Federer does a Jack Nicklaus, reignites the GOAT debate

Widely regarded as the greatest golfer to have played the game, the ‘Golden Bear’ as #JackNicklaus is fondly called, won a staggering 18 career majors. On Sunday night Swiss tennis legend #RogerFederer belied his years to do a Houdini of sorts and win his eighteenth Grand Slam at Australia. Against seemingly insurmountable odds. There were at least three other players who were all playing as good or better than him – The Serbian #NovakDjokovic (currently world no 1) the British Andy Murray (No 2 in world rankings) and of course his bete noire, the indefatigable Spanish #RafaelNadal. The Big Four of world tennis. But unlike the others, the last time Roger won a Grand Slam was five years back at the Wimbledon. An year ago Federer lost a fierce battle with Djokovic in the semifinals at the same Rod Laver arena. And worse Roger tore his knee during the defeat for which he had to undergo surgery afterwards. Surely this was the end of the road.

The trouble had started much earlier. A shocking fourth round exit at the US Open in 2013 to an unheralded Spanish player was the precursor. That year was the first in over a decade when Federer did not enter any of the Grand Slam finals. And before long he had dropped to a career low of seven in rankings. The ‘Djoker’ with a dozen Grand Slams was snapping at his heels and more pertinently had age on his side too. If it was any consolation, the man nearest to Federer with 14 (Grand Slam titles won) Nadal last won in 2014. And no prizes for guessing where. So when the two greatest players of our times went head to head this Sunday it was for the first time in five years with Nadal having a distinct 6-2 edge in previous Grand Slam finals. At stake was more than just the Australian Open. Much more

For the purists there was the #GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) debate. For some of the old timers it is Rod Laver the Aussie legend was the only man in the open era to win all the four Slams in one single year. Federer could only muster a career Slam what with Nadal thwarting him repeatedly at the French Open. For some it is the mercurial American Jimmy Connors who had snared a 109 career titles by the time he hung up his boots at the ripe age of 44. What about the other American great, Pete Sampras whose quiet unassuming demeanor was in stark contrast to his brutal serve? He never could conquer the clay courts of Roland Garros. For the #Czech great Ivan Lendl who is one of only three players to win over 1000 tennis matches (the other two are Federer and Connors) the ‘Achilles Heel’ was the Wimbledon.

Yet if one were to go purely by stats, Federer wins the GOAT debate hands down. An appearance in 28 Grand Slam finals, 23 Grand Slam semifinal appearances and consecutive at that, only player to win the US and the Wimbledon both five times each, over 300 weeks at top of world rankings. One can go on. The only hitch – How can one be considered the greatest in the game when you were not even the best in your era? That is right. Nadal and Federer have met 35 times in their career with Nadal winning 23 times. Federer supporters may argue that almost a half (15 to be precise) of these contests have been on clay where Nadal owns Federer with 13 wins. But admirers of the Spaniard will quickly point out the 2008 Wimbledon finals, regarded as the greatest match in tennis history, where #Nadal shut out the Fed Express. Something #Federer could never do on Nadal’s favored turf. A loss on Sunday would have perhaps ended this debate once and for all. But clearly fate and Federer had other ideas.

Fringe attacks Bhansali : Be afraid, very afraid

Fringe attack padmavati director sanjay leela bhansali
Fringe attack padmavati director sanjay leela bhansali

The dastardly attack on popular #Hindi #filmmaker #SanjayLeelaBhansali and his film crew during the shooting of his dream project ‘#Padmavati ‘ yesterday in #Jaipur has drawn the ire of industry wallahs. But these are not isolated incidents. If anything these have been taking place with alarming regularity.And no, this is not a recent phenomenon and for as long as one can remember the fraternity of creative individuals comprising writers, playwrights, painters and singers the world over have been vulnerable to attack from those opposed to freedom of speech, thought and expression. Who can forget the chilling murder of acclaimed communist playwright Safdar Hashmi by hoodlums owing allegiance to the ruling party? Right in the middle of a street play ironically titled ‘Halla Bol’ The place was Jhandapur in India’s largest state of #UttarPradesh and the year was 1989.

