Yet each man kills the thing he loves,
By each let this be heard,
Some do it with a bitter look,
Some with a flattering word,
The koward does it with a kiss,
The brave man with a sword!"
                     oscar wilde , the ballad of reading gaol

When was the last that I thought of you...I know not...but am I the one who goes alone on this path...and should I but care only a little for the souls that follow or those as march ahead?

Mode C is a way of life, perhaps my way of life: C for Cool, C for Cold, C for Chaos, C for Calvin. Ultimately, all of it boils down to the way you look at things. Are they not how they are but just how they appear?? No...and yes...Almost all the seriously critical fundamental concepts of life...aren't they just the bogies under Calvin's bed that he is afraid of? Miss Wormwood, Susie, Mom and Dad, and of course above all, Hobbes...aren't they all merely the means that he uses to attack these bogies?

Reflecting on 'living the Calvin way', I have started to believe that life and our reaction to it can only be explained by a number of Calvin and Hobbes strips combined together. The philosophy, as I like to call it, is to know that you are not alone. It is not just my perspective alone that is going to help me fight my bogies. I will be able to inch towards the Calvin way only when I perceive the other perspectives on my way.

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My Past
Loyola High School Patna
Delhi Public School RK Puram
Institute of Technology BHU
Infosys Technologies Ltd
IIM Kozhikode

My Present
Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd.

My Future
My Life

Project Nanhi Kali for the girl child

Movie Reviews at Mode C

Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna
Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire
Batman Begins
War of the Worlds
Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Bunty aur Babli
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
Veer Zaara
Phir Milenge
Kyun! Ho Gaya Na
Mujhse Shaadi Karogi
Spider Man 2
Main Hoon Na

Book Reviews at Mode C

Stay Hungry Stay Foolish
The Inscrutable Americans
Harry Potter - Half-Blood Prince
The Monk who sold his Ferrari
Angels and Demons
Life of Pi
The Da Vinci Code
The Tristan Betrayal

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Sunday, July 03, 2005
There are no rights or wrongs...only power

"Like all other directors across the world, I have also been inspired by The Godfather. This is my tribute to it"
Ram Gopal Verma

No, this movie is not Godfather. No, this is not the first time that Amitabh Bachchan is playing such a role. No, this is not an Amitabh movie.

Yes, there are similarities in some sequences that make you remember Godfather (especially part of the opening sequence where the father of a wronged girl comes asking for revenge and perhaps even the dining table scenes or the last scene where the new don takes charge). Yes, Abhishek Bachchan comes up with yet another stellar performance. Yes, the movie does carry the trademark Ramu style.

Sarkar is anything but Godfather copied frame to frame. There is no way it could have been. The Italian mafia is too different in its style and fabric, when compared to the Mumbai underworld. While politics was only a minor irritant in the Italian mafia scene, it is a major factor when one comes down to Mumbai and its dons. Amitabh Bachchan plays Sarkar, the undisputed (so far) king of Mumbai who rules over the masses with an iron rod, working for the poor and not caring about the rich, law, order, system, etc.

Sarkar is a law unto himself and Amitabh Bachchan does look the part with a panache. He plays the quintessential ageing man with a deep voice, one who may not be in the prime of his health but one who still demands respect by his glance, stare and voice. It is not so much the dialogues and/or the histrionics that matter in this movie (for there are hardly any, at least from the father-son duo of Amitabh and Abhishek) but it is the silent stare, the expressions in the eyes and the slow, steady and deep baritone that does the acting. Kay Kay (supposed to be playing a combination of Sonny and Fredo Corleone) does raise his voice a lot and like Sonny Corleone, is shown to be the hot-tempered one in the family and like Fredo Corleone, does things that are against the family.

In fact, perhaps the the only central theme in which  the movie can be be said to be similar to Godfather is the family concept and the patriarch passing on his duties, though he does not want to, to the younger son, the one who has always been kept away from the dirt and scum. The family, however, is not as much that of an underworld don as it is of an influential politician who has taken it upon himself to become the messiah of the poor and the helpless.

