Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ek 2G Ke Liye!

In the 80's it was Ek Duuje Ke Liye. Now Kamal Haasan and Rati Agnihotri have moved into middle age and cannot dance around trees. Oh fish! But we have a bigger and better alternative! So, don't you be pensive. Errr... how big? 1.76 lakh crores and counting! Bounty hunting!

It is time to Ek 2G ke liye. Starring Raja and Kani. Where's the money, honey?

The cast also includes sundry Dee Yem Kay family members. With a tearjerker performance put up by the family patriarch! As for the rival arch... Amma dekh, ah dekh tera... errr whatever... bigda jaaye. I said Amma... and not Mamma Mia. Mind it!

Tihar jail. Dabur Amla Kesh Tail. Both give you: Ghane Mulayam Kaale Baal, Khile Khile Matwale Baal. How? Arre kesh tail hai re baba! As for the former... no Biran Kedi! That makes for a comfortable stay. And while the sun shines make hay. The aam-jaanta will continue to go to the Temple, Church, etc and bray.

Raja has gone to Tihar with band baaja baaraat. Kya baat? Arre... he has finally got the qualification that was missing in his Résumé. Which one? Tan tana tan. Time spent in jail. Otherwise a Neta is an epic fail. No national stature you see. Even though one may be very bisi.

Poor Kani. Perhaps had to be the fall guy errr gal... for papa dearest. While he says that a conspiracy has been hatched against him and the K family from Kanyakumari to Mt. Everest. So, conspiracy has now scaled Mt. Everest too! Boo Hoo! But we also thought it had scaled Mt. Azhagiri too. What say you?

The younger Mr. Clean is wondering 2G or not 2G. Whatever will be will be. But then he doesn't need Dabur Amla Kesh Tail, you see. His crowning glory is nature's bounty!

Now, Kani is Azhagiri's half-sister. Which half... may I ask? And pray... what about the other half?

Malanidhi Karan, Mr. K's nephew, is producing movies. While Sdayanidhi Utalin, Mr. Clean's son, is currently seen as the producer with the Midas touch. Sach! But Robot has taken off to Singapore. Enna Rascala, I see you.

Sdhayanidhi Utalin owns Red Giant Movies. Aayanidhi Dzhagiri owns Cloud Nine Movies. And earlier this month the Giant saw red and fell from cloud nine with a loud thud! What a dud! Maybe it ate too many red chillies. Hilly Billies!

Ilayathalapathy Bijoy has noticed the winds of change... and gone over to Amma. Clever, I say! Now, Lady Luck aka Amma will be smiling on him and his movies. Heebie-jeebies. Enna Rascala? Ab tera kya hoga Shankara? Amma will take on Robot. Waiting for Godot.

Bijayakanth aka Captain is waiting to join forces with Amma. Bijayakanth who? Arre baba, he is the poor man's Rojonikanth. And is the Neta of Dee Yem Dee Kay. Or so they say.

And if Amma comes can Chinnamma be far behind?

Mr. K and Mr. Goody Two Shoes. Have their goose been cooked? Wait and see. Meanwhile... Spectrum changed the equations. Mamma and Amma will have to work together and be thick friends. Smile for the cameras with flower bouquets in hand. How grand!

Perception. Lights, Camera, Action!

Meanwhile our blue turbaned Yogi is worried about several Gs: Indira G, Rajiv G, Sonia G, Rahul G and possibly Priyanka G and even Rehan Rajiv Vadra G and Maira Vadra G. Therefore, he prefers to keep a maun vrat. Silence is golden, you see! All for Ek 2G ke liye ji!

Note: The views expressed here are entirely in good humour and without malice.


Hilarious take on the Political scenario - in India.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Burnt Toast by Sandy Kundra Verma.

Burnt Toast. No, this has no relation to any culinary misadventures and has nothing to do with Teri Hatcher either. Teri Hatcher who? Arre, Susan Mayer of "Desperate Housewives", and Lois Lane from "Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman". Got it? Good. Ummm, this "Burnt Toast" is advertising professional-turned-author Sandy Kundra Verma's debut novel. Apparently after years of living on a percentage of what her B-school batch-mates were being paid and convincing herself that it was all worth it, she decided to branch out into what she liked even more: writing... and promptly burnt her toast *wink*

The story revolves around three characters: Plain Jane Moulshree Dutta, with her IIM (Calcutta) degree, the drop-dead gorgeous Kanika Anand and the once glamorous Lajja Mehta-Kapur. And their paths cross for sure. With the author too being a female of the species, this should automatically qualify as a "chick lit", no? However, I disagree. Since no novel with male characters and a male author combo is ever classified as "mutton lit". Or "beef lit" for that matter. What?

Coming back to Burnt Toast: Moulshree follows her heart and chooses advertising over Finance, preferring to spend her waking hours ideating over fairness creams, MTR masala, etc instead of stock reports, ET and number crunching. How does her family react? More specifically... how does her 'perfect boyfriend' Naresh Ghosh react? And if her life is so perfect then why is she getting drawn towards the charming and rakish Arjun Desai?

Kanika – she of the perfect smile and gorgeous looks – is jealous of Moulshree. But does she hate her? Or is there more to her than meets the eye?

Lajja Mehta-Kapur – happily married to Vishal or so she thinks.

The purpose of the book, ostensibly, is to drive home the fact that life does not always go according to plan. That life cannot be a perfect cream-cake. It is but a piece of burnt toast. You scrape off the edges to enjoy the taste.

The book provides a sneak peek into the world of advertising... the people involved in creating all those great, not so great and copycat ads. I said 'cat' and not 'Kat', mind you! Sandy has kept the jargon to a minimum, which is good. The ads talked about in the book are the ones we are quite familiar with... and one need not rack one's brains.

But I do feel that she tried to build up suspense. In fact several of them and they were all underdone. The stories have a distinct Mills & Boon feel to them and that was the way to go. For that is precisely the way one can enjoy reading this novel – with a willing suspension of disbelief and happily overlooking the inflections in the book.

Talking about inflections... there are several of them.

Moulshree Dutta is mentioned as a Brahmin with a Bengali father and a Marathi mother.

Now, Dutta (also spelled Datta and Dutt) is a surname found primarily amongst Bengalis, Punjabis and Assamese. The name is derived from the word Aditya, which means sun in Sanskrit.

Bengali Dattas (Bengali: Dôtto) are Kayasthas (Datta/Dutta) or Vaidyas (Dattagupta/Duttagupta) or merchants, making them a non-Brahmin, upper-caste group. Traditionally, many have been in the academic, legal, medical and civil service professions, typical of the bhadralok groups of Bengal (not to be mistaken with "Babumoshai".)

The most famous Bengali Datta/Dutta being: the influential figure of the Spiritual, Bengali and Indian renassiance Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902); born Narendranath Datta. Others: the great poet and dramatist Michael Madhusudan Dutt (1824-1873) – great grandfather of tennis ace Leander Paes, Romesh Chunder Dutt (1848-1909); writer, economist, historian, and translator of the Vedas and the inimitable Utpal Dutt (1929-1993); author, dramatist, director, activist and actor par excellence. Nowadays: Actress Tanushree Dutta; not sure about the 'famous' bit though.

Whereas, Punjabi Duttas are a clan of the Mohyal (Mohyyal) or Munjal Brahmins. According to the Gotra system, they are the descendants of Rishi Bharadwaj, the same as the Duttas from Bengal. Some consider Gaj Bhavan, the grandson of Rishi Bharadwaj to be the real founder of their clan. Mohyyals are one of the few "Martial" Brahmins and are distinct from other Brahmin's as not only have they been warriors, but also the men of the families have been meat eaters. One of the sayings you will hear is "Waah Dutt Sultan, adha Hindu adha Mussalman" i.e. one part of their lifestyle was Hindu (the homes were run as typical Hindu homes) and the other part was like Muslims (eating meat, dressing, vocation, etc).

Famous Punjabi Duttas/Dutts include: the late actor-politician Sunil Dutt (1929-2005); the actress and former Miss Universe Lara Dutta; and actor Sanjay Dutt of course.

Nor is "Ghosh" a Brahmin by caste in Bengal. "Ghoshal" is.

IIM (Kolkata)? The city of Kolkata (nee Calcutta) has completely changed in the last 40 odd years. The signature Ambassadors and Fiats on the city's streets have been replaced with modern cars. During the 70s, the process of renaming streets and locations in Calcutta had already started. Of course, this reached a frenzied pace in recent years with the renaming of the city itself to Kolkata.

But no matter what - Didi and red flags nothwithstanding - IIM Calcutta will retain its name and will continue to be known as IIM–C. It will NOT turn into IIM Kolkata. Except in "Burnt Toast" that is – where you find it on the back cover of the book and that too in the very first line! The only IIM-Kolkata is the Indian Institute of Metals – Kolkata Chapter... and it has absolutely nothing to do with management studies whatsoever.

