Sunday, December 07, 2014

Intersteller Review

Vidit Bhargava

You already know the movie is brilliant. It’s no surprise. It is a Christopher Nolan movie, one doesn’t simply expect anything less than brilliant from him. Here’s what’s great and not great (yep! not perfect) about Intersteller.

Intersteller is largely a movie to be experienced. It’s a movie that presents your space imaginations in an extremely beautiful way. It’s a visual treat to watch Intersteller.

There’s just a lot to admire about here, the way the ranger hooks into a wildly spinning Endurance is brilliantly shot. It’s beautiful, edge of the seat entertaining. Or take for instance the gigantic water waves at Miller’s Planet. They are scientifically accurate, breathtakingly beautiful and have the quality to strike panic. Then there’s the much talked about Gargantua, again scientifically accurate to the very last detail of it’s functioning. These and a lot more such instances make the movie a treat to watch, even if it’s too much to take in all the facts of relativity at once. 

The characters are well sketched out and well acted. Cooper as the ex-pilot father determined to keep the promise he made to his daughter is well played by Matthew McCaughey. Then there’s TARS, the robot. TARS is the most interesting robot I’ve come across after Marvin from Hitchhiker’s Guide To Galaxy. There are moments when TARS feels almost human, he moves in and out of conversations with effortless ease, his occasional humour is well timed and overall he’s just as much a part of the crew as Brand or Romilly. Watch him rescue Brand from a giant tidal wave. The pace with which he moves is mechanical but the emotion behind it, purely human! TARS just owned that scene. 

If there’s one thing that’s wrong with the movie in terms of acting, its probably Michael Caine’s acting, which feels slightly off colour. At one point in the movie, it’s almost as if he’s wanting to finish off his work. We’ve certainly seen better from the Academy award winner. 

Nolan’s already a master of playing with time. He’s shown that skill several times now. Memento & Inception pretty much relied on the director’s skill to work with varying time intervals. He takes a step forward with Intersteller. Here he’s dealing with Gravitational and Relativistic Time Dilation. The movie’s pretty much a showcase of how Nolan’s controlling the 4th dimension. He also gives us a glimpse of the concept of Spherical Time in the movie. (It’s mighty confusing but loads of fun too!).

The plot’s fairly straight forward here. Earth’s a diminishing planet, large amounts of cultivable crops are die-ing away every season. At some point of time, Cooper (ex-NASA pilot) stumbles upon an undercover space-travel mission from NASA. The mission is about finding a planet suitable for human settlement and then transporting the people away from Earth to a newer home. The planets they’ve zeroed in on are in a different galaxy, one that’s to be reached by travelling through a worm-hole.

To be frank, this is a fairly straight forward story told in a way assuming that you know how Space travel works. There’s time dilation, moving through a spherical worm-hole, concepts about what tidal waves and time would behave like in a planet where Gravity behaves differently. And then there’s the challenge which is entirely based on the complexities of time dilation. All this may is pretty straight forward if you are aware of these theories, even the movie’s mind-bending climax is pretty much based on scientific calculations, again figure able if you’ve read about it. Intersteller’s about facts. It’s not confusing and it tries its best explaining these concepts, just watch Romilly explain Cooper why the wormhole is spherical and not circular. But the fact-heaviness of the movie may be a slight negative for some here. 

It’d be unfair to not mention about the care taken to make the Science Fiction as scientifically accurate as possible. The directors hired Kip Thorne for the work. There research and fact checking works wonders here. We’ve all visualised Black Holes differently, but thanks to some great scientific research, we see a beautiful and entirely different view on Black Holes. Not to forget some great use of Slingshot effect here. The added scientific accuracy, is not a necessity but definitely nice to have in the movie. 

In the end, Intersteller’s breathtaking visuals (almost an advertisement for space travel), a mind bending climax, a rousing soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, some awe-inspiring moments like the one about Hyperspace and a gripping screenplay make for an engaging watch. It’s different, It’s beautiful and the treat’s ten times more engaging for anyone interested in Science. If only it were more accessible.

Rating: 9/10 (You can't miss this one!)

