Thursday, July 21, 2005

Comedy Renaissance

Its raining comedy on Indian TV screens as broadcasters want to reach an untapped audience that is "switched off from TV" or associates popular entertainment with saas bahu tear jerkers. This is a refreshing trend and Star One leads the pack. The best of them is " Sarabhai vs Sarabhai", which provides arguably the classsiest humour on TV today. Brilliantly directed by Deven Bhojani ( A popular comedy artiste himself) , S vs S boasts of a great star cast lead by veterans Satish Shah (Indravadhan) with his 30 yrs of experience and Ratna Pathak Shah(Maya) who oozes class. Its plot about a South Mumbaite marrying a middle class gal provides a wide range of comic possibilities and the writers are spot on. The next is Instant Khichdi with its slapstick humour about a family that is rich but very dumb. And surprise surprise the Great Indian Laughter Challenge hosted by Sidhu and Shekhar Suman has emerged the top rated show on Star One.
Zee is pursuing this genre through Zee Smile through a mix of movies, reruns and new shows. Last week I managed to catch Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, Chaalbaaz plus one of their shows 'Bechara Big B' seemed quite funny about a bhulakkad Rakesh Bedi. SAB TV which was the only channel totally focused on comedy now has serious competition.
I think comedy as a genre really provides an anchor for flirtatious viewing. And in todays stressful lives, a hearty laugh can be the best exercise. But the real problem seems to be lack of comic talent. I mean Shekhar Suman, Satish Shah and Rakesh Bedi are really old wine. Jatin Kanakia of Shrimaan Shrimati fame at one point of time was the face of comedy on TV screens. And also some of the participants on the Laughter Challenge were too pedestrian. I hope this renaissance does not run out of steam soon. For sheer inspiration, the writers can learn from how Friends sustained viewership for so long.

Diminishing marginal readability of posts

I have been facing a bloggers block for the last few days. There were a few supply side constraints like working out of conference rooms and full day meetings. The key concern I had was if I dont blog regularly enough would the miniscule readership base disappear. And if I write some posts for the heck of it whether the perceived quality go down. Like any media business I believe there are some driver shows and some filler shows. 60-80% of revenues of any big channel come from prime-time. So there is appointment viewing on primetime and flirtatious viewing on the rest. Is there something similar in blogging also.. that some posts would be good and attract a lot of comments whereas some posts would go without comments.
In trying to analyse the blogosphere I came up with classic consulting 2 by 2 to guage the popularity of current Indian blogs. The two axes are
1. Frequency : High to Low
2. Nature of blog content : Short update to medium long viewpoints/analysis.
If one looks at the most popular blog Kiruba it falls in the top left hand corner, high frequency short updates about happenings and events.
The top right hand corner usually the best position in 2 by 2 could go to Youth Curry although the quality of posts is not consistent. Since Rashmi also runs a youth mag, she can think once and write twice. But this is the most difficult corner to occupy for a long time.
The other on is the bottom right hand one would be blogs of Govindraj Ethiraj the CNBC editor, very infrequent long analysis driven posts.
People who update their blog infrequently and just update that they have switched shampoos or made pasta at home would mostly be read by their friends only.
Ok thats it for all the analysis and 2 by 2s, I need to figure out a way of writing more frequently on my blog.

Friday, July 15, 2005

An 'original' problem

This week's Brand Equity carried an article that debated whether one's origin effected output in creating good advertising. Many of the recently successful creative whizkids like Prasoon Joshi 'boast' of small town backgrounds. The small-town feel was also one of the prime drivers behind successful campaigns like Coke's Paanch. I believe that one's origin or the environment in one grows up in esp. the teen plus youth shapes one's minds and can lead to business insights which are not easily understood.
At one extreme in the corporate world is the condescending South Mumbai stereotype. In all likelihood such a person would have never smelt armpits standing in a local train and would ask questions like " do people buy cars in Mulund" and so on. He would swear that Dharma and Greg is the only show worth watching on TV and would be scandalized if somebody talked about the entertainment value of Bollywood failing to realize that "Independence day" is as good or bad as Mithun's "Cobra". As he imagines Indians drinking more Tropicanas instead of Masala Chaas and eating Kelloggs rather than kanda pohe for breakfast, he is best suited for the small MNC firms where style and pedigree are given more weightage than substance. As the losses mount in such firms trying to force Indians to change their habits, such guys learn the hard way through the ubiquitous consumer research. Its good to know which is the pickle fork, but achaar is best licked from hands.
I think if one looks at ad campaigns in general and their vapid ideas, one can strongly sense the overbearing presence of such stereotypes in that industry. There are very few original " we are like this only " Indian ads like the Fevicol, Uniply or Alpenliebe Lagey Raho campaigns. And I am sure the recent DNA campaign is created by South Mumbai types. Maybe the target market is only South Mumbai because most of the people shown as booked subscribers seem that way.
Alex Kuruvilla former head of MTV admitted that "You do not get consumer insights by asking a bunch of kids from Malabar Hill in South Mumbai to decide what the rest of the country wants to watch." Cheers to that quote. I will write about other corporate stereotypes in my next post.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Dus bahane to see the movie

