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Raajneeti

Bollywood has always been plagued by a need to make its movies commercial. Directors rarely try and apply themselves thoroughly, fearing that they might alienate a lot of their audience. Even most of commercial Hollywood flicks have more substance that an average Bollywood drama.

Raajneeti changes all that. It is a brilliantly directed movie which is intelligent, enthralling and commercial at the same time.

The movie’s plot is of a political  family which disassociates when their patriarch Bhanu Pratap suffers a stroke. The control of the party naturally shifts to his younger brother Chandra Pratap. Bhanu Pratap further chooses Chandra Pratap’s son Prithvi Pratap( Arjun Rampal) over his own son Virendra Pratap [Manoj Bajpai]. This does not sit well with Virendra who with the help of a Dalit leader Suraj [Ajay Devgan] unleashes a fierce power struggle within the party.

The story of the movie follows this gory power struggle. This power struggle has an uncanny resemblance to ‘The Mahabharata’. Its characters position themselves into roles similar to those of Arjun, Krishna, Duryodhana, etc. Though ‘Raajneeti’ does have a major dissimilarity to the epic…

It has no heroes.

All the characters are immoral at some level. They try and justify to themselves the appalling choice of actions they take, but at no point will you find yourself siding with any of them. You may empathize with their motives or the conditions under which they act, but you will never be able to identify any one of them as an infallible hero. This aspect of the film takes it beyond most of the commercial drabble that is spewed across the silver screen come every Friday. ‘Raajneeti’ is ostensibely courageous and unapologetic. You will love it for that.

Another aspect of the movie that should be applauded is its intelligence. The script is laden with smart witty conversations, well thought out plots and genius twists. Even the subtlety incorporated, is brilliant. ‘Raajneeti’ does not insult the audience’s intelligence by unnecessarily stating the obvious (unlike New York). The subtlety might even motivate you to watch this movie more than once.

Further, Raajneeti also scores points for being current. Its plot makes sure to cover most of the drama surrounding politics that gets to us through the popular media. It uses cheap dirty political tricks throughout its length that make it look realistic. Though I must emphasize, that realism isn’t its strongest point. If scrutinized well enough, you might notice some improbabilities.

I would also like to address the controversies surrounding this film. ‘Raajneeti’ has no resemblance to any political personality at all! In fact, besides being based on The Mahabharata it shares a bit of its personality with The Godfather. The impunity with which the members of the family take the law into their hands will definitely remind you of the Corleones!

One very interesting character in the plot is Samir Pratap [Ranbir Kapoor] the younger brother of Prithvi Pratap, an NRI who is on a short visit to India. He has no intention or motive to get into politics or associating himself with any of the accompanied ugliness. Though, as soon as his family is threatened, he unleashes a vicious retaliatory plan. It is just for the sake of vengeance, that he throws himself into the blood bath that ensues. Ranbir Kapoor does well to lose his chocolate boy image for this role. One can only hope that he sticks to this level of maturity!

Katrina Kaif plays the role of Indu Pratap, the daughter of a wealthy industrialist. She is the character who comes closest at being a hero. Though, by the end of the movie, I didn’t find her blotch free. Katrina’s acting is still barely passable. Thankfully, she doesn’t have much to do.

Other actors also do justice to the intense plot. Veterans like Nana Patekar, Manoj Bajpai and Ajay Devgan do exactly what is expected of them. Their performances are the reason why this film appears so realistic.  Even Arjun Rampal executes one of his finest works yet. He manages to strike the right balance as his character waivers between being heroic and being a villain.

Besides the occasional lack of realism, there are some other shortcomings too. For example, the background score is unfortunate! Sure… the Vande Matram theme does the trick whenever it’s played, but besides that the score seems to have little relevance to the plot at most occasions. Secondly, there seems to be a tendency of the director to hold back both on sex as well as violence. I feel that by losing its U/A certification, Raajneeti could have done a much better job.

In conclusion, I would like to say that there is no reason that anyone should chose not to watch this movie. Prakash Jha executes with great panache what people have anticipated from him. This movie reminds us what the effect of cinema can be when it is used by the right people!

The Watchmen

I must concede right away that I have never read ‘The Watchmen’ and I had no idea what I was stepping into… To be brutally honest, I had little expectations from it because it was after all another adaptation of a graphic novel. And one can’t really blame me for that! All my life I have watched my favorite comics and graphic novels turned to mindless pop culture enthused garbage which had no representation of what those comics meant to me.

I know I sounded like a comic book geek when I said that. But I will stand by my view. See comic books are much more to those who read them than a bunch of colourful pictures and a non-linear story line. And it is insulting, to watch these characters one so passionately loves, be turned into living jokes, just so that more people will relate to them!

Even though I have never read ‘The Watchmen’, I can tell by this movie that this is the kind of stuff ‘I would want to fall in love with’!

The Watchmen are a group of masked vigilantes, based in an alternate timeline during the cold war era, who took to the streets to ‘finish what the law couldn’t’. They came to be subsequently banned by the government, with just the Comedian, Dr. Manhattan and Rorschach left operating. The vigilante Rorschach chooses to work illegally whereas the other two become government operatives.

The Watchmen may sound like your average superheroes, but they are very different! Here’s the thing, every other superhero that we are aware of has two very obvious characteristics. Firstly, they seldom face personal problems or vulnerabilities that plague every one of us. Even the one’s who do face these problems deal with them in a manner which is picture perfect. Secondly, these heroes stick tenaciously to their set codes of ethics and don’t budge from these idealistic tenets at any cost. Strangely enough, these values, they so greatly believe in, seem to get along well with the system as well as the society in their respective parallel universes.

These very characteristics take these heroes far away from the real world. In reality, our heroes continue to be soldiers and everyday civilians who exhibit relentless and unimaginable courage in the face of adversity. But here’s the thing, these heroes continue to be fallible human beings. Outside their field of work, they continue to be normal vulnerable human beings, just like us. We have all heard of Psychiatrists who pull men away from the brink of committing suicide, and yet fail to save their marriage. Our very soldiers, who would sacrifice their very own sacred lives for absolutely selfless reasons, sometimes fail to fit in a society they defend with their very own blood. The bottom line being that, even though these people display virtues we all look up to, they are still mere human beings.

What this movie does is that it puts into perspective what ‘Superheroes’ would be like in the real world. They reach such lows, that most of them cease to be ‘Superheroes’ completely! It bitterly clashes the concept of Idealist Comic heroes with the unforgiving harshness of reality. These Watchmen are more human that any other Superheroes out there. Even though they are capable of spectacular feats, deep inside they remain mere fallible human beings. They undergo the whole human experience, even the failures in their personal lives.

Some of them fail at relationships; one of them fails to defend herself from a potential rapist. They make shocking personal decisions and at a lot of times simply appall the audience by their failures in character… Yet they dress as superheroes!

They may not be the ‘I shall do no wrong’ towers of unquestionable morality, but they are what reality would do to someone dressed in a cape.

The movie begins with the murder of The Comedian, where he’s thrown off a high rise building. This inspires a bolt of suspicion in Rorschach. He believes that The Comedian was murdered for the virtue of being one of The Watchmen. Rorschach swiftly moves to prove his theory and find the Comedians killer. He tries to warn his fellow Watchmen, but they refuse to believe his claims, and assume him to be paranoid. One can see that most of the Watchmen are in an absolute state of suspension and do not intend to go back from their retirement back to their days of glory. Others amongst them are busy helping the government with an era where USA and USSR are threatening each other with a nuclear war. I will not disclose any more about the plot of this movie to avoid spoiling your experience. But there are certain characters that deserve a special mention:

Firstly, the single most imperfect vigilante amongst them is The Comedian, he is nothing short of a monster and the only reason he is considered a hero, is that he’s on our side as far as the bigger picture is concerned. He may shoot the mother of his child to avoid responsibilities, but he helps U.S.A. win the Vietnam War. He may attempt to rape a helpless fellow vigilante, but he does help the system out when the cops go on a strike. He is the single biggest joke on the hypocrisy of our societies. He relentlessly mocks the human nature for hiding its savageness behind hapless codes of ethics. He is probably the darkest character in the movie… yet he wore a cape.

