Saturday, June 13, 2015

A 'Snap' decision

If you are pondering on buying a new camera and are debating whether to go for a point and shoot or a DSLR, then this article is not for you. There are umpteen number of sites on the web which point out the features and advantages / disadvantages of DSLR’s over point-and-shoots which should help you make your choice. But if you are still not able to zoom in on your preferred model despite the plethora of advice available online, then here’s my two cents below. Hope this helps.

I am normally a quiet and introverted person by nature, someone who likes to go by the book. But sometimes, I have surprised myself and my near and dear ones by rebelling against conservative thought and making unexpected decisions. My choice to purchase a DSLR against a traditional point and shoot was one of them. Mind you, when I purchased my first DSLR, I did not even know its’ full form. Photographic technical terms such as Shutter speed, ISO, Aperture, exposure, depth of field etc. were totally alien to me. I was a new born baby in the world of photography trying to rub shoulders with giants. And why did I make that choice in the first place? Call it some kind of inner impulse or something, but I am eternally thankful to God for putting that idea in my head.

It so happened that one day, I had some spare cash in hand and went to the nearest electronic store to get the latest point and shoot model that I was planning to purchase for a long time. I did not have any idea about DSLR’s and their capabilities at that point in time except that they were very expensive and used only by professional photographers or enthusiasts. My maximum budget was 25K rupees: more than enough to get me the topmost P&S model with all the latest features. But as I was looking around, I saw this Nikon D40 DSLR lying around with the other ‘big boys’. I ignored it at first but something made me turn back and look at it again (Destiny!!). The price tag read 26K rupees, 1K above my budget. Something in me made me ask myself that instead of buying a high end P&S (or pseudo DSLR’s as they were called at that time), why can’t I fork out 1K more and get the real deal? Negative voices in me started whispering, ‘Dude, that camera is for professionals and you don’t even know the P of Photography. Why are you wasting your time? Know your limitations and buy a P&S.’ For sometime these voices continued until suddenly, some wild impulse made me yell at them ‘SHUT UP!’ and they disappeared. Without any further thought I made my decision on the spot and purchased my very first DSLR camera. I felt like a kid struggling to learn riding a bicycle suddenly confronted with the challenge of driving a Harley Davidson.

Nikon D40 - My first baby

All my friends were totally baffled by my choice. They knew that I had a wild streak in me and made unpredictable choices sometimes, but this really took the biscuit – according to them.

‘Dude, why on earth did you buy this instrument? Don’t you know it’s for professionals?’

‘Are you planning to work part time for National Geographic or something?’

‘You should have talked to me before going ahead with this choice.’

These were some of the comments I had to face. But the die was cast and my destiny was sealed.

The first month was very trying. It was a steep learning curve for me considering that I was a newbie to DSLR’s and the world of photography. My first photos came out all shaky and blurred. The menu and choices available for totally bewildering and I was discouraged by repeated failures. But I persisted and slowly and steadily began connecting the dots. Since then I have never looked back. My friends who scoffed at my choice slowly began to see the huge difference in quality between their P&S and my camera. Now all of them have DSLR’s (Who’s laughing now? J). 

Canon EOS 7D

I started out with a Nikon D40 (with an 18-55mm lens) and now have moved on to a high-end semi-professional Canon EOS 7D with three high quality lenses. Photography has become one of my favourite passions. My Facebook and Flickr page are littered with photographs I have taken all these years. Now all I need is an excuse 
to take out my camera and shoot photos at the drop of a hat. My traveling and touring has reduced a lot at present, but that hasn’t stopped me at all. My favorite photography model nowadays is my cute one year old son.

I don’t know what impulse made me buy that DSLR that day instead of that boring old P&S( That’s right! P&S is boring now! It's like being asked to ride a Luna after riding a Harley / Bullet!), but there is not a day in my life I haven’t spent thanking God for that decision. My life has been so much more interesting since I took up photography as a passion. I am literally looking at the world with a new and fresh ‘perspective’ ever since I took up photography. My life would have been so much more boring if it had not been for that sudden wild decision I took that day.

When you are born, the world has already prepared a blueprint for you and expects you to follow a preset pattern. But there comes a time when you are faced with two choices: Follow your head OR Follow your heart. What you do will set the tone for your future life. Enough said.

Here are some of my favorite DSLR photos of all time which I want to share with you.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bring back the Angry Young Man !!

It’s been forty years since the ‘Angry Young Man’ made his mark on Indian Cinema.

