Asli HD to the rescue !!!

Buying a new TV is actually a simple task. You look around the biggest stores, search for the bargain and pick up what fits your room and mostly your budget. Of course every person in the decision making is to be consulted and most times everyone has different views about it. The biggest of brands or the most cost-effective ones. Good looking flat panels or standard looking TVs with perhaps better feature at lower price.

Of course the flat panels win and LED TV and 3d are the latest rage. One of the most important feature of the TV is HD or ability to display High Definition images. Of course to display HD images the television channels should provide the content in High Definition and then of course your cable guy or the DTH which you own needs to carry those as well. With recent launch of Tata Sky HD that part was taken care of but still most channels beamed their programs in regular format and having HD on your TV hardly meant anything. In foreign countries there are many HD channels and most big networks have an HD feed. Here in India there were few channels which indeed beamed HD signals including Star Cricket beaming the Cricket World cup which had an HD feed with no ad breaks and that itself was a true ‘paisa vasool’ for the owners of HD TV and HD set-top box. But the cricket world cup is over and so what now !!

Last week I heard of Star TV launching some of its key channels in HD format. Not only they would be beaming the HD signals but also shooting the content for them in HD format and hence making is the real HD format or what call it Asli HD™ . With Star Movies, Star World and National Geographic 3 of the 5 channels being beamed in HD, I am excited about viewing them in HD quality, especially movies and television shows. It sure would be revolutionary. Star Plus the general entertainment channel and Star Gold showing old Hindi movies being in HD is an additional bonus and perhaps my Mom can enjoy that too. If only they worked on some better content on Star Plus !! But thats a separate topic in itself.

Hopefully there would be many more channels coming up with HD quality feed and my investment in HD TV and HD set top box would be justified. Now that Star has taken the initiative soon all the other networks and channels would be compelled to think in this direction. So people buying a new TV, remember Asli HD is here finally in India.

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Madhya Pradesh Calling…

Its the summer holidays and we are going on a short family tour of Madhya Pradesh in a week’s time now…

Here are 2 excellent advertisements which prompted us to visit the state. The superbly made ads made us inquire about the tourism facilities and we decided to do the trip. This is what a good advertisement can do.

This is the first one. Entire state is represented by the movement of eyes. What an imagination !

The second one is even more wonderful as the entire state beauty is displayed by just hand shadows. Its a Classic !!

I hope our trip lives upto the expectations built up by these advertisements.

Why Oscars were big fail ?

Oscars are an annual party to reward the best of the Hollywood cinema. It is a glitzy affair featuring biggest of stars and Hollywood big shots walking down the red carpet. The nominations itself are much hyped about a month back and then the actual award ceremony is one of the biggest event ever and highly covered by television networks.

This year the Academy decided to take a chance by giving the prestigious job of hosting to two young stars James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Both big stars in their own way as Oscars wanted to attract the ‘younger demographic’ as they say. But the efforts of James Franco and Anne Hathaway fell largely flat, their jokes were simply amateurish, the drama was like a school play and they were generally off-key. They were so unbearable at times that moment Billy Crystal or Oprah Winfrey came on stage people were hoping that they would take over the hosting. The line ‘Sajid Khan would have done a better job’ says it all.

The ceremony itself felt long and boring with nothing exciting happening for long period of time. Most of the awards were a no-contest and were almost decided long back. There were hardly any surprises there too and whatever surprises were there, they were more like a shock. The Box office successes are very rarely rewarded by the Oscars and mostly the drams and tragedies win the bigger prizes and this year the case remained the same. ‘Inception’ , people’s favorite and box office conquerer was largely ignored in bigger categories and it was awarded the technical awards mostly to compensate for that. Most people expected ‘The Social Network’ to win one of the bigger award that of best film or best actor or best director but it didn’t win any of those. Toy story 3 was suppose to win the best animated film award even before the nominations were announced.

