Opening this week

Film review: ‘Irada’ is a well-intended expose of pollution and graft

A superb cast and some smart writing paper over the flaws in Aparnaa Singh’s debut movie.

Debutant director Aparnaa Singh’s Irada deftly mixes fiction and fantasy. The plot is said to have been drawn from real events – the pollution of ground water by a chemical manufacturer with the blessings of a state’s ruling party. The fictional response to these events, however, hews closer to Hollywood films about righteous citizens turning detectives and vigilantes against powerful corporations, among them Erin Brockovich, A Class Action and Edge of Darkness.

Set in Punjab, Irada advocates solutions that ordinary viewers will be hard-pressed to replicate, but its concerns are timely, its character sketches memorable, and its empathy unmistakable.

Topping the sparkling cast is Naseeruddin Shah in one of his most relaxed recent performances. Shah plays Parabjeet, a decorated retired soldier who wants his daughter to become a fighter pilot. Parabjeet puts Riya (Rumana Molla) through a punishing schedule of morning runs and long swims, but tragedy strikes in the form of a cancer diagnosis. The water that Riya has been gulping day after day is killing her, and her repentant father sets out to investigate.

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Irada.

Parabjeet eventually runs into Arjun (Arshad Warsi), a National Investigation Agency officer who has arrived in town to investigate a massive blast that has destroyed the polluting chemical factory run by the malevolent Paddy (Sharad Kelkar). Paddy and the state’s chief minister Ramandeep (Divya Dutta) are twinned by rapacity. One flushes out his factory’s toxins into the ground water, while the other ignores the problem in return for political funds. An activist who tried to blow the whistle has been killed, and his girlfriend Maya (Sagarika Ghatge) is getting nowhere with her campaign to expose Paddy.

The blast at Paddy’s plant holds out the promise of a promotion and a possible stint at the Prime Minister’s Office for Arjun. All he has to do is follow Ramandeep’s tart orders – file a report that exonerates Paddy and hang the blame on an employee who has killed himself. Arjun’s curiosity eventually leads him to Parabjeet, and a friendship develops between the two men.

Singh’s fondness for her characters cuts both ways. Irada is an old-fashioned conspiracy thriller in which the righteous are justified in their actions, however unlawful they may be, and the evildoers are just the right shade of black. Sharad Kelkar is perfectly cast as the dapper businessman whose empire is built on corpses, while Divya Dutta is a doozy as the imperious head of state whose wickedness is more far-reaching than Paddy’s corruption.

Warsi turns out a charming and relaxed performance even when Arjun is up to no good. As the 109-minute narrative wears on and the need to add contrivances to reach for an uplifting solution to depressingly real-world problems kicks in, Arjun’s moral compass starts behaving like Jack Sparrow’s apparatus from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies – it points most to what he wants, rather than what the law permits.

Like Arjun, Singh and co-writer Anushka Rajan dredge up problems that cannot be tackled through official channels. Yet, the director’s conviction bulldozes through the most indulgent and ragged moments. A flashback to a holiday taken by Parabjeet and Riya is little more than an excuse to showcase Rumana Molla’s histrionic talents. Parabjeet’s questionable actions, and the movie’s endorsement of them, also indicate that Singh’s resolve to tackle the economic roots of pollution and its relationship with cancer is weakening. Even though the resolution beggars belief, the high-powered cast and the director’s clear-eyed rage against the machine are convincing enough.

Sagarika Ghatge and Arshad Warsi in Irada.
Sagarika Ghatge and Arshad Warsi in Irada.
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Harvard Business School’s HBX brings the future of business education to India with online programs

HBX is not only offering courses online, but also connecting students to the power of its network.

The classic design of the physical Harvard Business School (HBS) classroom was once a big innovation – precisely designed teaching amphitheaters laid out for every student to participate from his or her seat with a “pit” in the center of the room from which professors orchestrate discussions analyzing business cases like a symphony lead. When it came to designing the online experience of HBX—the school’s digital learning initiative—HBS faculty worked tirelessly to blend these tenets of the HBS classroom pedagogy with the power of new technology. With real-world problem solving, active learning, and social learning as its foundation, HBX offers immersive and challenging self-paced learning experiences through its interactive online learning platform.

