Friday, January 15, 2010

കേരള കിരണ്‍ബേഡി


ടൈറ്റില്‍ വായിച്ച് ഞെട്ടിയോ? ഉടന്‍ ഇറങ്ങാന്‍ പോകുന്ന (അതോ ഇറങ്ങിയോ?) ഒരു മലയാളം സിനിമയുടെ പേരാണ്!
രണ്ടാഴ്ച മുമ്പ് 3 Idiots കാണാന്‍ പോയപ്പോള്‍ കണ്ടതാണ് ഈ അടിപൊളി പോസ്റ്റര്‍:



ബ്ലാക് മണി ചെലവാക്കണമെങ്കില്‍ ഇവന്‍മാര്‍ക്ക് വല്ല നീലച്ചിത്രവും എടുത്തുകൂടേ? ഹെന്തിനീ ക്രൂരത!

മുകേഷ് കഥകള്‍


മുകേഷ് കഥകള്‍ - ജീവിതത്തിന്റെ നേരും നെറിയും എന്ന നടന്‍ മുകേഷിന്റെ ഓര്‍മ്മക്കുറിപ്പുകളുടെ പുസ്തകം ഇന്ന് വായിച്ചുതീര്‍ത്തു. സത്യം പറഞ്ഞാല്‍ ചിരിച്ച് ചിരിച്ച് കണ്ണ് മപ്പി! വി.കെ ശ്രീരാമന്‍ പറയുന്നത് പോലെ, ബഷീറിന്റെ ശൈലിയില്‍ എല്ലാത്തിലും നര്‍മ്മം ചേര്‍ന്ന എഴുത്ത്.
വായിക്കുമ്പോള്‍ 'ഇന്‍ ഹരിഹര്‍ നഗര്‍', 'റാംജി റാവു സ്പീക്കിങ്ങ്' തുടങ്ങിയ ചിത്രങ്ങളിലെ രംഗങ്ങള്‍ ഓര്‍മ്മ വരും. 'Truth is stranger than fiction' എന്നൊക്കെ പറയുന്നപോലെ, അനുഭവങ്ങള്‍ സിനിമാരംഗങ്ങളേക്കാള്‍ രസകരമായി എഴുതിപ്പിടിപ്പിച്ചിരിക്കുന്നു.

പുസ്തകത്തില്‍ നിന്ന് ഏതാനും സാമ്പിളുകള്‍:
"അതോടെ രാമചന്ദ്രന്റെ മനസ്സും മനസ്സാക്ഷിയും തമ്മില്‍ യുദ്ധം തുടങ്ങി. പോകുന്ന വഴിക്ക് റെയില്‍വ്യൂ ഹോട്ടലില്‍നിന്നും ഒരു ബിയര്‍ കഴിച്ചിട്ട് പോണോ വേണ്ടയോ? ആ യുദ്ധത്തില്‍ മനസ്സാക്ഷി ജയിച്ചു. ബിയര്‍ കഴിക്കാന്‍ തന്നെ രാമചന്ദ്രന്‍ തീരുമാനിച്ചു."
...

"എന്നെക്കാള്‍ പ്രായക്കൂടുതലുണ്ട് മദാമ്മക്ക്. പതുക്കെപ്പതുക്കെ എനിക്ക് മദാമ്മയോട് മനസ്സുകൊണ്ട് ഒരടുപ്പം തോന്നിത്തുടങ്ങി. ഒരു ആരാധന. പ്രേമമെന്ന് പഴമക്കാര്‍ ഇതിനു പറയും"


എവിടെയെങ്കിലും കണ്ടാല്‍ ഈ പുസ്തകം ധൈര്യമായി വാങ്ങിക്കോളൂ.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Frog in the Well and the Assignment Operator


One or two years back, I attended an interview for a very popular multinational company. I was happy with the job I had and attended the walk-in interview just to see what the industry is looking for. Those days, I was quite comfortable with C++ programming and considered myself really good at it.

I hadn't applied for the interview. Some HR firm had tracked me down via someone else's referral and had asked me to attend the walk-in. So, I walked in without even a resume. The guys at the interview were quite surprised but were kind enough to let me write down my resume summary on a sheet of paper! Anyway, I had two rounds of technical interviews, and I did pretty well on those.

