Saturday, December 26, 2009

3 Idiots

3 Idiots is a typical Hirani film with all the masala and moral of the story in tow. Though the script loses its hold for a while in the second half, it is worth a watch. It’s after ages that i found almost house full and it’s also been quite sometime since a movie gave you genuine humour you could laugh at. The first half is full of scenes where you just can’t stop laughing! Also, amazing is how young Aamir looks in the movie even at his age.

Chetan Bhagat’s book is borrowed as a framework to suit the theme. The best part is the story moves back and forth keeping you hooked on to it with “What next?”. The second half has a chunk we could do without which would trim the movie down to a decent length. This also leaves a kind of bad taste in the mouth and i am not sure if the overall goodness of the movie balances it out with the unwanted bits.

Playing Rancho is a cakewalk for Aamir who has been into characters much intense and dialogue - driven. i kept waiting for a flash of typical Aamir lashing out at the system or something like that. His profound moments also come with a calmness consistent with his character of an idiot-genius. Madhavan and Sharman Joshi support the story well though Madhavan would look more like a student with a few kilos less on him. The trio share an amazing chemistry together. Kareena is her usual self with no great opportunities to showcase her real talent.

A special mention for Boman Irani who is an excellent actor beyond doubt. Here he does his lisp act to perfection proving yet again his sheer genius!

The message of the film is subtly thrown in but of course things are quite easy for the characters since the ending has to be happy. Might not be as easy in real life to throw away an engineering degree after 4 yrs and make it as a successful photographer. But the movie succeeds in exploring the what-you-want Vs what-others-expect-from- you very well. Another true Bollywood stroke - hence unrealistic - is Kareena eloping away without even knowing where Rancho is or if he is still single!! Well! It’s Bollywood after all!!

It is certainly a fun movie and a must watch.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


My latest assignment was to write admission essays for an Indian student looking for admission in a university abroad. I don’t know if it was ethically right for me to assume someone else’s thoughts and write an essay for him / her (don’t even know which one). I took it up as just another writing assignment from one of the companies I freelance for. So I really wouldn't be in a position to even suggest to the student to make an attempt to write the first draft himself. I went online to look for general guidelines to write such essays. Every site mentioned that the admission committee looks for simple but honest and personalised essays that brought out the applicants personality!! Heck!! I didn't even know who I was writing for!

But this certainly set me thinking. Are our youngsters, just out of school, incapable of writing a simple essay about themselves? Does the fear of rejection in the selection process make them seek out professionals to ghost write their essays? They’d rather not take any chances testing their writing skills which might affect their prospects of making it to their dream college. A lot of students in India are under-confident with their spoken English but their writing skills is even more ignored. Even after spending a good number of years in English medium schools, they might manage speaking but still shy away from writing formal English.

Through my years coaching CAT aspirants, only a meagre percentage came up with readable written matter. Most students expected their trainers to write the best answer that would help them clear the written part of the application form. We had to spend hours with them helping them churn out their real life goals and purpose of going for an MBA. As undergraduates, it seemed too late to tell them to drop everything else and develop their writing skills. Enthusiastic students could take it up for themselves and devote time to develop this crucial skill.

Their lack only served to point out that composition writing might just be a part of their English classes. No great effort was put into developing writing as an important skill-set that they would use in their life almost on a daily basis. As students, they must have dealt with routine topics that they learnt to write on using guide books etc. Whatever the case maybe, the moral is that their schooling had finished without imparting something so important to them.

I was also surprised that the parents of this particular student didn’t mind paying up for professional services! Rather than understand why such a need arose, they’ve covered up for their child’s shortcoming by helping him move up another step without the essential skills. Their money helped him buy a skill he didn’t have, teaching him that you just need money to move ahead in life.

I really wonder if such students are equipped to take on the competitive world on their own. Will they have others write their college assignments? (there are sites that cater to this need as well, just flash green-bags around!!) What about their exams, their resume, job applications and emails on the job? With the web world taking over, it’s vital to be able to express oneself with the written word. I wonder what the future holds for such students. Will they move on expressing themselves with money or learn to put words to use, after all!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A taste of tradition

No South Indian experience is complete without a meal on a plantain leaf. Despite having spent the first 16 yrs of my life in Southern part of India, I still feel alien to the whole thing. I am still very much a plate and cutlery person. But the experience is worth it. I’ve done it quite a few times as a good daughter-in-law, though it’s still not a very familiar thing to me. I guess the idea of using these leaves as plates came about because they were abundantly available around. Plantains are used in a lot of African and Central american countries, but only the South Indians have been ingenious enough to invent this use.

The service starts with the leaf itself that is given a sprinkling of water to clean it. The first thing that comes is a little sweet dish in one corner - begin your meal by sweetening your mouth. There is a particular place where each vegetable will be served. It’s the main course that’s interesting. Rice is put at the center of the leaf and then rivers of sambhar, curd or rasam flows all over the leaf. It’s only a true-blue south Indian grown up doing it can have the expertise to manage the tide of the curry!! Sometimes it even mixes up with the sweet dish and you keep guessing which one of the two you are having! I try to separate vegetables that touch each other to ensure they taste like they were originally meant to. And make best efforts with my fingers on a straight plantain leaf to keep the sambhar in control. One look around me and I can see others expertly sweeping the leaf with one motion of the hand which reaches the mouth for a quick lick faster then the liquid can drop back. And the lick is one neat stroke all the way down to where the curry has slipped! There doesn’t seem to be anything as amazing as this. I’ve always tasted some salt in my sweet dish since the same spoon - my fingers- has to be used to eat all your food, but no one around seems to mind the adulteration in the taste. The meal becomes satisfying, despite the travails, because we are doing it the way our ancestors did it. It's the traditional way of savouring your food - with your hands.