s midnight for heaven’s sake!

I’m still reeling in shock for a while. He also cracked one or two more. This is a sizeable chunk considering we got about six correct.

So after some clue solving with Shikhar, we decided to end the session and go back to sleep.

–Finally, the end of day 1–

Oh and if you thought I was making up that story about Shikhar texting me at four in the morning…

Next morning (wait, actually this morning, considering I had already stayed up until the next day) I was ready for the challenge. Dad was faced with the task of driving me to Saket, which is not really cool because I had to listen to an hour-long lecture about how studies are ridiculously important and how I’m not putting in the required amount of hours for cracking the JEE. Of course, I did have my trusted earphones with me to bail me out at precisely timed moments.

We finally reached DPS VK. It was almost 9, when I got a call from the other people who had to arrive at school via Metro. Turns out, the Metro had stopped at Qutub Minar. Which is why they requested me to ask my dad to pick them up. Dad had already left, so I had to ring him up again, much to his anger. He returned, I sat in the car, we were driving, and I got a call from Saumey explaining that metro trains alternate – one stops at Qutub Minar and the other runs the whole duration. Who knew?

Anyway, after an awkward explanation to dad following which I was dropped off at the school again with multiple swear words uttered under his breath, I was reunited with the kids. The time was now well past nine and all the quizzers were apparently waiting impatiently for me. This is weird, because this is India. 9 AM means 10 AM. I was early!

Before the quiz began, something strange transpired. The VGA cable for the monitor wasn’t working apparently, so the projector couldn’t be connected. Naturally, the obvious solution was to get another cable from somewhere.

Me: Jaldi la yaar cable.

Pulkit: Kaha se? Ek hi hai.

Me: (eyebrows raised) Abey tumhare school mein monitors nahi hai kya? Kisi se bhi cable nikal le.

Pulkit: Aren’t the cables fixed to monitor permanently?

At this moment all the quizzing teams are looking at each other awkwardly wondering if this man standing in front of us was really the quizmaster.

Me: Er, dekh le. Try kar le.

The quiz started. Now, nearly two years have passed, so details are a little hazy, so forgive me if I get something wrong (factually). What I do remember is that Namunay was in prime form nailing questions. Saumey was also getting the occassional guess right. One question which distinctly stands out was one about some “music service”. It was some screenshot, if my memory holds well, but Saumey was quick to spot “London” before the question “bounced” to us.

Saumey: Bhaiya shayad Spotify hai.

Me: Kyo? Crossword ke baad kuch aur galat karana hai, abhi?

Saumey: Bhaiya yaha London listed hai. Ankur bhaiya ke bohot posts aate hai Facebook pe Spotify ke.

Me: Hmm. (to an unusually smug Pulkit). Spotify?

Pulkit’s smirk vanishes and is replaced with an expression of awe and incredulity. “How did you know that?”

I claimed that it was an intelligent guess, which it was. Only difference was, I took the credit for his. (*snort snort*)

The quiz went on. Eventually, it was poised nicely with the final three questions remaining which had to be played on the buzzer.

Now we were sitting in a conference room, which is no place was a self-respecting quizzing buzzer to be. Now being the masters of jugaad, Pulkit ordered us to shout “HALT” for the buzzer. I could not think a single way this could go wrong.

Here’s where the dirty quizzing started. DPS RK Puram and we were tied in second place. DPS Dwarka (Naumnay’s team) was ahead by 15. The rules stated that a correct answer got us +10 and a wrong one got -5.

The first question is put up on the slide: some huge paragraph which automatically had me mumbling the longest word in the English language, “Mutufalfundinvestmentsaresubjecttomarketriskspleasereadtheofferdocumentcarefullybeforeinvesting“.

But suddenly! A light bulb! One word clearly stood out. One word.

Greatbong

And in the split second when I realized it, Namunay had already pressed the buzzer… offering no answer. They didn’t know the answer. They wanted to to see off the questions, accepting penalty and ensuring their first position.

A similar chain of events transpired in the next question as well. I was once again slow to get the connect. (A bulldozer was shown – a reference to AMD).

