Friday, April 24, 2009

Vietnam Veedu - Play Review

Sivaji Ganesan's 'Vietnam Veedu' is a famous movie known for its great script and songs. This movie was inspired by a play of the same name. Y Gee Mahendra has revived the play through his United Amateur Artistes (UAA) troupe. I got the opportunity to watch this play with my friends at SNDT auditorium, Ghatkopar this week. This play was launched in Chennai last month. I went there expecting an one hour play. However, the play lasted for two and a half hours without any break.

Since the play had a very powerful script, it was an enjoyable watch. The hero of the play is Padmanabha Iyer (played by YGeeM) who is very much a disciplinarian and has lot of care for his prestige. His wife is Savithri (played by TV actress Nithya) and she is quite soft. Their two sons and only daughter are quite corrupt each in a different way. The play narrated the problems faced by Padmanabha Iyer dealing with them after his retirement in humorous as well as emotional way.

Acting was simply superb by every actor. YGeeM was the pick of all the actors. He was as good as Sivaji. Nithya suited the Padmini's role quite well. The supporting cast also performed admirably. The pace at which every one changed costumes between scenes was mind blowing. The sets were very realistic and the execution was near perfect considering the length of the play. Only average thing was the recorded background score.

I enjoyed the play the most during the first two hours and felt that it was a bit dragging in the last 20 minutes or so. I have not watched a live play over a long time. This was a very nice experience for me. I think the success of this play lies in making it appealing even for current generation. I am sure that many elderly people would simply love this play as it would take them back in time. YGeeM who talked after the play told that he would be performing more plays this October in Mumbai. I hope to watch a few of those.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Jaunty Jackalope

Jaunty Jackalope is the new Ubuntu Linux version 9.04 releasing today. Being an ardent Ubuntu fan, I am very eager to try it out as soon as possible.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Indian Premier League (IPL) - Some Thoughts

Indian Premier League (IPL) is an ICC approved T20 tournament organized by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) every year. IPL was primarily started as a rival to unauthorized T20 league called Indian Cricket League (ICL). This year's edition is about to start tomorrow. IPL which comprises around 56 T20 matches will be shown on Sony Max in India for about 36 days. There are two matches to be played on most of the days.

IPL, to me, is the arrogant showcase of money, politics, and power at the expense of the players' fitness and skills. I never viewed T20 as a means to promote cricket. Cricket already has a far reach than many other sports atleast in India. For a sport which is not as rigorous as a soccer or a tennis, I feel that the present exposure is enough for cricket. It does not require a T20 tournament like IPL to enhance audience for cricket. Real cricket action can be seen in test matches where one needs to have great skills to survive over long run.

The most irritating thing according to me is the growing number of celebrities who throng the IPL. They become owners by the sheer amount of money they have and the cricket players are made to look jokers in front of them. Cricketers are made responsible for the losses in IPL games and end up being dragged into controversy by such owners who have least concern for cricket as a game. Like it happened so far, even great players like Dravid, Laxman, and Ganguly are not spared from being humiliated by such owners. I even have an opinion that the cricketers also deserve a stick for joining IPL to just make more money in their kitty.

To make things worse, this year's games are going to be longer by 15 minutes to accommodate more commercial elements. There will be 7.5 minute break for cheerleaders and bands to perform after 10 overs of each innings. This seems to me as utmost stupidity of the organizers. I think these guys blatantly lift some of the ideas used by reality shows in television. I am not sure how will the lovers of classical cricket react to such a nonsense.

In future, I reckon that each IPL match will be directed by some mega-serial (Daily Soap) director. They will instruct players how to play: when to hit a four or a six, when to take a wicket, when to drop a catch, when to get run-out, and when to retire hurt. These amazing directors will make sure that each IPL match lasts till last ball of 20th over in each innings to increase TRP ratings. I will not be surprised even if players are asked to dance duet with cheerleaders in between every over and during innings breaks. Commentators will dance with Mandira Bedi and other ladies in the commentary box.

