Sunday, December 16, 2007

MUMBHAI - 3

Mumbhai (read here) reflected on the ‘Sounds of Mumbai’. The ‘shady night life’ of the city formed the basis of Mumbhai – 2 (read here). It is almost three years now since I made Mumbai my second home. That in itself is a good enough reason to write the third episode of Mumbhai series. But this city is so well chronicled; researched and written about that it becomes all the more difficult to write something original about it.

Also till now I have managed to resist the temptation of reading Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found and other books of the same ilk. Its not that I don’t like reading books, but somehow the books written about this city are as costly as it is to live in this city. So I am incapable of getting inspired by them (euphemism for lifting ideas) to write anything really brilliant. The next best thing was to write some rundown versions of my own and read them over and over again. Mumbhai Version 3.0 is about shift in my dwelling from Andheri to Ghatkopar. It is about the historical divide between haves and have nots. It is about the disparity between living and surviving. It is about the gulf between the celebration of Bombay in a Yash Chopra movie and the harsh portrayal of Mumbai in an Anurag Kashyap film.

My employer provided me with a pleasant apartment in Ghatkopar. I was more than happy to shift from the tiny hole I had put up in last two years paying through my nose. The icing on the cake was that in the company provided flat I would be sharing my room with no one else while that tiny hole had four people cramped in it, all arms and legs. Remember almost every Mumbaikar is a contortionist. But good things never come without riders! Isn’t it?

The flat was good. Though frugal but nicely done up. But the reality dawns upon you the moment you step out of it. The area reminds me of a tehsil in Fatehpur U.P. It doesn’t even remotely resemble the perceived Mumbai. Only the pollution levels are same. There are more trucks than cars. Thatched roof shops, wares like utensils and steel trunks on sale, dimly lit outlets in the night and vegetable carts remind me of some village fair I saw when I used to sell tractors.

Now when someone asks me about my place of stay, I generally spurt out Chembur instead of Ghatkopar. It sounds little more livable place for a human. And I also don’t forget to mention that I stayed in Juhu-Vile Parle-Andheri belt for two years. So shifting to Ghatkopar, the first casualty is your self esteem. Funny, but true! The scorn on any listener’s face at the mere mention of Ghatkopar is good enough to tell you that your address in Mumbai is part of your identity, so it better be good. By the way, Chembur is also no better than district head quarters of Rae Bareilly. Truly speaking, all those who know her would agree, that Richa Kar wouldn’t have stayed here for more than a day. I mean for her Mumbai is Bandra and Bandra is Mumbai.

I have to travel to Chembur to get my brand of soap, toothpaste and breads. The marketing guys are so clear about their target segments. One can find only Lifebuoy and Lux for soaps in the nearby grocery shops. Skimmed milk and brown bread sound like alien words to the shop owners. So when I asked at a shop for some sprouts few days back, the guy’s eyeballs just popped out. There are only two restaurants nearby, where you can get a Vegetarian Pepperoni Pizza. It happens only in India! Well the great thing that has happened because of this is that I have learned some cooking.

Transportation is another issue. No Autowallah agrees to come to Ghatkopar from anywhere. So generally Zaki (my colleague) uses coercion to get home and we all follow suit. There is no direct train or bus from here to anywhere. So while others devise route optimization strategies, I do with uncomfortable and costly cabs.

Well there are so many other things out here which for once and all will establish the fact that Mumbai has at least 9876 Socio Economic Classes. Few of them are based upon your address and not on Income, Education and Profession. So PAT was right SEC is an obsolete concept. I would shift back to Andheri; the moment company takes back this perk. Till then I would be over the hill (Ghat Ke Upar).

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Hail The Anti - Thriller

Hindi film industry is going through exciting times. Rang De Basanti, Chakde! India and Lage Raho Munnabhai were peerless and superior products. These movies excited me because they refuted the norm. These were the movies that will redefine Bollywood for years to come. Rang De Basanti rewrote the rules of drafting a screenplay – it was so clever I must say. Chakde! India brought a whole new set of technologies to depict sporting action in such detail and for sure will spawn a number of sports based movies. Lage Raho Munnabhai brought Hrishida style of comedy to forefront and proved that it can be a commercial success. And all these three had one thing in common. It was the story that was hero in them. Incidentally all these were blockbuster hits. It doesn’t matter to me though. There have been some classics like Andaz Apna Apna and Lamhe which never tasted the box office success.

