Isai (2015)

Isai (இசை) is a movie by S.J.Suryah that got released today. Suryah has written, directed, acted and music composed for the movie.

The story is about vengeance of a  popular music director Vetriselvan (Played by Sathyaraj) against his assistant Siva (Played by Suryah), after Vetriselvan looses his shine to Siva. I was startled by the Censor certificate saying the movie is 3 Hours 10 Minutes long, I don’t understand the recent craze of Tamil film directors for longgg movies, to me it just shows their lack of crisp story telling.

The first half drags along in familiar path. Suryah goes to a remote forest to do an album of Sounds from nature, there he falls in love with a local village girl Jenny (Played by debutant Savithri alias Sulagna Panigrahi). Yes, you guessed it right. There is a waterfall near the village,  we get to see Savithri taking bath in two piece in the waterfall. I couldn’t help thinking how a village girl gets to wear designer costumes in all hues. In their first encounter, Suryah gets bitten by a snake, Savithri carries him from forest to village and saves his life. They fall in love.  Savithri gives bitter medicine every day for next one week to Suriyah, on the first day by pinning  him down, later by transferring the medicine from her mouth to his. Director Suriyah has stretched to see how far censor board will permit him in objectifying the woman (the heroine), by the sound of whistle and claps in the theatre, Suriyah has succeeded in catering to his core audience.

The second half saves the movie, turning to be an interesting watch as the story shifts gear into a full fledged vengeance thriller. We were treated to a brilliant performance by veteran Sathyaraj, for whom the character comes out effortlessly. As the grandness of the plot by Sathyaraj keeps getting unraveled, we could see why Director Suriyay is one of the best in Tamil film industry today. Ganja Karuppu adds  comedy relief as Sathyaraj’s helper, in the scene where he places the coffee cup on table was delightful to watch.

The visuals of the cottage (a combination of studio set and computer graphics) inside the forest just on the foot of waterfalls is breath-taking. I will pay a fortune to get a chance to stay in that for a week. I had difficulty watching Actor Suriyah, there was little or no facial expressions or body language from him, and the man on screen comes out much older for the character. Compared to Actor Suryiyah, Music Composer Suriyah has done better, at least two songs I was humming when I came out – Puthandin & IsaiVeesi.



Chennai, Gadgets, life

Lost without mobile for an hour

I dropped my wife & kid in front of the venue, told them I will park the car and call when I am inside the venue. They walked away, I had driven few metres, when I turned to pick my mobile phone, I couldn’t spot it. It was not in my pocket, not in the dashboard, not in the seat next to me. I looked around to see them, no sight of them, road was jam packed so I couldn’t stop the car and go after them. I began to panic!

My mind was playing tens of options on what to do next. It’s not going to be a simple matter of borrowing a phone from a stranger and calling. Wife unlikely to hear the ring in the high decibel levels inside the venue, even then she will be hesitant to pick a call from an unknown number. SMS will be best, but for that to work I need to be next to the stranger for ten minutes – the message has to go, she has to see it and reply to come back. She might be trying my number and since I won’t be pick up, she could be standing in the entrance.

I parked the vehicle, then in fast strides went to the venue. The place was crowded every inch. I couldn’t find them anywhere near the entrance. I am not an introvert, neither I am a socializing character, so speaking to strangers doesn’t come easy to me. I went around the whole place, searching for them or any other known face. After two rounds of the place, I went to information desk; the lady there kindly gave her personal mobile and allowed me to call. I called my wife, call was not going – there should have been 5000 people or more, so networks seemed to be jammed. Apologetically I asked the lady to try once more, this time 6 rings, 7 rings, no reply. I thanked the lady and went around looking. Then in one of the stalls I saw a friend of mine, borrowed his phone and kept trying my wife’s number. Luckily she picked the call this time and I asked her to come to the stall I was standing; disconnected I turned there she was few feet away from me. I called her to come near, introduced to my friend and we moved from there.

I explained to her what happened and got a good dose of how I should be careful with my phone and not leave it in the house. On our way back I thanked the lady in information desk and left the place feeling exhausted.

