Peepli Live Returns!!!

Peepli Live Returns or it could be Peepli Live -2 or may be Lagey Raho Peepli Live!!! In Bollywood these are some ways of naming a sequel. And there are more and more sequels these days. Peepli Live is an offbeat Hindi film released few years ago in the genre of satirical comedy. It did make the cash registers ring if not shatter at the box office. That film basically dwells around the way TV News channels make buffoonery around some trivial events happening around us and make a fool of themselves and may be in the bargain we, the viewers as well. Anyone watching the news channels in the past 1 week or so would realise that channels are dishing out the sequel of that Peepli Live franchise. I am referring to the non-stop, wall to wall coverage of the Sheena Bora murder case.

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On 25th August, when news tickers started flashing of the Mumbai police arresting Indrani Mukherjea, the erstwhile CEO of INX Media, on her alleged role in murdering her “sister” Sheena Bora, it was just a blip on the 24*7 news radar. But the events in the next day and after turned that blip into a 24*7 national obsession or so it would seem. The coverage started hitting a shrill pitch when skeletons started tumbling down (literally) of the many relationships, the conspiracy (alleged as of now) and money trail. With accomplices in 3 cities (Mumbai, Kolkatta and Guwahati) more and more reporters and cameramen got busy “chasing” the various actors in the saga sometimes on the road at a signal, sometimes midair inside a plane and where have you.

I’m not surprised at all by the interest of the public or the media in this case. After all this is not an Aam Admi murder mystery. This is a case involving murder of a young girl who was all along touted as the “sister” of the female protagonist who was in reality her “daughter”. I’m not getting into the complex web of relationships which have become the butt of pokes and jokes. Indrani was an extremely successful woman having climbed the corporate elevator in her own way. Similarly her husband (current one i.e.,) Peter Mukherjea is credited to be the man behind one of the successful foreign channels (Star) in India. Together they were part of the successful elite that too in the media business and naturally part of the thriving Page 3 circuit. All till the fateful 25th August and that’s when they moved from Page 3 to Page 1. There is an increased interest when successful people fail. And more interest when successful Page 3 people fall. And even more heightened interest for the media when someone from their own fraternity fail and fall. So the frenzy in the media and the various “forward” jokes on social media (atleast 1 question from the next CAT/IAS exam/ KBC got leaked I would think 😄) in the next few days can be attributed to the overflowing sense of Schadenfreude all around.

But what was appalling was the nature of reporting, coverage and the now infamous media trial of this case. Instead of just letting the police to do the investigation and reporting on the progress made by the police, channels are till today conducting their own trial and delivering their verdicts. Thankfully and rightly so, the Mumbai police so far has been conducting themselves exceptionally well with restraint without falling for the arc lights of the media. Avoiding the trap of feeding news bytes by the hour, by the day or preside over press conferences every evening to sync with prime time “Newshours” of what has become a spectacle. It’s ironical that channels day in and day out debate with so called experts in “increasing boxes” trying to decipher the case and delivering instant judgements based on hearsay leaks from vested interests. Apart from debates you also have analysis as to whether Indrani was a psychopath or some other path😠😠

Is it wrong if the Mumbai police takes its own time to investigate the case thoroughly before filing the charge sheet? Don’t we remember what happened in the other high profile Arushi murder case?? There, within 1 week of the murder, police declared in a press conference that the Talwars were perpetrators of the crime. The media trial in that case swung between giving a clean chit to the Talwars and consigning them to be with blood in their hands depending upon leaks of the day. So it was good to see the Mumbai police commissioner committing that he won’t let Sheena Bora mystery turn into Arushi case. We will wait and see.

The other horrendous aspect was the height to which the channels were going, in the race to be exclusive and breaking first the ever changing twists and turns in the saga. Here I am not referring to twists like “Indrani Mukerjea ne sandwich khaya”😄. To see a reporter shoving his mike into Peter and persistently posing different questions as he walked out of his place and chasing him till the car sped away was comical at times and ironical most of the times. As also a clip showing a clutch of sleepish reporters and cameramen waiting in front of the police station only suddenly to be jolted and woken up when one among them spots one of the Ex-spouses of Indrani being paraded into the station for investigation. I would only say that seeing the coverage of the Sheena Murder case, irony would have committed a 1000 suicides😡😡

Come next week, there is hope. Hopefully, our ex-jawans and veterans would come to our rescue. Or may be already they have. The Govt. announcing the One Rank One Pension and the veterans’ not so favourable response to it may push the Sheena Bora case to the sidelines. Till the next grand press conference by police commissioner Rakesh Maria where hopefully he will establish the motive and bring this Peepli live – 2 to an end.

