Sunday, November 26, 2006

Did you see them in your office?

Most sports are about competitive spirit, whereas Indian cricket is about survival. In a way its more like corporate life rather than a sport where talented individuals excel at winning. If you look around your office you would find many types of people apart from the Orwellian (big boss is watching you) and Machiavellian ( the new big boss).
1. Kaifian :
  • Examplary agility to flash access keys to open doors and remember passwords of useless websites that get referred once in a while in annual meetings.
  • Ability to stay more hours in office than others but still produce indistinguishable output
  • Seems to show highest level of enthusiasm without the knowledge of why he is clapping his hands more at others achievements

2. Sehwagian:

  • Last to come and first to leave whether its meetings or regular office
  • Carries a reputation of ripping apart presentations made by weak kneed juniors in key corporate meetings
  • Was once a great worker, but marriage, Mayur suitings, growing paunch and scanty hair have tarnished his productivity after 30
  • Loses promotion opportunities due to weak English, disdain for strategy (oi ki farak padtha hai, jaake becho ) and potential work ethic issues
  • Gorges on the cheap canteen food ordering bhel puri for key strategy meetings

3. Agarkarian

  • Was a star performer in the induction program , was noticed by department head but none of his contributions were worth noticing later
  • Makes 1 brilliant recommendations amongst 3 bad ones thus rounding off a good year ; usually the cost of his 3 bad ones is enough to sink the company
  • Commonly found in Mumbai corporates hanging out with fellow ghaatis eating wada pav in the evening and leading the Ganpati decorations when the department head is visiting
  • Claims to be a multi-dimensional asset due to his Ganpati organization skills and dandia playing abilities

4. Dravidian

  • Carries the look beyond his designation, as if the whole company depends on him
  • Has a constipated look largely due to dislike for the hygienic canteen food
  • Highly discreet and diplomatic, makes sure that the business plan is well hidden from other co-workers
  • Usually inspired by global management experts with poor local flair like Russell Crowe's Gladiatorial management techniques
  • Displays amazing determination for spending late nights in office trying to solve problems by perspiration with Kaif rather than inspiration

5. Yuvrajian

  • A marketing star performer with ability to meet impossible sales targets
  • Usually a big hit with the CEO and all the company gals
  • Cribs about Mumbai's crowded roads and small houses and calls offsites in the north of India
  • Would leave the company to a competitor with JIT efficiency just before his marketing plans flop and page 3 parties end

6. Gangulian

  • An original star performer , now a victim of reorganization politics
  • Always carries a file with his key project statistics like number of projects completed before time and the market capitalization attributable to him
  • Still distributes Diwali sweets personally in office reminding everyone of the golden days when he used his shirt to apply glue to a company marketing poster

7. Chapellian

  • A new development in Indian corporates thanks to the rapid globalization and merger mania ( truth is this guy is unwanted in his own country)
  • Always shouts the loudest in company strategy meetings raising useless visions for 2010 and beyond when India's GDP would grow at 12%
  • Speaks with an accent and is highly regarded as an industry expert initially
  • Flouts all HR policies by pointing fingers at men and winking at women
  • A white elephant sustained by liberal allowances from the HQ

8. Rainaian

  • Usually a state topper from Chattisgarh with a know it all look who has come to Mumbai for the first time
  • Talks about the true India living under $1 a day during marketing meetings and is liked by the CEO who has attended the bottom of pyramid strategy conferences by Prahlad
  • Thinks annual performance review and Diwali bonus are tightly linked

If you come across them in your office or any other species let me know.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Casino Royale: Coronation of a new Bond

Casino Royale is not just a Bond movie but a movie about Bond. It’s not about the gadgets, it’s not about the brands being endorsing, it’s not even about the women since Eva Green seems more suited to a romantic caper than having the oomph of a Bond girl. So much so that the maximum exposure is by Bond himself as he walks out of an azure sea with the shortest of shorts revealing his assiduously developed six packs.

