Good ol’ days @ USS

It is ironical isn’t it, that in our childhoods, the one thing we most hate (discount the thrashing from parents) is going to school, it is a pain, burden, torture somewhat akin to slavery to a despotic teachers who are bent on making another brick in the wall. Imagine, getting up even before the sun lights up the stratosphere, having a bath (skipping it, if none around), getting dressed, burdened by a sack full of text-books, notebooks and a calendar, leaving home as the rather sad tune of Vande Mataram is heard on a neighbours radio set, trudging to the bus stop hoping and praying that the bus doesn’t arrive (tyre puncture, accident, or anything else), dragging inside it when it arrives, smiling at the teachers that get in the bus hoping that they will be a wee-bit more lenient but alas! Morose prayers, deep breathing to classical music and then the real torture starts: Class-teacher taking attendance, followed by stock taking on homework, punishment, remark on the calendar, a rap on the knuckles, kneeling outside the class, etc. etc. The torture only stemmed for some 15 minutes, when the school broke for recess, in which one has to first rush to the canteen when one hears the bell, grab a bite by standing in a long queue, eat and enjoy, sip at water from a few faucets outside the loos on every floor, empty the bladder and rush back to class by the second ring of the bell indicating the culmination of recess and resumption of persecution.

When they are not trying to cram our brains with information and knowledge which is of little value in real world (for instance, I have never had the use of the most famous algebraic equation (a+b)² = a² + b² + 2ab, ever in my life except for those gloomy days in school), they would drag us to the open ground and force us to move our body in rather rectangular fashion at the count of numbers, namely, 1,2,3,4…5,6,7,8 and then for some very inane reason the count will continue backward and we are expected to it match it by doing the reverse of what we were earlier doing. The only saving grace was that last bell at around 1 pm that resulted in a near stampede as everyone wants to rush out of the school with immediacy. Anyone still in doubt over how children feel about school should look at their demeanour when they enter the school, sad, downcast and glum and contrast it with the way they exit the school, boisterous, raucous and happy.

And yet, as the years pass by and grey abounds on our scalp, we recall those ‘tortuous’ days with fond remembrance. School days weren’t bad after all; in fact, they were one of the best times in our lives. The wiles of the world had not yet defiled our minds and the one and only motive we had was to escape studies and have fun, doing precious nothing, playing war with small figurines, deliberately trying to find a puzzle and solve it, hanging out of tree branches, climbing walls only to jump off them, sneaking into gardens and stealing mangoes or black berries, letting air out of tyres with a thin stick and enjoying the sound that it makes. Oh yes! School was fun, only because we were children and at that time anything and everything was fun. 

I too have fond much remembrance of my school, Utpal Shanghvi School or USS. Located in Juhu, right next to Amitabh Bachchan’s bungalow and near Chandan Talkies, USS started in early 80’s. It mainly catered to rich Gujju kids in the vicinity who did not get admission in Jamnabai or Maneckji. Within a few years of coming into being, USS established itself as a premier choice school, in fact, at around the time I left, the donation required for admission was rumoured to have crossed Rs. 1 lakh, which was a big big amount in those days.

Nonetheless, I was lucky to have got admission in USS thanks to my dad’s acquaintance with the Principal Abha Dharampal’s husband. Prior to USS, I was studying at a rather cosy school in Santacruz (W), named as Little Angels High School. Since, my sister who too was with me at Little Angels and had got admission in Mount Marys Convent in Bandra, my parents decided to shift me to a bigger school, so that I don’t suffer from a complex with my sister (and these were the days before psychiatrist and psychologist existed). Thus, in the month of August, I was sitting in princi’s (hereafter I will refer to Ms. Dharampal as princi as I still don’t have the courage to refer to her by name) office and after a short and snappy interview I was in. It was year 1987.

