Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: Khichdi with Pesto sauce

What type of movie is Slumdog Millionaire?

a. Hollywood blockbuster
b. Hollywood indie movie
c. Crossover cinema
d. A western attempt to make a Bollywood movie

Who would you rate the king of lost and found movies where incidents just happen so that you can discover your loved ones coincidentally?

a. James Cameron
b. Danny Boyle
c. Prakash Jha
d. Manmohan Desai

Who would you rate the king of cop interrogation scenes that can be straight of the Gamdevi police chowki ?

a.Martin Scorcsese
b.Danny Boyle
c.Rajkumar Santoshi
d.Ramgopal Verma

Which movie would you describe as the most realistic description of slum life in Mumbai that tugs your emotions and reminds you of Dharavi instantaneously?

a.Harold and Kumar
b.Slumdog Millionaire
d.Salaam Mumbai

Which train scene best epitomizes the ability of a person to separate with a loved one as the train gather momentum?
b. Slumdog Millionaire when Jamal loses Latika
c. Hum when Amitabh loses Kimi Katkar
d. Yaadon ki Baraat when Dharam paaji loses his brothers because he jumped early

Which is AR Rehman’s best background score in a movie?
a. Moulin Rouge
b. Slumdog Millionaire
c. Rangeela
d, Bombay

Which is the best dialogue that appeals to people who rely on fate and things beyond their control to justify what happens in their lives?
a. ‘I believe in America’ from Godfather
b. ‘It is written’ from Slumdog Millionaire
c. ‘Mere paas maa hai’ from Deewar.
d. ‘Arrey oh baabu mushoy hum to rangmanch ki kathputliyan hain jiski dor us upar wale ke haathon main hai kab, kaun kahan uthega ye koi nahin janta from Anand.

So you get the drift if most of your answers are a then you have never been to movies more than once a year, Hindi or English. If your answer is b then you have not seen enough Hindi movies since you lived in South Mumbai or somewhere far away from India. If your answer is c you have never seen Hindi movies twice. If your answer is d you will come out of Slumdog thinking why there is so much hype over this movie.

There are some improbable scenes just because this movie had to be in English. Jamal Malik speaks accented English at a Gamdevi police station where Saurabh Shukla is on his best MC/BCs behaviour. The most popular bhikari song in Mumbai is not a Soordas bhajan Mr.Boyle, but Shirde wale Sai baba aaya hai tera dar pe qawwali. And a Latika cannot turn into a Pinto, anyone can recognize her Goanness from a distance. Like the last error, Mr.Boyle never had time for such nuances. He was on a ride to show the worst scenes from Mumbai, lampoon India and its call center culture all in the guise of making a feel good movie.

The movie definitely is feel good but its not Oscar material, its pure kitsch its the same as the British discovering balti chicken and now calling it their own. As a sign of protest, I nominate Amar Akbar Anthony for the Oscars. It had feel good , lost and found, scenes from the slums of that time and everything that makes fate the winner. In a way the success of this movie seems well written but I am sure of buffet of the scenes from several Indian movies would taste better than this khichdi with pesto sauce.

And maybe Bollywood directors should resort to reading books ( beyond Chetan Bhagat) and watching Korean DVDs, we could have made our own Jhopadpati Crorepati (why didn’t they think of that name for the Hindi version?).

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The mess that muses me

The financial crisis is grating my nerves nowadays, not because my portfolio is down to abysmal levels but every tom, dick and henry(paulson if you missed that sitter) seems to have an opinion about it. I mean bar waiters talking about it is the last straw when you are not having a fancy cocktail but a rundown beer.
So here is it guys I thought I will make it simple and apply financial theory to everyday life so that masses can have a field day since the nightmares continue.
Assume that you want to get married to a hot chick but you dont want the risk of divorce. Well is there any insurance like that? Well apparently there was an instrument called a credit derivative. So if somebody did get divorced somebody else will have to pay for the alimony. There was a sophisticated model that told you what you had to pay for this kind of insurance based on your background, promiscuity parameters and financial muscle. This model assumed the universal principle of the total testosterone in the world remains constant and follows the second law of thermodynamics that further shows that everyone's probability of divorce can be converted into a matrix and calculated by anyone who is out of b-school and works in a bank for late hours since he doesnt have a girlfriend.
The problem with this model it that it hides the Johnny-cum-lately behind Linda's Goodman by using cherry picking and other myraid credit rating mechanisms. But nothing told them that there could be an orgy happening anytime or was it happening all the time. The orgy stops not because you run out of fluids but people defualt on the booze. So I guess you get the drift, since this blog is still not R-rated(ratings again) .
Finally one word of financial advice guys. NPV is what makes marriages work, sex is merely a cash flow issue.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Return to rawness