The movie is about a new Bond who is as desperate to keep his job as much as the world’s most popular franchise is trying to keep its relevance. If his predecessor Pierce Brosnan could arguably be called the best dressed closed room Bond, then Daniel Craig starts off by showing his brute strength as a man who has roughed out in the outdoors and begins to claw back into the champagne and caviar infused sophistication by the end.

The movie starts off with Bond earning his double 00 status with two killings, 1 gruesome and 1 smooth. The title song follows, slightly old fashioned, reminding me one of the Sean Connery Bond movie titles like Diamonds are forever.

The action moves to Madagascar where Bond is trying to find the source of finance for a group of warlords. In a half sleeved shirt Daniel Craig shows his stupendous fitness in a very well choreographed free flowing action sequence based on the Parkour sport quite popular in London. Its good old action without gun fire or a machismo of WWF. Sadly he gets caught on camera shooting the guy and M as ruthless as ever asks him to lay off for a while.

Although there is good fun in the sequence where Bond breaks into M’s house and uses her password, Judi Dench as M looks pretty jaded in this movie, almost sleepwalking through this role. If Bond is being resurrected in this movie, then maybe there was an opportunity here as well to bring back a M who has this mentor type outlook rather than a matronly demeanour.

Bond moves to Bahamas, does some old fashioned legwork for a change based on which he successfully foils an attempt to bring down the world’s largest airplane. A nice contemporary touch and the villain is revealed who is basically a whiz kid turned financier and private banker for terrorist organizations.

In fact the action sequences till this part are riveting and lend good pace to the movie. Another smart thing that Martin Campbell has done is that by elongating the movie to 145 minutes he gives ample screen time for Daniel Craig to earn his place in the sun and display his superb acting skills.

The weakest part of the movie from a plot perspective is the poker game at the Casino Royale. But though the game is impoverished , the surroundings get richer due to deft direction.

Martin Campbell saves the day by incorporating the transition phase for Bond (see the remarks on his dress sense and Oxford suits, the initial do I care answer to the shaken or stirred martini to the elaborate description later). The best of course are the romantic repartees between Bond and Eva Green. She has some of the best lines in the movie, and the one-liners keep getting better and better. By giving her a beauty with brains kind of charm, the director somehow manages to justify Bonds’ folly of falling in love.

Also by adding two near death sequences, one where Bond loses a high rolling round and one where he is poisoned , the director showcases Daniel Craig’s brilliant acting abilities and this is where he creates the strongest emotional connect with the man who is going to enthrall has for more two more movies contractually after this.
If there is one word that describes the new Bond, it is steel. Right from the icy blue eyes, tough jawbones, to his bullyish English footballer like personality, well chiseled body and his ability to come out of close situations after starting on the wrong foot, Daniel Craig hits you like a thousand bricks. And when he breathes the sophisticated Oxford suit at the end and not wears it and mouths “Name is Bond, James Bond” with a gun in his hand, you know that this man has earned his spurs and Bond is truly back. When the theme music plays for the first time in the movie you know that this is not the last time you want to hear it.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Dhakka: Pushing cricket to newer heights

Mein to podium se jaa raha tha,
Mein to Cup ko utha raha tha,
Tujhko dhakka laga to main kya karoo?

We as Indians are not new to dhakkas (pushes for the linguistically challenged). Its as rampant as corruption and poverty. In fact it’s the most common contact sport in India.

Arrey boss thoda sarak na...
Abe ye dhakka bukki kaayko karta hai re?
Mein kya jaan booch ke mara kya tereko?

These kind of conversations are as common as Nadeem Shravan songs in the local compartments of Mumbai.

But now the problem it was a dhakka to Sharad Pawar. A seasoned politician in the autumn of his political career intent on turning BCCI into a cash cow where even the toilet seats of stadiums and body parts of players would be auctioned to the highest bidder. And the brilliance of his financial strategy has been to completely decouple performance and sponsorship. Out of team players like Ganguly can appear in emotionally gut wrenching ‘I will be back’ cola commercial and keeping the moolah trickling in.

