Monday, June 21, 2010

Bus Day - Bangalore

It's an era of publicity and creating awareness. There are thousands of awareness campaigns going on - from "save tigers" to "sev puri". One tool of creating awareness is commemorating a "Day" for that occasion. And so, we have the Earth day, the World Environment Day, etc to create awareness about environmental issues. The newest one in this series of "Days" is Bus Day.

Bus Day, is observed on the 4th of every month to get more people to use public transport - which not only reduces traffic but also reduces carbon emission. I think it's a very noble cause - and i am sure there must be some study done by someone to show how many more people used the public transport and how many liters of petrol/diesel got saved and by what degree the carbon footprint reduced. And I am sure that these numbers would be very encouraging.

But, on the 3rd and 5th of the month, the situations goes back to where it always were. It, essentially, implies that due to the awareness, publicity and hype created on the name of the Bus Day the pollution reduced. This indeed marks the success of the Bus Day as a campaign.

Let's look at the bigger picture. The reason for having the Bus Day is, to put in simple terms, reduce pollution and traffic And the act to achieve this is to create awareness among people to use public transport. It's like giving them a test-drive and telling them that it's not that bad to use buses.

I would like to take a step back and try to answer a more pertinent question - Why do people use private vehicles in the first place. There could be multiple factors - status symbol, convenience, hobby-ist riding/driving, etc. I think, a lot of people are buying entry level cars and bikes because there isn't a good public transit system in place.

The condition of buses are good. The fares are reasonable. But the problem is  that the buses are very infrequent. I thought that it is to do with the last mile problem. Maybe, the place where I stay is cut out from the city despite hosting an IT park. I later figured that there are a lot of places facing the "last mile" problem. Even the main roads - the one connecting Koramangala to Indiranagar - has very infrequent buses. Not only the buses are infrequent, there are high chances that you would need to change 2-3 buses if you want to go to a far off place which is not in line-of-sight. For example, from Cox town, if you want to go to most part of the city - you would need to take a bus to Shivajinagar and then take another bus. So, both the problem of infrequent buses and lack of adequate direct buses compel people to take private transport.

A stark contrast to this is Kolkata. Here, even people having private vehicle prefer metro railways as it is faster and doesn't have problems of parking. Most people in Kolkata uses public transport - a good indicator would be the percentage of college students using private transport. I am sure it would be way below that in Bangalore. Now, I understand, there could be multiple reasons to it - from cultural ones to historical ones. But the fact remains that the key driver to this is good public transport system. The buses may not be as comfortable as in Bangalore but they are frequent and connects different parts of the city well. I guess, from what i have read, that Mumbai is very similar. The local train network is very good and people prefer it to their private cars. I am, no way, saying that transport system in Kolkata/Mumbai is better/worse than Bangalore. transport system/traffic has many other factors which i have not considered.

We should have the basic facilities in place first. Creating awareness is very important but doesn't come before creating the core product. Get the buses on road. Make them frequent. And then, the public would start using the services.

With the current infrastructure, Bus Day campaign is akin to spreading awareness on how good pulses are for health in a famine affected area.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Raajneeti: After-thoughts

If you are an engineer, you would know what is meant by research paper. For the others, here are the steps to write a paper:

1. Select a subject. More often than not, this is a topic on which one has some past experience and, preferably, in which one has burn his finger.
2. Select a few pioneering papers and refer to some current industry work.
3. Take bits and pieces of information from all these sources and compile them

The above three steps are for writing ordinary papers which will help you get a good job or an admission to a US grad program. However, to get into a top rung university/job, you need to be a little creative and follow the below step.

4. Do some transformation on the information gathered from the research papers and then compile it. For example, if there are two variables in an equation, combine them and make it a third variable. Transpose a variable from one side of the equation to the other side. Add two or more independent equations and make a consolidated compiled equation which, in essence, doesn't carry any new information.

And woila! We have an Ivy League paper!

Prakash Jha's Rajneeti can be considered analogous to a research paper. It takes bits and pieces from Mahabharat, God Father, Shiv Sena, Congress, (Priyadarshan's movie) Virasat among other sources.

Mahabharat is a timeless epic and any political saga could somehow be seen as inspired from Mahabharat. Raajneeti, doesn't have this subtlety. It overtly draws-in from Mahabharat. So - there is a ruling family. Bharati Rai (Kunti) abandon's her son, Suraj (Karna/AjayDevgan). She get married to the ruling family - she has two children and her brother-in-law has one (as apposed to 100!) The ruling party's president is taken to bed and there is a war of succession. His son Veer Pratap (Duryodhan) wants to be the president while his cousin Prithviraj Pratap (ArjunRampal/Pandav) claims that post. Veer Pratap (Duryodhan) befriends Suraj (Karna), a complete outsider to politics. There is Mama Shakuni, played by Nana Patekar - who (as per step 4) is on the Pandav's side! The conversation between Bharati and Suraj where she tells Suraj that she is her biological mother and that he should leave the opposition and join their side is lifted up from the Kunti-Karna conversation directly. The terms used - like "jesht putra" - shouted out loud that this is lifted form Mahabharat.

If you thought this was neat, Prakash Jha, intricately weaves, the Mahabharat tale with God Father's. Hence enters Samar (RanbirKapoor/Pandav/Michael Corleone). Though he is dis-interested in politics and is doing his PhD in the US, stays back when his father is murdered. (A sequence similar to Anil Kapoor's staying back in Virasat). He then, like Michael Corleone, takes charge of the Family and chalks out strategies. The sequence of car-blasting while the driver goes for a leak, the blood flooded dead on the bed, the peace treaty between the Families are some of the sequences directly picked up from God Father.

Considering the movie in its face value alone, it was a good attempt. The pace of the movie was fast enough to keep you seated. The whole screenplay was brilliant. The dialogues were very ordinary - a few however were absurd. Like:

Bharati's Father: Tum us do takey ke aadmi se pyar karti ho? (or something like that)
Bharati: Aapke liye toh takey hi sub kuchh hai na.

Katrina Kaif overtakes Ranbir's car.

Ranbir: Tumhare paas license hai? (or something like that)
Katrina: Kiska, gadi chalene ka ya tumhe kiss karne ka

The music was apt. Especially, Mora Piya song is good. The "disco" song was not needed - however, not being a full-length bollywood song, it didn't hurt. All the actors gave great performances. Nana Patekar does a good job by not mimicking himself. Naseerudding Shah is brilliant in his less-than-4-minutes role. However, Ranbir Kapoor steals the show. Brilliant acting by the newest offerings from The Kapoor Family. A special acknowledgment to the dress-designer. The long dupatta/stole worn by the politicians was cool and a little different from the mundane white kurta pajama.

However, if there were one thing i could change in the movie - it would be the ending. A party's president is taken-to-bed. Its second in command is killed. A major part of the party spins off. Still, that spun off party wins. I would have made a third party winning. Dividing a party divides the vote base - and it's more "real" that a third party wins. We have seen this in case of MNS being spun off from Shiv Sena.

Overall, it was a good movie with a lot things happening in three hours - Mahabharat and God Father. Despite drawing heavily from the two, it keeps you seated till the end. Not a great movie or a movie you would want to watch again and again - but worth watching it once, preferably, in single-screen theater.

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