Friday, August 15, 2014

The Big Short (Michael Lewis)

(spoilers in the review)

I admit I am in a Michael Lewis time warp (with 1 more - Moneyball to go).

This book is one of the 2 definitive pieces ever penned or recorded on Sub Prime crisis, other being documentary from CNBC journalist David Faber apty titled - House of Cards (

However unlike David Faber's work that takes him to one of the guilty parties - House Owners, Michael Lewis has constructed this story using an almost unaffected class of people as observers. Three sets of money managers who otherwise would have been untouched by this crisis, chance upon it as a bet of their lives and pursue it relentlessly.

What starts as purely a research effort in order to prove their hypothesis that there is a lot of money to be made by shorting the Sub Prime bubble - these three unrelated crusaders take upon themselves in unraveling the madness behind an insatiable mortgage securities market as it existed in its heydays ending in 2007. Their personal struggles are used as additional burden they have to carry in addition to their quest of proving that world is wrong on Mortgage market or more precisely entire Wall Street is dumb enough to not to see what is coming.

As is the case with other works, this book too is for someone who has some idea of the lexicon - Mezzanine CDOs, MBS etc. My own personal experience or rather brush with Mortgage market albeit on periphery (I was selling back office IT solutions to MBS/CDO/CDS traders in 2006) - made me enjoy this book even more. A must read for someone who is remotely interested in Sub Prime crisis and is looking for some closure. :)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Flash Boys (Michael Lewis)

(spoilers in the review)

Yet another classic from Michael Lewis who is definitely numero uno when it comes to Finance Journalist. This iteration takes on HFT trading and their ways of rigging the so called efficient markets.

Central idea is taut - how trading shops with hitherto unknown names (e.g. GETCO) started accounted for a substantial percentage of equity trades. Also on offer is play along by wall street banks and exchanges. However just as Michael Lewis did with his seminal Liar's Poker and recent Big Short - the human thread of an unlikely crusader (Brad Katsuyama) in this case is the real story.

Overall a much enjoyed book after a long time. Pretty much finished in 2-3 sittings over a weekend. Only downside for someone could be spells of dry details on communications hardware. Otherwise a highly recommended for someone remotely interested in the subject.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Ship of Theseus (2012)

Image result for ship of theseus movie
Written and directed by Anand Gandhi, a first timer or so they say. This is a brilliant movie, a masterpiece that is too good to be true. Perhaps I will be proven wrong in time to come but for now, I would wage on this film to be the most impressionable work in Indian cinema in years to come.

It consists of 3 stories, separated by distinct lives that their protagonists lead in a busy metropolis. Common thread only appears in the end and is neither unnerving nor banal. It almost becomes a matter of fact for someone immersed in the movie. It starts with a bang and reaches its crescendo in the middle - when some very spirited arguments are exchanged between an atheist monk (yes you heard that right) and his protege. Very Fountainheadesque.

First story amongst other things takes you deep inside an abyss called an artist's misery and self doubt. I wonder what would happen to me and my colleagues if we suddenly wake up to a reality that we are indeed mediocre and all the accolades that we get in our workplace were actually showered on us rather undeservedly. Back to the film, first story is very much a journey that a blind photographer takes where in she gain her sight but loses her art in the bargain.

Second story is my favorite. Protagonist is played by a very talented Neeraj Kabi who has played a physically demanding role to the hilt and shone through some very complex exchanges with a young lawyer who looks up on him as a role model. A very healthy debate on religion, world views and stand comedy is on offer. We will hear more on Neeraj Kabi in coming years, that is for sure.

Third story is perhaps the only blemish on this otherwise very well crafted film. But then it may be case of it being only relatively lesser as compared to first 2 chapters. Slightly thinner plot - a young stock broker who gains a Kidney and also develops a conscience as a bonus.

Now back to Anand Gandhi - he is the best thing to happen to Hindi Cinema in a long time. Both Anurag Kashyap and Dibakar Banerjee have publicly stated their envy after watching this movie. Dibakar apparently went into depression for few days, cocooned in an envelope of self doubt thinking whether he will be ever be to make such a movie.

Note: This movie is available for a legal download at this website for free: