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.