So the first set of comments came from the normally reticent Marathi brigade of cricketers who practiced their square cuts in small squares of Dadar. So ‘aay lah’ Tendulkar comes up with the first ‘aayi gah’ salvo in a blatant attempt to secure his batting position. Then comes Gavaskar eager to provide his only soundbytes in the Mandira Bedi dominated ICC Champions trophy. Then come the Shastris, Mores, Dandekars and Joshis and everyone who has held bat or broom in Mumbai. It is sad that Rakhi Sawant the leading Marathi light of the neo-Indian culture has not shed any words of wisdom on this topic. May be she did not get time from her busy Big Boss schedule. Even a man of few words on the cricket field like Azhar has used the opportunity to call Australians uncivilized and Sharad Pawar magnanimous so that his life ban can be lifted.

Australian cricket chief Sutherland has attributed the incident as something which can happen when two different cultures meet. Yes one country which has a culture of winning and the other of whining. So what if Rahul Dravid could not lift the cup, we have to spare no effort in telling these Aussies that they lack the demeanour to play the gentleman’s game.

Moreover the Indian award functions are about the presenters and the cameramen rather than the winners. Usually you would have a panel of award givers that would be more than the members of the cricket team so that every constituency and sponsor is well represented. Again the Australians forgot that.

And the famed Indian hospitality. Athithi devo bhavah. but only if he loses the cup.
“Saale aa jaate hai door se, Boost ke commercials karte hai, humari thaali se khaate hai, cricket ka poora paisa yaha banta hai …aur humi ko dhakka maarte hai.” Well that more or less sums up the Indian angst against the Aussies. An apology is needed, why the celebration couldn’t wait till the presenter had stepped down. Kaha bhaag jaa raha tha kya cup?

This is just the beginning of a new set of interesting battles between the BCCI the money bag and the rest of the cricketing world. With more money you also need more soundbytes, more action and more controversy. So like a good reality show you have the incidents “ Shoaib Akhtar slapping Woolmer”and “John Wright pulling up Sehwags collar”. Soon we will have coaches spitting at players and people throwing mikes at each other. The greatest spectacle on this side of the world is just going to get better.

Monday, November 06, 2006

DON review

Although I saw Don on the weekend it released, I was waiting for the dust to settle to write a review which gives away the plot. Like many other Bollywood fans, I was dying to see the movie after Farhan had stitched a memorable ad campaign running from Mumbai to Malaysia. (refer my earlier post) .
Firstly, the movie is not a remake but a remix, of the baby doll in the bathtub variety. Farhan Akhtar gives the movie mindblowing gloss, sheen and slickness making it on par with some Hollywood thrillers. But somewhere he forgets that he is remaking Don, a movie etched in lot of Indian minds and not Mission Impossible 4.
The fundamental problem is that Farhan somehow got convinced that to be true to a dialogue "Don ko pakadna mushkil hi nahi namumkin hai" he needs to change the script to show that the original Don ( not Vijay the impersonation) actually survives in the movie. So with this end in mind, he indulges in monkeying around with a well written original script. Don does not die but is in coma in some hospital. Circumstances are created so that the Don can return in the climax. But now if Don has to return, he needs to have a score to settle. And that score can be only if the man who puts him to sleep is the villain.
So Farhan makes the most mind-numbing script change; DCP Silva is the villain and not Interpol chief Malik. This is where the second half and the original's tight coupling of characters and pace goes for a complete toss. To justify an end, he fails to do justice to any of the characters. As soon as this fundamental plot change is revealed you begin to writhe in your seat.
And what makes matters worse, is Boman Irani as the DCP. This is where a specialist like Iftekhar excelled, he was the quintessential tough cop, a face with years of experience and a no-nonsense talking style. Boman Irani with his Parsi paunch does not fit and ends up looking confused and jaded. This also means that Om Puri who has played the cop with great finesse in movies like Gupt is reduced to a nothing role.
Farhan also seriously weakens the central character of the movie Vijay through his twists and turns. Maybe it was deliberate since he knew that Shahrukh could never manage this part well. But it also means the emotional glue that the original had is completely lost. In fact the Vijay even in the initial parts where he meets the DCP is shown as an oversmart Mumbai tapori rather than a bumbling UP bhaiyya trying to eke out a living in Mumbai.
Coming to the key question, does Shahrukh Khan deliver? As the cool, menacing and stylish Don he packs a solid punch. This is the SRK I grew up seeing where the sheer aggression and earnestness overshadowed his acting limitations. It is simply great to see SRK in great clothes playing a man of substance rather than a guy who needs pastel colours and ribbons to feel for his lady love. In fact I believe its time SRK got out of the Yash Chopra-Karan Johar rut and did non-romantic roles for a change. At age 40 and as India's reigning superstar he needs roles of substance. But its sad that Farhan did not even give him a chance to play Vijay properly.
Nothing much was expected of Arjun Ramphal in any case, although Pran in the original had charged twice Amitabh's fees to play this role. Priyanka Chopra breezes into a role conveying both style, oomph and emotion in requisite amounts. Pavan Malhotra as Don's henchman Narang is a complete washout. Well the plump light eyed guy in the original was coolly sinister.
Songs. Kareena's well developed calves lend enough zing to Yeh Mera Dil. Khaike paan banaras as a remix song shot completely out of context in KL is a pale shadow. The best song in the movie is the under-rated Ganpati song Maurya re.Watch out for the brilliant banjo work in the song, reminds me of good old days in Mumbai.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Umrao Yawn