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Happy Ending Review

Vidit Bhargava
Movie: Happy Ending
Directors: Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru
Actors: Govinda, Ranvir Shorey, BMW,  Saif Ali Khan
Rating: *** (Likeable)

There’s a lot to like about Happy Ending. It’s a joyous movie in general, with little conflict and a good comedy but then its also conventional and boring in parts, which doesn’t seem good for a movie which mocks the very conventional and boring content that it ends up offering to its audience. It’s a movie aware of the fact that its going to bore its audience for about half an hour at least.

The actors play writers here. One (Khan) facing a supposed writer’s block, the other (D’Cruz) enjoying the fame that comes with a successful novel. Khan’s a one book wonder whose just been given the boring task of writing a conventional ‘Romedy’. 

The movie’s first half’s a breeze. There’s a lot of good humour here, you’ll find yourself chuckling at some really witty instances, for example the phrase that the publisher Gary comes up for warning budding writers about one book wonders. “You’ll get Yudied!” (Reminds me of how the tech-community refers to buggy releases as Vista moments :) ),  or the tracking (bugging rather) app by the name of ‘No Space’. Or the repeated mention of halves to make the numbers seem low (6 years? No just 5 and a half!), cleverly sewed into the movies title headings too! The movie’s filled with such little gems, which  makes up for the rather boring second half.

Then there’s Govinda, who is in top form, he pretty much livens up the movie with his fantastic comic timing. He get’s the movies best lines and the most interesting and innovative pieces. But it’s not just Govinda who's doing an amazing job here, its pretty much the entire supporting cast that’s to be credited for the best parts in the movie. Ranvir Shorey as Montu is great, again, perfect comic timing. Kalki Koechlin’s also a part of the movie (also perhaps, has a greater role than the lead actress herself) and has some really witty one liners. Rahul Nath as Gary is phenomenal, his well timed NRI-ish Hindi and witty one-liners are enjoyable. And lastly, there’s the alter ego double role by Saif Ali Khan, which again is a likeable and unique character.  This has to be one of those movies where the supporting cast and their characters are far more interesting than the main leads.

Not everything’s great with Happy Ending though, In fact there’s a lot that’s not great. As the movie goes into its second hour, the narrative slips to a dull and boring setup. We get to see long and boring conversations, fewer jokes and in general a pretty sloppy screenplay. The interest starts to ween out a little and it’s not until the last ‘half’ hour that movie gets back into its groove. Then there are the unnecessary sub plots which do nothing but stretch the narrative even further. Honestly, the second half needed some clipping and grooming. It’s also pity we see so little of Govinda in the second half, he was the highlight of the first half!

There’s little detail given to the lead characters too. They’re supposed to be writers but there’s are the most depth-less characters. The writers do try to bring in a back story about a rock band and about not enjoying the writing but leave it just as quickly as they begin with it. And Indeed, the movie’s just filled with such incomplete, vague subplots which are never bought to a close. The result is, that we only have a half baked idea of the characters. So for instance we can guess, that D’Cruz doesn’t enjoy her writing , or that she’s a very blunt critic of other’s and her own work and that when she’s writing she’s just putting everything in negation to her opinion. These are interesting bits but it never really goes far enough to give us a well written character.

Happy Ending isn’t all bad either. The comedy part’s great. Its got some of the most remarkably funny parts I’ve seen in a movie this year and as a result, its extremely like-able, you won’t feel bad or disappointed after watching the movie. Its also quite light-weight and despite its problems can make a for a good second watch easily. The soundtrack's quite good too.

There’s a fair bit of product placement too, but it is BMW, so no one’s complaining for having to look at some of the most stunning cars! (Mini Cooper Convertible is a brilliant here! :) ). The directors show some innovation with movie headings too. Going with Yudi’s nature of not mentioning anything in integrals, the headings do the same. So you’ll see headings like “5 1/2 weeks later” and then they have fun mocking the conventional rom-com scenes too! So, mid way into the movie, you’ll find a heading which says, “Airport-wala Scene!”. 