Whenever the phrase ‘Angry Young Man’ is uttered, the iconic scene of Amitabh Bacchhan in the film Zanjeer kicking the chair underneath Sher Khan(played by our versatile actor and golden human being Pran saheb) and saying the famous dialogue “Jab tak baithne ko naa kaha jaaye tab tak khade raho. Yeh Police station hai, tumhaare baap ka ghar nahin.” (Until you are told to sit, remain standing! This is a Police station, not your father’s house!) comes to mind. For more than two decades the Angry Young Man ruled the Indian silver screen until the nineties when a new generation of talented actors and directors took over. But even today, amidst all the modernization and the dramatically changing social and political landscape, the angry young man survives although he is not as prominent as he was in the earlier days. To find out how the ‘Angry Young Man’ came into being, let us take a deeper look into the evolution of Indian cinema over the years since its inception in the nineteen thirties.

Prior to independence, Indian cinema made modest beginnings. Films mostly revolved around religious and social themes prevalent in that era. Raja Harishchandra(India’s first silent film), Alam Ara(India’s first talkie), Sant Tukaram and Achoot Kanya were notable films of the pre-independence time. Indian cinema has always been a mirror of the prevalent social and cultural attitude at any given point of time in its long history. After Independence, a new generation of youngsters slowly and unsteadily rose to their feet to take charge of a new-born baby. The late nineteen forties and the fifties which followed were considered the ‘Golden Years’ of Indian cinema. Free from the shackles of imperialism, film makers started innovating and experimenting with new themes. A new wave of talented artistes made their mark on the silver screen. Films made in this decade reflected the prevalent social structure across India at that point of time. Notable films made in the fifties include Do Bigha Zamin, Shree 420, Aawara, Mother India and Kaagaz ke Phool to name a few. This decade is also notable for introducing superstars such as Raj Kapoor, Balraj Sahani, Dharmendra, Shashi Kapoor, Guru Dutt, Dilip Kumar, Nargis, Madhubala, Vyjanthimala, Nutan and others to the silver screen.

If the fifties were all about social and economic change, the sixties brought in the era of romance and emotions. India got its first phenomenon in Rajesh Khanna and other stars like Shammi Kapoor, Dev Anand, Sunil Dutt and Rajendra Kumar also became prominent. The sixties also marked the beginning of Colour films. Eastman Colour made its’ debut as more and more film-makers made their films in colour. Some notable films in the sixties include Mughal-E-Aazam, Junglee, Kashmir Ki Kali, Guide, Bandini, Teesri Manzil and Tere Ghar ke saamne to name a few.

But the honeymoon period was not to last long. Towards the end of the sixties, the audience soon got bored with the usual run-of-the mill stories. Films mostly revolved around clichéd storylines. Boy meets girl, chases her around trees with lots of melodious songs thrown in and finally manages to woo her. Enter the villain who drops a spanner in the works, causing the good guys to suffer. Finally, the hero succeeds in overcoming the villain, marries the girl and all’s well that ends well. A brief period of stagnancy entered as scriptwriters struggled to create new stories interesting enough to grasp the attention of the Indian audience. The seventies were also characterized by economic uncertainty and stagnation. Jobs were scarce. Wealth was unfairly concentrated in the hands of a privileged few who used their status, influence and power for their own greedy ends, trampling over the needs and aspirations of the majority. Poverty, Illiteracy, Corruption, nepotism, black-marketing and unemployment spread like the plague to all corners of the nation leading to widespread frustration and rage against the wealthy, corrupt and the powerful. In the midst of all this strife, film-makers knew they had to innovate. So they brought about a new kind of hero onscreen. This new Hero did not have the suave and charming skills of his predecessors of the fifties and the sixties. What he had instead was a deep seated anger. Anger at being deprived of the basic necessities of life, anger at being deprived of the right to live in respect and dignity, anger at being deprived of the right to proper education, anger on being unable to afford two square meals a day due to the high cost of living, anger on being unable to afford a decent accommodation for himself and his family, anger at being denied the right to find a decent job due to scarce job opportunities prevalent at that time, anger on being denied justice by the corrupt and inefficient judicial system. Prakash Mehra, a maverick film maker decided to create a new kind of film showcasing the new and angry hero, instead of the traditional romantic and charming one. He made the script for Zanjeer and tried to sign several leading heroes of that era such as Dharmendra, Raj Kumar, Rajesh Khanna and Dev Anand among others, but was turned down each time.

Ultimately, destiny played a hand and this role went to Amitabh Bacchhan, a relative newcomer at that time. Zanjeer released in May 1973 and became an instant hit with the audience. The new Hero, an intense and brooding personality with a deep seated anger against an unjust society and judicial system became a huge success with the audience who identified their pain and suffering with him. And so was born, “The Angry Young Man”Zanjeer became a huge commercial success of that year and Amitabh Bacchhan was catapulted to stardom. Mr. Bacchhan carried the mantle of the Angry Young Man throughout the seventies with aplomb, supported by stunning performances in films such as Deewar, Trishul, Shakti and Kala Patthar to name a few. Mr. Bacchhan’s baritone voice, his mesmerizing personality along with his incredible dialogue delivery drew crowds to cinema halls and kept the audience mesmerized throughout.

