Monday, August 17, 2015

Extension to the Cluster Analysis done earlier

As an extension of the Cluster Analysis piece, I had tried to pitch the various serve and return statistics for each of these clusters to see how the combination works.

The ideal state for players to be across all the scatters is the top right corner as all variables considered are %s that are good-to-have-it-high. Unsurprisingly, the group that the big 3 of Roger, Rafa and Novak belong dominate this position in 2 of the 4 scatters (brown dots). The other interesting thing to note is the Pink group being in the centre of almost all the scatters and seem to be breathing under the neck of the brown dots. No wonder it is the cluster to which multiple few time GS champs like Murray, Stan, Cilic, Hewitt belong!

In the battle of the On & Off ones (involving Grigor, Haas etc.) against the consistent journeymen (comprising the likes of Seppi, Chardy etc.) the presence of Red UNDER Green easily explains who wins the battle of the return games. While the Reds are better in terms of Serving stats (the fact that their dots are mostly to the RIGHT side of Green ones), they would be better off getting better return stats.

The next thing I had done was to just select the best group (Brown) and dissect the same stats by players under this group. This is what it resulted in:

Again, the ideal state is the top right corner and the worst place to be is at the bottom left. No wonder, Verdasco, a clear outlier in this group fits to the bottom left in all 4 plots.

Novak, Roger and Rafa place themselves closer to the ideal section of the plot in at least 3 of the 4 plots. If you compare by the Return Stats (visualise drawing a horizontal line to include only the dots at the top), the guys owning up the best numbers are Rafa, Novak with the surprising presence of David Ferrer and Davydenko above Roger in all these categories! So, you now know where Roger's hiccup lied in. 

Similarly for Rafa, the presence of many names to the right of him in the first serves won % shows where his primary problems lie. Juan staying at Bottom-middle or Bottom-right indicates he has miles to go with his return game before he can actually add some legend tag against him. The positive news is, he has made his presence felt in the cluster. The bad news is, he is still recuperating and one knows not if he would be the same old Juan when he gets back on court!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Review #502: Vaalu (2015)

Vaalu Movie Review

Plot: It is love at first sight for a jobless guy who is called Sharp by friends and family when he sees a college girl in a bus. He also helps her in an accident and tries to befriend her to win her love later. The girl reciprocates his friendship after knowing he was her accidental-helper but informs him she is arranged to be married to her cousin in 2 years. Sharp decides to woo her in 10 days and the spice on offer comes in the form of a rivalry he has with a linchpin of the girl’s cousin in question.

What Works?

  • The bonhomie that the core members of the team led by Director Vijay Chander have shared shows up in their intention to bring out an entertainer that aims to provide mindless fun. The delay in production doesn’t show up much in terms of lack of continuity thanks to that.
  • STR (that’s how Simbu calls himself now) displays the energy that has earned him the small yet intense fan base and he has provided enough to keep that lot happy performing comedy, action & mouthing punchlines with the ease he has branded himself with
  • The supporting cast has played its role in keeping us from getting restless – Be it the comedy that Santhanam, VTV Ganesh provide from time to time or the charming little family of the hero. The director can be lauded for the manner in which he has depicted the father & the villain – There ‘could’ be fathers and villains like that
  • The songs, which don’t hold us by themselves in Thaman’s Music, have been put to some painstaking choreography that complements the overall intention of the film. In Suresh’s editing, there are no scenes that cross the tolerance threshold (even if some of the Train/track transitions could have been avoided). Shakti’s camerawork captures the crowd & colours well in the stunts and songs
What Doesn't?

  • There is no core story whatsoever and even the love that the hero seems to shower upon the heroine doesn’t look real thanks to his schemes. He looks like someone who tries to woo the girl to win a bet than to wed her & the Day-1 to Day-10 presentation adds to that effect
  • The little emotions which could have been exploited with some characters go waste and aren’t handled with conviction. In a film that doesn’t seem to take itself seriously, serious dialogues about family and love seem very odd
  • There is too much of meta Mass-hero worship (which succeeds in bringing noise in the house) but all that makes this look less like a film and more like a prime time show on TV
In a Nutshell:
Vaalu doesn’t have much to complain about because it doesn’t have much to write home about. The intentions seem to be to provide mindless fun but in the process, it lacks any story to be told and ends up being a film not to be bothered about – much like the vestigial tail some reptiles have.

Vestigial Tail, Wags a bit!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Cluster Analysis on a selection of ATP Players

I have always felt, with the goldmine of data that Jeff Sackmann of provides, a lot of interesting studies and analyses can be made. I chose to devote some time to one such analysis to see if I could cluster players based on their statistics. To my pleasant surprise, some expected members came out to belong to the same cluster. Say, if Ivo Karlovic was not going to be with John Isner in one cluster, I would assume the analysis to have had some gross miscalculations/assumptions.