Sanjayda? In Bengal, "father" is referred to as "Bapi" or "Baba". And Baba's younger brother is certainly not "Dada" to his nephews and nieces. He is "Kaka"... more endearingly "Kaku" to them. Therefore Sanjay – Moulshree's dad's youngest brother cannot be "Sanjayda" to Moulshree even though they are closer in age. The suffix "da" (short for "dada") means elder brother in Bengali.

Yes, Bengalis do not like referring to people as Uncle/Aunty/Grandpa/Grandma irrespective of their age unlike in the South of India (more precisely in namma Bengal-uru) where folks studying in SSLC (10th standard)/PUC (12th standard) will refer to a 1st year college fresher as "Uncle" or "Aunty" depending on the gender. Therefore, in Bengal Sourav Ganguly will always be "Dada" and Mamata Banerjee will forever be "Didi". But Bengalis wouldn't apply this rule to members of their own households... and "Dada" and "Kaku" will never exchange places.

Also the average Bengali women go through their entire lives without uttering "Eish" – even half the number of times that Aishwarya Rai was made to utter in SLB's Rs. 30-crore magnum opus "Devdas". So much for stereotypes!

Sandy has used too many Hindi words... especially for Lajja Mehta-Kapur. Too many "matlabs" do not assist in emphasising her small town roots but end up jarring the reader's sensibilities instead. Completely unnecessary, I would say. Also phrases like "Rajji Baby" and "My dear baby-boo" – to refer to someone special - is totally uncool and quite Yuk.

The production quality of the book is quite decent but the book jacket cover is nicely done. It certainly catches the eye. However, I feel that the titles of the chapters reveal too much, and rob off the charm and suspense (if any) of the following pages.

My rating: I am going with a generous 3/5. "Burnt Toast" makes for a light read – a breezy and entertaining read only if you expect a somewhat M&B-esque romance and storyline. There is no suspense, no whodunit whatsoever. Flushed face, racing pulse and sweaty hands notwithstanding... and there are no flames threatening to destroy anyone's life. Even remotely!

Details of the book: Burnt Toast/ Author: Sandy Kundra Verma/ Publisher: Rupa Publications/ Seller: Rupa & Co./ Language: English/ ISBN: 978-8129117878, 8129117878/ Bookbinding: Paperback/ Price: Rs. 195/ No. of pages: 238.

Photograph: The book jacket cover of 'Burnt Toast'. Picture courtesy: link.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Pochishe Boishakh.

Pochishe Boishakh - the 25th day of the month of Boishakh passed us by about 5 days ago. It ushered in the 150th birth anniversary of the poet laureate and versatile genius Gurudev Rabindranath Thakur. Fondly referred to as "Robi Thakur" and "Kobiguru" and even though his name has been anglicized as Rabindranath Tagore, he lives on in our hearts, through his rich legacy of work... which also includes his timeless songs - Rabindra Sangeet.

Here are some links to a few of those songs that are also brilliant poetry. Sit back and immerse yourself in the fragrance of his words, thoughts and music:

1. Akash Bhora Surjo Taara: Link - sung by none other than Srikanto Acharya.

2. Aguner Poroshmoni: Link1 - by Srikanta Acharya.

3. Aloker Ei Jhorna Dhaaraye Bohiye Dao: Link2 - rendered by Bhaskar Bagchi.

4. Mone Ki Dwidha Rekhe Gele Chole: Link3 - sung by Chinmoy Chottapadhyay.

5. Aamaro Porano Jaha Chaye: Link4 - by Chinmoy Chottapadhyay.

In Hindi: Hindiversion.

6. Aami Chini Go Chini Tomaare (from the movie "Charulata"): Link5 - Sung by Kishore Kumar. Lyrics: Kobiguru Rabindranath Thakur, Direction: Satyajit Ray, Actors: Soumitra Chatterjee and Madhabi Mukherjee.

Note: "Nashtanir", translated as "The Broken Nest" or "The Fowled Nest". The great Satyajit Ray has captured it on screen as "Charulata". Ray's translation of "Nashtanir" into the film "Charulata", completed in 1964 and released in 1965.

It is thought to be autobiographical. Amol's character (played by Soumitra Chatterjee) is Tagore himself and Charulata (played by Madhabi Mukherjee) is his sister-in-law Kadambari Devi (the wife of Jyotirindranath Tagore). Jyotirindranath was one of Rabindranath's elder brothers and 13 years his senior. Rabindranath was the fourteenth and the youngest living child of his parents. Kadambari Devi was married at the age of nine and committed suicide at 26 (4 months after Rabindranath Tagore was married). Rabindranath was 22 at the time, just a couple of week shy of his 23rd birthday. It is said that Robi Thakur never recovered from this shock...

