Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Hindi Cinema - Cinema Paradiso?

There was a time in the 80's during my school days that i used to shun Hindi movies. And if you look at most of the films of that generation you would probably excuse me for my biased attitude. However with the advent of a new century emerged a new genre to Hindi Cinema..i wouldn't call it parallel cinema or art movies as that existed way back in the 80s. With movies like 'Bombay Boys' (99) , Dil Chahta Hain (2001), Jhankaar Beats (2002) the new age cinema had arrived where story lines and scripts with apt direction made for a cinematic treat for the Indian cinema viewer. It was a brave new world where old concepts and formulas were disregarded and the power of scripts and direction ruled the roost. There was another paradigm shift - the importance of a hero or heroine diminished and actors played roles that were in line with the scripts. This led to actors studying their roles in detail in an attempt to make their performances more realistic and convincing. The master of method acting Aamir Khan sets the standard here with his powerful yet subtle performances. There was also a marked change in the story lines and themes that new age Hindi cinema dealt with. There were new topics such as burning social issues, political activism, terrorism, dynamics of a changing social fabric that got conveyed through the scripts backed by directors who knew their craft. The results are there for all to see.
While the International recognition of Hindi cinema may still be limited to largely Indian audiences once cannot deny that the quality of Indian mainstream film entries at the Oscar and other leading film festivals has shown significant improvement. Gone are the days where a Hindi film meant at least 6 songs and numerous dress changes for the entire dancing unit !! Now you have movies like Rocket Singh where you struggle to remember if there was a single song. Times have indeed changed and this has enhanced the cinematic hunger of film viewers. Rarely do we see good films fail at the box office. What has happened as a parallel development is the rise of Indian fiction which has made a place for itself in the world of fiction. So there are no dearth of talented writers who would not mind penning a script for a movie given that it makes good business sense as well as addressing the rising need for quality scripts that the new age directors demand. That brings us to the next question - is this the pinnacle of Hindi cinema..my guess is there is a long way to go before we get there..what we have seen is a new beginning but given the momentum that we see in bringing quality cinema to the audiences and greater awareness in the cinema viewer and the plethora of entertainment choices that a consumer has, innovation will be the key to the continuing success of Hindi cinema as a medium of mass entertainment.
I am excited about the future of Hindi films..now that is what you call a volte-face..;)

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chasing your Dreams

Well let me not confuse you with the title of my new blog..This has nothing to deal with day dreaming !! After writing on a diverse topics i felt like writing about something that has been bothering me off late. The key issue here is of self identity and a sense of purpose in life..Now you may start wondering what's wrong with this bloke. Nothing wrong really..it's an outcome of introspection and talking to my friends/peers. A lot of us in our mid 30s are suffering from what is often called 'MLC' (mid life crisis). A phase of our life when we start questioning our sense of purpose, aims and achievements. What we often forget is decisions are point in time and now that you are wiser (hope we are ;) ) one looks at ways to make your life more fulfilling. Well i am sure this last line could stir many a emotion but what i am trying to get at is looking at ways to make Ur existence more meaningful. A lot of us had hobbies we developed in school and college which just got lost once we entered the workforce and got stuck up in a silly 'rat race'. I have been reflecting on these thoughts and realized how much i used to enjoy writing before and how little i have written in the last 5 yrs. Now let me be honest here i never dreamt being a full time writer but i must confess after writing this blog i seem to be enjoying writing a lot more than anything i have done in these 5 yrs. Which brings me to a bigger question? Why don't we 'Chase our Dreams'? Some people find their nirvana in corporate success but i guess there a good number of such people who enjoy doing stuff they picked up as hobbies or alternate careers but never pursued beyond a certain point. We had our reasons to be rats but now that we have a chance to be human again why not give it a shot. It could just open the door to new possibilities and opportunities. And when we look at people around i am sure we would find quite a few examples of people who at a certain point of their lives changed course and did something very different. A friend from school (now a renowned writer of graphic novels) in one such example that comes to mind of someone who always wanted to chase his own dreams. It must have taken a lot of guts and conviction to do something so different and chart your own course in life which i am sure had a lot of challenges. Think of Chetan Bhagat as well who gave up a successful career in I-Banking to be a full time author. While i am sure it could be argued that he is a successful writer which is why he quit a career in banking. The key message i am trying to get across is why did he take up writing in the first place..he must have enjoyed it which made him write 3 books while being employed. Dreams have a great effect on human live's..it makes us energetic..it ignites a spark in us..we all had it as kids and teenagers..we lose it as we get involved in the nit tie grit ties of day to day living..and in the race to make a living..
What is the harm in dreaming a bit more..and doing something to chase those dreams..while it is easy to find excuses for not finding time what we often forget is the amount of joy a hobby or passion can provide us..it can bring in a sense of fulfillment and desire to do things we haven't done for long. So what stops us..we can find many reasons but the answer is simple..our biggest hurdle is ourselves..we need to start exploring and finding ways that make our existence more meaningful..so why shy away from a long forgotten dream..its never too late to start a hobby or passion..or maybe more who knows.
I want to keep writing..be it blogs be it in some other form..as long as i have a story to tell or an experience to share or a point to make..who knows one day it could lead to a book..i want to keep the 'spark' alive and dream a bit more..What about you?

