Viswaroopam (Tamil version) – a review

Rating: 4 stars, out of 5

Verdict: A must see, once, on the big screen. Wish  it deserved repeat viewings

Best parts:
1) Empathetic portrayal of Afghan civilian plight, sandwiched between US and Taliban forces
2) Excellent capture of Afghan terrain, audacious attempt at action scenes to rival international movies
3) Thought provoking, than just drawing a black and white picture of Good Vs. Evil
4) Kamal Haasan’s superb acting and storytelling skills – especially, as a comrade warrior on Afghan soil
5) Exemplary acting of Rahul Bose, Jaideep Ahlawat – credits to them as well as Kamal for envisaging good, meaty roles for them, with superb screen presence potential.

Parts that could have been better:
1) Editing could have been lot more slicker. Either Mahesh Narayanan lost himself in appreciating parts he was enamoured with that he forgot to be objective, or perhaps out of his reverence for Kamal, didn’t antagonize ! In either case, he has let the audience down, especially the US parts of the movie.

2) Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s score is ok enough for songs but quite a letdown for war/vicious scenes.

3) Casting is a mixed baggage – while one set is exemplary, the other is either utterly unconvincing or unnecessarily trivialised.

As regards the Muslim protest angle in Tamilnadu and other parts of India:
1) This movie isn’t about Indian Muslims at all, at the first place. The whole setting is Taliban and the international(ised) terror spectre. In as much as an Indonesian or a South African Muslim doesn’t have to either carry the burden of ‘affairs of the region’ or have to feel overtly sensitive to even a discussion on the subject, Indian Muslims don’t have to feel a sense of outrage.

2) The overwhelming feeling any sane audience will have, as they leave cinema, WILL NOT BE one of viewing a nearby Muslim or the whole community as terrorist. Nor would they have a feeling of “Us vs. Them” reinforced. Instead, they’ll have a lot better appreciation of:

a) How savaged and ravaged hapless children, women and other gullible are, in war torn Afghanistan, who grossly outnumber those who supposedly fight on their behalf

b)The complex morality of what goes on, in either the name of religion or in the name of taming those who claim to have a ‘handle’ on this – it certainly does not trivialise the conflict as to show all as incurable radicals. It actually does present a very empathetic narration from ‘trenches’!

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Sad case of Jacintha Saldanha: Why media sensitivity is still important

Today, screening of Mel Brooks’ highly irreverent  History of the World: Part I  in the vicinity of Vatican is more feasible without any fuss than it would be to even attempt doing it (even after 3 decades since its release) in a theatre near Velankanni Church of Tamilnadu, India. The reasons are not far to seek. While Christians of all denominations in the West have either learnt to live with iconoclasm or genuinely don’t bother about God or religion in a major way, other than perfunctory rites on birth, wedding and death, Christian devout galore in developing countries like India, Philippines and many other Asian countries sharing common thread of religiosity of native faiths such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism etc.

Has this got to do anything with the tragic case of  Jacintha Saldanha ? Yes – there are reasons why it’s quite important for countries steeped in Western/Modern civilisations to acknowledge that even in this globalised world with ubiquitous MNCs, similar burgers and same iOS/ Android powering new age gadgets on palms across the world, there are still fundamental differences in what can cause (in a person) a sense of indignation or shame and what could pass for as innocuous trifle to shrug off.

In pre-WW II Britain, a person being caught stealing or worse still being named and shamed on even page 5 of a local newspaper would have been sufficient cause to be socially ostracised for life. Fast forward 70 yrs and what we have is a situation where a bunch of people who wouldn’t even mind posing for national television cameras, with unconcealed glee and a show of guiltless entitlement, on subverting a wrecked ship’s cargo to personal garages. What could possibly have changed in a span of only so many decades ?

Conditioning by media  is invisible but truly a potent force in shaping how a society ends up regarding itself. It’s the same conditioning effect which has also resulted in West abandoning its age old prejudices, one after the other,  to the point where, in a country such as USA, for instance, ravaged by race riots only in 1960s, could embrace and show an excellent black actor as God himself, in a 2003 release (Morgan Freeman in Bruce Almighty) ! Things obviously don’t happen overnight. It must have taken 40 odd years of conscious effort on the part of some samaritans, to drive home these thoughts into public acceptance. However, such conditioning has also brought with it, certain debatable certitudes. Insulation from recognising shame let alone feel the pangs of it is one such bye-product. Increasingly, everything seems sellable to media, in exchange for cash. That doesn’t have to be feats, accomplishments anymore. It may as well be about misdeeds, misgivings or misfortune. It’s an age where alpha males that presided over financial meltdown don’t lose any sleep at all in their plush villas or sun-kissed chateaus, regardless of whatever ‘earned’ slur media or social media heaps on them.

