Sunday, November 15, 2015

Friday the Thirteenth

It was a Black Friday for Paris indeed. On the morning of the Saturday, the 14th of November 2015, the world woke up to the shocking news of terrorist attacks carried out on one of the most vibrant cities on earth. What should have been a gay and enjoyable weekend for many Parisians turned out be a nightmare, as scores of innocent people were killed and injured by terrorists who planned and executed the attack with lethal precision.

As an Indian who has witnessed similar attacks on home soil, my heart goes out to those affected.
If I knew better, I would say this was an incident waiting to happen. Our Prime Minister, Mr. 
Narendra Modi rightly said that the attacks mirror those carried out on 26th November 2008 in Mumbai. India long ago stated that terrorists have used India as a staging ground for carrying out attacks on a worldwide scale. While we suffered, the world joined hands in condemning the heinous acts of terrorism but failed to heed our warning and realize the real repercussions. If the Mumbai attacks are not proof enough, take the 1999 hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight to Kandahar, Afghanistan. What followed on the 11th of September 2001 in New York needs no elaboration.

It’s high time we all woke up and acted. Condolence messages might have the best of intent, but to those who have been directly and indirectly affected by such acts, these messages will sound hollow and meaningless, just like the fire brigade arriving after the house has been totally gutted. Terrorism has long since ceased to be a problem for just one nation. As is evident from the events in Paris, even the most powerful and developed nations now find themselves victims of anti-social elements who can wreak havoc at will without prior warning. We have to recognize terrorism as a global problem and come together to crush those responsible. Until we do, attacks like these will become more regular. What is more frightening is not the fact that these attacks will continue, but the fact that we will become immune to them (as we have to many other atrocities nowadays), which will only serve to encourage the perpetrators. We have to join hands and eliminate terrorism from the core. Until then, none of us is going to be safe and sound.

(Apologies if my blog sounds like some clich├ęd political diatribe)

But then again, there are always two sides to the same coin.    

While an infamous terrorist organization has already claimed responsibility for the heinous act, France has declared this incident as an act of war. French President Hollande has vowed to punish those responsible for this incident and has promised to act ‘ruthlessly’ to crush all enemies of state. This could just be the beginning of what could be a vicious circle and a dark chapter in French history. How France brings to book those responsible for this act is yet to be seen. It won’t take much to figure out that members of a particular religion will be targeted and persecuted. For the actions of a guilty few, many innocents must suffer the trauma of suspicion and hate. This in turn will lead to more dissension and hatred among those affected. This will lead to further repercussions. Need I say more?

This does not mean letting the perpetrators go off the hook. Go after them by all means but watch out for collateral damage. To the French Government I humbly request: if you see the guilty hiding behind a number of innocents, do not attack them or mow them down ruthlessly just to reach the guilty. Instead, move quietly till you trap and isolate the guilty party and then ruthlessly tear them apart. Ensure that no innocent gets harmed in the process. That’s easier said than done of course.
To those responsible for this dastardly act I say only this: What were you hoping to achieve? Have you come any closer to your objectives? Do you think you have redeemed yourself in the eyes of your maker? Are you still under this deluded belief that these kind of acts will guarantee you a spot in heaven?   

Hatred breeds only hatred. As Mahatma Gandhi stated, ‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’.

When will this end, if ever?

I appeal to all:

Let there be Sanity, let there be love. Let no innocent suffer.

Above all, let there be everlasting peace.     

Thursday, September 10, 2015

A tale of two cows

This is the story of two cows Molly and Holly. Both were identical twins with features so same that it was impossible to tell them apart. But when it came to behaviour, both were totally different. Molly was brave and ambitious and always the bright spark. In contrast Holly was just your average cow. People adored Molly and admired her for her skills while no-one paid any special attention to poor Holly. Soon people started comparing both of them and always gave more preference to Molly, which left poor Holly often in tears and a deep inferiority complex. One day Molly and Holly were talking as usual in between chewing hay. Molly said to Holly, “You know Holly, I have been thinking a lot. I really don’t want to end up being a cow my entire life; you know like giving milk and all that. I want to do something big and I think this farm is not big enough for my dreams.”

“Uh-huh.”, Holly said, chewing her hay. “So what do you plan to do?”, she asked.

“Well, I plan to run away to the city. There are a thousand things to do there. I’ll find a job, earn lots of money and become rich and famous! Come with me. Don’t get cooped up your entire life in this wretched farm. Just think of the possibilities. We can have nice gourmet food instead of the dull hay we eat every day. We can drive around in expensive chauffeur driven cars instead of lugging carts. We can go places!!”, Molly replied enthusiastically.

“Uh-oh! Count me out! I think the best place for me is the farm!” Holly said.

“I knew you would say that! Well, a cow you are and a cow you will be forever! Stay here and waste your life!”, Molly snorted.

Holly, who was now accustomed to such abuse from Molly sadly shook her head and continued munching hay.

That night Molly secretly ran off to the city. The farm hands were perplexed by her disappearance and searched high and low in and around the farm, but in vain. Soon, they forgot about her and life went on as usual.