Now, DPS RKP and us were still tied for second. DPS D had a five point lead. No one got the final question. Namunay had won, and his menacing victorious smile sparked my brain into thinking up various methods of maming or seriously injuring him (but no killings). Jokes aside, it was a fine performance deserving of a victory.

It was down to the tie-break. The first question: “name the co creators of the USB.”

Now we knew this! We framed a question on this.

Me: I think it’s Intel and Microsoft.

Saumey: Sahi lag raha hai.

Me: Par doubt hai mujhe.

Saumey: Koi nahi, likh do.

This is where the magic happens. I write down Intel and Microsoft, stand up to hand over the paper, cut Microsoft and replace it with HP, and submit it.

Pulkit: Both have got only one company right. The answer was Intel and Microsoft.

Saumey: But we got both…

Me: Yeah, about that…

The next question involved some mission about some internet giants, which we had to list. We had no clue. DPS RKP listed Anonymous. The correct answer was Anonymous and PirateBay. They had won! We finished third another time.

Disappointment. Total disappointment. Not to mention a twinge of humiliation to complicate feelings. Oh well. At least I didn’t bow out with a trophy-less final quiz…

We got our refreshments and headed to the some classroom to witness gaming. Code Wars was sponsored by FoG (Federation of Gamers), who were organizing it on consoles.

There was no Counter-Strike, or Modern Warfare. No Need for Speed, or Burnout, or Street Fighter, or Mortal Kombat or FIFA.

No kidding.

Here we had, experience and young gamers, dancing to tunes in front of the Kinect. This was followed by a round of Kinect Sports. You know, 110m hurdles, dashes, discus throws, long jumps, etc.

Now I didn’t really agree with the whole concept of asking gamers to dance and throw imaginary javelins (they had gone overboard with the shock factor they were looking for), but boy was it fun! I even recorded some videos on my phone, as did others.

The trophy presentation couldn’t be held in the Gulmohar Hall (Remember? The one outside which I had taken off my shoes?) because, as I learnt later, it was shut down due to maintenance  work. The roof had fallenYikes. Instead, the ceremony was shifted to another room.

Since there was no intro video, we were shown an exit video, which started with Justin Bieber’s “Baby” (Not linking to it because I do not want a Justin Bieber video found in my browser history. Porn is easier to explain.), but immediately ended. Masters of trolling. The video continued with “Just A Song About Ping Pong” by Operator Please (a music video so trippy, you’ll wonder why there’s a Cthulhu on your bed).

With that, Day 2 ended without anything eventful happening. Or maybe something did happen and I can’t remember.

Review: Vicky Donor

That is right, sirs and madams! Your friendly neighbourhood unicorn is back to blogging with this delicious movie review!

The day I gave my final entrance exam the BITSAT, I wanted to go for a movie. Simply because I hadn’t been to one in what seemed like ages. And the last few shows of Vicky Donor were playing in Fun Cinemas, Pitampura and I could not resist. I had to go. I’d heard a lot about the film via Twitter.

Vicky Donor is the story of this Punjabi dude Vicky (Ayushmann Khurana, that MTV VJ) who lives in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar’s Refugee “Calonee”. Living with a widowed mother and an ultra-modern grandma with expensive taste (“ab maine bhi Sony da TV lena hai, woh bhi bayalee inch da”), all Vicky does is move around doing precisely what I’m doing during these holidays – nothing. His mother runs a beauty parlor in the house and often demands money for him as payment to stay in the house. Frustrated, Vicky reluctantly takes up sperm donation at the insistance of the infertility-curing doctor played by Annu Kapoor.

When I read the outline of the plot on the internet, I admit – it felt ridiculous. Another pointless attempt at cheap humour by our film industry which is running out of good ideas remarkably fast. And another MTV VJ trying his hand at acting, while two others have failed miserably? Looks like a poor idea already.

