CHAPPiE, Movie, SonyLIV

CHAPPiE, is a Science Fiction plus Salman Khan type of movie. And the movie comes with well designed and expressive Robot. In fact, the Robot is the best actor. Contrastingly, Robots in movies like Star Wars are bland, expressionless and only thing they do is shoot. CHAPPiE as ROBOT is LiVELY.

Dev Patel is a good cop and made a good Robot which sells. Hugh Jackman is a bad cop and made a bad Robot which does not sell. So Hugh Jackman sabotages Dev Patel’s Robot. But by the time Jackman is able to do so, Patel makes an new improved version; A Robot with a Consciousness. Patel has also developed “Neural Network” Helmet, through which any person’s Full Consciousness can be downloaded to a Hard Drive and later, transferred to any Robot, which then become like ‘that person.’

The movie is not so heavy with Sci-Fi stuff. After few preliminary High-Tech talks, the story moves into real life with real people and with a ‘conscious’ Good Robot who escapes to learn the ways of the world. This gives an opportunity to bad cop Jackman to energise his unsold Bad Robot. The Bad Robot mortally wounds the human team of Good Robot. After killing the bad Robot, the Good Robot then downloads the ‘consciousness data’ of his ‘dying’ friends and transfers it to another Robots. And they live happily ever after.

The screenplay moves fast. The cinematography is very good. The special effects are excellent.

The only thing bad is; English Subtitles are intermittent. When the Robot speaks there are no subtitles. The movie setting is Johannesburg, and subtitles appear only when the characters speak Afrikaans. But one can adjust to this, for once.

CHAPPiE, is watchable for its CGI. The Robot is the winner. One can read on its creation here.

Amal, Movie, Amazon Prime

Amal is an “awards” winning movie which, upon watching, will make you think – Why? The movie was nominated for many “best” and won a few of them. Some notable wins are “Best Narrative Award”, “Best Actor” and “Best Original Song.” The song is attributed to poet Mir Taqi Mir, so how it’s “original”, for the movie, beats me. But the wordings of the poem and its meaning (in english) is worth a look.

Certainly not award-worthy, still, the movie is not all that bad. The story is good, workable, has multiple tracks but simple to follow. But the pace of the movie is slower than a stroll. A barely 40 minute story is stretched to 01 Hour 40 Minutes. It’s is a 2007 movie with 1987 type of color and feel.

And acting is like school theatre-ish. Even the Great Naseeruddin Shah is a pain. Thankfully he died midway. He may have heaved a sigh of relief when told his part of shooting is over. Roshan Seth of “Nehru” fame and Seema Biswas of “Bandit Queen” fame are like caricatures in some incomplete cartoon. But they tried their best. Except one, no characters in the movie show any enthusiasm.

There is only one, actress Tanisha Chatterjee, who showed good acting and enthusiasm. A google search on her name brings a 40 year old “Tannishtha Chatterjee.” ‘Amal’ is 2007 movie and “Tanisha Chatterjee” may have been 10 years then, roughly. She may be 23 years approx now and is nowhere to be seen on screen. But wherever she may be, she has my special mention.

Rupinder Nagra as hero is no great shakes but he is pretty likable. Given by the standards of the movie, he is a star, although a dim one, who can carry a concerned audience through a slow lackadaisical movie just to see him through.

Amal, is a slow lazy watch; disappointing but not (that) boring.

Drone, Movie, Amazon Prime

The movie starts in the slums of Pakistan where a drone missile kills a few and then the movie moves into pristine United States where the aftermath is dealt with. This movie, Drone, seems like a sequel to the movie, Eye in the Sky. Where ‘Eye in the Sky’ ends with a Drone Kill, ‘Drone’ starts with a Drone Kill.

Drone‘ has very poor ratings. A 5.4 on IMDb and paltry 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. But a closure look on IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes show that people liked and disliked the movie for several reasons, some of which, I too, agree.

For one, the movie is ‘pretty’ well made. Besides a few Missile Explosions, the major duration of the story is calm. There is dysfunctional family on one side and a desperado on the other and through several series of events there is a meeting of two side and two cultures but with multiple individual motivations.

Every character in the movie is accomplished. But only individually. An incident in a children’s playground is aptly filmed. The dinner table conversation is handled very well and one can see, feel and hear, the forced conversation and false attentions. This meeting then builds up into a climax where ‘more than two actors have to interact on-screen’ and it’s here the performances falter and becomes theatrical.

The director did not reach for the full potential as was possible. The movie has an alien culture in an american home with ambiguous motivation. The director could have displayed more of this dichotomy. This contrast of two cultures had some deep stories to tell. Instead the movie skims. It just settled with ‘one slurp’ of coffee.