But if one really tries to make a sense out of it, these movies don’t belong to any particular genre. RDB is not an action drama neither Chakde is a stand alone sports movie (it has its share of patriotism and drama too with sprinkling of so many spices of the real India). LRM isn’t a full on comedy either. These are just unique movies which come once in a while. They wouldn’t be able to raise the standard of average movies. So you needed someone who starts pushing the envelope in the existing genres. Someone who can contest the norm but still appeal to the masses.

The thriller genre is definitely finding some saviors in Sriram Raghvan (Johnny Gaddaar) and Navdeep Singh (Manorama Six Feet Under). The duo of Abbas - Mustaan has played a long innings in this genre. But they couldn’t better their own efforts of Khiladi and Baazigar. Personally I believe that two best whodunits that Bollywood has ever produced are Khiladi and Gupt (Rajiv Rai). While Baazigar reinforced the need of Anti – Hero (SRK catapulted into stardom after that), as a concept it was nothing new. Ashok Kumar played the first Anti – Hero of Hindi Films in Kismet. Audiences had started getting bored of regular whodunits (they aren’t shocked by the culmination anymore or instead found them outright foolish). Also Anti – Hero has been beaten to death and doesn’t hold freshness 13 years after Baazigar. So what excited me in the latest two thrillers JG and Manorama that impelled me to write this piece?

I am sure Manorama won’t be a hit and JG would be a moderate success that also due to Word of Mouth. This is because of lack of star value and limited publicity. After all masses love to see those K titled bawlers which SRK and K Jo are experts in. Still it’s my strong opinion that Johnny Gaddaar is one of the best movies to come in recent times and one of the best thrillers of all times in Hindi Cinema. And Manorama has brought out the small town aspirations and socio economic divide existing in our society so beautifully in the genre as old as thriller. Both the movies are so different that they actually shouldn’t be called the Thrillers. They are Anti – Thrillers. And they are here to stay.

While in JG style meets substance with beautiful camerawork. Each frame in itself is so stimulating. Various colored tints are used to depict the psyche of the characters and background score is haunting. The minimal songs used in the movie carry the story forward and are apt for such genre. The titles at the start of the movie are an ode to movies of 70’s. So the film maker captures you at the very start of the movie and you are at the edge of your seat till end. That too when you already know who the Gaddaar is!

Now that’s why I called it the Anti – Thriller. The movie reveals the Gaddaar in the very start and also describes the way the gaddaari is committed. Audiences seem to think they have caught hold of every detail. But later they are in for shock. The premise of the movie is not to find who the culprit is, but instead it is related to the fact that how the Gaddaar will save his skin or will he not! What further impressed me was the fact the director hasn’t shied away from his inspirations and has clearly illustrated them in the movie. A very sharp screenplay. Go watch it!!!

On the other hand, Manorama titillates you as an audience. It slowly grows on you. Again it’s not a regular whodunit because the audience has the fair idea about the culprit. But it’s the protagonist’s curiosity to find the truth and the obstacles he faces doing the same that makes this otherwise average movie a lesson in making Anti – Thrillers. It’s not a very fast paced slick movie. It makes you think and you fall in love with SatyaVeer, the character played by Abhay Deol, because he is just as fallible as you and me and not a hero. Again a very intelligent movie. It will garner top TRPs when it comes on TV.

Friday, September 14, 2007

10 Lessons in 3 Months

Disclaimer: The following article is not for the people awaiting their first employment in next few months. The MBAs in making should stop reading it here. Please don’t forward this article to author’s boss, HR Dept. and all his peers who consider him a threat as they can use the following text against him.