Postscript: Coming back to naming of sequels, the makers of Bahubali can afford to have just 2 parts and call them as Bahubali-The Beginning and “Bahubali-The Conclusion” respectively. But, in the case of Peepli Live one has to follow the Yashraj’s Dhoom model. Dhoom-2, Dhoom-3,.. where the protagonists are different but the investigating officer is same. No, that was a not a reference to one Mr. Goswami 😜😜😜

“Broken” News!!!

It’s a common belief that “The More the Merrier”. Particularly if you are a consumer. One always gets a better deal if there is choice. The fact that you can exercise your freedom of choice makes marketers to provide a better deal in terms of Quality, Quantity, Value for Money, the works. It is also said that in a crowded market place, brands try to differentiate themselves. Differentiation by way of form, quality, price, positioning in the mind or overall offering and vie for the consumer’s wallet. But in India, there seems to be one product category which defies all these economic fundamentals. Here More is actually Less!!! Even in an overcrowded market place there is hardly any product differentiation. From one brand to another, they only provide good advertisements for “Cloning”. And when the number of players increase the overall quality keeps falling. Irony dies a thousand deaths at our drawing homes every day and night. Yes, welcome to the world of 24*7 News channels in India!!!

breaking news

I belong to what I refer as the Doordarshan generation. A generation which grew up without much choice for anything but stayed contented. During our growing up times, DD was the only source of entertainment as well as visual news. So the 9’o clock prime time news bulletins were indeed bulletins which walked us through the important happenings of the day. The news readers were news readers and not “Anchors”. They were reading news and were not engaged in endless hysterical debates. At our homes, one of our favourite games at the dinner table used to be guessing who will be the newsreader that night – Among people like Minu, Geetanjali Iyer, Rini Khanna, Tejeshwar Singh, Usha Albuquerque, Sunit Tandon, Neethi Ravindran,…,… Blame it on my memory if I missed a few others.  Apart from consuming news, as youngsters we also had the opportunity to imbibe the way they modulated their voice, their English diction and the overall presentation.  Even sans the choice the prime time news bulletin served its purpose effectively of keeping us informed of current affairs in India and abroad.

Now cut to what I call as “Boredarshan” times and rapidly transcending now to “Boordarshan” times!!! Today, in the 24*7 news channel space we are spoilt for choice.  Or are we???

At any point in time, try to exercise that power of your choice. Across all channels invariably prime time news will start and end with debates where the participants across channels will be the same. I guess for the political parties, it is easy to prepare one spokesperson for a topic and make him/her parrot the same arguments across all channels. In any case as he/she moves from one channel to another, he will anyway meet the same counterpart from the opposition as well!!! Not just prime time debates. A new book is hitting the store? Between 2 days you will find the author providing “exclusive” interviews to 10 different channels! (As per English dictionary, the word “Exclusive” in its noun form means ‘an item or story published or broadcast by only one source! So how does showing up in different channels is termed exclusive has been elusive to me).  Come Friday and a new film is being released? You will see the film crew parading from one studio to another in the National Capital Region doing the same silly things in the guise of “Promoting” the film! And somebody emerges as the newsmaker of the day? You could meet her/him in all channels that day. (Except if the newsmaker is Lalit Modi 😃 He only gave interview this time to one channel that too in Montenegro! While the other channels also reached the Adriatic coast he changed his mind and refused to oblige). The questioners sound the same. The questions sound the same. There is a race among channels to get interviews from the newsmakers that very same day. And on weekends the channels dish out similar content like Retro Bollywood stuff, Tech reviews,…

Not just content. If you look at the style – Among anchors and reporters there seems to be no differentiation.  All anchors by and large keep interrupting and do not allow the participants to complete one sentence. As I had penned in my earlier post DA 24*7 (Read here) we find Devil’s Advocates in all hues 24*7 in news channels. Come weekends all the “Star” Devil’s Advocates take a break and leave their fiefdom to their juniors who undergo on the job training to what else – interrupt!!!

