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Common sense

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Human Mind is beautiful, and this is about one such mind. An extra-ordinarily Beautiful Mind. When this movie came out in 2001, it bagged 4 Oscars. It was obvious that the reason Russell Crowe (John Nash) was not given the Best Actor Award was only because he received the same award the year before for Gladiator. That speaks volume for the performance of an actor!

My intent here is not to pick a random old movie for review. There is something extra-ordinary in this movie, that speaks about Arts & Science. Its important to share.

The movie is about the life of Nobel Prize winner John Nash, who was suffering from Schizophrenia. Its a disease where the patient loses the ability to distinguish imagination from reality. The mind wanders in a delusional state. In this case, John Nash, Princeton Professor of mathematics imagines that his initial cryptographic work for a military project, takes him to be a secret agent, decoding messages from Russians from News Articles.

The objective of a movie is to make the audience feel the emotions that the characters are going through. In other words, place us in the shoes of the characters. Is it even possible to place us in the shoes of a Schizophrenic? Ron Howard, the director, can. He did.

Its just not the first person portrayal, the device employed in the movie, that is penetrating. The interaction between brain & heart, Science & Art, stands out very often, and takes us into the depths of humanity. Here we have a mathematical genius, who has a brilliant mind, so brilliant that in its imagination, it challenges itself. What does one do, if one loses control of ones mind? What does a Nobel Prize winner do?

Nash's brain could not solve this challenging problem, without the help of another heart, his wife Alicia. Nash's brain served humanity as a whole, and the single-Mom Alicia's heart helps Nash overcome his problem. She shows him what is real, and what is not. It might seem an easy task, if you have not watched the movie. To show what is real, and what is not... To show this difference to a mathematical genius who can construct very believable/plausible consistent reasons for his delusions, is indeed a difficult task. Ron Howard gets an Oscar for best direction, for first demonstrating to us how extremely difficult the task is, and then showing us how Prof. Nash solves it in the end, amidst lot of struggles. Everytime Alicia attempts to help Nash, there will be a convincing reasonable explanation in Nash's mind. It all makes perfect sense. For Nash, & for us. Ron Howard placed us in John Nash's shoes.

To put oneself in another person's shoes, requires effort. Once/if done with compassion, a lot of mis-understandings, social evils etc would go away. In developing Nations especially, there is a need for this effort. To really feel another person's pain & suffering through generations after generations, it is not easy. But we have to try. Artists can help.

The Only Thing Greater Than the Power of the Mind is the Courage of the Heart


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posted by Jey @ 2:53 PM, ,

On Right and Wrong

I read this news article few days back.

You are seeing the father of Aman, young student who died on Sunday after being ragged, & allegedly beaten up by some seniors at a medical college in Himachal Pradesh.

It infuriated me.

Why is this important? After all, we hear many such stories. Sure, its a tragedy and we sympathize with the father, and all that. Is there anything new above? What can we do? We have to express our grief and then move on, to the next interesting news or blog. In fact, the above is just another statistical piece of information. No, I am not being cynical, but I am only expressing the real sentiments of practical people.

So, is there anything profound that yet-another-blogger can add to the above news? Maybe, one can try.

The ragging tragedy is not news to me, and such tragedies continue to infuriate me, for the last 15 years . Every time. Not one degree less! Naturally, I have been bringing up this topic on educated social circles, and especially among passed-out students who are the future of this country, in my attempt to see their reaction. That helps us to understand where we are heading, in terms of finding solutions to our problems. The shocking reality is, among the students, there is a vast majority of them, educated brilliant students, who cannot unconditionally condemn ragging! Usually the reaction is along the lines of 'ragging is fun' but they admit that "sometimes" it gets out of control. They would assure that ragging has some benefits (such as preparing students to 'fit in' real world etc...Nonsense!!) inspite of such tragedies. Eventually the consensus would be "harmless ragging" should be acceptable.

That phrase "harmless ragging" is not alone. Expanding into other social issues, one could easily gather phrases such as "noble dictator", "reasonable superstition", "socially religious" etc. etc. What is going on here? When we cannot get ourselves to admit that something is totally, unconditionally wrong, we invent idiotic phrases such as these! Instead of sincerely thinking through and making a clear decision, we cower. Cringe. Grovel. Shame!

3 years ago, I helped a young bachelor student to stay with me in Bangalore, because he was very upset with the ragging in his college hostel in Hosur. I asked him to stay at my house. In the cold early morning, I dropped him at his college in my motor-bike, and then came back all the way to my work at Bangalore. I was not able to completely address his situation other than asking him "to adjust." After a few weeks, I had to leave Bangalore. I told him that he should not give up his self-respect, nor his individual rights at any cost. Few months later, I heard that he quit his college and went back to the little town where we both came from. Of course, the news was devastating to me.

Months passed by, and he managed to get admission in a college at GreatBritain. The very same person who could not handle the college environment nearby home, moved to UK and survived there without any family/friends to help him "fit in" in real world! He is now a software engineer, at a respectable firm. I was very happy for him, and I felt ashamed for all of us!

The easy point is: Ragging is morally wrong. No ifs & buts. Its just wrong.

The difficult reality to take home is: Just like our passed-out students, in their denial mode, failing to admit the above point, there are many other social issues where our intelligentsia comes up with lame excuses, under the guise of many "isms" (moral relativism, post-modernism etc) Coating the nonsensical ideas with intellectual terms does not make them respectable. Spade is a spade is a spade.

