Wednesday, June 7, 2017

No ifs, no nulls

I have always been a strong proponent of clean code that's written with maintainability in mind. It's my firm opinion that performance should be addressed with proper architecture. In most applications, code trickery contributes very little to overall performance. What exactly causes code to be less or more maintainable? Simplicity and clear semantics are two main important things that contribute to this aspect.

What makes the code simpler to understand? Code with many execution branches is harder to understand and to test. Personally, I dislike deep nested if-then-else conditions. Even having overly complicated boolean expressions as part of if conditions, makes the code harder to understand. Straight-line code without explicit branches and loops would be ideal. But can non-trivial code be written like this? It's quite possible.

Keeping the semantics completely unambiguous requires some thinking. In last few years, I have also developed an acute case of "null-phobia". In Java (and many other languages), usage of "null" can be problematic. Especially while describing semantics. What does a return value of null mean? Is something not present, or is present and empty, or did something go wrong? There are ways to deal with this dilemma. Documentation, exceptions are part of the solution. Now Java 8 has borrowed the Optional from other languages that makes it very easy to deal with this.

In this post, I want to explain one simple measure that can be employed to eliminate some branching and null-checks.

Consider a common service layer pattern. The service layer needs to provide an API to read the business objects from the database. The database layer provides a similar API to return the record from the database associated with the id given.



In the above only the code relevant to this discussion is shown.

Even with this simple structure, it is clear that the usage of null is problematic. Each layer needs to check nulls, and forgetting to do that and passing the result around would generate a NullPointerException in some other part of the code. The programmer must read the documentation in order to understand that null values might be returned, there is no help from the compiler. These are some of the reasons for potential bugs in future.

It's very easy to replace this with the new Optional and remove any ambiguity, and provide a very clear semantics.


That's much better than using nulls as a return value. With the Optional as a return value, it provides a clear signal to the users of the method that they have to check for the existence of the actual result. The compiler enforces the usage of an explicit get() call, and most likely your IDE will warn you if use the get() without the isPresent() method. Now it takes willful ignorance to cause a NullPointerException. That's a win.

Of course the code as written, is nothing but a glorified null-check. The Java 8 Optional allows you to refine the code even further by using the streamlike fluent API. The Optional has much more than just isPresent() and get().

The Optional::map() method is smart. It can be used to convert Optional of one type to another. The isPresent() check is handled for you. It accepts a lambda which will be executed only if the Optional is not empty.

Of course, with a simple lambda like that it can be even further simplified using the new method references.

This is not code trickery at all. This is the correct usage of Optional. The unfamiliarity of the lambdas and the new Java 8 APIs will eventually go away.

This was a small snippet to convey the idea. I strongly argue that such concise straight line code is much easier to understand. It's also extremely easy to maintain due to lack of branching, and lack of the need to keep performing null-checks. To be precise, the branching and null checks have not disappeared, but they have been moved from our code to the JDK library code. That's still a huge win for maintainability.

I am also aware that lambdas, if not used in such concise manner, suffer from the same issues of anonymous classes. My rule of thumb is, lambdas should be simple one-liners, just a method call with descriptive name. Nothing more.

There are many such simple measures that can be employed to write code that has minimal branching, and clear semantics. More in future posts.



Friday, May 12, 2017

Song number 4 : Gaate Kon Manaat

Presenting song number 4

On behalf of the entire team, I am very happy to present the latest song. It's an old poem, written by late Vaa. Raa. Kaant. I liked it because it's simple, lyrical and at the same time meaningful. I am sure all artists have felt this poem in their heart, and the question it asks. Who is really driving the inspirations? The poem doesn't answer that question. Instead it reminds the artists, that they are not really creating the art, rather it's the other way around. It's the art that's shaping them. I believe this is true for all art forms.

I am very fortunate to have received support from very talented artists to shape this song :-)

Aparna Nimkar lent her sweet, melodious voice and sung this beautifully. After composing, I knew I wanted her to sing this song, and I am so glad that it materialized. Her voice gives a nice, pleasant and calming effect to this song.

The rhythm is excellently handled by the duo, Amey Thakur-Desai and Hanumant Rawade. This is the third time, Ameya has helped me with the rhythm.

The superb flute interludes are thanks to Pranav Haridas and guitar is played by Amogh Dandekar.

Finally, the music arrangement, mixing and mastering is done by Aniket Damale. His perfect arrangement is soothing and blends seamlessly with the main melody. Without his enthusiastic support, the song wouldn’t be this good.

I have kept the melody in the contours of Raag Jaunpuri. Hope you enjoy the song as much as we all enjoyed making it. If you like it, please support it by sharing. Thank you!


गाते कोण मनात, कळेना, गाते कोण मनात ?

जरी शतावधि कविता लिहिल्या
शंभरदा वाचिल्या गायिल्या
शब्द कुणाचा, सूर कुणाचा, अजुनि मला अज्ञात

पुशिले त्याचे नाव फुलाला,
गाव तयाचे उषे निशेला
मिचकावुनि कुणि डोळा जातो, काळ्याभोर जळात

अभिमानाने कधी दाटता
“रचिले मी हे गाणे” म्हणता
“गीतच रचिते नित्य तुला रे” फुटे शब्द ह्रदयात

My feeble attempt at translation ...


