Uppi2 Review

Uppi2 is easily the best movie I’ve watched in recent times. Across languages. And I’m not joking. It’s a bloody good movie, and breaks all kind of stereotypes. Having watched the movie, I have half a mind to log on to IMDB and add one more perfect 10 rating.

I have an unusual way of rating movies – essentially, any movie that manages to hold my attention through its length is a great movie by my definition. This is a consequence of my extreme attention deficit, but in general I find it hard to sit through movies. The story needs to be tight right from the beginning, else I’m extremely likely to switch off. The number of half-watched movies on my Tata Sky recording box is not funny, for example.

From this perspective, the best compliment that I can pay to Uppi2 is that never once did I start wondering when the movie would end. There have been several otherwise great movies which have dragged a bit as it has gone along and I’ve found myself checking my watch to see how much longer it might go on for. Not with Uppi2. The movie keeps you fully engaged right till the end and doesn’t drag one bit. And I wouldn’t write more here since that would be giving too much away.

There is only one jarring thing about the movie, and that is the songs. All songs are little better than “extra fittings” and none adds to the story. Most songs are fairly atrocious, but there is one truly outstanding song. And you might be surprised that I’m actually recommending a hip-hop song. Enjoy off:

The story, as you might expect from a Upendra directed movie, is rather complex and has lots of twists and turns. There is a fair bit of self-reference, and you might do well to keep in mind the concept of recursion while you watch it. There are references to several other movies, including Upendra’s earlier movies.

If you think you’re a “buddhivanta” (intellectual) this movie will surely tingle your intellectual nerves. There are a lot of stupid jokes also, like the play on the lead character’s name “Neenu” (“you”), and the pun in the title of the movie itself. And stuff like one guy scolding another guy (whose name is Bala) as “LK Bala”. So even if you aren’t a buddhivanta, there is much for you in the movie.

As this excellent review by Jogi in Udayavani describes it, go expecting to see an Upendra movie, or to eat “Uppit”, and you’ll not come back disappointed. If you go expecting to eat “Obbatt”, on the other hand, you’ll surely be disappointed!

I thought Upendra had done a wonderful job with his last offering Super, but I must confess he has outdone himself with Uppi2. Please go and watch! And contribute to the movie’s rating on IMDB.

On Uppi2’s top rating

So it appears that my former neighbour Upendra’s new magnum opus Uppi2 is currently the top rated movie on IMDB, with a rating of 9.7/10.0. The Times of India is so surprised that it has done an entire story about it, which I’ve screenshot here: Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 8.50.33 pm

The story also mentions that another Kannada movie RangiTaranga (which I’ve reviewed here) is in third spot, with a rating of 9.4 out of 10. This might lead you to wonder why Kannada movies have suddenly turned out to be so good. The answer, however, lies in simple logic.

The first is that both are relatively new movies and hence their ratings suffer from “small sample bias”. Of course, the sample isn’t that small – Uppi2 has received 1900 votes, which is 3 times as much as its 1999 prequel Upendra. Yet, it being a new movie, only a subset of the small set of people who have watched it so far would have reviewed it.

The second is selection bias. The people who see a movie in its first week are usually the hardcore fans, and in this case it is hardcore fans of Upendra’s movies. And hardcore fans usually find it hard to have their belief shaken (a version of what I’ve written about online opinions for Mint here), and hence they all give the movie a high rating.

As time goes by, and people who are not as hardcore fans of Upendra start watching and reviewing the movie, the ratings are likely to rationalise. Finally, ratings are easy to rig, especially when samples are small. For example, an Upendra fan club might have decided to play up the movie online by voting en masse on IMDB, and pushing up its ratings. This might explain both why the movie already has 1900 ratings in four days, and most of them are extremely positive.

The solution for this is for the rating system (IMDB in this case) to pay more weightage for “verified ratings” (by people who have rated more movies in the past, for instance), or remove highly correlated ratings. Right now, the rating algorithm seems pretty naive.

Coming back to Uppi2, from what I’ve heard from people, the movie is supposed to be really good, though perhaps not 9.7 good. I plan to watch the movie in the next few days and will write a review once I do so.