Raw according to has over 10 meanings but my post is particularly about these meanings. But in every sense of it, I feel like returning to rawness.
1. Not having undergone processes of preparing, dressing, finishing, refining, or manufacture
Processing, finishing,etc are a great part of standardization in any output. It makes it predictable . Organizations are champs at creating processes, even for most mundane issues like entry into an office to complex things like innovation. Most companies rarely move up from the 1 single product or service that somebody conjured up in epiphany or serendipity. Layers after layers of management exist where every layer converts rawness to finished outcomes. A sales head can never replicate the days when he was in the sun selling that latest printer, a marketing head can never replicate the oodles of doodles of his youth, a finance head can never have the fun of error tracing an excel sheet with wrong formulas. Somehow there is a time everyone feels that those raw days were more fulfilling than approving claims and being cced on inconsequential mails.
2. Crude in quality or character; not tempered or refined by art or taste
Look no further than this song in Singh is King called 'tujhe dulha kisne banaya bhootneeke'. Or the English movie Stepbrothers or Forgetting Sarah Marshall. There is rawness to be behooved in some moments of these movies. To appreciate wine or Cubism is an effort, laughing at crudeness is effortless.
3. Ignorant, Inexperienced, or untrained
Somewhat linked to point 1. Again experience teaches you what not to do and so you become more efficient at eliminating inefficiency. Experience teaches you to limit your expectations, which is like eliminating any possibility of greater joy. Plasticity pervades a stimulated life that reads more from billboards as compared to others emotions. In short we all live Truman shows of our own, with distributed audiences and different directors.
4. Unprocessed or unevaluated
Evaluation is a tricky science. Some experts argue that children learn better if there is no pressure of exams or evaluations. Ricardo Semler in his book Maverick also had something to offer against performance evaluation in organizations.
But even a child does more stunts when he knows there is an audience. So can there ever be a return to rawness.. I dont know the answer, I just wish I could do it more often.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

On Intellectualism

There is no point being an intellectual....Why aa....

Intellectualism is great between 2 seemingly old grouchy men swinging a few pegs of Ballantines. It sparkles as a bright light breaking out of the clouds of cynicism that the men wantonly inhibit. It is as soothing as the belief that they wont get drunk in 4 pegs.

But what happens when the same two men go to swanky overlit malls or pubs where the strobe lights mirror the smiles of wannabe Valentines. The same intellectualism tries to snake deeper into the epidermis hunting for the veil that it can get to shield itself from the commonly accepted smartness. This is not soothing unless you get drunk in 4 pegs..

Changing the posts style

I have decided to give blogging another go... But this time I will write short posts which will linger for a long time... Thats the attempt.. Previously writing a post was an elaborate process..getting the thoughts right, language right, impact right etc....Abhi it will be straight dil se and sometimes dimag se... And there will be lots of Hinglish...No more global attempts...
Mere fans jaha bhi ho wapas aa jao...!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Totally Talli....

I saw Ugly aur Pagli.

The movie is quite ordinary. But it has some solid positives.

1. The 'Talli Ho Gayi' song ...Its pure mania. The music and lyrics merge mellifluosly with an orchestration that makes it a must have dance track in all booze parties. Then there is Mallika in a non-sexy avatar in a cutish hairstyle, irreverent dressing and casual chic. The choreography is simply mind blowing creates the essence of co-ordinated dancing but with such rambunctious abandon that it is a treat to watch. And add to it the superb singing of Hard Kaur and Anmol Malik...This song is an absolute scorcher.... Full paisa vasool....

In fact I had no doubts on Mallika to have a comic flair...Welcome anyone? ..her steps in that song with Nana Patekar and Anil Kapoor are just superb...It was something latent which Bollywood forgot to exploit in their rush to show her assets...In any case better late than never.

Thanks to Pritish Nandy Communications for discovering Mallika yet again after Pyar Ke Side Effects. Its great to have a sex bomb get normal appeal...

So guys watch out for Mallika the heroine...not the item....

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Shallow India

India as a country has always prided on its depth...dharma, culture, yoga, ayurveda and all the other cliches that are talking points of many an Indian in his global conversations so that he can highlight his self imposed sense of superiority.
Where is all that depth nowadays in that country? I think five years of continuous economic growth has produced tremendous discontinuities in the identity of the country.
"Des badla, bhes badlo" is the new slogan epitomized by none other than the embodiment of India's can do spirit, MS Dhoni. Dhoni once represented the blossoming of small town India when he started out, but today he is another lost icon who has lost not just his hair but also some of his value in the societal ladder. At one point of time more people adopted his hairstyle than John Abraham's but commercialization has dented his uniqueness.
When swagger replaces strength, there is a sea of shallowness that engulfs a country into a sense of self-propogating seduction creating a mirage of achievement. And just like a strong sea can erode a mighty cliff by the bay, the deep rooted Indianness seems set for multiple erosions before it metamorphises and disintegrates in parts.
Inflation is eroding economic growth, hubris is eroding strategy, smartness is eroding intelligence, easy money is even eroding Bollywood's storytelling abilities, individualism is eroding affection. Will we embrace a mean spirit that matches materialism with movement or trumpet a culture that craves success at all costs.
I am not sure, when the rest of the world tries to search for their souls and all they can find are the wrinkles on their temples.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Rice Ravan