The whole episode made me realize how dependent we are with everyone carrying an individual mobile phone. I can’t seem to find my way without one for a single hour. I was recollecting the days till 15 years back on how we lived without mobile phones, still we went to places, dropped people, agreed on a common meeting point and life went on smoothly.

This incident happened to me two weeks back while we visited Chennai Book Fair. There was another instance when I was searching for my wife for 5 hours during our first Australian trip in 2002 but that story is for a different day.

Chennai, Events, Management

Listen to the leader – Manickam Mahalingam

Half awake at 8:30AM today I was sitting in the ball room of Vivanta Taj Connemara hotel – waiting for the IACC Breakfast talk by Dr.M.Manickam (Chairman of Sakthi Auto components & other group companies) to begin, I was not sure on the connection with the US market & Dr.Manickam. How ignorant I was about Sakthi group & Indian companies silent march abroad!

Mr.Manickam is son of Industrialist and Philanthropist Dr.S.Mahalingam (who passed away recently). Mr.Manickam was introduced as a man wearing multiple hats with ease – led Sakthi group’s turnaround across industries (Auto, ABT, Sugar, Bottling), manages many colleges & an accomplished winner in Rowing competitions; I got impressed, by then I was wide awake and started to pay attention.


Manickam began his talk by their (Sakthi Auto components) foray to Detroit (the lost city of USA now).  Below are few points from rest of his talk (any paraphrasing/error should be attributed to my incomplete notes).

  • Two years back we started in America, we went to Detroit city (our customer General Motors invited us there). First thing we did was commission a survey to understand our future employees. We found only 28.9% children are growing up in household with both the parents around. A typical day for our worker (single parent) will be leaving the kid in a day care at 8AM, to pick them back by 3pm or pay $20/hour late fee. They were incurring $1000/month for day care expenses. They were doing long commutes, as a result by the time they are home, they don’t get to cook and pay the kids to eat (junk food) outside. We decided to start an in-house day care and extend take out food from our canteens in our factories. That generated lot of big positive energy, I was invited to meet the mayor, then the state governor. It all went surprisingly smooth
  • In Detroit city at a site five minutes drive from headquarters of GM, we bought a 70 acre facility. Costed us $10 Million, out of which we got a grant for $7 Million, so nett cost of $3 Million. Our entire experience including this grant and land buying all got done without meeting anyone (government officials) in their houses (unlike in India). In another facility we bought for similar price, we are getting $600-700K rent per annum
  • When we advertised for “Qualified” Assembly line supervisors, we hardly got response. The only one’s we got were 70 year old people with walking sticks; we took them and trained them, as age can’t be a recruitment deterrent in US as per law there. The reason for absence of supervisors in younger population was because US had stopped manufacturing 4 to 5 decades back. From 1960s first to Japan, Mexico, ASEAN and now China, they have off-shored their manufacturing; those skills were nearly extinct in US till 2010
  • US consulate in India extended us 30 Green cards for sending our staffs from India (and rest of the world) to USA. But we wanted to use it wisely. We wanted to send staff from India for shorter duration, so that we could rotate them
  • In China we got the whole facility, factory building including staff quarters for free from the city. The city constructed it and handed it over to us, the construction quality was world class. The city did that because we were generation employment for 350 people. In China we didn’t go alone, we have a local partner owning 50% who basically runs the operations for us and that’s working great for everyone
  • The first country we went outside India was Portuguese. Their engineers are the best I have seen anywhere in the world and they gave us lot of good technologies, which improved our quality worldwide. In Portuguese even though we own majority, we are only a shareholder. We don’t have any Indians working there, not even as a a Director or our representative. If we had done that, that representative would become a power centre. Also we don’t understand the local laws, we don’t want to do anything wrong and get prosecuted
  • The experience was not smooth/similar across Europe. When we got a factory in Germany we had lot of problems, surprisingly we found in our case, German engineers to be incompetent and we had to bring in the portuguese engineers who were able to double output with just two quarters. The German government was less open for foreign companies (like in our case non european) doing business there. For example in Europe (in general) there is benefits like the Government paying up to 80% of wages when you don’t have any orders. You can’t use the workforce time for job works, but on training, which we did take advantage of the benefit. Portuguese extended us the benefit but Germany & Sweden were reluctant to do as their interpretation of the law was conservative for outside European companies
  • An “experience” guided strategy for us is to avoid working with truck manufactures in India. When we went to Europe we ignored this and begun working with truck manufactures there. They didn’t have a concept of (Japanese) Kanban. Supply chain/Inventory was reviewed every quarter (!), which all sprung as surprise and hit us badly there
  • Based on my experience of doing business around the world (over 20 locations) I feel in India when somebody commits does anything wrong we don’t punish the guilty, but let them go free by punishing the system. Look at what’s happening with the new companies act in India (it’s not thought through well) or the numerous other regulations. In USA for example E & Y proudly claims that they are the Auditors for Coco-Cola for last 100 years, in India they can’t say that as there term can’t be more than 3 years