Meanwhile, read this absolutely brilliant review (in Kannada) written by this guy called “Jogi”

Rangitaranga – review

Ok this is not a formal review of the movie. I saw it this evening – the first time in over a year that I’d seen a movie in the theatres. I didn’t like the first half so much but the second half was significantly better. Overall the movie was quite good.

But there was one key plot element that I found to be rather illogical, which I want to register my protest about. Since there are spoilers ahead, I’m putting the rest of this post under the fold.

Continue reading Rangitaranga – review

Queueing dynamics at Ranga Shankara

Last night we went to Ranga Shankara in JP Nagar to watch a play.  Thanks to unusually heavy traffic on 11th Main Road Jayanagar, we reached there only at 7 pm (the play was due to start at 7:30), and there was already a long line at the foot of the stairs waiting to be let in.

For the uninitiated, Ranga Shankara follows “free seating” also known as “Air Deccan seating”. There are no seat numbers – in fact the seats are themselves not clearly demarcated – there are long tiered rows of cushioned benches on which you sit. So the seats are essentially filled on a first come first served basis. This enables Ranga Shankara to to fill up the benches in good time once people are let in, and the show can begin on time. Also, unlike Air Deccan, Ranga Shankara sees high social capital so people don’t jostle and fight for seats.

As we walked in and picked up our tickets (after showing our e-tickets), the wife said that there was no point joining the queue as we would be so far behind that there was no chance of us getting good seats. So we might as well eat before the play started, she reasoned. So off we went to the adjoining Ranga Shankara Cafe and thulped Sabudana Vada and coffee. The pricing was premium but the food and coffee were very good.

As we were gulping down our coffee, preparing to possibly join the queue, the wife spotted the renowned actor Mukhyamantri Chandru near the entrance of the theatre. We presently saw him posing for selfies with some people, and we have to do the same, we reasoned.

Chandru turned out to be an incredibly warm and nice person and enthusiastically talked to us for ten minutes. We told him that we’re major fans of his Ramanamurthy role in Ganeshana Madhuve. He asked us to come for the performance of Mukhyamantri (which gave him his name) today, but we told him that we’ve already seen the play.


We got talking about theatre and cinema and how acting is different in the two. Chandru told us that in a play an actor has to constantly play a dual role – one role is the role that he is playing in the play, and the second is that of a manager. It is inevitable that some slips happen during the course of the play, he mentioned, and what makes acting in a theatre tough is that you need to course correct on the fly without giving away to the audience that you’ve slipped up.

By the time we were done talking to Chandru, the line had cleared and the bell rang indicating that there were 10 minutes to go for the play. “You better hurry”, he told us, “else you’ll have to sit in the last row”. We didn’t bother particularly hurrying and it was the last row where we sat (there were seats available at the peripheries of forward rows but we wanted to watch the play from a central position to chose to sit in the last row instead).

Now I might have watched about 10 plays in Ranga Shankara, and sat in different positions to watch each one of them. There have been plays where I’ve sat right in the middle of one of the forward rows (the best seats in the house), and ones like yesterday where I’ve either sat right at the back or at one of the peripheries of the baseball-diamond shaped theatre. And what I realised is that the experience from each of these positions is near-identical!

In other words, the design of Ranga Shankara is so good that you are likely to have a great experience irrespective of where in the hall you sit! Or that the experience from the last row is not much inferior to that from one of the best seats in the house!

Yet, every play I’ve gone to I’ve seen a long line build up at the foot of the stairs before the play begins. It is as if people don’t believe that experience in the inferior seats is not very inferior to that of the experience in the best seats in the house, and are thus willing to pay a high price (time spent waiting in queue) to get the marginally better seats!

I don’t know if I’ve miscalculated on the relative merits of different seats in the house, or if the “market” (the rest of the people who stand in line) has got the pricing wrong! I’ll probably experiment a few more times at Ranga Shankara by not bothering to stand in line!