Thus there were hardly anything worth looking forward to. There were no controversies either, with the trouble brewing in the Arab world we expected lot more Political statements as well from the nominated big-wigs and winners but there were hardly any interesting speeches. There was no wardrobe-malfunction either  🙂

All in all it was a dull and boring award ceremony. Hopefully next year we’ll have better hosts and more deserving films would win.

Luther – Crime Drama – Dark & Bright

Luther is a Crime Drama which was aired on BBC last year. It had six episodes of one hour each. Luther starred Idris Elba and Ruth Wilson.

Luther is a police detective who is specialized in solving complex murder cases with his unique psychoanalysis and deducitve skills. But he is also a complex personlity and is a cop who does things mostly his way by bending the rules and crossing the lines. He is also temperamental, emotional and loses self control easily. He is both the good guy and the guy with grey shades. He could have very well been the bad guy with his criminal mind but is not.

The series starts with Luther being suspended. He ultimately returns and accepted back in the team. His colleagues Ian Reed, Justin Ripley and boss Rose Teller welcome him. He immediately has to deal with a complex double murder where he finds the enigmatic Alice Morgan, played superbly by Ruth Wilson. Alice is a prodigy astrophysicist and a witness to double murder of her parents. Alice’s is the most intriguing character and the relationship between Luther and Alice in itself is worth watching the show. They are both very similarly brilliant yet very different.

Later in the series Luther solves several complex cases of murder, kidnapping, smuggling etc. at most times with help of his colleagues or even Alice. There is the additional drama of Zoe Luther, ex-wife of Luther, played by Indira Verma who decides to move on with Mark North. Luther is extremely possessive about his wife, loves her yet has to let her go.  This parallel track of Luther’s wife and her lover is also very interesting and at times is key to the development of overall story.

By the end of the 6 episode first season, Luther is on the other side of the law, his ex-wife is killed by  his old colleague who further is killed by Alice on insistence of Mark. The viewers are left high and thinking about what next. Luckily BBC has sanctioned 2 episodes of 2 hours each for later this year to take the story forward.

The series works on the principle that the audience is made aware of the criminal, murderer right at the beginning itself and the drama is in the way Luther and his mates discover the evidences against the criminal and ultimately catches him or her. Luther is a great character, although the character is quite similar to many cop characters we see on TV or in movies yet it is differently portrayed by Idris Elba. The grey shades, the changing temperament and the controlled anger which later unleashes is nicely captured.

Technically, the show is brilliant just like most British shows which as I think are vastly superior to its American counterparts at least in giving a laid back and well developed script and characters.The series is shot mostly in and around London and city’s landscape is shown and used artistically in the show. The story of Luther’s life moves slowly along with the cases he solves. At times it seems far too easy the way he solves crimes and gets clues just by interrogation and on hunches just like Sherlock Holmes would but Idris Elba makes it believable. The show is dark and intense at times with lot of blood and gore and violence too yet its is bright and brilliant mostly because of acting,  great casting and chemistry between the leads and a moving storyline. There is hardly a dull moment in the hour long episodes.

My Ratings – 8/10 – Do watch it for fine acting by Idris Elba and Ruth Wilson and some compelling crime drama.

Zen – Classy and Cool TV Show

I have always enjoyed the laidback and high quality approach of British Television towards its drama shows and generally any TV program. I happen to come across the drama series ‘Zen’ ,  a cop detective show based on the Aurelio Zen detective novels by Michael Dibdin. The novels are about a super suave cool Italian Police detective. The series is in English and hence all the characters speak in English and not Italian but that apart the mini-series which had just 3 episodes of 90 minutes each is worth every minute spent watching it.

Zen is about Aurelio Zen played by Rufus Sewell who is the Italian  Police Detective. The current series was based on 3 books namely Vendetta,  Cabal and Ratking. The show was adapted to television by writer Simon Burke and directed by 3 different directors.

