There was a very interesting happening in the social media space recently, when a customer put out a promoted tweet, to sound out his frustrations against British Airways.  Perhaps the first instance of this kind, this was a topic of a lot of discussions, including this interesting debate that happened on my own timeline.

timeline

In fact, there was more deliberation on the subject, as Karthik Srinivasan did a blog post on the subject, cuing it with the above-referred discussion on my timeline to begin with, and sharing his details point of view on the subject. More opinions were expressed as Karthik shared the post on Facebook and Twitter.

So, as always, Karthik does a good and thorough job of putting together facts and his viewpoints on the subject, and I fully respect the same. I agree with most of the points he makes in his blog post.

Why do I still see the need to make some additional comments here? That is simply because, I believe, the point that I was trying to make, via my FB post, and the conversation that I had, mostly with Paul, on my timeline as referred above, was slightly different. And which I want to bring out and highlight hereunder.

First things first, and specifically in reference to Karthik’s blog post, let me clarify:

1. I am definitely of the opinion that the power shift has happened into the hands of the consumer, with the advent of social media. And I am all for it. I talk about this to my clients, almost everyday, and also at speaking events, often. Personally, I have had a few occasions when I have had to take my battles with certain brands on to the social media spaces, after having tried all other traditional means, and not managed to make any impact on the brand.

So I recognise the need and the relevance of consumers using social media channels to put out their perspectives about brands, especially the negative ones. This is happening, will happen more, and I have no issues with this trend.

2. I also do NOT believe that social media platforms would prevent some kind of content about a brand coming on to their platforms, because that brand is also an advertiser, and they would fear that the advertising revenue will be lost. No, I don’t believe that would be a motivation for the social media platforms to stop a piece of content coming up on their platforms.

If these are not the issues, then what else are the points that I was making, when I had some concerns about the trend of consumers putting out anti-brand / negative content, via paid digital advertising methods?

1. As Karthik has sighted in his post, there ARE certain guidelines that platforms prescribe, in regards to advertising content. I will quote from Karthik’s post itself, with examples of Google and Facebook:

a. From Google: 

Google AdWords doesn’t allow the promotion of “discrimination” or violent concepts, such as the following:

Ad text advocating against an organisation, person or group of people

b. From Facebook: 

Ads may not insult, attack, harass, bully, threaten, demean or impersonate others.

Why do they even want to put some restrictions of this kind, if they have no liability towards the advertising content?

Why do platforms have a process of “reviewing” the ad content, at all??

I believe they DO have some level of liability, even if it may be a grey area of sorts, and due to which reason they would want to not let things go totally out of hand.

 

2. So do I believe that a genuine customer, making a genuine case about a brand, can take things ‘out of hand’??

No, certainly not. My point was in regards to potential abuse of the system, due to allowing such anti-brand advertising. Few days back there was this rumour floating around, about how Delhi police had issued a warning to not consumer Frooti, as it caused AIDS!! Obviously a hoax, but an extremely damaging one for the brand. The company had to take very strong action, as you can see here.

This hoax could have been someone’s mischief.

It could have been motivated by a unscrupulous competitor. The spread of a rumour of this kind, in a country like ours, could seriously knock off market share of Frooti?!  And which would be hard to recover back.

A prankster who does it for fun, and puts out a blog post or a post on his Facebook page, or a review on some customer review site, will generate x amount of reach. Bad enough for Frooti, but not AS damaging as it could get, if one actually put out paid ads on various platforms propounding such misinformation!

AND if there was a competitor’s hand at the back, and where crores of rupees of market share is involved, does it stop the unscrupulous competitor putting out several lakhs of rupees, to have this come out as an ad, and put out in the name of a consumer?!

The damage caused by an activity of this kind can end up causing substantial damage to Frooti, before it is picked up, and recovery efforts are put in place.

And to think that, it would be so easy to achieve something like that? Today, Frooti, tomorrow Nescafe or Cadburys or whoever.

And if a few thousand crores of “loss” happens, does the brand have ANY hope to sue that fronting consumer, and expect to recover even a fraction of that amount?

Would they then make the platform also a party to the legal damage caused? Perhaps…

 

3. The question then could be, that if damage had to happen, it can happen with organic content also, and not just with paid content. So if we cannot stop organic content (a user’s FB post / her tweet / her blog post / her posting on a customer review site, for example), how and why should platforms stop the paid type?

Yes, there’s clearly a thin line here. My view is only motivated from the fact that these platforms HAVE some process of guidelines for advertising, for ad reviews, etc. So there is an element perhaps, of an involved liability, which will force them to not accept rank potentially derogatory advertising, from anyone. If Twitter does not have guidelines of this kind, maybe they will also create some. In the absence of guidelines and in the absence of scrutiny of ad content, things could get chaotic out there?!

