Saturday, January 24, 2009

Movie Review: Enemy at the Gates

I recently watched this 2001 movie Enemy at the Gates. The film is based on a true story of a Russian sniper Vassili Zaitsev's fight against the German army during the siege of Stalingrad. The movie begins with a very sombre note of a under equipped Soviet army getting battered by the better equipped Nazi forces.

The main reason why I am totally impressed by this movie is the way in which a relatively unknown soldier is made into a national phenomenon and his name is deified to inculcate a sense of national pride and global respect. Vassili Zaitsev is a normal soldier fighting for his country like millions of others across the world. But by making a movie and highlighting the story of achievements in an exemplary movie format he has been made a phenomenon.

I wish our Indian film makers would learn from hollywood about the type of movies to be made. Instead of sticking to the stupid love-sex-violence formula which don't provide any intellectual stimulation, Indian film makers should start thinking about making movies which create a sense of national pride, patriotism and a sense of the Indian identity among its viewers who are primarily the uneducated and undereducated masses.

Plot Summary
The initial scene is specially scary when we see groups of young Soviet recruits being pushed into the battle. They have one rifle for two men and an officer is screaming on the megaphone: "When the one with the rifle falls, the one behind picks up the rifle and fights." The motivational speeches work and unarmed and under armed soldiers rush into a confrontation with the third reich, knowing well that they are facing certain death. If they advance the enemy bullet is likely to get them and if they retreat their own officers will kill them as deserters.

Vassili Zaitsev played by Jude Law is one of the soldiers who displays exemplary marksmanship and kills five German soldiers with as many bullets. This feat gets noticed by Political officer Danilov (Joseph Fiennes) who writes about Vassili in the army newspaper and thus begins their journey to fame. Vassili goes ahead daily killing German officers and virtually creates panic among the army of the Third Reich. Not to be out done the Nazi army calls in their best sniper Major Konig (Ed Harris) to eliminate Vassili. At this point the story takes a turn and becomes a cat and mouse game between the two snipers leading to one triumphing over the other.

There is a little love triangle between Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz which leads to some complications in the story. Jude Law plays the central character Vassili and Rachel Weisz plays his lover Tania, also a Russian soldier. Their stellar performances are very efficiently supported by Ed Harris who plays Major Konig (German sniper) and Joseph Fiennes (Political officer Danilov).

Friday, January 23, 2009

Antiquated Enfield Commercial

I chanced upon this TV commerical of Royal Enfield Bullet on youtube and thought I'd share it with my readers. This is one bike which I probably owned for the longest period of time while I was in India. I have ridden several motorcycles since parting with the Bullet but none have come anywhere close in terms of the feel and riding comfort of this big thumper. It is on this motorcycle that I doscovered the joys of riding in the backroads of rural India... places where there are no roads but only foot trails... places where rivers flow across the roads... places where traffic is so thick that one has to inch along for hours before opening the throttle. But all said... Enfield Bullet is the bike...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Russia... Going back in time!

When the whole world is progressing in terms of lifestyles, social patterns, ways of expressing love and affection, technology etc... some nations are taking retrograde steps. Couple of years ago when I was in India there was a flurry of activity in the country's college and university campuses. The authorities were trying to enforce dress code for students, especially girl students. Naturally numerous feminist organizations protested against the diktats and reasoned that women should be free to wear or "not wear" what they want.

Anyway I guess the Indian university administrations and students have made peace I suppose. But this news item I read on CNN shocked me completely. According to a Reuters report authorities in Moscow, Russia are considering imposing a ban on Kissing on the city's underground rail system. If couples are caught Kissing, then they could be fined or even jailed. And this ban could extend even to married couples and also to plain hugging. Anyone and everyone caught hugging or kissing in public places would be fined and/ or jailed under the new set of regulations.

Well... well... well... I really don't know what to say. When Indian newspapers and feminist organizations fought for liberating women from the clutches of dress codes, I thought it was a necessary move and that women should be allowed the freedom to choose their attire. But now Russia, the seat of global revolution in communism and socialism is passing laws to constrict its citizens expressions of affection.

I wonder if the nation is slowly inching backwards towards the middle ages. First kissing and hugging ban, then there will be restriction on holding hands, then on women and men travelling and working in the same room and so on...

Of course the newsreport is pretty old... I am reading it after a few years.... :):):)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Involved in an Auto Accident? Find solutions here!!!

In most parts of the US it is possible to live without legs but not without a set of wheels. Therefore it is not surprising that this country consumes 40 percent of the world's fuel and accounts to nearly 30 percent of all the green house emissions.

Quite naturally automobile maintenance and repairs is a big business in the US. But like all other places there are good places and there are bad places and finding a good place without burning fingers is the key here. Suppose you are in Colorado, the mountain state of the US, where keeping your automobile in top running condition is vitally important. How would you find auto body shops denver, that is good and that is in location convenient to you? The simplest way to do that is to visit the Collision Repair Experts online directory.

This website is perhaps the best online directory and the simplest to use too. The site offers you facilities to search by zip code, city name or even by state and city. The best part of this website is that they don't list every shop in the area, only those that meet stringent listing requirements are listed on this site. So when you visit a shop from this website you can be assured that they meet all the requirements. One of the requirements is the customer satisfaction index, a least rating of 95 % is required to be listed here.

Book Review: The Courtesan and the Sadhu

The Courtesan and the Sadhu, A novel about Maya, Dharma, and God by Satya Avatar; Dharma Vision LLC; Price: $20.95; 361

One of the most difficult challenges that every Hindu parent living in western societies faces is how to educate their children about the complexities of Sanatana Dharma. With its multitudes of gods, numerous texts, hundreds of sampradayas, thousands of religious gurus and numerous regional, caste, and linguistic communities, Hinduism is perhaps the most fragmented religion in the world. One of the reasons for Sanatana Dharma aka Hinduism to be such is its open and accepting philosophy. Hence there is not one straightforward, black and white way by which one can explain all the tenets of Hinduism to children, teenagers, and young adults. This ambiguity in the faith often leads to fundamental questions in a teenager’s mind.

This need to explain Hinduism to his teenaged son motivated Satya Avatar, who hails from Mysore, Karnataka (South Indian) to write a novel drawing heavily upon certain historical incidents in India’s history. “More than four years ago, my son came to me and asked me how we related to God in Sanatana Dharma. As I progressed in formulating an answer to my son’s question, it occurred to me that the best way to explain the basic tenets of Sanatana Dharma to my teenage son was to write a novel set in ancient India and explain the tenets through the spiritual journey of the characters in the story,” writes the author who came to the United States in 1978 to pursue graduate studies at State University of New York at Buffalo where he received his Ph.D in 1981. Since then he has worked in the high-tech industry where he has held several technical and management positions in research and development, product management, and marketing.

Set in ancient India just after Alexander’s invasion, The Courtesan and the Sadhu takes the reader through the spiritual journey of two seekers: Kautilya and Manu. The former is a highly learned and erudite Vedic scholar, whose life takes an unexpected detour, and he ends up building the Mauryan Empire. Although successful in re-establishing dharmic values in the Indian subcontinent and getting rid of the vestiges of Alexander’s invasion, he continues to have inner struggles about the path he has chosen.

Manu, the other seeker, is an elite warrior in the Mauryan Army but ends up becoming a seeker of Truth at a young age. Disappointed in love, he tries to find answers to his spiritual questions, first as a Buddhist monk and later as a Sadhu. In this story, the author takes the reader through the intriguing journey of the two seekers as they finally overcome Mâya to reach Moksha (emancipation).

The book starts off with Kautilya being asked by a Greek (Yavana) general to modify the Vedas and perform a yagna (vedic ceremony) to praise his accomplishments. A completely angry Kautilya decides to take matters into his hands and seek help of the king of Patliputra to chase the Yavanas out of the Arya land (India). “As Kautilya entered Pataliputra, he was surprised to see that it was much larger than he had imagined. It was a well-planned city with large boulevards and stately buildings. The city was bustling with commerce, and trade. There were stores stocked with expensive and fine jewelry, clothes, and furniture. Many stores were selling vegetables, grains, and wine. He could also see many dance halls, restaurants, and temples,” explains the author speaking about Kautilya’s journey.

One of the most interesting facets of The Courtesan and the Sadhu is that apart from being an absorbing story, the book subtly teaches the readers about Hindu theology and scriptures. Written in the deceptively simple style characteristic of American writing Satya Avatar effectively communicates the anger, insecurity, adventure, pains, fears, and wonderment the characters of the story. The author has taken pains to describe in exacting detail the various aspects of his story and how they relate to various aspects of the Sanatana Dharma and its allaccepting philosophy. This book would be highly useful to all those people who wish to learn about Hinduism and its philosophy.

“It is interesting to note that for Manu and Kautilya, Dharma without a Creator God was not acceptable, whereas for Chit-Ananda and Chandra Gupta, the existence of a Creator God was immaterial. What mattered to them was the spiritual experience in the material world. The greatness of people of Aryavarta is that they respect and honor all these paths with or without a Creator God,” concludes Satya Avatar in the epilogue of his Magnum Opus.

An Effort to Transform the USA

The largest (geographically) and the most powerful democracy in the world (USA) is in facing its worst crisis in history. When in crisis what do American's do? They go shopping, do business and improve economic value of their nation. This is exactly what Michael Tchong wants to do, he has started a new venture known as Reinventing America through which he hopes to rid the country off its crisis and put it on a path of progress and peace. The website stresses heavily on values, virtues, transparency, ethics education and similar measures as a solution to the present crises.