Thursday, September 29, 2005

kyunki TV bhi kabhi nahi thi

Lot of people believe the K-serials led by Kyunki.. are depressing , sad and in short crap. And wonder how these maha sagas can run for so long with their makeovers, changeovers and takeovers. Like I had written earlier, things work not purely because of the content but the messages convey. I believe the following reasons endear these serials to Indian women (aged between 30 to 60).

1.Apnapan : - . The saree and salwar clad characters shown in these serials seem more apna to the segment rather than the redheaded mini-skirted bimbettes in Remix. The serials also celebrate the traditions and rituals that this segment grew up with and does not want to vanish in India with their generation.There is an immense feel good factor to finding bahus like Tulsi or saas like Baa.

2. Assertion of power in the house . ' I cooked the food, sent kids to school , taught them , cleaned the house, cooked again , kids watched their cartoons, you watched ur news, now give me my space i need to watch this however convulted the scenes may be'. Letting the women watch their K serials is the least the non-metrosexual male can do for his dame. And men are happy to follow this path of last resistance.Most women have a busy day till 9:30 pm till the last utensil get washed. The K serials is their own space in the claustrophobic one-TV household.

3. Perverse pleasure in comparing with the ideal. If you cant love them, embarass them. Most women watching such serials are searching for role models in their own worlds. Most bahus like embarassing their saases by comparing them to the vile characters and vice versa. Similarly husbands get the brunt from characters like Mihir or Karan. Or kaash mera beta iske jaisa hota etc etc. And since most households have just one TV it keeps everyone in place or in check. Ekta mein hai shakti hai !!

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Anya(other) movie industry

Sometimes the good commercial movies from the South (the top 3 or 5 ) raise the scale of movie-making in this country to greater levels. And the directors who did this like Mani Ratnam and Priyadarshan, have made their mark in Hindi cinema also . In fact Priyadarshan has brilliantly adapted his situational comedies to suit the Hindi masses. Somehow one director who has not done it so far is Shankar. But since he is just 6 films old, he has time on his hands. But his latest movie Anniyan(The outsider) proves that he has elevated the art and technique of translating a soulful story into celluloid canvas to greater heights.
Commercial movie making is about having a strong core theme which is then embellished with characters, songs and memorable situations. Sholay is about an ex police officer revenge over a dacoit using two crooks. And then you add layers to the core, Basanti, the jailor, Soorma bhopali, create situations etc etc..
Shankar's mastery lies in movies with political message and a strong anti-establishment ethos. Anniyan tells the story of a Rules Ramanajum, a Tamil Iyengar who is irked by the indiscipline of fellow Indians who spit from a Mercedes Benz on pedestrians. Basically a 'loser' in todays world , even in love where his friendly neighbourhood babe feels he is damn boring. This leads to him developing a multiple personality disorder . So you have a Rules Ramanajum in two more avatars .. Anniyan the do-gooder who will set right the wrongs and Remo a rampwalk model who will serenade and pursuade his lady love with all the MTVian tricks. By defining your core in such a novel way, the writer gets a screenplay that can be wide and creatively leveraged. And the focus shifts from macro corruption ( builder-politician-mafia nexus) to everyday micro corruption ( railway canteen contractors, errant electricians) .
Add an actor like Vikram(shot to fame with Tere Naam's original Sethu) who performs all 3 roles with aplomb. Add Harris Jayraj's music. Add Vivek's comedy as the cop's mumbling assistant. Add a logic to killing offenders by novel methods(getting swarmed by a herd of buffaloes, getting deep fried in oil, having your blood sucked out by insects in a ditch) using Garuda Puranam as the textbook. Add a stunt using Matrix style action in a karate school where Anniyan fights 50 karate students and tries to kill the babe because she paid bribes to register her house. Add smaller Iyengar nuances like the depiction of Mylapore temples and the kacheri. Spend a cool Rs.25 cr. You have a commercial blockbuster which ousts Rajnikants Chandramukhi from the top. And still looks and feels like a product leagues ahead of Dhoom or Koi..Mil Gaya. Commercial cinema that is intense, engrossing, thought-provoking and enjoyable at the same time. A healthy mix compared to the candy floss of Karan Johar at one extreme and Varma's harsh realism at the other.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The free credit card fraud