But I was in for a surprise! Despite the sperm donation plot device playing a major role in the development of the film, the writers don’t rely on it to extract cheap humour from the audience. Instead, they bank on the city the film is set in and it’s perpetually frustrated crowd. The dialogues have that Delhi-esque charm, that tiny attention to detail that makes such supposedly insignifcant films a delight to watch. Ayushmann’s accent as the Punjabi boy is impeccable and not overdone one bit. It comes naturally so you feel as if you’re witnessing a normal conversation rather than watching a film.

Back to the film’s plot which works surprisingly well, the writers don’t try to force too many subplots. They take advantage of a delicious little idea here and weave around it a hilarious tale about the Punjabi boy who falls in love with a dignified Bengali Aashima Roy (“Oh tussi Bong ho?”). Of course, you can expect the standard boy-doesn’t-reveal-embarassing-fact-about-his-personal-life type scenarios but they’re not stressed upon much. Emphasis is paid upon Vicky’s spelunking with Aashima and Annu Kapoor’s insistance on getting Vicky for sperm donation to save his clinic – both providing us with some of the film’s most hilarious scenes.

Of course, the film isn’t perfect. Far from it, actually. After a stupendous first half, the film stumbles in the second. It isn’t particularly bad, but it slows down dramatically, relying on the cast’s fine performances to compensate for the lack of plot here. It almost seems as if the writers ran out of ideas in the second half, knowing well enough how to conclude it (and setting it up for a probably sequel), but not entirely sure about what to do before the conclusion.

Of the cast, everyone performs admirably. The weirdly named Yami Gautam is believeable as the well-educated Bengali girl working in Delhi. Annu Kapoor as the frustrated doctor Baldev Chaddha is simply brilliant. Watch him as he deals with patients and tries tirelessy to convince Vicky to donate some of his sperm.

But the real revealation here is Ayushmann Khurana. He pulls off the role of vella Delhi boy effortlessly, adding small nuances to his performance which demands a powerful screen presence. It’s hard to take your eyes off the screen when he’s there. The film was marketed on his popularity as an MTV VJ and rightly so, as it was what drew audiences to the film in the first place and spread its popularity. It will be interesting to see Khurana’s career path now. But as of now, my perception of his acting skills can be perfectly expressed in a line spoken by the doctor in the film – “Baat hai. Munde vich kuch baat hai.”

Tom Hardy In Batman Begins?

We all know Tom Hardy is cast as Bane for Christopher Nolan’s third and final installment of his Batman series in The Dark Knight Rises. Bane is a primary villain in the Batman series and famously broke Batman’s back in one of the comics.

I found something startling the other day as I was watching Batman Begins. You know, that movie which gave us hope that the Batman franchise was still alive? That one. Apparently, Chris Nolan stuck Bane in the movie, and hoped no one would notice. Nolan always repeats his supporting cast (Tom Hardy was Eames in Inception) so I thought he put in Hardy just for the heck of it. But now, I find out that Hardy is Bane. I’m pretty sure The Dark Knight Rises will feature Bane coming from Arkham Asylum.

The scene: Batman has just decapitated Dr. Crane and his fellow goons and his rushing through Arkham, when he chooses to open the door of one the cellmates. He says, “Excuse Me” (or something like that). And we see this.

Here’s Tom Hardy.

Tom Hardy

And here’s Tom Hardy (the guy on the left).

Tom Hardy in Batman Begins

Correct me if I’m wrong, but that looks exactly like Tom Hardy. Well done, Chris Nolan. Well done.

Here’s a clip from the movie. All rights belong to Warner Bros.

Competition Success Review #1 : Force Fest Day 2

After day 1 we all were excited to return to Sheikh Sarai. Uhm, maybe not everyone, considering the return journey is so horrible.

As usual, I turned up at school punctually – fifteen minutes late, which is natural. Saw this kid named Shubham, who went with us for VB programming, going again just for the heck of it. His classmates scared him that they’d tear his certificates and break his award. So he’s like 1955’s original George McFly. I wonder how long it’ll take Darth Vader from Planet Vulcan to meet him.

