Tata Nexon Electric: A layman’s review after a test drive

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If you didn’t get here while searching for information about electric cars, it’s quite possible that you’re a layman like me who just didn’t realize electric cars had suddenly become mainstream, or is about to. Till recently, I thought electric cars in India are one of those things that will come some day, but that was before I read there are more than 10 electric cars from different manufacturers releasing this year. Looks like 2020 is going to be as cool and futuristic as it sounds.

I also thought electric cars with the exception of Tesla (another ‘someday’ thing for India) look like a cross between an auto-rikshaw and a Tata Nano. I don’t know if you feel differently but I HATE the look of a Reva. To me a Reva looks like one of those ugly little dogs some women carry in handbags. I acknowledge that they exist and there are people who are into it but wouldn’t be caught dead with one. In fact, I hate the Reva so much that I stopped typing for 5 minutes to try and think of a more insulting analogy. I couldn’t but I’m going to come back and edit that in if I think of something later. Because Reva had reserved the top slot in my brain’s image search for electric cars in India, I didn’t even bother reading up much about the space till I saw the MG EV and the Hyundai Kona and realized there were companies making electric cars that actually looked like cars. The second shock was that these cars now have ranges of 300-400 km on a single charge, which makes it feasible go a week in the city without worrying about range. You’ll need a home charging point which was another hurdle, but all manufacturers are offering free charging point installations even in apartments, provided you get approvals from the society and let them do the wiring. I was finally taking electric cars seriously, and out of curiosity started looking for cheaper ones than the MG and Hyundai, which led me to the Tata Nexon.

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The impending tyranny of Daenerys Targaryen

Daenerys riding into winterfell with a smug look as dragons fly overhead
Courtesy: Hotstar

Spoilers ahead:

The new season of Game of Thrones aired today and the highlight of the episode was Jon discovering his true parentage and right to the iron throne. However, the bigger question is what Sam brought up when he asks Jon “You gave up your crown for the good of your people. Will she do the same?”.

The important question is not whether Daenerys will let Jon be king. She might, especially since they are pretty much an incestuous couple now in true Targaryen style. Calling themselves king and queen of the seven kingdoms wouldn’t be that hard or take away any power. The question is if Daenerys truly thinks of her crown as something she wears for the good of the people. Of course she keeps talking about making a better world and leaving the world better than how she found it, but it’s always a secondary theme in her stump speech. The primary theme is always “I am the rightful queen of the seven kingdoms” and “kneel or burn”. In her head, she is justified in most of her actions because she was wronged as a child and hunted, sold and abused across the narrow sea for a good part of her life. In many ways, many of her actions were justified, but what happens when the justifications run out and she still needs to rule and act?

What happens after they win the great war and Daenerys is on the throne in peace, a peace she brought? If she and her dragons play a pivotal role in defeating the Night’s King, she would quite naturally see herself as the savior of the seven kingdoms and beyond, in addition to being the rightful queen. Post that, if she runs into a group of people somewhere who do not want to kneel to the dragon queen, what will she do? What will she do when her dragons eat children, as they have done before? If she and her dragons rule over King’s Landing in perpetuity, will the occasional dragon kill of a citizen or a child be considered the price of the dragon queen’s protection? A sacrifice for the greater good?

The show has enough insight into her thinking to make reasonable predictions and what we know doesn’t make the future look rosy for Westeros. Let’s detail it out.

1. What does Daenerys believe in?

Don’t need to work hard to figure this one out. Here’s a direct quote:

“Do you know what kept me standing through all those years in exile? Faith. Not in any gods, not in myths and legends. In myself. In Daenerys Targaryen. The world hadn’t seen a dragon in centuries until my children were born. The Dothraki hadn’t crossed the sea, any sea. They did for me. I was born to rule the Seven Kingdoms, and I will.”

Extrapolate this a bit with references to how she defeated the Night’s King and saved humanity and you can underscore and bold that last bit about being born to rule.

Food for thought – If she was born to rule, and lived up to to that promise so splendidly, wouldn’t she naturally consider any future children to have a similar birthright to rule and believe in themselves and nothing else? Would they have grown up in humbling circumstances like hers to temper that sense of entitlement?

2. How deeply does Daenerys think of the fate of her people after her rule is ended?

Not much. Tyrion has raised the question of succession a couple of times and the reception wasn’t great.

