Monday, March 14, 2011

A Knight's Tale

I came across this picture of Catherine Zeta Jones being knighted by Prince Charles, a few days back.
I’m not sure about you, but this picture left me with a few unanswered questions.

Who is happier?
Catherine Zeta Jone or Prince Charles.

Who is feeling more like an achiever?
Catherine Zeta Jone or Prince Charles.

Who is more nervous?
Catherine Zeta jones or Prince Charles.

Who is more pissed off?
Michael Douglas or Camila Parker Bowles.

Well, the things a Prince can do to make his dreams come true.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

“When was the last time, you did something for the first time?”

I was about 15 minutes late to work. I snooped in deftly at 11.30 am, hoping my boss wouldn’t catch me walking in late. She didn’t. Or maybe, she didn’t give a damn and knew that my watch was beyond repair. I turned on my computer, filled in those useless time sheets, opened my lotus notes, all with the kind of pace that would’ve put any bank robber to shame. (Guys who could efficiently rob – say – a public sector bank, replete with a snoring guard and malfunctioning security cameras.) By now, it was time to go over to my boss and clarify if I was jobless today. And while I’m at it, continue behaving like I walked in an hour back.

But this time I had pushed it. A little too far, I guess. She said: “Dev, why don’t you do something you’ve never done before and write me a piece about it by the end of day?”

Well, that means just one thing. Another day of stalking random chicks on Facebook just went out of the (firefox) window. But I must admit that I had a few unconventional ideas here. Like setting the office on fire was a first that would’ve given me enough dope for a write-up. Decided against it. Thank God.

With a sense of renewed purpose, I grabbed my notebook. (Notebook as in, a notebook with pages.) I stormed out of office with the excuse of finding my story. And meet some friends for lunch. In my haste, I just remembered to forget mentioning part-2 of my plan to my boss. Remembering to forget is not such a big sin anyway.

As lunch at Wanley with Franz & Co. came to an end, an idea struck me. Why not write about eating at a cheap Chinese joint and getting my best friend’s sister, who I’ve not met in years, to foot the bill? But then, I realised that it’s not something I was doing for the first time. Damn, this first time clause is turning out to be a pain in the rear, I thought. I bid bye-bye to Franz and his sister and his brother and his pet alien, and headed back to work.

On my way back, I noticed a huge banner at the entrance of the tech park with a picture of a Tata Nano that said, “Test drive the Tata Nano here.” I must add that the text on the poster looked bigger than the picture of the car. Now really, how small is this car. I may not fit into it, but it definitely fits the bill. I’ve never driven the Tata Nano before, and so technically, it automatically qualifies as something I’ve never done before.

Contrary to popular belief, the Tata Nano is not India’s Rupees one lakh car. It is India’s 1,73,090+4845+24750+3000 Rupee car. Sorry, Mr. Tata you can’t fool us no more. Tata Nano, I heard, was Ratan Tata’s pet project. So much so, that initially the car was named after one of Ratan Tata’s pet PeRson. It was actually called the Tata Niira. Unfortunately, some marketing nonsense PRevailed and they decided to call it Nano. Well, why was this a grave error? You will know, shortly.

The road to get on to the road was a tough one for little Nano. It had to battle recession, escalating costs of raw materials, a faulty fuel-line and a scornful Mamta Bannerjee. Some of it threatened to drive the cost of the car skyward, while Mamta threatened and succeeded in driving the car out of West Bengal. But through it all, one thing was certain. Unlike other cars that were designed elsewhere and adapted for our so-called “third-world” requirements, Nano was built to weather everything Indian. The Indian politicians, the Indian bureaucracy, the Indian red-tapism, and lest we forget, the Indian roads.

The Nano is one of the most spacious small-cars you’ll ever find yourself in. Even if you’re an extremely spacious individual, yourself. There’s enough headroom to even accommodate a thought blurb above your head. The ergonomics ensures you’re incredibly comfortable even when you’re stuck with a boring financier who’s trying to sell you the idea of an EMI, like he invented it or something! It’s easy to maneuver, extremely responsive and very well balanced (So is the EMI!). At 22 km per litre, the Nano could even have the power to ensure people finally stop fighting over oil.

All in all, it’s a brilliant package. Yet, it remains a mystery as to why the Nano is finding it so hard to find its way into people’s homes, or garages. By now, I’m certain many management gurus, spiritual gurus, tantric sex gurus or the otherwise-failed-in-everything-else-now-I-don’t-know-what-to-do MBA grads have analysed, plotted complicated graphs and abused dough just to find out why the car hasn’t notched up impressive sales figures. If you ask me, the answer is simple. It all comes back to the name, again.

Imagine a middle-class customer walking into a Tata Motors showroom in interior North India. The sales chap sizes him up, and receives him with a semi-baked half fake smile.

“Would you like a car, sir?”

“Erm.. Umm.. Na, no.”

“Thanks, sir. Have a good day. Bye.”

You're welcome, Infy.

I heard Infy isn’t very happy with the treatment meted out to them by Bangalore. Hence, they’re planning to shift their operations to Pune. Thought I’d write them a sweet little thank you note. Here goes:

You used our roads, our weather, our hospitality, and even subjected our women to some uncouth idiots, imported from distant places only to ensure your profit sheets looked good.

You converted our parks into IT parks.

You made that red light last 100 seconds longer at the Silk Board junction.

You ensured two roads diverged at the woods. And still, I couldn’t take the road less traveled.

You got our rick drivers to bargain for extra fare.

You got our rick drivers to bargain for extra fare, in Hindi.

And you haven't exactly returned our city the way it was borrowed.

In spite of all this, you still have the audacity to believe that you are doing us a favour by having your offices in Bangalore? In fact, you're doing us a bigger favour by shifting to Pune.

So, I'm glad that you're taking your 10 billion dollar Infosys ass and getting the hell outta my town.

Catch you later. (Maybe after 500 years or so.)

Bye for now.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

3 Idiots – Raju Hirani, Aamir khan & Vidhu Vinod Chopra

Key Characters:

Aamir Khan: Respected actor. He can go wrong at times too. And he did, with a disappointing performance in 3 idiots. Tried too hard to pull off a 20-something. Having been christened ‘the perfectionist’, he is known to take his roles very seriously and go deep into the character he is portraying. But here, unfortunately the only thing that got in deep was the botox in his face. Has an opinion on almost anything. Last I heard the man gave his expert opinion on the isotropic pressure forming of complicated shape body using Bingham fluid.

Raju Hirani: Director par excellence. Started out editing ad films, and even acted in one. Known to work extremely hard on his scripts. Mastered his craft to the extent where he can make the most boring of storylines come alive on screen. But he has clearly forgotten that he still needs boring storylines from somewhere to make his movies.

Chetan Bhagat: IIT pass-out, IIM pass-out and a successful investment banker. And then he began writing. (Quite a sad day for English Literature that.) His first book ‘Five Point Someone’ is the largest selling fiction book in the India. After which he just didn’t stop writing, even if he had nothing to write about.

Devaiah: Studied film making at FTII. Showed tremendous promise during his younger days, even winning the National Award while still in college. Also got an Academy Award nomination for a short film he directed during his early years. But now, he’s just another has been trying to come to terms with his creative burnout. Last directed a good movie in 1993, an Anil Kapoor starer, ‘1942: A Love Story’. Since then his main job involves collecting awards at functions whenever Raju Hirani fails to show up. He also took time off from this busy schedule to produce good movies like the Munnabhai series, 3 idiots and Parineeta. Basically living on somebody else’s glory.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra: Small time copywriter in an advertising agency.

(Oops… Sorry Mr. Chopra... It does hurt when you aren’t given credit for what you’ve done, right? Good or bad.)

The recent spat between the makers of 3 idiots and Chetan Bhagat rings up an important issue. Are writers today given their due in Bollywood?

Chetan claims that his name doesn’t appear prominently in the credits, and that it is stashed away somewhere in no man’s sight. The makers counter by saying that his contribution wasn’t important enough to be mentioned in the main credits, as their movie borrows only “5% of the book”, ‘Five Point Someone’.

After having read the book (and almost having killed myself for doing so), I must admit the movie is unquestionably based on the book. In fact, it borrows heavily from the book. And also, certain scenes are shamelessly borrowed from international TV commercials too. The idea of three friends finding themselves in an IIT hostel, one of them romancing principal’s daughter and certain other episodes in the movie definitely trace its origins back to the book. Having said this, I must admit, hand on heart, this movie is definitely better than the book.

Yet the makers decided to credit Vidhu Vinod Chopra as Associate Screenplay writer, well ahead of Chethan’s contribution. Chetan’s was tucked away in the end as part of the rolling credits which invariably is never played in the cinema halls.

Now it’s a different story that they acquired movie rights of the book from Bhagat for a meager sum of 10 lacs. All this for a movie that grossed 100 Cr at the box office in just 4 days! I have heard of stories in Bollywood where writers have been humiliated and exploited. Without taking any names, there have been instances when leading film makers have taken the credit for writing the story and screenplay by paying peanuts to the lesser known original writers, whose only worry is clearing pending EMIs.

Having watched the movie Slumdog Millionaire, and read the book Q&A (the book which the movie is based on), I can tell you with certainty that the movie isn’t an exact replica of the book. If it was, it would’ve turned out to be a better movie.

For example, the whole Frieda Pinto angle never existed in the book. Same holds good with Irfan Khan’s character in the movie. And Jamal’s friend never betrayed Jamal in the book. And Jamal is not Jamal in the book. He is Ram Mohammad Thomas. In fact the endings don’t even match or come close to being on the same page.

The script for Slumdog was written from scratch, new characters woven in, the story made more cinema-friendly, and only the core essence of the movie and the book remained the same. Thinking back, I feel there is more of ‘Five Point Someone’ in ‘3 Idiots’ than there is ‘Q&A’ in ‘Slumdog’. Yet, when Slumdog won the Academy Award for the best screenplay, the first person to be thanked by the screenwriters was Vikas Swarup, the author of Q&A. Swarup was also part of the main credits, and it clearly mentioned to the viewer that the movie is based on the book, Q&A.