Darth Vader from Planet Vulcan. Also, Van Halen ftw

Now that we knew that majority of the quiz questions were taken from already-existing archives, we wanted to study. Unfortunately, I was too busy proving f(x)=|sin x| + |cos x| is periodic with π last night, and Saumey was reading from Vidit’s archive (which Arnav later informed me, had been pulled from gyaan.in). But I was more interested in reading from my TCS archives over the past three years. Surprisingly, they were no longer available on MediaFire! Strange.

So anyway, we were just talking about a lot of other stuff (other than the quiz, that is) on the way to Apeejay. As usual, the kids were making a ruckus in the car making the journey even more tedious. Somehow I can’t recall some of the finer details about the journey probably because it was uneventful this time with Jyot Singh having no problem in finding the school today.

We reached at exactly 9.04 AM and the quiz was scheduled to start at 9. Auditorium was really quiet and the first person I saw as soon as I entered was Arnav, listening to his iPod. There really was no Prempal today, so we had a reasonable shot. But we did know, however, that Arnav was a pretty damn good quizzer on any given day, considering that he qualified for TCS once and won the Japan Quiz this time.

The quiz began about ten minutes after we finished with registration. We could choose our places randomly and judging by the huge screen, I chose to sit at the seat farthest from it – team 6.

The quiz began with a dry round with infinite bounce system. Apparently, the quizmaster was dreaming about going back to bed, by forgetting the most basic rule of infinite bounce – the team next to the tem which correctly answered the question gets it.

Round one was pathetic was me and Saumey. We were stuck at zero while others had some points. Arnav was at his usual flamboyant self, of course.

Next round featured negative marking, and we got -10 for getting Camel Case wrong (I confused it with tOGGLE cASE).

It was like that for a while, when the connect round came around. There were five points for identifying each picture and ten for the connect with the scoring being same for all. We managed to scrape together some measly five points in some questions, and boy did it go a long way.

The quizmaster was definitely not paying attention this time as when we answered “This is the first player YouTube used to stream videos” it was not accepted, but when the next team said “This is the first player YouTube used to stream videos online using Flash”, they got it. Another instance was Arnav saying essentially the same thing about some “tables” (something to do with guessing hash keys while guessing) and it was not accepted, while the next team’s answer was, even though it was essentially the same.  Arnav almost looked like he’d found out that Vader was his father.

I think I exaggerated that one a bit. NOT.

Then came the big mega connect for us. We had to connect Nupedia, Jimmy Wales (photo), “quick” and Julian Assange. Of course the connect was Wikipedia and we garnered a lump sum of thirty points. This was crucial to the quiz at it changed everything.

Or so I though. Until the buzzer round spread its wings to cover us all in its mighty wingspan.

Or more appropriately, cover us in its poop.

The main idea of the round was flawed. In buzzer rounds, you’re supposed to see the question and immediately strike the buzzer to answer it. It’s not the vastness of the knowledge that’s being tested here, it’s how quick you can recall it. They didn’t have “quizzing-grade” buzzers installed here; they wouldn’t break circuits. Nor did they use Exun’s strategy of recording it and playing in slow motion. They did have spotters, but that path is never devoid of controversy, you know.

Arnav went totally bonkers here, hitting the buzzer before the question was completed, getting -20, hitting it again for another -20. Even we got a -20, but we covered up with some great answering.

Suddenly at the end of the round, we were with our noses ahead at 80 and others in mid seventies.

My knees started shaking at the prospect of actually winning the first quiz of the season, when the next round showed up. I’d like to call this little tyke “Deux Ex Machina”. Here are the rules

  • Plus fifty for the correct answer.
  • Minus twenty for the wrong answer.
  • Plus thirty for a passed question

See what just happened there? That’s like giving Stoke City a fifty point boost if they score a goal in their last game. This is madness.

So the round started with a tough one (in my opinion) and it got easier later on. Almost all the questions here took up entire slides. Suddenly, we were fourth. The last question of the quiz went to us and it was like requiring four runs of one ball with one wicket remaining.

It was a huge quote about a person “responsible for getting the computer to the masses” speaking about his life-changing experiences with the Homebrew Computer Club.

