Give me a reason

No great war

“We’re the middle children of history…. no purpose or place. We have no Great War, no Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives.”

I’m generally not one of the ‘publicly introspective’ types. When you have a lot of time sitting semi-idle (semi can be attributed to angry birds) during daily commutes, or in the case of the last year, in class, you get a lot of time to introspect. However, 99% of this is not shared with any part of the universe. Thats why its called introspection. Not ‘outrospection’.

This is going to be one of those exceptions. The last few weeks, punctuated as they are by my return to working (and blogging) after a 1-year hiatus from both while at business school, has been filled with the ‘why’ and ‘what’s the point’ questions of an existential nature. The boiling-fishbowl atmosphere of a Business School is just enough out of sync with the rest of reality to make you question everything once back in the real world. This has led me to thinking about purpose, and its importance in life in its most prosaic form.

I make no bones of the fact that many things I did in the last half-decase, including starting and continuing this blog, were done with an eye on a future Business School application. Be it blogging to develop the ability to coherently argue a position, or various career choices, can all be viewed and justified through the lens of a Business School admission. This was purpose.

I’ve been getting steadily more and more sporty over time. Other than the immediate rush of playing, there’s an underlying purpose to deny both age and my genetic physical inheritance. This is purpose.

Everyone, without exception, has some driving purpose (or more than one) that kicks them out of bed every morning. The eponymous Macintosh ad of 1984, or the selfsame Orwellian book, are but vivid nightmares of a world without the freedom to give life purpose. Ayn Rand too. This is what free will is fundamentally about. Not about what clothes to wear or what to say, but setting the direction of days of future yet to pass.

For some, it may be earning a living, for some it may be raising a family. (Though I would posit that anyone driven by things to everyday is selling themselves short). Purpose will change over time, as they are met, or priorities and world-views change. There may be intermissions, but the show always goes on.

Philosophers would have us sitting and thinking about the deeper meanings of life and pondering fairly simple questions at a almost pointlessly existential level.

“Why am I here?” – Some answer, any answer that makes the heart beat a little faster is enough.

Mark Zuckerberg, to grab a handy example, wants to “give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected” . Ronaldo (the real one) wanted to score goals.

Such as it is, I stand now at a crossroads in life. The great wars and great depressions that gave me reasons are done. In terms of what I can do, I have little left to prove.

I will find my next great war. We all do. We may deny it, we may postpone it in the name of earning a living, but it’s there.

What is your great war? What makes you do things? Why are you here?


Polishing my Green Lantern Lantern

Am I the only one giddy with excitement about the coming Green Lantern movie?

I was initially skeptical of Ryan Reynolds (he was Van Wilder) playing Hal Jordan, since I didn’t think even he had enough California braggadacio to play Hal Jordan.

Now looking at this picture, I’ll say this. He looks the part. I’m quite pleased with the faithfulness of the uniform to the ’60s original. The film is stated to be an ‘origin’ film, and the uniform is quite faithful to Hal Jordan’s uniform in GL V2 from the 60s (albeit with a little Kyle Rayner GL Ion inspired ‘modernization’).

Hal Jordan, back in the Day:

GL Classic

In Brightest Day!

Hal Jordan, Live!:

Hal Jordan in the movie

The GL uniform is quite central to the entire mythos, and jazzing it up would have had some implications for future appearance of Rayner, Ion, Parallax and even Guy Gardner. I’m personally quite glad they haven’t messed around too much with it.

Other much-awaited names appearing in the movie:

  1. Abin Sur
  2. Carol Ferris (of course. Played by the lovely Blake Lively, of course)
  3. Tomar-Re (now this is going to be EPIC.)


Step Off!!

“We pledge allegiance to the Band”.

I’m just watching School of Rock. While I would not call myself anything resembling a fan of Jack Black, his rotund-rocker persona works a charm on this film, which claws its way from the mediocrity the tedious acting of the rest of the cast would consign it to to nothing less than a homage to Rock ‘n Roll and a film with impact.