CEO Presentations and Rocky Movies

As part of my consulting assignment, yesterday I had to make a presentation to the CEO of my client. The process of preparing the presentation reminded me of Rocky (or any other Martial Arts movie). In these movies, before the protagonist can challenge the antagonist, he has to go through a series of underlings. Only after the protagonists has defeated all the underlings does the antagonist accept his challenge to a fight.

The work itself was done in consultation with a mid-level manager who heads the division that follows the process that I was going to recommend. While we had had a few rounds of discussions which led to the recommendations, I had prepared the presentation all by myself, and most of Wednesday was spent with him fixing the presentation.

Next we went to his boss, and repeated the process. Then to the boss’s boss. Then to someone else in the top management who would not be available for the main presentation! The hour before the main presentation was spent with the head of the division in whose realm the processes I was recommending fell. And then I got to the CEO.

Two hours before the meeting with the CEO, a couple of client team members and I were discussing the finer points of seppuku and hara-kiri. An hour before the presentation, the division head and I were discussing the Mahabharata!

The entire hierarchy was present for the meeting with the CEO (the mid-manager I had worked with, his boss, his underling, his boss’s boss and a couple of other people). Still typing away on his iPhone, without looking up, the CEO asked, “are all of you in agreement with what is in this presentation or are these Karthik’s recommendations alone?”

The Rocky Process was worth it, after all!

PS: I’m writing this sitting at the client’s office, in between meetings.

Redundancy in movies

I’m writing this while watching this Hindi movie called Cocktail, which is being shown on the pay-per-view Showcase channel on Tata Sky. Ten minutes after the movie started, I remembered this review of the movie that I’d read back when I was released, and thanks to that lost most interest in the movie. However, I continue watching, giving company to the wife, and reading papers and writing, as I watch.

The last Hindi movie I watched with any degree of seriousness was Gangs of Wasseypur (1 and 2), which is an absolutely mindblowing movie. While watching that movie, I remember that time moved insanely slowly. After what I thought was an hour of the movie, I looked at my watch only to realize that only half an hour had passed. Each part of the movie (which actually lasts about two and half hours each) felt like it individually lasted five hours! There was so much action that was packed into the movie.

So coming to the point of the post – the problem with most Hindi movies (not of the GoW variety) is that there is heavy redundancy packed into the movie. Each concept that ties into the main plot of the movie is explained so many times, most times not even through different means, that it is quite easy to miss a part of the movie and still be clued in to the overall plot. Not so with the GoW type, where there is absolutely no redundancy built in, because of which you can’t afford to miss even a couple of minutes of the movie, without losing part of the overall plot.

If you were to read Benoit Mandelbrot’s excellent book on the financial markets (The (mis)behaviour of markets), you would be introduced to this awesome concept of “trading time”. In the book, Mandelbrot explains that markets are not uniform – there are times when there is much more action packed into the markets (like the first and last fifteen minutes of trading every day) than in slower times (mostly around mid-day). Thus, to get a better analysis of the market, Mandelbrot explains, you need to look at it not from the point of view of “clock time” but from the point of view of “trading time”, which “measures time” by way of volume of trade.

Drawing an analogy, a movie like Gangs of Wasseypur is like a snapshot of the financial market during the opening 15 minutes of trading. At every moment in the movie, there is so much happening. Scenes are short, and cut abruptly, and say only what absolutely needs to be said. So you get much more “action” for each minute you spend watching the movie.

(Ok I realize that by repeating the funda in the previous paragraph, this post tends more towards Cocktail than GoW.) Maybe that’s why I don’t particularly enjoy most movies that I watch – there is so much redundancy I get bored. Problem with most mango people is that it takes too much mindspace to be focused through the duration of the movie, so they end up losing parts of the plot in movies such as GoW, and so movies such as these are not as commercially successful as slower paced movies.

Upendra’s Super is a funny movie, in terms of the pace at which it moves. The first two hours are full of theatrics, and unnecessary redundancy that makes you ask why you are watching the movie at all. The last half an hour, both in terms of content and the concept it gets across (property rights, concept of ownership, etc.) packs in so much that you leave the hall feeling satisfied. Maybe the two parts of the movie are aimed at different segments and Uppi seems to have cracked the formula!