In Vendetta directed by John Alexander, Zen investigates a high profile murder in a remote village where the accused has confessed the crime and later retracted with all evidences pointing to him. He is under pressure from the Police Chief to get the clinching evidence against the accused and also under pressure from influential politicians to find the real murderer. There is also another criminal who is on a revenge spree and out to kill Zen. Beauty is in how Zen skilfully and with a cool mind resolves the issues, solves the case and extracts benefits out of all that but not for his own self. Zen is a committed, non-corrupt police detective separated from his wife and attracted towards’s his chief’s assistant Tania played by Caterina Murino.

In Cabal directed by Christopher Menaul, Zen investigates a suspected suicide of an aristocrat which he thinks is a murder. He is pressured by his chief to close the case as soon as he can and the minister pressures him to get to the roots of it and declare it a suicide. Zen has other ideas as hi pursues the secret organization known as Cabal. This episode also sees the romantic track between Tania and Zen developing further. Zen is a loner and stays with his mother and is separated from his wife while Tania is seeking a divorce from her husband. The romance proceeds as the case of suicide and murder is resolved again smartly by Zen. This episode is slightly loose and perhaps the weakest of the three. There are several loose ends which perhaps might lead to further plots in future episodes.

The third episode called Ratking directed by Jon Jones, Zen get a new police chief who hates the sight of him and he is being trusted to negotiate with kidnappers of a wealthy industrialist by the minister himself in spite of the new chief disliking the idea. He manages to negotiate with the kidnappers and also unearths the devlish nature of the family of the kidnapped man. Romance with Tania proceeds further and they almost live- in together now. Tania’s husband tries to kill Zen but shoots himself and Their lovelife is at a stage where both decides to have a future with each other only after taking sufficient precautions. Zen manages to solve the kidnappping case and motives and also manages to oust the Police Chief and getting the old chief back, who is recovering from a heart attack. The series ends with Zen as an ‘acting police chief’.

The entire series is shot on locations in Italy and has a real laid back style of filming. The show being 90 minutes, it has enough time to establish plot, characters, locales and show us the beautiful countryside of Italy. Rufus Sewell is tailor-made for the job of Zen and looks classy and cool detective in sexy Italian suits but almost as vulnerable as the kid-next-door when it comes to matters of relationships. Caterina Murino –  one word-  Sizzling –  she as Tania Moretti is simply perfect as Police Chief’s assistant and Zen’s love interest. You wait for her to come on screen and you cannot take your eyes off her when she is on screen. Her chemistry with Zen is superbly captured. There are several supporting characters including Zen’s colleagues and friends , his mother, his ex-wife, police chief and minister and his assistant, almost all British and they are superbly cast. The acting by every character is top-notch.  BBC’s strict quality requirement makes this show top-class and worth every minute of its watch. The show is set to return with further 3 episodes in the coming year. Can hardly wait for it.

Here is my vote for cool and classy British cop show over noisy, action driven American cop shows. Get the DVD, view it online, download it, whatever, just do not miss it.

My Ratings – 8.5/10 –  Brilliant Television,  Rufus Sewell as Zen is ‘The’ detective you want to be and Caterina Murino is a dream come true.

Sherlock – BBC Drama – Magnificent !!

BBC recently produced ‘Sherlock‘ a three part mini-series based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective character Sherlock Holmes but set in modern times and not the 19th century. The mini-series stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Dr. Watson. The three 90 minutes episode were shown on British Television in August 2010.

This Sherlock Holmes is set in today’s world and Sherlock Holmes not only uses his extraordinary powers of deduction but also uses mobile phones, text messages and GPS signals to solve the mysteries and he also has a website. He has kept some of the things oddly similar to the great writers novel though including the address where Sherlock Holmes lives, 221 B Baker Street.

In the first episode, “A Study in Pink“, along with Dr. Watson, Sherlock Holmes solves the mysterious case of the Serial Murderer forcing his victims to commit a suicide.

The 2nd episode titled “Blind Banker” deals with murders happening in different parts of London where the killer leaves cryptic symbols similar to ancient Chinese script. The interaction between Watson and Holmes is quite wonderfully enhanced here.