And guess what. I forgot. I panicked there and knew we had lost it. But Saumey stood there like a white knight in shining armor braces.

“Bhaiya Steve Wozniak bol do. “

“I don’t think that’s right.”

“Arre maine iWoz mein yeh padh rakha hai.”

It was difficult to trust him as he was responsible for that -20 in the buzzer round and another question to which I knew the right answer.

But then, quizzing is all about trusting your partner and we went ahead.

It was right and we WON. Boy was the adrenaline rush massive. Went down the stage feeling like a boss. From -10 to 130 is no mean feat, guys. The win was slightly unconvincing, because of that stupid buzzer round (although it was responsible for saving our skins).

Lots of questions were from Vidit’s book, Saumey and Arnav told me. This was funny as Vidit himself didn’t qualify. BTW, there was one question he could definitely have answered as it was in German and Vidit knows German.

More results started pouring in, and we were quite sure of winning the overall trophy with the first position in the PowerPoint presentation on corruption the kids made, second in LOGO Programming and some other event, and third in some robotics event and VB programming.

When we went on the stage to collect the overall trophy, what we didn’t know was that we had also won a printer! And when we opened it in the Qualis it turned out to be an HP All-in-One which we decided to put in the secondary lab. Now two labs have photocopy machines.

Meena Ma’am didn’t accompany us today and was absolutely astounded at the news about the overall trophy and the printer. We all were.

So a good day for ze Converge Clan. Not a waste of time at all (hope you’re reading this, Dad).

P.S: Anyone has those TCS archives? Please mail: a.crystalunicorn@yahoo.com

Competition Success Review#1: Force Fest Day 1

“Season’s already begun?” asked the crazy beggar, probably as surprised as me. It’s generally Montfort who starts things off by calling all major schools and hosting an awesome event.

Let’s back track a bit. Force Fest was held at Apeejay Sheikh Sarai (I’ve never heard of it before). When the invite first came to school, Meena Ma’am handed it over to His Majesty, the righteous, trustworthy, amazing, perfect and brilliant Shikhar Gautam (who’s also incidentally Head Boy, and many sixth grade kids’ idol “Mein aapki marching se bahut inspired hoon”).

So Shikhar talks with me about this recent development and decides not to go. Which means, we actually had to work hard in the event he isn’t going for (for some context, refer to previous CSR posts and search references to “god”). See, he’s missed lot of school due to VMC’s morning classes. So he figures he can’t afford to miss more.

So anyway, I volunteer to go for the quiz, and Saumey tags along too. I really didn’t expect all the major schools to turn up as well. I did get a hint when Prempal asked Vidit whether they had transport to offer for their school. That was two major quizzers here already.

Eight other kids were accompanying us on Day 1. We were going in our regular good ol’ Qualis.

Getting there was a nightmare. The school seemed light years away from ours and extreme heat only caused that time to expand. Moreover, Jyot Singh had forgotten to service the car air conditioner, which he claims, can chill the entire car within minutes.

Predictably, we got lost and out came everyone’s cell phones with Google Maps. Unfortunately, n00b kids didn’t know having a “maps” icon on your phone doesn’t necessarily mean GPS. An eighth grader got really excited when Google pointed out his location accurate up to five hundred meters. When Vinamra (the only other twelfth grader) were seriously considering to “screw this” and go watch Source Code at PVR nearby in Select Citywalk, we finally found Apeejay… in Saket.

So here’s a question this ignorant author would like an answer to. Which darn school opens two branches within walking distance of each other? (Conditions apply: “walking distance” depends upon one’s physical fitness and may range from a few centimetres to many miles).

Funnily enough, some students were standing near the entrance gate (and we assumed they were welcoming us). What I felt was, presumably, they were actually there to tell others that this was not Apeejay Sheikh Sarai. So after making a phone call to Aditya Kumar of DPS Vasant Kunj (who didn’t have a clue about the directions) we reached the correct school after winding through some really kacha roads.