The ideas expressed in this blog are in no way any statement on the state of affairs at the place where the author works. It is purely a work of fiction because the reality is much more gloomy and dour than what has been mentioned below ;-). The writer just intends to have some fun.

Start

It has been three months now since I joined work. The so called “Honeymoon Period” is over since ages. Earlier I used to wonder about this term – Honeymoon Period – why is it called so? What happens in it? I was so na├»ve to think that it is the period in which you get less work to do. Naah! That was a myth. They don’t pay you dough to work less.

So what actually is a “Honeymoon Period”? It is the period that starts from the first day at your job till the day you think, “Oh! My God, where have I landed?” Now this period may last for a day for some to years for a miniscule population. But it definitely gets over one day – the day when the truth dawns upon you, when the skeletons (of HR) come tumbling out from the cupboard. The average length of this period has a strong correlation with the length of the Induction Training program. (For starters, that’s the program where you get free lunches and lot of vision statements and inspirational messages from senior management and when the HR of the companies go gaga over the work culture and blah! blah! – they are so far fetched from the reality)

Anyways let me directly jump to the 10 lessons I have learnt in the last 3 months. These lessons will not help anybody in any manner. They are not any guide to survival in an organization. They don’t provide help to extend the duration of your honeymoon period. These are just few plain truths known to many already which I have realized off late. So let’s get started.

Lesson # 1 – HR never lies, they just put things in perspective. This perspective is the same kind of perspective which makes an inmate in Yerwada Jail believe that he is staying at a beach resort.

Lesson # 2 – The certainty of death is questionable, but taxes are certain. There must be a crash course for every new employee in subject of taxation. I think NAAC should make this course mandatory for MBAs. Hey do they cut same taxes for people working in tax department?

Lesson # 3 – The most important person in your office is not your boss. It is the admin and accounts guy. You have to pamper him / her so that he / she reimburse your expenses on time. Don’t worry BOSSIE; you are the second most important guy in office. Man, you would have done better in accounts department anyways.

Lesson # 4 – If your boss is in the middle management, company should train its middle management. If your boss is in the top management, company’s middle management training is rubbish.

Lesson # 5 – Never complete your work before the deadline given by your boss. Your boss will get an inferiority complex and he will turn into a dastardly homosexual being soon.

Lesson # 6 – Never leave the office earlier than your boss. It ensures that the moron thinks you work hard. Let efficiency go for a toss. You can extend your lunch time or even write such blogs to create an impression of your diligence.

Lesson # 7 – Your boss is always right. If he liked RGV ki AAG, you better go watch it and prepare a presentation titled “Management Lessons – RGV ki AAG.”

Lesson # 8 – If your company gives you a perk don’t feel happy. Just go home and calculate the perk tax. CTC (Cost to Company) is the good looking hero of the story while take home pay is the quintessential villain of the same story.

Lesson # 9 – Complicated Excel Sheets and Power Point presentations are your escape ways in the moment of misery. They may be full of crap but you always get some brownie points for the fact that you tried to do something. They always believe that you will learn through mistakes. Haha! I told you they are far fetched from reality.

Lesson # 10 – If you follow lesson # 6 and write such blogs during office hours, please don’t get caught. I have been caught red handed and thus can’t give more gyan. For more lessons come back soon.

The End

P.S. – I never claimed I am going to write anything original. If you find above lessons too common and well known, that’s not my problem. At least I showed guts to document them. Now let me run for cover!!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

CHAKDE! INDIA

Chakde! Chakde! Ek Hockey Doongi Rakh ke…

Before the Yash Raj Films’ disaster of the year Jhoom Baraabar Jhoom – though I personally loved the abstractness of the movie and also appreciated the way director has played with the allegory of Prince Charmings and Dream Girls - appeared on the screen; loomed large the image of Shahrukh Khan in his new avatar (in a teaser of a forthcoming movie “Chakde! India”) as the coach of India’s women hockey team, gearing to win the World Cup. I hope it is not another sports based movie gone wrong from YRF camp, after their really tacky take on NASCAR in Ta Ra Rum Pum – which in turn was a very bad copy of Russell Crowe’s Cinderella Man.