So what led to this fracas in the first place? The fringe group responsible for the cowardly act alleges that the director was distorting history in the name of creative liberty and goes on to add with shocking temerity that the director did not let them have a look at the actual script inspite of repeated demands. So in other words these miscreants were acting merely on hearsay and decided to take law into their own hands because the filmmaker did not give in to their ridiculous demands. Just imagine for a moment what might have happened had Bhansali indeed handed over the script of his film to these self appointed guardians. And what a terrible precedent it might have set. What next? Singers sending the lyrics of their songs to the government whose policies they are criticising for approval? Or a fiery writer taking on the establishment emailing his critique to them for proof reading?

Here is what is more disturbingly ironical. The historical figure, #RaniPadmini on whose life the film
is supposedly based did not even exist. Yes, you read that right. There is no historical evidence, either in Rajput (the Queen was one) or Sultanate records of this. So an acclaimed filmmaker of the stature of Bhansali got roughed up for a fictional recreation of a mythical figure?! This is not just censorship, this is mockery of creative expression and is an assault on democracy itself. In all this hullabaloo what is also glaring is the tepid response of the state government. No crackdown on this fringe group, no strong words of reassurance to a beleaguered film industry, nothing. This will only serve to embolden these miscreants even further as can be seen in the arrogant way in which this group is holding pressers cocking a snook at the powers that be.
#Freemuse, an International organisation that strives for the freedom of expression of musicians fromall over the world in it’s annual report states that there were more than 400 instances of violation of artist’s rights last year. This included threats, censorship, imprisonment, abductions and killings
too. So whatever is happening today is not restricted to any one country or region of the world inparticular. Far from. Truth is that these fringe elements are scared of the popularity that they enjoy
and of the influence that an artist wields. For art is like the air that we breathe. It cannot be  limited by any man made divisions that are on the basis of religion, race, colour, region and country. Yet, when the head of the most powerful country in the world decides to impose a blanket ban on entry of citizens from half a dozen #Islamiccountries for reasons best known to him, it will surely have a cascading effect everywhere. All over. Brace yourselves.

Sanjay Leela Bhansali attack video

ROAD TO THE OSCARS – Nominations are out, countdown begins

With exactly one month to go for the sealed envelopes to be opened, the Oscar Awards frenzy is only
going to build up further to a crescendo. It was on Tuesday morning that the Academy nominations were announced by folks ranging from actors like Terrence Howard and Ken Watanabe, actresses including Glenn Close and Jennifer Hudson, directors Guillermo del Toro and Jason Reitman apart from some members of the Academy. And to nobody’s surprise Damian Chazelle’s charming musical ‘La La Land’ snared a record equaling 14 of them. The only two other films to get so many nominations in the history of the Oscars are James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’ and the Bette Davis classic from the 1950s ‘All About Eve’ Cameron’s movie went on to take home 11 of those. Can La La Land do something equally impressive? Looking at how well it did at the Golden Globes a few weeks back it is a distinct possibility.

This year’s Academy nominations brings forth many interesting back stories some of which are just as interesting as the films themselves  The 89th Academy’s will witness seven actors who are not whitevying for the Oscar Awards. Though the Academy would like to say that this is the direct result of persistent efforts by them to make the Awards more inclusive, some others would like to credit the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag campaign that has been run during the last couple of years. Truth is the performances merited these nominations and beyond that it is just glorious coincidence. Of these, Viola Davis with her best actress nomination for the film ‘Fences’ making her the first African American actress to receive three Academy nominations deserves special mention.

Her co-star in ‘Fences’ is not doing too badly either. With two Oscars already under his belt, this year’s nomination makes it a staggering 7 for Denzel Washington, that is more than any other African American actor in history. Perhaps the most fascinating story of this year’s Oscar nominations is thatof multi talented composer Lin-Manuel Miranda who is nominated in the category of Best Original Song for the film ‘Moana’ If Miranda should win he will join the most elite club within the Academy. The EGOT Club that is made of artists talented enough to win the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and the Tony awards. Miranda has won the other three and if he wins the Oscar (unlikely with La La Land in the fray) he will become only the 13th member of this super exclusive club.Famous names that are in the EGOT club include Audrey  Hepburn, Mel Brooks and Whoopi Goldberg.

The most surprising nomination hands down has to be that of maverick actor & director Mel Gibson for his direction in the World War 2 Saga ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ Some are even calling it the ‘Trump effect’ The man who has become something of an outcast in Hollywood due to reasons unconnected to films makes a spectacular comeback with this film which even gets a Best Actor nod for Andrew Garfield. The most notable omission, of Amy Adams for her bravura performance in the sci-fi movie of the year ‘Arrival’ was marked by high controversy where the Academy first announced her nomination and then almost took it back calling it an ‘error’ Really?! And this after five previous nominations that did not end up in wins. The Academy could always put the blame on new technology what with the Academy nominations being streamed live on the internet. Another first. Touching is the gesture by the Academy to nominate much loved Pulitzer award winning writer August Wilson for ‘Fences’ He passed away a good 12 years ago. All said and done, may the best win the #Oscar.