The two Aussies involved in this aren’t expected to know that it could be a non-native English speaker attending the phone or that even if he/she spoke good English, it’s  likely that the person in her, though working in a cosmopolitan city like London, could still have a heightened sense of self-consciousness that may seem more apt for Victorian times than Danny Boyle’s melting pot Britain beamed across the world, only recently. Tragically, it’s this ignorance that has cost us an innocent life. Coming, as it does, on the year of Leveson report, it’s a damning way to remember 2012 as the year of media excesses.

When Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand made that infamous and highly chastised prank call, they were at least sure of one thing – Andrew Sachs won’t complain of chest pain or heart attack. Thankfully, despite that call’s deplorable banality,  it didn’t cause any  unmitigatable grief. In some cultures, an old man can still develop real chest pain.

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Firefox Mobile OS on the horizon now – A news I’ve been waiting to hear

Last year, I expressed my unconcealed joy to my colleagues when Mozilla announced their Mobile OS was on its way. Many felt I must be mad at revelling on the news and questioned if it’s such a good news for the market to see yet another OS in Mobile space, as if Android, iOS, along with RIM’s and Microsoft’s not being enough variety.

I am a heavy user of Mozilla’s Firefox browser and besides performance being superb, I quite like the fact that here’s an organisation that has made this possible without any ‘shareholder’s wealth’, ‘quarterly profits’ and other pressing demands to address !

Like Oxygen, Water, a terra firma to prod on etc some of life’s essentials (of course, this keeps changing!) should be either freely available or at a reasonable cost with no further strings attached. One pays water bill without having to worry about whether or not my water consumption is being measured hour by hour and if some unknown party sat in another part of the globe would be betting on whether I flushed it twice every morning at 06:58 or 07:02 🙂  Things like Internet, Mobile being smart to get many things done on the move are indeed so essential that they be regarded as ‘utilities’ such as gas, electricity OR be available for free such as tap water in a pub. The idea that it will be clandestinely free while holding perilous amount of user data in some server and regard each user as a pawn in a Matrix like make-believe reality should scare the sh*t out of us all.

I long for the day when devices are available to buy for their HW specs in any given PC/Electronic shop, varying by the potential user requirements – AMOLED based, LCD based, single/dual/quad-core, 1/2 GB RAM, Screen size 2.7 – 4.8″ and all the other paraphernalia. People should buy any device as per their preference or budget and then  download/install Firefox OS, Android, Microsoft or whatever OS (webOS from HP led open source movement). Of course, this isn’t such a bad idea other than for device manufacturers since their differentiation will purely be down to HW specs and how well they have managed to perform with those OS in question.

Apple will of course, stand grandly isolated, making hay while the sun shines and till such time their doggedly loyal fan base dishes out premia they demand.

Despite the brouhaha about Apps, and the boringly masculine conversations on size of Marketplace, fact remains that most users – in developed or developing countries alike -benefit from handful of core functions in a smartphone. Good email client, a fast browser, a dependable voice guided GPS, good speakers, quality camera, open/latest connectivity options (Bluetooth 4.0, DLNA, WiFi hotspot) etc. Then, of course, some basic Apps for the usual high volume social Apps such as Facebook, Twitter etc. Games will follow where money is.

I, for one, will happily attempt porting Firefox Mobile OS on to my Android flagship phone if that’s allowed for and am quite happy to compromise on certain functionality being compromised than let my buttery, silky OS experience channel all info into some character analysing servers, whether or not I have anything to hide !

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How Texas Inflicts Bad Textbooks on Us by Gail Collins | The New York Review of Books

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Samsung Galaxy S3

Well, the much awaited phone is out in public domain, for dissection of specs, reviews, arguments, bragging, counter views, mudslinging or whatever !

Love it or loathe it, but Samsung has pretty much upped the ante with its much awaited sequel to the rabidly popular S2. For one, Samsung has at least avoided the Apple style (iPad instead of iPad 3) confusion by calling it as, well.. rather straightforwardly, S3 !

I haven’t had the good fortune to touch it as yet. Perhaps only a countable few have, so far ! But, instead of regurgitating what most tech sites will shred to pieces, let me offer, in my limited way, a few points I feel excited about.

