25 December 2015

'Star Wars: Force Awakens'

J J Abrams is a brilliant storyteller. He made the TV serial Lost and movies like Mission Impossible 3 and Star Trek. So when he was hired to continue the Star Wars saga, we had great expectations. Could he take Star Wars to the next level - like Christopher Nolan did with Batman?

If you thought like this, Force Awakens is a bloody nightmare. Because Episode 7 is just a remix of the old Star Wars story (especially New Hope). The characters have simply been recycled into new avatars:
Darth Vader --> Kylo Ren
Luke Skywalker --> Rey
Emperor Palpatine --> Supreme Leader Snoke
Galactic Empire --> First Order
Death Star --> Starkiller Base
R2D2 --> BB8

The 'scriptwriters' have simply done Ctrl-H (find & replace) on the old script. Above all, the core element of the hexology - the father/son story - has also been recycled! [Who is father? Who is son? You also pay your hard-earned money, like me, to find out!]

What went wrong? Disney didn't give Abrams any freedom (like Warner Bros gave to Nolan)? Or Abrams himself decided to play safe? The original was almost 40 years ago. So half the suckers today weren't even born then. The kindest verdict on Force Awakens is that it is just an introduction to the real story - which will be told in Episodes 8 and 9. We will see.

Anyway, what does it matter? Disney is laughing all the way to the bank. Force Awakens has already grossed $750 million, and will easily reach $2 billion. It is a triumph of the Hollywood marketing machinery. However, real Star Wars fans should be deeply disappointed. J J Abrams had the Force. But he chose to embrace the Dark Side.

PS: Almost all critics have given this xerox copy rave reviews (Rotten Tomatoes rating is 95%). How is this possible? The only answer is herd mentality. See Crucible (1996) for a brilliant analysis of herd mentality.

30 November 2015

America In West Asia

America in West Asia:

9/11 happens.
US hawks: Saddam did it.
World: Nuts!
US hawks: OK, Al-Qaeda did it. But it has a base in Iraq.
World: Nuts!
US hawks: OK, Saddam has WMDs.
World: Nuts!
US hawks: Go to hell! We'll invade Iraq anyway.
America invades Iraq.
Number of WMDs in Iraq = 0.
World: WMDs?!
US hawks: Never mind. Saddam was a dictator. We'll make Iraq a democracy.
Civil war breaks out in Iraq between Sunnis & Shias.
World: Democracy?!
US hawks: (Silence)
'Arab Spring' begins.
US hawks: We triggered the Arab Spring by invading Iraq.
World: Nuts!
Revolt begins in Syria against Bashar Al-Assad.
US hawks: Assad must go.
World: Nuts!
'Arab Spring' turns into 'Arab Nightmare'.
World: Do you still take credit for this?
US hawks: (Silence)
Syrian rebels turn out to be Al-Qaeda.
World: You want Al-Qaeda to rule Syria?
US hawks: (Silence)
Al-Qaeda moves into Iraq.
World: You were right - Al-Qaeda is in Iraq... now.
US hawks: (Silence)

[5,00,000 Iraqi men, women & children have been killed due to the US invasion & its aftermath]

31 October 2015

Sardar Patel: The Re-Unification of India

India was born 5000 years ago. Around 300 BC, Chanakya and Chandragupta unified this land from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean. But the unity lasted only 100 years. After Ashoka, India broke up into many kingdoms. And starting around 700 AD, she was conquered and ruled by foreign invaders.

Finally in 1947, the last foreign invader - the British - left. But they handed over to us only the half of India that they directly ruled. The other half was made up of 565 kingdoms. They had to be merged with the rest of the country if we were to be both free and united. It was done by one man - Sardar Vallabhai Patel. (So the liberals' argument that the British made/ created/ united India is b***s***)

So more than 2000 years after the Maurya Empire, we were free and united again (of course, with the exception of Sindh, West Punjab & East Bengal). All because of one man - Sardar Patel. This was the re-unification of India. And that is what it should be called. Instead, Leftist historians called it 'Integration of Princely States'. They deliberately coined this silly phrase to downplay the magnitude of Sardar Patel's achievement.

