Saturday, February 22, 2014

Movie Review: Highway

A young, impulsive girl is kidnapped,and finds love and freedom in captivity. Highway is not really a road movie - it's a journey about discovery, about finding your true calling.

Backed by power packed, endearing performances by Alia and Randeep, an excellent script, and some outstanding sound engineering and camera work in stunning locales, Highway will mesmerize you with the sounds and sights of dusty Haryana, the rolling fields of Punjab, and the sparkling mountain ranges of Himachal. You will laugh, you will be shocked into stunned silence, you will enjoy the breath of fresh air, the cold water on your face, and wake up to the beautiful sounds of the earth.

Alia shows she is no longer just the Student of the Year, she has matured into an actress of very high calibre - all she needs is the right script and a director who sets her free. Fear, desperation, innocence, impulsiveness, anger, sadness, confusion, ecstasy... Alia displays a range of emotions rarely seen in any single Bollywood character in a long, long time, and for most part, excels at their portrayal. Randeep is perfect as the brooding kidnapper with a golden heart. The supporting cast is also spot on.

AR Rahman's music is haunting, while the live sound adds tremendous authenticity, notching up the technical brilliance by several degrees. The sounds of crickets, the sounds of the highway, the roar of the river... for me, the sound was an equal partner in the wonderful Highway experience. The use of light and angles brings the best out of the stunning locales, and you wish you could get out of the damn seat and join them out there - in the lap of nature.

Not your standard Bollywood dish - but if you appreciate good film making, this is one movie you really need to soak into.

And while you are at it, think about your own highway moments in life...

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Gamification Myths & Reality

Here's one of my articles that recently featured on

In 2011, Gartner predicted that more than 70% of global 2000 organizations would have at least one gamified application by 2014. A year later, in Nov 2012, Gartner also predicted that 80% of the current gamified applications would fail to meet their business objectives, primarily due to poor design.
Going by what we are seeing at dozens of customers we have talked to in the last 12 months, both these predictions are coming true! While there is a huge buzz among senior leadership on adoption of gamification techniques, there is also a growing disillusionment among those who jumped on to the bandwagon and deployed a plethora of leaderboards that promised to infuse efficiency and excitement in dull and boring jobs.
In an earlier article on HR Examiner, we laid out some ground rules to ensure the success of your gamification initiative. In this article, we look at three prevailing gamification myths, and get a quick reality check!

Myth & Reality #1

Myth 1: Pointsbadges and leaderboards encourage competition and enhance performance
Reality: Points, badges and leaderboards motivate top performers, but can have a deeply negative impact on the vast majority of “players”
An overwhelming majority of gamified applications and gamification product vendors depend on the troika of points, badges and leaderboards as a means of incentivizing performance, encouraging healthy competition, and “leveling up players” through well-meaning and well-timed signals. Designing good leaderboards is a science as well as an art, giving more players a fair chance of getting up there and getting noticed. Unfortunately, our experience has shown that even the best designed and well-meaning leaderboards incentivize only a small fraction of employees, and can have a terribly negative impact on the vast majority, and it is important for the game designer to evaluate whether the risks of turning off most “players” are worth taking.
I experienced this first hand recently (and that is what actually triggered this article!), when my daughter and I started taking Spanish lessons on a very nice, gamified language learning portal.
For the first week, we gave each other pretty serious competition, and the thrill of beating the other to the top of the “frenemies” leaderboard ensured that we really pushed ourselves, something that wouldn’t have happened without the gamification on the site. However, by the end of the week, I had stolen a march on her, primarily because she had an exam and couldn’t “play” against me for a couple of days. And while my motivation levels have stayed high ever since, being at the top of the table, I have seen a steep drop in hers, knowing it will be very difficult now for her to catch up with me.

Myth & Reality #2

Myth 2: Gamification is simple – assign points and badges, and you are done!
Reality: The real challenge and benefit of gamification is in providing an alternate mechanism and mapping of boring and difficult tasks into a gamified, virtual world
While points and badges have provided social recognition and motivation to millions of users through gamified applications, their novelty is quickly rubbing off, and users are getting points fatigue. Unless the points and badges lead to real career growth and monetary rewards, unless the points dovetail into appraisal systems and find their way into promotion recommendations, employees realize they are nothing more than Monopoly dollars – a lot of fun, until it’s time to pay the bills in the mailbox!
The real benefit of gamification will be seen when gamification vendors start taking business problems and mapping them to game play, increasing trainability, effectiveness and results of core business-related actions and decisions through game play.
Consider an application that maps the process of short-listing opportunities in a CRM database to a game of fishing. How easy and intuitive it is to decide whether you want to catch a goldfish (an account that will be a showcase for your product, but may not bring in too much revenues), or a salmon (a decent sized opportunity that is fairly easy to net), when you need to have some quick food for dinner (the quarterly revenue targets need to be met)! And, if you are a novice, would you really go for the whale (the really big, fat opportunity that will need some serious work and skills to bag!)?