During Q & A, when I asked Dr.Manickam on how he prepared the top management & culture of his company before venturing abroad, he jokingly remarked that they first went to Orissa (Odisha) which prepared them well. In Orissa they had tried to change the local workers, but realized that didn’t work; they had to change, not them. The locals had  (valid) reasons why they work the way they do and that’s what will work there. Now Sakthi auto follows the same model from there to all other locations they operate – whether it is Portuguese or China or USA. It is always best to let the local’s run the show (plant).

Open Source, Tools

Password Manager

I have written 8 years back on the Password Manager I use was KeePass. I continue to use till day and love it. KeePass is a popular open source password management software, it allows you to securely store your username, password, URL, attachments in one single encrypted database file (KDBX). The database file is protected by one master password, so from remembering hundreds of passwords, you need to remember one password. You can keep that one password long (hence secure). I sync that one database file across my devices using cloud storage apps like Microsoft OneDrive, you can use that or Google Drive or DropBox or other equivalent apps.

There are many clients available for opening/managing KeePass database file across variety of devices and OSes. I have evaluated few of them,  but following are the apps that I use regularly and find to be good.

Movies-TV-Videos, Science

The Theory of Everything (2014)

There are few living scientists today who are known outside their field of work,  well recognized throughout the world and are an inspiration to students to take to science. That credit goes to Dr.Stephen Hawking, who has done phenomenal contribution to general theory of relativity, his work on Hawking radiation, our understanding on quantum mechanics and cosmology. The little bit of interest I developed in Physics, Cosmology was after I read Dr.Hawkings book “The Brief History of Time” in late 80s, around the time I was in Junior college.

Dr.Hawking’s have achieved all this in defiance to his crippling illness due to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, made popular by Ice Bucket Challenge) or motor neurone disease. One of my good friends’ kids are affected by a form of ALS and I have seen how painful it can be for the patients and their caregivers. Seeing them, I can say it’s remarkable what Dr.Hawkings has achieved. The credit for his long and productive life goes to his first wife “Jane Wilde”, without whom the world would have lost one of the greatest physicist without hearing about his works.


The film “The Theory of Everything” is based on memoir “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen” by Jane Wilde. I saw this film directed brilliantly by James Marsh today. Both the lead actors Eddie Redmayne as Stephen Hawking and Felicity Jones as Jane Wilde Hawking, have brought in front of us the life of real Mrs. & Mr.Hawkings. The story has provided the Director (James Marsh) with ample opportunity  to dramatize the incidents, but he has refrained from doing that, and it’s clearly visible in the product on screen. Whether it’s the budding romance between Jane and Jonathan (played by Charlie Cox), or the scene where, soon after discovery of his illness Stephen avoids seeing Jane, or in the final scene where the couple get to meet Her Majesty  the Queen of England, in all these scenes we are made to feel the emotions by avoiding all other possible distractions. The screen play goes in a predictable, steady pace while managing to sustain our interest.

Though the story is about a renowned Physicist who thrives on Mathematical equations and obscure theories, the screen play has kept it to the minimum, making us cherish the movie for the true characters that are portrayed, thus successfully avoiding of the film becoming a documentary.

I enjoyed the two dialogues shown to be spoken by Dr.Hawking near the end of the movie, one when he answers a question “Where there is life, there is Hope” and in the last scene when the couple, coming out of their audience with The Queen, saying to Jane pointing to their kids “Look what we made”. Both were touching.

Overall, a must watch and  take your school going kids along, it will be a good influence for them.