Although the intent behind the movie was good, but it has been an overdose of underworld movies from the Ramu stable now and yet another, despite the Amitabh-Abhishek magic, does not really work from the point of view of the average movie goer who might never have heard of The Godfather. For the multiplex audience who have been expecting a hard-hitting (and for a change, decently "inspired") movie, the disappointment is written clearly as they realize that it is not the story of Don Vito and Michael and Sonny that they have grown up on. Rather, it is just an attempt to take the basic idea and build upon it as per Indian conditions, a concept that may be foreign to many of them who are used to direct frame to frame lifts.

The characterisation, unexpectedly is a trifle weak in this movie. Apart from the Bachchan duo, as Ramgopal Verma admits himself, rest of the actors are not stars, taken mostly from the stage and cast in what has been a clear attempt at making a commercial movie. Although the addition of more stars would have helped in the commerical aspects, even the characters and their placement in the current scheme of things does not seem to be good enough. While the villains are all caricatures (as has been seen in many Mumbai underworld movies) going by names like Silvermani and laughing hysterically, the sidekicks have nothing to do than grind teeth, either. The female leads are wasted and have nothing to display (literally or otherwise) at all in a short movie (just over 2 hours) which is dominated entirely by the brooding looks and toned-down but effective dialogue deliveries of Amitabh and Abhishek.

Amitabh Bachchan holds the movie together, no doubt, with his voice booming across the screen in every other frame but this movie belongs to the junior B. With Yuva and Bunty aur Babli, he has already proved that he can act outside his father's shadow and in this movie, he really out does himself. In fact, in some of the scenes, the intensity of his expressions surpasses those of Amitabh himself, truly something any actor would die for. Kay Kay is wasted in a role where he does not know what to do, a mix between Sonny and Fredo, he is neither strong nor completely weak, a waste of a character and an actor. Katrina Kaif looks amazingly beautiful and more than that, carries oodles of sex appeal but since she does not have much to do in the movie, no impression of her acting even starts getting formed. Rest of the support cast is just that, support cast and none of them manages to make his/her presence felt in the middle of the Amitabh-Abhishek performances.

The background score, though it sounds good initially, starts getting on the nerves when it is repeated every now and then without scope or necessity. Cinematography is apt and the dialogues crisp and as per the situation. There are no typical hard hitting whistle inducing typical-Amitabh-movie dialogues but Amitabh manages to overcome this minor issue with the extra-ordinary way in which he delivers even the most ordinary dialogues. Ram Gopal Verma comes back to direction after a long gap and actually realizes his dream of over 25 years by making this movie. However, he does not manage to do something extra-ordinarily novel this time. Unlike his different-from-the-league movies like Kaun, Bhoot, or even Satya, this one has a lot of aspects that Ramu has already shown us and has already got our respect for.

Looking at the promos, and expecting a Godfather made by Ram Gopal Verma and enacted by Amitabh Bachchan, is not going to help when you go to watch this movie. Expect another Amitabh and/or Ramu master piece and you will get it but if you expect a different underworld movie after Satya, Company and D...or if you want to relate Amitabh Bachchan with Marlon Brando or Abhishek with Al Pacino, there is disappointment written right ahead.

Posted at 01:31 pm by Nitai

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Saturday, July 02, 2005
They are!!!

Right from the mitochondria to the cells to the organisms to the planet and the universe, life has so many things and so many wonders hidden inside it that it is almost impossible to contemplate on what might happen next. This is the idea that had prompted HG Wells to write a story that turned out to be a sensational success, the stuff legends are made of, when relayed over the American radio one fine morning. The story comes back to treat us to the possibilities of annihilation, this time in the avatar of a movie. And before you reject it outright as a stale idea (after the success of Independence Day and even spoofs like Men in Black, the idea does seem stale), let it be known that the person who has directed this movie is none other than THE Steven Spielberg and the lead actor, none other than THE Tom Cruise.

