Once upon a time there was …… Bahubali – No spoilers 

BB2

*note : This is not a review but an expression of joy felt by a movie buff.

Words will fail to describe the overwhelming feeling of joy, pride and goosebumps I am experiencing after watching this epic called Bahubali. Spectacular, magnanimous, mind blowing …….. add as many adjectives as you want, nothing will encapsulate the experience I have under gone watching this magnum opus. As an ardent movie buff, especially one who has grown up feeding on Indian cinema, I just want shout thank you SS Rajamouli.

Bahubali 1 was a mere introduction to the characters and a pre-cursor to the second installment, Bahubali 2 is where the crux of the story unfolds and grips you with a drama of epic scale. It’s in this film, that the characters of Amarendra Bahubali, Bhallaladeva, Devasena, Bhijaladeva, Kattapa actually grow on us. Continuing from where it left us in BB1, BB2 introduces us to the kingdom of Devasena (Kunthala Rajyam). It’s here where the love story of Devasena and Bahubali is depicted and thsese portions of the film are nothing short of a Visual poetry. If you were awed by the stunning visuals of BB1 then hold your breath for the song Hamsa nava, it’s just out of this world. The story marches forward swiftly involving the conflicts that come to fore between all these characters.

What makes this story epic is the Blockbuster scenes that are throughout the film which gives the viewer goosebumps, thanks to the masterful music composition of MM Keeravani which enhanced these scenes. Be it the introduction scene of Bahubali or the action sequences with Devasena or the interval block, many more scenes will be etched in the movie goer’s memory for a long time.

BB2 is a rare film where the Visual spectacle, the larger than life set pieces never take away the attention from the intriguing drama and emotions of the characters. They only add to the experience. It requires first rate performances to make these characters believable and all the actors involved bring their A game into this film. The VFX shots are of a superior quality than BB1 and needless to say all the technical aspects involved are truly word class.

As I walked out of the theater BB2 filled me with a sense of pride, a feeling of high that a telugu film, an Indian film has been made which can be proudly presented at an international stage. Hats off to SS Rajamouli for his courage to dream and perseverance to make it come alive. Generations to come will discuss the legend of Bahubali. Indian Cinema will be Before Bahubali and After Bahubali. Once upon a time ……..there was Bahubali.

Advertisements

Formula is no Formula

Formula is no Formula  – Changing phase of Telugu cinema

With the success of Ghazi, the first submarine war film to be made in India, it is clear that Telugu cinema is reinventing itself, exploring new genre’s and story lines that have been shunned so far as they were thought to be not commercially viable. Some may think that the daring attempt of Ghazi may be a one off but if you look at the kind of films that have been extremely successful in the last 2 years or so, one would realize this is truly the beginning of Telugu cinema’s golden age in terms of path breaking content, audience who are willing to see different stories helmed by non-stars and new filmmakers with fresh ideas.

To understand as to how I reached to the conclusion I have described above let’s take a look at the kind of films that were successful in the last 2 years. Let’s look at the films released in 2016 first. In 2016 the number straight Telugu films that were released were approximately 108.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Telugu_films_of_2016

Out of these the total numbers films which were commercial hits were approximately 17.

So, the success ratio of Telugu films in 2016 is ~ 15 %. Out of these 17 hits, at least more than half of them are not regular formula films. A formula film is one which tries to stitch a story with all types of so called commercial elements such as comedy, action, hero entry, interval bang and 6 songs etc. So, for example film like Kshanam is not a formula film as it only sticks to its genre of suspense. This is a genre film. Whereas a film like Sarainodu is a formula film. In 2016 the films like Kshanam, Oopiri, Pelli chupulu etc have all been path breaking in terms of stories or storytelling and managed great box office collections.

In order to understand this further in terms of hard data, I have divided all the  hit films of 2016  and 2015 into 3 categories: Path breaking films (very different films), Slightly different (subject matters were different but did not go all the way) and Routine commercial films.

Screen Shot 2017-03-05 at 8.17.21 PM.png

Screen Shot 2017-03-05 at 8.17.59 PM.pngIf you look at the tables above, you can see that 7 out of the 17 hit films in 2016 and 9 out of the 15 hit films in 2015 have been path breaking and new style cinema. This success rate of different cinema is even higher in 2015, please look at the 2015 table.

This trend has strongly continued in 2017 with films like Ghazi, GPS and Shatamanam Bhavati declared huge success, it is clear that Telugu cinema has entered a new phase where it is dealing with films of diverse subject matters be it a Folklore Fantasy drama like Bahubali, historical period movie like Kanche or a philosophical Yevade Subramanyam. The writing on the wall for Telugu filmmakers is formula is no formula.