But that's not just about it. Playing styles is one thing, but player statistics could be quite different. For example, a player like Roger with his mighty serve could still have a 'winning %s in Serves' number similar to a relatively seemingly weak server like Rafa, thanks to the dynamics that shots in rallies after the serve play. The core of my analysis took these into account and for that reason, I never chose individual variables relatable to style of play like No.of Aces, Aces/Match etc. I chose percentages that matter the most in the sport.

Some details on the model.

Match data includes data:
  • All ATP matches data from 2005 to Mid 2015 
  • For Players who have been Active in 2014 or 2015 (played at least one match in the last 1.5 years) 
  • Players who have served more than 1500 Aces since 2005 (this was used to retain the more popular names); So don't expect to see where and alongside who would, arguably the most popular player from the week, Nick Kyrgios, fit in. 
Variables used in the model:
Serve Stats
First Serves In %
First Serves Points Won %
Second Serves Points Won %
Break Points Saved %
Return Stats
First Serves Return Points Won %
Second Serves Return Points Won %

Algorithm: k-means Clustering. It involves taking values of these variables for all players and grouping players such that the euclidean distance between players for all variables in one group is minimal with minimum errors between and across the cluster groups. After some random trials, a size of k=5 looked to provide a decent 'accuracy-making sense' tradeoff.

Getting this data in order from the source involved a bit of a circus as the base data set doesn't have details by player but by match. i.e., it would show all these stats for match loser and match winner in one row for each match. Putting that circus together actually helped. The point gets mentioned here to emphasise the fact that data exploration is and should always be part of any analysis effort and that makes you get familiar with the data set.

Now to the results. This was how the players had got clustered into their respective groups:

The mean of the different variables under consideration in these groups looked like:

Cluster 4 was the litmus test result that validates the analysis from tennis-fan terms. All the big servers in the game end up landing here. At enviable 1st Serves Won % (78% mean!), these are the towering crusher-serve senders. They obviously end up having poor numbers for 1st and 2nd serve Return Pts won% (25% and 44%)

Cluster 2 is the one that carries 3 off the big 4 and of course, the talented delPo doesn't get left behind and joins it promptly. These guys are the clinical ones, setting benchmark in 4 off 5 categories and staying only behind by a whisker in the First Serves in department. Happy to see another of my personal favourites Nikolay Davydenko in there - Hi Kolya! Verdasco seems to be the lone outlier in the group but hey, wouldn't Nando find in an instant that double faults weren't part of the variable set!

Cluster 5 houses Andy Murray & Stan the Man! The group seems to have the lowest first serves % mean (which I suspect could be due to some skewing it to look that bad!) and Murray's conspicuous absence from Cluster 2 could have been due to his 2nd Serves (he is part of the group that stands at 50% in this variable against 54% at the group where the other elite members are sheltered)

Cluster 1 comprises members who have been on and off and their pain point seems to be with respect to 2nd serves and of course, as a result, break point conversion. The lads there are probably weak mentally compared to ones from other groups.

Cluster 3 is the one that houses the consistent journeymen who hover around the 10 to 40 rank and their weakest link seems to be their 2nd Serves & Returns. They are, in more ways than one, closer to the cluster 1. Look at the names in the two groups. Those are your regular R32 guys at slams!

I also looked at how the different members of the clusters fared in combination of these variables.

More on that with plots on how the variables interact with each other for these clusters and a deep-dive into Cluster 2 is shown in my continuation here.

Any interesting insights you see in there?! Feel free to share that and any other comments you may have.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Review #501: Kaaviya Thalaivan (2014)

Kaaviya Thalaivan Movie Review

Plot: The two best disciples of Sivadas Swamigal, the earnest owner of a Drama school, are by design pitted against each other by the guru himself and this create multiple calamities ending in the duo’s separation. Years pass by as one finds a good holding and the other wobbles away as a drunk loser only for them to cross paths again when the ongoing Indian Independence Movement gives another chance for the tables to turn!