[1]  AMOLED vs LCD – Those who have fallen in love with the charm of AMOLED displays since the days of Nexus One/ HTC Desire, for their higher colour saturation, deeper blacks etc will always have a soft corner for that as opposed to the LCD blandness of initial round of iPhones or HTC Desire HD or myriad other Androids that came to use LCD due to short supply of AMOLED panels in the hardware market. Well, Apple tends to focus on other niceties (such as more pixels per inch) to make theirs attractive and anyway they would rather want a iPhone lover to also be an owner of iPad to consume content such as Videos, rich PDF reading etc. on tablet. For Android aficionados, given that a lot of content is viewed on phone itself, AMOLED makes a huge difference, in my view. One of the early days’ disadvantages of AMOLED – of being washed out under direct sunlight – was overcome by Samsung successfully with its ‘Super’ AMOLED technology, innovated directly by Samsung engineers. Ever since, it’s been advancing one step per model, to put in a simplistic way. Galaxy Nexus was great but did so with Pen Tile display than the so-called RGB. S3 raises the bar with HD AMOLED technology – bringing the natural benefits of AMOLED without losing on crisp display.

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Here’s the expected news… Apple Profits Less To Maintain iPad Price – Hardware – Handhelds/PDAs – Informationweek

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Apple does it again – iPad 3 (or iPad HD or just iPad) offers great value for money

Being a harsh critic of what I once coined as “iSuccumb, iSnob, iSupplicate” syndrome, of mindless parroting of iPhone’s hardware and user experience, I never thought I would find something in a Apple product that goes beyond hype and provide real  ‘value for money’.

iPads – particularly starting from iPad 2, seemed to me, as devices providing better value for money, even against myriad Android Tablets, till the launch of Galaxy Tab 10.1. Even after that, in terms of overall value (including availability of Apps made for 9.7″ screen size or bigger) iPad 2 was still ahead of the curve. Perhaps those who sought a near replacement to laptop (including the ability to see Flash videos) would have gone for Samsung’s tablets or Motorola Xoom.

When it comes to Tablets, excluding the ‘in-betweeners’ like DELL Sh*te (oops.. Streak), the reasonably well done HTC Flyer, and eye candy Samsung Note etc, most of them fall under either 7″ or 9.7″-10.1″ size factors. There’s enough literature that has clearly documented that a 7″ tablet represents about 45-50% of screen size that a 9.7″ iPad delivers. In simple terms, for those who have no particular interest to keep the form factor as 7″, and are happy to go with larger screen, all other parameters being nearly equal – in terms of processor speed, Graphics card performance, pixels per square inch, connectivity options (WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS….) – a 7″ tablet retailing at $ 200 is NOT cheaper than $ 400  Tablet at 9.7″ 🙂

Legend has it that, Amazon sells Kindle Fire at a loss of $ 2-3 on every piece it sells and obviously can sustain that in view of higher volume of content sales. And, mind you, the Kindle Fire comes with a measly 8 GB space, and is as much a walled garden as Apple products are (well, at least in principle) and does not have Bluetooth connectivity. The Nook eReader is better specd but one obviously pays a little more – $ 249.

iPad 2, despite a stone-age spec front camera (0.3 MP – VGA) and a miserly 1 MP rear camera, and a not so great screen resolution, would still represent $ 99 worth more than Kindle Fire at $ 400 if Amazon were to increase the screen size (hypothetically).

iPad 3 – or whatever it’s eventually going to be called – with a razor sharp screen resolution, better rear camera (no news still on front camera specs), faster processor, ability to run over 100k Apps that are made for such screen size, would seem lot better value for money for those who can buy it in the US, at $ 499 !

The usual limitations of not being able to run Flash – unfortunately, there’s still lot of Video streaming on Flash till everything moves over to HTML5, very limited formats supported for playing Videos, in terms of native codecs, absence of widgets support, namesake multi tasking (for those who have used Android, the swiftness of swapping Apps , Apple’s double quick press on home button to browse last few Apps would seem very retarding!) etc.

But, for those looking forward to use their tablets primarily for consuming information, as I end up doing, in terms of watching BBC iPlayer, reading PDFs for long hours, viewing Guardian’s spectacular Photo Gallery app, National Geographic snippets, Flipboard, general browsing of Newspapers etc. a 9.7″ screen is indeed a nice size to hold and enjoy viewing. Dependable Bluetooth, Battery life, good Graphics chip etc. are further bonus.

Apple aficionados have to admit at least for once, that people who flock to iPads, at least since iPad 2, make that choice due to meaty real-estate and hardware specs representing a great value for money and not essentially as fans of iOS, iTunes or even Apps beyond a particular range.

Of course, whether Apple may have been compelled to squeeze so much value for money in $ 499 but for the huge competition posed by Android tablets is a moot point.

For now, three cheers to the techies who were behind iPad 3’s sumptuous specs !

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