A few months back, the only rice Bush knew was Condolezza rice. Nowadays he seems to be knowing more about the rice India and China are eating.
Over the last four years in what was called the great economic expansion or another round of exuberance depending on what profession you are in , the world's well off people took $500 bn from the world to build the homes they didnt need. The number crunchers keep coming up with their versions of how high this number can be each time Bernanke makes a statement or another bank reports losses.
So as the global liquidity roller coaster reduces speed, driven by these losses and rising costs of inputs and fuels, the best way is to control the same BRIC economies who were supposed to sustain the growth and deprive them of capital unless they cap their eating habits.
Since the world needs a new enemy since it cannot catch Osama, rice has become the morose morsel. One man's biryani is another man's burden.
Soon, foreign investors are going to balk at rice eating executives from Asia as potential deal breakers. 'You guys eat so much rice, how can you run a company efficiently?'. Already top dealmaking hotels have introduced a set of 'riceless' menus for such investment meetings. The truth is they had no money since their leveraged bets have failed as badly as Britney Spears movement into adulthood.
TCS and Infy are facing a double whammy;the depressed dollar and the lower productivity of their software engineers who are being denied their full helpings of curd rice.
One of the key reasons why Indians have started eating so much is the saas bahu serials. There is a indirect correlation between the quality of these serials and the quantity of rice that gets consumed during Indian dinners while watching these serials. As a first step, Tulsi should take a first step to reduce the number of relatives from 127 to 64 so that we stop eating for others sake.
And Bahus, no more kicking a pot of rice when you enter new homes. Lot of wannabe bride inspired by these Bahus waste a lot of rice trying to perfect the best kick to show off to their in-laws .Hopefully, that will be the last time they will come close to a pot of rice since most of thse new age bahus cant cook nowadays.
I can go on with my rice rants but I have started seeing an alarming trend of some new age female bloggers trying to do their bit for the food crisis. Their suggestions range from using leftovers creatively like todays dosa is tomorrows uthapam, or how to optimize your cooking for the social occasions where Indians dance to kajra re after a few pegs of Black Label or how to use pastes etc.
That is when you know that this food crisis is not a problem at all, just a figment of imagination like Maneka Gandhi's love for stray dogs.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Ban More

Well someone was called a monkey and it has created a great ruckus and a three match ban.
Now I want some more bans.
Can the word hirsute be banned ? Whenever desis shift to Southeast Asia where the natives have a serious lack of hair growth problem, they have been discriminated because of the rampant hair they publically exhibit on their legs and arms. And an English word that describes it in an offensive way like hirsute does hurt. Do you mean to say that having too much hair on the body is always bad. What if we have a genetic disposition that promotes it, ask Anil Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia felt she was hugging a bear when shooting for some steamy scenes in Jaanbaaz.
I think since the word exists in the dictionary someone will use it and someone will get offended.
The businessworld works on the unstated principle of 'you scratch my back, I scratch yours'. The origin of this phrase can be traced back to monkeys. When the world has advanced so much in terms of technology and business sophistication, I hate the fact that we are using primitive means of conducting ourselves in the corporate world. Since this reference also offends a whole lot of management thinkers from Drucker ( knowledge worker ahem) to Prahlad ( scratching as core competence) , I am calling for a ban to such idioms as well.
I think the entire set of professionals who do mimicry for a living should also be banned. Aping or mimicking has a direct reference to monkeys and I dont know how we can enjoy such primitive acts. Surely Sanjeev Kumar and Ashok Kumar will soon be forgotten, poor guys never looked young when they were around, and now any appreciation to them through such shows cannot be shown. Sad but needs to be done.
On a different note, Bajji has really insulted the entire Sardar community. Punjab offers a fertile ground for both growing crops and spawning galis. I am sure he could have come with better words to describe his emotions.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Random thoughts on social networking

Nowadays it is not enough if you know people and know to use the internet, it is also important that you are part of a social networking site. Even if you are stuck with primates in Gabon, a social networking site is touted to be more handy than a mosquito repellent. Thankfully the apes haven’t started sending invites as yet.

I frankly find the term social networking working on a very thin sliver of my friend list. Basically if you are serious about networking from a career enhancing perspective, then you would like to do on a largely private basis and not on a social basis. And if you are socializing, then you would rather try to bind with a different set of people on a face to face basis in a pub or café.

Somehow most social networking sites forget a basic operational detail. If I really need something from Mr.X or Ms.Y, I am most likely to have an email address from a business card exchange in a meeting or better still a phone number. Now would I write a mail, or write some graffiti on his digital wall on Facebook? Beats me!

Random colleagues who never talk to me in office show supreme valour in sending Superpokes and other applications that would waste atleast half an hour of my precious online time. Hello how about picking up the office phone and saying lets meet at the coffee machine?

Similarly the whole social network phenomenon makes every man on the road feel that his daily schedule is being tracked like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. So you will find the Rapchik Rakesh leaving messages like ‘Today in Kandivali’ and ‘‘Now in the loo’ and so on.

‘Which snap should I put on my social networking site’ has become such a burning issue that counseling services have emerged that can predict the growth of your network to the kind of album you share. Apparently ‘Que Sera Sera’ does not hold in the digital world.

Now social networking also leads to the over analysis of common interests. Gals and guys seeking dates are now able to detail screening level compatibility issues like ‘hey our movie interest match 87.29% and our music tastes match 78.92%...whoppeee!

The other fear is the digital patrol which now friends and colleagues have at their disposal. Don’t be surprised if you are confronted with messages ‘hey whats cooking between you and Ms. Great giggle’. Every move you make, comment you make, the digital patrol will be watching you.

Strangely even the so-called investment in Facebook by Microsoft can be described as a Superpoke and nothing else! 1.6% for $240 mn, phew, what were they thinking lets throw some pocket change at this stuff and see it if it sticks huh!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Its happening in India

Finished reading “It happened in India’ by Kishore Biyani. Although the book does not offer any paradigms I completely enjoyed it for the following reasons

a) It is written in a very honest and simple manner with Biyani’s unmistakable down to earth stamp all over it
b) It gives a very Indian perspective to the decisions and actions by an entrepreneur who has defied significant odds to be a category leader
c) It talks of a period of Indian business history that you can closely identify both as an observer and consumer

Of course I might be biased since I am a big fan of his Food Bazaar Stores. The social transformation that food retailing had on the Indian middle class family is so wonderful that doing a business analysis of it is like missing the wood for the trees. In a sort of family picnic on weekends, Indian households go berserk on the multiple options, discount offers and invigorating ambience that Biyani had laid out. Even a casual reading of the book would show that Biyani had his heart at the right place, but executed with good business brains to allow Indian household let loose their purse strings (and hence capture large share of the consumer wallet in business terms)

The other reason I liked the book was that it verbalizes some thoughts I have always felt about Indian marketers. Thank God that Biyani said it, rather than a MBA with five years of experience.