In the 3rd and final episode of this season titles “The Great Game” Holmes solves more than one cryptic murder cases in game guided by a bomber only to be outsmarted by the ultimate arch-enemy Proffessor Moriarty in the end. The end leaves you hanging and wanting for more. The 3rd part shows the brilliant side of Holmes as he solves one case after the other in quick time. The camaraderie between Holmes and Watson with the slight hint of gay undertones is again wonderfully shown.

The series is brilliantly shot with great production values and great casting. Benedict Cumberbatch not only looks the part of Sherlock Holmes but  have to admit that even surpasses Robert Downy Jr.’s portrayal in the movie version of Sherlock Holmes. Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson is fantastic as well.

This television series is one of the best written, acted and directed in recent times. The three episodes this season have not satiated the users and thankfully BBC have green-flagged another 3 episodes to be released next year.

My Ratings :  9.5/10 –  Catch it on DVD or Online Streaming Sites, TODAY !!

Shin Chan – Pyara Pyara

Ok this is about Shin Chan Nohara. For those who do not know who he is probably do not have young kids at home watching cartoon/ animation on Television. Shin Chan is a Japanese Cartoon Serial , translated to English and Hindi. Its episodes are 30 minutes long shown about 3 or 4 times a day on Hungama Channel.

The series follows adventures or rather misadventures of 5 year old Shin Chan with his parents, younger sister, teacher, neighbor, friends  and other miscellaneousness people. Shin Chan is a naughty kid and behaves like an adult at times. He asks rude and ridiculous questions and passes sharp judgement on people including his mom. The series shows how the kid enjoys at expense of others and has lots of physical and verbal comedy. Kids of course adore and imitate him. But he makes many parents worried.

Th problem compounds when you watch the Hindi Dubbed version of the serial, which we get to see on our cable. The Hindi translation makes it even ruder sounding. Shin Chan mouthes dialogues like ‘ tum itni motee kyun ho’, ‘bacche churane wali moti budhiya’ to his mom. He asks his teacher about her boyfriends and does generally naughty things which an adult might do but not a 5 year old. Such mischievous antics have made Shin Chan almost a cult figure among kids. Shin chan is amongst highest watched program by kids on television.

Shin Chan sometimes sets bad examples and teaches young kids on how to do mischievous things and get away with it. It shows you can be smarter than adults and even fool them. His naughtiness is exciting and gives kids a sense of high by which they can become equal to adults. It stops their ability to discriminate between right and wrong.

The above reasons are enough for not to watch the series and not let your kids watch it as well. However reality is different. As per the data most kids watch it in spite of all sorts of warning. Perhaps its a guilty pleasure  to watch it. Must say, the animation is cute.

So then, whether to let our kids watch it. I am still not sure but have to admit that both my kids have watched it quite a few times with and without my knowledge. I am not too happy about it but then I am not happy with many other things.

Somebody BAN the VUVUZELA please !!!

Vuvuzela is killing it !!! The cheap plastic horns are killing the world cup soccer viewing experience. There are basically tuneless horns producing cacophony.

Watching the world cup matches on TV, all one hears is noise produced by thousands of tunelss vuvuzelas and nothing else. It was good the first time we heard it, almost a novelty but then one half into it and we knew it that this was the world cup killer, if not controlled. It just ruins the football watching atmosphere totally.

Instead of the ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ of the spectators engrossed in the game, what one hears is senseless trumpet noise which irritates your ears more than a Himesh Reshmmiya solo song. No slogans, no spontaneous reactions, no songs, no banter, no insults, nothing can be heard over this cacophony. I have realized, like many others, that the best and perhaps the only way to watch world cup football on TV is by muting the sound.

Somebody please BAN these stupid horns and save football world cup. FIFA are you listening???

Superb Pepsi Ad – FIFA Worldcup 2010

Here’s a great Pepsi ad featuring most prolific footballers like Messi, Henry, Kaka, Arshavin, Drogba, Lampard playing football on the tune of ‘Oh Africa’ by Akon released 100 days prior to the greatest spectacle on earth, FIFA Worldcup to be held in South Africa.