 

H1B Visa Rules- Truth vs Hype

In the last week or so, there has been immense speculation and uninformed discussion on the changes supposedly being made to H1B visa rules. Most of the news which is circulating in News channels and buzzing on WhatsApp groups are all blown out of proportion.

There are mainly 3 news headlines, one is with regards to the 130K pay hike, an Executive order by trump clamping down on H1 visas, and about H4 EAD being cancelled, All these 3 have been mixed up, where as all of them are separate unrelated news to each other. Let’s first Segregate these things.

1)130K pay Hike: There is a lot of talk about how the minimum pay will be hiked to 130K for all H1b visa holders there by making it very difficult for a company to sponsor H1b visa to a new graduate or how existing H1b visa holders who have lesser pay may also be in trouble.

Truth About 130K pay hike: First things first, this 130K pay hike, is not a Executive order from President Trump but is just a bill proposed by a Democratic Congress woman Lofgren Zoe who represents 19th district of California. The main highlight of this bill is that it proposes a minimum pay of 130K for H1B dependent employers. Please read it again, the Pay hike is for employees of H1B dependent employers only, it does not apply to all H1B visa holders.

Who are H1 Dependent Employers ?:  A H1B dependent employer is one who has more than 15 % of the workforce on H1b visas. So, most of the American companies will not come under this category, The only ones who might come under this category will be Indian MNC’s who are outsourcing H1b employees from India.

Here is a snapshot from the summary of the bill which mentions this clause:

Screen Shot 2017-02-12 at 6.29.20 AM.png

Status of the Bill: Currently this bill is proposed by a democratic congresswoman and as democratic party is in opposition and in minority in congress the likelihood  of this bill being passed is highly unlikely.

here is the link to the bill : https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/670/text

and here is the summary of the bill :

 https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/670/text

2) Trump’s Executive order (Leaked):  There is also this news making rounds on trump clamping down on H1B visas, this probably is coming from the leaked Executive order (EO) obtained by Vox, Again this is executive order document is leaked and not yet officially  announced and no one knows if at all this will see the day of light ever. Please note that the the above Pay hike to 130K is unrelated to this leaked document and there is no such mention of pay hike in this.

What does this leaked EO say ? This leaked EO is very general in nature and does not mention any specifics, it talks about how to improve the Immigration visa process to suit the national interest of the US and does not mention of reducing any H1b visa numbers, nor any changes to Lottery system. All it says about H1 visa is to identify a system to improve the allocation without any specifics. There is no talk of H4 EAD at all.

It orders a special investigation by Secretary of Labor to understand the extent of injury to US workers due to employment of nonimmigrant visa holders such as H-1, L-1 and B-1.

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-7-01-43-am

Here is the link to the news published by Vox about this leaked EO:

http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/1/25/14390106/leaked-drafts-trump-immigrants-executive-order

Status of the EO: No one actually know’s if this EO will ever come out, and how authentic this leak actually is.

3) H-4 EAD removal: 

There has been news also about the H4 EAD being revoked, this probably is stemming from the following news story: A group named “Save jobs USA” has filed a case in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on January 11 2017 to revoke the H4 EAD.

They claim that the H4 EAD is creating job losses to the members of Save jobs USA and there is no protection for them. This is the second time this group is filing this case, the first time it filed was in 2015 and the court struck down their appeal in that case.

Now in response to the new case filed, the trump administration has requested the courts a time of 60 days in order to submit their brief in response the petition filed by “Save jobs USA”. Some news that the Trump administration has passed a motion to revoke H4 EAD is completely untrue.

Here is the link which gives more details on this: http://immigrationgirl.com/the-real-story-of-trumps-court-filing-in-the-h-4-ead-litigation/

No need to panic:

As of now, none of these have been passed nor anything ordered, So no one needs to worry or panic.

21st Century Laborers

If one talks to our generation including me, who are born in the late eighties in fairly educated middle class families, you would observe that most of them have pretty comfortable Lifestyles, high income jobs,  yet most would agree, there is something missing in our life, we can’t complain, it’s not that we are sad, it’s just that indescribable feeling of emptiness, it’s a state where we are having a lot of fun but don’t experience happiness.

When we wake up in the morning, there is nothing much we look forward to, (of course except for the morning Chai) we get through the week waiting for Friday to arrive and when it actually arrives, apart from relishing a Biryani or hanging out with friends we actually postpone our plans of doing something different, something productive to the next weekend and this vicious cycle of growing todo list, weekdays, making plans and splashing away time.