RAEES – Movie Review

As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster –  Henry Hill in Goodfellas

INTRO

It was in 1943 that thespian Ashok Kumar established himself as the first superstar of Hindi film with his con man act in the smash hit ‘KISMET’ Though even back then critics pulled up the makers of this epochal film for glorifying crime, films based loosely on or inspired by real life gangsters have been lapped up by audiences. Equally some of the biggest marquee stars of Hindi cinema have all given career best performances in author backed gangster roles. From Amitabh Bachchan as Vijay Dinanath Chauhan (AGNEEPATH) to Kamal Hassan as Varadaraj Mudaliar (NAYAKAN) and Pankaj Kapur as Jahangir Khan (MAQBOOL) to Nana Patekar as Anna(PARINDA) with the latest being Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Faisal Khan (GANGS OF WASSEYPUR-2) each one is iconic in it’s own right. Will RAEES join this illustrious line up of films or end up as an also ran?

WARNING: SPOILERS GALORE

STORY

Said to be inspired by real life story of Gujarat underworld don Abdul Latif who supposedly became ‘Raees’ by bootlegging liquor during the 1980s. Though the makers have taken pains to deny this perhaps because they wanted to keep controversy at bay. After all, Latif was allegedly an associate of the notorious Dawood Ibrahim and had a substantial role to play in the Mumbai blasts of 1993. Suffice it to say that it encapsulates the life and times of Raees Alam.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

The music by  Ram Sampath is strictly average and none of the songs have made an impact apart from the remix of Laila o Laila (Sunny Leone for all her zillions of online fans cannot hold a candle to Miss Aman) but the rousing background score more than makes up for this. And the makers are smart enough to realise when they are on to a good thing. So they have gone ahead and released the complete original soundtrack of RAEES (director Dholakia has fond memories of growing up listening to the OST of the evergreen classic #SHOLAY) The score takes the drama on the big screen a few notches higher. The dialogues are all right at places, even great on occasion but are usually gimmicky reminding you of another film, Milan Luthria’s ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAI. But since flamboyance is typical of films in this genre, one is willing to turn a blind eye. Or should that be blind ear?

Ace DOP K.U.Mohanan seems to be the inhouse lensman for Excel (DON, FUKREY, TALAASH) and the brief given seems to have been quite brief – to make every frame look rich. The editor is Deepa Bhatia, the better half of multi talented filmmaker Amol Gupte. Her choice of films so far has been well..diverse. From ROCK ON & MY NAME IS KHAN to KAI PO CHE and TAARE ZAMEEN PAR. At 142 minutes RAEES feels twenty minutes too long. Could have been sharper and edgier. The film has four writers credited with the script and screen play of RAEES including the director. Of them one must mention Gujarati journalist Ashish Vashi who like Zeishan Quadri(one of the writers of the gangster epic GANGS OF WASSEYPUR) brings an authentic local flavour to RAEES.

ACTING AND DIRECTION

Theatre actor Sheeba Chadda who played a pivotal role in director Dholakia’s last film, the critically lauded PARZANIA is an inspired choice for the role of SRK’s mother. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub is a brilliant actor that he proved with his roles in Anand Rai’s films #RAANJHANAA and TANU WEDS MANU (the sequel) As SRK’s friend and partner in crime he has his moments but sadly he seems to be getting typecast and needs to break the mould as it were. Actress Mahira Khan makes a confident debut (her entry is with a song of no less than a Sridevi blaring in the background) but she is no Deepika Padukone and certainly is not an Anushka Sharma in the making. Both the aforementioned ladies made their big screen debut with SRK.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui is probably the best actor in the country right now purely in terms of the roles that are being written for him. And the earnestness with which he dives right into each one. Be it in leading roles with the whole song and dance routine (FREAKY ALI) comedy in supporting roles (#BAJRANGIBHAIJAAN) or shining in noir films (MISS LOVELY, RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0) he is doing it all and swimmingly well at that. RAEES sees him playing a cop once again after KAHAANI. Right from his ‘seeti-maar’ entry Nawaz owns every scene that he is a part of. Even those where he is having those verbal jousts with SRK. A personal favourite one is the chai waala scene. After stealing the thunder from ‘BHAI’ Nawaz has done it again in RAEES.