Molly had to face a lot of struggles in the city initially. She was homeless with no money. But she had spirit and soon landed up a job with a big corporate dairy firm. She worked hard night and day and came to the notice of the owner who promoted her, gave her a good raise and additional responsibilities. Her confidence grew along with her ambition and she started working doubly hard. But in the process, she lost all her friends who now feared her as she had more power. Day by Day, Molly got addicted to work and her efforts were noticed by top management. It so happened that the top management group consisted of people who mostly smoke, drank and ate non-veg. Molly knew that if she had to get in their good books, she had to change herself and give her image a complete makeover. So she started smoking, drinking and eating non-veg to impress her superiors. Though this gambit paid off, her health took a beating. People near her despised her, became jealous of her and started hating her more than ever. Molly, on her part shut herself off from the outside world and became more and more reclusive, busying herself with just work and more work. This continued for some-time until Molly’s system could take it no more. One fine morning, her heart gave way and she collapsed and died on her work place. The irony was that the company people for whom she dedicated her life and worked so hard for, were not even the least affected. With shocking disdain, they just dumped her body outside the company premises where vultures, hyenas and other scavengers were waiting. They tore apart her body limb by limb and feasted on her flesh till there was nothing left of her, not even bones!

On the other hand, Holly was now the centre of attention now that Molly was gone. But her experiences of the early days always kept her humbled and grounded to earth. She had her priorities set early in life and did not carry heavy expectations and was well aware of her responsibilities. She grew up to be a fine and sturdy cow on the farm and gave lots and lots of milk of good quality. Slowly and steadily, she became an indispensable asset to the farm. She also gave birth to fine and health calf specimens much to her owners delight. Though she did not have any extra-ordinary talents and did not win any medals, she was well versed with her strengths and limitations and more importantly, was very comfortable with her identity. She lived a happy cow for the rest of her life and also died peaceful and content, knowing that she had done her duty well and lived a fulfilling life.

Which cow do you want to be?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

To ‘B’ or not to ‘B’

After more than 2 years of meticulous planning and dedicated hard-work, the eagerly awaited and much hyped ‘BaahuBali – The beginning’ has finally made its way to cinema halls all across the country. Given all the hype and the hoopla that has surrounded this film, it’s not surprising to see hundreds of eager film buffs line up in droves outside cinema halls to catch the first glimpse of this magnum opus. The films’ trailer, released some months before had already set the platform by gathering millions of likes and generated tremendous interest among viewers. In the first week itself, this movie is smashing all regional and national box office records. And if you just can’t get enough of it and want more, then there’s good news. Like the Cinema title suggests, this is just the beginning. There is a second installment of this movie due in 2016. And what else after that? God only knows!!

Not everyone though, is happy with the film’s release. If newspaper reports are to be believed, this film has caused a great deal of concern to producers of other regional films mainly down south who complain that people have simply lost interest in their projects. But given the huge interest this film has generated, this was inevitable. Newspaper and Popular film websites also state that many south film producers have developed cold feet and have decided not to release their movie in and around ‘BaahuBali’ simply because they are aware that once this cinema hits the big screen, like small boats crushed under the wake of a giant ocean liner, their cinemas will be washed away. In Karnataka, “Baahubali” has already overshadowed movies of leading Kannada superstars such as Sudeep and Shiva Raj Kumar in the first week of it’s release itself causing no end of strife to the films’ producers. In Tamil Nadu, this movie has gained more viewership than ‘Paapanaasanam’ (the Tamil remake of the Malayalam movie ‘Drishyam’) which stars none other than Ulaganayagan (Universal Hero) Kamal Hassan: making it the first non-Tamil dubbed movie to succeed to such a big extent at the Kollywood box office.

As an avid Indian cinema fan and a Tollywood film buff, I too am hugely excited and eagerly waiting to see it. Given all the frenzy this movie has generated, I know I will have to wait for some time to catch a glimpse in cinema halls; maybe after all the initial euphoria has come down. But I am sure the wait will be worth it. After years of watching countless foreign movies with superb jaw dropping visual effects, this movie is a sight for my sore eyes. Being a Telugu by birth, I am all the more proud that this film happens to be a Telugu Cinema. This film will silence critics who claim that Indian film makers can produce only emotional tear jerkers, mushy love stories and family dramas.

What’s even more heartening is the fact that this film has employed a large portion of local and national talent to create the VFX and special effects using computer graphics, instead of relying heavily on foreign talent and technology and ‘outsourcing’ the work. It’s true that some of the work was outsourced to foreign studios, but that was simply due to the fact that most of the the local studios involved were already neck deep in work. The entire movie was made on a budget of Two Hundred and Fifty Crore rupees (Forty Million US Dollars) which makes it the most expensive movie made in India yet. But it should be noted here that Hollywood movies produce similar effects at four times the price of this movie. The entire creative team behind the making of this film starting from SS Rajamouli himself along with Firefly Studios, Makuta VFX and others deserve a pat on the back for producing stunning visual effects.

I sincerely hope that this movie encourages Indian film producers to break barriers and leave no stone unturned to produce movies of the highest quality and visual appeal. We are already known the world over to produce movies with good music and emotional sentiments. Now add some VFX and technological punch to them and our films will slowly and surely rule the world.


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.