The first interviewer asked me how I rated myself on C++ skills. I confidentially said "about 8". He was shocked and said "I guess even Stroustrup considers himself a 7 or so". All I could manage to say to that was "perhaps he knows a lot that he realises that he has much more left to learn". Anyway, the first interview went well, and I was taken to the next interviewer.

Here's an excerpt from the second one:
Interviewer: Can you write code to swap two numbers without using a temporary variable?
Me: What kind of numbers?
Interviewer: ??
Me: Integers or floating point?
Interviewer: Err.. integers.. (clearly wondering how that makes any difference)
Me: In that case..
a = a^b;
b = a^b;
a = a^b;

Interviewer: (surprised) How does this work?
Me: The XOR does this and that and... But this wont work for floats
Interviewer: Oh..kay.. so, what if I need floats too?
Me: Then there's no perfect method to do it. You could do something like:
a = a+b;
b = a-b;
a = a-b;

Me: But it fails on overflows and the like
Interviewer: (happy and relieved to see the solution he wanted) hmm.. that's okay. This is good enough


I had clearly bowled him over and then another guy glances over and tells him -"when you're through I'd like to interview him too".

It was this third interview that opened my eyes. The guy asked only 3 or 4 questions and I couldn't answer any of them satisfactorily. These were really interesting clever questions. For example: "how do you write a smart pointer class that'll call the derived class destructor even if the base class destructor is not virtual?"
i.e.
smart_ptr<base> p = new derived;

When 'p' goes out of scope, ~derived() should be called even if ~base() is not virtual.
I couldn't solve this one and the couple of the other simpler ones he asked. My pride was shattered, and I sat there defeated.

Anyway, they did like me and took me to the HR interview. I shocked him by saying that I expected a salary of Rs.8.5L p.a. I'm pretty sure that's why they didn't call me afterwards ;-)

-------------

Anyways, here's an interesting article that I had read (and downloaded) a long time back - The Anatomy of the Assignment Operator. It's a good read for all C++ enthusiasts. If you haven't read it yet, I strongly recommend you do.

The author has posted a follow-up article The Assignment Operator Revisited. In this article, he says:

"If you think you know it all in the C++ world, it must mean you’re not talking to your colleagues very much. If I had any pretensions to knowing it all when I wrote my assignment-operator article ("The Anatomy of the Assignment Operator," C++ Report, Nov/Dec 1997), they didn’t last long afterwards."

I couldn't agree more!


3 Idiots - Movie Review


When an Aamir Khan Movie comes out, there's quite a lot of buzz. In fact the hype starts much before the release - given that Aamir talks to the media only when a movie of his is about to be released. After the spectacular Taare Zameen Par (2007) and the disappointing Ghajini (2008), this Aamir Khan starrer had everything going for it, especially because of the success of Chetan Bhagat's work - Five Point Someone. Well, the creators of the movie now claim that the plot is only 'inspired' from the book. Whatever!

3 Idiots is the story of three engineering students (Aamir Khan, Madhavan & Sharman Joshi) at the Imperial College of Engineering (Chetan Bagat's book had the IIT as the backdrop). Boman Irani plays the role of the eccentric college Principal - much like his character in Munnabhai MBBS (that too was directed by Rajkumar Hirani). Predictably, the three don't get on well with the Principal and the first part of the movie is pretty much set around this. Kareena Kapoor stars as the Principal's daughter with whom our hero strikes a chord.
The second half diverges considerably and brings in new twists and surprises. Javed Jaffri makes a short appearance and the plot takes an entirely different turn from that of the book.

I liked Chetan Bhagat's book and found it to be hilarious and simple. He had this knack of making us laugh at even gloomy situations. Well, the movie does so too, but not as effortlessly as the book. There are quite a lot of original funny scenes and dialogues to make you laugh out loud in the cinema hall. Kudos to the script-writer and the director for that.

Where this movie fails is its resemblance to Munnabhai MBBS (and therefore with Patch Adams (1998)). Pretty much everything is the same. There's our hero as a student in the college, the crazy principal who doesn't like him, the love interest with his daughter, the "Aal Izz Well" mantra as substitute for Jadoo ki Jhappi and so on. This makes the movie lose it's originality, while the book very well had it.