We have fought a fierce battle for one of our clients, where as a market leader, they were attacked by one of their upstart competitors, by relentless, fake accounts based complaints lodging, on various consumer review platforms. It took a massive effort to quell them down, and clean up the space.

I shudder to think the level of damage that paid advertising of anti-brand reports could have caused then..?!

 

4. So am I sounding very soft and sympathetic towards brands, in my stand here?

No, even though I earn my bread and butter from working for brands, on social media, this post is not to bring sympathy for brands. They do have enough money, many do enough wrong, and when necessary, we need to go after them, and expose their failures.

My concern is about the playing field becoming one mega chaos where then, you cannot distinguish fact from make-believe.

Let’s visualise a scenario, especially after seeing this promoted tweet case of the customer, against British Airways.

That say, every grieved customer who has a few thousand rupees to spare, goes out and creates such promoted tweets or promoted posts, or Facebook advertising.

Add to that, a certain breed of agencies (of the kind that buys you millions of fans from anywhere in the world, or who black-hats your SEO.. you get the drift, right, about the kind of agency I am referring to?!) who will start offering to companies, a route to ‘bring down their competitors’ for a few lakhs of rupees. So we see a huge surge of similar anti-brand advertising emerging from such agencies (with a front name of a consumer…).

Are these difficult to imagine? Not to me at least.

What would this result in? Mayhem on the advertising platforms, and consequently, disaster for the brands.. ?!

Yes, it could generate more moneys spent on digital advertising (or “anti-advertising” to be more precise), and due to the damage caused, more money spent on ORM.

But would it be healthy?? Would the platforms and the media itself lose credibility as a consequence??

THAT is my fear. Once opened up, can the tap be shut? I doubt it..

If you will go back to my Facebook timeline and my discussion with Paul, the specific concern that I raised there, and which I have elaborated here, IS about misuse and not about genuine use, by genuine customers!

Perhaps my concerns are unfounded…

Perhaps anti-advertising will happen, but will be used with more discretion by consumers…

We will have to wait and see.

Hope I have made my point of view a little more clear, at least, now..

This thought was born when there was a discussion in another group I belong to, around the thousands of crores of rupees spent on creating the new Mukesh Ambani residence, and whether it made sense at all.

imagesMy point in that debate was that, the money being spent, came into circulation, and enabled many others – from architects to interior decorators to engineers to contractors to labourers – to earn a living, or a little more than that. And in that way, it was a good thing that the money got spent!

And which is what led me to this blog post.

Successful and driven people like Mukesh Ambani will continue to make more and more money! They already have a humungous capital base, and due to the drive they have, due to the kind of businesses that they are in, they will keep growing that capital base, year after year. That is a given.

How they make the money, whether they break the laws to do so, etc. are not the subject matter of this post. So I will not get into that debate here.

Consider the simple fact that they sit on a massive capital base and which will keep growing.

The money that they have is certainly enough for a few generations of their family, to live extremely handsomely, and without needing to work at all. And that has been the general mindset of Indian business people. Which is why we see extremely large amassing of wealth, but nearly abysmal ‘giving back’.

Beyond a point, let’s say, beyond Rs. 500 cr or say, Rs. 1,000 cr, if someone has more wealth, does it even make a difference? In real usage point of view, will it make a difference if one has Rs. 1,001 cr or Rs. 10,000 cr?? Typically, no serious difference as far as lifestyle is concerned.

Then the amassing of more wealth is only for purpose of leaving it behind for your progeny.

But what does it do to the future generations? Leaving aside a few exceptions of rich families, most times, the subsequent generations have degenerated! No serious motivation to work, lots and lots of wealth to go around, and what that creates more often than not, are wasted individuals.

So all that money left behind, to give comfort to your future generations, only to create lazy, unmotivated spoilt kids?? Is that what they wish for their future generations?

When very rich people SPEND their money or USE it in any interesting way that it comes out in circulation, I am happy! Like I said, they WILL earn, and keep earning. Rather than stay in their lockers and bank balances in India or outside India, if that money comes out in circulation, it is helping many others to make a worthwhile living.

Coming back to the conversation of Mukesh Ambani’s home, the cost of building it was said to be around Rs. 4,700 crores. That is the equivalent of 100 years of revenue of a mid-sized company employing a few hundred people! If that kind of employment and wealth distribution / circulation can happen via a single project, what’s wrong with that? If this had not happened, chances are that the money could have just been lying around in some bank locker! Who would it have helped then??

