Saturday, 20 October 2018

Seemabaddha(1971) & Corporate(2006)

This blog is about similar themes of 2 movies made 4 decades apart in different languages. Satyajit Ray was a pioneer and he made Seemabaddha in 1972 about the greedy corporate culture. I don't recall any other movies on corporate in Bengali, in Hindia not either.. In Bollywood in 2006 Madhur Bhandarkar made Bipasha Basu, Kay Kay Menon Starrer Corporate movie based on Cola wars between two giants. I am inserting the links of the both for your perusal. Though the languages are different, times are different but you will find the unmistakable strain of commonness in the reckless greed and moral implications thereof. In Hollywood there are many examples of movies based on Corporate culture eg., The Wall Street, Inside Job, Erin Brokovich etc, however in India films on this premise is almost non existent. Hence I thought a discussion on Seemabaddha and Corporate can be relevant to display the similarity in corporate culture despite a gap of 4 decades in 2 different Metropolises of India - Calcutta and Bombay.



Satyajit Ray based Seemabaddha on a novel by Shankar. It is about the ruthless bigwig of Peter Fan Company Ltd who wants to become a Managing Director by any means. Shyamalendu played by Barun Chanda forgets his literature loving past and gets on the competition to head the company he works in and he adopts an unscrupulous mean to do so. His greed is reckless , he soaks in the opulence of grand old days of Industrially developed Calcutta and he compares himself to a race horse whose end line is shifting. 
This was made in the hey days of Calcutta when it still enjoyed financial glory and Industrial productivity. All the major British industry houses eg. Bird Company, McNeil Magor, GKW, Texmaco, Metal Box, Sen Raleigh, IISCO, Burn Standard, Balmer Lawrie, Andrew Yule were roaring at its supreme. In 1971 major corpoarte head offices were still in Calcutta though Naxals were uprising. Night life of Park Street was still a legend on the east of Suez canal. The premise of the movie was very timely. 
In this backdrop of big corporates Ray showed his hero indeed achieves what he wants but Ray shows the moral depravity of the entire fiasco by a charmingly naive sister in law Tutul ( played by Sharmila Tagore) who disapproves the entire thing by subtle gestures. In the end Shyamalendu's rise appears futile with moral pangs ridding it. 


Similarly in Corporate made in 2006 Bombay shows Nishigandha Dasgupta ( brilliantly played by Bipasha Basu) becomes a pawn in the hands of the corporate bigwig and gets destroyed in the eventual brand war. Bipasha Basu probably gave her career best performance in this film and Madhur Bhandarkar directed the movie with elan showing the inner workings of 2 corporate Cola majors. As always in his movie the city of Bombay with its glamorous highrises, posh locales play the role of the Financial Capital of India. If Ray chose 1970's Calcutta, then Madhur's choice of Bombay as the corporate city of India in 2006 is unmatchable. In the end of Cola wars, we see the death of Riteish ( Kay Kay Menon), Nishi's beau and Nishi battling in the court whereas the corporate kings make convenient adjustments for unbridled greed.

I found significant similarity in terms of greed and power in both. I am sure readers will not miss the a common thread in both the films though they were made 45 years apart , at a different timepoint in different cities of India.


Friday, 12 October 2018

Indian Author Text Books



My students, friends and colleagues know my disdain for Indian author text books in science and biotechnology. I rarely prescribe any Indian author text books of biotechnology to my students who are doing graduation and post-graduation in Biotechnology (B.Tech, M.tech, M.Sc etc). I pass snide remarks if a student says “I study Satyanarayan’s Biochemistry or B.D. Singh’s Biotechnology”. I preach them not to read Indian author textbooks. And I practice what I preach!!

I always swear by Lehninger’s Biochemistry, Bruce Alberts Cell Biology, Prescott’s Microbiology, John Smith’s Biotechnology, Schuler and Kargi’s Biochemical Engineering , Crueger & Crueger’s Fermentation technology , TA Brown’s Genome etc. Even for biochemistry and microbiology practicals I prefer David Plummer or Rodney Boyer or a  Sherman- Capuccino. For mol bio even at the cost of snobbery I prescribed Maniatis to  my M.Sc Biotech students of Xavier’s.