The best quote from the book I completely identified was: “Most marketing and advertising professionals are educated in convent schools in large metros, listen to western music, watch foreign movies and speak and think in English.”

And at a broader level, I think the same fraternity frowns upon Indian insights and makes some really big blunders.

Why did it take 7 years for Indian marketers to come up with the 200 ml cola bottle for Rs. 5? Any casual observation would have shown that most Indians did not consume an entire 300 ml bottle and shared that bottle thus reducing both average price realized and per capita consumption. Instead they kept hanging out with one superstar after another in the fervent hope of boosting consumption.

Similarly most of these marketing professionals would frown on everything that masses lap up like Govinda, Himessh Reshamiyya, saas bahu serials. There are radio stations who snootily started with playing only Angrezi music and had to quickly change their strategy to playing jhankar beats. Channels like Star World need the Koffee with Karan and dubbed versions of English movies. My question is simple , where the earlier mistakes necessary in the first place? Weren’t the answers blindingly obvious to someone who has spent sometime on the street?

Then there are some marketers who think the slip between where they see Indian should be(as some % of a global trend) and where Indians are actually are ( the on-ground feel) is just the lack of a marketing budget. So Blow money to bow many was the mantra. But why eat soggy Kelloggs when there is kanda poha, why make kadak chapattis with Pillsbury when there is chakki fresh atta , blah blah.

Ok before readers comment that this is a regressive rant, the common caveats apply. The Indian consumer is changing. The youth are surprising us sometimes. People are paying Rs.50 for coffee and spending over Rs.1000 a month on personal care products. And I am sure many marketers are thinking, segmenting, fermenting and implementing new ideas. But now we have many Indias to cater to instead of the one India that loved Amitabh Bacchan bash up 20 goondas.

The question that could have given an answer would have been how many youngsters in India have grown their hair due to Mahendra Singh Dhoni and how many have done it due to John Abraham. Well if you know the answer, you know where your market is. But John has cut his locks, so the answer just got tougher. Amen.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Hey Raam

Hey Raam !

I am losing the religious plot from a political and social perspective nowadays.

1) Hindus have started issuing fatwas. A religion that prides itself on being innovative, inclusive, flexible and laying claim to all good aspects of living right from Yoga to Ayurveda, has now resorted to copying tactics from other religions. As Vajpayee would have said “ Yeh koi acchi baat nahi hai”

2) Our Hindu leaders seem to be getting the old Indian cricketing team (not the T20) malaise of not firing on all cylinders during crunch situations.

VHP has become dharma focused rather than karma focused making wimpy statements like “The VHP's main concern was only to reinforce Hindu dharma and it had never indulged in personal attacks or supported inflammatory speeches”. Imagine the number of fatwas that would have been issued if someone had questioned the existence of certain prophets.

And what happened to the fiery Bajrang Dal? How are they so surprisingly silent on this issue? Atleast for the namesake they should sympathize with the monkeys who had been instrumental in building the setu.

3) Then we have the Dravidian dappers, who refuse to see Raam. Maybe the leader should take of his big black glasses for a change. Maybe he will see it then.

And it is strange that a person who has launched a TV channel of his own name, forgot that Ram(Arun Govil) and Sita ( Deepika) exist not only in our hearts but also were members of Parliament.

And even if we question his existence, how do we stop saying things like “Raam Raam” a standard greeting in many parts of India, “Hai Raam” a standard sigh in many parts of India and many other TV serials.

The problem is more fundamental and goes back to the Aryan-Dravidian theories. Now if the Aryan theory is a hoax created by overpaid European historians, then it proves that its antithesis (since every hero needs a villain) being Dravidian is a superfluous existence. So if your own existence is pure vapourware, then why try to undermine an existence so hardwired into the collective consciousness.

4) Now if all Gods to us are just idols then are Indian Idols also new Gods. And who judges Indian Idols? Not our CM for sure. So can Anu Malik and Javed Akhtar tell if Rama is a God. But again, Javed Akhtar cant be neutral because that means Sholay was a fluke, he cant be positive since the Muslims will issue a fatwa against him and if he is negative then Hindus will stop following Indian Idol.

Welcome to the new paradoxical world of our countries politics, ideology and social sizzle. Wait for more fun till the next elections.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Forbidden parking idea

I had been to Beijing a couple of months back. As the capital of the country that attracts the highest FDI in the world, it is impeccable with wide roads , a good mix of the old and new and amazing cleanliness. You do find beggars and rag pickers as a redeeming feature for the desi who wants to hype the negative and play down the difference between Beijing and Delhi.

Forbidden City was a let down by tourist standards since most of the monuments seemed similar within the city. Tianeman Square was imposing and seemed to have a sense of history even on a normal dull afternoon. Every city with a history needs such a central fulcrum and just a normal glance at this Square can conjure up images of crowds, strikes, marching soldiers and fiery speeches. Of course the forbidden incident just takes away some appreciation but an imposing structure nonetheless.