(I have a *different* objection to that house he has built – it is an eyesore – but that is a different point, anyway)

Microsoft chairman Bill Gates (R) and MuBeyond that spend on the house, if one was to contemplate for the Mukesh Ambani situation, what if at some point finally, the Bill Gates’ kind of viewpoint appeals to him? And he leaves enough but not obscenely high amount of capital for his future generations?! And which leaves him with a LOT of capital to do other things with. The kind of challenge that Bill Gates is working with. So what would he do with all that money? What COULD be do with it?

Well, if anyone can do tremendous benefit to society, with so much wealth, it is Mukesh Ambani. Not just because he has wealth – many others do too – but he has the ability to manage projects of massive size, efficiently, where capital deployment can create significant impact! the-ultimate-leaders-manoj-modi

In Mukesh Ambani and his right hand man, Manoj Modi, we have a combo who can execute massive projects better than anyone else. Give them the challenges of the country – water and sanitation, girls’ education, modernising agriculture, disease eradication etc. etc., and they are totally capable to taking these on, at a country wide level, and making these happen! What a tremendous boon it would be for the country if they were to at some stage, leave the reins of the RIL business to some capable individual (will never be as good as they are, but that’s fine – see Bill Gates’ reference again!), and decide to deploy their wealth and time to doing good? And it would be a win-win-win all over..

– after a wonderful lifetime spent achieving fame and glory as successful businessmen, they can contribute back to society, and before they leave this world, they would have left a much larger imprint than having created a massive business enterprise,

– they would leave only adequate amount of capital for their future generations, which will ensure comfort, but may leave that much room to inspire the next-gen to continue to work hard, and not waste their lives,

– they would take on some of India’s massive challenges, which look almost not-solvable today, and actually create solutions, which their personal skills and abilities, along with their wealth, are capable of creating.

What more can you ask for in life?

Well, as I said, it is a dream, but it is worthwhile contemplation. Maybe the energy waves of my thoughts will reach them, and someday, this becomes a reality..?!

P.S. The reference to next generation of very rich people being spoilt or not motivated enough, is a generic one. In particular, I have no idea about Mukesh Ambani’s children and this is certainly not a personal reference to them!

I have been an owner of a Sterling Holidays Timeshare vacation plan, since about 1996-97. I have also opted for the RCI extension that comes with such timeshares, and have used the RCI membership for many a holiday, both in India as well as outside India, over these years.

For a long while in between, Sterling Holidays was in deep financial trouble, and I was wondering if my so-called 99-year membership plan, was going to die an early death. Somehow Sterling resurrected themselves, and stayed in business, and I could continue to get some benefit out of my membership.

Except for the initial 1-2 years, I have not used Sterling Holidays to actually stay at a Sterling resort.

Most of the holidays I have used are with RCI membership and at locations, outside of the Sterling resorts, and few times, outside India as well.

It has been a reasonably rewarding experience over the years, which is what you expect out of a timeshare membership.

In recent years, RCI has been constantly increasing their fees, and the exchange fees as well.

The RCI membership being of a shorter term nature each time, they have the right to revise their terms periodically, and I have accepted these changes over the years.

I have valued the fact that it is so simple to get a holiday set up.

1. Ask Sterling Holidays to deposit your week into RCI – a quick and simple affair.

2. Look for and find the RCI holiday you like. Get it, pay for it, and you are done.

The ease of usage, and the variety of RCI resorts that one had access to, still kept me going with RCI, in spite of the increase of their fees.

Recently however, when I was trying to follow the above-mentioned steps, I ran into problems with Sterling Holidays.

Here’s what happened:

1. I asked RCI to deposit my week from Sterling, as usual. They initiated the process.

2. Couple of days later, I get intimation that they could not do so, as Sterling had regretted the same.

3. I checked if I had paid my annual charges to Sterling, and I concluded that I had paid. So there should not have been any issue.

4. I waited for Sterling to get in touch with me, for reasons why they had denied the deposit of the week. NO such intimation came. I could have kept waiting for ever! Don’t think this regret from their end, triggered any process, to get in touch with their member..!!

5. Finally I got in touch with Sterling, and I was informed that I had to pay another charge now, when I am depositing the week. This was a new, new thing that had never happened before, and for which I had not got any prior intimation, so I was naturally not happy about it.

6. I asked them for details, which they provided on phone, and briefly on email, as this being a new process that they have initiated from April of this year, etc. etc.

7. So my point simply was:

– why did they choose to wait till I am depositing my week, to inform me about this??

– why is it not on any public platform, like their website, or their FB page?

– why was it not conveyed via email to the many members, or via a print circular?

– was this a trivial change? I am sure MANY members deposit their Sterling week, and claim a holiday via RCI. So if there are changes to the terms, and not an insignificant one at that, isn’t it their duty to intimate members proactively, when they initiate the change??