People know my liking and standards. I don’t deviate from those foreign author textbooks while teaching. I love those diagrams, colored photos, brilliant brain stimulating end of the chapter questions which prepared me for GATE, NET and interviews. From 1994 I have been fed on foreign author text books; during B.Sc & M.Sc Physiology I used to read Guyton or Ganong. I used to worship Harper’s Biochemistry and many of my knowledge gems came from Lehninger and Voet and Voet’s Biochemistry. Guyton’s Physiology was like a storybook suggested by Dr Yoshomalyo Banerjee ( beloved Tum dada). Ganong helped before exams. Voet and Voet had brilliant colored photos of proteins and DNA which shaped my life long interest in proteins and molecular biology and I eventually finished a PhD on tubulin-a cytoskeletal protein. While studying Biotechnology Masters in Jadavpur University my fascination for cell biology and microbiology begun with Bruce Alberts and Prescott. What a brilliantly written book. And added to the attraction was the fact that Bruce Alberts co-authors with legendary James Watson of DNA double helix fame. When I got know that Albert Lehninger discovered oxidative phosphorylation my respect grew even more, as if the best of the world’s knowledgeable scientists were giving their insights to me while I read their textbooks. Another book which shaped my career in molecular biology was Tom Maniatis’s Gene Cloning. While performing molecular biology experiments in between 2002 to 2006 in Jadavpur University , MAHYCO or while teaching in Xavier’s Mumbai from 2012-2017, I acknowledge immense help from Maniatis book, I consider it like many others as a bible of genetic engineering. Genetic Engineering books by Old & primrose or Glick & Pasternak also influenced me heavily. Notwithstanding the attractive prose, color images and extensive knowledge even  the end of chapter bibliography sparked interest in me to seek more knowledge.

However today in this blog I disclose that once I was helped by many Indian author textbooks which I may not follow as a teacher but that had a done a great deal of help in terms of passing exams and gaining sufficient knowledge. Why am I writing this has a reason? Yes, recently while teaching clinical biochemistry I found Devlin’s Clinical Biochemistry unaffordable. And I have to teach it. So I resorted to good old dog eared copy of Biochemistry by Debajyoti Das I bought in 1994 in College Street , Calcutta while beginning B.Sc.. I had found very soon that in Calcutta University pattern of education Debajyoti Das and C.C.Chatterji’s books will help me in sailing through. A very well written book, Debajyoti Das’s Biochemistry, helps a lot of doctors and biochemistry students across the medical colleges also. I am privileged to attend the lectures of this great man in Presidency College from 1998-1999. His book encompasses general biochemistry, nutrition, physiology and clinical biochemistry – the depth and breadth of which is sometime missing in Harper’s Biochemistry which medical students vouch for. And he enlightened with Indian statistics on nutrition and clinical biochemistry which is missing in foreign authors. We as a race have different food habits and physiological parameters which is not mentioned by foreign authors. But from Debajyoti Das I got to know why Indians prefer a combination of Dal-Rice, Idly-Sambar, Dal Roti etc. I got to know why Indians suffer from Thalassemia in certain parts of this country. Even C.C. Chatterji’s Physiology was many a time life saver just before exams. While panicking and looking at the untouched portions I frowned at the subject in Guyton or Ganong but Calcutta University question paper is set in such a way in last moment a C.C Chatterji will save you in passing physiology exam rather than a glamorous copy of Ganong. I don’t demean Ganong, Guyton or Lenhinger, Harper but it is a truth I am sharing and many of my friends in academics or medicine from Calcutta will vouch for the fact that while preparing for fear-inducing exams with last moment study and vast uncovered syllabus, a Debajyoti Das or C.C Chatterji can calm you down and make you pass through the ordeal of passing degree not compromising with the quality knowledge. In fact I learnt my pharmacology first from K.D.Tripathy's Medical Pharmacology, a widely read book by doctors in making and written with Indian patients in mind. Later on while doing PhD I loved reading Goodman Gilman but K.D Tripathy was irreplaceable while embarking a PhD on biochemical pharmacology from IIT Bombay under Prof Dulal Panda.

I have no idea of other fields like Engineering or Law or Arts, those subjects may have distinguished Indian author books. But while studying H.S. (12th standard) I was benefitted by Das & Mukherji’s Calculus, Ganguly & Mukherji’s Algebra, Trigonometry, Souren Dey’s Mathematics, Ranajit Das and S.N. Poddar’s Chemistry, Bahl & Bahl’s Organic Chemistry, Sanyal Chatterji’s Biology, Das-Adhikary-Sinha –Roy’s Biology, C.R.D.G's Physics or DPC's Physics. At that time neither did we have access to foreign author text books in schools nor did anybody prescribe. Some students used to get A Level ELBS Biology, Physics, Chemistry books, some used to read Morrison Boyd’s Organic Chemistry, I.L.Finar’s Organic Chemistry , J.D.Lee’s Inorganic Chemistry or Resnick Halliday’s Physics for IIT preparations. But I was no extra ordinary student and I limited my study to the before mentioned Indian author books of science.

During B.Sc I had Zoology and Chemistry Pass and I stuck to Indian author texts like Ganguly Adhikary’s Zoology, S.R.Palit’s Physical Chemistry, Bahl & Bahl’s Organic Chemistry etc. Sometimes Indian author texts have printing mistakes, they are not that attractive due to lack of colourful images and overall the lavish packaging of the foreign author books attracted me more. Nevertheless, I disclose happily that I was once benefitted by Indian author textbooks immensely and now as I teach I need few of them foreign authors being unaffordable financially. The packaging may be bad, the black and white images may look dull but the knowledge I acquired from Debajyoti Das’s Biochemistry or C.C Chatterji’s Physiology or Das Mukherji’s Calculus or Ranajit Das’s Chemistry or Bahl and Bahl’s Organic Chemistry will remain with  me lifetime. 