It is the season of remakes and rehashes, so another of Bollywood's overhyped maestros J.P. Dutta gives us his 3.30 hour long version of the sob story of a 19th century girl who becomes a tawaif Umrao Jaan. Now J.P.Dutta's forte is war movies(Border,LOC) and his cinematography of deserts in Rajasthan. He does manage to get the visual feel of the 19th century and the Lucknow palaces right but somehow it lacks the soul and the kashish of a sob story. And thats being sympathetic.
The first half is hugely boring. It has too many songs and Anu Malik disappoints. Most of the songs sound the same and the lyrics are nothing great compared to the original. Although JP Dutta is making a movie about the 19th century he uses a laborious pace to tell the story. In fact his initial reels look straight out of some NFDC funded Doordarshan serial.
Aishwarya Rai steps into Rekha's shoes and manages to deliver one of her better performances. But Rekha and Tawaif were as much hand in glove as Sanjay Dutt and Munnabhai. Aishwarya does the emotional scenes well but her dancing as a tawaif is too aggressive for its genre. And you miss the sadness or depth that Rekha could convey with her eyes just sitting in ' Aap meri jaan li jiye'. Even in some of her emotional scenes, her natural Miss World aggression spoils it when she speaks dialogues too fast. But she is incredibly beautiful and resplendent through the movie.
Secondly, the romance between Ash and Abhishek is too forced and does not invoke any sparks. It seems more like a professional relationship with lust being a primary driver. JP Dutta could have cut some songs and developed this relationship further. Abhishek finally gets a role where he can justifiably keep a full time beard , but his personality seems a bit rough for some one to get smitten by a courtesan. He does not have a 'shayraana' andaaz, although he is cool in the drunken scenes. And in these scenes he reminds you very fondly of his baap, the god of Sharabi scenes, Amitabh. Genetics how cruel thou art at times..
Thirdly, you have pure comic relief by Sunil Shetty as Faiz Ali a dacoit who masquerades as a Nawab. His Urdu diction is as clear as a Texan speaking French. And he acts as if he is part of 'Alibaba and chalis chor' and not Umrao Jaan.
And JP Dutta can kick himself for casting long lost Puru Raj Kumar as Gauhar Mirza, a role that was played by Naseer in the original. Pathetic.
The movie's saving grace is Shabana Azmi who delivers a knockout performance as the head of the kotha. Her dialogue delivery and acting display her classy calibre. Ayesha Jhulka and Divya Dutta lend good support. Kulbushan Kharbanda another JP favourite is his good old constipated self.
JP Dutta can go back to war and rough terrain movies. He frankly lacks the nazaakat and tehzeeb to make stories with kashish.