– more importantly, do they have a right to do this at all? There is a certain contract in place, where a fixed amount had been charged, and where a certain small, annual fee was expected to be paid thereafter. But each time you took a holiday via RCI, Sterling could charge you a certain extra – is that even allowed as per the contract?

– if so, how come for so many years, they never charged, and they are beginning to charge only now??

– and if they have charged a sum x this time, can they on their own whim, increase the charge to 2x or 3x in coming years?? After all, as they say, “terms and conditions are subject to change”! You have already paid the initial sum for purchasing the timeshare, now where can you go, except keep giving in to their demands like this??

8. The moot question at this point is, if a Timeshare membership in general, and a Sterling Holidays membership in particular, even worth taking?? If they retain the right to “change terms and conditions”, whatever it is that they promise through ads like the following one, can only be a lure to get you in. Thereafter, they could spring a surprise on you, and ask you for more money?!

sterling_ad

9. Most importantly, does the economics of Timeshares work out then? Say, one takes a decent vacation only once in 3 years. Then, one is still paying annual fees to Sterling, annual fees to RCI, then an exchange fee to RCI when you take the vacation, and now the newly introduced additional fee to Sterling, to enable you to deposit the week, to RCI. All that against the cost of just booking a hotel and staying there? Is it viable or interesting at all?

If not, WHY WOULD YOU LOOK AT TIMESHARE AS AN OPTION AT ALL??

bmb_titleI was in for a wonderful treat on the Sunday morning.

Yes, totally loved Bhaag Milkha Bhaag for many reasons!

I was reminded of ‘Chariots of Fire’, a film I had seen many years back, but which remains one of my favourite films till date. There is a certain excitement about stories based around sport, and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, is of course, in that genre. The sweat and toil, the determination, the hard work, the competitiveness, the rivalry, all of these are emotional elements and they draw the audience in.

At the outset, here was an extremely talented team at work!

Starting with the director, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, one of the sharpest and most talented young filmmakers in Indian cinema today. I had found his first venture, Aks, to be a very interesting experiment. And then of course, Rang De Basanti was an iconic film. I had liked his next one, Dilli 6 also. So this one comes as yet another great piece of work by the young man. bmb_rom

His partner in crime from RDB and Dilli-6, Prasoon Joshi is very much present here as well!

He takes care of a super story, screenplay, dialogs and lyrics. His brilliance shows in all of these aspects!

Binod Pradhan does a fabulous job with the camera, especially on some scenes filmed in Ladakh. Shankar Ehsaan Loy put together a very credible composition for the times when the story has been based.

That’s an awesome team working at the back.

Of course, the one hero is the original story, and the man himself, the Flying Sikh, Milkha Singh!

It is amazing to see and note the life that he lived.

A child of the partition days, he saw the extreme pain and angst of separation, was brought up in very tough environs, took to stealing coal to make some money, and from that kind of background, emerged to be one of the best athletes that India have produced, and perhaps one of the best sportspersons that India has every produced. Now that’s quite a rollercoaster of a life!

Kudos to Farhan Akhtar for delivering Milkha Singh to us!

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His is an absolutely brilliant performance. He has clearly put in massive effort to get it right. From the physical development, to the running style, the look, the accent, the Punjabi language, the dancing.. everything. And he delivers well on all of these. Clearly, he seems to be the perfect fit for this role.

Some great shots he delivers include the extreme face crunching pain that he feels as he runs hard on the tracks, or when (the many times) he falls and gets hurt, or his scenes with his sister, or the time when he returns back to his old home in Pakistan, or when he comes back with his medals and gives a medal to his first coach and falls at his feet, etc. etc. All great scenes, very well acted!!

There are good supporting performances from Pawan Malhotra and Yograj Singh as the coaches, and Divya Dutta as Milkha’s elder sister.

Divya Dutta and Pawan Malhotra were in Rakeysh’s Dilli-6 too, and are also two really good supporting actors, who leave their mark, even in short roles.

Sonam does not have much of a role in the film.

The young boy who plays Milkha Singh as a child also delivers a fantastic performance.

It was very interesting to see the country glued on to the radio when Milkha Singh was taking on his Pakistani counterpart, and when he emerges winner, the kind of celebrations that India witnesses, were bigger than what we see these days, when India beats Pakistan in a cricket match!

Overall, Milkha Singh’s story is told very well, in interspersed flashbacks, in almost a similar way that Mehra had mixed the characters and story of India’s pre-independence revolution with modern day characters in Rang De Basanti.

In summary, this is clearly the best film to be released so far in 2013. There is a good chance that the Best Director award for the year is already decided in favour of Mehra, and even if that were to be in doubt, rest assured that the Best Actor award’s a taken now! Others will be competing for 2nd place to Farhan Akhtar.