Coming back to the idea, look at the picture. Its simply a parking lot lock of sorts. If you own the parking slot, you can unlock this and the upper bar will come down, helping you to park at your designated slot. If your trying to hadap someones slot of course, you will damage your car. Simple concept, great execution, no RFID, geo-tagging, sensors and all that shabang.

The place where it would be useful is in corporate offices with limited parking slots. Herein the security guard plays the villain, by saying to the yuppie who has splurged his bonus on a new Swift: 'saab idhar parking nahi karneka, yeh bade saab ka slot hai, bahar park karo' reminding him , his exact place in the corporate hierarchy and pecking order in the food chain. And when he parks outside, his new Swift becomes a collectible for pigeon shit and paan stains.

Most old apartment blocks in India also have a huge parking problem. The space where youngsters used to practise their Tendlyagiri are all lost to the burgoening number of cars. Forget stilt, people might even try tilt parking to get that extra foot to park in the safety in the building. Of course this leads to the tricky problem of who parks where. Drawing lines are of no use if you have 8 cars trying to fit into the space for 5.

Such a device would not cost more than Rs.2oo-300 to manufacture, and would easily have a target market of Rs.30-50 Cr in India. Not bad at all for any entreprenuer.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Jet set to go?

When Jet Airways listed on the Indian stock exchanges, lot of questions were asked about its seemingly high valuation , its promoter heritage and its international strategy. One aspect which was never questioned was its customer service. Although Kingfisher made it pull up its snooty socks, Jet has set the benchmark in aerial and on ground customer service for a lot of Indian corporates. And in my opinion it continues to do so even in its international flights.
Let me compare Jet Airways and Singapore Airlines on the mostly full Mumbai-Singapore route. Jet Airways has a better flight schedule since its flight leaves at 1130 pm in Mumbai and reaches Singapore by 715 am allowing enough time to catch that morning meeting. Whereas SQ reaches at 830 am on the busier terminal leaving you slightly hassled if you have morning appointments.
Now SQ is probably regarded the best airline in terms of customer service in APAC. But in my travel with them, the style of customer service is a bit cold or seems to come from laborious practice rather than genuine warmth. The worst experience was when I asked for water after the flight took off , the hostess told me that they would be serving 'drinks' shortly. She had to be admonished that water and drinks serve completely different thirsts for her to get me water.
Now water is probably a key requirement in flights and only Jet manages to serve that before take off with a smile alongwith the freshening towel. In fact they are happy to give small water bottles sometimes as well if you ask. The Jet After mint is almost a signature item. SQ has in fact tried to imitate that but they havent been able to get the quality right. Plus Jet Airways hostesses seem to stock extra after mints and happily give that out unlike SQ.
Although Jet has a single aisle flight which can be really painful when there are tussles between the airline crew and passengers for space, it makes up for that with better customer service. But a smaller aircraft also means faster boarding and alighting time. Once Jet converts this route to a jumbo, they could make up for what they lack as compared to SQ in terms of space and entertainment. ( last time 50 heads were craning to watch phir hera pheri on 8 overhead screens on the Jet flight)
For a lot of Indian corporate travellers,flying Jet on overseas routes also adds critical miles that can provide the much needed free ticket for a must-attend wedding or holiday. Thats a reason why Jet has been able to get a good customer mix on their international flights, where you have executives rubbing shoulders parents visiting kids and of course Kesari tours and Raj Travels customers.
What surprises me is how Jet Airways has created a genuine customer oriented organization that can be really world class in the airline industry. Its air hostesses exude a certain warmth and helpfulness that I think could be a key competitive differentiator. But Jet has never got the attention as a probable case study in management literature . I would be curious to know what kind of management practices they have or how do they incentivize and train their staff, what their utilization ratios on international routes are and so on.
Till then, its a tough choice when deciding the airline to fly home from Singapore. Its literally a miles vs smiles tradeoff.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The only solution to global warming

Till a few months back, global warming to me was one of those typically western Malthusian threats which could only give sleepless nights to a few environmentalists and a few eventful nights to politicians like Al Gore.
But Lord Shiva has opened his third eye and my eyes to global warming by disappearing from Amarnath. Since Shambho Mahadeva is the destroyer according to Hindu mythology, I take it as a key timer in what has been scientifically proven through satellite imagery and what not.
So what do we do. Of course the human body has got used to too many comforts which we can no longer sacrifice even if all the polar bears in the world redeem their furs for scales. In searching the path of least resistance, it struck to me the solution is around us.
The problem which plagues most of us for almost 10 hours a day is not global warming but corporate life. The mundane office talk, the obnoxious boss, the vapid strategies, not only burn precious calories and brain cells but the negative ions in the office aircon and carpets are enough to reduce your life expectancy by atleast 5 years.

But there is a way to kill the two birds with one stone. Imagine a world where everyone works on his current job but does not have to go to office. That alone saves atleast a quarter of the worlds fuel and the related emissions. Assuming people would still consume equivalent facilities they work out of home , there would still be 20% savings in power since the so called common areas reserved for unproductive meetings and coffee machine bitching would no longer be needed. Thanks to VOIP, pervasive computing, high bandwidth networks and unified communications and all such convergence, the home office is a brutal technological reality. Not to forget the improvement in productivity gained by working from home and to a lesser extent the savings in electricity to iron those crisp linens just to look important.
Al Gore if you want to be mankind's messiah, please implement this solution. The more I think of it , the more I feel its 21st century's true panacea. In a master stroke it will also return the valuation multiples from Big Oil to software and telecom providers. Every cent of that will go into American coffers rather than Sultanates. Life is calling, where are we?