Even on form, differentiation seems to be zilch. The template across all channels seems be a crowded screen with too many details populated.

And oflate their own marketing and advertising also look similar. Every channel claims to be No.1 in viewership😲 Damn the devil which is in the “*”!!! And all of the channels cry hoarse against Noise, Sensationalism,… and exactly do that. Day in and Day out!

So what’s going on wrong here? One could blame it on the TRP driven advertising revenue model for the channels. So when one channel with a certain content/style/form gets high TRPs, the others follow the same. But I would blame it on the “TRP model” itself. I am not too sure if the present TRP system captures the preferences of the viewers accurately. For a diverse country like India, I do feel a more heterogeneous viewership capture system is the need of the hour. Lest in the garb of “the Nation wants to know” we will continue to hear more noise and less news – across all channels. And if you still recall  “broken Record” of yore, news will continue to be that – “Broken” News as you switch from one channel to another😞😞

Postscript: Recently I was forwarded this clip on WA. Wonder if we will ever get to see such an interviewer who doesn’t interrupt and an interviewee who doesn’t get flustered and stays calm throughout, in these times in India. Check it out.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_MATAqeiL-4)

“Viral” fever and the Marketing “mauka”!!!

As India kicked off its campaign to defend the Cricket World Cup with a high-octane league match with its arch rival Pakistan, for Star Sports it was a perfect ‘mauka’(opportunity) to milk the moment. And how it did!!! With a very interesting commercial which is now part of marketing folklore showing a Pakistani fan eagerly waiting for the mauka to celebrate a Pakistani win in vain in the last 5 world cup encounters. The ad had all the ingredients to make it “viral worthy”. Soon the commercial indeed went viral and is even today much talked about. Newspapers wrote about the ad, online editions carried the link, In YouTube the ad got a few million hits, the ad got shared in social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp,… and also got written about in innumerable blogs,… No wonder the makers decided to spin the one ad to a ‘Mauka Mauka’ series as seen thro’ the eyes of the same Pak fan for all India matches so far. If you notice, while the 1st spot (the India-Pakistan) one was shown again and again, the subsequent ones were just aired few times just enough to carry the story further. Because by now the Mauka fever had become viral and you, me and all of us became Star Sports’ unpaid brand ambassadors by sharing the every new ‘Mauka’ spot as soon as it was aired!  And that is the point I am trying to drive in this post. For a marketer trying to promote his/her brand it makes sense to make the commercial “viral worthy”, sit back and relax as consumers multiply the reach of the brand.

Mauka

For small brands with limited budgets, this approach comes as a panacea to achieve high share of voice with low ad spends. And for big brands this gives the potential to get more bang for the buck! This (to make their ads viral worthy) seems to be a very simplistic and obvious solution in front of marketers. However a casual review of the TVCs which we see day in and day reveals that this approach may not be so obvious. In a typical day except for 1 or 2 TVCs which are viral worthy the others are mostly the usual drivel. For example, on the same day of the Ind-Pak match there was just another ad which was viral worthy. That was the one for Fevi kwik – again smartly playing with emotions coinciding with the Ind-Pak encounter while at the same time driving home the brand’s promise – ‘Todo nahi, Jodo’. Brilliant stuff.

So what makes an ad go viral?? My take:

And the best part is some of the good viral worthy ads spawn off spoofs (as seen in the Mauka series) and other versions (did you know a slow motion version of the Ind-Pak fevikwik ad was created and uploaded by somebody which is really funny) as well which keeps the brand top of the mind for extended periods!

For small/start up agencies/production houses one such viral campaign is enough to leap frog them to stardom. Who had heard the name – Bubblewrap Films before the Mauka, Mauka campaign?? Or for that matter who knew Vishal Malhotra the model who is the Pakistani fan in the campaign a month ago?? Now I do!!

In the pre social media/smart phone/internet days a good ad will be just talked about may be by a few people who are interested in the subject. In these times, they don’t get talked about but they get shared, and shared many times over across many platforms.

So a new brand, limited budget with mass offering??? A smart idea would be to spend time and resources to create an ad that is spot on viral worthy, have a few releases with the limited budget and then make sure to leak the links in all social media platforms. (Ironically, even a day after the Ind-Pak Fevi kwik ad was released, its link was not uploaded on YouTube!!!) And then follow it up with plugs in the media about germination of the Big Idea, making of the commercial,…,…

Just one note of caution. It’s not just ads which are viralling today. Songs, documentaries, jokes and so many sundry stuff. So, soon it will become a battle to win in the viral space as well.

And once I finish this post I am going to share this in different platforms not missing the ‘mauka‘ to viral this post!!! (And contributing to the viral velocity of the ads ofcourse!!!)

Postscript: It’s another matter that an Ind-Pak encounter that too in a World Cup doesn’t need promotion at all. But Star Sports had to promote it due its obligation/commitment to its sponsors, advertisers,.. I guess. Having said all this, I do feel that the Mauka, Mauka campaign is now getting a tad boring. What was natural in the 1st 2/3 spots seems artificial now and is losing steam!!! So there the other lesson – Even a What an Idea, Sirji when over flogged becomes – What a boring idea, Sirji!!!

One has now lost count of the ‘Mauka’ spoofs hitting YouTube every day now!!! And they seem better than the Star Sports version of the Mauka ads being released now 😦 😦

Neutral Media???

Aam Admi Party’s most khas admi Arvind Kejriwal’s diatribe against media few days back brings back the neutrality of media in sharp focus once again. The last time it happened was when Radia tapes were leaked and hell cut loose only to be forgotten and forgiven in a few months. Stung by the open attack, most of the TV channels and newspapers picked up cudgels for media neutrality against Kejriwal. In fact the channels AAP subsequently named, (India TV, Timesnow,..) unleashed an all-out war against Kejriwal and AAP and came up with hour-long defences to shield themselves. In Timesnow’s case it was not defence but complete offence as Arnab Goswami’s (who else 😊) as is his wont ripped apart one hapless AAP chap that night in Newshour (where else 😊). The key question is – “Is Neutral Media an oxymoron???”  Before answering that question few associated ones pop up.

  • Is media neutral today?
  • Was media ever neutral??
  • Can media be neutral at all???

Is media neutral today? – Certainly not. How can it be? In the age of cut throat competition and proliferating options – it is struggle for existence and survival of the smartest. Being smart include being owned by corporates and barons who have deep pockets, being flexible in editorial content, packaging “News” with “Views” and taking a slant politically to reap the rewards. So it is not surprising that many of the media groups are owned by politicians or corporate bodies. They have not invested certainly for charity. If a channel or publication is owned partly or in full by a politician, can we expect neutral reporting on the wrong doings of his/her party? In the same lines if the channel is funded or owned by a corporate group with varied interests, can we expect the channel to report any scandal happening in that group?

Was media ever neutral? I don’t think so. Today when we say media, we mostly refer to the 24*7 TV news channels. But much before histrionics and hysteria took over our drawing rooms every evening, mainstream media was mainly newspapers. Even in the glorious print era of The Hindu, The Times of India, Hindustan Times, Malayala Manorama, The Indian Express,.. it was a known fact that the owners of most of these papers belonged to political parties and used their paper legitimately to pedal their parties’ cause. So, while you had news reports and events there were the editorial and Op-ed columns to proliferate opinions with a particular slant. This tradition if I may say so continues till today whereby newspapers give a particular angle as per their compulsions. This is more than evident in the Radia tapes.

Can media be neutral at all? I doubt. For reasons espoused earlier like rampant competition and lesser value system these days it is and will be increasingly difficult for a media house to stay neutral and survive. Many proclaim to be but it is difficult to fathom how they can be.

While it is a fact that media plays a major role in forming and influencing public opinion, it is for the same reason that it is manipulated. It is extremely difficult to pick up one anchor/journalist today who can be said with confidence that he/she is neutral and his/her opinion can be respected. So the only option as readers and viewers is to understand and realize that Neutrality and Media cannot go together and take what we read/see with a fistful of salt.