Also YRF has this habit of unashamedly depicting Punjabi culture, traditions, songs and even Punjabi conviviality in a bad taste. I mean Punjabis are just not like that. But may be this sells, so much so, that these film makers are tempted to repeat the formula over and over again. But seemingly in Chakde! India, there is some semblance of reality and moreover this movie is based on a true story. Also the game hockey is so Punjabi in spirit. So Chakde! to that. The sports based movies are nothing new in Hollywood but in Bollywood these themes have rarely been tackled successfully and as far as my memory serves me Chakde! would be the first movie with hockey – our national game – as the premise. Another first which can be attributed to Chakde! is that it is a sports based movie where the players are from fairer sex unlike its predecessors. I am just yearning for this movie to be good and a big hit. Hopefully it will bring back certain glamour to the game hockey as I am really disappointed with Indian Cricket in general and also the predictability which has set in cricket matches.

The promo of Chakde! India (depiction is courtesy,
Abid: Glamsham) is a long theatrical preview of the movie. The promo comes just before the start of Jhoom Baraabar Jhoom and commences with Shahrukh Khan looking classy in sober but sophisticated white-grey attire, and announcing to the audience (in a confident manner) - ' I'll introduce the team that is going to win the world cup for us.' After that we have some matter-of-fact rap singing by SRK, where he goes on about, 'Chak 2', 'Chak 3' , 'Chak 4'... , thereby introducing the team members to the audience and letting them know exactly what they can expect from this never-say-die, all ladies hockey team. In the background is the extremely infectious, aggressive yet so very different title track (by Salim-Suleiman) from the movie, “Chakde, Chakde, Ek hockey doongi rakh ke.” One by one the hockey team members, from different parts of India, appear on screen, with their own bits and subtle humor. In the end the whole team unites to talk about the 'Chak 1', their coach 'Khan', that is SRK!

I liked the promo for its realism and for the absence of razzmatazz which is part of any YRF product. I just hope movie is as good. Though Bollywood has rarely churned out good sports based movies, Aamir Khan seems to be a pro at it. With Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (cycling was the premise); it was again proven that audiences love to see underdogs winning. But the skill of the director was also in weaving a story around universal emotions like love, friendship, brotherhood and a father son relationship. If it would have been just another sports based movie, it would have met the fate of Aamir’s Awwal Number (based on cricket) or like that of Sohail’s Aryan (boxing) which were just trying to woo the audiences on blood rush and gore which happens in these sports.

Lack of sports based movies in India, clearly is an indicator of the society which doesn’t have a great sporting history and culture. But movies off late have tried to reverse the trend. Lagaan is a great Indian Classic. It pitches the underdogs against the strongest of enemy and unleashes a dramatic saga. Here again like all great sports based movies, the focus is not just on the game but on the emotions playing in it. It is a story of valor of one man and at the end reinforces the famous adage of fortune favoring the brave. In IQBAL all through the movie, the viewer empathizes with Iqbal since Kukunoor attempts to mirror the hardships a small-time guy faces when he dares to dream. Treating the story in the most realistic fashion, IQBAL works due to its Straight-out-of-life setting and Never-say-die spirit of the underdog. Also there have been some recent attempts like Hat trick where a sport is used as very powerful motif to depict similarities with life. That’s also a new way of story telling in Hindi Cinema. Then there are movies like Ghulam (again Aamir as a boxer), where though the game itself is not important to the movie but the qualities required in playing that game provide depth to the characterization of the protagonist.

The latest movie in this genre is truly Punjabi, Apne (partly inspired by Rocky and Raging bull). For the first time a boxing choreographer is used in Hindi Films adding authenticity to fight sequences. There is a high pitched training montage song here – one that goes “You gotta survive/you gotta hit the bullseye”. It sounds like Eye of the Tiger from Rocky III, but entire credit goes to the director to weave an emotional family drama around the game, providing wholesome family entertainment in otherwise very violent movie.