Most banks in India have now shifted to giving free credit cards for life and promising a whole lot of freebies ranging from add-on cards to your pet dog to free entry into some shady pubs.
This is probably another paradigm thrift in the retail banking industry.
Most credit card owners used to convince one bank to give a credit card for free in the first year which most banks used to agree. Next year when asked to pay the yearly fees they used to approach another bank and manage a free card from them. To the banks chagrin, they used to use the credit card more like a debit card unlike the USA by paying the entire bill promptly before the due date. Thus the banks were saddled with unprofitable cribby customers.
But look before you leap into this free card jamboree. There are enough clauses that would make banks make money. They are
1. An absolute amount ranging from Rs.250 to Rs.500 as late fees instead of a percentage of the bill amount. So even if you forget to pay a small bill of Rs.200 you will end up paying more than that as late fee.
2. A non-usage fee of Rs.150-250 for non-usage. So if you forget to use this free credit card for a period of 6 months, then again you have to pay up.
Plus some things would never change like the lousy customer service where you have to actually press a wrong button on the menu like ' lost my credit card' to actually be able to speak to some customer service agent in the limited time you have. In fact I have noticed that sometimes half a days work is lost in assessing the customer service desks of these banks, reminding you of the good old days where a Mrs.Lele at a PSU bank would handle all your problems if you went between 9am to 1 pm there.
Thus using the ruse of a free credit card, the banks are trying to gain atleast Rs.500 worth of non-bill related income from us. Foretold is forewarned.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Democratization of supari

The case of Preeti Jain giving a supari to Arun Gawli to bump off Madhur Bhandarkar has some startling facts. The first thing is that the supari was only Rs.50000. I believe Madhur would have been quite dejected to know his 'market value'. In fact , the latest bragging rights in the film industry is now 'bhala iski supari mere supari se jyada kaise'. The other key thing is that if the rate card of the underworld is properly analyzed and extrapolated, the supari for an ordinary person in Mumbai would be around Rs.15-20000. The influx of cheap immigrants into Mumbai has continuously decreased operating costs of gangsters. At this rate, the target market (no pun intended) of Indians who could use supari as a service to settle scores with bosses, neighbours, house-maids and what not is actually close to 10 mn as per latest NCAER data assuming that people can spend 5% of their annual income on a supari if the need is really huge. I just hope this need is not converted into demand., or else dhanda will get even more ganda.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Return to innocence in marketing

Marketing in the new age assumed that everyone wanted to look a million bucks, have a great figure that would put the hourglass to shame, prefer six pack abdomens over a pack of cigarrettes, practise scuba diving instead of channel surfing, wear the latesht fashion and be cool and be in.
After sinking millions of dollars, marketers are realizing that people just want to be themselves rather than just doing it. Yeah they will crib about their expanding paunch, but they might not punch it back in with a strenous workout. Also the huge comfort factor of seeing very ordinary men getting cute chicks in public places and in real life without any Axe Effect is practical evidence that either wannabe advertising doesnt work or girls are just unpredictably dumb at times. In the interest of women's liberation I believe its the former. Talking about women, the anorexic alacrity amongst women to get into shape to wear tight jeans is not happening . Adjectives like pleasantly plump , lovably loaded have given well endowed women greater appeal after Kate Winslet showed with aplomb in Titanic. Companies founded on a diet revolution like Atkins have now filed for bankruptcy. Health consciousness is definitely there but a six pack ab or 36-24-36 is not the only sign of good health.
Welcome to reality advertising.Nike has launched a "'Big Butts, Thunder Thighs and Tomboy Knees" campaign aimed at 'everyday women' (would that be an antonym of babe in times to come?). An excerpt from the print ad "“My Butt is big and round like the letter C, and 10,000 lunges have made it rounder but not smaller. And that’s just fine. It’s a space heater for my side of the bed. It’s my ambassador. To those who walk behind me, it’s a border collie that herds skinny women away from the best deals at clothing sales. My butt is big and that’s just fine. And those who might scorn it are invited to kiss it. Just do it.” The precursor to this trend was Dove's Real Women, Real Curves' campaign which showed plump women using a cellulite-firming lotion.
Although these campaigns use the extreme to appeal to the average, it seems finally presentably pretty is better than prententiously pouty atleast for women. For further discussions one can visit women's sites like
As for men , I guess we still have to slog to be metrosexuals before someone thinks of a "Smelly Armpits, Paapi paunch and Lazy legs " campaign.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Some random observations

The ban on plastic bags in Mumbai and the increase in newspaper pages is a good coincidence. Most vendors are making paper bags out of Mumbai Mirror, the 'raddiest' news tabloid. More pages, more bags.