Director Rahul Dholakia is a bit of an enigma. His best work was in a short film titled ‘BOMBAY MUMBAI SAME SHIT’ which very few probably saw and which was part of an anthology of short film jointly titled ‘MUMBAI CUTTING’ Kundan Shah, Revathi, Sudhir Mishra and Anurag Kashyap were among other contributing directors. His PARZANIA for all it’s noble intentions was a little over rated,me thinks. How Dholakia, coming from a completely different space as far as filmy sensibilities are concerned got involved with a film that is unapologetically commercial one does not know. Did SRK make Dholakia an offer he could not refuse? About RAEES all one would venture to say is that this is a Dholakia we have never seen. Case in point being the best scene of the film where the Sunny Leone item song is almost operatically juxtaposed against a thrilling action sequence. Is that good or bad? Only time will tell.

And #SRK ? As a bespectacled Raees Alam (he gets the moniker ‘Battery’ for it) SRK does a Houdini of sorts by almost pulling off a role that is clearly half baked. Every great gangster film has that one moment when the guys loses it. Be it Tommy in GOODFELLAS, Tony Montana in #SCARFACE or even Sanjay Dutt in #VAASTAV. The problem with Raees Alam is that he is too busy being a do-gooder. To be fair to SRK he plays negative roles better than anybody else in the industry, by far. Here he seems straitjacketed by the role. In that regard he is nearer to SARKAR’s son (read Abhishek Bachchan) than the Big B which is the ambition of the makers. Yet this is a new phase in SRK’s career where his choice of roles (guest appearance in DEAR ZINDAGI, prosthetic aided role in FAN) and makers has at least been interesting. Sometimes it works. Other times it does not. But full points to King Khan for trying.

In RAEES one can clearly see the influence of the producer. Sample the scene where #SRK is shown with a poster of #AmitabhBachchan in the background and the intent is clear. RAEES works in the initial reels (SRK playing cricket in the gully with friends in tow, using veggies to smuggle booze) and comes alive in the crackling scenes between SRK and Nawaz. But the scenes of his meteoric rise to a messiah of sorts and the ones depicting him dabbling in politics are underwhelming. As is the buildup to the climax which leaves the viewer with a sense of deja vu. In the end, RAEES is what could have been. But is not. One time watch? Sure!

P.S. If one had to choose between this and the other release #RAEES is better. But only just.

KAABIL – Movie Review, Hrithik Roshan, Yami Gautam, Sanjay Gupta

Revenge is a dish best served cold – Memoirs of Matilda

INTRO

Rakesh Roshan has made his career as a director with films that deal with vengeance. From the Rekha starrer ‘KHOON BHARI MAANG’ to the Shahrukh-Salman mega hit ‘KARAN ARJUN’ or his son Hrithik’s debut vehicle ‘KAHO NAA PYAAR HAI’ it is a genre that he is at ease with. Which is why it is a little baffling as to why he let Sanjay Gupta direct his son in their home production when he was perhaps best suited to do this. For actor Hrithik and director Gupta this is a big film what with their last few films having failed to impress the audiences.

STORY

The Bhatnagars Rohan (Hrithik Roshan) and Su (Yami Gautam) are a blind couple in love with life and each other. They are not looking for special attention nor do they want your sympathy. They just want ‘to be’ Till one fine day their life is torn apart by the gruesome rape of the girl. The rest of it is typical Bollywood potboiler stuff. The cops are corrupt (Girish Kulkarni seems to have continued from where he left off in DANGAL) the politicians are all powerful and Rohan is left with no recourse but to take law into his own hands. How Rohan overcomes his physical shortcomings to emerge victor in the end forms the crux of the story.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

The music by Rajesh Roshan is a wholesome soundtrack. The choice of Pakistan singer Jubin Nautiyal as Hrithik’s voice works like a charm. From the velvety soft ‘Kuch Din’ to the superb title song Nautiyal’s voice suits the shy and soft spoken character of Rohan. The way the song ‘Mon Amour’ is picturised captures the great chemistry that Yami and Hrithik share perfectly. But Roshan saab how could you let your own compositions (both SAARA ZAMAANA and DIL KYA KARE are his babies)be ripped apart in the name of remix like this? Most music directors of today like AR Rehman, Amit Trivedi and Pritam compose songs and do the background score as well. But in KAABIL the background score is by Salim-Sulaiman. And they do a swell job especially in the second half when all hell breaks loose.