The reason why I am suddenly indulging in nostalgia is because some days back my mother shared with me a box that I used to maintain as a kid, in which to my great excitement I found yearly class pictures from USS. Looking at those pictures, schooldays memories just kept gushing on like swooning Brahmaputra. I tried to assign names to all those in the photos and to my surprise, I remembered quite a few of them. Since, I was an introvert and somewhat scared of girls, I don’t remember quite many of their names. Fortunately and quite fortuitously, I was present during all these classroom snaps. Looking at all those kids smiling, bored, yawning, posing, stiff, relaxed, etc, I could not help but wonder where all they must be. Probably, married and well-settled like me. Somehow, except for a very few friends, I haven’t been in touch with any of them and even with the ones I did, it was very infrequent. Quite a few years back, I remember going to a reunion at USS and had met a few of them, somehow it did not work out and haven’t been in touch with any of them.

Thus, when my dad got the pics scanned, I decided immediately to put them on a blog as an advert for all my classmates from USS class 1987-1992, to get in touch and get together and share and extend each other memories. Here below I am posting the photos on a yearly basis with a few incidents culled from the neurons that are still storing the memories. It’s better to list them down before they fail or fade or both. Continue reading

Up in the clouds

Apparently, most inventions and technologies have their roots in jargon. In fact, jargonizing is the favourite pastime of almost all tech companies. So, when they are not conjuring up innovative software or hardware solutions, they are prone to cook up some mumbo-jumbo. Usually, these jargons are in the form of acronyms and over a period of time through repeated usage they tend to take on real shape. Sample some of the jargons that have become real, like NC (network computers), ERM (enterprise resource management), RIM (remote infrastructure management, Grid computing, SOA (service oriented architecture), etc. 

Cloud computing is the latest cloud on the block. The term today encompasses a lot more than it innocently declares, and often means different things to different people.  Accordingly, cloud computing stands for SaaS (software as a service), PaaS (platform as a service) and IaaS (infrastructure as a service). But that isn’t all; it also incorporates Web 2,0 and HyperWeb functionalities.  At the basic, it simply means ‘doing things over the Web’, the cloud tantamounts to Internet in this case.

While there is some sort of clarity on what a ‘cloud’ is and what it should be doing. But, there is little or almost no clarity on how one ‘cloud’ should be reacting to another ‘cloud’ or rather working with other clouds. The reason is fairly obivious, the companies that are working on cloud computing, are basically doing in a very personal and private way. Thus, you have the IBMs, the Googles, the Amazons, and the Salesforce.coms of the world who are building and rolling out services and solutions in a cloud architecture. But these are unique to the company and usually have little or nothing in common with others. Hence, there are myriad clouds floating over cyberspace that don’t recognise each other and neither want to either.  It is as if every company is in love with its cloud and wants their client to only be bound by their own. There is little trust in cloud computing. Continue reading

Tutul’s pics

Due to popular demand (by Tutul’s numerous aunties of course), I am hereby posting the images of the lil’ one. Clicked during the days in the hospital, Mr. Idhant Chaturvedi  (Tutul’s official name) seem to be quite disinclined to the camera, it’s unbelievably tough to capture his fleeting smile on camera. And when I keep the camera focused on him, he will maintain a meditative pose with his eyes glued shut, only to open when I have shut the camera out of mere exasperation. As of now, Biwi does not let me ‘pinch awake’ him, so these photos are very rare indeed.

A request: As there is no kaala tikka on him in the photos,  so be careful with your nazaar. So, even if you find him irresistibly cute and extremely handsome (father’s inheritance surely), don’t blurt it out  😛

In his dreams, pouting his lips for a snap or kissing a femme fatale

In his dreams, pouting his lips for a snap or kissing a femme fatale

Finally, eyes open, exploring the world around.

Finally, eyes open, exploring the world around.

There comes the elusive smile.

There comes the elusive smile.

In deep (and constant) contemplation.

In deep (and constant) contemplation.

2020: Just not cricket

Thankfully, the curtains come down on the IPL tamasha today in South Africa. Over the past month and more, we have been inundated with victories, defeats, controversies, etc., from the second season of IPL, the 2020 cricket tournament. Various teams named after different cities and regions of India dressed up in bright ‘in your eyes colours have a go at each other for some 20 odd overs in company of cheer leaders who strut their stuff every time a boundary is scored or a wicket falls. 2020 cricket has apparently found its feet and is now has some critical mass, so as to be dubbed as a form of sport in its own right. And yet, somewhere I feel it nothing more than an abomination on the name of cricket.

In a country devoid of many heroes, cricket is not merely a sport but a religion of sorts. People have taken to worshipping the cricketers, who are nothing less the avatars of the divine lords. Ironically, the game is a colonial import, brought  and introduced by our English masters. But it was in 1983, when Kapil Dev and his team lifted the Prudential Cup over their heads; we fell in love with the game. For a young and vibrant nation breaking from its past, the game came as an ego-booster; India had arrived so as to say.

Over the years, the game took on different connotations as we progressed, from being a steroid shot to a revenge mechanism (Indo-Pak matches), cricket continued to enthuse and excite us. We were fortunate as well, having a recurring crop of world class players, from Vijay Merchant to Sunil Gavaskar to Kapil Dev to Sachin Tendulkar to the current bunch of youngsters led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni. Though, we haven’t won another World Cup in one-day cricket, we continue to be a force to reckon with both on and off the field (financial clout).

Yet, even as the game has transformed over the past decades; there has been a steady descent. Thanks to the millions and billions of monies, cricket has ceased to be a ‘gentleman sport’ but merely a money spinner. And 2020 is the worst manifestation of the greed that now enshrouds and has its grip on the game. To be honest, cricket has died an ignomious death in the last few years, and strangely we the worshippers didn’t even realise it. Continue reading

Interview: Sundar Raman (CEO, IPL)

In an interview, IPL’s CEO Sundar Raman spoke about how technology has really impacted the sport of cricket and how technology and IT has helped making IPL the kind of show that it is. This interaction was published in the Dataquest Magazine.


DLF IPL has revolutionised the way the Cricket is watched and followed in India and the world

Without doubt, IPL is the biggest sports extravaganza in the globe with a turnover running in some Rs. 7000 crores. But not only as a cricketing innovation, IPL has also been embroiled in a host of controversies. At the very center of it all, is the CEO of DLF IPL, Sundar Raman. He was appointed last year to give a professional touch to the game, prior to this Raman had been associated with the WPP group for over a decade. 

Raman’s biggest challenge came when the game was abruptly shifted to South Africa due to election and political issues in India. It was a logistical nightmare, considering the short time frame. But Raman and his team have done their homework and thanks to investment and knowledge of IT solutions, they were able to ensure that all goes according to plan without a hitch. Caught up with the rigmarole of the upcoming event, Raman took some time out for an exclusive interaction with Dataquest, wherein he talks about how the game has been revolutionised by the 20-over innovation and how technology is helping it make a success. Excerpts.  

In IPL2, what will be the additions over the very successful IPL 1?

The inaugural season of the DLF Indian Premier League was a huge learning for the BCCI and our team. For starters it helped prove that India can sustain a franchise based model in Sports and quite profitably. But perhaps more important was the fact that we were able to help create a model that has helped grow the game at the grassroots level and significantly enhance the infrastructure across India through private participation. Drawing in the crowds through a mix of world-class action on the field and entertainment, were critical elements in the success of the IPL. That aside we made some unique additions to the quality of cricket played through innovations like the MCC Spirit of Cricket Charter, the Purple Cap for the Best Bowler and Orange Cap for the Best Batsmen.

In the second season, we have explored similar opportunities and avenues to create excitement for the fans and help improve the quality of on-field action. The five minute ‘strategy break’ is on such strategic innovation in the sundar-ramanlong line of innovations that the league has pioneered from the start. We did a calculation last year and 100 per cent matches went over an hour beyond their schedule time. It was just one delayed game after another and this inspite of the fact that we had enforced extremely high penalties. What we discovered then was that a majority of the time teams were ready to pay the money because the coaches and captains/players were consulting one another as the playing situations evolved on-field to fine tune their strategies. It is because of this discovery that we attempted to innovate with this new ‘strategy break’ at the end of 10 overs.