Monday, July 02, 2007

Himesh Reshamiyya : North India's Rajnikant?

In India there is a section of media ecosystem that will try to propogate how India is westernizing at a rapid rate. They would give you examples like:
Kids now want to see more of English Premier League than watch Tendulkar swat flies on the field.
Most youngsters just watch Friends and CSI and not Indian idol.
How Himesh songs are heard by only auto rickshaw wallas.
But never have the ratings or any research proved such things. Saas bahu dramas and stage managed music mahayudhs dominate ratings and popular psyche. Channels like Star World and other such premium English channels have ratings in decimal places. Indians may have pasta and sushi with their foreign investors but return home to have alu jeera and dal chawal. They are keen to watch Ash-Abhi wedding photos than know about Rihannas latest album or Paris Hilton's post prison look.
Two releases have proved this beyond doubt.
First, the spectacular release of Sivaji the boss which had a pan Indian appeal with even North Indians watching the movie without any subtitles just to see what the Rajnikant phenomenon is all about. Rajnikant in most of his movies has a sequence where he will speak English and mock it at the same time ( popularized by Big B in Namak Halal) and the masses just love it. In Sivaji he uses words like 'cool' to contemporize himself and stay relevant but still has an earthy touch to it. Sivaji gives the best of Rajnikanth in a movie whose story talks on populist lines about weeding corruption and black money. Masses love such movies and not stories about a racing driver in the US and an Indian-Pakistani romance in Birmingham station. Hardly 5% of the junta can identify with such themes.
Second, the stupendous opening of Aap Ka Surroor: The Moviee . Analysts are saying the movie has got an opening better than Shootout at Lokhandwala a movie that had stars spanning several generations. This proves that mass appeal is still much higher than the so called class appeal in India. The unprecedented opening has shocked all film trade analysts. The movie again proves that there is no trickle down effect but a trickle up effect like gangsta rap and other genres. I was a regular traveller in auto-rickshaws in Mumbai and they swore by Himesh. Soon autorickshaws with the best sound systems with extra jhankaar beats made more money while passengers sweleterd in Mumbai's traffic jams.
I believe the tipping point occured when snooty pubs in Bandra where the so called high income westernized junta come to pay Rs.250 for a small peg were forced to play Himesh songs due to unprecedented requests. There were some DJs who swore by their R&Bs, but they were shown the RDBs by the people who started thronging places which played Hindi music after 10:30 pm. Once the floodgates opened, it was Kajra Re and Aashiq Banaya Apne which made lead-footed Indians to dance away to glory.
The Himesh story is a story of true guts. Guts to stick to a style in singing, dressing and what not. Guts to take on the entire establishment by making a movie which is unabashedly self-propogating but at the self-effacing. Witness the dialogue ' Arre Himesh agar humari naak kat gayi , to gaana kaise gaayenge'.
Hats off to Himessh..........

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Munnabhai Circuit going global

Munnabhai(MB): Arre Circuit, tune suna kya...Tata ne koi orchestra company khareeda hai London mein... chorus mein gaane ke vaaste ..

Circuit(CK): Kya baat kar raha hai bhai...Lekin Tata wale to shaant kism ke log hote hai..woh log jyada band baaja nahi bajate hai...usme to apne Mittal Sheetal baap hai...

MB: Arre nahi re....aaj kal band baaja bahut zaroori ho gaya hai... aaj kal Govandi ka bachha bhi global banna chahta hai...

CK: Glo-baal bole to bhai ... yeh koi naya hair transplant hai kya jo Salman ne kiya hai kya...ya Dhoni ka koi naya gel ka ad aayela hai kya ?

MB: Arre Circuit, tu bhi na local ka local eech rahega... Dekh mein tereko samjhaata hai... Tereko yaad hai na apne dhande ka solid punter ...D company... Woh log Gulf mein sona, Bangkok mein drugs aur Mumbai mein hawala ka dhanda karta tha...
Matlab duniya ke kisi be koone mein sabse sasta aur badhiya maal uthaane kaa aur duniye ke best graahak ko bechna ka.... usse bolte hai global.....

CK: Lekin maamu apun global mein hafta vasooli kaise karega... apun ko sirf maa behen ki gaali aati hai...

MB: Arre Circuit, tereko kya lagta hai global matlab tu jaake London mein kaam karega..arre woh style purana ho gaya hai re...aajkal global matlab to gore chammdiyon se kaam karvayega unke company khareed ke..

CK: Sahi hai baap....matlab apun Bandra mein banian baithke order deyenga...aur woh log england mein suit pehen ke vasooli karega... apne ko toh yeh fantashtic idea lag raha hai...

MB: Tune Italian mafia ka naam suna hai... apun usko khareedna chahta hai...apun bhi global banega....

CK: Arre boss apun ne woh picture dekha tha godfather...maa kasam kya daring public hota hai ye log... idhar to producer ko phone lagao to uski phatti hai....unhone to poora ghode ke sar kaat diya tha...

MB: Isiliye to apun ko bhi vaisaayeech daring ban na padhega... saala cutting chai se cappucino peena padhega...

CK: Arre boss lekin woh to aajkal college ke bacchhe chumma chaati ke beech mein peete hai...apun woh sab nahi karega bhai..