  • As responsible citizens it may not be very wise if we take decision on who to vote based on what is mentioned in the media. For example the same Bihar which till a year ago was the emerging state with all round development is back to being a “BIMAR” state (after Nitish broke off JDU’s ties with BJP). Similarly the same press which hailed Akhilesh Yadav as “THE” Yuva Neta when he won, is trashing him to the dumps. To me there was nothing spectacular about him then and nothing so worse now.
  • The concept of WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) may be popular in the context of “Text Editors”. But in the context of “Gen Next News Editors” it seems to be an obsolete idea. We saw that in the leaked Kejriwal-Punya Prasun Bajpai video (watch here) where even Kejriwal’s shenanigans were exposed.
  • As we also saw, there exists in India an “Opinion poll marketplace” – where one can order data and opinion poll results in the way we want and get it delivered at your place and someone will say OLX pe bech de 😁
  • As I mentioned in my earlier post (read here) for the same reasons of survival, a marketing plug is masqueraded as news item and slipped in. So at our own peril we can decide on buying that product believing what is written in that news item. Same is true for political stories.

Bordering cynicism, let me say this and close. In our great theatre of democracy our media provides 24*7 (mostly free) entertainment. So lets’ enjoy as the Arnabs and Rajdeeps battle it out with the Kejriwals, Lekhis and Tiwaris and “experts”. But form our opinions and cast our vote as per conscience and not based on what we read or see. Neutral umpires in Cricket became a reality long time back. But Neutral umpires in Media is still imaginary.

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Cartoon of Satish Acharya from http://cartoonistsatish.blogspot.in

“Ideas Mela” – What an Idea Sirji !!! Part – 2

In the last few years, in airports across the world you cannot just miss one thing. The ambience at the airports may be different, the service levels may vary, but one thing which was common was the HSBC branding at the “Aerobridges” whether it was Los Angeles, London, Delhi, Singapore, Honk Kong or Tokyo.  I’m not sure of the year when it started but if my memory serves me right, it could be 2010/11 when HSBC kicked off its global campaign positioning itself as “The World’s Glocal Bank” and the one of the main medium they chose to carry this message across was the “Aerobridge” at most of the international airports across the globe.  In line with the campaign theme of being a “Glocal” bank, while the medium and treatment were unified on a pan world basis, the creative itself was localized and changed from one country to another.

Aerobridge Exterior

Aerobridge Exterior

Aerobridge Interior

Aerobridge Interior

So much so HSBC earned the moniker – “Airport brand”!!! Though there is nothing novel about branding in airports and this would seem as just another OOH  ( Out Of Home) medium this “Glocal” execution of the campaign simultaneously as I understand in some 25 odd countries in may be around 100 airports certainly falls under the “What an Idea Sirji” category.   In my earlier blog post – “Ideas Mela – What an Idea Sirji” ( read here), I had touched upon a few campaigns which used media innovatively to carry their message across. In this post, I am talking of a few more such ideas which I came across and felt worth sharing.  These are not creative ideas perse’ but ideas where the media chosen were different and hence groundbreaking.

  • Continuing with Airports, in the post 9/11 era we live, going through the long security drill seems unavoidable. As part of this drill is the need to remove our laptops/Tablets,.. and put them in trays for screening. These trays have become a novel branding medium. I don’t know which brand hit upon this first. But now I see that many travel websites like makemytrip, expedia, goibibo,.. have likened to this idea and may be sponsoring these trays and branding them. Airports, travel and travel websites are all related and it seems to be a great idea for these brands though I see a trend of all travel companies jumping into the tray b(r)andwagon and hence may not be so distinctive anymore.
makemytrip trays