That aside we have identified areas of improvement around spectator comfort and the in-stadia experience, which we will rigorously implement in the upcoming Season 2009 in South Africa.

Then there will be the non-stop Cricket and Entertainment Carnival that we have planned throughout South Africa for the coming 36 days. No efforts are being spared to ensure that the fans in India and the Rainbow Nation are privy to a sporting spectacle the likes of which have never been experienced before. Season 2009 will be an expansive and grand celebration of cricket with a dash of Bollywood and local South African flavor added into the mix for good measure. More importantly, we are expecting strong support from our Indian fans, arriving in South Africa, to make their presence felt and display their solidarity towards their favorite teams. We believe that the kind of interest the DLF IPL has generated over the months and days—right from the time it was announced till today—will channelize into stadia’s across South Africa packed to capacities during the league. 

What would you term as the enhancements to the game brought about by IPL. A lot of purists are balk at the comparison made between traditional cricket matches to IPL ones? Continue reading

Changing times, changing tech

“Aunt is no more. Ask Dineshji to come urgently” was the terse message on my cell quite late into the night. My dad’s sister had been unwell for sometime now, and two heart-attacks in quick succession were very fatal. Once the grim news had settled, another task awaited me. I had to make travel arrangements for dad, as he had to travel to Kanpur, the opposite end of India. It was midnight and Mumbai was sleeping tight.

Unfortunately for me, I wasn’t carrying my laptop either, on which I could access the Web and make the requisite arrangements. I was cursing myself at leaving my laptop back at home and wondering what to do next.

Suddenly, out there in the grim environ, a small 20-watt bulb lit over my head, dispelling the confusion that had cloaked my mind. My E61 turned out to be the Excalibur that I was hunting for. Due to the erratic travel schedules, I have subscribed to GPRS service on my cell. I use it to surf, check mails and send my articles. Agree, the data speeds are pathetic and it takes ages even to mail a simple word document. But that is a small price one has to pay for convenience.

In a jiffy, the Internet explorer was open on my cell and I keyed in ‘’. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Makemytrip was WAP enabled and had been optimised for the cell screen. The best thing was the layout was a bit intuitive keeping in mind the small screen and few clicks that go with it. Within, five minutes, I had whittled down the search to an early morning flight to Kanpur, punched in the details, made the payment through the credit card and presto, the work was done.

In another five minutes or so, I checked my Gmail on my cell again to find the confirmation mail from Makemytrip with all the requisite details. Within a few hours, we were at the airport, armed with the printed copy of the airticket in our hands. Continue reading

A :( yet :) Communalist

Communalists like me in India are a wee bit dazed at the moment by the way the election results have unfolded in India. While, victory by NDA (led by a communal BJP) seemed improbable; the contrary (victory of UPA) did not seem a possibility either. To that end, I had stuck out my neck last time ( and declared that Congress will lose the hustings and so will BJP, and we will be see the emergence of a prime minister from one of the numerous fronts. May 16th proved me, and so many more like me, to be wrong and I stand corrected now. I had completely underestimated the intelligence of Indian voters (though I still quite doubt its existence) and had gone ahead and predicted the future as perceived from my rather urbanised mind. I had forgotten that India lives in the villages, thus the issues that were relevant to me were not the same with that of say a Shankar in Azamgarh. 

To be honest, I have never really been able to fathom as to what makes the Indian masses tick; is it a mere battle of survival, so that anyone who gives them the maximum freebie wins or is it caste/religious identity? Considering the way Indians politicians pander and beguile the populace year after year, it is hard to expect them to be sane and rational. Either my fellow countrymen, that number well over a billion, are very intelligent can segregate the wheat from the chaff or are complete idiots who can be easily taken for a ride by wily politicos. Looking at the results of the 15th Lok Sabha elections from this prism, I am a bit more inclined towards believing that Indian voters are more sensible than they are thought to be. And, before all the Congressi start jumping with ‘we told you so’. Let me clarify my statement.