Let us call a spade, a spade. Sardar Patel was not an 'integrator of princely states'. He was the re-unifier of India. Today on his 140th birthday, let us remember this great son of Mother India, and thank him for the priceless gift of freedom and unity he gave us. Bharat Mata ki jai!

11 September 2015

A Short History Of The World

A short history of the world:

1. America fought USSR.
2. Jihadis fought USSR.
3. So America helped jihadis.
4. Jihadis formed Al-Qaeda.
5. Al-Qaeda attacked America.
6. America blamed Iraq.
7. America invaded Iraq.
8. Islamic State took over Iraq.
9. America is fighting Islamic State. (See #1)
10. Al-Qaeda is fighting Islamic State. (See #2)
11. So... (See #3)

Moral: The more things change, the more they remain the same.

01 August 2015

'Post-Industrial Society'

In 1971, French sociologist Alain Touraine wrote a book called Post-Industrial Society. He said that Western society after 1950 had entered a new stage of development – the 'post-industrial' stage. His thesis was:

Dominant Sector of Economy
Dominant Factor of Production
1. Agricultural
2. Industrial
3. 'Post-Industrial'

In 1973, American sociologist Daniel Bell wrote a book called Coming of Post-Industrial Society, and popularised this idea among English-speaking social scientists. And in 1980, American futurologist Alvin Toffler wrote a book called Third Wave, and popularised this idea among laymen across the world.

Is this thesis correct?

There are some differences between early industrial society (the West till 1950) and advanced industrial society (the West after 1950). But they are nothing compared to the differences between agricultural society and industrial society. Touraine, Bell, Toffler (and others) are 20th century Westerners who have never seen agricultural society. So they do not know the huge chasm that separates agricultural society and industrial society. They saw the minor differences between early industrial society and advanced industrial society, and jumped to the conclusion that the latter is a new stage of society. It is not. It is only the second sub-stage of industrial society.

So the term 'post-industrial' (and 'post-modern') is meaningless.

19 July 2015

'Baahubali - 1': Review

Review of 'Baahubali-1':

A. Traditional Indian Story =
"Once upon a time, there was a king. He was good, brave & wise . . . "

B. Typical Indian Movie =
Handsome hero + beautiful heroine + wicked villain + romance + songs-dances + drama + action

C. South Indian Masala =
LTL + OTT (larger than life + over the top)

D. Hollywood Seasoning =
CGI special effects

A + B + C + D = 'BAAHUBALI'! :-)

* Paisa-vasool scene: When Kattappa places Baahubali's foot on his head.
* Best performance: Satyaraj (Kattappa)
* Doesn't Prabhas look like Manoj Bajpai?
* Why the hell can't we see this movie (& others) in Kannada?

01 July 2015

India's Complexity/Diversity: Survey Categories

If you want to do a survey for India, what are the various categories you have to cover – so that your survey captures the whole country?

1. North+Central
2. South
3. West
4. East
5. North-east

1. City
2. Town
3. Village

1. Male
2. Female

1. Young
2. Middle-age
3. Old

1. Middle class
2. Lower class
3. Poor

1. Upper-caste
2. OBC
3. SC/ST
4. Other

So total number of survey categories = 5 x 3 x 2 x 3 x 3 x 4 = 1080!!!

03 June 2015

'Mad Max: Fury Road'

The 1973 & 1979 oil shocks increased oil from $20 to $100. The world suddenly faced a new question: What if oil runs out?

In 1980, Australian director George Miller made a movie called Mad Max to answer this question. In an imaginary future – oil becomes scarce, modern civilisation disappears, and humans go back to living as savages. The movie became a blockbuster and a cult classic.