Watch "Charulata" if you can.

7. Tumi Robe Nirobe (from the movie "Kuheli"): Link6 - sung by Hemanta Mukherjee and Lata Mangeshkar.

8. Aami Poth Bhola Ek Pothik Eshechhi (from the movie "Mon Niye"): Link7 - sung by Hemanta Mukherjee and Asha Bhonsle.

9. Tumi Kemon Kore Gaan Karo He Guni: Link8 - rabindra sangeet by Srikanto Acharya (along with English Subtitles).

10. Chanchalo Mon Aanmona Hoye (from the film "Adwitiya"): Link9 - Lata Mangeshkar and Hemanta Kumar are the playback singers.

11. Kon Se Alor Swapno Niye (from the movie "Prothom Kodom Phool"): Link10 - Lata Mangeshkar.

Here is the version sung by Shreya Ghosal: Link-Shreya.

12. Ke Pratham Kachey Esechee (from the film "Sankhabela"): Link11 - Manna Dey and Lata Mangeshkar.

In 1966, Sudhin Dasgupta used Manna Dey to playback for Uttam Kumar for the first time in this movie… that starred Uttam Kumar and Madhabi Mukherjee.

13. Aaj Mon Cheyeche Ami Hariye Jabo (from the film "Sankhabela"): Link12 - by Lata Mangeshkar.

14. Chander Haasi Bhaand Bhengechey: Link13 - a beautiful song rendered by Indranil Sen and Indrani Sen.

15. Prano Bhariye: Link14 - Nayontara.

16. Sokhi Bhabona Kahare Bole: Link15 - by Lata Mangeshkar.

... His legacy, our treasure-trove is overflowing with such gems.

He Kobiguru... tomar paaye thhaekai matha. He Bishwakobi, He Robi Thakur, amar matha noto kore dao he tomar chorono dhular tole. Tumi dhonno Robi Thakur, tumi dhrubotara, tumi amar... tomaye pronam. Shato koti pronam.

Photograph: Robi Thakur with two of his kids. Pic. courtesy link.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The sauce always justifies the means!

King Ferdinand I (1751 - 1825) is said to have disguised himself as a commoner and, in clandestine fashion, visited a poor neighbourhood in Naples. One story has it that he wanted to sink his teeth into a food that the queen had banned from the royal court - pizza! Poor Freddy. So much legwork for a mere pizza! We live life King-size and have home delivery instead.

If you think that the Pizza (yet another Italian import) only arouses hunger pangs in your tummy... think again. Pizza has taken the erudite route and become enlightened... without meditating under the Bodhi tree. Tatkal service... what?

Branded pizza such as Domino's and Pizza Hut 'discovered' India in early to mid 1990s, and underwent a process of self-discovery almost immediately thereafter. Result: several Indian-style toppings like Tandoori Chicken and Paneer. Italy met India with exotic pizza toppings... which once again proved beyond a shred of doubt that the whole world is one single family - 'Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam' (from "vasudha", the earth; "eva" = emphasizer and "kutumbakam", "family" - a Sanskrit phrase.) We even have "The Slumdog" - a specialty pizza available at Bombay Pizza Co. on Main Street near Walker Street. Socialism aka Communism met Capitalism aka Free Market over a bottle of Johny Walker... I guess!

And a "Gateway to India" pizza too... filled with Tandoori chicken, crabmeat, artichoke hearts (not to choke the arteries of your heart, really!), cilantro chutney, mozzarella and provolone, and topped with fresh cilantro, all on naan bread. (But ingredients originating from the Arab world, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Persia, Portugal, France, Holland and England are conspicuous by their absence. Wonder why though *wink*.) While the Slumdog is laden with pepperoni, Spanish chorizo, Canadian bacon, beef, chicken, onions and Bombay pizza sauce. Is your mouth watering yet? I am hungry already!!

In December 2007, Domino's introduced a new slogan, "You Got 30 Minutes", alluding to the earlier pledge but stopping short of promising delivery in a half hour. Clever! No? Not unlike our UPA-nishad.

In a 2009 survey of consumer taste preferences among national chains by Brand Keys, Domino's was last - tied with Chuck E. Cheese's. In December that year, Domino's announced plans to entirely reinvent its pizza. It began a self-flogging ad campaign in which consumers were filmed criticizing the pizza's quality and chefs were shown developing the new product. The new pizza was introduced that same month, and the following year, Domino's 50th anniversary, the company acquired J. Patrick Doyle as its new CEO and experienced a historic 14.3% quarterly gain. While admitted not to endure, the success was described by Doyle as one of the largest quarterly same-store sales jumps ever recorded by a major fast-food chain.