Rorschach is an absolute rebel who refuses to put his cape away to return to his civilian life. He is also my favorite character in the entire movie. Even though he brutally murders a child killer with a butcher knife, he if by far the one who sticks closest to, what he believes is, justice. The graphic quality of this character is absolutely out of the world! Just watching him in a scene arouses interest and reminds you of those comic pages. Such is his dedication to justice that he continues to operate illegally in such a time when superheroes have been banned, and his services are frowned upon. His string emotional bond with his character causes him to withdraw substantially, if not completely, from his civilian life. He comes to respect the character Rorschach more than who he really is.

Human beings innate imperfections come out most ostensibly in the character Dr. Manhattan. He happened to be a nuclear scientist who was in a terrible nuclear accident resulting in his godlike superpowers. He has control over molecules and can cause matter transformation, teleportation and can even foresee the future. Yet he fails to save his two consecutive relationships. What is even more remarkable about him is that he can see in the future and past simultaneously. Yet he is surprised like anyone else when a shocking event falls before him!

Then there are three other characters the Night Owl, the Silk Specter and Ozymandias. Even though the Night owl and the silk specter remain the central characters for a large part of the movie, I will not reveal their ‘human imperfections’ because they come out during the climax of the movie.

Speaking of the climax, it may not spectacular but it drives the very idea behind this movie to an unforgiving end. It is uncompromising and it is true to the movie. More than this, I cannot say.

Overall, the movie is out and out a visual treat. It has a great soundtrack and all the actors do justice to their roles. Even though the movie is pretty long, it still is thoroughly enjoyable. The gore and the violence add that graphic novel like touch to it. The art is simply outstanding!  I especially loved Rorschach’s mask! There is a sense of nostalgia while watching this movie as it brings out the passion one has for comic books.

Though there are some considerable flaws in this movie too. Firstly, there are just not enough punch lines to give you the goose bumps. Even the humor is not nearly as good. But more grievously, this movie fails to gather the courage to make itself an epic. It still gives in to cheesiness at certain portions. Take for example the sex scene between The Night Owl and The Silt Specter. The scene had the warrant to be something legendary, yet it stops at being just average.

But all in all; its one movie that will be close to every comic book geek’s heart. It’s probably the only other movie besides ‘The Dark Knight’ which deserves to represent the graphic novel it is based on. This movie has to be a must watch if you have ever loved a superhero, or secretly had a crush on a beautiful super heroine!

On a personal level though, when this movie ends; I am overcome with a feeling of sadness. The idea of liking such imperfect vigilantes makes me realize is that I have grown up from being an absolute comic book fanatic to a twenty year old who doesn’t laugh as hard at SpongeBob as he used to! It gives me this uneasy feeling that there may soon come the time when I will fail to enjoy comic books completely. And even at this changing time of my life I cay say that even if my geek days are to come to an end; ‘The Watchmen’ makes for one fitting climax!

Google Chrome: A prelude to the war to come

Over the last decade or so, Google has earned a dominance over the Internet, not only with its search engine but also with its other innovative ideas for the web. Be it YouTube, Orkut or Google Earth, Google has added another dimension to our online world.

Amongst all these brilliant products, Google Chrome stands apart from the rest, not by the virtue of being unique, but rather by being… predictable! At first glance, Chrome appears to be what one would expect from any modern browser. It seems to be lacking that particular Google edge throughout.

But on a little analysis, one discovers that this browser was never meant to woo the world at all, but rather to ensure Google’s dominance in the future…

On September 8th 2008, when Google Chrome was released, I rushed to download the latest innovation from the makers of the world’s most popular search engine. Quite frankly, I was disappointed.

The browser was awfully similar to the modern day browsers; it had very little innovation to offer and was actually pale in comparison to Mozilla Firefox. The only novel idea coming out of chrome was probably its process isolation feature, which allowed multiple tabs to run independently of each other. But still, I couldn’t fathom; why would Google waste its resources to produce such an average browser. I mean, Firefox was already eating into Internet Explorer’s territory, and Google being an open supporter and promoter of open source, seemed quite content with that. Why would Google unnecessarily jump into the browser market?

