Lest We Forget!!!

In his seminal work of 2005 – “The Argumentative Indian” Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, “argued” that the understanding and use of the argumentative tradition of Indians are critically important for the success of India’s democracy and its other ethos. However between 2005 and now, the argumentative Indian has matured into “The Outrageous Indian” I guess.  In India presently, the economy is under tremendous strain permeating pain all over. Ergo, the GDP has fallen off the cliff and not sure how low it will get by the time this fiscal year gets over. However no such problems for GDO – “Gross Domestic Outrage”!! In the last few years there has been no paucity for outrage in this country. Many opportunities have been presented to us in meticulous frequency and we have all faithfully shown our outrage whether it is on the streets, on Twitter, on Facebook or on WordPress.

Lest we forget, I wanted to do a reality check on if things have got any better post the pouring of outrage.  Here we go:

Lokpal bill: In the August of 2011, a frail Gandhian by name Anna Hazare and a group of argumentative Indians bandied as Team Anna by the media brought thousands of middle class Indians to the streets.  The cause was to get a “Lokpal bill” passed in parliament. At the peak of its movement Team Anna moved the country and was inexorable. Today, Anna has been pushed to avail VRS (voluntary retirement scheme), Team Anna on losing steam got dismantled and Lokpal bill is in cold storage.  Once again.

Delhi Gang Rape: The heinous act by a few thugs in the capital city in the Dec of 2012 ushered in Outrage 2.0. India’s political class made all the right noises (political noise i.e.) in the aftermath, Nirbhaya became omnipresent, Justice Verma was commissioned to suggest suitable amendments to the Crime Laws, he rose to the occasion and submitted his recommendations in record time, the Govt. passed a law with supposedly stiff provisions to prevent rape,… ,…So far so good.  7 long months on – the guilty have not been punished yet. If this is the situation on one of the most visible crimes in the country, I shudder to imagine what would be the state of affairs on lesser known crimes!!  Justice Verma in the meantime passed away and to me, the cause which he furthered all his life (Justice System) failed once again. And for the Govt. closure was achieved when in the Budget it set up a “Nirbhaya fund”!!! Did we hear anything on that post March???

Coalgate: Till then CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) in India was just another “babu” whose department did audits of Govt. departments and released reports, mostly harmless. But this time the then CAG Vinod Rai decided to do a “Seshan” and released a draft report which accused the Govt. of a scam of epic proportions in allotment of coal blocks to public and private enterprises arbitrarily thereby causing loss of ( I forgot ) so many lakh crores!!! The opposition duly disrupted parliament for a whole session. And where are we today? There is a power shortage in most parts of the country. Power plants need coal. Mining has been stopped in most of the states. A Congress MP and a young scion Navin Jindal has been accused to be in the thick of action in the scam. A minister does “proof reading” of the status report prepared by the CBI (He ceases to be a minister now). And frankly I’ve lost track on what’s happening in this front!!! At the end, are there now clear guidelines on allotment of coal blocks or for that matter any natural resource??

Pakistan’s dastardly act in LOC: 2 Indian soldiers were captured, killed, beheaded and their body mutilated allegedly by Pakistan army in the LOC. The outrage here in this part of LOC was spontaneous. I’m not privy to the steps our Govt. took subsequently. We hope some steps have indeed been taken to ensure this doesn’t repeat.

Blasts in Hyderabad: Yesterday, 13th July marked the 2nd Anniversary of the serial blasts that shook Mumbai. Few months from now, it will be the 1st Anniversary of the twin blasts that rocked Dlisukhnagar in Hyderabad in February. Anniversaries such as this come and go and Candles do brisk business on these days. We are yet to figure out the cause, the perpetrators of the crime or any mechanism/process to prevent such acts in the future. In fact last Sunday the Bodhi temple in Bihar was the centre of another blast!!! That Buddha in his time was considered an apostle of peace completes the tale of irony.

Match fixing: For long Indians were supposedly good at match fixing. The only way Indians got married was when their parents “fixed the match”. As things changed in that space, we turned to a different Match fixing it seems. It emerged that in IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket, players were involved in betting and fixing the outcomes. It turned out later that even owners were also in the ring. Another rage. From everyday dose of investigative revelations few months back to complete peace in that front, we find that the whole saga has been fixed and buried with no outcome!