The reason why I detest Congress more from an ideological point-of-view than from a logical one. For me the Gandhi-worship is akin to the dynastical worship of the past; recall how the zamindar babu’s son would be another zamindar himself, similarly, a Gandhi scion has no need to prove himself before being vaulted into the stratosphere of Indian politics. All that is required is a mere name that can be earned by birth or by marriage. This herd mentality, rather common trait among Indians who have been accustomed to be ruled for ages, pisses me no end. And that is the primary reason why I want the callous Gandhi party to be decimated. Continue reading

Kanda Bhajiya, Cutting Chai and Mumbai Monsoons

For the past few months the city is under siege. The enemy has taken complete control. The populace is tortured from daybreak to dusk and from dusk to dawn. Adults, women, children, infants, no one was spared. There was nothing one could do.

The foe was keeping a watch on every road, every lane, every rooftop, and every junction. There was no escaping, not anywhere and not anyhow. For over three months now, my fellow citizens and me endured; hoping, waiting and praying for deliverance.

Something changed over the past few days. There were some reconnaissance sentinels from the allied camp, spurring hopes in our hearts. These black behemoths roamed across the city probably trying to evaluate the scale of invasion required. Relief seemed well on the way.

And today, it finally happened! I could see the relief forces amassing on the horizon. The grey legions were everywhere. The oppressors are no match for these mighty hordes. The mood was sombre, the hearts jolly. It is just a matter of time, before these infidels are driven away from precincts of Mumbai, driven away for 8 or 9 months, before they return to amount a fresh assault.

Pavas aala re!

The monsoon is at the gates, just a matter of time before the heavens open up. It is the time that every Mumbaikar looks forward too every year. The past few months have been agonisingly painful. Summer seems different in this city. Like any other coastal place in peninsular India, the humidity kills you if the heat doesn’t. You will be sweating, irritable and hot all over. But it is quite common. Mumbai’s uniqueness lies elsewhere; in it’s darn crowds. Continue reading

Welcoming Tutul!!!

Day before yesterday (May 16th. 16:47 hrs), I was visited by the lady Stork carrying a small bundle of joy, hope and excitement; a bundle that has been named Tutul (pet name, nick name, home name). The visit was not really a surprise for me and wifey, as we had prepared our self for it in the past 9 odd months. And yet when it finally happened, we realised that no amount of preparation or expectation can be enough for child birth.  When, the “ohhhh..waahhh, ooohh…wahhh” moment arrives, you are just as raw, nervous and excited as if this is not happening to you. “Is that delicate, frail, whimpering new-born ours and HOWW!!” is probably the only thought that crosses the mind. In fact, I was quite numbed when I heard the cries and there are still som

baby_storke vestiges of that numbness. But it is wearing off quite steadily, especially when Tutul simply refuses to do as I wish and seem to merely wish as he does.

Tutul, which means soft and supple in Bengali, is an extension of the “UL” series of nick-names in my family, the four of us siblings are named Gugul, Parul, Putul, and Shishul by our parents and now the tradition extends further with Tutul. And yet, while Tutul might be a tiny addition to the vast sea of humanity, for us (me & wifey), he is already one of the biggest event (if not the biggest one) in our lives.

The past few days have been very hectic and quite understandably; when I am not admiring the face of the little angel, which many opine is quite similar to my own, I am running errands, escorting visitors, interacting with the doctor & nurses, learning to handle a tiny doll who seems to be prone to high-pitched shrieks and cries that almost shakes the whole place up, getting advices, doling out some, etc.

