Sunday, May 28, 2006


One critical question in the movie Fanaa is what should drive a person " Ehsaas (feelings) or Zaroorat (needs) ? Maybe the director himself was confused between these two poles and the movie comes across like Indian food in foreign land, it fills the stomach but not your heart. In a Zaroorat driven country like Singapore where I watched my first Hindi movie on foreign land, it was just another tick for the weekend.
Well there are times success is a bad omen, especially when you have directors like Kunal Kohli. Kunal Kohli, down memory lane, used to host a movie show on Zee TV where he would excel at one thing, prostrating and grovelling at any Yash Chopra movie that hit the screens. He even gave a five star for Dil to Pagal Hai the crappiest movie that could have been produced in pastel colours. He tried to replicate that style of movie making, but failed miserably in his first attempt. Then he got his second chance, Hum Tum, a never ending soggy tale somewhat redeemed by the performances of the lead pair. with school going caricatures that are now part of film marketing folk lore (when will the marketing head of YashRaj stop bragging about that in every interview).
Now he gets his third chance, so he gets bolder. He plays his marketing cards.
He creates a brand new pair of oldies, Aamir Khan with a fast receding hairline and Kajol with ever expanding eyebrows. Then he tries the masala of mixing terrorism and love so that the second half can have some action scenes. And he has to turn Kajol blind so that his second half can be justified ( arre yaar Kajol has not seen Aamir in first half, so he doesnt recognise him when he returns as a terrorist). Plus he rips off old Karan Johar's Kuch Kuch Hota Hai so that kids can ask the most pesky questions and make their parents fall in love again.
The result fails of course because Kunal Kohli is not Mani Ratnam. Firstly the lead pair lack chemistry. There are times in the movie where you feel the complete lack of intensity. And a blind girl coming from Kashmir falling for a tourist guide is too rapid although her parents are very encouraging.(A brilliant Rishi Kapoor and normal Kiron Kher).Second problem is more fundamental. Its very difficult to believe that a terrorist can romance a gal the way Aamir does in the midst of bombing Rashtrapati Bhavan. Come on guys, the Indian security forces are not such easy meat. And well terrorists on a mission are deadly serious. Even a brilliant performer like Aamir Khan looks a bit jaded and confused in the second half. Hence the movie neither scores as a love story nor as a thriller.
But the movie still has a lot of positives. The breezy first hour is fun with the shero shayari style pataoing in Delhi and Aamir Khan playing the role he has perfected 'the witty road Romeo'.People blame Shahrukh's stereotyping, but Aamir is not far behind , 75% of Rangeela's Munna, Ghulam's Sidhu, DCH's Akash, Raja Hindustani, RDB's DJ is the same. Well Kajol sometimes forgets she is blind and ends up acting through her eyes . She is a lot better in the second half when she regains her sight and acting skills. 2 Lilting songs by Jatin Lalit, Chand Sifarish and Mere haath elevate proceedings. The altercations between Sharat Saxena and Tabu( Intelligence chief) are fun. And like all kids, Rehan Junior brings some relief in the meandering second half. Ravi Chandran's cinematography is first rate.
And Kunal Kohli also gets some perverse pleasure by wasting Shiney Ahuja and Lara Dutta in inconsequential roles. Saroj Khan's choreography slips a few notches compared to her loud announcements in Nach Baliye. She cant even get a proper Kashmiri Republic Day dance right.
Thus the story of a blind gal fall in love over a Raju guide who is a terrorist in disguise, gaining her eyesight after losing her virginity only to find the same Raju taking shelter in her Kashmir house while fleeing from the Indian army and losing him all over again has all the right ingredients tries to fulfil cinematic zaroratein but fails to evoke the ehsaas of other love stories.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Random ramble on forecasting foolishness

Call it a bloodbath , call it a carnage, call it whatever Udayan Bose wishes to term it on CNBC . It’s a 826 point fall. Actually the absolute numbers are scary but in percentage terms around 7% for a market at 12000. I am no expert on the markets, in fact I doubt if anyone is.

One of the prime reasons given was that FIIs (in grey suits that dignify their greed) are selling because they are about to be taxed. Just note how the market always goes up due to fundamental factors like the booming GDP growth, great middle class consumerism and always falls due to sentimental factors like rumours of taxation, FDI restrictions and left govt in Bengal. Ever wondered why markets do not fall on rational expectations. Because it means all these FIIs, fund managers and a lot of us were smoking dope or in some specific cases speculators and hedge funds had run amok.

During my break between jobs last month, I read a book titled ‘ Fooled by randomness’ by Nicholas Taleib. In a refreshingly simple but intellectually sophisticated way, the writer manages to educate us about how randomness and not superior wisdom or intelligence is a significant and decisive component in markets, business and hence careers. From the first question he asks in the book “If you re so rich why aren’t you so smart”, you are immediately drawn to his writing style and you start reminiscing various pub and coffee table discussions like “ arre yaar yeh CEO kaise ban gaya, boss that banker is chhaaping a 20 lakh bonus this year and so on”.
Through interesting examples like “if you keep sending a report to a sample size of 200,000 where 50% get an up report and 50% get a down report , at the end of eight quarters there would still be 12500 people who would rate you as a genius for predicting markets so accurately”. Now extrapolate that to 2 million and you know where the fat bonuses of many fund managers are coming from.