Reimagining digital education, breaking the virtual learning mold

Typically, online courses follow a one-way broadcast mode – lectures are video recorded and reading material is shared – and students learn alone and are individually tested. Moving away from the passive learning model, HBX has developed an online platform that leverages the HBS ‘case-based pedagogy’ and audio-visual and interaction tools to make learning engaging.

HBX courses are rarely taught through theory. Instead, students learn through real-world problem-solving. Students start by grappling with a business problem – with real world data and the complexity in which a business leader would have to make a decision – and learn the theory inductively. Thus even as mathematical theories are applied to business situations, students come away with a greater sense of clarity and perspective, whether it is reading a financial report, understanding why a brand’s approach to a random sample population study may or may not work, or how pricing works.

HBX Platform | Courses offered in the HBX CORe program
HBX Platform | Courses offered in the HBX CORe program

“Learning about concepts through real-life cases was my favorite part of the program. The cases really helped transform abstract concepts into observable situations one could learn from. Furthermore, it really helped me understand how to identify situations in which I could use the tools that HBX equipped me with,” says Anindita Ravikumar, a past HBX participant. India’s premier B-school IIM-Ahmedabad has borrowed the very same pedagogy from Harvard. Learning in this manner is far more engaging, relatable, and memorable.

Most lessons start with a short 2-3 minute video of a manager talking about the business problem at hand. Students are then asked to respond on how they would handle the issue. Questions can be in the form of either a poll or reflections. Everyone’s answers are then visible to the ‘classroom’. In the words of Professor Bharat Anand, Faculty Chair, HBX, “This turns out to be a really important distinction. The answers are being updated in real-time. You can see the distribution of answers, but you can also see what any other individual has answered, which means that you’re not anonymous.” Students have real profiles and get to know their ‘classmates’ and learn from each other.

HBX Interface | Students can view profiles of other students in their cohort
HBX Interface | Students can view profiles of other students in their cohort

Professor Anand also says, “We have what we call the three-minute rule. Roughly every three minutes, you are doing something different on the platform. Everyone is on the edge of their seats. Anyone could be called on to participate at any time. It’s a very lean forward mode of learning”. Students get ‘cold-called’ – a concept borrowed from the classroom – where every now and then individuals will be unexpectedly prompted to answer a question on the platform and their response will be shared with other members of the cohort. It keeps students engaged and encourages preparedness. While HBX courses are self-paced, participants are encouraged to get through a certain amount of content each week, which helps keep the cohort together and enables the social elements of the learning experience.

More than digital learning

The HBS campus experience is valued by alumni not just for the academic experience but also for the diverse network of peers they meet. HBX programs similarly encourage student interactions and opportunities for in-person networking. All HBXers who successfully complete their programs and are awarded a credential or certificate from HBX and Harvard Business School are invited to the annual on-campus HBX ConneXt event to meet peers from around the world, hear from faculty and business executives, and also experience the HBS campus near Cambridge.

HBXers at ConneXt, with Prof. Bharat Anand
HBXers at ConneXt, with Prof. Bharat Anand

Programs offered today

HBX offers a range of programs that appeal to different audiences.

To help college students and recent graduates prepare for the business world, HBX CORe (Credential of Readiness) integrates business essentials such as analytics, economics, and financial accounting. HBX CORe is also great for those interested in an MBA looking to strengthen their application and brush up their skills to be prepared for day one. For working professionals, HBX CORe and additional courses like Disruptive Strategy, Leading with Finance, and Negotiation Mastery, can help deepen understanding of essential business concepts in order to add value to their organizations and advance their careers.

Course durations range from 6 to 17 weeks depending on the program. All interested candidates must submit a free, 10-15 minute application that is reviewed by the HBX admissions team by the deadlines noted on the HBX website.

For more information, please review the HBX website.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of HBX and not by the Scroll editorial team.