Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Rush to the Top...

The season of 1976 was probably the most controversial and dramatic in the history of F1 racing. British driver James Hunt of Mac Laren and Austrian driver Niki Lauda of Ferrari were legendary rivals competing for championship title. Lauda, the reigning champion and the top scorer that year met with a serious accident on a wet racecourse, sustaining severe burns. On his absence, Hunt won some races reaching close to his score. Lauda, after six weeks of incomplete treatment, returned to race and defend his title with a bandaged face! The tournament ended in a nail-biting climax on a rain washed, dangerous track in Japanese circuit with the winner emerging with a single point lead.

Ron Howard made an incredible movie about the rivalry between the two giants. Titled Rush, the movie has Chris Hemsworth playing Hunt and Daniel Bruhl playing Lauda. Rush is a smart sports movie that's in equal parts a thriller and a study of two characters of extreme contrast. The lead actors convincingly portrayed the two racers. Racing scenes are top notch in quality, and expertly portray the excitement of the event.

Imagine you are shown a fine picture. Then it is zoomed out to reveal that it is just a very minute detail of a much larger picture that is made up of innumerable such details. This movie gives you such a feeling. The rivalry is what the movie is all about and you are made to invest a lot in it. But the final reveal, I feel, is that it is just a minute detail that makes up the much larger and more interesting history of Hunt, Lauda and Formula 1. That is what I loved the most about it.

I had one minor issue with the movie though. The whole movie beautifully illustrates the differences between the lead characters through their behaviors, choices and mode of working. At last a confrontation scene is included where they lists their life philosophy again, which I felt was a needless exposition.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Portrayal of the marginalised

Every building, apartment, mall or shopping complex in big cities are built trampling on the bodies of native people who belong to the lowest strata of society. Kammatti Padam is a Malayalam movie directed by Rajiv Ravi, based on the true story of a slum on which Ernakulam city was built. It is the story about how Kammatti Padam was transformed into a sprawling city and how the lives of its dwellers were affected by the process.

The movie possess a menacing style and unfurls without any haste, taking its own sweet time. I remembered Gangs of Wasseypur while watching it. It's very detailed and invest quite a lot on its quirky and colorful characters- not only the four or five major ones, but even those who appear in just a single scene.

Kammatti Padam uses a nonlinear narrative. The movie starts in the present era, when a middle aged man, Krishnan, obviously stabbed, get in a bus. He struggles to keep his consciousness thinking about his violent past in Kammatti Padam. The movie skips quite a few times back and forth in time. First half covers the life of main players and reveals the motive behind Krishnan's return from Mumbai. These are the most entertaining parts of the movie were you are shown a lot of style and substance. But it is the latter half that was my delight.

In second half, movie change gears into the neo-noir mode. Here Kammatti Padam can give any of its Western counterparts a run for their money. Krishnan's searches lead him into the seedy underbelly of the cityscape that he himself was partly responsible in creating. Like any PI of a true noir he faces the  odd challenges and confronts the truth.

Using Dulqar Salman for the protagonist may be a commercial decision by the makers. I love to imagine Krishnan as a guy with more unconventional looks and not this sophisticated. But still he did total justice to the role. Kammatti Padam is a movie made on grand scale and totally worth the time that you invest on it. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Slaughtered Turkey is The Black Swan..!

You feed your turkey daily three times for 1000 days. In its point of view, humans are a species destined to feed turkeys for eternity. When it look back in life all it can see are perfectly peaceful, idle and comfortable days and no reason for any worry or uncertainty in future. But on the one thousand first day you decide to have turkey for dinner. So much for learning from past.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, in his book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, call this catastrophic event (from your turkey's POV) Black Swan. Black swans are events that are unexpected and highly improbable, but once occurred offers perfectly plausible explanations. The incident of September 11, 2001 is a perfect example of the black swan. No one expected it, none predicted it, but after its occurance everyone came up with perfectly sensible explanations for it.

According to Taleb, mankind is wired genetically to downplay the effect of randomness in life. We have a natural tendency to behave like the turkey in our example. So we are never prepared for an encounter with a Black Swan and are totally surprised when one stares on the face.

For thousands of years civilised world had only seen swans that were white. So the general knowledge was that all swans were white. It took the sighting of only one black swan in an Australian island to dispel this knowledge for ever. According to Taleb, this is one deficiency of human knowledge. All it takes is the sighting of one black swan and what we thought as everlasting, eternal truth becomes obsolete. So he proposes being careful when we try to learn our lessons from history and being cautious while implementing them in life.

According to Taleb most of the important events in the universe are black swans and not able to foresee one is a serious issue with scientific and statistical predictions. He is especially critical of Gaussian statistical analysis using bell curves of normal distribution. Gaussian model is adequate for non-scalable subjects like height, weight or score of students were extremes don't make a huge difference to the average. But for scalable topics like the collection of a movie or turnover of a company, where extremes or outliers effect the average severely, depending on Gaussian model can result in catastrophe in long run.

The Black Swan is an extremely interesting book that I read in recent times.

Buy the book: