Redundancy in movies

I’m writing this while watching this Hindi movie called Cocktail, which is being shown on the pay-per-view Showcase channel on Tata Sky. Ten minutes after the movie started, I remembered this review of the movie that I’d read back when I was released, and thanks to that lost most interest in the movie. However, I continue watching, giving company to the wife, and reading papers and writing, as I watch.

The last Hindi movie I watched with any degree of seriousness was Gangs of Wasseypur (1 and 2), which is an absolutely mindblowing movie. While watching that movie, I remember that time moved insanely slowly. After what I thought was an hour of the movie, I looked at my watch only to realize that only half an hour had passed. Each part of the movie (which actually lasts about two and half hours each) felt like it individually lasted five hours! There was so much action that was packed into the movie.

So coming to the point of the post – the problem with most Hindi movies (not of the GoW variety) is that there is heavy redundancy packed into the movie. Each concept that ties into the main plot of the movie is explained so many times, most times not even through different means, that it is quite easy to miss a part of the movie and still be clued in to the overall plot. Not so with the GoW type, where there is absolutely no redundancy built in, because of which you can’t afford to miss even a couple of minutes of the movie, without losing part of the overall plot.

If you were to read Benoit Mandelbrot’s excellent book on the financial markets (The (mis)behaviour of markets), you would be introduced to this awesome concept of “trading time”. In the book, Mandelbrot explains that markets are not uniform – there are times when there is much more action packed into the markets (like the first and last fifteen minutes of trading every day) than in slower times (mostly around mid-day). Thus, to get a better analysis of the market, Mandelbrot explains, you need to look at it not from the point of view of “clock time” but from the point of view of “trading time”, which “measures time” by way of volume of trade.

Drawing an analogy, a movie like Gangs of Wasseypur is like a snapshot of the financial market during the opening 15 minutes of trading. At every moment in the movie, there is so much happening. Scenes are short, and cut abruptly, and say only what absolutely needs to be said. So you get much more “action” for each minute you spend watching the movie.

(Ok I realize that by repeating the funda in the previous paragraph, this post tends more towards Cocktail than GoW.) Maybe that’s why I don’t particularly enjoy most movies that I watch – there is so much redundancy I get bored. Problem with most mango people is that it takes too much mindspace to be focused through the duration of the movie, so they end up losing parts of the plot in movies such as GoW, and so movies such as these are not as commercially successful as slower paced movies.

Upendra’s Super is a funny movie, in terms of the pace at which it moves. The first two hours are full of theatrics, and unnecessary redundancy that makes you ask why you are watching the movie at all. The last half an hour, both in terms of content and the concept it gets across (property rights, concept of ownership, etc.) packs in so much that you leave the hall feeling satisfied. Maybe the two parts of the movie are aimed at different segments and Uppi seems to have cracked the formula!

Ten Kilorupees of Books

That’s what I won when I won the Chennai landmark quiz two weekends back, along with Kodhi and Aadisht. Ten kilorupees of book coupons to be cashed at any Landmark book store. Correct that – it’s one coupon worth ten kilorupees. Which means that I’ll need to spend all of it at once. In another words, I’ll need to binge. And that I’m not a big fan of.

Over the course of the last one year, I’ve done several mini-binges (purchase of 3-4 books at a time). Let me list out the books that I’ve bought as part of these binges. Maybe that’ll help you recommend what to buy this time around. Standard rules apply. I’m not a fan of fiction. Have outgrown popular economics. Still very interested in popular science level stufff. History. Geography. General fundaes. And oh, I’m also a member of a lending library in Bangalore called Goobe.

I’ve marked the books with stars (on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being best).

Online shopping on Rediff, September 08:

  • The (mis)Behaviour of Markets – Benoit Mandelbrot; ****

Binge at Landmark, Gurgaon, September 08:

  • Liar’s Poker – Michael Lewis; ****
  • More Sex is Safer Sex – Steven Landsburg; **
  • Games Indians Play – V Raghunathan; *

Binge at Premier Bookshop, Bangalore, before it closed; November 08:

  • The Human Zoo  – Desmond Morris (yet to read)
  • The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins *****
  • An artist and a mathematician (a book about the fictional mathematician Nicholas Bourbaki; forgot the author) ** (halfway through)
  • India: A History – John Keay *****
  • Longitude – Dava Sobel ** (halfway through)
  • The Stuff of Thought – Steven Pinker ** (language too tough; not able to get through it)

Landmark, Gurgaon; New Year’s Day 2009

  • Discovering the Vedas – Frits Staal; ****
  • The Maths Gene – Keith Devlin ;***
  • Small Worlds – Duncan Watts; ** (halfway through)
  • The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins; ****
  • Collapse – Jared Diamond ; ****
  • Entry from backside only – Binoo K John; ****

There were no more binges for a while. But I bought the following books as one-offs

  • The Language Instinct – Steven Pinker; * (not able to get started)
  • Imagining India – Nandan Nilekani; ****
  • The Book of Hindu Calendar Art – Devdutt Patnaik; ** (halfway through; very weak so far)

And then, in June-July this year, I did a couple of small binges at Blossoms (once with Udupa, Gajju and Siby; and once with Mukka). Collectively, I bought the following books

  • Walking on Grass – Iain Banks (yet to read)
  • The Politics of Change – N K Singh *  (atrocious)
  • Thug (yet to read)
  • The Professor and the Madman (about the making of the oxford english dictionary; yet to read)
  • The Age of Revolution (not sure of title; book is about 19th cnetury europe; yet to read)
  • Beyond the Blues – Aakash Chopra *****

Broadly, I’ve liked the books by Jared Diamond and Richard Dawkins. Not able to get through Steven Pinker. Hate Douglas Hofstadter (again, very tough to go through). Had borrowed Dr S Radhakrishnan’s commentary on the Upanishads and again found it unreadable – language too tough. Recently read Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (borrowed from library) and find it excellent. However, Goobe has decent collection of graphic novels, so I’m not willing to invest in buying any of those.

So I’ve told you about the books I’ve liked, and not liked, and found atrocious, in the last 12 months. Now I have in hand a coupon worth Ten Kilorupees and want to make good use of it. I plan to do it in 2-3 passes. First pass at Landmark (later today), I’ll just browse. Second pass, I’ll reserve and order for the books that I want. And in the third pass (when I’ll go by car) I’ll buy the books. So, dear reader, recommend. Tell me what you think I should read. I think I’ve given you enough information to help you help me make an informed decision.

Oh, and I’ve run out of space in my bookshelf. I also need to figure out where I’ll store the new maal.