The credit for the camera work is shared by Messrs Sudeep Chatterjee(CHAK DE INDIA, DHOOM 3, BAJIRAO MASTANI) and Ayananka Bose(DOSTANA, KICK, DISHOOM) Both have worked on enough big budget films with the best filmmakers  in Bollywood and pitch KAABIL on just the right scale. Keeping in mind that this is a story of two blind people, Academy award winner Result Pookutty weaves his magic again with sound design creating incredibly vivid sounds. Another ace in the pack is action director Peter Hein who after his work  in the blockbuster BAHUBALI must be the busiest stunt co-ordinator in all of India. It is thanks to his innovative choreography that prevents KAABIL from becoming mundane. The fight that Hrithik has with Rohit Roy is clap worthy and will have the masses in the B centres jumping in the aisles.

The story, screenplay and dialogues are credited to Sanjay Masoom(the sequel specialist who has written AASHIQUI 2, JANNAT 2 and KRRISH 3) Interestingly an year before controversy had erupted

over writing credits with several people claiming it was their labour of love. One of them, Vijay Kumar Mishra gets a mention here. Hmmm. KAABIL is just a revenge saga so cannot fathom what all the fuss was about. The editing is done BY AKIV ALI whose body of work includes enough action films (AGNEEPATH, BANG BANG, BROTHERS) knows exactly what to do in KAABIL. And he does it quite well. Though the initial part of the Hrithik-Yami romance moves at a leisurely pace it picks up in the latter half.

ACTING & DIRECTION

The problem with KAABIL is that almost all characters that appear seem too formulaic and evoke a feeling of been there, seen that. Real life brothers Ronit(playing a wily politician) and Rohit Roy(the one who violates Yami) play reel life brothers in KAABIL and they do their jobs all right considering that there is only so much any one can do with a hackneyed role. Yami Gautam has her moments in the film (like when she and Hrithik get separated in a mall) and plays the role with just the right amount of tenderness without getting too overbearing or annoying. If KAABIL works and it does for most parts the credit must go fully to Hrithik Roshan. Here is a role right up his alley and he is single handedly responsible for all the ‘goosebump’ moments in the film. Whether it is a cute imitation of Big B, doing the Tango with great abandon or beating the vilains to pulp Hrithik gets every nuance just right. If you thought reprising the iconic Vijay Dinanath Chauhan was being brave, wait till you see him in KAABIL.

Director Sanjay Gupta has always had this penchant for blatantly copying from international cinema. And with the exception of KAANTE(taken from Tarantino’s RESERVOIR DOGS) none really worked wonders. After watching ZINDA where he actually had the temerity to think he could remake the cult Korean film OLD BOY one had vowed off his films. Here he is again inspired by the 2014 Korean film BROKEN (where it was a father exacting revenge for his daughter’s rape) in parts and the 1980s Rutger Hauer starrer samurai actioner BLIND FURY (which was in turn the remake of a Japanese film) as well. Regardless of the commercial fate of KAABIL, it is unlikely to win him any new fans.

#KAABIL is very violent in several places, has no comic relief and offers little that is new. If not for Hrithik Roshan it would have bombed. Watch it only if you love Hrithik, and dislike SRK.

Women’s March on Washington : Epic. Historic. Unprecedented

Urdu poet Majrooh Sultanpuri once wrote ‘Main akela hi chala tha janibe-manzil magar, Log aate gaye aur karwaan banta gaya’ which loosely translates to ‘I embarked on this journey alone. People kept joining me and it became a movement’ That is pretty much what happened with the Women’s March on Washington as well. What began as a protest march driven predominantly by feminists demanding equal rights for women soon grew in scale to include other issues like birth control, ethical treatment of immigrants, threats to the environment, racial profiling and health care reforms too. These are all issues affecting not just American citizens but everyone everywhere. And worryingly these were all issues on which the President Donald Trump aired controversial views in the run up to the elections. No wonder that Trump ended up antagonising half the world even before he had assumed office.