Not about the movie, but here are some life lessons that one picks up from the movie:

1. Sometimes there is a deep rooted event or incident that provides the maximum motivation / drive

2. Everyone could screw up. Recognise what’s happened, refocus, ensure elimination of the screwup factor, and dedicate yourself back to the motive

3. It’s all about FOCUS.

4.There are no short cuts in life. Hard work, dedication, obsession about one’s goals.. that’s what it takes to succeed.

5. A good coach makes a huge difference

6. A good coach will drive you to your limits, as he knows what you are capable of, and wants you to deliver it all

7. You need to consciously switch OFF your distractions if you want to get your ultimate goal
Cheers!

Go, see Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.. !

 

 

My 5-year old nephew rambles away the popular tracks of Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani (YJHD) all day long. Finally, for his sake, we landed up in the theatre on the 2nd week Saturday, surprised to find a nearly packed cinema hall. Maybe YPD-2 had not struck a chord with the audience 🙂

By the time you are in the second week, you’ve already heard and read a lot about a movie, typically. So I had heard that “it’s a long movie”, that “it doesn’t have much of a story”, and even that “YOU won’t like it”.

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I wonder about that last suggestion! Especially in hindsight after having seen the film. Wonder what made the person feel that I won’t like it. Whatever are the kind of signs I have given about the kind of films I don’t like (well, there ARE the obvious ones that I have shared, e.g. dislike science fiction, cartoons, and the like – this was none of those kinds..!).

These reactions had not clouded my expectations, just tampered them! Knowing the star cast, and knowing that it was a modern day setting, Dharma Productions flick, there would be certain good-feel factors like great locations, style, music, etc. And then anything else that is also good, will be a good bonus.

In reality, I found a lot of factors that worked for me, in the movie. And I quite enjoyed it, and would recommend as a good-see, to anyone who’s considering going for it.

While the story is so-so, there are very interesting characters.

Like the girl who’s always been a loner, focused on studies and topping classes, to some extent under the influence of her family, and to some extent maybe, because that’s what she’s always believed to be the right thing to do.

Till the time that she, perhaps for the first time in her life, takes an impulsive plunge to go on a trekking trip, and which becomes a life-changer for her. For being able to discover herself, for knowing that there is more to life than just being “proper”, that life is meant to have fun too.

Whether it is a trekking trip or some other significant moment in people’s lives, I have seen transformations of this kind, in people. And I can identify with this change. And it is so important to take those opportunities that come your way, and flow with them…

The transformation of Deepika’s character in this manner was a good moment, in the film.

I have never thought much of Deepika’s acting. Have thought of her as an average actor, at best. But she does a decent job here. Maybe the ‘coming-back-with-Ranbir’, even if it was just for the one film, worked well for her!

A lot of films with two stars, and two supporting actors, can leave the actors’ characters from showing up. Here we see a good glimpse of the desires, the emotions, the pangs, of the two supporting actors as well. Kalki and Aditya Roy Kapur, in that sense, have good roles and have done a decent job.

That brings us to the one star of the show. Ranbir Kapoor is awesome.

Here’s one more after Wake Up, Sid, Rockstar and Barfi, where he gives an outstanding performance.

He can act with his face, the expressions tell a story. His appearance looks so real with the character he plays.

And he can dance.

Yes, he’s got it in the genes from Rishi, and then he’s gone and improved upon them. Amongst the young breed (and I would classify Hrithik as not-so-young now), he is clearly ahead of the pack, where dancing goes. Perhaps also where acting goes.

The character he plays is one that we’d find amongst the youth today. Not everyone, but not exactly a rare breed.

One who has the confidence to NOT do the typical. One who feels that this is the one life, and one must fill it with the best of times and the best of moments, and live it to the fullest. Why must you be like everyone else?

Very interesting attitude. The film makes it appear to be a little selfish, and there is a degree of self-doubt towards the end. But it is an amazing feeling. Which travel enthusiast sitting in the cinema would have not drooled over the offer to be in 4 different cities of the world for 3 months each, and also be paid for it?! Clearly an aspirational character in a way.

The locales are well chosen, from Manali to Paris to Udaipur, and many others, there are some lovely scenes for the eyes to satiate.

The music of Pritam is good. Many of the songs are very hummable.

Last but not the least, it is always so awesome to see Madhuri Dixit on screen. She continues to amaze with her dancing, and retains her magical smile. Wish she returns for a longer role in some film soon.. ! She gives grace to what could have been other terms, just another ‘item song’!

It IS somewhat long as a movie. 3 hours all in all, inclusive of the interval. But quite an enjoyable three hours overall.

Did you see it too? What did you think about it?