By the time, we come to know of our frustrations we realize we have already glossed through many years of life, never paused to think as to what is the Vision we have for ourselves, what’s the goal of our life, what’s the Passion that drives us to a feverish pitch. We never asked these questions to ourselves as we were busy trying to “Settle” in life. Yes, the single biggest mistake of our life has been this attempt at trying to settle, where as most successful people on this planet have never settled, in this strive to settle we rammed through our studies, gulped life, it’s like swallowing the tablet doctor gave you, although we all may have “settled” in life if you look back, we don’t have any real achievements. The 10th class mark sheet and the EAMCET rank which was supposed to change your life has no meaning.

In order to know what’s our passion, we need to spend time with ourselves in solitude, we need to brew ideas in our mind, we need to work at it, by trying different things. So, it’s never too late, I for myself have decided to work on it slowly, as I do not have the guts to dump my job and jump into the unknown future but rather do it step by step, post by post. Taking inspiration from the speech given by Meryl Streep, where she said to convert “Pain into art”, I have converted my frustration into this expression.

I don’t mean to generalize when I attributed this state of mind to many of them from my generation, but I strongly believe there are quite a few who would connect with me. All of us who are going through this struggle, I call them “21st century laborers” as usually labor is associated with struggle. No wonder USA gives us “Labor Visa”.

Manamantha

A rare film which showcases human deficiencies  in a thriller formant.

If you look a Chandrashekar Yeleti’s Filmography Aithe, Anukokunda oka roju, Prayanam, Sahasam, it’s no surprise he has always made path breaking films which have original ideas and  fresh treatment, hence when i heard his next outing Manamantha was with the great Mohanlal, the bar was set high for this film. Despite this high bar, yeleti manages to beat expectations.

Manamantha is a story about 4 characters, all of them regular middle class folks, there are no heroes or villains here, just regular people with simpleday-to-day problems whose life takes an unexpected turn. Thanks to some natural performances from Mohanlal, Gautama and the girl who plays Mahathi, we become invested in their world. The scenes between Gautami and Urvashi where they end up spending more while trying to get groceries at discount prices is especially funny and endearing, some of these scenes showcase the sharp observation prowess of  Chandrashekar Yeleti of the society around him. Although the film has a thin plot point it’s engaging through out and culminates in a thrilling finale where all these 4 stories converge thanks to a masterful screenplay. The only weak link in the film is the 4th story involving computer science student.

Manamantha is yet another ground breaking film from chandrashekar yeleti and his best after Aithe. As a telugu film buff i am proud we have a director like Chandrashekar Yeleti and hope this film becomes a hit.


Secular Intolerance ?

If there were any doubts whether the Mainstream media, so called “liberals” etc were loosing their objectivity and is heavily biased against the Modi regime and sensationalize any sporadic incidents of violence committed by few hindu fanatics then describe it as a consequence of the BJP rule but fail to show even half the vigor and intensity in reporting incidents of violence committed by fanatics of minority religion then my doubts have been laid to rest by the developments of last week.

From the last week or so, there have been 3 incidents of communalism involving fanatics of minority religion:

  1. The incident in Malda where there has been violent protests by muslims  in which 2 people survived bullet injuries and a police station was ransacked  against a local leader kamlesh tiwary alleged to make defamatory comments against Prophet.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/bengal-malda-tense-as-anti-tiwari-rally-turns-violent/

2.  Kazi Masum Akthar a headmaster in a Madrassa in Agra has been assaulted by few Maulanas. Whats his offense? he taught national anthem to few kids !

http://www.newindianexpress.com/thesundaystandard/National-Anthem-Sacrilege-for-Kolkata-Madrasa/2016/01/03/article3208487.ece

3. In Noida authorities uncovered a forcible conversion center where kids were torchered and converted to christianity.

One would expect that MSM to highlight these, express outrage and debate it but surprise surprise, it has been muted on these so far barring few exceptions, and the eminent personalities of the Award returning brigade have disappeared rather i would say they have been exposed, they are not outraging on these issues because it does not fit into their narrative of ‘rising intolerance because of modi’

compare this coverage of MSM to the that of the church attacks in delhi, news channels conducted endless debates on how people under modi felt emboldened and have resorted to communal violence by attacking churches, all these incidents were subsequently proved to be of non communal nature and each incident was un related to other, just to site the nature of these attacks, 2 of them were burglary, 1 was due to few drunken goons, 1 other was due to a group of kids while playing hit the widow pane with a ball.

http://www.firstpost.com/india/crying-wolf-the-narrative-of-the-delhi-church-attacks-flies-in-the-face-of-facts-2101105.html

for these incidents they cried wolf and branded them communal attacks on minority religions, and as a result even Obama bothered to give a small critique on religious freedom in India although without naming modi.

In view of this over zealous coverage of communal incidents i would like to ask the following questions to “seculars “ of our nation :

why no outrage over malda ?

why no awards are being returned for intolerance in West bengal ?

Why no one is calling Mamta  or TMC is being called Communal ?