The question here is not whether the movie is similar to the book by 5% or 50%. The question here is about learning to give credit where it is due. In fact, it should be the answer. It causes great amount of heartburn to note that writers in Bollywood these days are treated like cow dung in remote villages. You know it adds immense value to your crop but you’re just not willing to pay for it.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

This is a short story written by me for "Kathalaya", an organization that promotes story telling. The campaign's underlying thought was, "there's a story everywhere".
Stories were stuck on random objects ranging from a chair to a tree.
I wrote this story posing as a bookshelf in a book store.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The God Of Ad Things.

Contrary to what many people believe, I work too.
As one copywriter put it, "We write lines to make people buy things that they don't actually require." So much to convince my mom!!

I don't blame people for taking our profession so lightly. It basically stems from the fact that people just read a line written on a hoarding, and assume that they would've done a better job writing that line. Well, even i thought that way and got duped into believing its so easy that I can do it any time of the day. I figured later on that days notwithstanding, even during nights I had a problem writing that one line.

As David Ogilvy once put it, "people think they know everything about two things. Sex and advertising." People always think great ideas can come from anywhere. Why does the world need copywriters to work full time. Such waste of resources. But then, another copywriter had a fitting answer to that. "Great ideas can come from anywhere- my ass."

Constantly churning out stuff is no child's play. We're in the business of building and sustaining brands. Last week I had the opportunity of being addressed by an advertising guru, the man who built brands such as Asian paints, Cadbury and Fevicol to name a few.
The name is Pandey. Piyush Pandey. The bond... The Fevicol bond of Indian Advertising.

Also encouraging is that he happens to be my boss's boss's boss's boss. So yeah, I can claim to be working under him. Rather working in his under's under's under's under.

First impressions.
Cocky. He has reason to be.
Confident. He has reason to be.
In love with me. He has reason to be. (I really didn't know what else to add)

His opening lines to us were, "Speculations are rife that I'm retiring soon. Well, no. I still haven't finished humping my competitors. I have humped them for 15 years now, and i will do so for another 15."

The story of how one of the Cadbury campaigns came into being was quite entertaining. While holidaying in Hawaii, Piyush got a call from his partner in Bombay saying, "What the fc*k! Cadbury has called for a pitch!"
With no time to spare, Piyush booked his return ticket to India. Meanwhile, waiting to board the plane, Piyush started work on the campaign.
And those memorable Cadbury commercials that eventually ran on TV are the ones that were written behind the boarding pass! This campaign was bloody successful and it went on to become a case study at the Harvard Business School in the years that followed.

Well that says two things about Harvard.
You don't have to be at Harvard to study at Harvard.
You can be an outsider and let Harvard study you.
To cut a long story short, I'll cut it here.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Between then and now

Guess who's back?
That doesn't mean I was backless until now (you never know, maybe I was). Let’s get straight to the point. Well not yet, because I still don't have a point to make.

That's predominantly the reason why I haven't blogged in a while.
Because people don't have a point. But they have a blog. Folks just put meaningless sentences together to make a nonexistent point on a blog just to be perceived cool.
Also, it’s been a long time since I have been perceived cool, so I thought I'll give blogging a shot!!

I'm sure my blog records numerous hits, unfortunately most of them mine. What do I have to do for people to read this? Just read this and let me know. (Intelligent line that. Maybe my definition of intelligent is not intelligent enough) Hence, to be read you need to understand your audience well, it’s easier when the audience is just me.

I'm sure 20 years down I'll be the only one reading this.

"Hey Devaiah,

You must be 40 now. (Wait, isn't 22+20=42) I know what you are thinking. But yes, you still hadn't quite understood addition back then. I congratulate you if you are divorced twice. Not bad at all, at least two women thought they could live with you. If you aren't, too bad for you. Maybe your marriage is still on which is worse.

Well let me give you a quick recap. You had just finished your engineering. You became a writer (now it must be evident that it was a bad career move). Your friends were all successful (bet that hasn't changed much, has it). It was a winter when the world was going mad. But fashionably mad. Terrorists wore versache (your spellings sucked even then) before taking an entire city hostage. You were still (lol) a virgin. Obama had just resumed office. I'm sure now a 5th Bush must be at the helm. Those dumb Americans. Did you watch terminator 9? Or Rocky 13? I'm sure you didn't. But I can bet my life(the fact you survived means I won the bet) that you wept at the end of Dhoom 19.0!

I'm sure you still lose your temper. ("Hell no") Of course you do. ("Bull shit no"). You just did.

Anyways, hope you’ve finally realized that you aren't funny. Get a life, and please don't sit down to write a letter that you will read when you are 60.


Hey Devaiah,

You must be 60 now. (wait, isn't 42+20=62) I know what you are thinking. But yes, you still hadn't quite understood.....................