Quote:

“Tyrion Lannister: Because I believe in you and the world you want to build. But the world you want to build doesn’t get built all at once. Probably not in a single lifetime. How do we ensure your vision endures? After you break the wheel, how do we make sure it stays broken?
Daenerys Targaryen: You want to know who sits on the Iron Throne after I’m dead?
Tyrion Lannister: You say you can’t have children. But there are other ways of choosing a successor. The Night’s Watch has one method, The Iron born folk, although many flaws
Daenerys Targaryen: We will discuss the succession after I wear the crown.
Tyrion Lannister: Your Grace, I saw hundreds of arrows fly towards you when you fought on Blackwater Rush, and I saw hundred of arrows miss. But any one of them could have found your heart and ended you.
Daenerys Targaryen: You’ve been thinking about my death quite a bit, haven’t you? Is this one of the items you’ve discussed with your brother in King’s Landing?
Tyrion Lannister: I’m trying to serve you by planning for the long term.
Daenerys Targaryen: Perhaps if you’d planned for the short term, we wouldn’t have lost Dorne and Highgarden. We will discuss the succession after I wear the crown.”

Her priorities seem quite clear from this exchange: Daenerys’ conquest of Westeros > Good of the realm

3. How steady has Daenerys’ moral compass been, especially as she grew in power?

Daenerys has done a lot for the downtrodden. She’s freed and saved thousands of slaves. However, what about excesses from her side?

At Slaver’s Bay, she was justifiably angry when the slavers crucified slave children to send a message to her, but what did she do in response? She crucified all the masters without differentiating between them. She assumed her enemy is a homogenous entity, equally complicit in a collective crime, only they weren’t. As explained by Hizdahr zo Loraq the son of a crucified master who joins Daenerys on the show and explained in more detail in the books, many of the masters she crucified were ones who fought against the murder of the children and were reformists who fought with their own people. They were crucified just like the children they tried to save, only by a different monster this time.

After the battle of the gold road, Daenerys chooses the shock and awe of burning two men to death over imprisonment or taking the black, in order to send a message. Did she really need to burn both? Couldn’t she kill the father and imprison the son at least? Or if she really had to execute them, weren’t there more humane ways to do it? Dragon fire isn’t a mandatory circus trick to please the audience.

Now you might justify this saying this was war and such things happen, but does Daenerys introspect about her own crimes or brutality? She used to, but it’s clearly changing now.

For example, her dragons once burned and ate an innocent child and the father brought her the charred remains. A visibly horrified Daenerys locked up her dragons after Jorah explained that dragons don’t know to differentiate between ours and theirs. But later, when the slavers burned her ships and came for her, Dany triumphantly let out her dragons, never to reel them in again. At the end of season 7 when she sees the dragon pit at King’s Landing, she comments on how her family was mistaken to lock up dragons and diminish their own power, a sentiment which has clearly superseded concerns about dragons flying around populated areas and preying on citizens without recognizing friend or foe. At Winterfell, Sansa raises a very relevant question – how are they supposed to feed two armies and two full grown dragons when they have no spare provisions in winter. When she asks “what does a dragon eat anyway?”, Daenerys smugly says “whatever they want”. If Winterfell runs out of cattle, what do you think ‘whatever they want’ becomes? The fact that she cares so little about it, in spite of them having killed a child before is cause for concern.

The disturbing trend evident from all this is that Daenerys is losing her ability to introspect, self correct or even experience remorse for any of her more extreme actions as time goes by, defaulting to her birthright and a belief that dragons can do what they want and in advice such as “you’re a dragon, be a dragon”. Whatever conscience she has now is outsourced to Tyrion, and she doesn’t defer to him like she once used to defer to the advice of Barristan the bold or pre-betrayal Jorah. How long can you depend on other people to check your worst impulses, especially when your own power grows?

Daenerys will undoubtedly win the war and the save humanity, but if the writers continue her story arc in true George RR Martin style, the hero might become the villain. In an interview early on, George RR Martin famously said what he didn’t like about Lord of the Rings was the lack of nuance or shades of grey. He said he was more interested in knowing what Aragorn did after he won the war – did he commit genocide of all the Orcs left alive in Mordor, what was his tax policy, how prosperous was kingdom and so on. In the case of Daenerys, the question is, will she break the wheel, or just stop it with Targaryens on top with an almost absolute belief in a divine right to rule?