Wannabe no more

Right from the time I started subscribing to the Times of India (and consequently, “Bangalore Times”) back in 1998, I’ve wanted to be a “party types”. While I’ve always been quite nerdy and anti-social and socially awkward, I’ve always wanted to attend parties, and perhaps even attain the holy grail of being a “party types” – having my face on a tiny corner of Page Three of Bangalore Times (my wife, five years younger than me, beat me to this “achievement” in February this year; I was away romancing my bike and the roads (and cows) of Rajasthan when she unlocked this achievement).

I must say I got a chance rather early. The school I had just joined then (National Public School, Indiranagar) was full of interesting people, and my classmates used to organize “parties” every month or so. The “party hall” at an apartment complex where one of the classmates lived would be booked, audio equipment would be rented, out of which “music” of the likes of Prodigy and the Beastie Boys would be blared out. Girls would dress up (I was positively shocked when, just before one of these parties, two of my classmates were talking about buying new dresses for the forthcoming party!), boys wouldn’t, strobe lights flashed, and we would cry our throats hoarse trying to make conversation over the “music”. There wouldn’t be any alcohol, of course, as we were all under-age (we were in class XI), but that didn’t prevent us from having a good time.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have too much fun, as I attended a grand total of three parties over the course of two years, during which four or five times that number were organized! It didn’t help that I lived quite far off from most of my classmates (I was in Jayanagar; I’d bus 12 kilometers each way to school, and most classmates lived close enough to school to cycle). It didn’t help either that those were “JEE mugging years”, and my parents thought I shouldn’t be “wasting my time” partying. Adding to the mix was my parents’ conservativeness and their view of dance parties as being immoral imports of undesirable aspects of western civilization. My “party life” was off to a slow start, and I continued to be socially awkward.

The less I talk about the “party scene” over the next four years (when I was at IIT Madras), the better. The only thing that “happened” was an article I wrote decrying the page three scene for Total Perspective Vortex, the newly launched “literary magazine” on campus. It was like a frustrated old fogey writing about sour grapes, but I thought I wrote quite well.

The famous bi-weekly “L square” parties on campus at IIMB revived my party life. I continued to be socially awkward, but here you knew most people, and most of them knew about my awkwardness. This was around the time I started drinking alcohol, though I wouldn’t drink much. When I drank, though, I let go of myself and I think I had a good time, though I continued to be socially awkward. I developed a reputation of hugging women when drunk. And when I decided to not drink and only observe, I would feel miserable, and “left out”. My red bandana became famous, though!

I contributed significantly to the literature on partying in those two years. It helped that I had started this blog (ok it’s predecessor on LJ) back then. I documented my first ever experience of getting drunk. Another day, I had one drink, stood aside and made pertinent observations. And then, on another occasion, I decided to write a letter to my mother (!! ) about partying.

The downside of L square was that I was used to partying “among my own people”, at organized parties. I never “went out”. As part of my first job, I remember going out one night for a party, but I was so tired from work that I wasn’t able to let go. There was another occasion when I went with a bunch of seemingly random people to Insomnia, the disco at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai. Was again way too self conscious, and made my exit pretty quickly. Same story at my favourite “cousin sister”‘s bachelorette party. Too self-conscious. I should have perhaps interpreted those as first signs of my anxiety.

Priyanka had always claimed to be a “party types”, but would artfully dodge every time I suggested we go out “partying”. She perhaps recognized my social awkwardness (yes, that part never changed) and didn’t want to embarrass herself. She kept saying we should go out “with other people”, and put the onus on me to find other people to go out with, knowing fully well that I was completely incapable of convincing my friends that we should go out “partying”.

So the first “party” we attended together ended up being at the mantap, on the night before our wedding. We had arranged for a DJ, and while some elderly relatives looked on, shocked at our “lack of culture”, others gamely joined in. The music was kept in line to the median demographics of the crowd, and songs such as “aa anTe amalaapuram” sought to drill into my head that I was condemned to lead the rest of my life married to a Gult. The party ended abruptly when the cops from the nearby station made an appearance asking us to tone down the volume, and most people promptly went home.