While this might have been enough to draw people to the theatres for the first time, the rest of the making-the-movie-a-hit part has to be done by the movie itself, which it fails miserably to do. Having directed movies in the same league earlier (Jurassic Park was also a case of bigger powers against humans), audience would certainly expect better from Spielberg. It may be possible that he was constrained by the elements of the original story, but then since when have directors stopped taking artistic liberties with the story line (and it is a re-telling of the original, remember)?

The story begins with Ray, a divorcee who lives all alone, enjoys his work at the docks, and lives a life of carelessness and monotonous sustenance. Ray (played in a rather lacklustre manner by Tom Cruise) has his kids staying with him for the weekend. While his son hates him, his little daughter does not trust him, either. Soon enough, Ray finds himself in a city where after multiple lightning strikes, tripod machines come out of the ground and start wreaking havoc, destroying man and material.

The annihilation continues as Ray and his kids run from city to city in a car that is one of the only cars to be working when all others are stalled on the roads ever since the tripods arrived. Overstretching the story from here onwards, Spielberg seems to be making a mess of holding the script together though he does have a few brilliant moments. I specifically liked the part where the news lady asks Ray if he had been a passenger of the plane that had crashed so badly the last night. On being informed that he was not, she expresses disappointment on having lost a probable story. Good stuff, Mr. Spielberg but what happened to the rest of the story?

The combination of Spielberg, Cruise, and of course the immensely popular War of the Worlds had given birth to so many expectations that on seeing yet another man vs beast movie where man has no clue but keeps fighting back, it turns out to be a major let down. The special effects are also not something to write home about and after trend setting effects like those in ET, there was more that one wanted to see in a Spielberg presentation.

Tom Cruise is the only actor worth mentioning in this entire movie though his son (Justin Chatwin) and daughter (Dakota Fanning) have equally long airtime but they fail to utilize the same to promote their histrionic talents. The daughter does a much more creditable job than the son, though. As for the acting acumen of Cruise himself, there is little to say but that he looks tired and jaded throughout the movie. While it is understandable that the character demanded portrayal as a dazed and helpless person but Tom does not limit his expressions to these, he goes on to look tired, even when there were no tripods and no running away from them. The difference between a tired and a scared person is obviously too subtly handled by the director and the actor.

Decent cinematography saves the movie from complete disaster although the rest of it is enough to make Independence Day appear a classic before this one. A shorter story or if that was not possible for staying true to the original storyline, a tighter screenplay would have certainly helped. So in effect, if you are expecting this movie to be as path breaking as some of Spielberg's earlier movies, you are in for a rude shock. However, if you take it as another of those whale-shark-tornado-anaconda movies, you might even enjoy your popcorn and the soft drink, of course!

Posted at 11:34 pm by Nitai

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005
The benches in the back *sigh*

The last time they made me sit on the first bench in class, I almost passed out. I have always been one of those typical back benchers throughout school, college, corporate training rooms and now in IIMK. For the back benchers, there is no need of any blog to tell them the merits of making their home where they choose to, but for all those souls who are ignorant of the multifarious opportunities provided by the back benches and for those poor sods who intentionally avoid the back benches for whatever reasons, here is an attempt to unravel the mystery. Before proceeding any further, however, I would like to acknowledge the source of inspiration for this attempt...none other than the back benches in the new class rooms at IIMK, which are built purely for the back benchers with chairs squeezed in to increase the class capaciy.

Today is the day when all your questions are going to be answered...there are going to be answers to the quizzical glances you always gave to the guy running in at the last minute (a side effect of being a back bencher) and heading straight to the last bench in a class hardly filled up to the third or fourth bench...there are going to be answers to all those times when you got frustrated because the teacher picked you to answer a question and not the back bencher snoring away to glory...even answers to the times when the back bencher was able to answer the question you couldn't despite snoring away to glory a moment ago.