There is one way out of course. Daenerys has to die in the great war, leaving Jon Snow aka Aegon Targaryen on the throne, someone who doesn’t really want to be King. I have a feeling he will be more receptive to Tyrion’s advice on experimenting with proto-democracy in Westeros. Daenerys dying would even match the old Azor Ahar prophecy in a way. The original Azor Ahai was supposed to have tempered the sword lightbringer by plunging it into the heart of his wife Nissa Nissa (disturbingly sexist). If I remember correctly, the prophecy is only that Azor Ahai will return and wield lightbringer again, not that he has to kill his wife personally. But maybe it will be an interesting parallel if Jon Snow sends his wife to her death on a dragon during a battle? Or maybe she chooses to do so herself and becomes ‘lightbringer’ with dragon fire? Bran should connect to Weirwoord.net and play The Dark Knight to Dany, so that she can internalize the quote “you either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain” and choose wisely.

If she does and her dragons go as well, maybe just maybe, little Ghost will come out and play with Jon?

 

Hugh Jackman gets into Bollywood’s turf in ‘The Greatest Showman’

Before I book a movie ticket, I usually check the rating on both IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. If the IMDB score is high, I factor in how big the film franchise is to give a lower weightage in my head to the IMDB score in the initial days as I assume most votes are from die hard fans who would vote only one way. I believe I’ve got it down to a science. Of course you might disagree with my choices but judging solely by how happy I am coming out of a movie theater after paying for that overpriced ticket, my system is pretty sound.

Usually, my system keeps me far away from any movie that says ‘musical’ in the description. The aversion started with the 2011 Ralph Fiennes & Gerard Butler movie ‘Coriolanus’, which my roommate and I went to with great expectations. We had seen just a trailer and it looked bad-ass. My roomie got an extra large tub of popcorn and we settled in for what looked like a good movie which started with Gerard Butler sharpening a knife while watching the news on TV. A little later, Ralph Fiennes started giving a speech to his army and started off with what sounded like a Shakespearean quote. Slightly weird but we rolled with it, only the Shakespeare quotes never stopped. For the rest of the movie, both the lead actors kept talking in Shakespearean prose to each other and everyone around them, talking about how they will ‘smite thee down with my sword’ or about the sound of war-drums while wearing Kevlar and shooting machine guns. My roomie forgot all about the popcorn and we just kept asking ‘what the fuck is this’ to each other for 2 hours. We were so mystified we thought of asking the theatre folks if they put the wrong audio track on. Even after the movie we had to Google it to finally believe this was actually what was intended. And the worst thing was all the critic reviews praising the movie. The Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus says: “Visceral and visually striking, Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus proves Shakespeare can still be both electrifying and relevant in a modern context“. It was about as fitting and relevant as the middle aged uncle next door suddenly speaking only in hip-hop rap would be. Technically I guess Coriolanus wasn’t a musical, but I don’t know what the fuck else to call it. After watching it I decided I’m never watching a Hollywood movie in which people don’t speak in normal English. My resolve was further strengthened when I asked my roomie how another musical he watched with his girlfriend was and he just said ‘Man. Hugh Jackman….Wolverine singing and dancing… WTF”

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Viggo Mortensen’s ‘The Road’ ruined the apocalypse for me

What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘apocalypse’? Zombies I bet. What about the people left alive fighting those zombies? Or people left alive in another kind of post apocalyptic setting? I bet the picture in your head is something like this:

Norman-Reedus-as-Daryl-Dixon-on-The-Walking-Dead-Season-6-Episode-6

walking-dead-rosita

and you hang out with people who look like this:

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An array of movies and TV shows have assured us the apocalypse is pretty cool. The life of survivors is hard, but in an uber cool and sexy way. Men become men and women become bad-ass warrior queens, everyone wears leather and gets a Clint Eastwood glint in their eyes and there’s no shortage of quality hair dressers and fashionable clothes. I mean the way they sell it, you would fantasize about living in such a world. Who wouldn’t want to live in a world where accountants and business analysts can become warlords and call the shots with sawed off shotguns and unlimited ammo?

And then, I saw a Netflix suggestion for the 2009 movie ‘The Road’, starring Viggo Mortensen, who you might remember better as Aragon from Lord of the Rings, the man who put the ‘King’ in The Return of the King. Who wouldn’t want to see Aragorn and his son taking on what’s left of the world? The last time he was on the road, he took on 5 (or 6?) of the Nazgul by himself and came on top like a champ.