I could say that my life changed last night. At long last, at the ripe old age of twenty nine, nearly three years after I met and fell in love with the self-proclaimed “party types” Priyanka, and nearly two years after we moved in together, she “obliged” and took me for a party. Joining us for the evening was her spiritual guru (hereby referred to as “Guru”) and a common friend of theirs (who we shall refer to as “Date”). We were headed to the City Bar at UB city, which was hosting a party with DJ R3hab (sic) at the turntable. Priyanka (we’ll call her “Wife” henceforth) would be my “guide” into the world of partying. For the record, she had only recently finished reading Raghu Karnad’s excellent essay on how the liquor industry shaped Bangalore. I had read it maybe a month back.

People talk about female infanticide and selective abortions, when they talk about the ticking time bomb that is India’s declining sex ratio. They quote numbers such as “914 girls for every 1000 boys for population aged 0-6”, and compare it to other countries, and our own numbers in the past. They talk about “wife sharing” and migration of girls from poor states such as Bihar to states starved of women such as Haryana. The starker story about India’s gender gap, though, can be told by observing the crowd trying to get into nightclubs.

In the Western world, nightclubs are frequently seen as places to “hang out”, and find interesting people, typically of the sexually preferred gender. Men and women alike, looking for interesting company, hang out at nightclubs, and many a relationship is formed because people “happened to meet at a party”. It is approximately as likely for a group of men to go out, as it is for a group of women, so most of these clubs typically see fairly balanced gender ratios. Apart from perhaps a few exclusive clubs, few see the need to take measures to ensure a balanced gender ratio, and this too is done “gently”, through measures such as “ladies’ nights”, where women get free drinks.

It is instructive that one of the most popular sports bars in Bangalore (Xtreme sports bar in Indiranagar) prevents stag entry. It is hilarious, because watching sport is usually a male-bonding activity. If I want to get together with a bunch of fellow Liverpool F.C. fans and go watch a game, it is impossible to do so unless at least half of us are women (and I know only one woman who is a Liverpool F.C. fan and she doesn’t live in Bangalore). Preventing stag entry, as drastic it seems, however, seems like the only practical way for clubs to ensure a fair gender ratio and enable people to have fun.

As we rode up the escalator to the “Piazza” area of UB City last evening, we were greeted by a massive, mostly male, crowd. Most of them were trying to get into City Bar, but were being held off by bouncers who had declared a “couples only entry” policy. The few women we saw there were perhaps waiting for friends, for there was nothing stopping them from entering. The stags didn’t have any such option, but still hung on in the hope of being let in (City Bar usually doesn’t have any restrictions. My guess is that the rule was made on the go in order to ensure a balanced crowd for the party), and in the process made it difficult for couples and hinds to get past them and get in. The scene at the bar there told the story.

This was a puzzle that had puzzled me back when I was looking for a long-term gene propagating partner. Every social network I had been part of, every seemingly upwardly mobile cohort, there seemed to be a disproportionate number of men. A woman for every sixteen men at IIT. One in six at IIM. One in three, one in ten, none in ten and one in twenty in my four jobs. The story was similar in most engineering colleges and IT companies. And the heavy imbalances reflected in the club scene also. Where, I wonder, where have all the women gone?

Priyanka argues that it is down to our conservative culture and relative ease of boys to live away from their parents and to be able to “go out”. Another reason she gives pertains to girls getting married at a much younger age in our country (relative to boys). While  these make sense, the latter is a “problem” Western countries also face, but they don’t seem to have a problem attracting balanced crowds to public spaces. Nevertheless, we seem to have fallen into a Nash equilibrium where most single women stay home, for a multitude of reasons, and most single men go to bars searching for single women, mostly in futility. It is only the arranged marriage market that perhaps clears this deadlock.

“No one drinks at clubs”, the experienced Wife had informed me, “everyone gets drunk before they go in”. In accordance to this diktat, and also seeking to warm myself after a swim in reasonably cold water earlier in the evening, I had carried along some (excellent) Amrut fusion in the car. Wife and I drank from it before we made our way to City bar. We were to realize we hadn’t been too “liberal” when we had stocked up liquor for the car.