There seems to be no end for such IPL nonsense. Expect the above and a lot more ridiculous things to happen in the forthcoming IPL seasons.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Garching-Forschungszentrum and Kanjur Marg

Garching-Forschungszentrum is the last underground railway station along U6 (U-Bahn) in Munich. This station is located north of Munich and I think it is some 20 KM from the city center. This station is where one needs to get down to reach Max Planck Intitute (MPI) for Plasma Physics and Technical University of Munich (TUM). Eurographics 2009 was held in TUM Mathematik Informatik located around 200m from Garching-Forschungszentrum. The region surrounding this station is very calm and suitable for academic research.

I travelled along this U6 from the central station (HaptBahnHof) to reach Garching-Forschungszentrum on 29th March to complete registration formalities in Eurgraphics 2009. There were no sessions of main conference that day. I needed to take a U4/U5 train to reach a station called Odeonsplatz which is two stations away from HaptBahnHof. I had to catch a U6 train from Odeonsplatz to reach Garching-Forschungszentrum which took around 30 minutes. The walls of the both HaptBahnHof and Odeonsplatz were filled with advertisements and TV programs. I was in for a surprise when I got down the train in Garching-Forschungszentrum.

Garching-Forschungszentrum station had its walls filled with leading researchers of science and mathematics from Germany. It included a schematic of their work along with some quote in German. It also had the names of the persons and the years they lived. It was very refreshing for me to see these in a train station. The persons who featured included Einstein, Max-Planck, Bohr, Ohm, and many more. I took one such picture which I have shared here. I felt that this was the right way to motivate children to take up academic research. The whole environment was vibrant with famous names and their inventions featured all around me. I simply loved it.

I wonder why not implement such a plan in one of the Mumbai train stations, say Kanjur Marg where the premier technical institute IIT Bombay is located. Kanjur Marg is a sub-urban station in Mumbai located between Dadar and Kalyan. We can also decorate the walls of this station with famous Indian scientists and mathematicians. We have a lot of them like Aryabhatta, Ramanujan, CV Raman, etc. It will be highly motivating for young students to take up research as a career whenver they come to this station. We can fill details for each person in our national language, Hindi. The plan seems to be very good. However, problems will arise once the government starts implementing such a plan.

We should not forget that India is plagued with lot of people who are least bothered about such great scientists and mathematicians, and their inventions and contributions. Unfortunately, these people are the ones occupying top positions in the government organizations to execute any such plan. They will be made to form a panel to identify the prominent researchers or famous people of India. The selection of famous people will definitely involve lot of lobbying, favoritism, and other politics associated with that. Let us assume that these so-called intellectual people somehow get over the differences and ego clashes to come up with a shortlist of famous persons in science and mathematics. This shortlist will be sent to the cabinet ministry guys who may not have heard about any person in the shortlist.

With the shortlist in hand, our great politicians become prominent. They will love to introduce reservation on the shortlisted famous people on the basis of caste, religion, language, region, etc. Placing boards in the memory of some famous people in a small station like KanjurMarg will be made a national issue. Opposition will shout, own party members and other group leaders will also agitate. A committee with non-academic persons will be formed to identify caste, religion, language, region etc of the shortlisted persons. They will also be instructed to adhere to some reservation percentages (for example 50%, 30%, 20% ) while selecting the final names. Crores of rupees will be spent on these committees alone. There will be further disputes regarding tender, bribery and corruption. Finally, they will renovate the station with these names after some 10 years when every dispute is resolved.

The final selected names in the station will hardly create any inspiration in a common man who would have seen in media all the naughty things happened thus far behind the screen. This is just an example of how even good plans are executed in India. I am just afraid that these stupid things will happen in India if a government wishes to mimic Garching-Forschungszentrum. Such comic actions by politicians and others will tarnish the great work done by really great persons. I will be happy if such things do not happen while implementation of similar plan. I will be even more happy if any insane politician reading this blog does not use my presumptions to do politics in future and takes up such a plan.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ayan - Movie Review

I went to watch Suriya's Ayan movie on Good Friday with my friend Prakash. It is a typical masala movie in Tamil. Here is a review of the movie.

Story - Nothing novel. Just it kept me interested till end. It is just another gang war movie like Gemini. Story is borrowed from many movies like Nanda, Gemini, Bheema and many others.

Screenplay - Very good. Kept me looking forward always.

Music - Harris rocks again after Vaaranam Aayiram. Nenje Nenje song tune is stunning with excellent picturisation. Vizhi Moodi song is also a treat to hear and watch.

Cinematography - Cinematography is amazing. Chase sequences in Congo and Malaysia are captured very well. Also, Nenje Nenje is one of the best shot songs in Tamil ever.

Direction - Direction is very good for an average story. Characterisation is very realistic for a masala movie.

Comedy - Comedy is sprayed throughout the movie. There is no separate track to test viewers' patience. Therefore, comedy works.

Acting:

Suriya - Great acting. Excellent varied skills shown through out which make viewers entertained.

Tamanna - Very good acting. She is here to stay in tamil for atleast few more years.

Jagan - Surprise package. Very nice acting.

Villain - Not that good. Passable.

Prabhu, Ponvannan, Renuka, Karunas and others - Good acting.

Overall - It is a good masala movie in recent times. Makes for a good viewing with a family. Do not expect any thing very novel. This movie is just for time-pass and to enjoy a weekend.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Madness at Munich

I started to Munich last month for attending Eurographics 2009 in TUM. It was a nice trip on the whole. However, being the first trip abroad and that too alone, I experienced my share of mad incidents over the 9 days. In this blog, I would like to share some of the comic incidents - many of them occurred due to circumstances and some due to my own ignorance.

Wild Boar!

The main problem is that I am a pure vegetarian who would vomit even if someone eats non-veg item other than egg in front of him. I just wanted to attend the conference dinner which was organized on 2nd April evening at Hofbrauhaus. This restaurant, located in Marienplatz, is quite old where Hitler used to dine with his Nazi mates which propelled me to attend the dinner. I reached exactly on time, the dining area was over-flowing with Eurographics attendees. Band orchestra came first followed by some girls with different kinds of liquor. Then came the popular dish of that evening. Some guys carried two plates with cooked wild-boars whose skins were removed and other parts were left intact. Seeing that, I could not help but run away from that place. I wanted to take a picture of that dish, but I did not have the guts that time to see the wild-boar again. I rushed out of the hall to find that the student volunteers who were outside refused to let me out. I was shocked and asked them the reason. They told that I would not be able to come back if I went out. I told them that I had no intention to come back. They insisted that I had to take a seal in my hand for entry later. I got the seal and rushed to my room. I did not go there again. The very sight of wild-boar dish still haunts me. Anyway, one man's food is another man's poison. :)

Water or Vodka?

I stayed in Euro Youth Hotel which provided me a quite comfortable room. They used to provide me buffet breakfast everyday morning. There were lot of egg and non-veg stuff even in breakfast. I used to eat only breads, corn flakes, milk, and bananas. On the first breakfast there, I noticed two drinks which were kept in the buffet hall. One was orange juice and the other looked like water. I noticed some bubbles inside that container which looked like having plain water. I already knew that vodka also looks like water which made me suspicious. I asked the attender what it was. He replied correctly saying, "Water". However, I heard it as, "Vodka" due to my preconception. This made me think that the water they were serving at conference lunch everyday was also vodka. I thought that the Europeans were very rich to have vodka every breakfast and lunch and wondered about their habits. I did not drink water served during breakfast and lunch for next 4 days, I used to buy the packaged drinking water. During one lunch, my friend in Eurographics was having the water served there. I casually asked if he liked vodka. He told that he liked and asked me why I inquired about that. I told him that he was having vodka then. He told that it was just plain water with some gas (similar to soda water in India). Then, I had to change my opinion about the drinking habits of people there, "they do not drink vodka every breakfast and lunch".

Travails at Emirates

I travelled both ways in Emirates via Dubai. It was a hectic 9 hour travel along with 4 hour waiting in Dubai. In Emirates menu card, I noticed something like this written along with the menu items, "All food items served are Halal. We apologise if our menu items do not match your preferences". (When I later came to know what a halaal food is, through Shvaana, I felt really sick.) I was shocked seeing that. How come the airline decide what the passenger must eat? What the hell! While going to Munich from Mumbai, somehow I managed to get asian vegetarian food because of good cabin crew and I was happy. I am pretty sure even now that the food I ate was devoid of egg also. While coming back, I started from Munich at 10PM. The crew member told that the travel agent did not mention vegetarian food for me in the ticket and she would not give asian vegetarian food. However, she told that she would arrange for a different vegetarian food. I sensed some trouble there itself and waited for the food to arrive. It was looking okay but when I opened the salad, I found a piece of fish. I was damn sure that it was some variety of fish. I did not eat the food and returned it promptly. I needed to travel always in the last row in flights even though I checked in 4 hrs before travel. This was because my travel agent did not give seat preference while booking for me. Seating in Emirates was also quite bad in the economy class. I think they run flights like Mumbai BEST buses as Dubai has abundant oil resources. I will not travel in Emirates even if I have to go to Dubai in future.

Beware of Dubai Airport

Dubai airport may be one of the largest airports in the world. I think it is some 3 KM long with lot of duty-free shops. They sell goods at pretty high price compared to the price in India. I did not purchase any major item there. The strange thing is that Dubai airport has only three restrooms spread across 3KM length in Emirates terminal. Each restroom can accommodate only 3 persons at a time and cleaning guys keep cleaning it always. Even then, the place was quite dirty without proper sanitation. There was a big queue of about 20 persons whenever I went there. It was quite sad to see such a bad design of restrooms in a big airport like Dubai. I suppose people there do not require restrooms quite often as the heat is too much. :)


I will write about some of the good things as well as the strange things which I encountered in my trip soon.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

One Night in the Panther Cage - V

It was four forty-five early morning. Shvaana had already committed one offense. Chiru asked Shvaana breaking the silence, "What do you do in free time?" Shvaana replied, "I usually do not have any free time. I always think of my research problem. That keeps me going ahead. However, I find time to watch some video or movie stuff on my computer and browse arbitrary web sites." Chiru inquired, "How long you normally do such things a day?" Shvaana told, "Only six to seven hours a day." Chiru did not utter any words but just smiled at the kid called Shvaana.

Some conversation went on between the two regarding general things about research and other things in Shvaana's life. Chiru found Shvaana indeed interesting and loved conversing with him more. It was already five thirty in the morning. In summer, sun rises at six in the morning. Only thirty minutes were left for Chiru to talk with Shvaana. Chiru wanted to make best use of the available time by asking Shvaana varied things. Shvaana was also equally enthusiastic about the talk with Chiru though he was becoming slightly impatient. Chiru could not comprehend the reason though, atleast for few moments.

Chiru told Shvaana, "You people are really great. You like to change the current world to a better one through your active research. I like the idea quite well. However, I feel that it is in fact deteriorating." Shvaana barely listened to this completely and he instantly responded, "I think national park is no match for a real world. Real world poses a lot of problems which can not be perceived by you. It may be that your locality is hampered by our research and development plans. We do not care for that in general." Chiru got angry with this reply and wanted to count for the second offense but restrained from doing so.