N. Srinivasan has called a press conference at 4 pm today, few hours before the IPL final. Everyone is perplexed as to the reason for this press conference, and the timing of it.

srinivasan
Is he going to announce his resignation? Is he going to spill all the beans finally? Is he going to share the news that his daughter has filed for divorce? So we asked the fly on the wall in the Srinivasan household, and this is what he had to share:
“There was a lot of deliberation in the Srinivasan household. Srinivasan and his supporters have been analysing the situation that has emerged in the last few days, in great detail. All the ire from people, media, politicians, bookies, underworld etc. have all been discussed at length, to figure out what the real challenge is about, and what should be done next.

After a lot of deliberation, it was determined and concluded that the main reason people felt let down was that the field was not a level playing one!
Guru’s calls went to Vindu and from Vindu, the information went only to a few select bookies. Those bookies and their customers benefited, while the rest of the people suffered due to not having the necessary information.

This was the great injustice that needed to be fixed (pun unintended). Like a company needs to make the necessary disclosures to the stock exchange, so that all shareholders and the public are equally aware, so also, if any facts are to be shared, these should be shared equally with all, and not selectively.

Recognising that to be the problem of the past, and wanting to ensure that this does not repeat for the final also, Mr. Srinivasan is taking this press conference at 4 pm, to share the information equally.

What the final composition of the CSK team will be? Who will open the batting, the bowling? What the roles of the umpires are going to be? How the pitch is? In which over, how many runs are expected to be conceded? Who’s going to drop some catches, who’s going to do crucial misfielding? And most importantly, who is going to win?

With all that clarified 3-4 hours before the game starts, it now becomes a level playing field, and everyone can place their bets with all this relevant information.

That way there will be no complaints anymore, and this controversy will die down.”

So said the fly on the wall.
So you know now, what to expect in the press conference at 4 pm today..

Newspaper headlines, TV debates and the scores of opinions on social media would have us believe that a country of a billion people was betrayed in one shot, yesterday!

When the IPL Spot Fixing scam broke out, and 3 cricketers including one who had played for India earlier, were arrested, it has given the impression that God has fallen from His High pedestal. That it is a day of national grief, and cricket and India will never be the same again.

16-sreesanth

Calls of banning the cricketers for life, to having them arrested, to scrapping the current series of IPL, to holding BCCI and it’s officials accountable, to including the franchise owners to take blame, and many many more such demands have been doing the rounds.

Going against the tide, the way I see this episode is that, way too much is being made out of this incident. And I have many reasons to support this point of view of mine:

1. This is not an Olympic Sport. People are not playing for their country. This is a sporting event whose main aim is to ENTERTAIN. Especially when the 3-hour version of the sport has emerged, it has gone squarely into the sweet spot of entertainment, and actually competes with films and music shows and the like. To entertain people (in fact, film releases are delayed due to this competitive factor!).

So if this game is meant to entertain people and as long as it is doing so, why complain??

 

2. I have given this analogy before. I give it again.

When you go to see a film, and the story evolves, you sit there with bated breath, wondering “what will happen next”. The fact of course, is that the story has already been written, enacted and recorded. “Someone” already has decided what will happen next. Only YOU are discovering it for the first time. And you have enough intrigue and feel enough excitement, as it unfolds for you.

You don’t say that Aditya Chopra must be banned or Balaji Telefilms must be banned because they are showing us a story which they have pre-planned, and make us feel as if it is happening in real time!

If we are fine with films or television in terms of such entertainment, why not accept the same in T20 cricket too?

 

3. For many of us, there was an iconic moment in life, that evening of 1983, when Kapil Dev lifted the World Cup of cricket, at Lord’s.

We enjoyed the excitement, we enjoyed the victory.

What if a scam broke out today that revealed that bookies had paid Viv Richards to throw away his wicket and that led to India emerging victorious?!

For all of us who enjoyed the drama in real time, would it take away that pleasure which we felt in 1983??

 

4. So if we appreciate the brilliance of acting when Aamir Khan plays Rangeela or Amitabh plays Inspector Vijay, and we think of them as the character and find them believable, we can also admire a Sreesanth, who makes it appears that he’s actually bowling bad, and giving away runs.

I mean, if he also shows emotions of frustration when he gets hit, and appears believable, isn’t he doing as much of a good job as Aamir Khan or Amitabh, to entertain us?? What’s wrong with that??

 

5. Yes, it would become a sham if every catch was dropped and only lollipop balls were bowled, and the entire game became a festival match. THEN of course, the crowds will go away. But as long as some doses of drama are being injected, and appearance is maintained of a hard-fought game played with a key competitive spirit, what’s wrong with it??

 

6. For a moment, let’s take the conspiracy theory a step forward.

That more or less, the entire league has a concept of fixing. And the fixing is being done for purpose of maintaining a sense of excitement in the games and the league. Which then brings viewers coming back, and which also keeps the TRPs up, and the advertisers and the broadcasters happy.