MB: Woh sab baad mein dekhte ek kaam kar...apna ghoda le...aur nariman point jaa...udhar tereko mumbai ke khadakti dhoop kuchh gadhe suit aur tie aur sir pe teeka lagaye ghoom rahe dikhenge...woh is naye zamane ke global bhadve hote hai... company khareedne aur bechneke ki sadak ke betaaj badshah... kamayenge lakhon mein khaayenge daal roti thele mein ...ghoda dekhte hai pant mein tatti karenge saale... tu lekar aa unko fir apun dekh kya mast setting jamaata hai...

CK: Ok boss, apun leke aata hai un ded pasliyon ko... fir apun bhi dekhega ki karan johar london mein apun ke bina shooting kaise karta hai....

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Carcass of a vulturous pundit

Well there is a vulture who thinks madrasi chicks are not attractive as punju chicks. Arre deva re deva, kab sudharega yeh log.
Firstly the word madrasi. To most North Indians anything south of India is 'madrasi'. Well we know that that the Mughals raped your history but they left your geography intact right? ( the Hindi version puts Omkara to shame)
Now how much ever some North Indians may hate the South Indians , there is one economic fact which is conveniently forgotten. We talk a lot about India's growth rate of 9%. But if one does a state-wise analysis , the South Indian states have consistently outperformed the North Indian states. So because of North India and its lazy bunch, India cannot match China's growth rate.
The other problem is bechare they cannot participate in the great IT and BPO boom which has enriched many a South Indian. Many Punjjus cant code software programs because they lack basic logic. They cant work in BPOs since courtesy is something they have never learnt. Jobs are still getting Bangalored but not Amritsared. Especially a recruiter for a Fortune 500 staffing solution providers should know that.

Lastly there has been a steady deterioration of the so called premier blog portal called desipundit. Most references there smack of favouritism and catering to the least commonly accepted denominators. May be this was a method to create some cheap publicity and ring in the page views. With VC money pouring out of Nariman Points gutters, there might be some motive to for these desi dudes to cash out. Well if you still have the same good intentions you had while starting it, then lets see if you refer this post.

Maybe we need a new debate on what does desi mean? So if I say in a desi group in NY, that 'aaj desi khana khaate hai' does it mean naan with dal makhni or masala dosa with sambhar. Oye yaar pata hi nahi chalta; confusion hai ki racism hai ?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Who let the BRICs out ?

We all know about movie sequels that promise more than they deliver. Now I guess this affliction has spread to the equity analyst industry and they are adopting the sequel saga style to report writing.

Let’s look at the report that changed the lives of over 1 billion people. Scarcely did the man dangling out of the 8:25 am Virar local or the woman making rotis to send her children to school in 2002, know that they are being watched , researched and subsequently abused in a mind numbing data crunching exercise by two star analysts from Goldman Sachs. Rupa Purshottaman became a household name by seeing something 40 years ahead breaking the thin lines that existed between her and Nostradamus or Bejan Daruwala. Like a cow urinating on Delhi’s streets , four countries economic growth rates were projected for 50 years , a big step for mankind but a small step for Microsoft Excel.

Dreaming with the BRICs: 2003 the original

With a Star Wars type impact , this report asked us “Are we ready”? painting grand scenarios of how BRICs would overtake the G6 counries and be the epicenter of growth in the next 30 years completely changing the world as we know it. Although the model lacked the finesse to predict Shilpa Shetty redeeming Indian pride in Big Brother or Ash being featured regularly on Yahoo , it became the new kundli for India. Instead of reaching for the stars, it was the BRICs report. Foreign investors were greeted not with begging bowls but with a smug assurance that this too shall pass by 2030. Yes some parties believed too much of it too early and lost elections. But India was never going to be the same again.

Then came BRICs 2. 2004

Like fast and furious 2, this report made cars the basis. So within 20 years China was to overtake US as the largest auto market and then a decade later it would be India. The sequel raised further issues on how the BRICs markets would eclipse whole of Europe in 2025 and contribute to 40% of the growth. The trickle of FDI turned to be a flood and soon the Indian stock markets went into a tizzy. Indian companies acquired an unstoppable momentum more associated with sci-fi villains who could put no step wrong. As mobile growth of Bharti eclipsed Bhartiyata, MMS clips of various Indian women were exchanged million times over. Well this was the new India brewing in Barista cafes and places like Upper Worli. Malls, multiplexes, movies and Mallika added a force that pushed GDP growth to 8%. India was surely on a roll to bigger things and bigger flats that could never be purchased by the man in the Virar local.

Now comes BRICs 3

Now we have the final punch: India will surpass the USA in 2050 a feat accomplished by changing growth rates from 5.3% to 8% in the model that knows it all.

How will it happen? The trickle down effect of all the poojas that Abhishek and Ash have done will obviously work. For a country that regarded their marriage more important than the Kumbh mela, there can be no ‘amangal’ any more.

We can have some Deewar type dialogues at the US Embassy in Mumbai. Aaj se 25 saal pehle, tum log hume bheek mein visa dete the. Aaj hum tumhe bheek VISA card se dete hai.

With the India story becoming as saccharine sweet as Karan Johar movies , you need not worry about life any more. It is a one way street , either the Bangalore variety or upward bound only time will tell.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Maan gaye Guru

In a country that loves sagas and is happy celebrating its own one in every realm, the petrol pump to palaces story of Gurukant Desai helmed by Mani Ratnam with the star power of India's best couple is inspirational to say the least. And the film-maker returns to his top-drawer form by giving us everything that we have grown to associate with him.
1. Narrating refreshingly simple stories sometimes in a cinematic larger than life backdrop with poignantly displayed relationships and clever alludes to real life.(Iruvar,Nayakan, Roja/Bombay/Dil se).
By choosing a business backdrop this time he escapes the idealist trap which he fell into in Yuva, and also gets a much larger canvass, more characters and incidents to showcase his sheer prowess. He sticks to the Iruvar style of screenplay in the meshing of scenes and building pace to chronicle an entire life. So Gurukant Desai starts from Turkey as a petrol attendant, returns to his village with dreams in his eyes, gets almost disowned by his father for wanting to start a bijines, marries a girl for dowry as capital but dotes on her later, fights his way to starting a polyester business and rises to the top.