I’d give Happy Ending 3 out of 5. It’s not the best movie this year, It’s not the directors’ best either but Its a good watch but going by the film’s tradition of not mentioning anything in integers, I’m quite tempted to change my rating to a real number too. So, Its 6.5 /10 then!

Rating: 6.5 /10

P.S. Going by the film’s IMDb rating and general critical response, I’ve a feeling that’s going to turn up being a largely underrated movie. Honestly, its not as bad as the IMDb rating’s making it look.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cafes in Delhi - Amici

Amici - Khan Market
Vidit Bhargava

Amici is perhaps the most Authentic Italian cafe you’ll find in Delhi. The moment you enter the place, you know Its not the regular Italian food you get in the city. There’s little indian-ization done to the menu. You won’t find Paneer as a topping here or a super spicy pasta, what you’ll find instead is some really different and exciting Italian food. The taste can take sometime getting used to here. At first you might feel its a little too bland but the taste actually grows on you and eventually you like nothing other than this!

Of the pizzas, you’d be missing out if you didn’t try their calzone verde. It’s a completely different pizza. The pizza is folded here, so the toppings and cheese are inside it. The cheese is slightly different from what you have on your regular pizzas and the taste is awesome! 

If you are looking for a pasta, I suggest the Arrabiata, It's pretty good!

But What’ll really make your day at Amici is the Italian beverage by the name of “Spremuta”. It’s something you’ll seldom find anywhere else and it’s got this slightly tangy taste to it and it’s highly refreshing.

As a cafe Amici is nicely constructed, especially the mezzanine where you get a good view of their wooden oven on one side and the balcony on the other. The space isn’t cramped up or cozy like Big Chill and that is in fact a good thing, you can even bring your work along with you, this is also one of the quieter cafes. They even had a bladeless fan from Dyson sometime back which is much less noisier than the normal ones. The service is quite decent too, on one occasion, the manager didn’t hesitate to make a trip to the chef to clear our query about the ingredients.

To sum it up, if you like Italian and are in Delhi, Amici is the place to go and once you get a hang of the taste, you won’t like anything else!

Rating: ****


P.S. Didn't get time to click the photos, Used Zomato's instead, so thanks to the Zomato users who posted the images there. (The Spremuta is mine though)

Friday, October 03, 2014

Movie Recommendation: Haider

Vidit Bhargava

Movie: Haider
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
Written by: Basharat Peer, Vishal Bharadwaj
Cinematographer: Pankaj Kumar
Actors: Narendra Jha, Shahid Kapoor, Kay Kay Menon, Tabu, Irrfan Khan, Ashish Vidyarthi

You can never guess, that Bashir Lone’s masterpiece “So Jao” which sounds extremely gruesome, is actually a funny sequence in the movie. Haider, an adaptation to William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a movie you’ll regret giving a miss. 

There’s a lot to like about Haider. Starting with the first half itself, which doesn’t rush through things but instead goes for a steady stream of developments which then go on to have a major impact in the second half. Then there’s Haider’s transition from grief to rage and then eventually madness which is done with finese, full credits to the actor here. 

The movie’s climax is perhaps the best part of Haider. Its about 15 minutes long and has some of the finest acting on display. There’s a lot to like about the climax actually, Its treated in a different way than how Hamlet ended and is definitely clap worthy.

The soundtrack is top notch. Bashir Lone’s So Jao and Vishal Bharadwaj’s Jhelum are rare gems. Bismil is an interesting and catchy composition. The other songs which include Arijit Singh’s Khul Kabhi and Vishal Dadlani’s rock take on So Jao, are great too. The placement of these songs in the movie is done very nicely, they don’t seem to be forced and blend well with the screenplay.

The song Bismil, which is a brilliantly composed song is meant to be a play in the movie. The song is basically a plot synopsis for Haider. If you’ve heard the song carefully, you've probably figured out a major chunk of the story already.

But Haider’s not for everyone. At 2 Hours 42 minutes, Haider might feel a bit long to some, Vishal Bharadwaj’s intentionally steady narrative won’t help either. Also, there’s a lot going on in the first half. A few characters desert the movie after a scene or two, giving rise to some incomplete subplots.