कौन गाता है मेरे मन में, पता नहीं, कौन गाता है मेरे मन में

सैकड़ों कविताऐं लिखी, सौ बार गायी, पढ़ी
है शब्द किसके, सुर किसके - हूँ इससे अबतक अंजान मैं

पूछा उसका नाम फूलोंसे, पता सबा से, रात से
मटका कर आँखे बस चला जाता है कोई काले गहरे पानी में

अभिमान से कभी कहुँ, “गीत लिखा यह मैंने”
“गीत ही लिखते है नित तुम्हे”, उठता है जवाब, अंदर दिल में


Saturday, March 4, 2017

Marathi Rubaai - 3

Rubaai number 3. With Hindi translation.

#रुबाई #काहीतरी #उगाचच

Marathi
होते कधी साजिरे, चित्र झाले जुने
गडद गडद रंग विरले, पृष्ठ फाटले
उरली फक्त माझी पुसटशी छबी
आजूबाजूचे सारे, सारे सारे मिटले

Hindi
थी कभी रंगीन, हाँ, थी कभी सुहानी
मिट गए रंग, हो गयी तस्वीर पुरानी
रह गयी सिर्फ मेरी धुंधलीसी छवि
न बची और कोई, कोई भी निशानी

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Westworld

Review : Westworld
Aired On : HBO (2016-)
My Rating : 7 out of 10

Just like it happened with Boardwalk Empire, the promos of Westworld ensured that I was going to watch the series. The reason in both cases being the association of big names. When you see Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris in the promo, it’s bound to generate interest.

Westworld is based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 Sci-Fi movie of the same name which I have not watched. This is a very hi-tech theme park of sorts. There are no rides, there are stories. Stories in which lifelike robots with very advanced AI play the same role, every day. The visitors (or guests) in the park play the role of super humans - as in - they can do whatever they want with these robots. Whatever, as you can expect, happens to be nothing but mayhem, sex, and some darker fantasies they may have. The robots are programmed to be unable to hurt. Their weapons have no effect on humans, but humans can kill them at ease. The premise being, these are robots without feelings, emotions or even life. After every “death”, they are repaired in the night, to be put in the same cruel loop all over again.

At least that’s how it was set up, till the creator, founder and the almost-God of the park, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) decides to tweak the algorithm to make the robots even more human like. The results are less deterministic, and the robots (or hosts, as they are called in the series) start acting differently than what was planned. Some of them start to retain memories, and things get interesting.

In the first half of the season, the series focuses almost exclusively on the mayhem part. We get to see how the park works to some extent, some corporate politics, some operational aspects. It is slow, a bit confusing and definitely repetitive. What held my interest to keep me going was the visual aspect. It’s stunningly beautiful - both the world inhabited by robots, as well as the inside where humans recide. We don’t get to see anything beyond these boundaries. It’s set in some future, but no hint is given as to how far. And yes, there is standard hollywood tech mumbo jumbo that shouldn’t be paid much attention to.

Fortunately, the series takes interesting turns in the later half. Then it starts to become a puzzle that seems worth solving. Actually, a multi-layered, multi-dimensional puzzle. It can get even more confusing, but it’s also gripping. You keep wanting to know more. Eventually by the end you will know more. And I think you will be surprised. And satisfied. That’s the important part. The answers to the puzzles are surprising and satisfying. 

In addition to being a Sci-Fi mystery, the series also tries to set up some deeper philosophical questions. I wouldn’t take them too seriously. Most Sci-Fi requires some leaps of faith to believe that the technology shown can actually come to exist. That’s fine. But here, since there are robots, and they are human like and they are developing memory - the question of consciousness and how it begins, serves as the device that the series uses to stand out. It works to keep things interesting, but I doubt if this season would ever spawn the pseudo- philosophical discussion like The Matrix trilogy did. That’s OK. 

As you can imagine, this is not a character driven drama. You will know precious little about the human characters. The robots are more interesting, but they are also stuck in a loop. HBO is not expecting us to watch it for intricate relationships. It’s a Sci-Fi mystery, no other pretensions. The stellar cast helps tremendously. Apart from their acting, there is nothing to firmly root the characters. Every one is brilliant. Not a surprise considering who they are.

It’s a great combination. Perfect acting, unusual concept, interesting plot surprises, stunning visuals, capable direction and dash of philosophy. The script was a bit confusing to me, but most of the confusion was cleared up by the end.

This is not a great series, but a very good series. It’s also different and gripping in the second half, hence totally watchable. I definitely recommend it. It’a correctly rated TV-MA and is not for kids.


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Big Little Lies



Book Review : Big Little Lies
Author : Liane Moriarty
My Rating : 4 out of 5 stars

I will be honest about this. This is not a book that I would have read at all. I didn’t even expect to like it. This book is simply not my type. HBO has been advertising about a series based on this book that stars Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon and Shailene Woodley. With that kind of cast, I know I am going to watch it. In my opinion a book should be read before watching the screen adaptation. So I read it, and I was surprised to find myself liking it.

The story has three main characters, all women, living in a beach town in Australia and who have kids going to the same kindergarten class. In the very beginning of the book, the reader is told that a death happened during a function organized by the school, and most likely it was a murder. Who died and how is not told till the very end. The story starts a few months before the event. Jane, a single mother movies to the small beach town. On the very first day, she meets Madeline, who also was a single mother once. Madeline, and her friend Celeste, become Jane’s support system. She needs one, as the Kindergarten Mom Politics is quite strong in that town. As the story progresses, we learn a lot of details about these three characters and a bit about men in their lives. Eventually, the fateful night arrives and all the threads and sub-plots converge.

The double mystery, who dies and who did it, is smartly handled. We don’t even know who dies till the very end. That keeps the reader guessing, at least till the half-point. It’s a bit easy to narrow-down the options of who might die, but how remains a nice mystery. But this is not just a mystery book. The characters are developed nicely, and they are not single dimensional. The dialogues are smart, and the pacing is smooth.

The book also touches on many other aspects - domestic abuse, self-esteem, petty politics. It is also a satire on current parenting style. The school politics is completely far-fetched. I just don’t buy it. That’s one big negative. There are other small defects, like one character using Google to discover a simple fact, while the character which is most affected doesn’t. Not very believable. But if that character had used Google, the whole story wouldn’t have been possible. At the end of each chapter, there are dialogues from secondary characters about the investigation, that are cliched to the extreme. Finally, the male characters are only mentioned in passing, most of the time, and strictly from a woman’s point of view.

Leaving the defects aside, the book does a fantastic job of achieving the right balance between all the elements it uses. The character portrayal, shining light on domestic abuse, satire on modern parenting and of course the mystery. This is really the strength of the book. This balance is what keeps the book interesting, and makes us invest our time in it.

It’s a good read, not literary, but nice for relaxing lazy times. I am giving my recommendation, but I will admit again. It’s not a book that I would have read, even after reading a review like this, my own review. Because, I rarely feel satisfied after reading fiction, and on top of that, this is absolutely female centric. It still kept me glued and made me turn pages. Now, I look forward to the HBO series. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Marathi Rubaai - 2

Rubaai number 2. This time with translations in Hindi as well as English.

#रुबाई #काहीतरी #उगाचच

Marathi
खिन्न लाटा, खिन्न किनारा
मावळतीचा खिन्न पसारा
त्यासमोर हा एकटाच मी
छेडित बसलो तुटल्या तारा

Hindi 
मायूस लहरें, मायूस किनारें
मायूस शाम के मंज़र सारे
बैठ के तन्हा छेड़ रहा हूँ
साज़ पुराना, टूटी तारें

English
gloomy ocean, gloomy shore,
as the sun sets, gloom galore
sitting alone, I keep strumming
broken chords, songs of yore

Previously
Rubaai 1

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Dangal

Movie Review : Dangal
Released : 2016
Language : Hindi
Director : Nitesh Tiwari
Genre : Biography
Starring :  Aamir Khan, Sakshi Tanwar, Fatima Sana Shaikh, Sanya Malhotra, Aparshakti Khurana, Zaira Wasim, Suhani Bhatnagar
My Rating : 9 out of 10

Movies about Sports pose interesting challenges. They have to do a balancing act between focusing on the sport and focusing on the characters. The actors have to take on intensive efforts to appear believable. The drama around the sporting scenes has to be exciting, but should not feel far fetched. Last but not the least, if the ending is predictable, the movie has to ensure that the viewers stay engaged till the end.

Dangal wrestles these challenges (pun intended) and scores a gold medal. It walks the sport movie tightrope without ever losing its balance. Its focus on wrestling is unwavering, but it also manages to pack a social message. While taking us along on a near straight-line journey of Geeta Phogat towards the Gold Medal, it still manages to make us visit the special bonds between all the characters. It ignites nationalism without being melodramatic. Most importantly, it keeps us on the edge of our seat even when there is no real villain and we know how it’s going to end. Yes, it fabricates an exaggerated fictionalized ending for the cinematic effect, but doesn’t push it beyond the borders of believability.

This success is a result of the entire team. The director Nilesh Tiwari never lets the movie go out of his control. The actors, all of them, from Aamir Khan to the kid actors, have put in phenomenal efforts in their roles as wrestlers. The music sticks to taking on a just a supportive role. The picturization of the wrestling scenes is undoubtedly the highlight of the movie. They can be described with one word - electrifying. That’s because of efforts of actors, wrestling consultants, director - and the camera crew and the editors. In presenting such high octane sports scenes, so much depends on camera angles and skillful editing. Hats off to the technical crew.

As must be obvious, I really enjoyed this latest Aamir Khan movie. He is one of the rare Bollywood stars whose movies I look forward too. I have been very happy with hist last few movies, such as PK, or 3 Idiots. Only Dhoom 3 was a huge disappointment for me.

Dangal is another feather in the cap for Amir Khan. I still remember watching him sing “Papa kehte hai”. This journey from a chocolate hero to a super serious dedicated actor has been a delight to witness. Here he plays the middle aged humorless father perfectly. A lot has been and will be talked about his physical transformation. I was equally impressed by his acting effort. The way he talks, the way he sits on the scooter, the way he runs at the end of the movie. Everything is perfect. This is perhaps his best performance. 

He presents the real life story of wrestling champion Mahavir Singh Phogat and his efforts to earn a gold medal for India via his daughters. This is a fairly recent story, with both the daughters still active as athletes. It’s a story of dedication, hard work and courage to fight against the social norms.

It’s impossible to talk about this movie without talking about the acting performance of the two child actresses. They are adorable, and admirable for the amount of effort they put in. Both  Fatima Sana Shaikh and Sanya Malhotra have done justice to their roles as elder Geeta and Babita. Even the unenviable role of the cousin is played superbly by Aparshakti Khurana.

I absolutely recommend this movie. It’s fast, does not extend longer than needed and safe for kids. Actually, it’s a great family movie. Do not miss this one.



Thursday, December 29, 2016

My Musical Upbringing - Part 2

Continued from part 1 ...

My father had a natural intuitive understanding of music. He may not have had the technical know-how, but he knew what was good, and more importantly, what was better. He had a lot of friends who were experts. I owe a lot to them as well. 

One my father's close friends, Vijay Gondhalekar was our go to person for any questions. I remember, perhaps in 5th grade, we had Music as a subject. As typical it was of Indian School System at that time, we were fed a lot of details and jargon without generating any real understanding. We were taught लक्षण गीत (Characteristic Song) of Bhoop which has lines like "म नि वर्जित ओडव सब गायत" (literally meaning, the notes 'ma' and 'ni' are not used in this raag). I didn't understand any of it. I remember Gondhalekar Kaka explaining it to me. True to his witty nature, I remember him making a joke in process, "Remember, that Bhoop doesn't have 'money'!". 

But it was another incident that has had a real impact on me. I took a very long route to liking classical music. I was (and still am) more fond of 'natya sangeet’ which is more accessible. I was lamenting my lack of understanding to Gondhalekar Kaka once. He told me to not worry at all. Keep listening to 'natya sangeet', was his advice. It's a journey, he said. Just like a spiritual journey, "सगुणा कडुन निर्गुणा कडे" (rough translation, "from concrete form to abstract divinity"). That thought has always stayed with me. Only after many years, I understood what he meant, how perfectly he captured the essence of "Shastriya Sangeet". I am deliberately using that phrase. It was he who told me, that the English term, "Indian Classical Music" is a misnomer. The correct description according to him, "Systematic rule based music", and he explained me why. It's discussions like these, and the positive encouragement that make a fundamental difference in your life.

When I did get really interested in Shastriya Sangeet, I started to accompany my father to music concerts. Once we attended a small mehfil of Pandit Jasraj. I don't even remember what raag he sang that day, but I remember feeling ecstatic. After 11:00 pm, Panditji really got into the mood. I was hypnotized. We knew the bus service and train service would be closed, but we stayed till the end, and took a taxi home. That magical experience made me a lifelong fan of Pandit Jasraj.

Later, Music Today (of India Today group) came out a with a big set of cassettes "Raagas from dawn to midnight". We used to listen to those together. Every cassette had one 30 minute khayal of a raag on one side and two 15 minutes of two other raag on reverse side. The Marwa was presented by Pandit Jasraj. It was perhaps the first time I heard a proper Marwa, and I was profoundly affected.

I remember excitedly mentioning about this to another close friend of my father, Mr Mone. He to me, was and is, the definition of the word connoisseur. His vast knowledge, his musical network and his personality commanded respect from everyone. He was happy that I finally discovered Marwa. But he looked at me with a disapproval on his face, and with his hand gesturing dismissal, he said, "No, that's not real Marwa. Only three singers have sung the real Marwa, Pandit Abhisheki, Pandit Vasantrao Deshpande and finally, Ustad Amir Khan. Go listen to them and then we will have a discussion". It was another, expanding horizon moment for me. He was telling me to go beyond vocal abilities, and towards a more sublime experience. It was not easy to find recordings in those days. I didn't get a chance to hear any of the recordings he mentioned till I came to US. With internet, it became easy. Now, all of these are available on YouTube. I never got the chance to tell him that I have listened to what he had recommended. I still won't be able to tell you which Marwa is better, I am not there yet, and perhaps never will be. But Mone Kaka had the authority to pass such judgements and it paid to listen to what he had to say.

The biggest such moment happened in one of the discussions with Mone kaka related to "babul mora", the most well known bandish of all times. I had recently heard a version from Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, the Tansen of our generation. The clear consensus was, the best rendition is by K.L. Saigal, for a movie song! Better than Bhimsen? For a movie song? That was a shock I clearly remember. Again, I won't be able to say which one is better, but I am glad I listened.

Now, my father always loved Saigal. As I said, he intuitively understood what's good music. But I never paid too much attention to those songs till this discussion. When I started listening to Saigal with more attention, I realized what I had been missing. Honestly, the tunes of those days are not what I can connect to. In 1930s, neither there was good recording technology, nor was there any expensive orchestration. So crossing these hurdles was not easy for me. But I am glad I did. Now, I can say this about Saigal - "main kyaa jaanu, kyaa jaadu hai". I get goosebumps listening to him sing it.



Later, Lata Mangeshkar released a cassette set, Shraddhanjali, a tribute to all the singers. She has sung this song. I remember buying this cassette, and me and my father listening to it for the first time. When this song started, within a few seconds, I remember, we both groaned. Oh no, Lata didn’t even come close to recreating the Saigal magic. 

They say, it takes a village to raise a kid. True for me. I wasn't born with a natural appreciation for Indian Classical music. It was this environment that cultivated my interest.


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My Musical Upbringing - Part 1

Everything we know is because someone taught that to us. One of the greatest joys of my life is to listen to music. This listening is a skill that has been nurtured. I was blessed to have people around me who taught me, directly and indirectly, how to listen to music, and how to notice, feel, appreciate and realize. I want to recount some incidences that I think contributed to quantum jumps in my listening abilities.

Almost all of this can be traced back to my father. Literature and music were core to his personality. He himself had a melodious voice, but never had any training. He used to sing, but rarely. I wish he had sung more often and it was all recorded. I have been told that my paternal grandfather was a good singer too.

When he came to Mumbai for work, my father stayed with his cousins in an iconic Dadar building called “Vasant Bhuvan”. While living there, he had many opportunities to meet the genius music director Vasant Prabhu, who used to live in a nearby building. My father was even fortunate enough to hear Vasant Prabhu's composition sessions. One of my father’s cousins, Baal Chavare, who considers Vasant Prabhu as his guru, also later became an established music director for movies and radio. My father and everyone from his friend circle there worshiped Vasant Prabhu’s musical creativity.

I remember one of my father’s friend, once dissing Naushad’s songs in comparison as “जात्यावर दळण दळताना म्हणायची गाणी”, a phrase hard to translate. Literally it means songs sung by housewives to keep themselves entertained when they do repetitive chores, repetitive being the operative word. Figuratively, it was a criticism of “लय” (tempo and /rhythm) or lack thereof in Naushad’s songs. My father was a fan of Naushad too, and so am I. One of the songs being criticized was none other than “मन तरपत हरी दर्शन को आज”. I was taken aback.

This incident made me listen to Vasant Prabhu’s songs more attentively. All his songs were recorded before I was born. The more I listened, the more I understood what a master he was of “लय”. Today, I consider Vasant Prabhu as perhaps the best music director ever for मराठी सुगम संगीत (light Marathi songs). Very pleasing melody, perfectly timed phrases and exemplary tempo. He is peerless in Marathi music. In Hindi, I prefer C. Ramchandra over others for similar reasons.

At home we had a vinyl disc record of two songs composed by Vasant Prabhu. On one side was “जन  पळभर म्हणतील हाय हाय”, and on the other side was “मधु मागशी माझ्या सख्या परि”. Both deeply meaningful poems written by भा. रा. तांबे. Both the songs were my father’s favorite, and now mine too. I even remember him explaining the meaning to me. Anyone who grows up listening to these poems, these songs and discussions about them is bound to grow up loving poetry and music.

It’s a shame, and a tragedy, that Vasant Prabhu is not so well known outside Maharashtra. His songs are pure 24 carat gold. I keep going back to them to understand, analyze and learn from them. Every time I hear these songs, I keep saying, “This, THIS, is how music should be composed”.

To those, who may not have heard his songs, here are a couple of songs to illustrate his mastery on all aspects of music direction. Pay special attention to timing, pauses and overall tempo aspects.

The first is from a movie “शिकलेली बायको”, and was a superhit. A song from the same movie “प्रेमा काय देऊ तुला” is mentioned by Lata as one her favorite songs.


The next is a poem by poet नारायण मुरलिधर गुप्‍ते who wrote with pen name कवि ’बी’. It’s a difficult poem to understand and extremely difficult to compose a tune for. Vasant Prabhu created a fantastic song out of it, that’s catchy and can be hummed by anyone. It’s one of his most well known songs



I still like Naushad’s songs. Nothing changed there. But because of people around me who understood many aspects of music, not only did I develop a special appreciation for Vasant Prabhu's songs, but I can also now better appreciate the “लय” or tempo/rhythm aspect of music.




Sunday, December 25, 2016

Marathi Rubaai

Just like that, on a whim, I was struck with following Rubaai in my mind. It's my first Marathi Rubaai. I have never dabbled in Marathi poetry much before. I can count those instances with fingers of my hand, maybe fingers of one hand. But this sounded nice, and here it is.

#रुबाई #काहीतरी #उगाचच

नजर मंदावली, वेळही टळली, वाट तरीही बघतो आहे 
अंधार जरी, दाट भोवताली, दिवा एक हृदयी तेवतो आहे
उमजेल तुला, पटेल तुला, आणि कदाचित जमेलही तुला
आशा अजूनही, धृढ अशी ही, पण धीर तरीही सुटतो आहे

Some friends asked for translation. Which also came easily, and fits the meaning surprisingly well.

थक गयी नज़र, शाम गयी गुज़र, इंतज़ार फिर भी हो रहा है
है बाहर फैला घोर अँधेरा, चिराग़ एक दिल में जला रक्खा है
तुम मान जाओगे, समझ जाओगे और शायद आ भी जाओगे
है उम्मीद तो यह, अब तक कायम, सब्र कुछ मगर टूट रहा है

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Audumbar

Marathi Kavita has a special place in its heart for Baalkavi. He is peerless when it comes to describing nature, both in terms of quality and quantity. Of all his poems, Audumbar is not only the cutest, but also the most mystical of all. Many interpretations abound, but no song has been made to my knowledge. Hence with great excitement and infinite respect for this celebrated poem, I present to you, the collective interpretation of everyone involved in making this song.

Many thanks to Anagha Bhide for her melodious vocals, as well as numerous subtle suggestions. Aniket Damle has beautifully arranged the accompanying music and patiently helped a newbie like me. The credit of adding cinematic effect fully goes to him. Rhythm is masterfully handled by Amey Thakurdesai, who also played the tabla for my previous song, Ik Pal Bhi. The superb flute ornamentation is thanks to Mohit Shastri.

Big thank you to my college mate Arati Phadke who generously provided her wonderful paintings for creating a matching visual background in the video.

I have kept the melody in line with Bhairav, a perfect raag to capture the mood of this interpretation. To me, Audumbar is a journey of spiritual maturity. From lively innocence to contemplative satisfaction. I hope we have succeeded in conveying this essence.

If you like the song, please support it by sharing and forwarding!



Credits :
Poet: Baalkavi
Singer: Anagha Bhide-Bendkhale
Composer: Abhay Avachat
Music Arrangement and Mixing: Aniket Damale
Tabla and Rhythm: Amey Thakurdesai
Flute : Mohit Shastri
Visual Art: Arati Phadke
Video Editing: Abhay Avachat
Special Thanks: Aparna Nimkar

ऐल तटावर, पैल तटावर हिरवाळी घेऊन
निळा सावंळा झरा वाहतो बेटाबेटांतुन

चार घरांचे  गाव चिमुकले पैल टेकडीकडे
शेत मळ्यांची दाट लागली हिरवी गर्दी पुढे

पायवाट पांढरी तयांतुनि अडवी तिडवी पडे
हिरव्या कुरणांमधुन चालली काळ्या डोहाकडे

झाकळुनि जळ गोड काळिमा पसरी लाटांवर
पाय टाकुनी जळात बसला असला औदुंबर

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ventilator

Movie Review : Ventilator
Language : Marathi
Director : Rajesh Mapuskar
Genre : Comedy/Drama
Starring : Ashutosh Gowarikar, Jitendra Joshi, Sukanya Kulkarni, Satish Alekar, Viju Khote, Priyanka Chopra, Boman Irani and many many others
Release : November 2016
My Rating : 7 out of 10

Marathi movies are getting successful at generating good buzz to entice us for a trip to the theaters. Just in last couple of years, movies like Elizabeth Ekadashi , Katyar Kaljat Ghusli, Natsamrat generated enough interest in me to go watch them in the theater. All the trips have been very worthwhile.

The buzz around Ventilator came from the association of big names with the movie. Director Rajesh Mapuskar (part of Rajkumar Hirani’s team), Ashutosh Gowarikar (Oscar nominated Director), Priyanka Chopra, Boman Irani and so on. The promos were hilarious. The Marathi song sung by Priyanka Chopra was being shared on social networks. I had to go and watch the movie in the theater.

The script revolves around events of only a few hours and still has a very large ensemble to deal with. Prasanna (Jitendra Joshi) is a novice politician. His father, known to the extended family as Gaji Kaka, is admitted to the hospital just before Ganesh Chaturthi, and is kept on a ventilator. As patriarch of a very large family, Gaji Kaka was going to announce the distribution of the ancestral property during the festival. His illness has put that and the festivities in jeopardy. 

The fallout is presented in two acts. At the start of the first act, Raja (Ashutosh Gowarikar) gets a phone call about this while he is arranging a preview of his upcoming film. Then one by one, all relatives, from Konkan to Kolhapur, get the news, and start pouring in. Their reactions, their motivations, their real and petty grievances, their relationships with each other - these all simultaneously are at the core of the movie in the first act, and the movie is firmly in the comedy genre. The second act shifts more into the drama genre with the father-son relationship at its heart. 

Both the acts have their strengths and weaknesses. The comedy is based on acute observation and is just spot on. I can bet, you have met all these characters in real life, just with different names. It will make you chuckle, make you laugh and make you nod your head, going, “Yeah, I can relate to that”. It is a bit repetitive though in places where everyone wants to treat Raja Kaka differently because of his fame. Minor issue. It’s a very enjoyable first act. Second act manages to touch you a bit more deeply. It has its melodrama, which is both effective and cliched. It’s definitely not a manipulative tear-jerker.

It’s an amazing feat to develop so many characters, admittedly a caricature but still, the sheer number makes me applaud the effort. This would not have been possible without the exceptional cast. There is no way to overstate this. Everyone, every single one, is perfect. 

The writing is exemplary. It’s no easy task to mix humor and a serious situation without showing disrespect. It succeeds because it uses comedy that is more of a commentary on human nature than any silliness.

The teamwork of actors and writers make this a very good movie, although it could have been a bit shorter. It’s also family friendly. I definitely recommend it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The ugly, the bad, and the (maybe) good

Four years ago I wrote about why President Obama's reelection made me happy. I hoped the Republican Party learnt a lesson from that defeat, and focuses more on issues than on hatred. I was hopeful. But exactly opposite happened. Hatred was very much alive in this election.

A lot has been written on why Trump has won, and many excellent articles are worth reading. Michael Moore wrote a prophetic article.  A fantastic blog post that went viral explained a lot. Now Matt Taibbi has written something very similar. 

I had read those first two links before election and I was still shell shocked at the result. I still am very sad about it. It’s not the sadness of the loss. Hillary Clinton was never really “my” candidate. It was Donald Trump who made me passionately wish for Hillary’s win. The sadness is from someone like Donald Trump actually winning it.

Elections are not just political events. They are social events too. In a way, they are the best survey of what the society really is. It’s very easy for me to accept that the majority did not agree with my political views. It’s a small tiny little price to pay for the privilege of living in a democracy. What is hard for me to accept is that half the society chose to elect a candidate that I think is morally unfit to be our President. His statements against minorities, immigrants, Muslims, women - everything has disgusted me. His crazy conspiracy theories, his Tweets, his campaigning style against the Republican candidates made me dislike him to the core. There is simply nothing about him that I find as a redeeming quality. Never had I despised a candidate so much.

I find this as the ugly side of this election result. As a society we chose to overlook some serious flaws in a person while handing over tremendous power to him. Not voting for Hillary is understandable, but voting for Trump is immoral. This is not a political statement. Disliking Trump is not same as liking Hillary. You can denounce both of them, but supporting Trump is self defeating. There has to be a minimum standard of decency a person has to clear before becoming the President. There has to be something that’s a deal-breaker. Not finding a single deal-breaker in Trump, when there were plenty, is the ugly ugly side of this election. This has given an insight into the society as no other single event has. I am saddened by the message we have given to ourselves, our kids and the entire world that - We simply have lost our moral compass. 

The danger is this ugly side surfacing itself in public behavior. Trump is not dumb. He might go back on anything and everything he has said, now that he has won. But his win is likely to embolden the dark side of human nature in our society.

Now the real bad side. The social damage this can do, potentially, is scary. The legislative and executive branch is in the control of one single party who will use that now to push a social agenda that’s not progressive. The supreme court will be nominated with judges who will very likely undo the work done so far. A section of population will rejoice, another section will weep.

Trump has promised to “drain the swamp”. If his ego-maniacal nature results into overlooking competent people in the Republican party and surrounding himself with novice sycophants and crackpots like Ben Carson, we will have a huge problem on hand. Will racial profiling come back? What happens to health and environmental regulations?

The other type of bad can happen even with right intentions. Repealing Obama Care is a done deal. But there are parts that are almost universally loved, for example, not denying coverage due to pre-existing conditions. It will be a tricky balance but may be achievable. Other promises are not at all easy to keep. The jobs that have been lost due to technological automation and globalization are not coming back. Putting tariffs will be counter-productive. Even with incentives for businesses, it’s hard to see how they can be competitive in a global marketplace. If these promises are broken, the whole negative voting cycle will repeat. 

It’s not all bleak. And it’s more than just the silver lining on the cloud.

First, I do not agree with the interpretation of the election, as some silent majority has spoken. The Trump supporters were not silent. Second, the majority did NOT vote for Trump. The majority voted for Hillary. Trump’s victory is anti-establishment, but the congress was still won by the establishment. Nothing much changed there.

Next, I do not think this was a victory of racism or xenophobia or misogyny or hatred. Yes the person elected has all those bad qualities, but the electorate doesn’t. Yes, some may have voted for those reasons. Just like in previous elections, some may have voted for Obama because he is black, and some against him because he is black. Both are wrong reasons. But it’s a small section for sure. The red states have always been red, the blue states have always been blue. The surprise came from MI, WI and PA. The rural white counties in these states voted for Trump this time, but had voted for Obama in previous elections. That’s not racism. They voted out of their economic frustration. I think they made a mistake, and Trump will make their bad situation worse. But they want to give him a chance, and it’s their choice to make, and it’s their democratic right. They voted for him, in spite of his bigotry, not because of it.

This vote for Trump, in my opinion, is more of a vote against Hillary. The democrats and liberals have to accept this fact, that their candidate was deeply flawed. Hillary knew for at least ten years that she was going to run for President. She should have made every effort to be above suspicion. She made bad decisions about her emails and her foundation. She paid the price. I do think she was a better candidate than Trump, but there is no reason to be blind to her flaws.

The real hope is the way next generation voted. I often feel that when it comes to social policy, the future generation is way better than my generation. They are far more inclusive. That’s the hope for progressive minded people. There is going to be another election in four years. Start the work. Find a better candidate. I know I am going to be far more politically aware of what’s going on from now. This election result has energized me, not made me feel hopeless. Hopefully those who didn’t vote are kicking themselves, and will participate next time.

And now for some good, maybe good. Trump is not going to make only bad decisions. There will be some policy changes that I am going to agree with. If the tax loopholes are actually closed, I will support that. If the trade deals are really negotiated more favorably to US, I will support that. If US stops getting involved militarily in Europe and elsewhere, I will support him, in spite of my deep disgust for him. Trump is neither a Democrat, nor a Republican. He hasn’t taken money from lobbyists. It’s possible that his decisions are done without any regard for the military-industrial complex, wall street, big pharma etc. Who knows what he will do, but it’s within the realm of possibility that some decisions would be very good for the common people.

And it could have been worse. It could have been Ted Cruz, who is a typical warmonger, in control of lobbyists and a champion of stone age thinking.

It’s still going to be bad, but it’s not the end of the world. If you are a progressive minded person, start working right now. Be prepared to oppose the regressive policies. Be prepared to protest. Be prepared to let your voice be heard by your representatives. It's our democracy too.

The four year clock has started.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Billions

Billions : Showtime Series
Aired on : Showtime (2016 - )
My Rating : 7 out of 10

Showtime, along with HBO, has become a channel to depend on for watching superb drama series. Whenever there is a new series on these channels, I am more than willing to invest my time watching it. Billions is their latest 2016 offering.

The main plot point of Billions is the clash between two ambitious male personalities. On one side is a billionaire hedge fund manager Bobby Axelrod (Damian Lewis). On the other side is a New York State Attorney, Chuck Rhoades (Paul Giamatti). Both are ambitious, egoistic and each has his own chip on his shoulder. Bobby has become rich from humble beginnings. He hasn’t forgotten his past, and who treated him well and who didn’t. He uses his money to make his point. Chuck is from a privileged background, and has a passionate hatred for rich who think they are above the law. He uses his legal authority to make his point.

Axelrod’s financial success has a troubling connection to 9/11. He is a ruthless manager. Supportive as well as manipulative, and vindictive towards those who betray him. He bends the laws, but is loyal to wife, and fiercely protective of his family. Chuck has the right ideas of bringing justice to financial criminals, but neither his motives not his means are all that pure. Both have egos bordering on petty. Their flaws and strengths, and their similarities and contrasts make the clash fascinating, otherwise it would turn into an uncomplicated good guy versus bad guy story.

Just to make sure that this is more than two alpha males fighting it out against each other, the story has two strong female characters, although not exactly in the lead roles. Bobby’s wife Lara (Malin Akerman) is a perfect cohort, tough and supportive. Chuck’s wife Wendy (Maggie Siff) is a very successful psychiatrist who makes a handsome salary because - get this - she works for Bobby Axelrod.

This is where the series pushes the envelope too far. Her motivational sessions with the employees are not that convincing. But the whole situation is unbelievable. The New York State Attorney who is eyeing for a public office in future has a wife that works for the same hedge fund billionaire who he trying to bring down. This kind of conflict of interest is unrealistic. The series tries to explain it away by informing us that, she was working there before Chuck’s rise. You decide, if you want to buy that as enough of a reason.

This is not a documentary, so some unrealisticness is not a problem, and the series does take such liberties. But this by far was the biggest one, which I think is a flaw. On the plus side, it does not take away the enjoyment, and in fact it allows the writers to add some interesting situations.

Overall. it’s not easy to relate to any of the characters, which I think is by design. It never gets intense as we are never emotionally vested into any character. We just watch with amusement and enjoy the fight.

A big part of that enjoyment is due to the strength of the performances, which are superb across the board. Not one bad acting performance. The pacing is fine, and the side stories of other characters don’t feel extraneous. The dialogues, on the other hand, feel overwritten on some occasions, and chuckle worthy on other occasions. 

This is an interesting series. I am looking forward to the second season. I don’t think this will win a Golden Globe or an Emmy, but if you watch it just for entertainment, I don’t think you will be disappointed. It’s correctly rated TV-MA and is not for children.


Friday, September 16, 2016

Ik Pal Bhi - My second song

It's been long two years since my first song. Now, I am very happy to share my second song with you.

It's almost the same team as the first song. I wrote the lyrics, then composed a melody by borrowing some basic ideas of Baageshree.

Once again, I was very fortunate to have someone as experienced and talented as Kamalesh Bhadkamkar help me out in all aspects of arrangement and programming. Without his help, this song wouldn't be what it is now.

Just like last time, Ketan Patwardhan has done a fantastic job of singing it with his extremely pleasant voice. Big thanks to both of them.

This time, the perfect accompaniment of instruments is provided by Varad Kathapurkar for flute, and Amey Thakurdesai for tabla.


The first song was very sad, hope this one puts a smile on your face. Listen with your headphones on, and if you like the song, please support it and share it. Thanks!





Full Lyrics :

इक पल भी नज़रों से दूर कहीं, जाना तेरा मंज़ूर नहीं
छा जाती हैं दिल पे मायूसियां, तेरे बिन कोई नूर नहीं

दिल को मैं बहलाऊँ, कितना भी समझाऊँ, सुनता है कब किस की
यह लम्हे फ़ुर्क़त के, हो चाहे छोटे से, मुरझाता है फिर भी
कब तक सहूँगा यह परेशानी,
इस की कर लो तुम ही निगेहबानी
क़ैद में रखना, रिहा ना करना, कम्बख़्त है ... बेक़सूर नहीं

जैसे मेरे दिल की, बेहद सी बेताबी, तड़पाती है मुझ को
शायद कुछ वैसी ही, हालत है तेरी भी, लगता है ना तुझ को
ना है ज़रूरी कहना होठों से
राज़ यह खुलते हैं निगाहों से
ना करना ग़ुस्सा, देखो नाज़ुक सा, है एक यक़ीं ... ग़ुरूर नहीं



Previous song
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