Monday, September 14, 2009

A Trip Down Memory Lane

Working for a Consulting firm has it own trials and challenges. You are expected to cope with travel at short notice. Given the time crunch one learns to live with i took a decision to write blogs come what may. This is my attempt to pen down a few memories before they go deeper into the inner recesses of my mind.
The year was 1998 the month was July. I was just back from an iron ore exploration project in Orissa. My boss summoned me to his room one afternoon and i had an uneasy feel about the urgency in his voice as he called me. As i stepped into his room, Mr Damle looked up at me and said 'young man time to visit Raygada. Get your tickets done and travel there for a couple of days. Want you to do a field visit to study the region for bauxite drilling using UDR'.
Now to be fair to my reader the last sentence would pose many a question. Well i'll explain things in a bit more detail..I used to work for an exploration company at that point in time and my job involved working with drill rigs (UDR aka Universal Drill Rigs was one such monster rig).
So what Mr Damle wanted me to do was travel to Raygada to a prospective drill site and study the location from a feasibility perspective. To readers who have never seen a UDR..its a 25 tonne monster truck mounted rig that needs a wide road especially in hilly terrains in the bends.
So i packed my gear and caught a train over the weekend to Vijainagram in Andhra Pradesh. Raygada is a border district of Orissa close to the AP border. So i had a journey by train from Mumbai to Vijainagram and then had to catch a local train to Raygada in Orissa.
I reached Raygada in the wee hours of the morning and not finding anyone awake had to go and shake a autowallah out his slumber. Then i was off to the Utkal Alumina guest house my hosts for the next few days.
Next morning after a rather troubled night's sleep i was off to meet the officials of the Alumina project. It was really amusing to see their expression when they saw a young man of 24 walk into their office clad in a light yellow T shirt and blue jeans clad in field boots and carrying a field cap as well ;)
They were clearly expecting an older experienced person..a few conversations later we started to go through the survey maps of the hilly terrain where the bauxite reserves needed to be probed through exploratory drilling. A detailed plan was laid out for the field visit planned over 2 days. The plan was to visit one of the hill sites in the afternoon and a second site the next day.
The first site was about 70 kms by road from Raygada and took us through villages in the foothills and then a range of hills on both sides of the road. We started our ascent and beyond a certain point in our journey there were very few signs of habitation. We finally reached the lease area marked by a board and there was a noticeable chain in the nature of the hills. They clearly had steep slopes and flat hill tops indicating a bauxite rich terrain. The first hill was a steep climb and the Mahindra 4 wheel drive was really tested in true field conditions. I stopped at places to make a few readings on my brunton compass, made a few dip readings and notes. At places where the bends were really sharp we got down to measure the width of the track. Having worked very closely with the UDR i knew what kind of road would be needed to get this rig up to the hill top.
As we got into the second hill i stopped to take a breathtaking view of the hills around. There were lush green hills and deep valleys. The hills had near flat tops resembling a table like structure when viewed from far. The unexplored India is so breath taking in its raw beauty. I felt a lucky person that day to have seen such a beautiful sight.
We finally reached the hill top and we got to see an amazing view of a flat top hill. It was like the world's largest football field in front of my eyes..my local guide told me the hill was 9 kms long and 6 kms wide..so flat that you could not see where it ended..it reminded me of my geography lessons in school where we learnt of the term 'plateau'. I never imagined i would get to see 'one' some day. This was indeed a special day which i have cherished in my memory over the years.
Its an unforgettable trip down 'memory lane'.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