There's a bit of dark humour here, too. Like the repeated reference to the similarities of Chutzpah and AFSPA, or the song So Jao. The film's oozing with some amazing sequences that make you laugh in the midst of tragedy.

Basharat Peer's addition as a co-writer helps generate a greater connect with reality, which again helps the movie very well. To top that, Pankaj Kumar's cinematography is brilliant, it captures the beautiful landscape very well, that's one of the biggest pluses of Haider, its always pleasing to the eye.

In the end Haider gets the dark treatment it needed. Everyone’s done a great job at acting. There’s little to complain about and you come out of the theatre extremely satisfied. Surely, you just can’t be thinking of missing something like Haider.

Rating: **** (Masterpiece)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Movie Recommendation: Aankhon Dekhi

Ankhon Dekhi
Directed by: Rajat Kapoor
Actors: Sanjay Mishra, Rajat Kapoor, Manu Rishi, Brijendra Kala
Rating: ****

Ankhon Dekhi is a must watch. It's extremely funny, Has some of the best actors in superb form, a soundtrack that complements the movie very well and it's got this amazingly unique and brilliant story.

It was easy to miss Ankhon Dekhi, when it was released back in March 2014. Within a week, the movie was wiped of from all major theaters, not because it was bad but because it failed to generate any interest in the audience ( a pity!). It's available for home viewing now and can be found on the iTunes Store and be rented for Rs. 120.

Sergey and Larry discuss the Matter (Comic)

"I liked it better when Steve would just explode into a wild rage and threaten to go nuclear on us". 
- This explains the entire difference between Cook & Jobs' way of working. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Notes on Apple Watch

Vidit Bhargava
It's January 9th 2007, Steve Jobs is on stage, he's showing the world a better smartphone. You already want one. It's beautiful, elegant and potentially life changing but you don't see a lot of use instantly.

That's exactly how it felt when Tim Cook showed the world Apple's first generation SmartWatch this week. It makes other smart watches seem like ancient stone work.

Little is known about the Apple Watch at the moment. There are few details, a lot of questions and only some answers right now. I'd like to draw your attention to a few key points though:

First it's a watch. Looking at the Apple Watch from a watch buyer's perspective,  I'd say it's pretty neat. Nothing comes close at this price range that's as beautiful or as well made as the Apple watch. Add to that the watch faces are phenomenal, I specially like the analog watch faces, they look elegant!

Here's a what Benjamin Clymer of Hodinkee had to say from his first impression
"Apple got more details right on their watch than the vast majority of Swiss and Asian brands do with similarly priced watches, and those details add up to a really impressive piece of design."

Looking at the watch one realizes just how much detail has gone into the making of the Watch. The curved glass blends perfectly into the stainless steel watch enclosure, the rich detail on the digital crown gives it the right fit, finish and feel for a watch crown. In terms of sheer watch design Apple's competing with neither of Motorola, Samsung or Pebble. It's taking a direct shot at brands like Tag Heuer, Seiko or Hublot.

But The watch's construction is quite like any of Apple's first generation products. Just like the first iPhone or iPad, it's a little thick, the screen resolution could get better but I'm sure that the Apple watch will only get better and thinner in the next few generations of the watch. 

Another interesting point to note here is the strap 
design. A few months back when I first heard the rumor of an apple designed watch, I looked at mine and instantly felt the need of a better strap, I've used a leather strap before and am currently using a velcrow strap for my wrist watch and both of them are quite terrible. 

Looking at the six different strap variants I was quite pleased to see the Milanese Loop and the Leather Loop feature in the list both of them solve my watch strap problem quite efficiently. I guess the Milanese loop might be more high end but that's the one that I've found most appealing yet.

As for the software, I like the customizable Watch Faces and the new messaging app which allows you to draw and send short messages to other Watch users. 

But the thing that's most exciting here is a feature called “Glances” which basically presents quick access to things like the Weather widget or the Apple TV Remote. It's going to be very useful and I guess a lot of people will end up using Glances more than the Watch Apps.