Times of India has a launched Indian Idol contest for Ganpati idols. But the entire campaign is strangely in English for a highly local festival. Loksatta has conducted this contest for years now, wonder this attempt by TOI would be successful.

The Punjabification of India is rapidly happening. In many Ganpati immersions, the revellers were dancing to ' Dil le gayi kudi' and such songs rather than ' Deva o deva tumse badhkar kaun'.

Monsoon Menace revenge of the pit has exceeded all predictions. The Western Express Highway is a ride on the moon.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

salaam e saste

I watched Salaam Namaste, a movie whose promotions had 'cool' written all over it. Uber cool Saif Ali Khan and super chirpy Preity Zinta. A pair who look stunning together on screen. Concept of live- in relationship being tackled in Bollywood for the first time. But alas ... the film fails just like the protection which Saif uses and gets Preity pregnant before the intermission. And the movie looks a remix of Hum Tum and Kya Kehna.
Yash Chopra may have thrown out the Karva Chauths and the sarson de khet of Punjab , but his minions the so called new age directors still dish out safe escapist fare even when they have good themes. So you have the standard Non Resident India setting, since London is passe, its now Melbourne.
Formula 1. If you have problems living upto parents aspirations in India or 'do your own thing' or 'lead a great life', leave India and head for phoren shores. So you have Preity who is a RJ plus medicine student, Saif an architect by profession a chef by choice.
Formula 2. Show a lifestyle abroad that only Indians can only dream of even when they are abroad ( ask any software engineer worth his H1 visa). Gizmos, clothes,cars, plush sea-facing houses, the works. Standard Yash Chopra style. Nothing original as Bablis kurtas. Only chic, avant garde stuff.
Formula 3. Stay clear of any complications. Live-in can be shown happening abroad where there are no prying neighbours. No pesky questions asked by anyone except for Javed Jaffrey in a great cameo as an Indianized hybrid of crocodile Dundee, a Sindhi Jhotani in cowboy boots.
Somehow with all the right ingredients and casting, the movie leaves a bland taste instead of a spicy tadka. The time(footage) spent on the live-in relationship per se is too small, the pregnancy comes up too early, the humour inspite of Arshad Warsi's timing is cliched, the songs except for the title track and 'My dil goes hmm' are mediocre, the emotions seem a bit forced and overall it feels like an over marketed concept movie trying hard to be cool. Yes there are some mushy scenes best enjoyed by people in love and few funny sequences, but no salaam for this attempt.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Kohinoorean opportunity

It had the potential to be an Indianized Da Vinci code. I am talking about Sahara One's hyped Kohinoor, a serial launched on prime time. Taking enough creative liberties, the plot wonders whether the Kohinoor diamond the Britishers was a fake. But somehow the promos, the casting and publicity never made the impact a novel concept like this to create tune-ins. Contrast this Sony's desperate marketing attempts to make a creatively spiceless Fame Gurukul succeed. Another bright idea seems to be going down the tube. Where did it fail ?
The TV business is about two things content and marketing. On the content side, one cannot churn out blockbusters all the time but a balanced portfolio mitigates risks. The key decision is " What is the scale I mount my production at ". This is where Star always hits the right buttons. Take KBC for instance. It was a big bet. An ageing superstar, an unknown format and loads of prize money to be sunk in. One needs a horse sense in the media business to know 'when to bet big, and when not to'. And the rest is history and flawless execution ( of course, who can forget Sidharth Basu's quiz questions). Where the content is not great , clever marketing can still salvage to a great extent. Indian Idol, Kavyanjali, Millee are examples. But even the best marketer cannot flog a shoddy product for long. Jassi Jaisi Koi Nahi is a classic case.
Sahara should have put big muscle behind Kohinoor. There were hardly any known faces in the cast, whereas they have tried celebrities ranging from Karishma, Raveena, Sridevi earlier. Plus the promos inspite of a great musical score hardly aroused interest. At the end of the day, I believe in the TV business one needs either good content or decent content with stars and good promotion or you outsource the content creation to participants. The last one is what reality TV and Indian Idols are all about.