But the worst part of the movie was a 15 minute long scene when a lady delivers a baby inside the college - with the help of some engineering students. That was the most horribly conceived and terribly executed part of the movie. Sans that, this would've been a better movie.

Anyway, I'd still rate it as a good enough movie. It's hilarious, simple and interesting. But it's nowhere near Dil Chahta Hain or Taare Zameen Par. Although Aamir Khan and Madhavan have done reasonably well as 20-something guys, I'd say Bollywood lacks young talent to have relied on these actors for these roles.
I'd call this a slightly-above-average funny movie! Let's hope Aamir will be back next year with a better movie.



Friday, January 8, 2010

Avatar - Movie Review


"From the director of the Titanic" and "made with a budget of 1500 crores" are perhaps the only tag lines for this movie - at least in Kerala. It's kind of a statement that this movie has nothing else to sell, and after watching it, I agree completely.

Avatar is a more of a visual spectacle than a story being told on screen. The period is set in the future (2034, if I remember correctly) and the humans have found business sense in invading another planet - Pandora. Pandora is inhabited by flora and fauna that are in many ways too similar to the ones on earth but weird in so many other ways. The biped species on Pandora (the human equivalents) are called "Na'vi". The company that leads the invasion want a rocky material called "Unobtanium" (see Unobtainium). It's not mentioned what this material is useful for, only that it's quite expensive to justify mining it from Pandora. The problem is that the Na'vi people live on a huge tree that sits on the biggest deposit of Unobtanium on Pandora. So, the company is trying to relocate the Na'vi savages and here's where the conflict of interest comes in.


In their attempt to influence the Na'vi's, the humans have created 'Avatars' - native biological Na'vi bodies, operated remotely by human drivers. Fortunately, perhaps, the exact technology is not described in the movie. The avatars are expected to kind of infiltrate the Na'vi community, learn their ways, gain their trust and negotiate a deal for their relocation. Our hero drives his Avatar deep in to the Na'vi tribe and get accepted as one of them. We all know what to expect next, don't we? The company gets impatient and attacks, the Avatar leads a Na'vi army and fights them off. Can't get any simpler than that!

What works
The visuals! The graphics and the special effects are amazing and deserve all the applause it gets. All the weird plants and animals of Pandora have been rendered flawlessly. Except in a few flying scenes, the visuals are super realistic. Kudos to James Cameron, who apparently has spent quite a lot of time on this movie!



What's not so cool
The imaginative animals of Pandora are sometimes a little too close to their counterparts on earth. The Na'vi people are way too similar to humans - they have the same physical structure as the humans (except being taller), their palms and feet exactly like those of humans, pretty much the same facial structure and they speak our language as well (with training, of course). Perhaps the producers want to suggest that the human design is so perfect that an alien race also evolved to the same structure!
Similarly, there are dogs, rhinos and lemurs (all generously weirdified though - the rhinos had hammer-heads!) etc. The smaller plants are generally different from earthly ones (they have UV glow in the dark), but the big trees are pretty much the same.


What spoils
The story, script and screen-play! It doesn't get any more simple and bland. The theme has been cliched to ground and every single minute of the movie is predictable. This movie is a potpurri of several popular Hollywood flicks. There's the ships of Star Wars, the love interest of The Titanic, elements of The Matrix, the inspirational speech of Independence Day, the robots of Transmormers and what not. You might even be surprised to find a tribal song similar to Jinga-la-la-ho.. hurr, hurr! in "Hum Bewafa" of Shalimar (1978) ;-)

The dialogues are mediocre at best and evoke no emotions - except for a few moments here and there. As I said in the beginning, except for the visuals and the staggering budget, this is not much of a story told on screen.

In Thiruvananthapuram, the 3D version of the movie was screened. There were very few scenes that seemed to specifically take advantage of the 3D feature. It just feels like an ordinary movie that happened to be shot in 3D.


Verdict
Well, if somebody spends this much money and creates a visually impressive movie, then I guess that alone makes this a 'must-watch'. Moreover, it's not every day that you see the audience cheering when aliens kick some human butts! But I don't expect this one getting anywhere near the 'cult' status the Star Wars or The Matrix or even the Transformers movies enjoy.