It is not surprising that most of the movies described above are cricket related considering the hysteria this game generates in our country. So Chakde! India is a welcome and refreshing change. I just hope more good movies are made in Bollywood and some fine day some Lagaan comes home with an Oscar…

“You gotta survive/you gotta hit the bullseye”

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Finally MBA

Finally MBA, huh!
Finally MBA, aahhh!
Finally MBA, yippee!
Finally MBA?
Finally!
MBA? What’s that?
Finally MBA, trouble over…
It’s only an MBA, come on!
MBA… ho gaya?
Just 2 years…
MBA Vroooooooooooooom……………
MBA – Mazaa Bahut Aaya


Aah! Finally writing a blog. It was a long hiatus by any standards, actually by many standards. Thomas Friedman would say, “The world has flattened even more. While you were sleeping Charan, ten flattening forces synergized more intensely and all of a sudden Bangalore has ceased to be the epicenter of this phenomenon of flattening. India is no longer invincible outsourcing hub, though USA has still to learn its lessons.” I would reply, “To hell with you Tom, I wasn’t sleeping. I was busy doing something more important. I was doing my MBA. More importantly I was in the second year.” I believe everyone in MBA fraternity would vouch for it. All the non MBAs please read the previous blog for instant enlightenment ;-) its difficult to believe that I wrote it more than a year ago.

After going through the justification of my long time-away, wherein I amply used Friedman’s Global Gyan a.k.a Gas, I think my avid readers (I like to live in make believe world. Hic Hic.) would forgive me for being away and busy like hell. Mind it, such global and intellectually stimulating Gyan can come only from MBAs like me and there is a high probability with a level of significance of 0.99, that it would be better understood by MBAs or of their ilk. Finally I should start talking some sense now and actually try to unravel the phenomenon of “Finally MBA.” At the very onset I must make it clear, this phenomenon is bigger than anything you have dealt with till now. Even if Ravi Vishwanathan C R declares that Sivaji and Rajnikanth is Baap of all phenomenons or Behzaad Patrawala alias Baap thinks that he is the best thing that ever happened to this world, simply ignore them! After all they both are MBAs themselves.

Before one can declare that I am finally MBA, there are two things that need to be done. The first thing is to complete the first year and the second thing is to complete the second year. Sounds silly? Simple? If your answer is yes, you need to do an MBA. I had already taken a lot of pain to tell the world about my first year in the last blog. So allow me to skip the first thing and let me talk about the second thing. There are only two seasons in the second year i.e. Placement Season and Non – Placement Season. You needn’t study in any of them. Parties, booze and lots of sleep are the key common characteristics of both seasons. What differentiate both are the increased level of attendance in Placement Season and the substitution of mostly pedestrian faculty with dream companies as most worshipped entities on campus.

In a nutshell second year is all about having fun and lots of fun. It’s the time when one forges great friendships which last for lifetime. In second year nothing seems too distant and too difficult. There is a certain sense of well being. Some of us keep their feet on the ground while some balloons float. Then placement season comes, balloons burst. Thud! Humility is the last lesson which MBA taught me.

** During placements - Anxiety for sometime, tension and stress. Running around. Yeh form, woh form. Yeh company, woh company. He is the CEO material. She would do wonders. GDs and PIs... Phir se? Koi jeeta koi haara... par sab sikandar. Kuch din ke liye party band, jeans pehnna band, daaru band, classes band, sab band… and then after all this megalomaniac pandemonium. Farewells and convocation, vacations to goa, fun times and party times. Everyone is king of good times. After all these times didn’t last forever.” **

It feels great to be “Finally MBA”; it gives me a sense of achievement. But then I am so much more anxious and so much more uncertain. Case studies are over. Now handle the real cases. Still those two years will always invade my memories. Wish it was for two more years.

Finally MBA, huh!
Finally MBA, aahhh!
Finally MBA, yippee!
Finally MBA?
Finally!
MBA? What’s that?
Finally MBA, trouble over…
It’s only an MBA, come on!
MBA… ho gaya?
Just 2 years…
MBA Vroooooooooooooom……………
MBA – Mazaa Bahut Aaya