What Works?
  • Vasantha Balan elevates himself to a new level with this painstakingly made film that relies so much on Jeyamohan’s story & the combine’s screenplay as it does on Balan’s direction.
  • Siddharth may have played second fiddle in Jigarthanda but here he rules the roost & gives the performance of his lifetime with an interval ranting showing at his Guru as the stand-out portion. Prithviraj’s role as a foil is nobly sketched giving proper justification for his character’s oft-conniving acts and the actor brings that to screen quite convincingly.
  • Nasser shows the veteran power in the film and earns instant respect as he goes about lecturing on the attributes of a quality drama artiste.  Vedhika fits very well as Vadivu and scores in her Thirupugazh performance scene.
  • The film’s technical crew is of top quality – Rahman leads the way with excellent songs (well placed and picturised) & immaculate background score fittingly culminating with the Shehnai version of Porai Niruthu when the end credits roll. Nirav Shah’s camerawork does its bit in explaining the shades and moods characters show in the film & Praveen’s editing presents itself on the forefront in sequences that show years & days roll by in the narrative.
  • This is Vasantha Balan’s second period film & putting that alongside his Veyil & Angaadi Theru , his level of detailing doesn’t come across as a surprise. Art Director Santhanam & the constume design team deserves applause for their efforts in providing  the director what he might have wanted!
What Doesn't?
  • The romance between Siddharth and debutant Anaika happens out of the blue & if that portion still leaves a lasting impact, it is because of the two impactful ‘curse’ scenes that follow as its aftermath.
  • The polarization of the two prime characters were explained poetically through the film that the clichéd conversation in the climax was not all that necessary
In a Nutshell
The specialty of the film is – The villain in the film is not without his nobility & the hero here is not without his faults! In bringing out memorable showings from his cast & technical crew & making Kaaviya Thalaivan a stand-out film in their resumes, Vasantha Balan elevates his own level.

Naadagam Paaka Ponga!

Review #500 : Boyhood (2014)

Boyhood Movie Review

Plot: The metamorphosis of Mason & his elder sister, children of divorced parents living with their mother is showcased over a 13 year time frame as Mason grows from 5 to 18. The general situations faced by kids and teens are brought to picture in addition to the specificities children with divorced parents may have to deal with. It transcends cultural barriers to show how rapidly focus and interests transition as a kid moves through the toddler & teen phases of life!

What Works?
  • Richard Linklater has fascinated us with films (including the Before Trilogy) where interesting conversations have been the backbone & in Boyhood, he takes it a few notches higher by going with a larger time frame & getting out from ‘romance’ to ‘growing up’.
  • The fact that the film was shot for 14 years and used the same cast for the entire time frame is as startling as it allows us to appreciate the painstaking processes that must have gone behind  the scenes.
  • Ellar Coltrane, the lad who plays Mason, should feel lucky as he has had the privilege of working with a quality film-maker for a dozen years! It doesn’t feel like he was performing as he just lives through his transitions.
  • The supporting cast led by Linklater’s favourite Ethan Hawke make its presence felt with specific scenes that make the viewer relate to them. The climax scene where the Mother breaks down about the purposelessness of her life as Mason is unperturbed with his move to college is a thunderous depiction of the perceptions of 2 generations!
  • Dialogues play a pivotal role in Boyhood – The dialogues between the father & the son, the idea of Humans being Cyborgs conveyed by Mason & his scene with the professor at the Dark Room in high school stand out!
  • The technical crew deserves a wave for staying committed to the film for such a long time & not showing any inconsistencies over its making
What Doesn't?
  • This is pure realistic cinema (at its most literal sense having been filmed for 14 yrs) without any filmic  flavours  or over the top sentiments because of which it may not make an impact on viewers who cannot relate to it
In a Nutshell
Had any of our lives from 5 to 18 been filmed, edited and presented, such a film would have at least one scene that matches with Boyhood. The film hits you with a whiff of Nostalgia when you don’t expect it to & that is the film’s achievement.

Trailblazing Time capsule  

Review #499: Thirudan Police

Thirudan Police Movie Review

Plot: When a constable gets stabbed in a failed encounter operation, the job goes to his supposed-to-be-bereaved son who hates his father to an extent that he doesn’t even feel for his death. One month into the father’s job, he realizes the tribulations his father had suffered & the new-found respect makes him determined to go behind the murderers. Can this story be told hilariously? Yes, you are welcome says director, Caarthick Raju!