Just imagine, the director has a “Pakistani” in an American home and the character is shown eating with forks. The movie had started with Pakistanis eating with their hands, so, why not continue with the same theme? Make the Pakistani eat with his hands, slurp tea from a plate than a cup and “don’t give him wine.” The culture differences could have been displayed on the table, while eating, drinking, not using napkins, and these would have added to the scene depth without impacting the duration of the movie; the character is anyways eating and drinking on an American table, so make him do all those things like a Pakistani. And to add to the eeriness, why not make the Pakistani do Namaz inside the American’s house.

The story could have ended well too. In the end the Pakistani is stabbed. This is lazy storytelling. Why not make him live? To atone for the American’s sins of killing the Pakistani’s family, the American should have taken the Pakistani’s side for once, made him aware of the dangers outside the house, played a game of camaraderie and sent away the Pakistani with the boat. But for this, some changes to the script has to be done, like; ‘The Pakistani is an unknown ordinary person working in IT in US who, due to data leak, chances upon an address of a Drone Contractor who may have killed his family.’

There has been several movies where the story is enacted in one house or one room. Alien/s in an enclosed space gives a feeling of being cornered and is a brilliant setting for a nail biter; someone enters the house and gradually unravels the motivations and each passing moment builds up to a climax. Needless to say, this requires expert handling by the Director. A good Director can change screenplays without impacting the story. A good case is the movie, “Erin Brockovich” (2000). If you care, watch the movie and read the script. It’s an eye opener on what good Directing is all about.

Few movies of this genre which I know are; Yash Chopra’s Ittefaq (1969), Audrey Hepburn starrer ‘Wait Until Dark‘ (1967), Ram Gopal Varma’s Kaun?‘ (1999), Basu Chatterjee’s ‘Ek Ruka Hua Faisla‘ (1986). Having watched these movies, when I approach “Drone”, I see a lost potential. But it’s good to encounter such movies now and then, as, just like life, troughs and crests in movie watching makes one appreciate the values and qualities of the good.

‘Drone’ is less (very less) about Drones, but more of a human dialogue drama. The movie is misplaced just like its promos, where the main antagonist is not even shown.

Self/less, Movie, Amazon Prime

Billionaire Ben Kingsley uses his money power to jump from his dying body to another young army trained body and then swallows pills to wash off the memory of the new body so that he can live with his old self happily ever after.

Self/less, is a movie where the story idea fails to exploit the core concept, which has lots of potential. Instead, the story wastes itself in an erratic screenplay. It seems that, the moment Ben Kingsley becomes Ryan Reynolds, the writers ran out of ideas. And they spent the next 100 minutes trying to make something up.

Three things are noteworthy in the movie – Action, Sound and Cinematography. Whoever in charge of these three functions did an excellent job. But whoever in charge to execute the screenplay did not give any thought to what he was doing.

There are two jolts in the action sequence which may make you jump from your seat. If you want to experience them you may watch this movie.

The Post, Movie, SonyLIV

Spielberg is noted for presenting historical events as a human story. In ‘The Post’, the human side is the owner of the Washington Post, a novice widow. And she is presented with circumstances where she needs to take a call.

United States entered Vietnam for war in 1955 and a decade of bombings didn’t get them a win. So they set a committee to find the reason why. The findings were; “United States cannot win this war.” Despite knowing this, successive Presidents kept winning elections pledging to “end the war” but when in Office, kept pumping in more troops into Vietnam who died in large numbers.

In 1971, an “insider”, a “Snowden”, got hold of “The Pentagon Papers“, made xeroxes and sent it to all who dared to publish it. The first to do was The New York Times. This alerted the government of the leak and they came down heavily with “gag orders.”

The Washington Post as a competitor of The New York Times has to do something similar to stay in the game. But the board members advised against this, too scared to counter the government’s “gag orders.” These are the circumstances presented to the newbie owner who took a call to publish. When two major newspapers took this stand others followed. These acts unmasked the political hypocrisy and was instrumental in ending the war in 1975.

Tom Hanks who initially is barely recognisable, with straight hair and speech droll, has given his usual performance. In his case, usual means superlative.

On Privacy and Surveillance-03

In my earlier blogs, I discussed on “Khabreegiri”, the “trade” of snooping, information gathering and reporting. (click here) (and click here). I call this a “trade” because it is. No one will waste their time sneaking into my window and monitoring my entry and exit in main gate of my house if one is not getting something in return, or hopes for it someday.

In this blog, I discuss a historical side of surveillance used for violent purposes. It happened in India.