This is where gamification can revolutionize the way we think and work. Mapping complex business problems and decision making to an alternate environment enables our brain to think and decide instinctively, and the game takes over the complexity of doing an appropriate mapping.

Myth & Reality #3

Myth 3: Gamification increases participation and productivity of employees in boring, mechanical tasks
Reality: Gamification is an excellent mechanism to improve engagement around tasks and workflows that are necessary as part of the job responsibilities, but fails to visibly increase adoption of non-essential initiatives
Like any other game, any application that is gamified will interest users for a while, but as soon as the novelty rubs off, participation drops rapidly. Unless the “game” is continually refreshed and users see new challenges and experiences, it will be very difficult to sustain involvement and interest. We have seen many well-meaning initiatives around knowledge sharing and community learning come to naught a few months after being launched with much fanfare using gamified apps, simply because, fundamentally, employees did not see the core activity as being central to their job responsibilities, and no effort was made to make them feel so.
However, this does not mean gamification is useless. In situations where a workflow or activity is necessary anyway, gamification can have a positive impact. At Persistent Systems, a, IT services company with 7500 employees across the world,eMee’s gamified appraisal system has been in use for almost 4 years now. Game elements like virtual gifts and avatars provide employees with a platform to showcase their skills, achievements and contributions while "living" their virtual lives. Employee appraisal, which was time-consuming and took two to four weeks to complete at the end of every year, has now morphed into a continuous assessment and mentoring activity, taking inputs from each employee's avatar and their position in the "game". This has resulted in saving the company thousands of productive hours every year, while ensuring timely feedback and corrective action in cases of low performance.

Wrapping Up

Gamification holds tremendous promise in fundamentally changing the way enterprises and brands engage with key take holders and audiences, but an over-simplified engagement strategy focusing only on points, badges and leaderboards, can do tremendous harm to the organization. Points and badges can be the fundamental building blocks, but we need to look very carefully at their impact on the motivation and psyche of the vast majority of the employees. The advantages may not be worth the risks!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Movie Review: Instructions Not Included (Mexican/Spanish)

INI is a touching Mexican movie (in Spanish, but also available in English audio) about a serial bed hopper who suddenly gets saddled with a baby girl, by one of his ex-conquests, who dumps the baby in his hands and disappears.

Forced to take care of the baby, and now madly in love with her, the father migrates to the US, and takes the job of a stunt man. His daring acts pays him enough to shower all his love and attention on his baby, who grows up to being 6 years old. All this while, he hides the real story of her mother from her, creating a fantasy web where her mother "writes" to her every week, about her "missions to save the world".

Then, at a doctor's appointment one day, the doctor shakes his head and gives the bad news. The treatment isn't working and you have only a few days left. 

Desperate and scared of losing the wonderful life he has painstakingly built up, life takes another dramatic twist when the mom calls up, and comes over to visit her daughter, who she hasn't seen in years. As the mother-daughter relationship builds up, she returns to New York to her gay partner, promising to come back soon - and instead kicks off a custody battle with the father, discrediting him for his risky job and inability to speak English. While she loses the battle, she then pulls out her ace - a paternity test, which comes negative. But when she comes to take her daughter away, she realizes both dad and daughter have flown the nest - back to Mexico.

And that's when she (and you) come to know the truth. The girl, with a hole in her heart, has just a few days left to live. 

A beautiful, though painful, ending, some great dad-daughter moments, an awesome cast, and a poignantly humorous story make this a very beautiful movie. 

Movie Review: Ek Cup Chaha (Marathi)

I have realized that Doordarshan shows some really nice movies at night - and Ek Cup Chaha was one such gem.

Set in contemporary Konkan, ECC is a story of an honest ST conductor who gets an enormous electricity bill and feels helpless against the corrupt government machinery, until a lady activist introduces him to the power of RTI, and uses it effectively to empower him to fight the injustice.

Wonderfully scripted, with an excellent nameless cast, the movie was quite enjoyable, even though a lot of the script seemed written by one of the well meaning babus in the social welfare department!

Movie Review: Gunday

2 impressionable boys escape from the clutches of the Bangladeshi army in the aftermath of the 1971 war, and grow up to be the biggest "gunday" of Calcutta. Their thicker-than-blood relationship is tested to the limit when they both fall in love with the same girl, and with a no-nonsense police officer on their tail, it looks like their game is finally over. Or is it?

The movie starts off with some great cinematography, and shows promise in the action scenes, but as soon as Priyanka makes an entry, the story meanders aimlessly. While Arjun Kapoor puts in a decent performance, and Irrfan Khan sizzzles in his police officer role, Ranveer quickly melts into his now-increasingly-arrogant and girlish/pansy character protrayal, and the movie quickly deteriorates into an endless orgy of liberally oiled and shaved male torsos, with an added dash of coal and grime. Not to forget some excellent candidate footage for dandruff shampoos.