What Works?
  • The film’s debut director Caarthick Raju makes us take notice of him with the manner in which he has presented this revenge saga. In crossing the set borders of commercial movie-making (in terms of interspersing action & comedy in an abundant yet unpredictable mix), he becomes a definite prospect.
  • The casting is a major success in the film. ‘Naan Kadavul’ Rajendran is a screamer in his role as the comic villain. His accent & casual dialogue delivery have been used brilliantly (“En da unga appa va konnom nnu feel panren pa!” for example). Aadukalam Naren brings in seriousness to the proceedings, while John Vijay, Nithin Sathya, Rajesh & Renuka make their presence felt.
  • In spite of the evident Cuckoo hangover, Dinesh shows some sparks in a few scenes. All his scenes & dialogues with Bala Saravanan click. This could be a breakthrough film for the comedy actor.
  • The film’s screenplay, even with its gaping holes, is crazily and enjoyably written and reminds one of the yesteryear comic classic Kadhaanaayagan. Especially, when  Manickam & his group faultily fear Vishwa, Malaysia Vasudevan crosses your mind.
  • The  sarcasm with which some of the unfortunate realities of power exploitation done by some policemen are presented needs a special mention.
  • The solid work of the technical crew led by Yuvan, who provides a noticeable work in Background score, Super Subbarayan with pulsating action, editors Praveen Srikanth & Art director Jackson is a plus
What Doesn't?
  • For the umpteenth time in kollywood, a heroine placed irrelevantly presents itself as a negative. This film may have worked even without a heroine and the director could have extended his daredevilry in experimenting with that too!
  • Though the treatment is audaciously crazy and gutsy at places, the grammar of film-making has been crossed. The film misses out on closing significant scenes and characters
  • For comedy’s sake,  much mockery is made of a son’s feelings for his father and that seems odd in a tale on father-son relation which ends with a note that it is a ‘Dedication to all fathers’
In a Nutshell
A Police revenge saga has been dealt with refreshingly crazily & in bringing the right cast into the mix, the debutante director has pulled off a Comic Cop Coup! 

Comic Co(u)p!

Review #498: Amarakaaviyam (2014)

Amarakaaviyam Movie Review

Plot: Two school-goers are madly & deeply in love with each other. When their parents are made to know of this under unpleasant circumstances, they take decisions that make the delicate affair even more complex. Throw in the betrayal by a close friend & more of bickering between the families to get a feel of the limit to which the love gets tested. Does the pair succeed in the end?

What Works?
  • Director Jeeva Sankar (of Naan fame) has to be lauded for a few things – Right at the top of that list is the fact that he has made a school-love themed film with a deft-touch, mature characters & devoid of unwarranted commercial elements/vulgarity.
  • The film’s screenplay is tight - stays with its core element for the entirety & uncompromising to the ‘fast-pace’ whimsical needs of the modern movie-goers.
  • The film marks the debut of Sathya (brother of actor Arya, producer of this flick) and he has come up with a strong showing with a neat character that underplays well. If he chooses his films carefully, he is in for a long haul. The heroine Mia George, for a change, is not the debonair diva dolls we get to see in films, yet, is adorable and plays her role quite well
  • The supporting cast deserves a special mention – It is one of those rare films with a limited set of characters (not more than 10), each one having significant scope & the cast members (right from the hero’s guardian dad to the psychiatrist doctor) have looked the part and have performed admirably well
  • Ghibran’s inspiring background score is part of the film’s core & he doesn’t let down with the songs as well – There are a few hummable montage songs that captivate
  • The director is the film’s cinematographer too & that always presents the invisible sync. The beauty of the Nilgiris captured to perfection.
  • Good attention to detail has been paid to suit the period the film represents (1988 ) examples being the MilkBikis cover, Horlicks bottle, the poster of the quintessential film of that year (Sathya) Poster etc.
What Doesn't?
  • The way the love gets established & the intensity of it is not shown very well. It is just a number of repetitive ‘I Love You’ scenes which present a few moments of sag in the first half
  • A few clichés have seemingly been unavoidable (The lover who comes in the end; the slow-mo fight are examples)
In a Nutshell
Amara Kaaviyam may not be the immortal epic its name translates to, but is nevertheless a honest film that stays true to its core for its run-time and makes for a definite non-regrettable watch for the sincere efforts of the cast & crew.

Deftly Crafted

Review #497 : Velai Illaa Pattadhaari (2014)

Velai Illaa Pattadhaari Movie Review

Plot: A Civil engineering graduate is resolute on getting into a job on his line of study. To keep the resolve going he has to resist a barrage of insults from family members & his own bruised ego. When guilt consumes him as his mother dies, his dream project comes in the form of a gift from his dead mother & he goes all out to deliver the project successfully in spite of venomous hurdles of power.