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How Game of Thrones lost sight of its own baseline reality and became a butt for jokes

GOT
Credit: Hotstar

If you are an avid follower of my blog, which is unlikely, you would almost certainly not have noticed that I didn’t review the last two episodes of Game of Thrones season 7. I have been debating with myself if that was because of laziness or a reluctance to waste my time on something pointless. I have decided the latter sounds better.

The show writers have clearly put very little effort into writing the story this season so why should I put effort into reviewing it in my obscure corner of the internet? I just realized that explanation excuses my laziness as well. If you’re a fan, hear me out before you come after me with pitchforks. Blame the show makers for letting you down instead of blaming me for pointing it out. As I always say, do not shoot the messenger! This used to be a show which was acclaimed for realism. Now it’s a butt for teleportation jokes.

I can sense the objection forming in your mind. That this was a show with dragons and zombies with a new name and that realism was never there in the first place. I whole heartedly disagree. I’m not talking about realism according to the rules of our world. That obviously will not be there in any fantasy story. However, even a fantasy story with dragons and direwolves needs to keep track of the baseline reality within that fictional universe. Would you have just shrugged and said “it’s fantasy anyway” if the Starship Enterprise had suddenly showed up in Mordor to give Sam and Frodo a ride to the top of Mount Doom? Obviously not. A fantasy story, any fantasy story makes the rules of reality in that universe clear. In Lord Of The Rings, the baseline reality is that there are multiple humanoid races with differences in physical and magical abilities. Lightsabers and starships don’t fit in that baseline reality. In Star Wars, the baseline reality is that there are multiple alien races, regular star travel and an all permeating force that endows quasi-superpowers to those who can harness it. The baseline reality in that story does not accommodate magic or Gods. If Gandalf or Harry Potter showed up in a Star Wars movie with a magic staff or wand you would definitely find it ridiculous, regardless of the movie being fantasy fiction.

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‘Kali’ movie review- A movie with an important message about the consequences of unbridled anger

'Kali'- a movie with a message about unbridled anger
Dulquer Salmaan in ‘Kali’. Credit: Hotstar

Like all Keralites, I grew up on a staple of great Malayalam movies with intelligent, realistic and often funny storylines without much of masala. Around the time I was in college, the good movies dried up. Over time as distance from the homeland (‘naadu’) grew, I gave up watching Malayalam movies altogether after I saw the Dileep starrer ‘Spanish Masala’ on a bus to Kerala. Dileep is the actor who was recently arrested for the alleged kidnap and assault of a popular actress but honestly he should have been jailed years ago for that movie. I could not connect to any of the stories being shown on screen anymore. The storylines sucked, the actors were old and desperate to seem young and there were too many slow motion shots. As time went by I started hearing about good Malayalam movies with new actors, writers and directors but I didn’t really believe it till I saw Dulqar’s ‘Ustad Hotel’ on DVD. Finally there was a movie that spoke to me. It had a young actor who carried off the role effortlessly without overacting, fantastic visuals and music and a story about a departed son of the soil finding home again that spoke to most of us who had left Kerala in search of education or jobs. After that I found that the Malayalam film industry was back to making topical movies again. I’m still somewhat behind and have a lot of good movies on my watch-list that I haven’t got to yet. Kali was somewhere way down that list but when a Maharashtrian in office started telling me, a mallu to watch this nice Malayalam thriller, I decided it is shameful not to. It turned out to be one of the better movies I have seen recently across languages.

Kali is not one of those movies that will make a lot of money or get talked about a lot like ‘Premam’. It has no songs and isn’t that glamorous or much of a rabble rouser, in spite of the name. It is however a fantastic thriller which really makes you totter on the edge of your seat at times. But first and foremost, this movie has a very important message for an audience that is used to movies glorifying anger and reckless ‘heroism’. Most of our movies, no matter which language shows the usual trope of a righteously angry hero losing his temper and rushing to face the villains without giving a damn about being outgunned or outnumbered. The heroine will gasp and look all worried at first but then the expression on her face along with that of all spectators on both sides of the screen will change to awe. This ideal of masculinity is what we have been sold for years and years and a surprising number of people believe it. If someone wrongs you or your girl when you’re out, what’s the first thing you’re supposed to do? Guage the situation and surroundings? Or lose your head and get ready for a fight? How many of us will admit that it might be better to guage the situation first? Are we men if we do not react? Hell, even while writing this I’m wondering if someone will misunderstand and think that I am a coward or that I’m advocating cowardice. Advocating caution and prudence just does not work as this is the first thing in everybody’s head (including yours) when you do, which is exactly why you need more stories like the one in ‘Kali’.