Which is why when the Women’s March on Washington took place on January 21, 2017 it found resonance in every nook and corner of the world. From Paris to Copenhagen, Mexico to Canada, Tokyo to Nairobi,Delhi to Bangkok millions of people came together to march in protest against everything wrong that Trump stood for. Even in Paradise Bay, Antarctica that is perhaps the most remote place on earth home only to penguins and seals environmental activists concerned with Trump’s attempts to repeal the EPA (Enviromental Protection Agency) begun by the previous President Obama organised a protest march. Celebrities, artists and singers like Madonna, Helen Mirren and Michael Moore rubbed shoulders with fiery activists like Tamika Mallory, Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem to drive home two very important points. One, that the President is not the country. Rather it is the people that are the country. And two, that the world is watching every move of the US President very closely. But like all great things the beginning of this great event was also rather small. Innocuous almost.

It was in November last year. One day after results of the most tumultuous Presidential elections in recent years were announced thousands of dismayed Americans were still coming to grips with what had just happened. Many took to the streets where they registered symbolic protests against the emphatic victory that Republican candidate Donald Trump had recorded. Others took to social media. One of them was a sixty year old retired attorney from the remote island of Hawaii who suggested that women undertake a symbolic march to Washington. She created an event on her social media page and it was tentatively decided that the march would coincide with the new President elect’s swear in ceremony. The rest, as the cliche goes, is history.

The writing was on the wall and everyone knew this was coming. From the time a controversial old clipping of Donald Trump surfaced on the internet. Trump was quick to blame his rival Presidential candidate and her supporters for this attempt to smear his image. But the damage was done. In this clip Trump was seen using derogatory language in reference to women and coming across as misogynistic. His imitation of a differently abled journalist did not win him any fans either. For this act of his, Trump was pulled by at a recent award function by acclaimed American actress Meryl Streep. Nor did his apparent dislike for same gender marriages, LGBT rights and African American voters.

what is womens march
what is womens march

In what is usually considered the ‘honeymoon’ period for a new President, Trump is already under considerable pressure. In the aftermath of this historic march it remains to be seen whether he softens his stand on these above mentioned issues. If not we are in for more acrimony and bad blood over the next few years of his term. For the protestors, the question is this. Can all these diverse forces put aside their collective differences and organise themselves into a viable political alternative?

Twitter Gallery from all over US – on Women’s March Day – #womensmarch

[hashtag_tweets hashtag="womensmarch" number="10" cache="2"]

Internet woes in Silicon Valley of India

Many folks are of the impression that it was the IT boom in the 1990s that transformed a sleepy town
like city into a vibrant, bustling megapolis that it is today. But truth is that this city has always been moving with the times, sometimes a step ahead even. At the beginning of the nineteenth century Bangalore became one of the first cities in Asia where motor vehicles started to be used for the purpose of transport and commuting. Shortly after (1906 was the year) the city also had the honour of becoming one of the first cities in this part of the world to get electricity which was fuelled by hydro power. In that sense, when it comes to science and technology the city of Bangalore has always had an edge over other cities of the country. Three years ago Bangalore became the first city of the country to start with free wifi hot spots to help IT and software professionals connect to the internet from anywhere at anytime. So it is a bit of an irony that Bangalore, widely regarded as the outsourcing capital of the world, has not been able to deliver high speed internet to it’s users.

Before we get into internet speed and data usage there are a few things that need to be made clear. The
world wide web has changed drastically in the last decade. Just take the average size of a web page itself. In the 1990s when the first web pages came into being they were hardly 300 Kilobytes or thereabouts in size. By the year 2010 addition of various softwares, customisations and applications had pushed this upto twice the size to around 700 kilobytes but today in the year 2017 this has shot to become more than 2 megabytes. Programming languages like Javascript and increased use of images is a major reason for this huge jump in webpage size. The implications of this are many. A webpage that is larger in size obviously will take longer time to load and knowing today’s users they will either try and reload the page if it is taking too long or just close it out and re open it.

The second critical factor is that of FUP short for Fair Usage Policy. This policy usually comes into the picture when a user opts for any unlimited plan. In order to ensure that more users get the best out of their broadband connections, internet providers set a data usage limit for users. So once you exceed this FUP limit you will still be able to get access to unlimited data but at reduced speeds. Now to understand the problem all you need to do is go through the broadband plans for all the leading providers in Bangalore and you will notice that there is something amiss. To make matters even more clear just compare these with the plans that the same providers are offering to customers in other cities, like Hyderabad for example. The crux of the problem lies with what happens to your internet speed once the FUP limit has been reached.