The new Typeface is pretty good over here, when printed on the back of the watch, it reminds me of the text writtent at the back of some of the analog watches, in the OS with lower case text it is far more legible than Helvetica or Lucida Grande or even Myriad Pro. There was some claim that it felt similar to roboto, I compared both of them and the differences are quite big. Take the letter R for example, Roboto has significant Helvetica Influence, while the Watch Typeface is more similar to Lucida Grande than Helvetica.

During the demo, a lot of apps were shown, of which Some of the apps felt like they wanted to show too much on a tiny screen. But I really liked the Starwood Hotels app which allows you to unlock your room by waving the watch. The BMW app and Apple Pay are quite neat too. Also, Apple's Fitness apps are quite interesting. 

It's still early days for the Watch Space and already a few apps seem to stand out as experiences just meant for the wrist. There's a lot of scope for interesting ideas in here.

I think what's important here is Taptic Feedback, and Digital Crown. The interactions these two define will shape the direction in which Watch apps will go. 

Price is the key here, it's $349. Another Affordable Luxury sweet spot. If you are looking for a cheap workable wrist watch that costs less than a $100, you'll be disappointed. But if you were planning to buy something in the range of $200 - $500, the Apple Watch May be your best bet, even if you are just looking for a watch. 

The apple watch does leave a few questions though. For instance, what's the upgrade cycle going to be like? People tend to use Watches for a long time , it's definitely not something that one changes every year. Personally I feel a minor update every year followed by a major update in every two-three years is going to be fine.

And then there's the all important question on battery life. From the subtle hints that Apple dropped in the keynote, it feels like the watch will have at least a day of battery life at launch. But Apple's got roughly six months to launch this device and I'd be surprised if they didn't go on to improve its battery life from what it looks to be now.

As the keynote finished, I realized the atmosphere was similar to that of the initial iPhone and iPad Launch. I really want the Apple Watch, it's beautiful, elegant and something you'll instantly want to wear. I don't see a lot of use for a "smart" watch instantly, but I'm quite certain that just like the iPad, 3rd Party apps will eventually carve out incredible uses for the Apple Watch. I can already see Starwood Hotels and City Mapper leading the pack.

Images from Apple and Hodinkee

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Notes on iPhone 6 and 6Plus

Vidit Bhargava

I am sure most of us have gone through the "features" of the new phones. This post is meant to draw attention to some slight details of the new device:

1. The iPhone design and plastic bars.

Some time back in 2012 Apple announced what was perhaps their best designed iPod ever. The 5th Generation iPod Touch. That device's back was a clear indication as to where Apple wanted to go with it's new iPhones. The iPhone at that time had an aluminum back with two glass panels at the top and bottom of it. It was clearly visible that engineering constraints made apple do that. Limitations at the time stopped apple from bringing an all metal back to the market without destroying call reception.

Jump to 2014, and Apple's out with a completely new all metal design for its new iPhones. It's nothing short of an engineering marvel.. But some plastic bands still exist. Apple's design feels great, it's one of their best works yet but at the same time it feels like a compromise. There's a Slight room for improvement here. The camera protrusion can be ironed out, the plastic bands wiped out. 

The design is no doubt great and while this may be the closest we've got to a perfect Aluminum back for the iPhone, I guess the iPhone 6S or iPhone 7 might have significant updates to the design which bring us much closer to the extinction of plastic bands from the iPhone.

2. Apple Pay

I'm not to sure about the NFC tap to pay machines that'll enable iPhones to pay via a single tap and authenticate via TouchID but I'm sure that the Apple Pay for online transactions is going to be big. 

Most online transactions generally require a one time passcode or login Ids to authenticate a payer's identity. Something like the Apple Pay can be highly successful here. You just need to authenticate via your finger print to purchase something, getting rid of the extremely inconvenient login passwords that one needed to enter before every transaction.

But The international availability of Apple Pay is going to be a big question here. For India it's just a matter of how quickly RBI approves finger print authentications as passwords for online payments.