We were led to the auditorium (which looked really nice). It was a lot like cinema halls in the sense that you sit in the front if you’re the last to come. Since we were behind the chief guest, we were supposed to keep our trap shut. Apparently, the inauguration had already started and the intro video was shown as soon as we entered. No comments on the video (wasn’t really paying attention; was tweeting), but others claim it was “inspired” from ours. (Just a note, Shikhar made the Gateway intro video in one night). The chief guest was someone called Aditya Berlia. Not a spelling error. Or maybe it is, but it’s definitely not Birla. He spoke with an Americanized accent and claimed to be from Stanford. He also spoke a lot about his parties with Facebook’s founder, Orkut’s founder, why the Orkut doesn’t work well anymore (“They’re (founders) are both equally smart. Well Zuckerberg’s a bit smarter actually”). But irrespective of all this, it was the most engaging chief guest speech I’ve ever heard. Aditya asked us about topics ranging from 4chan (/b/ specifically) to cloud computing to Pirates of the Silicon Valley.

Quiz prelims then began, and all major quizzing schools seemed to be there. We were led to some lab with PCs running Windows 2000. I instantly fired up Minesweeper and began, er, sweeping. Papers arrived and we were blown away. Remember my TCS archive (which Shikhar helped in making. Man, he’s everywhere)? There was a question about LinkedIn, and I had included Giri’s quote about it in the question. The question appeared as it is with the quote. I am not kidding. Vidit’s latest book on tech also became the source for some questions (which, thankfully, Saumey had read). Quiz wasn’t that tough; it was made up of questions I was sure I’d read before but couldn’t remember. Like a word involving Monty Python’s Flying Circus (it was “spam”). Once again, Saumey’s tukka of the day did it for us. Apparently, “Elograph” is now known as touch screen. And the boy guessed it. So we totalled up to about thirteen. Then we talked for sometime, and then added more answers (which we later forgot to include in our scores). So thirteen was the official score, according to us. New Era got 18 and Vidit from Manavsthali had 15 with them.

We went back to the audi contemplating the results and watching really boring presentations on corruption in India. (An enthusiastic girl claimed Suresh Kalmadi was recently arrested by the CBSE. Oops CBI.) Results came in, and we qualified along with (apparently) no DPS and no Manavsthali. Montfort, Air Force, Mother’s International, New Era, and some other school got through. Vidit was furious and demanded to know the marks. The quizmaster re checked his paper, and got fifteen. He asked if we were sure with our scores and were okay with disqualification. Of course, I wouldn’t agree to that! Last year of school quizzing here. So he did go and recheck our paper again and informed us we had sixteen. We won fair and square. (High five)! Prempal and Arnav were equally shocked at Vidit’s non-selection (though all of us were secretly happy at getting a good shot at the top prize).

Vidit was sad, but hey, stuff happens. Sorry, Vidit. I might have got a little too selfish there.

Vinamra couldn’t go through to the next round of gaming (Unreal Tournament). He said he forgot to click to respawn, and eliminated in a tight round. We finally made another tedious journey back to school in the sweltering heat. Now for day 2.

P.S: Prempal told me New Era often refuses to provide transport to them for quizzes. Why? Aren’t they like quizzing superpowers? Don’t they win nearly anywhere they choose to put their feet? Arnav said they take sweet revenge by refusing to hand over the overall trophy to their school.

P.P.S: Before we knew his name, we used to called Arnav Mario. Fact. Don’t mind that, Arnav.

Five Great Hindi Films You Probably Haven’t Seen

Each year America churns out at least ten Oscar-worthy films, and we fail to do even half of that. I’m not saying a film will be good only if selected by the Academy, but my point here is the severe (and surprising) dearth of good solid cinema, even by good actors. One of the major problems with the Hindi Film Industry is the ridiculously large number of slapstick comedies they tend to make, most of them starring the one and only Rajiv Hari Om Bhatia.

Here’s a list of films which you may have passed off as worthless (probably because of the title); but I found these to be genuinely good and would definitely watch them again (and again). While not over-the-top like many films in the recent past, these go for subtlety and not extravaganza. Do read, watch and tell me how you liked them (in the comments section).