Shvaana did not stop however. His tone changed, "I feel restless here. I want to go out and just have a walk around. I think we have talked enough." Chiru just told, "Two!" Shvaana was not bothered by Chiru's admission of his second offense. His mind was indeed occupied by a distant moving entity coming for a morning walk. Shvaana was curious to find out who that person was. Chiru's vision of that scene was blocked by Shvaana's body and was quite puzzled by Shvaana's change in attitude. That person was slowly approaching the panther cage from the direction adjacent to Shvaana. Shvaana was very attentive as it seemed to him like a girl. However, he was not that sure.

Once that person reached 400 m from the cage, Shvaana was delighted. It was indeed a girl coming for a morning walk on the hill. Meanwhile, Chiru had closed his eyes and went into silence as Shvaana neglected him. Shvaana waited till that girl, Rimi, reached 50 m from the cage and started moving his arms to attract her attention. After few seconds, he was successful and Rimi recognized that there was a guy inside the cage. She found that the cage was locked from outside. She was brave enough to lift a big stone from the vicinity and break the cage open from Shvaana's side. This sudden jerk disturbed Chiru.

Chiru roared and stood up with anger. He was surprised to see Shvaana and a girl standing outside the cage laughing at him. Shvaana became diplomatic and told, "Goodbye Mr Chiru. Nice meeting you today. I will now take leave and go with her to my hostel. Please do not take offense for this as I had had enough of talking to you. Now you can better wait inside the cage till the security guys come." Chiru eyes became red and he told, "I already told you that I can break open the cage any time I want. I am pretty upset with your behavior. Just get lost with that girl soon and do not provoke my anger any further." Shvaana and Rimi started laughing hearing this. Shvaana told when laughter subsided a bit, "How come a panther break this cage?"

Hearing this, Chiru started making violent movements in the cage. Rimi got afraid and insisted that they must leave. Shvaana agreed and both started ambling along the road to hostel introducing themselves. After two minutes, they found some noise from behind. They could see that it was indeed Chiru coming behind them at brisk pace. Though they were some 200 m ahead, their hearts started beating fast which made them run fast. Chiru was smiling when he shouted loudly, "Shvaana! Shvaana!!" But Shvaana and Rimi accelerated further. Chiru reduced his pace and just ambled behind them as he just wanted to scare them for a while.

Once they were near the hostel area, Shvaana realized that Chiru was not behind them. They started walking slowly after that. Rimi told, "Bye!" to Shvaana and left as her hostel was nearby. Shvaana realized his mistake that he had betrayed Chiru for a few minutes company of an unknown girl and wanted to apologise to him. He did not have the courage to go back in search of Chiru fearing his life. He just remembered the good qualities of Chiru and thanked him whole heartedly for his patience and support the previous night.

After scaring Shvaana and Rimi for few minutes, Chiru had changed direction and found his breakfast in the form of a couple of sleeping dogs on the roadside. Chiru ate them merrily and waited inside the cage for the security guys to arrive. While waiting in the cage, Chiru could not understand the logic behind Shvaana's act of depriving him after seeing a stranger. Chiru, however, thanked him for providing him information about outside world, however small amount it might be. Chiru felt that he was happier inside the park than outside and took a vow that he would never come out of the park as he had enough of the outside world.

The End

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Back from a Brief Hiatus

Last two weeks were quite demanding as I was getting ready for my first trip outside India. First week was used up by the preparation for travel and the next week was spent in Eurographics 2009 at Munich, Germany. I had a good trip and my presentation went well there. I could also meet a lot of interesting guys. While I am writing this, I have made my entry into active blogging again. Those who want to see the pictures from Eurographics 2009 and Munich please send me a personal email at ramshanmuga@gmail.com.

It was a pleasant trip and days just ran fast as the conference was an amazing one. I attended a lot of talks and tutorials. I was forced to miss out some important talks as there were 5 parallel sessions. There is a lot to write about the funny incidents which happened during my trip. Cultural differences I encountered in Europe and the relative merits of life in India and abroad from different viewpoints make good premise for successive blogs. I will keep writing about these things and many others in the coming days.

I am aware that I have started writing a 'Imaging Research Blog'. One can expect regular posting there too from now on.