3. A Case for the 5.5-inch iPhone

5.5-inches just feels too big to me ( and to lots of other people) but at the same time there are a good many customers looking forward to something this big. First, a 5.5-inch phone handles content creation lot better than how a 4.7-inch device would. And Secondly, the screen is far better for on the fly entertainment like watching movies. If those two things are your priority instead of something more pocketable, I guess the iPhone 6Plus is a no brainer then.

Another interesting point about the new iPhones was made on John Gruber's show sometime back, he says that it may look extremely awkward to hold something as big as an iPhone 6Plus to your ear but the way forward in phones hardly involves that gesture any more. In fact the screen matters more if you are using something like FaceTime or Skype. 

In the end I guess the phone screen sizes are going to become like Laptop sizes, there still exists an 11-inch MacBook Air and a 15-inch MacBook Pro but the sweet spot for a lot of people is the 13-inch Variant. I don't see why the phones won't follow a similar vein, with 4-inches being the smallest but going all the way up to 5.5-inches if someone likes. 

For me, the 4.7" on iPhone 6 is the maximum screen size that I can go to. I still think 3.5" or 4" are the optimum sizes for a phone. 

4. Camera

When it comes to Camera updates Apple goes on a nerd roll during its keynote. There's hardly a thing I understood about the new sensors but the gist of it was that the iPhone would get a lot better at Auto Focus and Low Light Images.

Final Thoughts

The iPhone 6 and 6Plus are solid upgrades to the iPhone lineup. I personally like the 4.7" iPhone 6 very much. I'm particularly excited about the camera improvements and Apple Pay in the new iPhones.

There's a strong echo of iterative design here, a reluctance to do too much in one iteration. This is something I strongly admire about apple's products. While every generation of their new product is just a small iteration but even if you look at something that's 2-3 generations old, you see how big a change the new one is.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

"Switzerland is in Trouble"

Expectations from the iWatch
Vidit Bhargava

For a long time now, there've been rumors of an iWatch, which we might eventually see take shape sometime in the near future. There's a lot that everyone's hoping for.

And While this may not be as big a launch as the iPhone or iPad, it's certainly the most challenging piece of hardware Apple's ever made. For it's not competing with engineer-obsessed tech companies like Microsoft or Google this time. It's competing with experts in the world of Watch design.

Ive is taking on Switzerland, his watch isn't going to compete with the next Galaxy Gear or the newly released Moto 360, It'll compete with the likes of Tag Heuer, Mondaine and Rado. This is why I think Eddy Cue wasn't exaggerating when he said Apple's releasing it's best products in 25 years this fall. A Version 1 iWatch which takes on the likes of Tag Heuer is going to be a huge feat to achieve for anyone!

This is my expectation from the iWatch, Its going to be nothing like the current smart watches and I hope it beats the Mondaine watch which has long been on my wishlist

P.S. The title of this post is inspired from a comment that Jony Ive is rumored to have made during the development of iWatch and has nothing to do with Switzerland

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Silkworm: Review

Vidit Bhargava
Book: The Silkworm
Author: Robert Galbraith
Publisher: Sphere Books (Little, Brown & Company)
First Published: 20th June 2014

I started reading the silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling) last month, the silkworm is the second in the series of detective mysteries involving Detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott.

The Plot of Silkworm Revolves around The Owen Quine who has a panache for disappearing to make a news about nothing, but when he disappears for longer than usual, his wife calls in Cormoran Strike to find him. However, Strike soon realizes that Quine might be in serious danger or perhaps is dead.

Over the course of two books Rowling has developed her own style of narrating a murder mystery. Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes was narrated from the diary of John Watson and followed the investigations of the famed detective from an A to B path of a crime mystery, Agatha Christie's Poirot was a bit different where the novels, mostly narrated in third person, usually involved Poirot sipping hot chocolate at his house and talking and befriending the suspects to carry out his investigations. They too focused on only one case at a time.

Rowling's Style is a bit different from both of them, she narrates the story in the way she's always done. That is Strike following a daily regime and the primary case just being an interesting one from a bunch of others that he solves to make a living. Strike's Methods are also unique. The detective focuses on Means and
Opportunity, where Poirot focused on Motive and reconstruction of the crime. Sherlock's stories were always more about his investigative skills rather than allowing the reader to guess who the criminal was.