Uttarakhand flooding: This is the recent one. We don’t know if the floods have actually receded there but the nation’s attention and mindshare already have, already. Actually now starts the act of reconstruction. If done with vision, here’s an opportunity to create a new “Chardham” experience. Will it happen? Ground evidence doesn’t provide any play for hope.

So as can be seen, for the aam admi it’s been just OSOT – Outrage Se Outrage Tak (From one outrage to another) and they have not yielded any tangible result.  In a democracy as ours, our opportunity to “materially” intervene comes once in 5 years. Post that intervention, we have no choice but just to show outrage.  At the same time is there a way by which while we keep moving on, get the attention focused on the earlier issue and obtain closure? Can the leading news channels/newspapers devote a weekly slot on re-visiting “Open issues”?  Is it too much to expect of the opposition to demand action on older issues?  Can we have constitutional amendments paving way for the President to intervene on outstanding issues? Gurcharan Das in his piece in TOI today goads us to spend 1 hour a week in the neighbourhood as an answer to our increasing political disenchantment.

This is my small attempt to keep the fire on, lest we forget.

Outrage

Tailpiece : When he was “outraged”, Bharathiyar said:

thani oru manithanukku unavu illai enil jagathinai erithiduvom” (if there is no food for a single person we will destroy the whole universe)

Today’s Govt. says:

thani oru manithanukku unavu illai enil Food Security Bill kondu varuvom” ( If there is no food for a single person we will bring the Food Security bill)!!!

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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

Idli,Vada,Bonda and Ad(a)!!!

One latent benefit of the IPL is the opportunity one gets to see a good repertoire of TV commercials as marketers “bet” 🙂 big time on IPL to gain a bigger wallet share of the consumer during the vacation time and the summer season.  To me it is a good time to catch up with what’s happening on the Indian advertising space.  And that’s how this IPL season I stumbled upon a trend and thought its worth sharing. This has been cooking up for a while. Take a look (click on the links to view the TVCs) at the following commercials which have been hitting us during time outs strategic or otherwise:

  1. This ad for CenterfruitThe setting is of a traditional restaurant in Tamil Nadu where the owner is conducting an interview for a waiter. The ad brings an instant smile in your lup lupaees oops lips!!  It’s a fact that like they say a Doctor’s most important qualification is to have a horrendous handwriting, the must-have skill for a waiter in Tamil Nadu is the ability to reel off the day’s menu in a jiffy.
  2. This heavily accented Hindi speaking Tamilian Murthy has been coming in on and off for some time now.  So there he is, again peddling the Voltas All weather AC as he keeps getting transferred in his job from Chirapunji to Kota to Mukteshwar to now Delhi!
  3. The general aversion of the South Indians towards playing Holi is quite well-known now. During this year’s Holi I saw this Idea TVC which captured this idea very well, I thought. (But does a Mallu son call his dad Appa???)
  4. In this ad for Nestle Munch, though the voice over is in chaste Hindi, one can make out that the setting is in Tamil Nadu with Balakrishnan as the character name, typical background score of the South,..,..
  5. Have you seen the latest Coca Cola commercial featuring Karan Johar’s “students of last year” – Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan ?  The ad shows a woman resembling clearly a mami (aunty) from the south and the locale again seems like Mylapore in Chennai. ( Couldn’t locate the video link )
  6. Also one cannot miss this old ad for Gulf oil featuring Dhoni being re-plugged during IPL where a heavily accented South Indian Driver chases his Chennai Super Kings Captain and Hero Dhoni to return his pillow!!!

And there were some more which appeared before:

  1. Havell’s ad film showing a Tambram family doing Homam (Havan)
  2. Finolex ad with a Rajnikant look alike
  3. Carrier AC commercial with Namboothiri as a character
  4. TVC for Parle Full toss with Bharatnatyam dancers in the backdrop
  5. An Ad featuring Kareena Kapoor for Mahindra scooter I think
  6. And the “Help a Child reach 5” film from Lifebuoy which went viral –

       ,…,…

Now you might have realized where I’m coming from. South India ofcourse.   Suddenly I notice that the story behind ads of many products across categories/brands revolve around Tamil Nadu/Kerala/Karnataka/Andhra and Madrasis as people in Mumbai like to address.  Like I observed in one of my earlier blog post “The Punching of Bollywood” – After the big screen, I think it is now the turn of  the ad industry to wake up to the South Indian coffee!!!