What Works?
  • It is Dhanush's milestone film (25th) & director Velraj delivers a package that fans of the actor will not be disappointed with. He has succeeded in providing mindless entertainment
  • Dhanush uses his commendable screen presence to good effect & the witty one-liners add to the comedy which comes naturally to the actor
  • The family bondage has been dealt with quite well & would be nostalgic bringing a smile on the viewers' faces(Sound of a plastic ball in Motta maadi cricket as an example)
  • Supporting cast has come up with a solid showing thanks to Saranya(though her enjoying her son's fight with gundas is a huge tamil cinema mother stereotype), Samuthirakani, Amala Paul, Vivekh
  • The director handles the cinematography as well & so the sync between those departments is evident. Editing deserves a mention for the scenes when the halted project gets restarted
  • Anirudh scores with his inspiring background music providing nice bits suiting occasions in the film themed differently
What Doesn't?
  • The film doesn't seem to take itself seriously & the second half takes us straight back to Rajinikanth films from the 80s which fed on victimising villains with the rich/poor divide. There is even a disgusting racist dialogue (one that terms the villain a 'white' pig)
  • Anirudh's songs fall flat (save Amma Amma & the title song) because of their semblance with those from his earlier films, because of a seeming low effort put in them, because of their irrelevance to their placement in the film
In a Nutshell:
VIP has all ingredients to quench the thirst of Dhanush's fans but in the process of offering entertainment, it takes a trip back to the 80s commercial genre.

Graduates, but not at ease

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

I Movie Review

Shankar's I Movie Review

Shankar, the director considered widely as someone who keeps re-writing his magnum opus books, comes up with his latest offering 'I'. In its post-production phase, the film evoked a lot of curiosity for the role(s) Vikram had supposedly played in it & the toil he went through. All of that has now been put to test for the audiences' verdict with the film's release today.

I is about how the life of Mr.India aspirant Lingesan is made to take two drastic turns, the first of which is engineered by Diya, the model he reveres & admires, the second by those who he gets related to, through Diya. As is the case with most life-turning experiences, he faces tough situations in both. Here they are potentially heart-crushing situations but he wins over the two with contrasting yet pure humane qualities - Benevolence & Vengeance!

Vikram has given his heart out unleashing another set of memorable & masterful portrayals. As Lingesan the body-builder, his chiseled body speaks more than what his Chennai dialect does & even in his flamboyant avatar of model Lee, we get to feel Lingesan underneath the swashbuckling looks! When calamity strikes, he takes his level a few notches higher and totally takes control of your attention. Vikram makes you empathise with him when he suffers from the condition that disfigures him which is captured quite nicely by Anthony's editing (who has had a pretty tough role in editing the film spanning 189 minutes!). Amy Jackson has given her best with a display of emotions that appear convincing enough & she is a lovely doll in the song sequences. The lip sync with her dubbing suffers though, which is the case with Upen Patel too. The supporting cast with a set of unexpected faces (if one discounts Santhanam, that is) led by Ramkumar Ganesan, Suresh Gopi & Ojas(whose treatment is something you don't expect AT ALL in a Shankar film) is a bundle of cliches. Even these fresh faces cannot balance out the dated characterisations created for the roles they play!

On the surface, I gives an impression that Shankar has tried something away from his highly successful tried & tested presentations of social issues but a close look would reveal that is not the case. Unconditional love has replaced the social issue theme but he has trusted and gone by the underlying template he has used historically. Even though I delves on unfailing love, it is more closer to Anniyan than it is to Kadhalan or Jeans. In fact, there is a huge connection that I holds with Anniyan which could be dissected at length but now is not the time as dissection would bring a whole lot of spoilers.

On the flip side, where doubt creeps in if Shankar's prowess is on the wane are in the facts that the dialogues don't carry the many 'Aha' moments we are used to with his films & the way the screenplay wavers while it introduces and later, focuses on the supporting cast. As an example, the (seeming) twist in the climax is something one could easily guess in the first fifteen minutes of the film. The film suffers from the lack of a well-written subplot for the characters around the primaries.

Also worth mentioning is how Shankar has become obsessed with grandeur and how that, in a way, is impeding his story-telling. The stunt sequence at the body-building competition is too lengthy & the one with the Bikers (where Vikram is seen to be duped big-time) is totally needless given the duration of the film. Apart from giving scope to some grandeur,which the stunt choreographers have duly used, they do nothing to impact the film's proceedings.

Anthony's editing has already been spoken of. The two other important aspects of the film are PC Sreeram's camera which does the simple part of capturing the mystique locations in China & India wonderfully. The highlight of the lens work is in the way it goes chasing in the Bicycle fight sequence & Aila song sequence (which, alongside Mersalayitten, has been conceptualised in typically admirable Shankar style). Rahman's songs have been picturised with devotion with an intention to make them stand out & the experimental background score in the fights are good.

In 'I', Shankar has to be credited for giving Vikram a glorious little boxing platform on which the actor has delivered a balanced knock-out performance playing to the admiration and liking of both the gallery & the judges. Where Shankar has failed is in not being able to give him powerful opponents to box against.