Giving a completely new character helps a lot. I've read a lot of detective mysteries in the last four years and most of them have been enjoyable but have more or less involved either Poirot's or Holmes' style of investigation. With Cormoran Strike we have some one who is talented but isn't someone who never makes a mistake! He not only concentrates on finding the murderer but also bringing enough evidence that'll stand in the court of law.

But what makes a great murder mystery is not its mystery but the interest it generates in the reader throughout the novel. The best murder mysteries are those which tell a great story, not those who have the most surprising ending (The Hollow by Agatha Christie is one such novel where the climax was a little underwhelming but the story itself was amazing!). The Silkworm has a nice plot and one of the ingenious ending that I've ever read! Everything is in front of the reader only its so well camouflaged that its hard
to guess by yourself.

The Silkworm is also un-droppable from the very beginning, Rowling spins a world around Strike's Office with the same precision as she did with the Harry Potter series, she also gives us two characters to root for, Just like Harry, Ron and Hermione, Strike and Robin are carefully written characters whom your are
glad to read about again when the book begins and feel bad that it'll be about an year later that you'll read about them. This sort of connection with the characters was only last established in the Harry Potter Series.
However, Rowling's latest work isn't perfect. While the climax was brilliant the story itself can't be called amazing it was good but I've read better.

The Silkworm like a good detective mystery, has un-surprisingly little action and springs up a surprise or a new lead just when you feel everything has slowed down to a steady pace. All this makes The Silkworm hard to put down and the climax is an icing on the cake (It's there in front of your eyes, yet beautifully camouflaged) !

Rating : ****

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

An Ideal Television

There’s been a lot of talk about a television off late with lots of people saying how the television is loosing its value which is quite true. There are currently about a 150 channels that my Direct to home television provider offers to me at a monthly fee. Out of these only a few channels are of any use to me and out of those channels, I watch only 5-10 shows regularly. There’s just an incredible amount of choice being provided to me where all I need is a subscription to those 10 shows.

To top that, there’s no option to watch quality episodical internet videos like The Verge’s Top Shelf. And with an increasing amount of quality internet content being provided, not only for recreation but for learning new things. My video consumption is often more on the web than on my television.

There are a few television sets which claim to be “smart” but actually just include a bunch of apps with a crappy interface to allow you to browse this content. Then there was the Google TV, which attempted in making viewers interact with a TV like they would with a computer.

The thing is, when we watch television, we are just looking to consume content. We’re not looking for a very high-level of interaction with our TV Sets. We don’t want to attach a keyboard and start searching for our favourite shows.

For these and many more reasons the TV is broken. It needs a simple to use interface which provides all the video content we generally consume and yet keep the remote and gestures as simple as possible, so that viewing a TV is a fast experience.

Here’s a small flow chart on what an ideal TV should really have:

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Sherlock Series - Season 1 Review

Vidit Bhargava

Last week I started watching a TV Series, called Sherlock. I had heard a lot about it over the last few months, Every one looked mighty impressed with the series & then there was this extra curiosity as to how well the novels were adapted and restaged in the twenty first century London, I had really liked the Sherlock Holmes series which starred Robert Downey Jr. as the detective, and had I hopes from this series too.

But Sherlock starring Benedict Comberbach is the least Sherlock-ish adaptation that I have seen. Every character has been twisted & molded into someone completely different, including Holmes himself who seems to be in a limbo between an extremely irritating maniac ( and a grammar Nazi) and the vintage Sherlock with strong observational skills & a penchant for violin.

Watson has been turned into a timid war-retired doctor. Who is easily downplayed by Sherlock for the difference in the two's observational skills. Actually, in the books Watson was quite fit, chivalrous and a one of the best friends of Sherlock, always treated as an equal. Sherlock needed Watson more than Watson himself. The entire premise of of Sherlock playing Sheldon (Reference to the Big Bang theory) to Watson is irritating.

Sherlock himself seems to have inherited only the detective traits from the nineteenth century Holmes but inheriting the general manners from the Big Bang Theory's Sheldon Cooper. The Sheldon card is being played too much these days, its a bit funny and even appreciable in the beginning but it being repeated so often makes it look irritating, rude and insensitive.

Sherlock’s brother Mycroft plays an important role too.
But the one character I think, which the directors aced in this TV series is That of Moriarty, Moriarty exists in this series as someone who gives a connection to all the episodes. He is perhaps the most interesting antagonist I've seen in a long time, acted perfectly by Andrew Scott.

But Moriarty of the series is far removed from the Moriarty of the books. He wasn't "that" special in the books. Had only a single appearance and only got popular because of the recenbach fall incident after which Doyle took a break from the series and yet this entire TV series seems to be a catch-up game between Sherlock and Moriarty.

Frankly speaking, Sherlock is as much of an adaption of the Sherlock Holmes Books, as a romantic drama with Sherlock Holmes & Irene Adler in it would be.

But with the adaptation tag removed, Sherlock is an extremely interesting show to watch, addictive even. It's well written and very engaging. The transition from the late nineteenth century London to a London of 2010 is pretty smooth. And from the little that I've seen of Sherlock, the stories are top notch too. Perhaps I'd have liked it better, Had they named the series something else & not called it an adaptation.

Rating: 7/10 
Engaging watch but leave your book based assumptions at bay

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Queen Movie Review

Movie: Queen (Hindi)
Director: Vikas Bahl
Music: Amit Trivedi

Rating: ** 1/2 ( Watchable but nothing special)

A lot of praise was recently garnered on this movie, which made me curious to watch it as soon as my exams finish. But the movie left me a bit disappointed. This isn't the Phantom Films standard that was in Udaan, Lootera or even Hassee Toh Phassee.

Queen starts as a bit sluggish but does have its moments of good humor and entertainment. However, as the screenplay moves to France and subsequently Amsterdam, similarities with English Vinglish start creeping up, this when not only does the movie diminishes its originality sphere, it also becomes boring and predictable. The last 15-20 minutes feel a stretch.

But Queen isn't bad, The acting by Rajkumar Rao and Kangana Ranaut is top notch. Direction is quite good. Vikas Bahl effectively uses the flash back to show the peril and despair Ranaut's character goes through. Bits of good humor from Ranaut make the first half tolerable.

But its the screenplay that lets Queen down, i couldn't help wanting something more substantial in the movie, characters move in and out of the story with well written entries but frustratingly abrupt exits. The second half is extremely predictable.

Queen strongly reminded me of English Vinglish and made the experience more predictable and repetitive. Here are some of the similarities:

Overall, Queen was a let down. Though it had its moments and some really funny ones indeed, it was far too predictable to be really enjoyable.

P.S. Even the music is a bit recycled
Compare this song Kinare's music from 1:33 to 2:00 in the video and Udaan's Title track from 0:20 to 045, the similarity is striking!

- Review by Vidit Bhargava

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Learning From Mistakes

Vidit Bhargava
A simple example from Apple's previous products about learning from mistakes made in the past.

In 2000 Apple came out with PowerMac G4 Cube, a computer that was an aesthetic masterpiece but overpriced and under performing, something which became the reason of its failure. Also it was perhaps the first time people realized that aesthetics are temporary (the Cube developed cracks very easily) but design (not just aesthetics but how well the parts of the product gel together as well) is permanent. In 2013, Apple came out with MacPro A cylindrical Mac which aesthetically challenges the same concepts of computing as the G4 Cube did. Why does a desktop have to be a Tower? Why can't pro users enjoy a luxurious Mac? But unlike the Cube the Mac Pro is neither under powered nor overpriced. (check price comparisons which show how much does it take to assemble a PC with same specs). And is doing well along with getting some great reviews as well.

A lesson well learnt about design. Aesthetics are temporary. Design is Permanent.

Monday, January 13, 2014

What will your verse be?

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering — these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love — these are what we stay alive for.

To quote from Whitman,

“O me, O life of the questions of these recurring.
Of the endless trains of the faithless. Of cities filled with the foolish. What good amid these, O me, O life?
Answer: that you are here. That life exists and identity. That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”

What will your verse be?