 What could be the reasons for this “Kolaveri” (murderous rage) towards South oflate was my next look out:

  • The most logical, rational and straight forward is the “Market”, “Marketing” and “Economics” angle. Which is – that the growth in FMCG, Consumer durables categories in India is being driven more by South India oflate. This is due to the increased purchasing power fuelled by the Software boom and dollar inflows from NRIs.  So to tap into this boom, marketers would like to woo this creed more and more and hence the commercials reflect this strategy.
  • Second is the “Fresh Narrative” angle – For years, films, stories and TVCs were set in North India generally speaking. Caricaturing Punjabis, Sardars may be has become out of fashion and is sounding repetitive these days. The need for a fresh narrative is driving creative people down south.  Could be.
  • The third as per me is the “Kollywood” angle!!! For quite some time (may be till the mid 80’s) Tamil films were admonished for being loud, over the top with no style/content,… But with the advent of some classy film makers that perception changed and more and more South films started getting re-hashed in Hindi.  This exposure to the South Indian culture and life thro South Indian films and their popularity could be another reason for the ad people to venture to the South.
  • Last is the “Move over Bombay” angle – If you look at the origins of advertising industry in India, in the 60’s and 70s the profession was dominated by copywriters from Bombay (Da Cunhas, D’Souzas,..)  And then by people from other Metro cities like Delhi,… In the next wave, we had creative people emerging from the hinterland (Prasoon Pandey, Joshi,..)Though there were excellent copy writers in Chennai as well, they rarely broke into the National scene. However in the last 10 years we see the profession throwing up lot of talented copy writers and creative directors from the South. Balki, Sridhar, Rajeev Rao to just name a few.  Their work is not limited to South Indian brands. From English dominated copy to “Hinglish” copy to virtuous Hindi lines to now Tamil words thrown in liberally (for example Whistle podu, Poda,..,.. ) the narrative of the ads just follow the trend of the professionals dominating the industry.   It is but natural for any creative person to bring in sensibilities he is very conversant with, in his work whether it is art, music, stories, films or for that matter an ad.  Also with actual people from the South writing the lines and directing the artists, it is no more the Andhra type Hindi of Mehmood fame in Hindi films or the ads.

Well, the actual reason could be a combination of all the above.

So be prepared for an overdose of filter Kaapi, Idli, Kaanjivaram, Appadi Podu,..,.. in books, films, ads, songs, videos, tweets and what have you!!!

Post script: Oh, I missed “the only reason” for this trend and how could I?? And that is

“Rajini Sir”

After all HE is from the South. HE sets the agenda and the World follows. Period!!!

Idlivada

April and the IPL Typhoid !!!

Come April and it’s that time of the year when sections of people in India hate Modi. Wait a minute! Before the Modi brigade start trolling me, let me clarify. This is not NaMo the usual object of hate generally but LaMo – Lalit Modi who six years ago created a product called the Indian Premier League (IPL) and shifted permanently the centre of gravity of Cricket economics to India forever.  While IPL has triggered a craze in the country and is attempting to bridge the gap between “Bat & Fad”, there are the following naysayers:

  • Women: Generally speaking in an average Indian home, the remote control is by and large with the woman. I meant the remote control of the TV ‘also’!!!  In between Cartoons/Disneys/Chota Bheems and Ram Kapoors/Jetha Lals/Parvati Bhabhis – it is not very unusual to see the Rajdeeps, Harshas & Barkas getting squeezed and edged out in the normal scheme of things. But come April, men who otherwise don’t get to establish their ‘control’ on the ‘remote’ have their last laugh and for 50 days – IPL takes over the airwaves inside the house. So, no wonder the moment the IPL promo ads start airing, you start hearing sounds of the grinding teeth amidst the “Gilli Gilli” sounds!
  • Film Makers: Since weekends are usually cramped with double headers starting from 4.00 pm in the IPL, the usual crowd in theatres during weekends goes missing. Film makers take a break from releasing their new movies when IPL is on fearing a Box office disaster. Last year a producer who released his movie during IPL was feted with “Bahaduri Ka Puraskar” (Bravery Award) to keep the chin up of the movie fraternity!!
  • Businessmen/Shopkeepers: In the pre-IPL days, weekends were times of heightened business activity as parents throng shops/outlets with children for ‘time-pass’ during vacation time and end up in a shopping spree.  Not any more. They themselves have to keep a TV set in their shops and watch IPL matches to keep them occupied in IPL season. Surprising that our politicians who are against FDI in retail are not against IPL!!!
  • Hotels/Restaurants: This is a no brainer. If people stay indoors – there is certainly an effect on the eateries! Smart cookies started beaming IPL matches in big screens still to get people in. The jury is still out on if this strategy is working.
  • TV Channels other than MAX: It is that part of the year when all the GE TV channels just cool their heels without launching any new big-ticket programmes/Reality Shows,… So the Indian Idols, Big Boss’, Super Singers, KBCs and their ilk all take a break during IPL and return post June.  As far as the news channels are concerned – they board the IPL bandwagon with their own pre and post-match programming.  Something is better than nothing! In other cases, they just have to live with the ignominy of poor TRPs. Just today I saw a tweet from a news caster  which goes thus :

“If blore bats first against hyd at 8pm, gayle wl also take viewers away fm my spl report on blore’s woes ahead of elex n headlines today 😦 “

Guess it’s because of the venomous curse of the above groups that Lalit Modi is sitting in the fringe somewhere in the UK these days tweeting live updates on IPL matches instead of being at the centre of action in India during IPL!!!

Having said that, jokes apart – IPL has been a revelation. Inspite of the exit of its creator – Lalit Modi and the tribulations some of the team owners are going through oflate, it’s still proving that the success in the 1st few seasons was not a fluke.  And one must hand it over to Lalit Modi for first creating the product and then demonstrating how to manage the product successfully. I’ve no doubts in my mind that the last few years of IPL basically have been “Copy & Paste” of the formula Modi worked out in the formative years.  Whether it is the format, the auctions, opening and closing ceremonies, outsourced Game organization, telecast, pre and post-game hype and hoopla,… it has “Modi Chaap” even today. What is missing today is the orchestrated PR plugs which Modi had a penchant for.  I remember in the 1st few editions, there were deliberate attempts to keep IPL in the news during the long drawn campaign.  Just when the games start getting into a repetitive monotony (same teams playing against each other “n” number of times) there will emerge some scandalous off the field story which will bring IPL back in the news (Remember Harbhajan slapping Sreesanth in 2008???)

While I started this piece on a lighter vein with an introduction to IPL’s hate groups, on a serious note, its worth looking at IPL’s effects on the economy. I read somewhere that when Brazil wins the World Cup the country’s GDP in that year expands by an additional x % as people revel in the feel good ambience and end up spending a lot of money and a Baby Boom ensues!! I feel when Brazil loses, it also spurs the economy – only that this time it’s just the liquor economy as people keep drinking to drown their sorrow 🙂

Given this connection between sporting success and economy of the country, let’s look at the IPL effect on the economy:

  • The obvious one is its avatar as a “Job Fair”. Look at the opportunity it provides to so many fringe cricketers like the Gonys, Anirudhs,…who may find it hard to break into an Indian team. Then you have the band of ex – cricketers who get the chance to stay in the limelight as coaches/advisors,.. of IPL teams or get employed as experts and commentators on TV and some of them as columnists in newspapers/Web. Suddenly you find Kapil Dev who was the brand ambassador in the opposite camp (ICL) burying all animosity and doing the “Jumping Japak” routine with Sidhu and mouthing expert comments. Apart from that you have so many other indirect jobs – curators, security, catering, transport, bouncers,…,…
  • Then you have the other impact on the economy – Hotels, Airlines, Media, Consumer goods,…

The positive latent effect on the economy is what Shashi Tharoor cited as a main reason for his keenness on a Kochi team in IPL which he attempted to stitch together. Rightly so.

So what if there are a few hatemongers and worrywarts on IPL? Now that the IPL-6 typhoid has set in, let’s contribute to the IPL economy. As Farah Khan exhorts in that cool IPL-6 campaign – Sirf Dekhne Ka Nahi!!!

IPL toon