Friday, February 01, 2013

Mani Ratnam's Kadal (The Sea) - My take

Watched Mani Ratnam's Kadal yesterday. More than Mani's direction, it was Rahman's music which riveted the crowd that occupied around 60% of the seats in the cinema.

The director has tried to handle a complicated treatment of a simple subject - Good vs. Bad. There was, I should say, a Nolanic attempt at handling the portrayal. You can find the usual niceties of Mani Ratnam's movies - an undercurrent of subtle audio-visual themes around the characters (the good guy always has white around him & the bad guy black), fantastic camerawork (that integrates the sea as a character into the movie) and pathetic visualisations of some of the best works of Rahman (it has been recurrent theme in his recent movies).

However, the sore point that sticks out is the lack of characterisation for the “dark” guy. This has a telling effect on the way the story unfolds and the impact it has on the audience. The crux of the story deals with good vs. bad –duality that requires both characters to be developed equally well. I reckon, here, the director either got carried away or assumed that his audience would understand the “dark” character equally well. The depiction of the dark guy as “evil for the sake of evil” desperately needs more dwelling-on and not just anecdotal references.

The other major disappointment is the integration of the audio track into the movie. Having released more than a month ago, the tracks have been living their own lives. To say that Mani had absolutely mishandled the best number, “Nenjukulle” is an understatement. The song is entirely out of place in the movie. Other songs are handled better. But one leaves with a longing that they could have been depicted much better, given that Vairamuthu’s lyrics tell a story of their own.

For a much better review (audio-Tam):

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Yellow Cycle - Punctured Experience

Update: The owner of The Yellow Cycle personally visited us, apologized for the experience and, refunded our money a day after our experience. Very nice of her to do so. I think it is only fair to mention that here.

There is this site called The Yellow Cycle which promises you "experiences". You can gift an experience to your loved one. The concept was amazing and I thought I'd gift my wife an experience on her birthday. Well. As the "experience" unfolded, I discovered that their "wow" stops with the concept. The execution leaves little room to doubt that it could be done any worse. In fact, I daresay they score a near perfect -10.

It all starts with you paying them all the money upfront and listening to some sweet-talk about how you would want your experience to be rolled-out. Rest assured that they note every detail of yours - in water. Once the payment is over, the surprise part starts. But hang on! There's a catch. The surprise starts mostly for the person who paid. NOT for the intended audience. You get calls from them asking you to do something within a matter of hours (In their idyllic world, a customer who pays also waits under his phone all day to take instructions from them and plan his moves). Then you realize that they are like a rookie who is on on-the-job training. They change timelines, change schedule of events and the events themselves. Well. I reckon I just drew up the list of things that make up an “experience”. So, basically, everything changes as per the whims, fantasies, hallucinations, demand-supply-scenarios, mood of the owner/office peon and (probably his second paternal uncle). You pay for something and when the experience is over, you’d be more surprised at what you’ve got (rest assured, for all the wrong reasons).

What tops everything is their “delivery”. For starters, they strictly work on the “Indian Stretchable Time” regimen. I reckon their policy also disallows acknowledgement of any faults at their end. They just don’t pick-up calls if you ring them trying to ask about a delivery not happening (Heard of turkeys burying heads in the sand?). In essence, you will observe an orifice between what the website says and what actually transpires sufficient enough for planet Jupiter to pass comfortably. (Now re-read the statement about them not picking up calls).

Just avoid them like the plague.

On second thoughts, plague doesn't make you so mad.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The irrationality of the IIMs/Indians

Adam Smith's "invisible hand" theory suggests that, in a free market, demand finds the most economically viable supply that satisfies it qualitatively and quantitatively, and prices get determined based on that; that a free market is the game of "survival of the fittest". I'm sure IIMs teach these Macro-economic-101s to the eager minds that fill their classrooms every year. But what is put on display may make Mr. Smith turn in his grave.

I was bemused to find that IIM Ranchi has recently announced that it would only consider candidates scoring above 99.5 percentile in CAT 2010 for admissions into its PGP program commencing 2011. One doesn't need the Minerva squatting in his head to guess that in a free market, a demand for the top half-percentile share of candidates is one a 1-year-old, fledgling institute can ill-afford to make. Where is the “invisible hand”?