If you are tall and big, like me, it is easy to get spotted in the crowd, and this can help people locate and keep track of you when you are at public spaces (like a club or a crowded market or a concert). But it can work against you when you have to weave through human traffic in order to get somewhere, like to the gates of the club as we had to last night. Wife, however, had chosen our company well, as the tiny Guru expertly weaved past the crowds and got us past the gates, with stamps on our wrists. My life as a “party types” was actually about to begin.

The alcohol took a long time to act, and even mixing drinks (the entry fee included a free Bacardi+Lime, which I gulped down to go over the Amrut I had drunk earlier) didn’t help. I instinctively reached for and fidgeted with my phone, to tweet, but met disapproval from Wife, who thought that was too geeky. I actually tweeted that I wanted to blog about what I was observing. Then things started to get interesting.

Wife and I decided to look out for interesting people. She quickly found two boys to lech at, and pointed them out to me. I wasn’t so lucky with the women. There was a sameness about their appearance. They all seemed to be wearing similar clothes, or perhaps most of them could be classified into two or three types based on the clothes they wore. Most of them were in skirts/dresses, though some wore trousers. Most shoulders were bare, with strappy and strapless tops/dresses ruling the roost. Long straightened hair was the norm, as were high-heeled shoes. To the slowly-getting-drunk me, even their faces all looked alike. There was little idiosyncracy about the looks of any of them, to particularly draw my attention. The only one I found remotely interesting, of course, was Date, who I had briefly talked to while we were getting in (she too, of course, was “in uniform”, as was Wife). I walked a bit after I finished my rum to dispose of the bottle, looked back, and thought I saw a girl who caught my eye. Turned out it was the Wife!!

We moved into the heart of the party, close to the stage where R3hab had by now taken over. I noticed a pile of women’s shoes near a pillar, and soon discovered that Wife and Date, too, were dancing barefoot! What is the point in wearing fancy shoes, I thought, if one has to take them off to have fun. However, I guess such questions are not to be asked about one’s wives.

The first cop made his appearance at about 11:05 pm (the deadline for bars and restaurants is 11:30). Wife and I decided it was time to move on, and since I hadn’t eaten anything after the swim (and had quite a bit to drink – I would drink another shot of whisky at the bar), I thought it would be a good idea to hit a “midnight buffet”. We presently left the party, bidding goodbye to Guru and Date, partly in our effort to beat the crowd out of the parking lot. Bangalore, and UB City continued to party on as we drove out (yes, I was sober enough to drive). Some aimless wandering followed (I remembered people mention the Midnight buffet at Windsor, and promptly drove there without checking only to be told they had stopped it some time ago) before we settled down for the midnight buffet at the ITC Gardenia. It was past 1 am by the time we got home.

I’m a wannabe no more. I’ve always wanted to be “party types”, and I took my baby steps in that direction last night. “Project Thirty” is well and truly on, I must say! Much fun was had last night, and I kept telling Wife that “we should do this more often”. It helps that Bangalore has moderately relaxed the dancing-at-bars laws. My friend Deepak who runs Eclipse at The Leela tells me that there is a new “discotheque license” which enables an establishment to permit dancing. Of course, the 11:30 deadline remains, but I shall not complain.

I mentioned earlier that I had a reputation at IlIMB of hugging girls when drunk. I lived up to that last night as I repeatedly put my arm around Date and posed for photos, and gave her a hug as we were about to leave (Wife looked on, and clicked photos). However, Wife maintains that I lack social skills, and I really need to make an effort in the art of making conversation with women, and etiquette of taking a woman out (I continue to commit silly yet cardinal mistakes, like when I took Wife to the Windsor yesterday before checking if they had a buffet). I’m looking for a “social skills” coach. If any of you are willing to help me on that, I would be extremely glad. If you agree to guide me, I will treat you every time we meet as part of “my course”.

I’ve told the story of fourteen years of my life in this rather long essay, along with some comments and tidbits on India’s social structure. In these fourteen years, a lot has changed, in India, in Bangalore and in my life. One thing, however, refuses to change. I continue to be socially awkward.