Saturday, August 19, 2006

Way to go, Gulzar!

Just yesterday, I heard that Gulzar has been nominated for the Dada Saheb Phalke award, along with actresses Sulochana (of Marathi cinema) and Suchitra Sen (of Bengali cinema, most famous for her role of veteran politician in Aandhi). IMHO, the award couldn't have come later. Gulzar is most famous for his superb lyrics in some Hindi movies - notably those that had RD giving music. From the melancholic "Tere bina zindagi se koi shikva"[Aandhi] that celebrated Sanjeev Kumar and Suchitra Sen's longing for each other, to the "Do diwaane sheher mein"[Gharonda] that immortalized Amol Palekar and Zarina Wahab's middle-class aspirations, to the peppy "Chal Chaiyya Chaiyya" that symoblized 21st century style, Gulzar's songs spanned generations and genres with ease.
His directorial ventures were successful too - with Aandhi and Maachis being my favourites. And just so you know, if you've watched the cartoon "Jungle Book" on DD or any of the cable channels, the title song "Jungle Jungle baat chali hai pata chala hai" was penned by Gulzar!
Indeed, a worthy choice for the highest movie award of the land. Here is my vote for the legend.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


Lord Kelvin once said: "When you can measure what you are speaking about and express it in numbers you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind." How true. And Einstein showed that the variables need not even be complex with his everlasting "E=mc^2" equation.
One drawback of this is that most laymen think that everything expressed as a number is either correct, or scientific, or both. For example, take HDK (Kumaraswamy)'s injunction that he is 12.5% satisfied with his performance. Now, what does this figure mean, unless you know what the "per-cent" actually means? There are many instances - for example, ministers rating themselves on scales of anything from 5 to 10, industrialists rating budgets, and not far away from 'home', project managers tracking projects with Microsoft Project plans. In today's world it is possible to give anything respectability as long as you express it as a number.
Oh, and the scientific world isn't immune to this phenomenon. Those of you who read science fiction (and those who read my Michael Crichton forward :D ) will know of this 'equation':
N=N*fp ne fl fi fc fL
This is the famous Drake equation from the 1960s to estimate the number of advanced civilizations in the galaxy. N is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves; fi is the fraction where intelligent life evolves; and fc is the fraction that communicates; and fL is the fraction of the planet’s life during which the communicating civilizations live.
Tell me, if someone had told you that the probability of finding intelligent life depended on all the factors mentioned above, in plain English, would you have taken that seriously? Now that it is in the form of an 'equation', it has to be right, doesn't it? Well, what is the problem with this 'equation'? Simple,
a) It cannot be verified
b) It has, (and therefore, as some folks conclude needs) no proof
c) There is nothing you can do with this equation. OK, we might be able to calculate (or at the least estimate) the values of N and fp. But what will we do with the values of fi, fc and fL? Do we go by statistical data? In that case, we know of only one planet in which life evolved, and then evolved into intelligent life. So, is the fi factor = 1? But what about all the planets and stars and solar systems that we haven't even 'heard' from? How do you factor those into this 'equation'?
Thanks to Michael Crichton for writing about this one. Read more of his thoughts and opinions at this site.

Nostalgia updated

I was channel-surfing today, when I came across a programme on one of the news channels about public service messages that were telecast on Doordarshan ages ago. You folks may remember those too - there was one with many famous sportspersons carrying a lighted torch, and another one about Mahatma Gandhi, which showed his simpliciy through a line sketch. But my all-time favourite was "Mile sur mera tumhara" - sung in a bevy of languages. Today, while watching the video on the tube, I must say, I had goose-bumps. It is hard to believe that Doordarshan could come up with such a 'cool' video - simple, easy-to-understand, with no bombastic claims, and still conveying the central message of national integration.
The video was telecast for the 40th year of Independence, when Rajiv Gandhi in his "Naani yaad dilaadenge" mood went overboard with nationalistic sentiment.
What's funny is how much India has changed since then. Twenty years is a miniscule period of time for a civilization that has spanned 5000 years, but the amount of change that has happened in the last twenty years has clearly dwarfed those that happened over the preceding 4980 (to be mathematically accurate).
Would such a video be successful today? Will a honest-to-earth video like this one succeed in the pop-patriotic world of today? Let me know through the comments link :)
BTW, a few graduate students in MIT made a similar video in 2003 - view it here
Update - Listen to the original soundtracks at

Saturday, August 05, 2006

In love

Folks, I know this may come as a surprise to many of you, but it is about time I told this out in public. Yes, I am in love. Desperately in love. The 'object' of my affection stays near my place - she is a beaut, if you know what I am talking about.

When it comes to looks, there are few of her kind that can even hold a candle to her. She's so cool that she makes the Arctic Circle feel like a sun tan joint. She's so hot that she can melt your heart. Not just that, she has this amazing purr in her voice - which is simply to die for. She's got amazing brain-power for someone who looks like her, and not just that, she's low maintenance. Well, not absolutely, but relatively. On the outside, she's as tough as steel, but on the inside, she is one soft, sweet thing. Well, I could go on and on about how well she handles the rough roads of life, but I'll simply be making you guys jealous. So, let me desist.
Ever since she's come into my life, my travails have morphed into fun. Her smooth voice humming in my ear, I've been able to take on some of the most tight situations in life. She's with me almost everywhere I go, and when I don't take her along, she doesn't complain. A nice word is all she asks for - she's more than happy to let bygones be bygones when she gets it. She has also adjusted remarkably well with my family - they all love her, and in particular, my nephews just can't get enough of her.
So who is she? It sure was tough getting her to agree, but I've posted her photo on my website - go check her out.