As explained already websites are only getting bigger and bigger in size every day and it is likely that every once in a while you will touch the FUP limit much before it is time to recharge. Where in places like Hyderabad your internet speed will still be decent enough (2 megabytes per second) even after the FUP limit has been breached, users in Bangalore are forced to make do with speeds as terribly low as 512/256 Kbps (kilo bytes per second) At these speeds most websites will not load or will take so long to do so that a user will run out of patience. Which means that perhaps in the middle of the month when there is some urgent work to be done your internet provider will leave you high and dry.One only hopes that this anomaly is corrected by the powers that be sooner than later. You cannot be the IT capital of the country and provide users with dial up connection speeds for internet usage. Not done, just not done.

How to become a film critic – The essential guide

In the 2007 smash hit animated film ‘Ratatouille’ the character of the Chef Gusteau famously remarks ” Anybody can cook.” Something on similar lines can be said about the job of a film critic. Anybody can critique. As long as you love watching cinema. Sounds too simple? But this is indeed a fact. When you are writing a review or even two every week all through the year, that means having to watch fifty odd films of which perhaps just half a dozen stay with you after the curtains have come down. And of these even lesser number of films are worth revisiting. Even by way of a review. Having said that, regardless of whether a film is good bad or avoidable there is always a takeaway from it. And remember this. To critique a bad film is nothing short of social service. If the film viewing experience has not been a memorable one for you it becomes even more imperative that others cinephiles are given advance notice.

The job of a film critic comes with a quirk that is all it’s own. Where the ones reviewing a film neednot really have first hand knowledge of making a film themselves. And yet they are at complete libertyto trash a film that is not to their liking.One even personally knew of a film critic who took it uponhimself to give a thumbs down to all those films that he could not really understand. Besides cricket,cinema and politics are subjects where everyone in this country (read India) seems to anyway regardthemselves as experts.It is another matter altogether that when these film critics themselves triedtheir hand at making a film, the end results were nothing to crow about. Be it the legendary RogerEbert in far away Hollywood or our very own Khalid Mohammed in Hindi cinema.

Thanks to the internet explosion, the job of critiquing a film has all of a sudden become a viable proposition for those interested. Where earlier it was a pre requisite of sorts to have a degree in either journalism or even mass communication before one could start reviewing films for a newspaper, today there are hundreds of portals online related to films where you could start writing. All you have to do is to badmouth a big budget film featuring stalwarts and your two minutes of fame is assured. Earlier a smart alec filmmaker could rip off a film from the west (or the east if you like) adapt it to Indian sensibilities and walk away with all the plaudits. Not anymore. The audience has wisened up.
The new generation film buffs have access to cinema from all over the world making them so well informed that a lot of times, by viewing just the teaser of a forthcoming film they are able to figure out which European/Korean film is the ‘inspiration’ behind a film. So exposure to a diverse range of cinema from all over is one criteria paramount to becoming a film critic. And it does not hurt if as a film critic you have a way with words, a sense of humour and a gift of the gab.On top of it technology today gives you the option to broadcast you opinions  live, to the entire world.

But all this may still not suffice for there are enough folks out there all vying for the attention of a reader. Which is exactly why it is important that you carve a niche for yourself. By using catchy words & phrases (Two Thumbs Up was one such phrase made memorable by Ebert) and by working out a format and style of reviewing that is all your own. And no, narrating a story line by line with spoilers
galore does not qualify as film criticism. That is just being a party pooper.

Film trade analyst – Who, What and How?

In the dailies that we read there is usually an entertainment section that brings us up to speed withthe latest happenings in the world of arts,culture and cinema. Here you might notice a trade analyst reporting the daily,weekly and till date collections of a film. Apart from which the analyst is also able to forecast how much the film is likely to end up making by the time it’s theatrical run gets over. With a fair amount of accuracy too.So who is a trade analyst? In film parlance a trade analyst is someone who is able to make sense of the extremely unpredictable business that is of cinema. Where a film critic looks at the creative aspect of a film in order to decide whether the film is worth your while, the trade analyst delves into the commercial prospects of the said film. The pros and cons of a film are also decided by the analyst based on this parameter only.
In Hollywood, trade guides and film magazines have been around for the longest time informing viewers how much a film earned in ticket sales at the box office. This information is usually correct, right down to the last dollar and can be relied upon. Things are drastically different back home where producers, distributors and exhibitors have been reluctant to reveal how much was spent towards producing the film, how much it was sold for and how much money it eventually made. The reasons for this are not difficult to fathom. For years many of those bankrolling and financing films have had dubious backgrounds and have been using black and ill gotten money. Due to this it was not uncommon for producers to make all kinds of tall claims about how much their films had earned. In short, the film industry was largely unorganised for a very long time.