Supposing this was done right through the league, and which is why, we had so many close finishes, and also that, till the very end, there is a certain openness about who will get into the last 4. And which in turns, ensures few dud games, and the TRPs are maintained.

This is easily conceivable.

So what, I say??

As long as we didn’t know about this, we were enjoying it completely. Everyone was happy – the cricketers, the spectators, the TV viewers, the advertisers, the broadcasters, the BCCI..

And now, say, we know that it was “fixed” to an extent.

So what has changed?

We are betrayed. We walk away from the game. Advertisers go away. The entire league comes under a challenge. And that helps whom??

From win-win to lose-lose??

 

Rest assured, I am not at all sarcastic here. I truly believe every word I have written here.

For all I know, and all I care, most professional sport may have small or high degree of fixing. But the role of those sports have always been to attract viewers and entertain them. And they are doing a good job of it.

Supposing there was no fixing, in the IPL. Everything was played fair and square. What if we got:

– Pune vs Punjab emerging as finalists, on merit. Where are the stars? How does this ensure viewership?

(just an example – nothing personal against Pune or Punjab!)

– teams scoring 120-130 in the first innings, and the team batting second folds up for 80 in 15 overs. How interesting would that be?

– within the first half of the league, the better teams have won enough to seal their place in the last four, and the others have got to a point where the knock out stage is beyond their reach? What excitement will be left in the balance games??

 

I believe that there have been elements of fixing in the game, for many years, and especially from the time that one of our erstwhile current experts, used to be a player! (the one who claims to have been “so shocked” by the happenings yesterday).

We did not know about most of those. It has all been a well-kept secret. Everybody is happy and spectators have been entertained.

Why break that comfort zone? Enjoy the sport, be entertained.

We’d rather watch this than watch some more saas-bahu stuff, and we’d rather ensure that IPL keeps the next Himmatwala type films from hitting the theatres!!

What do you say??

 

 

Lot of people are taking inspiration from the JPC.

Seeing the expeditious manner in which they complete investigations against fraud and scam from their very own group members, others have been motivated as well.

Why, they say, should they also go to police or regulatory bodies or the CBI or some ombudsman, when they can themselves investigate and settle matters out? Like the JPC so capably does.

So here are a few such committees being formed now..

  1. The Importers’ Association of India is forming the Joint Importers Committee (JIC) to investigate against any customs duties violations or possible smuggling in of goods, by fellow importers.
  2. The Stockbrokers Association of India is creating a Joint Brokers Committee (JBC) to investigate insider trading (who needs SEBI??)
  3. Sonography Practitioners of India are creating a Joint Sonography Team (JST) to investigate female foeticide complaints
  4. Manufacturers’ Association of India is starting a Joint Manufacturers Committee (JMC) to check on excise evasion frauds and complaints
  5. Chemical Industry Association of India decides to create a Joint Chemical Businesses Committee (JCBC) to check on environmental damage complaints of chemical factories.
  6. Al-Qaida and the Global Mafia Forum have created the Joint Terrorism Committee (JTC) to identify bombers and terrorists in any global terrorism activity

It is heard that many more are coming up in the same lines, indicating a generally high level of introspection by the human being, and identifying of faults within, thereby not requiring external forces to do so.

Meanwhile, in other news, the policemen’s union had an emergency meeting threatened as they were, by potential job loss if this trend were to continue..

 

special26**Spoiler Alert: will refer to parts of the film here; if you intend to see it (“if you must”!), then you may like to not read this post!**

I started seeing posts about Special 26 from Friday. About how it’s such a great movie. And there were several, and they still keep coming. And some of those updates made me get to the theatre to see Special 26.

And as I have conveyed elsewhere, I found the movie to be “average”. And then I wonder what made people say that the film was so great?

Here are just some of the issues I have with Special 26:

  • The various capers that the group pulls off. Made to look so simple. Get a few rubber stamps, walk in, and walk out with cash and kind. And do so nearly 50 times, and nobody can sniff them out? Really? So you’d say that this was based on real-life incidents. So be it. You are not making a documentary. You are making a feature film. And so even if the original incident was just this simple (which I very much doubt!), you can still make it look a little more effort, a little more challenge? 
  • When filmmakers make films based on real life, can they not make some changes and make it look more real / interesting / believable? I saw it earlier in English Vinglish, where the Tamilian accented Sridevi had to play a Maharashtrian lady, struggling with her English. Why the hell could she not have been a Tamilian struggling with English? Likewise here. Even assuming that the real incidents by the fake CBI guys few years back were indeed so simply done, they could have added some smarts into the capers here!
  • I’m spoilt on this, perhaps. Viewing crime series like White Collar, Mentalist and others, you realise that planning a crime takes a lot of effort and planning and then you can still get caught. Man, wish it was as simple as Special 26 makes it look!
  • So, what was the reason these guys were doing all these capers? At the end of the film we are told that Akshay Kumar’s character had been rejected for a job with the CBI. First of all, is that motivation enough? Also right through the film, there are no hints that “he is getting back at them for what they did to him”. Nothing in terms of a revenge script or anything. And then, what about the other three? Why were they doing these? What were their motivations?
  • If money was it, why do we not see through the film, what actually happens to the money? For all the large hauls they make, where do those boxes go? The characters seem to go back to their washing clothes or walking through a crowded terrace of sleeping people! No hints of what happens to the money?! No need to tell us, eh?
  • What IS the deal with the guy washing clothes and being nagged by his wife? Or the other character walking through sleeping people on the terrace? Or Manoj Bajpayee asking his wife to put on a dupatta.. what’s with all that randomness? Aise-icch? Chalo theek hai..
  • And what about that large family of Anupam Kher? 8-1/2 kids or something? How was THAT relevant? Really..? And at the end, what HAPPENS to the kids? Do they all scoot off to Sharjah / Dubai? Or they are abandoned for the cops to grill?
  • So they go away out of the country? Permanently? If that is so, fine…
  • As regards the climax, again, it was too convenient, no? Couldn’t the real CBI not put enough people to follow the bus, follow any other vehicle that the team takes? Why are they viewing the hotel only from the top of the terrace with the binoculars and not from a lower level, to see that all of the gang have not boarded the bus?
  • The romantic interlude with Akshay was a waste, of course. But other than that, the film was just a flat, one caper after another. Nothing else. No other story or character development.
  • Since the director is the same one who made A Wednesday, there is certainly a huge drop in the quality of his work, from A Wednesday to Special 26…

Coming back to the title of this post. So with all these issues, it can still be an “okay” film. What is the explanation then, to the rave reviews that some are giving to Special 26?

A hint to the reason was found in one of the Facebook conversations on the subject. Where one wrote that “compared to the crap that we have been seeing, this was so good”!

Ok, that explains it then.

By constantly bringing down the quality, we have pulled our benchmark levels so low, that an average performance starts looking like an Oscar winner.. !

Ok, that must be it..

What do you say??

The biggest motivator for me, to get into the theatre and see Matru ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (yes, that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?) was Vishal Bhardwaj. I have been an unabashed admirer of the man’s work, and have blogged about it in the past.

M_Id_116521_vishal_bhardwajNot that I have liked all of his work, and have even shared my misgivings.

But irrespective of some wins and some losses, overall, I believe that Vishal Bhardwaj is one of the most creative persons in the film industry today. As a composer, as a director and as a producer, he has a fabulous body of work. Maqbool, Omkara, Ishqiya, The Blue Umbrella, Makdee, Kaminey, etc. are films that have left a mark.

Coming from that background, and promising to be something different this time, MKBKM was worth viewing. And while it was indeed very different from most of his previous works, I enjoyed the film thoroughly.

There are some standard Bhardwaj elements in the film – Gulzar (of course!!), Pankaj Kapur (Maqbool, The Blue Umbrella), Shabana Azmi (Makdee), the small town / village based story and accompanying language style including expletives (Ishqiya, Omkara, etc.). I guess some of these are what Bhardwaj identifies well personally (he has small town beginnings, and has an amazing rags-to-riches and accidental discovery story), and thrives in depicting these.

So what does Bhardwaj cook for us in MKBKM?

MKBKL1

Well, a fun and whacky look at a Haryana village where the property becomes attractive to a politician, at the potential cost of the farmers there, and what then becomes, the typical efforts by the good guys to save the day.

The story is not that much, but I just love the outrageousness of it all.

The characters are well developed, even some of the smaller ones. And all deliver well. Imran is impressive. He has a powerful voice and looks sharp. Anushka’s great talent for sure. She can be exuberant as well as sensitive and fits this role well. Shabana Azmi lives her character well. Well, she is too good an actress, and this role does not stretch her much!

But the top honours are definitely reserved for Pankaj Kapur. Given a good role and room, he can deliver an astute performance, and which is what he does here. I guess, he can be compared to his co-brother, Naseeruddin Shah, in terms of that talent (respective wives, Supriya and Ratna are sisters). MKBKM2

The music is good, and the title song at the end, after the movie ends, is a lot of fun, in particular.

Most importantly there is a fun element right through, with strong Haryanvi language, including a liberal dose of expletives! Some may not appreciate the language or the madness that goes around. Which is why I saw the diverse reviews – good and bad – before I went for the movie.

My own verdict is positive, and I would recommend this movie.

What’s your view?