The most wonderful insight is on how humans cannot think expected value. Imagine someone told you there is a stock that has a 95% probability of gaining Rs.100 in a week and 5% probability of losing Rs.2000( assuming it is within the circuit filter). The expected value is actually – Rs. 5. He explains how we associate a low probability of an event to determine the risk of an investment rather than the extent of loss or expected value. Most of us would actually buy such a stock since it seems ‘less risky’.

There are other good fundas like if you decrease the frequency of observations there is lower volatility because of the reversion to the mean. So basically do not watch Udayan Bose and CNBC everyday and get mini heart attacks but watch him (or your stocks) once a month and your health would improve.

The author also clarifies that his observations should not be used as a recourse to cynicism and laziness. He just urges to be more wary of stock analysts, traders, consultants, poll forecasters and news anchors and others who take themselves too and the quality of their knowledge seriously & those who don’t have the guts to sometimes say: I don’t know....". By the way I think the markets will bounce back today since FIIs have been net buyers of F&O yesterday , so there will be some squaring up.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

CNN IBN now , NDTV later

Indian politics is now passing through a 'predictable phase' due to the remarkable accuracy of the exit polls during the recently concluded state election. It also saw the upstart channel CNN IBN emerging as a strong competitor to NDTV. It is ironic that his one-time protege Rajdeep beat the pasha of psephology Prannoy Roy in his own game.(Although Yogendra Yadav with his beautiful state of Bengal was pretty unbearable at times). But where CNN IBN scored was in the brilliant onground reporting by Sagarika Ghose ( daughter of ex DD honcho) . Her command over the language and the ability to remain as fresh as a daisy in the hustle bustle of political reporting was amazing. Barkha Dutt is surely passe now as the face of English news. Times Now can slowly be written off. One of their lead anchors is so brash and no better than a fisherwoman on a Virar local.
While I was flipping between CNN and NDTV, the bearded badshah of English news was very much in form, his calm and inquisitive tone with liberal doses of Eton polish still charming as ever. But somehow his one-time protege Rajdeep takes political reporting to a greater level, pulling punches and puns, raising the decibel levels when needed, showing excitement and energy on screen. Rajdeep loves politics and his style suits Indian politics whereas Roy's classy demeanour would suit topics like fiscal budgets and foreign policy. But in a way Prannoy Roy defined the news industry as it exists today in India and his talent selection record is impressive.
Through a programme called World this week in an obscure time slot of 10:30 pm on DD, the man showed us how the Salmas and Rinis of DD were good looking announcers and not news reporters. World this week with the amazing elegance of Roy was a cut above the rest. I remember staying awake longer than my normal doze time to catch this show. To a GK enthusiast like me that show was probably the only window to the world( though that was also a time when newspapers covered more than page 3). The unmistakable tabla sound and the graphics showing NDTV as lines is still alive in my memory. That alongwith Sidharth Basu's quizzes set the intellectual standard. After that came his election and budget specials on DD.
I believe the BJP victory in 1996 was to a large extent due to their leverage of media. All their politicians were extremely camera friendly , ruled the debates and had the best quotes. The pregnant poetic pause of Atal , straight talk of Advani, the studied response of Jaswant and the young turks Pramod Mahajan, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley. Look how the BJPs fortunes changed once Venkaih Naidu started dominating media events with his Udipi hotel owner style retorts.
But lets not forget , English news hardly figures in the ratings. The masses love the Sansani, pardafaash and what not of the Hindi channels. But to be fair to Hindi channels, their technical finesse is almost as good as the English ones. But their anchorsespecially the ones of Star News are merely props and do not actually know much about politics or what they report. And most viwers of English news would watch election analysis rather than vote. Amen

Monday, May 15, 2006

A new leas(h)e of life

When the India shines , the more confused I get...
Who is buying all the property that is available in the cities...?
Even if all the property is bought will the valuation of real estate stocks be justified... ?
Why do so called intellegentsia in the country try desperately to hate Himessh when his crooning glory is creating mass hysteria ?
Is this kind of anti-Himessh attitude restricting the creation of mass products and services?
Is corporate India in its Arrow shirts and Zodiac ties forgetting that there are only 4 mn HHs in this country that earn greater than 5 lakhs p.a to spend on what they are selling? (source: NCAER)
Or is the survey by NCAER grossly understating income due to three reasons : Black money, repatriation income and a large population that has 3 working members in a HH ?
Now I can afford to hate the bloody India and its questions for a while. I have come to take a global rather Asia-pac view to life and business. Shifted to Singapore. I can now escape Schrodingers uncertainity principle in my observations, wishfully thinking.