The obvious difference that the back benches make is that of visibility. The absolute lack of it can be further accentuated by a certain shift in posture that only the back benchers are capable of (do come to me sometime if you want to learn the trick...I will try to help you with the best of my experience). This shift makes it virtually impossible for even the keenest of teachers to spot you and even if they do get some indication of your presence, the posture can be modified slightly to appear that you are the only student engrossed in whatever the teacher is saying and in your efforts to retain it all, you have gone into a scientific aasana.

Actually, it is all about perspective. The "global" perspective that a back bencher can gain from the class discussion is unmatched. Sitting at the very top (in case of sloping lecture halls like ours) or at the very back, in line with anything else but teacher's sight (as in schools with level floored classrooms), the back bencher enjoys the sound wave reflection that is unimaginable for anyone else. All the crap that gets around in the class room has to come and strike the back benches on their way to the rear wall of the class (don't ask me what the sound waves are doing near the rear wall) and thus have to come to the back bencher. This, here, is the answer to your pseduo intelligent back bencher you wanted to throw your book at for stealing your point and giving a detailed answer, leaving you with nothing else to speak on when the teacher caught you.

The overall personality development that a back bencher is capable of is unmatched, too. With novels, magazines, newspapers, and the like making the back benches their home (there have been so many occasions where I didn't even have the need to get a book was already there under the desk, left by the previous informed inhabitant of the back benches), the back benches act as information highways. The journey on this highway, aided by the sound wave reflection make sure that the back bencher achieves much more than the ear-cocked-head-tilted first bencher.

There are so many other things that I can count as the advantages of being a back bencher but if you have not decided to attain salvation by now, then perhaps the devil owns you :-). Speaking of the devil and his followers who sit on benches other than the ones in the back, let me assure them that God sees everything in this world and He has given us back benchers a special power to get back at all of you. Of course, since I have that special power, I am not going to be naive enough to share it with you non-believers but for all those who want to belong, let me tell you my sisters and brethren, as Morpheus told Neo...unfortunately, no body can be told what the back bench experience is, you have to experience it to understand it.

Posted at 08:50 pm by Nitai

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Sunday, June 26, 2005
Why the long face?

I seriously need to see someone or do something about it. This is certainly not the first time that something like this is happening to me and if I don't do something about it, it is certainly not going to be the last. After some terrible days at the end of the last term, I had had a welcome break of three months in which my stay at home, the experiences in Kolkata and of course, the affection of my family had changed my outlook completely...or so I thought.

Today was the first party at campus and ever since the morning, I had the long face ready to greet it. What went wrong? Presumably nothing and yet the long face...the long face that makes people stay away, think twice before coming over. After all, no one wants to be spoken harshly to or be dismissed by a disinterested attitude. No one can understand why I am the life of the party one instant and an unsufferable bore the very next...and why should anyone make the effort to understand...when I can not understand it myself.

All this again brings me back to so many other things...who are my friends and who are the acquaintances, what do I expect of my friends and why do I expect anything at all? What am I cribbing for and why? What will I achieve by writing all this on the blog? Why am I changing my blog yet again from completely public (meant to be read by others) to something so personal (meant to act as a private outlet of feelings...a cleanser)? Why am I insecure (despite the apparent confidence that I so unabashedly display)? Why can't I pin point the reason for my problems? Why is the tension eating me up from the inside? Why is the positive accumulated over the last three months depleting so fast?

Why am I such a kid...such a loser?

Posted at 04:25 am by Nitai

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Saturday, June 25, 2005
Fable in a fable

You are sitting in the middle of a magnificent, lush, green garden. This garden is filled with the most spectacular flowers you have ever seen. The environment is supremely tranquil and silent. Savour the sensual delights of this garden and feel as if you have all the time in the world to enjoy this natural oasis. As you look around you see that in the center of this magical garden stands a towering, red lighthouse, six stories high. Suddenly, the silence of the garden is disturbed by a creaking sound as the door at the base of the lighthouse opens. Out stumbles a nine-foot-tall, nine-hundred-pound Japanese sumo wrestler who casually wanders into the center of the garden.