1. Slick Hollywood ishtyle action: Allan Amin discovers kudos, for making this the Dhoom of this year.
2. Sunju Baba as a vulnerable yet tough anti-terrorist council head: He seems tailormade for such roles and the front benchers absolutely love him.
3. Abhishek Bachchan's arrival as the neo cool dude of India. He has spunk, style and screen presence. And his dancing is as unique as his baap. He seems more real than Hrithik, the beefcake.
4. Shilpa Shetty's opening kick in the movie. Suniel Shetty could learn from it.
5. Pankaj Kapoor's return to screen after a long time. Maqbool was more than a year back. He is menacing and funny at the same time.
6. Look and feel of the movie is really cool. The cars, clothes and locations. All except Esha Deol and Raima Sen. Esha Deol as a bimbette is like Prannoy Roy hosting page 3
7. Music. The title track , shaadi song and item song are foot tapping.
8. Well ... err....
9. Hmm...
10. Arre yaar isse jyada expect kyon karne ka Bollywood se, itne main paise vasool hai baap.

Thank God for the G7 Multiplex at Bandra, Mumbai. It has an efficient black market, you can actually get calls on your cells by the touts for 10 ka 30.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

2015: Singapore outsources army to India

In a landmark defence agreement , the Singapore Government has decided to outsource its defence requirements to India in a 5 year deal. This marks a high point of a co-operation process started in the mid 2000s where India started giving greater access to Singapore's investment entities and banks to India. Today DBS is the largest bank in India after having gobbled ICICI Bank and a host of others. Temasek has assets worth over $ 100 bn under management.
Speaking on the occasion the charismatic Prime Minister of India Rahul Gandhi waxed "This contract breaks new ground in sealing India's position as the number one outsourcing destination of the world. Today 75% of financial transactions of the world are processed in India. This power which enabled us to secure a permanent Security Council seat is being leveraged further to provide both benefits of scale and technological prowess to countries who now believe that maintaining armies is no longer a core competence for nations in this new world economy where capital, ideas and talent flow seamlessly. We have set ambitious targets to scale up this new outsourcing model."
The Premier of Singapore said " Singapore is now such a melting point of cultures driven by commerce, that the concept of nation state and what it stands for is nebolous and susrprisingly irrelevant. Over the last few years we faced immense problems in recruiting and maintaining our army. This model is a step in the right direction."

Thursday, July 07, 2005


A film-maker who champions the cause of hard-hitting cinema (opposite of candy floss), an actor whose potential still seems as unexploited as the gas reserves of India and an inspiration that is possibly the grittiest story written by man. When you combine the three you expect a blockbuster unparalleled. One doesnt get that but one comes out feeling that the director gave his best. Right from the first scene where an old man whose daughter had committed suicide post rape comes to Sarkars den to seek justice, you are captivated by the screenplay by the ace director. The altercation scene between Sarkar and his errant first son on the dinner table, the meeting between Sarkar and Rashid the other goon who wants to trade in narcotics are brilliantly shot. Unlike Godfather, Sarkar is a Robinhoodized do-gooder/ a parallel system like his son describes him. Abhishek Bachhan as the second son who returns from the USA fits the role. Even the romantic angle between Abhishek and Katrina is given good scope. Just as the first half is rivetting and predictable, the second half is exceedingly tame. The climax and the decimation of Sarkars villains is too hurried. I wish Ramu had taken more time of the audience. In trying to adapt the Godfather, Ramu puts in a Chandraswami , a dude as Rashid the main villain and Silvermani as a caricature as an assortment of villains against the Sarkar. Somehow the movie ends as a promise not delivered. To be fair to Ramu, the Godfather has been made in different shapes and sizes by Bollywood throughout the 80s and 90s. And Mani Ratnam's Nayakan was a brilliant adaptation. Also Ramu has delievered hits like Shiva, Satya and Company which dealt with the underworld. The story had to be trite. But the execution and performances are flawless. Ramu is necessary in Bollywood to contain the excesses of Karan Johar and Yash Chopra. Sarkar the movie was necessary just like the protagonist's parallel system.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Dolphins 300 kms away from Mumbai

Well its true. You can watch dolphins in their natural habitat just 300 kms away from Mumbai. The place is Murud beach which is close to Harnai and Dapoli. Kamat has a seaside resort at Harnai and is decent. If you want to get away from the hustle of Mumbai and enjoy a few virgin beaches, this is the place. Sorry could not capture the dolphin that well (the third snap, plus blogger seems to have some problem with large images). Its a great getaway compared to the done to death Alibaug.