Looking back at it, there has to be a reason for the denial by students. Its because, like every other tribe, students tend to protect their student-group. If its a choice between my-group OR justice, barring few exceptional people, the choice is always "my group." How sad! But, why should one feel the need to protect the group? After all, we are only talking about condemning and opinions. Its almost always along the lines of "You dont understand the student psychology. It is not that bad. (Its only a little less bad?) Not all colleges are so bad as this. etc etc" In other words, you dont understand the "group." Or, a fear that others are "showing the group in bad light!"

In every social problem, the discussions go in circles-and-circles unnecessarily because of the above fear. Or, to be precise, lack of trust. When someone condemns or attacks an evil practice, is it better to come out clean and join hands to fight against the evil, OR, to cower and cringe and grovel due to fear & lack of trust at others?!


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posted by Jey @ 5:03 PM, ,

Obama, The Road Taken

This is the documentary Choice 2008 from PBS, and I have created a list of chapters from it, to show the path of Obama from the bottom of his political career to the top.  A very interesting and insightful video.

Total running time : 60 minutes.
After each video finishes, click on the next (2 of 7), (3 of 7), etc from the bottom list of videos.
If you are from a Tamil background, you can read the Tamil notes on each video from here.

The original video includes the detailed story of McCain's climb to the Presidential race.  The full video can be purchased from PBS here.  
You can also watch the longer version of the full video, completely online here on their site.


posted by Jey @ 9:46 PM, ,

Clinton on Housing crisis

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posted by Jey @ 3:26 AM, ,

Anatomy of a Murder

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)

After "Twelve Angry Men", "To Kill a Mocking Bird" this is one of the best legal-trial movies I have watched so far.

In a small town, an army veteran kills a bar-owner after learning that the bar-owner raped his flirtatious wife. The case goes to trial and the defense plea is temporary insanity. Will he get away with his crime? Thats what the story is all about.

The characters are all very believable, and most of all, the judge (lawyer, in real life) was true to his character without any dramatization that we see in usual court room movies. Infact, his act was very funny in a lot of places, and carried lots of humor as one would find in real life.

Was the rape victim to be blamed for the rape? Was she "asking for it" ? That was touched upon in the case (how tragic that 50 years later, we keep hearing these arguments in India still now!) among other court room ethical dilemmas, and judicial uncertainties. The movie has a cynical approach and ends on that note. This is not a movie to provide answers, but to provoke the audience to ponder deep into the moral uncertainties that we live with. Would be interesting to followup and discuss with friends, if you are from the legal profession, or if you have a philosophical background/interest.


posted by Jey @ 7:16 PM, ,

Lives of Others - II

While listening to the above music, I thought its worth reading this news bite about the movie.

Although the opening scene of the film is set in Hohenschönhausen prison, the movie could not be filmed there because Hubertus Knabe, the director of the memorial, refused to give von Donnersmarck permission. Knabe objected to "making the Stasi man into a hero" and tried to persuade von Donnersmarck to change the movie. Donnersmarck cited Schindler's List as an example of such a plot development being possible. Knabe's answer: "But that is exactly the difference. There was a Schindler. There was no Wiesler." (Source: Tyranny of Terror)


posted by Jey @ 7:14 PM, ,

Lives of Others - I

The Lives of Others (German movie with English subtitles, 2006)
Directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck

Apparently, after listening to Beethoven's Appassionata sonata, Lenin once remarked:
“I know the Appassionata inside out and yet I am willing to listen to it every day. It is wonderful, ethereal music. On hearing it I proudly, maybe somewhat naively, think: See! people are able to produce such marvels!”

He then winked, laughed and added sadly:
“I’m often unable to listen to music, it gets on my nerves, I would like to stroke my fellow beings and whisper sweet nothings in their ears for being able to produce such beautiful things in spite of the abominable hell they are living in. However, today one shouldn’t caress anybody - for people will only bite off your hand; strike, without pity, although theoretically we are against any kind of violence. Umph, it is, in fact, an infernally difficult task!”
No, The above is not from the movie, but the above quote is the inspiration for the Director Donnersmarck who wrote and directed this amazing movie.

Review: (No spoilers)

The story is set in 1984 East Germany, where the secret Govt police Stasi is actively spying on its own citizens (artists, writers etc) We see the captain Gerd Wiesler, sincerely sitting on the attic, scrupulously watching every conversation that happens in the apartment below, where writer Dreyman lives. Dreyman is unaware and life goes on. Wiesler, who is shown to be very loyal to his Government, realizes his role in the big game. This realization does not happen to him overnight, but happens very slowly. It is triggered after Wiesler finds that the top Minister sexually abuses Dreyman's mistress, and is using Wiesler to his interests.

What happens during this spying period, and how Dreyman writes an article about the suicide of artists, for a publication outside the country etc. This thriller evolves to a high point when Dreyman's mistress was asked to become an informer to the Government. For such a plot, the movie actually ends in a very surprisingly sweet ending. (Watch it!) The movie might seem a little slower in the middle, but it reaches out and disturbs us very profoundly, towards the end.

At no point in the movie, the Director resorts to the 'voice-over' to share his thoughts to the audience. Wiesler is a man of solitude and his emotions, realization, thoughts are very moving. There is a nice story-telling touch at the end, where Dreyman visits the archives and finds the red ink of his typewriter, in the last note of the archives.

The movie starts with Wiesler teaching about interrogation techniques, and ends on a completely different note! In our days, where the right wing resurgence is resorting to POTA, curbing of civil liberties, restriction to freedom of speech etc, this movie is a stark reminder for us. A reminder to show the role of artists in such a climate, in todays India.


posted by Jey @ 6:08 PM, ,


Another new blogger has born.

posted by Jey @ 9:32 AM, ,