The seventies gradually made way for the eighties which saw Indian cinema fall into a rut of violence, vulgarity and clichéd storylines. Film-makers hesitated to take risks and tried the same beaten formulas and repetitive storylines. Actors such as Anil Kapoor, Govinda, Sunny Deol, Sanjay Dutt and Jackie Shroff became prominent stars during this era. They tried to emulate the Angry Young Man formula with mixed results, but none could do justice to the role the way Mr. Bacchhan did.

After the eighties came the nineties and with it dawned a new era for Indian Cinema. This decade was known as the decade of the three Khans(Aamir, Shahrukh and Salman) who instantly struck a chord with the new generation, especially amongst females. The Indian government had also started the policy of economic liberalization and foreign investment suddenly started pouring into India. New business opportunities and jobs opened up for people and very soon, the Indian middle class emerged as a dominant force with huge purchasing power. This change in the social scenario was also reflected in the Indian films of that time. People started experimenting with innovative storylines and lavish budgets and focussed more on comedy and romance. The Angry Young Man was slowly fading out, even though he appeared in some hits of the nineties such as Ghaayal, Damini, Baazigar, Veergati and Ghatak. The latter part of the nineties was more known for Romantic Hits such as the hugely popular Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, Rangeela, Andaaz Apna Apna, the iconic Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai amongst others.

After the nineties, the dawn of the new millennium brought about rapid changes in India’s social structure and thought process. The IT revolution came into full force and the seeds of entrepreneurism were being laid amongst a new and dynamic generation which challenged traditional methods of thinking. The information age brought about a radical change in the system and processes as many Governments and organizations were forced to improve themselves in the face of increasing competition. This change in attitude and thought was also reflected in films of that era. Films with old, weather beaten plots, clichéd storylines, violence and vulgarity were instantly rejected by an increasingly bright audience who was now finding a voice through the internet and social networking. Instead, films with new and innovative storylines, intense performances, improved technology and Hollywood style scripts and editing now found their way. A new generation of stars such as Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor, Lara Dutta, Priyanka Chopra, Akshay Kumar, Shahid Kapoor, Sharman Joshi, Saif Ali Khan and Shreyas Talpade among others have found their way into the silver screen and in the hearts and minds of millions of Indian youngsters. Amidst this new and dynamic social structure, the Angry Young Man has taken a backseat. Indeed, with our country on the path to prosperity and with a new and dynamic government which has promised to make our nation an economic powerhouse, many would argue that the reasons which prompted the birth of the Angry Young Man do not exist anymore. Slowly and steadily, he is fading into oblivion.

But I beg to differ. Even today, despite our government, the media and foreign countries proclaiming that our country is on the road to prosperity and better governance for all, there are many who are still deprived of opportunities to prosper. All is not hunky-dory despite the tall claims made by politicians and other sources. The struggle to make a living has become more competitive than ever before as many fight to earn enough for a decent standard of living despite a marked increase in standards of living. Terrorists and Insurgents strike with lethal precision in our nation spreading terror, chaos, death and destruction throughout. Our attitude and treatment of women still remains deplorable with many atrocities reported daily. Safety and security are on the decline too, with increasing number of robberies on the rise. Costs are rising alarmingly as prices of real estate and other essential commodities spiral upwards out of the reach of the common man. Celebrities and politicians use their status and power to full advantage and get away scot free or with light sentences despite committing heinous crimes. Despite all the noise of prosperity our politicians and media make, there is still a deep sense of discontentment among-st the nations’ citizens, young and old. Some say that nothing has changed much. When things get out of control, The Angry Young Man will emerge from the shadows once more and make his voice felt in the country.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Shaken, not Stirred !!

It was shocking to hear about the earthquake in Nepal last month. It was a sad sight, seeing the destruction caused in the beautiful city of Kathmandu and surrounding areas. It was commendable of India’s PM Mr. Narendra Modi to send in the Indian Army and Air-Force for rescue missions. Nepal right now needs all the help it can get. My thoughts and prayers go out to Nepali citizens and those in India affected by the quake. I pray to God to give them the strength to overcome the adversity and wish them a speedy recovery.

Hearing about the quake in Nepal brings me memories of an Earthquake I experienced fifteen years back: a quake which was similar in intensity to the Himalayan Quake but caused far more damage. I still remember the day as vividly as if it happened yesterday.

It was the 26th of January 2001. The time on the clock read 8:30 AM (or near around that). The people of the state of Gujarat along with the rest of India were slowly rousing themselves from deep slumber to celebrate the nation’s 51st Republic day, unaware of the cataclysmic chain of events which were to occur. I was in my hometown Vadodara (also known as Baroda) in Gujarat, spending a well-earned break in-between my hectic college schedule with family and friends. My house had small room on the terrace where I was sleeping at that time. I was snoring away blissfully on the bed, wandering in ZZZ land, totally unprepared for what was to come. I must have shifted my position as the bed shook a little. The bed always shook whenever I shifted position during sleep due to shifting of weight: so my conscious mind took no notice and I continued sleeping. But my subconscious mind was active and noticed that the bed was still shaking long after I had shifted position. It must have flashed an alert-signal to my brain which flashed a warning message to me. 
The bed continued shaking and despite the deep sleep was in I instinctively knew that something was wrong. And then in an instant, the mists cleared and I knew that there was only one possible explanation for the continued bed shaking.


My mother’s high pitched shout from below confirmed my suspicions. Needing no further prompting, I shook off all remaining traces of sleep and ran for what I was worth towards the steps. The house was shaking so violently that I seriously doubted whether I would make it in time downstairs before the entire structure collapsed. But then, just as I reached the stairs the tremors subsided and everything became still again. I rushed down to the street where my family members were waiting anxiously. The entire neighborhood was out on the street. There was a lot of confusion and people were chattering animatedly. Many people like me, had experienced a quake for the first time and were still reeling under the effects. Then we all gathered our wits and started joking and laughing about the affair, just to calm our frayed nerves. After spending sometime outside, we all returned to our houses. We were all shaken by the affair despite the face of calm we projected outwards. We switched on our TV sets to catch the early morning news. It was then that the full extent of damage caused by the quake came to light all across Gujarat. Vadodara was among the fortunate cities which was least effected. There were a few cracks in some buildings and some poles and trees had been uprooted here and there, but apart from that there was no major damage to the city.

We were busy the rest of the morning answering calls from concerned relatives and friends and assuring them of our safety. The entire day, news bulletins ran continuously round the clock showing images of buildings torn to dust and rescue workers prying out trapped people from the debris. Death and destruction were everywhere. Bhuj and its surrounding areas in the Kutch district were near the epicentre of the quake and were totally decimated. Other cities in Gujarat too bore the brunt of nature’s fury. But the damage was most widespread in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s commercial capital. A day which was to be a national celebration turned out to be a day of tragedy and mourning. The newspapers were filled with heart-rending stories of tragedy and harrowing survivor accounts. Many people including me had experienced nature’s fury live for the first time and were totally shaken by the experience. It’s one thing to read about such incidents in the paper or hear it in the news. But to experience it first hand is a totally different experience; one that will stay with you for a long time.

But even after the darkest hour comes the dawn. Slowly but steadily, Gujarat limped back to normalcy after the damage and destruction thanks to the never say die spirit of the Gujarati people, though many people still carry psychological scars till date. I myself could not sleep soundly for an entire week. The city of Bhuj was rebuilt. People went about their daily lives and the state of Gujarat once again gained its position as the vibrant economic powerhouse of India.

There are three vital lessons I learnt from the incident.

The first lesson I learnt was that life is unpredictable. There is no telling what fate has in store for you tomorrow; if tomorrow ever comes, that is. J So don’t leave any stone unturned. Achieve whatever you want to achieve before the lights go out for the final time. Live fully with no regrets and worries and don’t take life so seriously. It’s not like you are going to get out alive anyway. J

The second lesson is one which we should all take seriously. There are impromptu fire drills conducted once every 2-3 months in our office premises. These drills emphasize on how we should react whenever there is an emergency, natural or artificial.  It’s a sad fact that many of us take these exercises very lightly. We treat them as a joke and an opportunity to get away from the work station for some time. But God forbid if an emergency really occurs, then many of us will have then wished that we had paid more attention to the lectures. In reality, you do not have more than a fraction of a second to think and your actions make all the difference between life and death.

The third and the most important lesson is this: No matter how much man progresses, no matter how tall and strong he builds his buildings, no matter how powerful he builds his vehicles; all his ingenuity and resourcefulness are no match for the vagaries of nature. After all, it took no more than a single Iceberg to destroy the Titanic, easily one of the biggest and most powerful ships of her time. A few tremors caused unprecedented death and destruction across Gujarat in 2001 and Nepal in 2015. Therefore, whatever man does must always be in harmony with nature. Sometimes, due to greed and oversight, man pushes the limits of her boundaries. But one day she will return with a vengeance and claim what is rightfully hers.
  - -  Srinivas Pavan Addanki