makemytrip trays

 makemytrip

  • There was a time in India when immigration counters at airports use to be chaotic to say the least.  Particularly when you are returning home after a long trip you rue the thought of spending an hour again in the maddening immigration line upon arrival.  Some people believe it is unruly even now. But I for sure feel that there is a marked improvement on this front in the last 5-6 years. Wait a minute, why I am talking of this here??? Well part of the solution to the problem apart of training of the immigration staff,…,… has been the introduction of a single line at the end of which people are directed to many counters.  As you stand in the line and wonder invariably of the Incredibility of India, you cannot just miss the branding on the rods which are used to form the line. (Sorry no picture due to security reasons!!)  Thomas Cook was a pioneer in this and used this medium quite well which I feel is inventive. Again, immigration lines, airport, travel, Convenience, Thomas Cook all conjure up an association in the minds and I thought it was a great idea for a Travel company.
  • Airports are not the only place where you stumble upon great ideas. You could in Multiplexes too and that too in obscure places like “loos” like I did.  “Dixcy Scott” a men’s innerwear brand found some strategic spots inside the Men’s washrooms for promoting their wares. I was surprised first, amused later and was impressed finally to find posters with captions like “Aim and Shoot”, “Size doesn’t matter” and “Do not give into pressure” placed just above the wall mounted men’s urinals.  These apparently staid copy lines bring another dimension when placed at the right place. So much for “placement”. Surprisingly I saw this campaign only for some time and I don’t see it these days.
  • When you talk of Ideas and Innovation it is seldom that Fevicol and its ilk get left out.  This time it showed up even in the “Online” space.  In April/May when the spot fixing/ match fixing drama in IPL was dominating the headlines in India, this idea from Dr.Fixit – a Fix all adhesive product from Pidilite was kickass. In that period whenever I was googling for any news on match fixing, IPL,.. invariably I tripped on banners for Dr.Fixit routinely on the side. I noticed this casually once and then when I repeated the search, I found the banner appearing in other IPL related sites as well which left me quite impressed on the smart SEO/SEM work.  See for yourself the visuals.

 Dr Fixit,Online Innovation,052013Dr Fixit,Media Innovation,052013,2

  • In recent times, one can say that the film Chennai Express was a case of a clear box office hit made possible by some great marketing. A film with not so great/unique story line and many other fault lines which could have ensured it to be a box office dud (looking at past films of this ilk) turned out to be one of all time big grossers. And certainly the big bang/big buck marketing blitz and PR played a great role in this.  One piece in this marketing spend which caught my attention was the use of “Train” like cut outs (see pic) with branding of the film inside multiplexes couple of weeks before the film release. The windows in trains which you usually see were replaced with LED displays (like TV) and were continuously feeding promos of the movie including song clips, trailers, Making of the movie,.. As people were waiting outside the movie hall this was a good opportunity to grab eyeballs and generate a positive buzz about the movie and it certainly did. The film took to a great opening and as the cliché goes rest is history. History will record Chennai Express as one of the top movies of SRK.

Chennai Exp Media Inno,Mumbai,082013

  • Staying with filmy stuff, watching Mahabharat on TV every week was part of my growing up memories. Sunday morning was the time to roll on the highways and take some sunbath as you will find no traffic when Mahabharat was on air. Some people attempted to re-create Mahabharat on TV this time on 3D. So the 16th Sep edition of the Times of India carried a full-page ad for the serial Mahabharat. Along with the paper a 3D glass was also given away. Again a different dimensional thought to get some TRP going and for sure a great idea.

Now I’m not sure if the TRPs soared or for that matter if the said channel is continuing with Mahabharat as of now.  Similarly I am not privy to the sales revenues after the above so called great ideas were unleashed. Hence the often heard of “What an idea Sirji, but no impact on sales Sirji” remarks in the corridors of corporate houses and facebook walls will continue and keep us busy.  Nevertheless Great Ideas need recognition and celebration. If you have come across some interesting use of medium, please do share here.

Postscript: There is one more media innovation which I missed to cover here. That is of the use of “Modi Masks” during the last Gujarat State Elections. Among other things it certainly contributed in building the “Modi Persona”. It will now be interesting to see if the “ModI Kites” which have been unleashed recently, help in soaring of the BJP/NaMo fortunes in 2014.

modi mask

IPL is over, the Games continue !!!

Who would have imagined that almost a week after IPL is over, news channels would continuously keep breaking news ON IPL, this time on the games people play off the field!!!  Well, that’s what has been happening today – a staid Sunday afternoon when normally breaking news take a break not to mention of the celebrity anchors. However today, since morning channels have been covering non-stop the BCCI meeting saga and by the end of the day we will come to know if “Srini was” or still “is” the BCCI president!!!