Thuggee” was “re-discovered” in India in 1800’s. The “profession” is prevalent since prehistory. For the first time, it was extensively investigated and documented by Britisher – Major General Sleeman. He is credited with ending “Thuggee” in India. A concise article on Thuggee is here.

Sleeman may have ended the violence associated with the act, but the spirit of Thuggee still remains. The word – Thug (ठग) means “a cheat”. The Thugs 200 years ago cheated and also killed people. But that’s just a surface of the practice. The major of work of “Thuggee” is “information gathering” and this begins even before the victim leaves his home for travel.

In “The Thugs or Phansigars of India“, General Sleeman mentions the ways and means the Thugs employ to gain access to the victim’s information. Firstly, there is never one single Thug. There is a network of Thugs. And then, there is a Leader. All information flow to the Leader and all actions and strategies originate from the Leader. They get the victims net worth, then befriend them, take them off track, finally loot and kill them. “Phansigars” means killers by strangulation. Except perhaps toddlers and infants, the Thugs killed everyone in the group. They didn’t want their identity and information to get out. The spared toddlers and infants were made future Thugs.

For the success of the mission, the Thug’s process of information gathering is interesting. A Thug, as traveller, will “happen” to meet his “target victim” “by chance.” Conversations flow over “drinks.” Too much friendliness will be shown. Common problems will be found and cried over. The Thugs may know the victim from before, hence know the victim’s boss. The Thug knows that the best way to gain fellowship is by criticizing the victim’s “boss.” Once pally, the victim is in the grip of the Thug.

But what if the victim becomes suspicious. Most people are suspicious of new people. Thugs have a solution to this too. The leader Thug will dispatch another Thug. The second Thug will befriend the victim against the first thug. A game is played between the Thugs who know each other but act like quarrelling strangers. The first Thug leaves the scene in a huff and the victim is left to share the gossip with “another Thug.”

But what if, even this does not work. The network of Thugs are so extensive that the leader Thug can swarm the victim or victims with groups of Thugs. This strategy can happen to a large group of innocent travellers being joined by equally large group of Thugs. The Thugs will create fear of thieves, dacoits and roads, will promote the idea of “safety in numbers” and “different safe road.” Well, the victims will never know that some numbers are never safe and some roads are better “less travelled.”

Rarely anyone escapes a Thug’s target. The tactics employed to ensnare are numerous. I write this in present tense because I believe that the practice is still on at less violent but equally lethal levels.

The story of “Thuggee’ is extensive and there are several books on this. But what fascinates me is the practice of “Khabreegiri” which follows similar lines as the practice of “Thuggee.” The Thugs of today gain access to weaknesses and vulnerabilities to undermine and hurt professionally.

At the turn of this century I joined a company where the art of snooping, “Khabreegiri” was pretty refined and fine tuned. In my almost one and half decade with the company, there was never a party, get together, picnic, outstation tours, trekking, classes, seminars, where “informers” were not present. Every method as in ‘Thuggee” were employed by the company “pimps.” They spread their “prostitutes” liberally. Humorously, “prostitutes” informed on each other to the “pimps.”

Culture is infectious and bad culture is even more so. The company, “the brothel” suffered a demise in 2019 and most of the “pimps and prostitutes” escaped into employment in other companies. Those companies may have their own “Khabrees”, but they will now see – “Khabreegiri” at scale, finesse, skill and subtlety. This might be happening. Now.

Thugs are ordinary, respectable, decent looking people. They work as good employees and live with families. They are the unsuspecting pimps and prostitutes in every environment.

Long Shot, Documentary, Netflix

An innocent man is accused of murder but is saved by luck. A TV Camera filming a show in a stadium catches a footage of the accused. This alibi saves the man from death penalty.

This 40 minutes show provides several points to ponder. A history of criminal activities by one or by family will get red flagged by law enforcers as suspect into any other crimes in the vicinity. Pressures on investigators could induce them into dishonesty and frame a suspect who may be innocent for that particular crime.

The accused was lucky to get a lawyer who went the distant to collect evidence for innocence. It’s not easy work to shift data, like, sit down and watch hours and hours of film to locate an individual in a packed stadium. And when this did not work, a chance remembrance of a TV shooting in the stadium, sent the lawyer to pursue and get HBO footage which clinched the deal. Absurdly, the judge decided on an innocent verdict based on “pure and unadulterated” – superfluity.

Unlike other similar crime shows, this show does not drag on for numerous episodes. Many crime documentaries needlessly stretch a story into never ending series of testimonials. “Long Shot” does not waste time and is to the point. But it leaves one much to think about time, chance, luck and finally, the Judge (and her children).