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Game of thrones S07E05 ‘Eastwatch’: Fast forward to all the reunions and team ups you wanted or didn’t know you wanted

Drogon facing off against Jon Snow

Credit: Hotstar/HBO

Spoilers ahead

Remember when you used to yearn for certain characters to meet up or re-unite and didn’t get what you wanted for seasons at a stretch? All that is in the past. The show might have been cut to 7 episodes this season but the fast forward button has been punched repeatedly to more than compensate for the lost time. Here’s the list of reunions and team-ups across the 7 kingdoms that was achieved by sheer disrespect for time and distance along with shoutouts to fan theories:

Reunions: Completed vs. Pending

✔ Jaime – Tyrion
✔ Gendry – Davos
✔ Jon – Tormund
✔ Jorah the friendzoned knight – Daenerys Targaryen, breaker of hearts
✖ Grey Worm – Missandei
✖ Jon – Psycho Arya & Creepy Bran
✖ Jon – Samwell the last Tarly
✖ Jon – Ghost, who’s been gone long enough thanks to Drogon burning through the CGI budget
✖ The Hound – Mountain, because Cleganebowl HAS to happen

Continue reading “Game of thrones S07E05 ‘Eastwatch’: Fast forward to all the reunions and team ups you wanted or didn’t know you wanted”

Game of thrones S07E04: Last episode’s budget & logic trims paid off

Daenerys Targaryen

Spoilers ahead:

For the last few episodes, Daenerys Targaryen really wanted to burn stuff and all the older people except for one cool grandma kept telling her ”you can’t burn this, you can’t burn that”. You could see the petulant question “What can I burn?” behind her entitled and impressively pliant eyebrows in every scene. This episode she heard about another ally biting the dust courtesy of an army led by one Lannister and the myopic plans of another and asked the question (no not that one) to Jon Snow and he said no, you can’t burn the Red Keep. “Well if I can’t burn castles or armies holed up inside castles, might as well burn them in transit” was the logical conclusion of that discussion and oh boy was it fun to watch. Well, not for Jaime but we’ll get to that.

It made strategic sense as well. Of course it might have been better if she burnt the Lannister army on the onward trip instead of the return one but for that you need scouts or spies for intel, you know the kind of thing Varys was supposedly good at providing. It’s actually quite unfair that Tyrion gets all the heat for failed plans. His job is to scheme and Varys’s job is to provide information required for those schemes. Otherwise he’s just a bald Eunuch who can’t fight but still hangs around the likes of Grey Worm who has completely gotten over being a Eunuch recently. But anyway that was so last episode. This episode absolutely killed it.

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War For The Planet Of The Apes was mis-sold as a war movie instead of the excellent character drama it is

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Spoilers ahead:
The art of making trailers has progressed quite a lot but sometimes I wonder if the director and writer of the movie ever bother talking to whoever is making the trailer to make sure they capture the essence of the movie right. I’m not very familiar with the industry but I think whoever made the trailer for this movie wanted to create a really short film based on their own ideas about what the story should be rather than give a teaser for the real one. Every trailer for War For The Planet Of The Apes hyped up a war that Caesar didn’t start but means to finish. In fact that exact line is repeated in every single trailer. In the actual movie however, he only says “I didn’t start this war”. He never says “but I will finish it” unless it was part of a deleted scene which we haven’t seen yet. The posters were equally misleading, such as the one at the beginning of this post.

How can anyone look at that poster and not expect an epic battle between humans and apes? But this scene never happens. There is never a single sequence in the whole movie that has two armies facing off in this way. There is a skirmish in the jungle in the beginning but nothing like this.

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Game of Thrones S07E03 ‘The Queen’s Justice’: The story picks up pace at the cost of intelligence

Spoilers ahead

Still of Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones S7 episode 3

Game of thrones used to be an incredibly entertaining and intelligent series that also surprisingly educated the audience about how different reality is from fantasy, in spite of technically being a fantasy series. As of season 7 episode 3, it’s still entertaining and still has an unpredictable storyline which makes it difficult to guess winners and losers or distinguish between heroes and villains but it seems to be losing a lot of the intelligence that made it so effective in doing those things.

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