Now, apart from answering the SOS calls of hapless dabbawallahs whose dabbas (lunch boxes) decide to take a swim without their knowledge and/or permission, Domino's fairly recent delivery - their mea culpa ad campaign was tough to beat for its sheer corporate candor. In its new TV commercial and Web video, the pizza chain admits something startling - namely, that its pizza is pretty terrible. Domino's very public admission of its own awfulness might represent the most elaborate mea culpa ad in history. But it's hardly the first. Companies sometimes admit their flaws and faults in a bid for public empathy. The strategy usually has two parts. Part one: Fess up. Part two: Vow to do better. While Domino's never quite expresses remorse, the crusty comments in its commercial do set up the company's promise to improve, with better ingredients and a new pizza recipe.

Airlines such as United and JetBlue have prostrated themselves in public to mollify travelers enraged by scheduling snafus. (In demo-crazy India of course the airlines will have none of it. They go on strike instead.) Fast-food outfits have done it, too. American car manufacturers have practically made an art of acknowledging their shortcomings; General Motors went on an apology tour starting in late 2008 when it began lobbying for billions of dollars in federal bailout funds. Last summer, as it went through Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, it flooded the airwaves with a commercial that acknowledged, "General Motors needs to start over in order to get stronger."

As Domino's was rolling out its self-lacerating confession, the Chicago Bears took out newspaper ads to apologize to the team's fans for its sub par performance. "In a season where we did not perform at our best, we are further humbled by the fact that our fans stepped up and did their part," the ads said. (For the record, the Bears finished with a 7-9 record, considerably better than the 4-12 Redskins, who have yet to publish any apologies.)

Acknowledging that you've messed up may win some goodwill among consumers, but marketing experts say it also carries some risks. Some people are going to hear only part of the message (e.g., Domino's stinks) and not hear the part about how they're going to get better. Thus, apology ads can reinforce negative perceptions and raise awareness of them among people who've never tried, or even heard of, the product. But you can safely leave out Bollywood, Hollywood, the various 'Woods' and the Netalog... for them any publicity is good publicity. No?

Once you've said, 'Our pizza tastes like cardboard,' you've got people's attention. Most people will ignore you if you just said, 'We're new and improved.' Every advertiser and his aunt say that. This gets people (including couch potatoes) to sit up and take notice.

Domino's also took the 'proverbial' route... and created 'Pizza Proverbs' - an online contest in the US. Of the over 7,000 customer proverbs submitted, Domino's proudly presented the 8 (of surpassing wisdom) chosen to be immortalized on their new pizza boxes.

For the folks slogging it out errr... ideating in the world of advertising, the joy of going beyond the brief and creating something that is fun, relevant and positively impacts a brand is an unmatched high. Sometimes, it involves thinking out of the box, literally. And... the sauce always justifies the means!

The winning pizza proverb:

Pizzas rush in where burgers fear to tread.

The others (which may include the Prince Charles among pizza proverbs):

1. Give a man a pizza and he'll eat for a day. Teach him to order online and he'll eat for a lifetime.
2. He who eats the last slice, pays the price... Of the next pizza.
3. An ye harm none, order what ye will.
4. He who pays for the pizza calls the toppings.
5. I hear pizza and I forget, I see pizza and I remember. I taste pizza and I understand.
6. Do not ask for whom the bell pepper tolls. It tolls for thee.

7. Pizzas are like money. Easier made than kept.
8. A watched door never brings the pizza boy sooner.
9. As soon as one gets out the box, another comes in the door.

10. Satisfying Fulfillment!
11. Good thing come to those who wait... for Domino's pizza.
12. A pizza saved is a pizza yearned.
13. Never judge a pizza by the box.
14. A garlic seasoned crust keeps the vampires away.
15. Moderation in all things... except pizza.
16. A Domino's pizza in the hand is better than two in the box.

17. Two pizzas are always better than one.
18. If you can't stand the pizza get out of the dining room.
19. A pizza's worth a thousand toppings.
20. Wow, This is Cheesy!!!

Perhaps they'll come up with a proverb to mark the much fawned over Royal wedding too! Here is mine: Domino's Katering Will successfully loosen the stiff upper lip. Watch out for the Domino's effect.

Photograph: Pics courtesy: Link.