It gets better. The Japanese sumo wrestler is naked! Well, actually he is not totally naked. He has a pink wire cable covering his private parts.

As this sumo wrestler starts to move around the garden, he finds a shiny gold stopwatch which someone had left behind many years earlier. He slips it on, and falls to the ground with an enormous thud. The sumo wrestler is rendered unconscious and lies there, silent and still. Just when you think he has taken his last breath, the wrestler awakens, perhaps stirred by the fragrance of some fresh yellow roses blooming nearby. Energized, the wrestler jumps swiftly to his feet and intuitively looks to his left. He is startled at what he sees. Through the bushes at the very edge of the garden, he observes a long winding path covered by millions of sparkling diamonds. Something seems to instruct the wrestler to take the path, and to his credit, he does. This path leads him down the road of everlasting joy and eternal bliss.

The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari

I have never been one of those who are easily impressed by the self-improvement or the get-rich-soon books. In fact, it has always been the reverse and I have made no bones about laughing at those who read such books, believing them to have just too much spare time at hand or mentally challenged. I always wondered that if the authors really knew techniques such as these, why were they still writing books, of all things. I had picked up this book, one of the latest and more popular self-improvement books (in fact, I was not really sure if it was that when I laid my hands on it) only because of the first reason I mentioned, that is having quite some time on hand.

Having gone through the book in two seatings, however, I realized that the succinct manner in which the book is written and the effective way in which it conveys its message is something that can not be found so easily in any other book of the same class. The fable above is the only thing that the book talks about. It uses this amazingly simple and unbelievably absurd fable to give a list of principles that will help improve the quality of life. Robin Sharma is no sage and he does not tell us something that none of us least the Indians know most of what he is speaking of and have actually employed most of the principles mentioned in the book as a part of their routine lives.

However, it is clear and apparently obvious that the book is not meant for India or Indians. Robin Sharma, in a seemingly calculated move, makes sure that even the protagonist is the typical workaholic American with dollars to spare for the eastern new age fads...Yoga, Gurus, and books like these. Julian Mantle, a hot shot lawyer gets burnt with his work filled life and after a heart attack that rings the warning bells for him, he sells off all his possessions (including a Ferrari and thus the name) and goes for an odyssey to the east.

After roaming about much of India, he finds peace and enlightenment through the teachings of the sages of the Sivana who live in isolation in the deep reaches of the Himalayas. Having committed to spreading the wisdom that he has gained, Julian comes back to America and pays a visit to his one time colleague and junior lawyer who was pretty close to him during his materialistic days. As Julian gives this discourse and pours out his heart and knowledge to his newly-found pupil, the readers of the book travel along with the two on this odyssey to a supposedly tension free life that promises nothing short of the elixir of everlasting youth.

Unlike other such books where after a decent beginning, much of the rest would have been lost in some disconnected rambling, the best part of this book is the way it connects the ideas spread across the entire (200 pages long) book through the fable above. As Julian tells John, his pupil, the secrets of life, he tells him that each element of the fable above represents one of the factors that need to be considered if a sattvic life is to be experienced. While the garden is compared to the mind, the lighthouse represents the purpose of life. Similarly, the sumo wrestler represents kaizen for self improvement and even the wire cable he wears represents the will power of human beings.

The book goes on to describe not just the ideas as represented by the elements of the fable but even gives some practical techniques to implement the ideas. The summary at the end of the chapters, mentioning the fable element, the virtue, and the techniques to achieve that virtue is another effective tool used by the author to tie his strings.

I am not sure how helpful the book is going to be in improving anyone's life (though some of the ideas are really common sense and do seem to be helpful). The important thing, nevertheless, is that the book brings together many of the things we already know but have no time to think about in cohesion. Even more importantly, all this is done in style and the use of the fable within a fable is a master stroke that is earning Robin Sharma the millions he rightly deserves (well, perhaps he does not deserve millions for telling us what we already know but that is what he is getting, fortunately or unfortunately).

Posted at 11:23 pm by Nitai

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