Led Zeppelin. Black Sabbath. Blondie. Black Sabbath. Deep Purple. Stevie Nicks. A lot of subtle Meatloaf influence in Jack Black’s own improvisations. For a student of rock, this film is like a the Grand Tour of the Great Gig in the Sky, a ride on the Great Big Ball of Fire, and a sight of the Dark Side of the Moon.

It’s a surprisingly unknown movie, so this is my shameless plug for it. Go watch it.

Chris Nolan = the next Martin Scorsese. QED.


The Alpha and the Omega

This is about Inception. And it is about more than that. Chris Nolan has delivered a veritable monument to creativity with his latest effort. A magnum opus to rival other passion pieces like Avatar, Inception will prove to be another watershed in movie-making history, doing for cerebral creativity what the Matrix did for visual effects (and funky dialogues) and Avatar did for ‘3D’ (still not sure what the buzzword means exactly).

Then again, there have been highly cerebral films in the past. Notable notables are The Butterfly Effect (imho), Identity (imho) and Sphere (… you get the drift) come to mind from, well, the top of my head. What’s so different about this?

Well, for one thing, a non-linear storyline which was a) non-linear, and b) complemented a story-line which needed non-linear storyline. With all due respect the master of non-linear storylines – Quentin Tarantino, neither Pulp Fiction nor Kill Bill needed to be told in the fashion they were. Would they have been even a shadow of the films they were? Of course not, but Inception took the ‘way it was told’ and made it a part of the story itself. How? Think about how you recall your dreams – disconnected images and ‘scenes’, discordant across time, space and interactions. Now think about the dreamlike quality of Inception itself. Clever, no?

Getting to the point I mentioned in the title. Putting the plot, the cinematic style and the visuals aside. The key point that has struck me both in The Dark Knight and Inception has been the fact that both films, with all their dramatic style, intense plots and no shortage of action, is still very very much about the people. Like his predecessor Martin Scorsese, the thing that tends to stay with me the most after each film, the aspect that I end up remembering more strongly than any other; is the depth of the characters. From Robert de Niro in Taxi Driver and Raging Bull to the late Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight to Leanrdo diCaprio in many a film, both directors have created strong yet tortured, and eminently memorable characters.

of autorickshaws, millionaires and freakonomics – part 1

Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics has been asking some pertinent questions here and here.

As an Indian living in Mumbai, I need to weigh in on both these posts.

*********Potential Spoilers**********

What do I think of Slumdog Millionaire? I think its great. All in all, I really liked the movie. What struck me immediately after I finished watching was that it’s pretty much a hybrid of Hollywood and Bollywood filming aesthetics.

The portrayal of the slums is something that’s caused a good bit of controversy. As a mumbaiite for over 18 months, I can say this  much: it is real. In Mumbai, the portrayal of the slums is pretty accurate to real life, right down to the public ‘toilets’. Therein lies the problem. Mainstream bollywood typically deals in escapism. Bollywood deals with exotic locales, fast cars, mansions, and fresh-faced and well-dressed actors. of both sexes. Bollywood deals in weak plotlines with a lot of laughs and really really happy endings. So I’m not surprised the depiction of the slums is slightly too big a dose of realism for the stereotyped bollywood audience.

The story itself, is a classic bollywood line. The only thing more cliched in the industry than forbidden love that ends happily ever after is a forbidden love triangle that ends happily ever after. As Dubner rightly mentioned, it does feel forced and predictable in parts and wallows in excessive melodrama. That it wasn’t an out-an-out bollywood flick and did have some external influences did protect it from something overtly ridiculous like the protagonist driving a Ferrari at some point. While there’s nothing wrong with such a plot and is justifiably popular with the indian populace who watch movies for ‘time-pass’, I’m not surprised that there are people who don’t like the plot.

So to whip out my stereotyping brush and paint in broad strokes, there’s a demographic who probably prefer the greater realism of hollywood and liked the depictions itself and were rather underwhelmed by the plot and another demographic who resented the hard gritty depictions of Mumbai but loved the warm, fuzzy feel-good plot.

Me? I hope like a lot of other people, fall somewhere in the middle.

*****End Spoilers*****

I’ll post my thoughts on Dubner’s other question a little later. Probably during lunch.