I have heard mixed reviews from critics, but as far as I am concerned, this movie was a disappointment :(

Disillusioned, Disoriented

PCMC's Double Decker Flyover

Pune-PCMC's first double decker flyover was inaugurated yesterday by Ajit Pawar, just a couple of hours before I had the pleasure of driving over it. Two massive decks, including BRT lanes and footpaths, cross the old Pune-Mumbai highway, then the railway tracks and finally the Pavana River, connecting Nashik Road to Wakad and Aundh, opening onto a impressive 10 lane road, flowing gently through spanking new constructions on both sides.

Meanwhile, for traffic headed from Pune to Nashik, the double decker arm rises gently, over the old highway, and then the two parallel Nashik - Wakad decks, and curves to the right, joining the Nashik road.

Here are some pics, some from my own phone and some from newspaper reports...

Monday, February 10, 2014

Real or Unreal

This was clicked in my garden in Goa - can you guess which of these are real, and which is the odd one out? :)

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Play Time For Kit Kat

Movie Review: Hasee Toh Phasee

The movie should have been named, Gayee Toh Phasee. A story that is predictable from the first five mins, with over the top, loud performances. Meaningless sub-plots and "comic scenes" stretching endlessly and randomly - from the "laugh riot" investigation of the stolen necklace to the "touching" susu in the saree scene, that is ridiculous to say the least. A sound track that is eminently forgettable and listless - including the opening credits, the marriage songs and a background sequence sometime in the first half. There is nothing nuanced about the movie, including the forced smooch at the end.

Parineeti makes an attempt at portraying something different, but it is pretty one dimensional and repetitive, and doesn't impress. Siddharth carries on being Student of the Year, and has less to do than his red Pajero. Adah Sharma wows in the opening scene, and is pretty in a couple of scenes, but quickly loses the plot.

Overall, very hard to imagine this is the same stable that gave us such classics with the King Khan! 

The Ecosport Titanium Review

So here's my first impressions about the sexy new Ford Ecosport Titanium, 1000 cc Petrol, after around 40-50 kms in the city and village roads, over 24 hours.

Looks: Absolutely stunning, especially in this Mass Red color, the stance makes it look like an aggressive prowling cat, and the big grille in front makes it almost menacing, ensuring you get the right of way in traffic, unless you try and take on an Endeavour :) I love the spare tire mount on the back door, and the curves and trims.

Drive Experience: Like a true Ford, this is a lot of fun to drive. Extremely responsive, with an excellent view from the driver's seat. It's compact SUV character makes it reliable and confident, yet extremely nimble, like a cat, unlike its bigger cousin, the Endy, which is usually like a lumbering elephant. At 1000 cc, though, when you need sudden acceleration or when you take a big slope fully loaded, an additional 300 cc would have been awesome. Also, at low speeds in 3rd gear, the car comes close to stalling, which might be a problem for first time drivers in bumper to bumper city traffic. Also, like with all other Fords, the responsiveness and driveability comes at the cost of slightly tougher suspension, and you can feel every pimple on the road.

Interiors and Comfort: Given its compact dimensions from the outside, it's surprising how spacious it is from inside, with sufficient leg room and ample shoulder space. There is also lots of storage space for your bottles and cups, and even a box for your gym shoes under the passenger seat. The rear seats can be split 1-2, and fold all the way against the front seats, giving humongous boot space if needed.

Lots of nifty features, too. A sweetly swiveling holder for your shades, an extra 12V outlet for the rear seats, light under the passenger sun shade, and a boot door that opens smoothly at the touch of a button on the door handle.

The steering includes audio and phone controls, and Microsoft Sync, although it takes a little getting used to, is delightful, especially when you can read messages and call people on your address book by just speaking out the commands. The central console has a full key pad, which means you can also dial numbers and even type messages, directly from the car, while your phone can remain safely ensconced in your purse! The car also provides lots of information - from which door is open, to the temperature outside, to the distance left to next refill of the fuel tank, as well as calculating your fuel efficiency and giving you an indication of what is the best way to drive for max efficiency.

And the key is nifty, too. A compact door lock/unlock, with a button that pops out the key, like one of those cool mawali knives, LOL... could come pretty handy, I think!

And one thing that typifies the thinking that's gone behind this car - check the "chasis number" displayed just behind the windscreen - along with the blue oval - just amazing!

Overall, the Ecosport gets a big thumbs up from me! Now if you are salivating and want to own one, the bad news is - you will have to wait at least 6-9 months before Ford can clear all the backlog, and get you one.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Mumbai Monorail - And The Spirit Of The People

A colleague and I went to Mumbai earlier last week, hoping to catch a ride on the monorail. We were just a moment too late - the gates had closed, we were too late to catch the last ride.

