Okay, what a really eventful week! Let me take it one by one.

  • Let’s first talk about my resolutions. This week was certainly much better. I watched three movies :-

    • A Star is Born : The India release of this movie coincided with that of Damien Chazelle’s First Man, and being an admirer of Chazelle’s I had preferred watching his movie instead of this directorial debut of Bradley Cooper. In my head, Bradley Cooper was always the guy who did full-blown action movies, and I naturally wasn’t expecting a lot from this film. Having said that, I was in for a nice surprise right from the first shot of the film, which has Jackson Maine (Cooper) performing his guts out under the influence of alcohol. The song is called Black Eyes, and it has a nice classic, hard rock, Black Sabbath-y feel to it. What struck me most about the song is how well it is shot. The cinematographer uses a hand-held camera, and makes it move with the (visibly) drunk Jackson Maine. You get that Cooper is in a trance, and he wants you to come join him.

    Though the film starts with the proverbial bang, it doesn’t really blow you mind at any later point in time. The cinematography stays consistently well put, transitioning from such trance-y shots in the concerts to the more calm and composed shots to show Jackson and Ally (an inconsistent Lady Gaga) fall in love. I felt some portions in the film relentlessly dragged on, where the writing becomes weak and goes into the ‘nothing new’ zone. Bradley Cooper is clearly the star of the film. Consider this one scene where he is drunk and on an award show stage - well, let’s just say he makes a mess of himself. The nuanced way in which he carries himself to the stage, tripping, lifting himself up and convincing us that he is really out-of-his-wits drunk is certainly not what I had expected given his filmography.

    Oh, and, the soundtrack is really really good. Lady Gaga sounds like heaven when she sings La Vie En Rose.

    • Soni - One of the most heart-wrenching films I have watched in recent times. Soni tells us the stories of two female police officers in the Delhi Police Force - one a senior officer (and IPS), and the other her subordinate at work. The film does not have a well-defined plot, but that is not to say that it doesn’t have conflicts. It takes you to uncomfortable places and puts you to answer uncomfortable questions like - “Should a female police officer on duty raise her hand on another man, if the man is misbehaving with her?”

    Soni stayed in my head for at least a couple of days, and a few shots from the film are embedded very clearly in my head. The colour pallette of the film is really interesting - it paints a very un-vibrant, dark picture of Delhi, and manages to instill a sense of unease right from the get go. There is almost no background track in the film, which adds another layer of the discomfort to the already disturbing scenes. The lead performances by Saloni Batra and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan are fantastic, and so are the conscious choices made by first-time director Ivan Ayr. Don’t miss it for life - it is screening at a Netflix subscription near you.

    • The Florida Project - Tangerine by Sean Baker was one of the best films that I watched in 2018, so I naturally had very high expectations going into this film. Sean as a director is the classic example of the “show, don’t tell” trope, and one must admit that he is pretty good at it. Unlike Tangerine, which was rather ruggedly shot on an iPhone, The Florida Project is shot on 35mm and it traces the life of a little girl Mooney who stays with her single mother in Florida.

    The colour of the film is greatly inspired by the fun colours one gets to see in Disney movies, which is pretty on point, given Mooney lives near DisneyLand in Florida. There are a lot of implied conflicts, and one has to be really attentive in watching the film for the fear of missing some very minute details. The girl who plays Mooney is probably one of the best child actors I have seen on screen. But somehow, the “show, don’t tell” trope of Baker’s didn’t really work for me in this film, especially in reference to the ending. I felt the movie should have ended exactly one minute before it actually did.

  • After having a really bad time with respect to books in 2018, I have picked up my first read for 2019. I am currently reading Leila by Prayaag Akbar, a book I have been excited to dig into ever since it came out. It looks really interesting as of now, but more about it when I finish the book.

  • Okay, so I haven’t made any progress on writing something creative, but yes, ideas are popping in my head. I am not sure how conducive February is gonna be for writing and my other goals in general (why, you ask? Read on :D ), but I will try my best.

  • I feel so happy when I say this - I finally have a fitness routine for five days a week! In conversations with Preet, a junior from college, I realized that I should be moving my workouts/fitness activities to the morning, and it worked wonders! Now I don’t have the concern of ‘wasting’ too much time at the fitness centre, and I feel refreshed all day at work. What’s more, I had my first brush with beginner gains, and I was awed at what my body could do. I can now see why people are addicted to their fitness routines (though I don’t see myself get addicted any time soon).

  • I don’t know what if what I am about to say qualifies as ‘giving back to society’, but we (led by Prof. Rukmini Dey from ICTS) visited this school in a nearby village to show them fun science experiments. We have been planning and doing this for a few months now, but this is the first time that my schedule allowed me to actually join the others on a visit. I built a chromatograph out tissue papers, water and sketch pens, and also demonstrated the concept of acid/base indicators and the magic of litmus paper tests. The whole experience made me relive my childhood, and made me a bit nostalgic.

The simple chromatograph made by Kanaya, who also taught me how it is made. Mine didn't look even half as beautiful as this looks!

The simple chromatograph made by Kanaya, who also taught me how it is made. Mine didn’t look even half as beautiful as this looks!

I now get what Arvind Gupta means when he says ‘the gleam in childrens’ eyes’!

  • About work, I have really started to tire of the courses. I gave up auditing the Classical Field Theory Course - it felt like too much work for the time I didn’t have. Thankfully there were not a lot of assignments to be submitted this week, so I could concentrate on my work.

    I was reading this paper by Noah Sennett et al titled Distinguishing Boson Stars from Black Holes and Neutron Stars from Tidal Interactions in Inspiraling Binary Systems. Boson Stars are an exotic model of compact objects, which gravitates due to a simple bosonic field. What Sennett and collaborators do is that they develop an effective perturbation theory way of dealing with the Boson Star two-body problem (that is, two boson stars orbiting each other). Black Holes are special in the sense that they don’t have tides (an aside : in some sense black holes are really the most simple objects in our Universe!), and the claim is that if we model Boson Stars well enough including the effect of tides and test it on our Binary Black Hole Data, we can figure out how ‘far’ our detected black holes are from actual black holes. Sennett et al deal with tides in the same way as Hinderer et al 2007. Was quite an interesting paper to look through, and I look forward to understand the paper now at an operational level.

    As a part of learning more about gravitational waves, a colleague and I have planned to have this weekly discussion session about pre-decided topics. We are planning to study the first few sections of book Data Analysis : A Bayesian Tutorial by D.S. Sivia, and in general reviewing the production of gravitational waves in linearized Einstein theory.

    There is a lot else exciting happening, updates of which shall be posted here as and when the time is right! :D

  • This Friday evening, I met Utsav, who was my roommate at BITS and also my first ever friend there. Utsav used to stay in Bangalore and is now moving to Houston for work! All the best Utsav! Here’s a picture of us from first year, when we both used to look pretty bad :P

I don't think Utsav was in his complete senses when this picture was taken.

I don’t think Utsav was in his complete senses when this picture was taken :P
  • Okay, now for the big announcement of the week. Unbeknownst to most, I went and auditioned for StageCraft’s next play. StageCraft is the theatre group at NCBS, and they have performed all over Bengaluru. I was very nervous heading into the audition, but it turned out to be the most fun I have had in recent times! Having said that, though, I had no hopes of getting through, but guess what - I did! Yay! We had our first few readings and rehearsals over the weekend, and I am very psyched for the experience. The first performance is on 9th March, and I think this will keep me extremely busy till then. The only drawback from this is that I might not be able to complete my weekly non-academic goals, but I shall certainly try my best! :D

So yeah, February looks to be crazy month, as was January! Be well, all :D