But Mani's genius lies in weaving wonderful relationships in the saga with scenes that seem natural yet powerful. Some scenes that stand out are the railway station scene where Abhishek agrees to take Ash to Mumbai, his fallout with his brother-in-law and Ash, Abhishek's raw determination to get a trading license, the romantic/emotional interludes with Ash and his interactions with Mithun in the second half.
The resemblance to the Dhirubhai saga also helps in creating a stronger sense of identification with the storyline especially the shareholder meetings in stadiums, largest IPO, dreaming of starting a Burmah Shell, the dubious political approval processes, the fight with businessmen of Parsi origin, exploiting loopholes for profitability and the tryst with a prominent newspaper baron( Mithunda) of that time . But I felt the underetched characters of Madhavan and Vidhya Balan ( granddaughter of media baron) dilute the second half which could have been better utilized to highlight the business battles. For instance, Dhirubhai's famous fending off a bear cartel attack on his stock could have cinematic dynamite in Mani's hands.
2. Career best performances by stars and solid performances by under-rated actors:
Abhishek breathes fire as Gurubhai by combining manic energy, an alarming zeal to get rich, business shrewdness and emotional depth into a life-time role. There are angry scenes where the Bachchan genes spout but he carries off the older man with charming ease. Its amazing how he has grown a real paunch for the movie which is shown in a scene where he rivals his pregnant wife. This performance is just a shade lower than Kamal Hassan in Nayagan.
But the real surprise is Ash, proving how in the hands of a superior director her expressions are malleable indeed. Stand out scenes include the train journey where she bumps into Abhishek after being bumped by her infatuation, her breakdown after she learns about Guru marrying her for dowry and when Guru is struck by paralysis, and in all the songs.
Mithunda as a man who mentors Guru initially but exposes his wrongdoings through his newspaper is amazingly nuanced. Vidya Balan and Madhavan are charming . Roshan Seth as the inquiry committee chairman exudes great screen presence and diction.
3. Brillant Craftsmanship
Authentic recreation of old railway trains, old parts of Mumbai, trading houses and shareholder meetings. Cinematography by Rajeev Menon especially in the scene where Ash runs away from her house at the crack of dawn.
4. Wonderful Music : AR Rehman comes up with a brilliant score with 'Barso re', 'Mayya Mayya' and 'Tere Bina' . In fact the background score consisting of these songs and a pulsating beat meshes well with the intensity of the scenes.
The only letdown from a scripting perspective is Abhishek's speech during the inquiry trial. Although it starts with a bang " Main bania hoon, har cheez bachake rakhta hoon" , it whimpers after that. For the climax of a movie, the dialogues lacked impact.
This time Mani Ratnam has also made a Hindi movie which has no trappings of 'Madrasiness'. In fact the Gujjuness in the movie ' Aav jo, Mota bai' and in the detailing is perfect. In fact if Gujjus can make 'Kyunki Saas' the top watched serial since its protagonists are Gujju, then Guru is going to rock in the territories of Mumbai and Gujarat where most of Dhirubhai's shareholders also resided. In fact theatres in Kandivali and Ghatkopar might have to run extra shows.
Overall its a fine effort from the man whose movies are special and suitable for multiple viewing. Bollywood 2007 starts with a bang with Guru.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Time up Tendlya

Watching Tendulkar bat yesterday was as bad as Hrithik Roshan getting beaten up by a second rate henchman of Shakti Kapoor like Ulhas Bhai or something.
There are times when stars have to be stars. Whenever a great batsman enters the cricket field, the lakhs of spectators who clap are similar to the expectations you have while watching the titles of a blockbuster movie. Apart from patriotism and the love of cricket, batsmen fight for our attention, just like the best selling paperback, the blockbuster movie or the wine n dine restaurant. If there is a hero who has been delivering a string of flops, he soon loses circulation.
But Tendulkar in some way or the other has been flopping in all big matches. Cometh the hour, gone is our man. Yes he has a huge burden now on his aching shoulders and tennis elbows. No its not to save Team India , but to save the sponsors and talent management who have wagered millions on him.
Today as two legends of the game, Warne and McGrath announce their retirement with their reputations bigger than ever, we are left with only faint memories of the games where our man with the same tennis elbows made them look like club level bowlers in Sharjah and other venues. The man who came down to hit McGrath out of the stands is now guarding his crease like a hyena guarding his carcass from vultures. That too for a rookie like Paul Harris.
Maybe it was a rare day. But sher jab geedad ki maut marta hai na, woh jyada der sher nahi kahlaata. How can a great have an a batting average lower than Brett Lee this year. How can his best scores come only against Kenya and Bangladesh. Today when Laxman and Tendulkar bat together , one looks like a lorry driver with a sputtering engine where as the other cruising on a compact car on a highway. As a movie buff, I remember my childhood days, when Amitabh used to get hurt a lot and then start hitting the baddie, to shouts of 'maar Amitabachhan maar'. I want to do that once before you hang up your boots.
Else its time up Tendlya.