In all this, my greatest travesty has been that I have been blacked out and unable to share this amazing news with all my friends, colleagues and well-wishers. It so happens that my cell is conked off, and while I was supposed to get it a week back, I still haven’t. The result has been pretty disastrous, since all my contacts were in that cell, I have not been able to spread the message far and wide, as I would have ideally liked. Over the past few weeks, I had strung together a couple of short messages that would not only inform all and sundry about the new addition to the Chaturvedi clan, but also seek blessings and good wishes for the kiddo. Alas, I have been denied the right to puff up my chest and preen a wee bit. Continue reading

The Curious case of Two Mr. P(s)

One of the most baffling mystery that plagues mankind is whether our existence moves on pre-determined course or whether we are chance entities that live, exist and die in complete randomness. Is there really something abstruse as luck, chance, fate, destiny and if the cosmic movements of some 12 odd celestial bodies that keep moving in time and space dictate indeed our lives? Can all of mankind be divided into 12 sub sects, namely, Gemini, Virgo, Pisces, Capricorn, etc?  In fact, day after day, Marjorie Orr and her ilk come out with predictions based on these celestial bodies that are true for all mankind, so as to say. And they would like us to believe that inane predictions like, “you will have a fight with your loved one and you will suddenly discover a fortune under your financial dealings” is true for all Pisceans apparently, and there must be quite a few 100 million of them around.

Personally, I am unable to commit myself to either of these view planks; while it is hard to swallow that all my actions and its consequences are preordained, thus for instance, the fact that I am writing this article has been written earlier and the words that I will be using have been chosen beforehand, is a wee bit unfair to me. On the other end, there seems to be something as malleable ether that enshrouds us, that ensures that my contemporaries are well paid, well sought, and wealthier than I am. Hence, I won’t be naive to question the existence of certain lady who seems to be lucky to few and indifferent to rest, at the risk of antagonizing her.

Beyond the personal experience, now and then one does comes across strange happenings of life, that seem to indicate that the 12 celestial bodies do play a role in our lives. The curious case of Two Mr. P(s) is one such occurrences of life that is hard to put down as just another coincidence. Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Velupillai Prabhakaran are two people that have been much in news in the past few weeks. Rather well known as Prachanda and Prabhakaran, both are leaders of revolutionary movements in their respective countries and have been blamed for much mayhem by their detractors. And now, even as you read these words, both are facing the biggest challenge in their lives, while Prabhakaran is fighting an up-hill battle for his (and LTTE’s) survival, Prachanda is caught in a quandary, should he take on his old ‘Maoist’ mantle or stick on with the new democratic one that he donned a few months back. Both Mr. Ps are fighting a pitch battle at the moment, one of survival and other or relevance.

And it is not only the letters of the name that is common to these Mr. Ps; the links between the two are much deeper. Apparently, Mr. Prabhakaran and Mr. Prachanda were both born in same year 1954 and within a few days of each other, while the Tamil tigerist was born on November 26, the Nepali Maoist was born December 11. If an Indian astrologer was paid to make a janampatri (birth-chart) of these two Mr. Ps, there would be much in common between the two of them in terms of the 12 houses and the celestial bodies that inhabit them. Hence, astrologically speaking, the destiny curves of these two people must be more or less the same. And rather strangely it is.
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VFXing its Way…

Bollywood, the largest film industry in the world, has finally come to terms with computing power, as more and more filmmakers are jumping on the VFX bandwagon for cost or for glory.

Babubhai Mistry is a name not many are able to recall; even in Bollywood. The few that do, are completely oblivious to Babubhai’s (as he was fondly known) state of affairs; whether he alive or is no more. And yet, just a few decades back, he was a star in his own right, dubbed as the ‘trick scene director’, he was the person who made it possible for Hanuman to lift the Gandhamadan mountain or Hatimtai to fly on a magical carpet in Hindi films. For over 50 years, Babubhai was the man who gave wings to film maker’s and viewer’s fantasies, he was India’s premier special effects director with around 300 films to his credit as director or special effects cinematographer. Many dub his most active years, from 40s to 70s, as the age of the mythologicals (in another words, the age of special effects).