Why the Top journalists are not asking PM Modi to respond and condemn such incidents ?

or

Are these incidents of intolerance Secular ?

Why this obsession with Vanity?

Why this obsession with Vanity ?

Why do we shop so much ? why do we strive to look good for parties and gatherings? why do women and nowadays even few men aid themselves with different cosmetics ?   why this obsession with vanity ! As i wonder about these things, i too am a participant in this practice may be i participate in these due to pressure and expectations from my dear ones or due to the pressure of the society in general but i am one of them nevertheless.

As one can see there is a heightened pressure amongst most of us, especially women to look in a certain way, wear newer clothes, not to commit the “sin” of repeating a dress she previously wore in another party and a lot of time is spent on discussing, searching, shopping, trying out different combinations just for the sake of vanity. my sincere question to all of us, is all these worth it ? After all if you google the word Vanity the second  meaning of it is “ the quality of being worthless or futile” .

To make things clear i am not confusing vanity with being fit, being clean and maintaining a decentness in our appearance. I am talking about the extra length we go to please others, try to seek approval of looking beautiful from others which should be avoided, and this culture of getting ready in formal shirts and suits ( esp seen in USA) when attending parties, the irony is in USA people come in shorts for a exec meetings which is very fine with me but get all dressed up to go and dance in a pub, a pub, the primary function of having a party is to relax, why should one dress up so much for relaxing ?

As i grapple with these questions, i am looking forward to a get to gather where every one can attend with casual jeans, un ironed t-shirts, loose hoodies , not so well combed hair and untrimmed beard.

Impressions of China

Impressions of China :

China, Beijing, Tiananmen Square, guard in front of chairmen Mao portrait


Just by chance : 

Even some 8 days before my trip to Beijing I had no idea that I will be traveling to China the coming week.
It was out of a blue that I got an email from my Manager asking if I was interested to go Beijing to attend a meeting on behalf of her as she had some other commitments, I was very excited and also the dates did not overlap with the Mexico trip I had planned so shot back an email saying I was in within 5 mins, of course my visa etc had to be processed. it so happened that my assignment was until Nov 21 st and had to fly back on 22 nd from Beijing and land on the same day morning in SFO at around 9 Am thanks to the earth being the way it is, and I had enough time to board my flight to Mexico at around noon.
Given this context where I had no clue that I will be visiting China any thing I see and did was exciting not to say that I was traveling on a business class ticket and staying in a 7 start hotel all on companies expenses. 
As it turned out my work schedule was not too busy and I had a chance to visit some important places in and around Beijing and eat at some authentic Chinese restaurants thanks to my Chinese colleagues, and during this short stint the following things I have observed about Beijing : 

Traffic : 
The traffic in Beijing is a pain, any distance which needs about 30 mins will easily take more than an hour, it's worse than Bay Area and seems worst than traffic in Delhi according to a colleague. Although the roads/ freeways structuring is similar to the states, Driving guidelines are not followed by public very similar to India but not as worse. 

Fog of Pollution :
Although Beijing or any other Chinese city is not ranked among the top 20 most polluted cities ( it is Delhi and few more indian cities indeed) you can see a thick fog of pollution all over the city forcing the people to hide behind creepy looking face masks, so don't be alarmed if you see scores of people walking down the roads wearing these masks. 

8032504


Navigating Beijing : 

May be because Beijing is a international destination, all directions and street names are also written in English and best way to navigate Beijing is its subway. It's also very cheap, for 2 yuan you can travel any destination. 

Caution with taxis : 

If you are planning to take a taxi, it's better to order it through the hotel as most of the taxi drivers have no clue of English. 
And if your on a street by yourself and trying to flag off a taxi always make sure you don't get in to a black taxis as they may rip you off and also not as safe as the other Authorizes ones which are in yellow color. 

taxi2
Spicy Food ! : 

I had always assumed that Indian cuisine is the spiciest one and if your are used to indian food you will not feel any other cuisine spicy but to my pleasant surprise food here is very spicy stuffed with lot of red chilli and black pepper, if you want test the spice buds try out schezwan cuisine they will put your tongue on fire. 


Menu with Pictures : 

One good thing about Chinese restaurants the menu comes with pictures of each dish making it easy to order for a foreigner. 

chinese-food-menu-design
No '4' please : 

If you get on to any lift in China you will notice that there is no 4th floor and also corresponding 14th, 24th, 34th etc, there are no streets numbered 4 either, as according to Chinese tradition number 4 represents death.

Shy and Warm people : 

One striking thing about people here in China is they are very warm and welcoming of foreigners and also feel shy and give a smile when you speak to them in English .


Some use full chinese words :

Hello : Ni hao
Thanks : Sheshame
Fork : Cha