Even my previous generation from Calcutta told me they loved their Ladli Mohan Mitra Chemistry book, D.P.Ray Choudhury's Physics book, A.C. Dutta's Botany, Samar Mitra's Anatomy & Physiology, K.C. Nag's Mathematics, Jadav Chandra Chowdhury's Arithmetic or K.P.Basu's Algebra. P.K.De sarkar's English book was another gem for learning English with the help of Bengali language. I was a Bangla medium student and I have affinity for this book particularly. My grandfather used to prescribe many of these to me. Even I remember he bought a guide book of K.P.Basu and Jadav Chowdhury and will look into it only when I failed to solve certain sums.Bengali students will forever remember these books despite the flooding of Chaya Prokashoni and so called Ray& Martin's ( a crappy copy of venerable British author Wren & Martin which we followed in schools) these days.

As I make this disclosure and eulogize Indian author books which I do rarely and secretively, I am certain many of my friends in academia or medicine or science profession will share my views. All said and done, in Indian educational system, due to their affordability and faithful delivery of good science, these Indian author textbooks formed many careers. They saved many from the trauma of certain and imminent failure in exams. They saved a lot many from the ignominy of not getting the coveted degree, those books were the last resort in those stressful days when the realization dawned upon you that you are utterly unprepared for the upcoming degree exams and you are going to fail surely and certainly. I am always fascinated and enamored by the dazzle and brilliance of foreign text books but I must declare that those Indian author text books I clung to my heart before B.Sc or M.Sc finals and I did not flunk the important exams. Rather I flung those fancy foreign textbooks for those panic stricken days and nights and I clung to Indian authors for saving my face.

I hope you liked it, I welcome your comments and want to know their point of views. Thank you.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Cairo Time : A Review




Recently me and my wife watched Cairo Time and came to the conclusion this is a rare display of restraint in what could be otherwise a tempestuous extra marital love story. This is a contrary view of the film which many critics dismissed as vapid and reticent. Cairo Time begins with a premise of extra marital affair and you expect sparks will fly when a middle aged married woman meets a dashing bachelor on a foreign shore. However nothing much happens to indicate a stormy relationship. Patricia Clarkson is a Canadian woman, married and a mother of two. She is a magazine editor. When she lands up in Egypt for a vacation with her husband she has to wait because her husband works for UN and is held up in Gaza. In the meanwhile Alexander Siddiq, a confirmed bachelor working as a security officer spends time with her and takes her around. The beautiful cinematography of the city, the white desert  and the Pyramids made me feel like visiting Cairo. The pace of the movie is as languid as the river Nile flows. However there are subtle moments between the svelte Patricia and the handsome Siddiq that makes you fall in love. Slight touch, ungiven kiss and silent admiration are the hallmarks of this movie which exemplifies that true love has to be felt not expressed.
In general, movies on extra marital affairs are expected to be pots of emotions stirred with physical intimacy. Emotional upheavals and resultant physical tensions become palpable in such movies. But Cairo Time is all about restrain in such situation and it is very plausible to display such restrain because we human beings are aware of such situations where we do maintain calm and composure even when faced with temptations of flesh. We know we get embroiled in such situations where the body wants to give in but mind says No. And that’s how we maintain civility in many such tempting relations of life. So I cannot dismiss this movie as taciturn due to lack of tumultuous affair.
My wife also pointed out the beautiful dresses Patricia Clarkson was wearing in the movie. Music  in the movie is well composed, particularly the piano pieces. Overall the movie is well planned and well executed. I would recommend anyone any day. I watched this movie in 2011 and then very recently. The admiration did not fade in these 7 years. Hence you can well understand this is my favorite.

Monday, 8 January 2018

PhD jobs: Explore posts abroad

Nature published my letter to editor in November 2017. Please read. It is about employment opportunities of PhDs in foreign countries particularly Asia. I wrote this in response to an editorial lamenting lack of jobs for fresh PhDs in academics in own country.


PhD recipients who are unable to secure an academic post in their home country (Nature 550, 429; 2017) should consider postdoctoral, teaching and research jobs in universities abroad, where their skills are in high demand.
Universities in the Middle East, China and southeast Asia are recruiting research talent from outside those regions. Many offer perks such as tax-free salaries, research grants and housing. To promote local research, some countries also host campuses of British, US and Australian universities.
For example, several US universities have campuses in the Qatari capital Doha (Carnegie MellonTexas A&M and Northwestern); in the United Arab Emirates (New York University); in China (Duke University); and in Singapore (Yale University). China hosts the Technion Israel Institute of Technology in Guangdong province, as well as some UK institutions (the universities of Edinburgh and Nottingham, for example). The University of Nottingham also has a campus in Malaysia, as do two Australian institutions (Swinburne and Monash universities).
In return, new postdocs who move to work in these countries will broaden their outlook in a different and hospitable culture.
doi: 10.1038/d41586-017-07235-3