Till around 1970s, Indian and Hollywood films were more or less the same in terms of usage of technology and output. When Babubhai made Mahabharata in the 60s, around the same time Hollywood saw the release of The Ten Commandments, Benhur or the King of Kings. There wasn’t a major difference in the way action sequences were displayed in these movies.

All that changed with the emergence of George Lucas on the international scene. Lucas’ Star Wars in the 1970s opened the realm of possibilities with the use of robotics and computer effects. Meanwhile, Steven Spielberg brought to life aliens in E.T., dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, sharks in Jaws and alien machines in War of the Worlds. Hollywood had discovered the magic of computers and was eagerly trying to redefine the realm of possibilities.

Finally, Peter Jackson went a notch higher, the Lord of the Rings trilogy proved what modern high-end computing can achieve. And if that was not enough, he put life in the giant ape King Kong. Visual Special Effects or VFX in Hollywood is getting bigger and bigger by the day, every year big blockbuster movies are released that heavily rely on VFX to pull the audiences.
In sharp contrast, Indian films lagged as filmmakers persisted with the same old techniques. The reluctance to adopt computing platform resulted in a yawning gap between Indian films and the ones made in Hollywood. So, while the two were on the same level till the 70s, over the next 2-3 decades, Hollywood raised the level of moviemaking to such an extent that the comparison itself seemed laughable.

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Happy B’day Manikda!

It must be a special day up in the heaven today, considering it is Manikda’s earthly birthday. In the lavish celestorium up above, there must be back-to-back screenings from the mastsatyajit_rayer’s repertoire, starting with Pather Panchali and if possible going on till Agantuk. Probably all his contemporaries and admirers like Renoir, Bergman, Bunuel, Fellini, Kurosawa must have arrived from their respective heavens, revisiting his  masterpieces, discussing, dissecting and deliberating on them. Meanwhile, the birthday boy himself, would be sitting in a corner, away from the glare, dressed up in white dhoti-kurta and a shawl draped over his torso. Sitting cross-legged, a pipe hanging from his mouth sending out small small tufts of tobacco clouds quite like the steam engine in Pather Panchali that amused Apu and Durga. Satyajit Ray or Manikda as he was known within the film fraternity, must be observing all and sundry with intent full eyes, and probably thinking of what more embellishments could have been made to these movies or how many more he could have made, only if he had seen Bicycle Thieves a little earlier or the finances had flown in evenly through the years. Or just probably, he might be seeing those movies now not as a maker but as a viewer and enjoying them as thoroughly as we all do.

Manikda lived for 70 years on this planet and in it made some 28 feature length films and some half-a-dozen odd documentaries; he started at 32 and ended only when his time on tera-firma was up. In these 35-38 odd years, he completely reshaped the cinema in India and also across the globe. If ever one is coerced to take a single name whose influence on film making has been the most impactful, it has to be Ray. Though, he was not beyond the slur of numerous critics and self-appointed nationalists; yet he never did let anything or anyone bog him down and much like Gupi and Bagha in his two comic capers (which were heavily satirical as well) continued to enthrall his audiences across the globe.

“Not seeing Ray’s film is like living in the world, without the sun and the moon,” Kurosawa had stated once, and there is little more that can be added or appended to it. Manikda’s film encapsulated life and times of an India that was caught between the past, present and the future. On one hand, he captures the rigors and tribulations of rural life in Pather Panchali, Ashani Sanket. And then he brings the camera into the city, capturing the vagaries of modern life in Apur Sansar, Mahanagar, Jana Aranya, Agantuk, etc. And even when he dealt with all these serious issues, Manikda never preached and seldom took sides. His films were npt about good or bad or balck or white,  they were merely grey much like the color they were shot in. It was as if, he was trying not to be biased for and against his characters, so in Jana Aranya, you have the son (the main protagonist) who is steadily becoming an instrument of crass capitalism, there is the idealist father who is trying to come to terms with the new realities of life and then there is indifferent brother and his caring wife. Between the four of them, Manikda captured and presented all the differing views that any Indian might be troubled or beset with.

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