It all started with the police picking up a few players of Rajasthan Royals on charges of betting and spot fixing during the last stage of IPL-6.  From then on the action shifted from “on the field” to “off the field” not that IPL is generally quiet off the field.  These certainly took the sheen off the much awaited IPL win of the Mumbai Indians.  For the channels here was a great opportunity to hit back at the IPL which was running away with all the TRPs when the matches were on. The spot fixing allegations on players, the busting of betting rackets in different cities, involvement of Bollywood side-kicks (Vindu Dara Singh is hardly a star) and finally the prize catch of a team owner and that too, the BCCI President’s son in law with his hands soaked in the betting saga all meant that the T-20 tournament became a T-24*7 daily soap with its intrinsic twists and turns. That Cricket was a “Game of Glorious uncertainties” (to borrow a very boring commentators’ cliché) was proved beyond doubt, only that the main uncertainty was who were all involved!!! It was time for the naysayers and the cynics to dub IPL as the next “gate” involving players, stars, politicians, cricket administrators and Ex-cricketers,…  From then on there have been loud calls to ban the IPL which now came with a suffix called “Tamasha”!!!

The question is do we need such a knee jerk reaction?  The fact is IPL has been a great product. From the time it was conceived it was meant to be Cricket laced with entertainment. So branding of teams, roping in glamorous stars and not so glamorous but wealthy industrialists, auctioning of players and live telecast of the same, Jazzy and glitzy opening /closing ceremonies, cheer girls on the field, cheer girls in the studio, pretty women as anchors, not so pretty but legends as commentators, the IPL parties, Slapping drama,..,…were all part of this package and part of the script.  I myself witnessed an IPL match along with my colleagues in season 4 – Mumbai Vs. Delhi (when they were really “Dare Devils”) and could sense that irrespective of the way the match was going we were having ball of a time. So did thousands of other spectators, I realized. That day I got convinced on the “Cricketainment” model espoused by IPL!!!  The going was good for the IPL till few weeks back irrespective of whether Lalit Modi was helming it or not. But somewhere down the line the script went awry.  Twists emerged in the form of Betting and Fixing and,…

The prima facie charge on the cricketers who got caught is “Betting” which is illegal in India. The question is why this hypocrisy? Like their counterparts in other parts of the world Indians also like betting. As we speak, there must be huge bets riding on if N. Srinivasan will resign today or not. ‘Shart lagata hai? (Want to bet?)  is part of day today lingo. Betting happens round the clock on issues of National importance  like “Whether Modi will be announced as the PM candidate next week by the BJP” or “Will PM speak today” or “Whether monsoon will hit Mumbai on the 3rd”,..,… or other mundane issues like “Will Arnab Goswami smile on Newshour tonight” and so on.  So in a country where as per me Cricket is the foremost unifying factor, to assume that there won’t be betting on Cricket matches is being naïve.  The solution is to legalise betting and bleach the colour of the black betting economy.

However the issue where one feels cheated is when players involve in “Fixing” matches. Cricketers are what they are today because people like us watch them play either live or on TV.  As more and more numbers watch, their valuation keeps going up. While we watch, we also support, cheer and applaud them when they do well. In the bargain we expect them to play sincerely and put up a good fight. So when they throw their wickets to lose a match (match fixing) or give away a certain number of runs in an over (spot fixing), it leaves a bitter taste in our mouths.  Also imagine what would have gone through the minds of Rahul Dravid, the Rajasthan Royals captain and other honest players when they heard about their co-players’ involvement in spot fixing.  So if there is no law today to prevent “fixing”, we need one certainly.

But frankly legalizing betting and enacting a new Anti-fixing law would not still prevent what is happening today. For a full clean up, cricket or for that matter any sports administration must be relieved of vested interests, politicians and other non-state actors.  The concept of “honorary posts” in sports administration is utter gibberish which is leading to vested interests as it exists today. BCCI must be turned into a body run by professionals who are paid salaries and are accountable to a Board of Directors and a constitution which will protect National interests.  Till such time the Games will continue!!!

IPL-Funny-Cartoon-Images-Ek-Se-Bure-Do

P.S: I think one person who must be blamed for all this betting in Cricket is that Ashotosh Gowarikar 🙂 who in his movie ‘Lagaan’ showed that betting in Cricket happened even during the British Raj and romanticized the same. Remember that classic scene from that film where General Russel taunts Bhuvan and walks him into a wager??? (Check this clip from the 3rd min. – Hum Shart Aur badathe hain!!!)

With all this happening around IPL the original acronym is already forgotten. Today does IPL stand for

Indian Party League ?

Indian Parivaar League ?

Indian Political League ?

Indian Punters League ?

Indian Pub League ?

Choose your pick!!!