But there has been a sea of change in the way the business of cinema has been run in the last decade or  so. The single biggest factor for this has been the entry of corporates into film making. The corporate world has brought in a professional approach to the entire process of film making thereby making sure that every rupee is accounted for. Be it the monies that go into funding a film or the box office receipts there is no chance that producers can get away as easily by quoting fancy figures which are quite obviously exaggerated. The other factor that has contributed to creating a sense of order is that today Bollywood (the Hindi film industry) is an industry that has grown by leaps and bounds. Not just on the domestic front but worldwide too. There is serious money involved in this multi million rupee business, no laughing matter this.

A film trade analyst’s job is not without it’s fair share of challenges and controversies. Reporting box office figures is easier but it is not always possible to predict the success or failure of a film correctly. After all, film making is a creative process. Many times it so happens that films considered as safe bets at the box office turn to be damp squibs while others exceed all expectations to become box office blockbusters. So one has to be thick skinned and prepared for the brickbats that come with the bouquets. Also many film trad analysts are guilty of looking only at the commercial angle at the expense of creative excellence. Due to which trade analysts are found wanting when it comes to path breaking films which are usually ahead of their time. All said and done, one thing is certain. There is no business like show business.

Bollywood Attack: How the west was won

It was in the year 2010 that a Hindi film starring reigning superstar Shah Rukh Khan titled ‘My Name is Khan’ became the first ever to cross over a 100 crores in box office collections internationally. It is a figure that still boggles the mind because to this day it is not easy for a Hindi film to make a hundred crores domestically let alone do this feat overseas. But in what is a testament of how the international revenues of Hindi films are going northwards, four years later director Rajkumar Hirani’s ‘P.K.’ took it a few notches higher by becoming the first to make 200 crores outside of India ending up with over 300 crores. In the last few years three films have crossed the magical figure of 200 crores globally with this year’s biggest hit ‘Dangal’ turning out to be the latest movie to achieve this feat. What are the implications of this incredible turn of events and how it will impact the way films are made and marketed in this part of the world remains to be seen.
Two films in the mid 1990s chiefly brought back a huge diaspora of Indian audiences worldwide back into the theaters. The films were ‘Hum Aapke Hain Kaun’ and ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’ and both films had one thing in common, both reaffirmed Indian traditions and family values. For a good many years after that it was usually NRIs aka non resident Indians who patronised these films. What is different in recent years is that the new generation of filmmakers are making films that are on par with their Hollywood counterparts. Not merely in terms of production values as well as technical excellence but more importantly content. These new films are bold and original in content as well as universal in appeal. As a result of which many non Indians have begun to frequent cinema halls playing these films.
These are films that are pushing the envelope, and hard.

That is one big reason why the overseas market for Hindi films which has been traditionally limited to four or five regions like the US, UK, Australia and the middle east. This is where the concentration of the expat community loyal to Hindi films has been. But with content assuming great importance in recent years this market has expanded to include newer markets like France, Germany, Switzerland and South Africa. Asian markets in China, Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong which have a strong presence of Chinese, Korean and Japanese cinema have been resistant to films from India though they have been more accepting of Holly-wood big releases. Not anymore for Hindi film are now breaking new ground by making their presence felt here as well. The stupendous success of Tamil superstar Rajnikanth’s films in South East Asian markets have played their part in opening up new avenues for Hindi films.

It was early last year that the American trade magazine ‘Variety’ made a forecast that the Bollywood industry is expected to grow at a rate of 11% every year. In contrast Hollywood film are barely growing at 5%. Not to forget that Bollywood makes more than twice the number of films every year than  Hollywood. Clearly there is no dearth of content.Then there is the incentive to foreign investment in Hindi films that has led to big studios like Disney, Fox and Sony not just distributing films but even getting actively involved in production and marketing too. Commercial Hindi films are usually candy floss stuff with the typical song and dance that appeals to the domestic market. Radical change in this has meant more riveting, edgy cinema that is drawing attention and gathering praise at international film festivals. The going is good and will only get better.