Let's look into the dynamics of the game. The institute can "afford the luxury" of calling for the creme-de-la-creme of young Indian minds not because it stands shoulder-to-shoulder with any of the other institutes (in India or abroad) in terms of research prowess, industrial/international exposure or quality of its staff/curricula. I'm not saying that it is bad on these but just that the jury is still out on them. After all, it is yet to produce its first output. Rather, it is just because it is blessed with the ubiquitous 3-letter acronym that 6 other predecessors have been blessed with - I-I-M.

How different is this from the dynastic politics that we’re so used to in India. We vote for people because of their names, surnames, affiliations to people with surnames, etc. We impute quality. We seldom see their merit. Is the case of IIM Ranchi (or for that matter the other ones that make irrationally exuberant demands) very different? Why do students mindlessly flock these institutes? Do they research before they apply? (A 101 for applying to b-schools).

So what does the average CAT-taker use to determine the institutes he applies to? I could think of only one simple business concept – economies of scale. It costs the applicant the same 1500 rupees or thereabouts for the application form whether he applies to 1 IIM or all. Makes sense to apply for all in that case, doesn’t it? The mantra that IIM Ranchi and all the new IIMsfollow is very simple. Take a process. Never bother how cranky/empty it is. See that you have extremely good input. Even if the input passes through your process rather undisturbed in any sense, they’ll come out as good outputs because started out with the good ones in the first place (Ever wondered why companies at IIMs prefer freshers that “they” can train instead of preferring experienced industry people with a new, acquired business outlook?)

No wonder those simple ticks that a CAT-taker makes with his pencil on the form translates to such monstrous cut-offs. No wonder IIMs get 400-500 applications for every seat on offer while Harvard gets around 13. No wonder a set of institutes with mediocre research grants, astonishingly few research-hungry staff and just-about-ok infrastructure can pass off as national champions. No wonder Indians fall for names instead of the quality that lies within. No wonder India votes for families and surnames.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Why Kinect is a game changer

After a long wait and weeks of promo, Kinect finally hit the stores both in India and the US almost simultaneously a couple of weeks ago. It retails at around $200 in the US and 10,000 INR in India.

I was grinning ear-to-ear when MS announced that Kinect would be an add-on to the Xbox 360 system and wouldn’t necessarily require purchasing a new console. However, what took my breath away was the fact that MS has designed Kinect not just for the Xbox but for the PC as well. Now this is a coup de grace. Netizens who frequent couldn’t have missed Pranav Mistry’s “Sixth sense” presentation. I couldn’t help but think that Kinect would take us all a step closer to it. Kinect opens up the doors for a new array of gesticulation-and-voice based programs on the PC that can completely overhaul our PC experience. You might be able to give your keyboard and mouse some rest and just be “interacting” – talking naturally with your computer with gesticulations pretty soon.

I am sure usability experts  will now sit-up and take notice that they could soon be doing away with conventional menu bars and interaction elements and coming up with new patterns to make a computer adapt better to human gesticulations. All in all, I think human-computer-interaction is heading into a whole new phase of fun. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Marrying e-governance intiatives and IT bench-warmers

A report on Orissa government's e-governance initiative, in the form of a developing portal for applying driving licences online set me thinking (Yeah, not many things happening around me "set me thinking")

The top 6 Indian software services companies - SWITCH - Satyam, Wipro, Infosys, TCS, CTS, HCL (no pun intended with the acronym) - have around 10-20% of their workforce warming up benches at any point in time. What if these companies pool together their "benched" resources and offered them to the government free of cost to code the e-governance initiatives? The government can set up a company to manage these resources and pay just the project managers (or even they can be loaned from these companies if they happen to be on bench).

It's an easy win-win. This would drastically reduce the bill that the government has to foot to develop their software and manage it. From the companies' standpoint, this reduces the bickering by the benched employees, not to mention the satisfaction they get working "for their countrymen" towards a larger cause.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How to offend your users?

A picture speaketh a thousand words!