Also read my earlier post on IPL before the recent rumblings: April and the IPL Typhoid

Where is the Line of Actual Control ???

Lakshman a central character in the very popular Indian mythological epic – ‘The Ramayana would never have imagined that a line he drew would become a brand by itself and would draw references day in and day out in modern India.  The line named after him as the Lakshman Rekha is believed to be the central raison d’être of the epic itself.  If Sita had heeded to his advice and not crossed that line when Raavan under disguise came to her for alms, it is believed she would have escaped all the sufferings she had to go through later.  So every time the Lakshman Rekha is brought up as a metaphor in the context of crossing one’s limit only to endure misery later.

  •   “Don’t cross the Lakshman Rekha” exhorted a minister from Madhya Pradesh to women if they want to avoid unwanted consequences
  •  “Don’t cross the Lakshman Rekha” said even the Supreme Court to journalists in the context of reporting

The context of Lakshman Rekha again dominated public discourse recently when Pakistan killed 2 Indian soldiers and allegedly beheaded and mutilated their bodies and dumped them against established international conventions.  Somebody said Pakistan may cross the Lakshman Rekha at its own peril. My piece is basically to focus on drawing the Rekha (line). The reaction in India to the indeed dastardly act by Pakistan has been extremely raucous.  In TV channels the radars of the OB vans shifted from the Delhi gang rape incident to this absolutely heinous act.  There have been cries for firm and tit-for-tat response to this from media, the opposition and the public by and large.   Let’s look at some of them:

  • If Pakistan does not return the severed head of the martyred soldier Hemraj, India should get at least 10 heads from the other side said an opposition leader and a potential Prime Minister candidate in that
  • Call off all talks with Pakistan and end the dialogue process
  • Stop all trade and commerce between India and Pakistan
  • All cricketing and sports ties must be severed with immediate effect
  • Why is India not carrying out covert action across the LOC (Line of Control) and create trouble on the other side?
  • Why is India not getting powers like US to stop aid to Pakistan and put pressure???
  • ,..,..

In the days following the event we saw TV channels and their wannabe Arnab Goswamis I mean anchors (with few exceptions) getting politicians, journalists, diplomats, so called defence experts and Ex-service men from both sides of the border and engaging in mostly over the top debates on what should be India’s response to this.   And as childish it would seem, some of them wanted answers from the Govt. to their questions on the type and nature of response.

The irony is from the discourse it appears that if India calls off the cricketing ties between the two nations or stop Pakistanis from being a part of the annual IPL festival, it would amount to some tough response from India!!   From all what I followed, I couldn’t get a sense of exactly what the opposition or the media or the defence experts wanted Government of India to do which will tantamount to a “tough response”. 

The question is can governments conduct diplomacy thro OB vans? Even if the “Nation wants to know” can the government’s spokesperson appear in prime time debates and announce that from tomorrow R&AW is going to depute 10 officers for carrying out undercover operations across the border?  Can the military representatives come out in the open as to their strategy for countering the shocking acts of Pakistan? Do we expect the MEA spokesperson to outline the different tactics they are going to adopt on the diplomatic front?

Given that the act was indeed barbaric and flouting all humane conventions, it calls for a firm response from our country.  However we must have firm faith in our military and leave it to them to deliver that firm response.  From that point of view the measured and mature response of our Army Chief among the din is indeed commendable.  After all it is his team which has this onerous responsibility of protecting our borders and he has to ensure that his men are high up on morale and motivation.

Most of the shrill noises called for action – which will put India and Pakistan on an even scale. The fact is that it is not. The stark truth is – the India Vs Pakistan issue is not an issue among equals. Just because India and Pakistan are nuclear states doesn’t make them equal. In size, economic strength, military might, political stability we are way above our neighbour and that calls for a response which is restrained, mature and firm. 

The ‘Line of Control’ is considered to be the border  between India and Pakistan for all practical purposes and both the countries have an underlying understanding to observe restraint across it.  So in effect this becomes the Lakshman Rekha for both the countries. However there is a need for a Line of Actual Control for our media, politicians, and commentators when it comes to matters of external security.  Where is that Lakshman Rekha and why is it missing?

In the meantime, do enjoy Surendran’s superb cartoon in ‘The Hindu’ on ‘Lakshman Rekha’!!!

rekha