#5: Do Dooni Chaar (2010)


I’ll be frank: I wasn’t too excited about Do Dooni Chaar. It was produced by that long-haired management guru and was distributed by the geniuses behind Hannah Montana. Even the trailer looked like it was going to be a cheap comedy. But when my aunt (who’s an avid Alfred Hitchcock fan) recommended this to me, I was initially surprised. And when the movie was shown on Star One, it erased any doubts about the film’s credentials. Do Dooni Chaar accurately portrays an average middle-class household who wants to buy a car, but can’t afford it on a teacher’s salary. What follows is a rush to collect money for buying a car. One of the film’s greatest achievements is the great attention paid to the tiniest details in the backgrounds. The family’s house doesn’t look like a set at all. It looks… lived in for years. Despite the slightly disappointing ending, it’s one of the greatest films you’ll ever see.

#4: Kaminey (2009)

I don’t know how to put it, so I’ll just come out and say it. Kaminey is the best Hindi film in the past decade. It stands out for its fantastic originality and bold premise. The reason it’s not in the top three in the list is because some people actually went to watch it, although it was overshadowed by the much-less deserving 3 Idiots. Vishal Bhardwaj brings a Quentin Tarantino-esque madness into the film and even (somehow) molds Shahid Kapur into delivering a splendid performance, essaying a double role. He plays both: Charlie, a gangster, and Guddu, the st- st- stammering guy whose lives entwine as a result of wacky situations. Packed with many surprises, Kaminey elevates your soul to a new level, taking you to where you never thought was possible with Hindi cinema. Add to that an addictive soundtrack, and that just sweetens the deal. (Note to self: must find Kaminey Blu-Ray). My only grouse with Kaminey is some of the songs which I thought were dulling the film’s pace.

#3: Khosla Ka Ghosla (2006)

Jaideep Sahni’s epic script combined with Anupam Kher’s and Boman Irani’s superb acting skills turn this black comedy into a laugh riot for even for those with little knowledge about realty (read, me). Anupam Kher plays Mr. Khosla, whose land has been taken over by Khurana, and the film’s premise revolves around getting it back playing a well-engineered con. Khosla’s USA-bound son helps him to achieve this. This films marks the directorial début of Dibakar Banerjee who would later go on to make gems such as Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! and Love Sex Aur Dhokha. While it did do marginally well at the box office, it has since enjoyed many television reruns, and I make it a point to catch it when it’s on.

#2: Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (2009)

Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year

Image via Wikipedia

I know, I know. It is a Ranbir Kapoor film and oh boy is it good. In his best (yet most understated) performance yet, Rocket Singh stands out as one of the most sincere films in Hindi cinema. Another gem by Jaideep Sahni and director Shimit Amin sees wonderful characters developing enough to make you actually care for them. Never quite exploiting the ‘sardar’ angle (and thankfully so), Rocket Singh delivers thanks to compelling performances by an ensemble cast. Once again, the details here are too hard to ignore. Office parties with booze flowing in plastic cups and music playing from computer speakers are just few of them.

#1: Mithya (2008)

Surprised? Then Mithya has already succeeded in doing what it does best even before you’ve watched it. I’m willing to bet you haven’t heard of it. I wouldn’t have been lucky enough to witness this gem of a film if it wasn’t for good ol’ Jet Airways. Mithya was the only film I hadn’t watched from their in-flight movie collections, and boy was it awesome. Ranvir Shorey plays a struggling actor who bears and unfortunate (and uncanny) resemblance to a don, whose character he has to essay in real life. Packed with lots of little turns and twists and punctuated by stupendous performances from all the actors, Mithya delivers much more than it promises. Speaking more about it would be doing injustice to the entire movie-watching experience.

P.S: Welcome To Sajjanpur was left out because of too many songs.

P.P.S: Don’t expect this to be the first of a long series of posts. My blogging will remain as ‘frequent’ as it was in the last year. Sorry to disappoint!

P.P.P.S: Please leave some comments! And thank you for not unsubscribing.