“Long Shot” is bizarre. The best part is the judgement.

Chris Rock Standup, Netflix

There are two “similar” Chris Rock shows on Netflix, the 2018 show, and the extended 2021 show. Watch the newer 2021. It has some additional snippets.

Any non-Indian stand ups are difficult to follow by Indians because the words, phrases, politics and punchlines (and accent) are specific to alien regions. But this Chris Rock show is easier on Indian ears as the subjects touched upon are viral and prime time.

Chris Rock opens the show with his pet peeves; Black-White and Black-Police problems in the United States. His skit on “equality between blacks and whites” and “getting black people ready for white people” is hard hitting and relevant. To educate and sensitize coloured kids to dangers of living in white world, as Chris Rock says, will always be a “clear and present” danger and blacks must always prepare for several bad scenarios.

Chris Rock has a take on the US justice system and the Gun-problem. He has a good suggestion to solve the “gun problem” in the US. One hopes Biden is listening.

Chris Rock, being a father of two kids, has a skit or two on “raising and educating kids” in the “school system.” He points out common misconceptions adults have about their kids and the lies parents tell to kids. Besides, he has a thing or two on his divorce and husband-wife relationships.

This Hour and half show is a wholesome watch. Just watch these following words or else you’ll miss some punchlines.
Al Sharpton – US Civil Rights Lawyer (colored)
Pootie Tang – A 2001 comedy movie starring Chris Rock
Crips – Violent Streets Gangs of US (Colored)
Onesie – One piece lightweight garment for kids.
Cardi B – US Rap Singeress (colored)

Philosophies of Life in a Stand-Up Comedy.

On Privacy and Surveillance-02

This post is suffixed with a number which means an earlier post on this subject exists. Click this link to get there. The earlier post is one of many aspects of my experiences with “Khabarigiri”, that is, surveillance or snooping. This post is one more such snooping incidents that show different behaviours and motivations.

The earlier post was on snooping by specific people mandated with specific tasks of “dirt gathering” by “get-togethering”, “partying”, “trekking”, and even “taking lift on a car.” I have a story to tell on snooping by “taking lift on a car” but that’s for series 03. Here I have something to say about snooping by “calculating” and by “breaking in.”

There was a time when I worked in Calcutta and, as is usual with me, I was befriended by a guy who worked as a driver. I was befriended because I had an open pocket. My salaries came into one pocket and escaped by the other five. Sensing these excesses, I abruptly stopped: drinking, smoking, spending, for a few months. My screeching brake was a bane to all the parasitic “friends” I tend to accumulate in life and the hardest hit was this driver. He tried several ways to “break my fast”, and in one conversations, he predicted how much money I may have saved by my “abstentions”. I was astounded. His figures were correct, plus/minus a thousand.

The truth that someone is calculating “about” me was apparent then. But I never internalised it by attitudinal corrections. Any other person will cast away these toxic people at first evidence. But me; I continued living with snakes.

Similar incident happened when I started working in Bombay at the turn of this century. A business minded colleague kept pestering me to know how much money I’m earning. After several failed attempts to solicit an answer, he finally said – at least tell me how much tax you pay? I told him. He felt silent, lowered his head, and then raised his head and figured my salary. His guess was near, plus/minus a few thousand.

This incident was concurrent with a time when, due to some “good performances”, middle management gave me some “increment.” This created lots of ire and fire among the incompetents. Those were the days when the company sent salary slips in envelopes. (Salary was directly credited to bank)

Since the time I got the “increment” and thereafter, for a couple of months, I always found my “salary slip envelope” tampered. I never complained, but the “operation” started on me spread internally within the department and everyone began fearing that their own “salary slip envelope” was tampered with too. The situation was solved when salary slips started getting emailed and hard copy discarded.

By mid 2017, I was closing my account with the company. The company had a “co-operative society” where one could invest money for compound interests. On final closure date, when I went to collect my cheque, upon seeing me, there was an eerie silence in the room. Staff made furtive glances, particularly, the counter-girl. My assessment on this event could be speculative, but my experiences with the company made me sense and gauge that “management” may have called to know my “invested money.”

By mentioning these behaviours I stress that surveillance on a person is closure to “Home” than “High-Tech.” It is more “people” than “apps.” It is more your relative, neighbours and even one’s own family member. This mention of “family member” might be surprising. But it’s not. I have a family member who, unknown to me, divulged all the family details to an office colleague, who happens to be a “prime-informer” of the company. So, you have to check what your husband, wife and children may be divulging to others. And what other husbands, wives and children (and colleagues and neighbours) are trying to dig out of you.

Your every information will be used against you.