Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I'm most productive when in front of a computer

Location: Computer Lab in the Flawn Academic Center, UT Austin

1:08 PM: I have two exams tomorrow - Discrete Math (Honors!) and Hindi. I am not a fan of Math and so I have no idea why I am doing a course where making a 54 on 100 is actually pretty decent (Honors courses are evil).

Hindi and I, ah well, we have a long history. I have made the language doubt its existence many a time, but I persevere. It would make sense for me to study now, considering that I have about a hour and a half before my next class. But, for some reason I am not very interested in finding out how many rabbits will reproduce every 2 days (don't fear, this has something to do with the Fibonacci sequence and recurrence relations).

1:23 PM: While studying recurrence relations, I also managed to find out that I am, contrary to popular conception, a normal guy, courtesy a score of 70 on this test.

1:30 PM: I now understand why permutations and combinations are so awesome - You can predict the number of ways in which 3 horses can place in a 3-horse race, with ties allowed! How cool.

1:36 PM: The guy sitting next to me is getting annoyed by the shrill 'e-a-e-a-eee!' noises that the scanner is making. Time to listen to the IPod.

1:45 PM: I'm glad to know that it will take the monks of Hanoi 500 billion years to transfer 64 disks made of gold from one peg to another. The myth is that when they finish this task, the world will end. If that was the case, what was the point of moving the gold then?

1:53 PM: Listening to 'Do dil mil rahe hain' from Pardes. Happens to be the first ever
Hindi song I remember listening to.

2:05 PM: has all episodes of The Daily Show! There is even an episode from 2000 where Jon Stewart talks to Wolf Blitzer, who is seen on a TV, placed on the interview chair. Jon Stewart now has heads talking to him from a huge wide screen. Technology, I say.

2:30 PM: I've got Intro to Research from 5 to 6 today. We are advised by two really awesome (and funny) professors about how to get involved in research. I have absolutely no clue as to what field in CS I want to attempt to do research in. I've got to get started ASAP if I want to graduate in 4 years with an 'Honors' next to my degree. Might take a course in Computer Vision next semester. Sounds really cool.

2:42 PM: Got to head to Hindi class now and take a quiz I'm not sure I'm ready for. Ah well, at least it was a productive hour and 34 minutes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Black & White Movie Review

Starring: Anurag Sinha, Anil Kapoor, Shefali Shah, Habib Tanvir

Directed by: Subhash Ghai

Numair Qazi (Anurag Sinha) is a suicide bomber who plans to blow himself and a lot more people up during India's Independence Day Celebrations at The Red Fort in New Delhi. Numair comes to Delhi with a plan but as things take a turn for the worse, he happens to find an unsuspecting ally in Dr. Rajan Mathur, an Urdu Professor at Zakir Hussain College. Anil Kapoor as Dr. Mathur, plays a character who cannot stand to see communal violence take place in Chandni Chowk, the place where he resides in Delhi. His wife Roma (Shefali Shah) is a fiery woman who gets so riled up by acts of violence towards women and the purposeful use of religion to mask crimes that the only person who can calm her down as she takes on the wrong-doers is her husband. There is one particular scene where the leader of a youth Muslim group is berated by Roma for offering the local MLA a bribe. While he tries to defend himself, he refers to himself as the leader of a Muslim group but she sees right through his ploy as she reminds him that he is responsible for what he did as an individual, and not as a Muslim. Things get heated up as she raises her hand against him and this scene portrays how easy it really is for someone to ignite communal violence.

But getting back to the main story, Numair initially stays under false pretenses with the grand old man of Chandini Chowk, Gaffar Bhai. Gaffar Bhai is a poet whose work is yet to be recognized and is the character that will leave the most indelible mark on you as you leave the theater hall. Played by Habib Tanvir, Gaffar Bhai is a true patriot, who melts your heart with his child like innocence and his sincerity. Circumstances change and soon enough Numair has conned the ever trusting Dr. Mathur into letting him stay at his house. What happens there after forms the crux of this movie, as Numair, who has a warped vision of what Islam really preaches, sees how Dr. Mathur and his wife represent an India he was not previously aware of.

The movie had noble intentions but it did not work for me. I found the story to be too idealistic and I cannot get into more detail about that without spoiling the ending. So, SPOILER ALERT till the end of this paragraph. Numair Qazi is a hardened terrorist, a terrorist who has decided to give up his life for what he thinks is his duty. He has spent years with people who have told him that anyone who is not Muslim does not deserve to live and I find it hardly convincing that spending 15 days with Dr. Mathur and his wife changes his perspective. If the actions of this couple have not changed the mindsets of a lot of the people in Chandini Chowk, how will it change the mindset of a terrorist? Moreover, his all too easy escape, at the end of the movie, from a fort that has been given maximum police protection was laughable.

I felt that some of the songs were unnecessary and were picturized poorly. They could definitely have been cut to keep the movie sharper as they did not add anything to the story. I was also not sure what the cinematographer was going for because certain scenes seemed like they were being filmed by a guy with a handy cam, but this style was not maintained throughout the movie. This movie did, however, have some very good performances from its cast. Anil Kapoor as Dr. Rajan Mathur played the role of the patriot with vigor and did not become overly melodramatic during the more emotional scenes. Shefali Shah was excellent as the no nonsense talking Roma Mathur. She stood out in all her scenes and I especially liked the one where she has a late night phone conversation with Gaffar Bhai, who calls her back just because he forgot to wish her good night. Once again, Habib Tanvir as Gaffar Bhai was awesome. Anurag Sinha's film debut as Numair Qazi wasn't exceptional. He seemed to possess the same angry/sulky look throughout the movie and was not exactly a revelation in the scenes where he had to act.

Black & White is not exactly quality cinema, but it does bring out some good points. I was not moved as I came out of the theater, but the things that stuck with me were the good acting and a couple of scenes that really addressed why communal conflicts arise and how ordinary citizens can make efforts to nip it in the bud.

Final Verdict: 5 on 10