35 years later, George Miller remakes Mad Max with Tom Hardy (Bane in Dark Knight Rises). Human society has been through 3 stages: tribal, agricultural & industrial/modern. But its fundamental forces have always been - and will always be - the same: resources/wealth, power & religion. Mad Max: Fury Road illustrates this truth brilliantly.

Even if you don't care about social-economic-philosophical analysis, watch it (if you haven't already). Because it's one hell of a kick-ass action movie! :-)

* The movie was shot in Namibia.
* Heath Ledger was the 1st choice for the new Mad Max.
* George Miller's other movies include Babe: Pig in the city and Happy Feet!

01 June 2015

India's Complexity: Religion, Language, Caste

India's complexity (religion, language, caste):


Total number of combinations possible in India = 7 X 15 X 5,000 = 5,25,000.

30 May 2015

Kannada Movie Industry: Economic Analysis

Q: Why is the Kannada movie industry so weak – especially when compared to its neighbours?

Movie industry
Annual revenue
Not available
Rs 1150 crore
Rs 1200 crore
Not available

Total revenue figures are not available for the Kannada and Malayalam movie industries. So we use another measure:

Movie industry
#1 Movie
Box office gross
Mungaaru Male (2006)
Rs 65 crore
Attarintiki Daredi (2013)
Rs 180 crore
Enthiran (2010)
Rs 250 crore
Drishyam (2013)
Rs 60 crore

Immediately we see the strength of each film industry. How to explain this difference? We start with the most basic fact:

6.1 crore
Andhra Pradesh
8.5 crore
Tamil Nadu
7.2 crore
3.3 crore

1. Karnataka is straightaway at a disadvantage – being only the 3rd biggest state in south India. (only Kerala is smaller)

But how many people actually speak Kannada (as their 1st language)?

Number of speakers (a)
3.8 crore
7.4 crore
6.1 crore
3.3 crore

2. Now the situation becomes even worse. The Kannada-speaking population is much smaller than Karnataka's population. In every state, some people speak another language (as their 1st language). But the situation is worst in Karnataka.

[So Karnataka's size is misleading – only about 60% of its people speak Kannada as their 1st language]

Next, it's not enough to have people. The people need money to see movies. So:

Per capita income (b)
Rs 1,00,755
Andhra Pradesh
Rs 1,00,698
Tamil Nadu
Rs 1,18,100
Rs 1,20,085

3. The situation gets even worse for Karnataka – with almost the lowest per capita income in south India.

[Tamil Nadu is the most developed state; but Kerala has the highest per capita income due to money sent by Keralite workers in West Asia]

Finally if we multiply the per capita income by the number of language-speakers, we get a measure of the total market size in that language:

Total market size (a x b)
Rs 3,82,870 crore
Rs 7,45,166 crore
Rs 7,20,409 crore
Rs 3,96,282 crore

4. The Kannada movie industry has the smallest market in south India. The markets for the Telugu and Tamil movie industries are almost 2 times bigger.

That is why the Kannada movie industry is so weak.

30 April 2015

Bollywood/India's Movies: Logic and Realism

Logic and realism are industrial values. That is, they are the values of an industrial society (in-soc). They do not exist in an agricultural society (ag-soc). What does this mean for art – especially motion picture?

Movies in industrial societies (US & Europe) are logical and realistic. Movies in an agricultural society (like India) are not logical and realistic. How are they then? They are just the modern (technologically, not culturally) version of the village play. In fact, it can be argued that village plays are more logical and realistic than ag-soc movies – the former are stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata. For the real inspiration of the ag-soc movie, we must look elsewhere.

In the old days, a "picture man" travelled from village to village with his "picture box". If you looked into the window of the picture-box, you could see a picture. The picture-man would turn a lever, and you could see different pictures one after another. The pictures were sights from the big cities: Bangalore (Vidhan Soudha), Bombay (Gateway of India), Delhi (Red Fort), etc. You would pay the picture-man a coin for this pleasure. The ag-soc movie is nothing but the hi-tech version of the village picture-box.

The ag-soc movie is not what a movie should be: a logical and realistic story told using moving images. Instead it is just a visual spectacle: handsome hero, beautiful heroine, nice houses, nice clothes, songs and dances, some romance, ugly villain, some violence, uglier comedian, some humour, saintly mother, some melodrama, hero and heroine marry, then they live happily ever after. This is the typical ag-soc movie. (And Bangalore/Bombay/Delhi are out of the question; we are shown New York/London/Paris instead)

This is why Indian movies are illogical and unrealistic. As India becomes an industrial society, hopefully it will make logical and realistic movies.

This analysis applies to all Indian cinema: Kannada, Hindi (Bollywood), Telugu, Tamil, etc.

30 March 2015

India's Greatest Prime Ministers (Ranking: Best/Worst)

Ranking of India's greatest Prime Ministers (best to worst):

1. P V Narasimha Rao
For starting India's real modernisation in 1991 by switching the economy from socialism to capitalism.

2. Jawaharlal Nehru
For helping India to survive as a free and united country by steering the Republic in its infancy.

3. Lal Bahadur Shastri
For making India self-reliant in food production by fathering the Green Revolution in 1966.

4. Atal Behari Vajpayee
For making India a nuclear-weapon power and continuing its modernisation.

5. Rajiv Gandhi
For not doing much good, but not doing much harm either.

6. Manmohan Singh
For heading post-Independence India's most corrupt government.

7. Jawaharlal Nehru
For condemning India to half-a-century of poverty by imposing a socialist economy.

8. Indira Gandhi
For making India a most poor and corrupt country by destroying its institutions.

28 February 2015

Society/System: Sheep & Wolves

People go to work and make money.
They go to malls and spend money.
They live in nice houses.
They drive nice cars.
This is the system called 'society'.

Nothing runs on its own.
Especially a system.
It has to be run.
By some people.

99% of people simply live in the system.
They make money.
They spend money.
They are the sheep.

1% of people run the system.
They are the wolves.
They control the sheep.

Sheep are good.
Wolves are bad.

It is the existence of wolves that allows sheep to exist and to be good.

24 January 2015

The Soldier

All the battles he fought
All the battles he lost
Do they mean something?
Do they mean anything?

He stands amidst the ruins
Ruins of his own making
Where does he go from here?
Is there anywhere?

Where did he go wrong?
At the beginning?
How did he go wrong?
By following You?

Why did You make him?
To fight a war?
Where is his army?
Where are his weapons?

You sent him here
Alone and unarmed
To fight a battle
A wolf among sheep.

A soldier he is
In the battlefield
Lost and lonely
Afraid and defeated.

Each day comes
As a dark cloud
And goes away
Followed by another.

Where is the light?
Where is the path?
Where is the answer?
Where is the joy?

How much longer?
How much more?
Till he gives way
And falls to the ground.

He has nothing left
Only pain and fear
Show him the way
Or end his fate.

What wrong did he do?
All he did was
Walk on Your path
The path of right.

Are You testing him?
Is this a test?
If yes, he is close
To failing it.

He is falling apart
Piece by piece
Just a matter of time
Till nothing is left.

He lies in the battlefield
Bruised and battered
Wounded and tired
Waiting for a sign.

Show him something
Show him a way
Or take him
And be done with it.

He will fight
To the bitter end
Till jackals and vultures
Feast on his bones.

He will go down
With a sword in his hand
A smile on his face
And a song on his lips.

12 January 2015

Technocrats in India's Politics

Technocrats in India's politics:



Manmohan SinghPhD @ OxfordUNCTAD
P ChidambaramMBA @ HarvardLawyer
Yashwant SinhaMA @ Patna UniversityIAS
Arun ShouriePhD @ SyracuseWorld Bank
Jairam RameshMS @ Carnegie MellonWorld Bank
Montek S AhluwaliaMPhil @ OxfordWorld Bank