Then I noticed something that I had missed the first time around… its monster of a Java Engine! Some test indicated that it was about a 100 times more powerful than the J-Engines of its competitors (link). Besides being blown away by that statistic, I was soon puzzled by yet another question, ‘Why would any browser need such a powerful Java Engine in the first place?’

Then the intention behind Chrome dawned on me.

Ever since Google took out the last generation’s search engines to become the market leader, it has been regarded as the single most important company as far as the World Wide Web is concerned. With the expansion of the Internet into our lives, Google made sure that its importance steadily increased. Google went where ever Internet could go: social networking, email services, online broadcasting, etc.

Now as had been foreseen a long time ago, the permeability of the Internet coupled by the advent of broadband, started to create, in the Internet, a platform for the applications of the future. Quite predictably, Google was seen as the leader in this development too. These developments form the basis of the developments that continue till the present day.

Microsoft, which has maintained a monopoly in the Operating Systems market since the very beginning, doesn’t like the idea of loosing the all important application platform. Microsoft will quite obviously, try to resist the devaluation of its operating systems, as more and more applications shift their base of operations from the user’s hard drive to WWW. As a result, it has come out in direct competition with Google, for the Internet. A realm it has to capture in order to avoid loosing significance in the coming future, which in all likeliness will be online.

The competition between these two heavy weights has been out there for everybody to see for some time now. Google openly advised its users to drop the IE-6 browser in favor of Mozilla Firefox or Chrome, saying that they offered a much faster browsing experience compared to IE-6 while using its popular email service Gmail (link).

Microsoft retaliated by setting the default search engine on its, market leading, IE-8 browser to ‘Live search’ even when the majority of the world uses Google for searching the internet.

Google went on to proclaim that software like Word processing, etc. could be run directly via a server; hence implying the redundancy of Microsoft Office and questioning its very future. In fact, it even produced Google Documents, a stripped down office suite that does most of MS Office’s work.

Here, one must remember that Microsoft has, in the past faced such fierce bitterness. And every time, it has come out on top! One can still recall the business practices of the old Microsoft and fury it unleashed on the Netscape Navigator. Though this is probably the first time that it has come face to face with an adversary of this size, in a territory it is still weak in.

Now it’s too early too judge how far will Google bite into Microsoft just by providing alternate software solutions through its Google account. But one thing’s for sure, if it needs to get anywhere in this regard, it will need requisite processing abilities at the user’s end. Without which, it will eventually come to a dead end where its aspirations will be bottlenecked by the browsers present in the market.

That’s where Chrome comes in!

See, Firefox is doing a decent job of irritating Microsoft, its fan following has also grown over the years. But Firefox is an open source software and the Mozilla Foundation is a non profit organization. The bottom line is that it essentially cannot be manipulated. So, no matter how much Google spends on promoting open source or Firefox itself, it cannot change the trajectory Firefox takes. Google and Firefox are fighting the same enemy, but they are not allies!

So Google could imagine how its plans to attack Microsoft through the Internet could come to an expected collapse when it eventually faced the processing bottleneck that the prevalent browsers would produce.

That’s why they decided to take things into their own hands. They released a browser, which was terribly similar to other modern day browsers and fitted it with a ‘V8’ Java Engine. They introduced process isolation so that individual applications could run simultaneously within the same browser without coming in each other’s way. Therefore, if one of the application crashes, the crash is limited to one particular tab rather than bringing the whole browser down.

This way, Google ascertained a future in which they shall not be running into a wall as far as browser compatibility is concerned. A java engine which is 100 times faster than anything out there, will be more than sufficient to run almost any application that Google can imagine for now.

Also, its initiative has forced Firefox to declare a similar Java engine to catch up with its newest competitor. Soon IE will also be left with no other option, but to respond.

So clearly, Chrome is one Google product which was never meant to change the online world, but was instead introduced to allow Google to expand its territory from the conventional to the unconventional to take on the untouchable Microsoft. If Chrome succeeds, Google will eventually come face to face with the giant in a battle that has never been won. And maybe, just maybe it will make reality what many have imagined for too long; and go from being the undisputed king of the search engines to being the single most important name in the IT industry.

Diya Mirza

Diya Mirza

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