My Alma Mater

After a couple of hectic weeks at work i finally decided that it was high time to write a blog. I decided to pen a few thoughts on 'Alma Mater'. The word has a Latin origin meaning 'nourishing mother' and implies the nourishment students receive at their chosen college of study.
It took me back down memory lane to my Alma mater - ISM Dhanbad. Its funny as a young boy (tempted to say man) i found my experiences a strange mix of fun and boredom. Being from a metropolis i was apprehensive about life in a small town in Jharkhand (erstwhile Bihar) and the first few semesters found me heading home frequently in the weekends. But hostel life caught on in my second year as i developed my own friend's cycle and common interests took a lot of my free time and the boredom actually disappeared. But now when i look back at those years in fondness and nostalgia i appreciate what i learnt in those years was much more than what could be taught in classrooms or labs. Hostel life was my first experience outside home and it was great melting pot where you had people from all strata's of society and many different parts of the country. It was a great leveller when you found guys who had topped school or state level athletes as your wing mates. It kind of changed your perspective of life which till then had been self driven. Now you were in large amphitheatre like a performer. You also learnt the finer nuances of handling people and first attempts at working in teams. The lessons were learnt the hard way but its funny when i look back at those years i realize how flexible we were in adapting in new situations. I remember one summer day in 95 we were doing a survey in Bokaro and got chased out of the place by pro-Jharkand activists. Or the day when a couple of us climbed the water tank stairway (some ten stories of vertical stairs !!) just because someone just felt like doing it.
There were bitter differences of opinions and you had your taste of fending for oneself. It was indeed the making of boys to men. It was also a great transformation for a lot of us into 'compulsive rockers' and lovers of psychedelic rock. Sometimes when i look back at those years i wonder how it would be to have one large reunion to meet all our peers and friends. That's easier said than one given the fact that people are scattered all over the world. I would like to pay a visit one day to pay my tribute to those 'wonder years'.
Can one ever forget the long walks on the campus, the tea at RD's, or the mess dinners, the booze parties and the long chats into the wee hours of the morning..maybe i shall write more some day..

Friday, July 24, 2009

Austin Stevens - Snakeman

For all nature lovers it is but natural to follow channels like Discovery, Animal Planet and NGC. I remember a couple of years ago (probably in 2005) i came across a program on Animal Planet on reptiles. There was a section on snakes featuring herpetologist Austin Stevens. I was not aware of his background but watching the program i found a new respect for Austin. He was extremely passionate about his study of snakes and went to great lengths in explaining the behavior of sand boa's. A few days letter i did a Google on Austin and found that he had been catching snakes since a young age. In fact while his stint in the South African Army he had got a nickname of 'Snakeman' for his ability to catch snakes. Austin has great abilities as a herpetologist - passionate about his subject, he travels all over the world tracking practically all types of snakes and reptiles. He is extremely fit and a good tree climber as well which makes him the right guy to track snakes. He literally runs after snakes and catches them for a few good photos.
But my appreciation for Austin grew when i saw the series 'Austin Stevens - Most Dangerous'. This featured Austin on assignment of tracking down the top poisonous snakes on planet Earth. He even came to India in search of the reclusive King Cobra. There were a lot of myths about this big poisonous snake that lives in the evergreen rain forests of Western Ghats. Austin traced his journey from Kerala Wayanad into Karnataka in search of the big snake. He finally found one and photographed it. It was an amazing video to see him handle a 15 foot King Cobra. The snake was initially extremely aggresive giving me some serious goose bumps sitting in my sofa far away from a rain forest. I was wondering what it would feel to actually handle such a large snake.
He managed to touch the snake on its head. This video is available on you tube and i recommend nature lovers to watch. But i assure you its not for the faint hearted !!
While there have been lot of films on the King Cobra featuring Rom Whitaker (founder of the Chennai Snake farm) and Gerry Martin. There is nothing that will make your hair stand up so much !! There is another video of Gerry catching a King Cobra in a village in Kerala with Brady Brar. Dr. Brar looked seriously scared after seeing the size of the snake. This would give you an idea of how difficult it is to catch a King. Sadly the Western Ghats forest cover is under constant threat from human habitations..a day may come when these wonderful jungles and creatures may be lost for ever..
I guess then the work of Austin Stevens and others would be our only memories of times gone by..

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Consulting Space in India

While a lot has been written on the IT and ITES sector in India not much has been written on the consulting space in India. Most major Indian IT firms like Infosys, Wipro, TCS, Cognizant, HCL have their own consulting arms. But if you observe in the last 5 years a lot of activity has happened on the domestic consulting market with Big 4 Firms as well as lot of boutique firms coming into the fray.
What does this mean for Indian corporate houses is a great array of consulting capabilities available in the domestic market. This augurs well for Indian companies wanting to adapt global best practices as well learning from other success stories. From a consultants standpoint in means an opportunity to work in a very different environment where every rupee spend needs to be justified with a strong business case. The market has its own challenges in a longer sales cycle as well as margins being lower which are further compunded with slowdown in the economy as well as presence of a large numbers of consulting firms. But given the impetus of a growing economy and enterprises looking at transformational changes it is but natural that consulting opportunities would be there. With the adoption of more automation of business processes and usage of IT applications in ERP,CRM,SCM and BI there would be significant IT consulting opportunities in India.