At the gate, the crowd was swelling, most joyriders like ourselves. And one man was arguing with the security men at the gate, asking to be let in - apparently, his family had got through, and he needed to be with them. Sir, if we let you in, everyone else will want to come in, the security guard tried to reason with him. But he was adamant; he wanted to be let in.

What happened next, was heart warming!

First, a couple of folks in the crowd - ordinary Mumbaikars - admonished the man for arguing with security - they are doing their job, why are you being so rude to them, they asked. And then, everyone in the crowd requested the security guards to open the gate for him - promising them that no one else would insist on a similar privilege.

The security guy opened the gate, the lone ranger ran up the steps to his waiting family, and everyone dispersed.

I am pretty sure, this can happen only in Mumbai. Salute to the spirit of the people of this beautiful city!

Movie Review: Collision

Collision is the story of a bunch of strangers who are brought together in trying circumstances in the middle of the Moroccan desert, with a common goal - to survive - after a deadly accident. A sultry wife, her newly married husband and her lover, a baby, a kidnapper, a smuggler... as the story unravels, the plot gets thicker.

The accident is shot beautifully, but otherwise, there isn't too much to hold your attention. Unless, of course, like me, you were trying to learn Spanish through the subtitles.

Tom & Jerry in Real Life!

So here's a believe it or not story...

Came home the other day from work, and noticed my cat sitting on the staircase landing, playing with something... and turns out, it was a tiny mouse, the size of a "real mouse" - yes, the computer variety real thing :)

Not wanting it to be killed by the cat, I shooed away Catrina inside the house, and tried to coax the mouse to escape quickly - but it was tightly hunched over, and I let it be, hoping it was still alive to run away.

A few mins later, there was a noise by the door - and there he was, our Jerry, desperately trying to find some way into our home, having somehow squeezed between the security door and the inner door. And our Tom was pleading with me to let him in!

Anyway, I closed the doors, and thinking the mouse was really sick and hurt, tried to give it some water to drink, but it finally scurried away.

But that was just the beginning of their affair.

The next evening, he was back - somehow having managed to get inside, playing with Catrina all over our sofas! The ladies, of course, were too scared to do anything, and by the time I came home from office, he had disappeared.

Imagine my surprise, when a few mins later, I walked into my daughter's bedroom to find Jerry exploring every nook and corner, while our Tom stood by admiringly, following it, protecting it from me!

Took all my tact and threats to cajole Jerry into a bucket, and escort him to the ground floor... putting an end to their budding romance!

Well, or so I hope!

Catty Love

Our New EcoSport

And my sister's sexy, new EcoSport - what a rush she gives, the awesome Ford growl, an amazing stance, and the wonderfully innovative and effective Microsoft Sync, literally allowing you to talk to the car while you drive...


Catrina's youngest soul niece, the naughty KitKat in Goa...

Happy Birthday, Madhosh!

Madhosh, my loyal bike celebrated her 20th birthday yesterday - and here she is, sparkling new, and raring to go, as usual... notice the sparkling alloys, all originals! And in the rust-friendly salty and humid weather of Goa, this is no mean feat. Over 62,000 Kms...

So many lovely memories, so many amazing moments we have shared... in Goa for 4 years, then in Pune for over a decade and now back again in Goa for the last 3-4...

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Movie Review: Dedh Ishqiya

My Ishqiya review mentioned great performances and hummable songs. Dedh Ishqiya, unfortunately, doesn't match up. Too much of the gloomy atmosphere, too much Madhuri on the dance floor, too much shayari, and a story that meanders along, never really taking off. A few amazing locales, especially the havelis, but there is only so much you can take of that, when there isn't much else to back it up.

Movie Review: Rush

Rush is the wonderfully inspiring story of Ferrari's F1 superchamp, Niki Lauda, whose intense competition with British James Hunt scorched the tracks in the late 70s. After being involved in a terrible accident mid season, in a race Niki had tried to get called off due to bad weather conditions, Niki fights back the scars and the fears, drawing inspiration from watching his rival win race after race and claw back into the lead.

In the final race of the season, in Japan, Niki pulls out, unwilling to put his life in danger again, and watches Hunt chase the world championship, needing to finish just 3rd to take a 1 point march over Niki.

Will Niki's pull out cost him the championship, or will it be a dream end to what could have been a terrible season?

Fantastic performances, and some great racing - this is so totally a movie not to be missed - whether you love F1 or not!

Mumbai Monorail

My daughter still fondly remembers the "mororail" in Seattle - almost eight years back, when the driver had taken her in his lap and allowed her to hoot and "drive" the train. Now, we have our very own in Mumbai!

Can't wait to check it out!

Pic courtesy: Times Of India