An illustration of “sexy eating” in an ad by the new The V Spot Café+Bar.
One glitch- it’s a sad copy.
In the recently released movie Rakta Charitra, the performance of Bukka Reddy played menacingly by Abhimanyu Singh has been lauded by everyone. This is after a long gap that Hindi cinema has seen a sinister character being cast in a mainstream movie. The last movie that paid homage to the depleting art of villainy was Aamir Khan’s blockbuster Ghajni that was named after the bad guy in the movie. But, apart from occasional instances it is quite evident that as a breed villains are disappearing from Hindi movies at a much faster rate than the tigers in India.
The gradual phase out of villains should not come as a surprise. In any case, Hindi films have seldom given any thoughts to construe the premise of a debate between hero and anti-hero. Hindi celluloid has always been larger than life in which characters were established on the basis of the artists appearing in them. The hypothesis was mostly flimsy and virtually every Hindi movie was a song and dance drama that preached the didactic victory of the hero in a set piece showdown. Villains had to make customary appearances not to prove a point but to play second fiddle to a hero. Heroines, comedians and other character artists never had much of a scope in a star dominated industry. Producers and directors milked money till the formula became a caricature of itself.
As the formula ran dry, Hero or the Star who fought with a selfish moneylender or a cruel landlord for most part of 60s and 70s, trained his guns towards the establishment with the advent of angry young persona in late 70s and early 80s. To make the transformation palatable to the viewers, who were still revering about Jai Santoshi Mata on screens, he was given the facade of Robin Hood, the messiah of poor to give an excuse to his vitriolic behaviour.
During post-liberalisation phase with the advent of urbanisation, the dynamics of movie making changed rapidly. With the parallel wave of cinema losing steam and angry young man losing most of its frustration, most films played safe with love stories where class divide was the focus of attention and parents filled in the shoes of Gabbar with a meek smile rather than a menacing grin.
In the late 90s financial shenanigans of Harshad Mehta and Ketan Parekh, gang wars of Mumbai underbelly and the dot-com boom were shaping the virgin minds of post liberalization generation and the films too hold forth. The last bastion was crumbling too. Not only in the real life but in the reel life too the distinction between a hero and villain increasingly got fuzzy. In Hindi movies, the antics of hero were becoming quite un-hero like. With materialism taking roots the question of moral and immoral was no longer valid for masses. The hero was no longer an innocent chap but evolved as a street smart guy and the bad guy got relegated to the verge of extinction. Today’s superstar Shahrukh Khan, a novice television actor by then, took the biggest gamble of his life and played a leading man in two films – Baazigar and Darr – that had negative shades. For the first time Indian the leading protagonist resorted to violence like never before and audience cheered his antics. Later Satya, a cult classic on Mumbai underworld, celebrated the sadism on bigger screen and celebrated the violence on bigger screen perhaps for the first time. Its thumping success encouraged other directors like Sanjay Gupta and Mahesh Manjrekar to push the envelope further.
Post millennium, in the last few years the evil is being fêted by Bollywood (popular nomenclature of Hindi film industry) with aplomb. Films like D, Johnny Gaddar, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Once upon a time in Mumbai, and lately Rakta Charitra have blurred the line between the good and the bad completely. The façade is finally off. The treatment, narrative, critical acclaim and commercial success of them finally sealed the fact that the bad is the new good as far as Hindi cinema goes.
If films are a reflection of our society then the death of a villain points towards the blurring distinction between the hero and villain and our own changing moralistic self. The changing moral values, erosion of traditional beliefs and a westernized lifestyle have led to a transformation in our approach towards life as well as in art. So certain symbols, rituals and practices that were associated with villain and vamps of yesteryears have gained acceptance with in our sub-culture so much so that they ceased to exist as bad.
Yesterday, I came across a poll on Yahoo aimed at judging the fate of Suresh Kalmadi, media’s favourite whipping boy at the moment. Out of sheer curiosity I submitted my humble opinion and got confounded by the result.
Nearly 50 per cent of the respondents (out of more than 1,000 participants) were of the view that he will escape the imminent sacking that was a mere formality till the beginning of the much talked about opening ceremony of Commonwealth Games.
The fact that he was jeered and booed by the crowd present at the stadium when he stood up to deliver his customary address clearly reflected the anguish of people. However, the amazing opening ceremony act that overwhelmed everyone, including foreign media who have been blithe critics, has unexpectedly boosted the chances of Kalmadi survival.
That got me thinking- why public opinion that was so one-sided against Kalmadi till last week, has taken a dramatic turnaround since Sunday?
Are we a bunch of pompous and carefree citizens who have forgotten all the ills of poor planning, bad management and rampant corruption and got hypnotized by the glare of that helium balloon? Was all the hype generated by those firecrackers and billion watts of sound justify the sufferings of a common man on the street who has been subjected to the miseries of potholes, serpentine jams, water clogging and political apathy these past many months? Is two hours of spectacle enough to seal our place as the fast progressing country when the infrastructure in the backyard is still creaky?
Perhaps, the ancient literatures, religious texts and deep rooted cultural beliefs that exemplify a forgiving nature and tolerant behaviour could be one of the reasons behind this compassionate approach. Despite being feted as an emerging economy, we tend to follow the idiom of ‘end justifies the means’ wherein the process fades towards the accomplishment of any feat even if it achieved by shortcuts, tweaking adjustments and haphazard procedures. The fact that we somehow have managed to pull up a feat of measurable standards with our limited means has given us a rare moment of pride in our humdrum existence. Over emphasis on the great Indian untranslatable word jugaad that signifies our ingenuity to come up with unprecedented solutions at the eleventh hour is too ingrained in our day-to-day living.
At a social level we are so used to confusion, commotion and disarray at any public gathering that we have made a virtue of a vice. That’s why no eyebrows were raised when the Delhi Chief Minister (CM) Sheila Dikshit and sports minister M.S. Gill equated CWG with a big fat Indian wedding, and reassured everyone that despite all the chaos everything will culminate miraculously towards the end, as it happens at any public ceremony. In a way, the gratification over the dazzling display of the opening ceremony also typifies the subconscious aspirations of the middle class who has a tendency to show-off at any ceremony be it wedding, festival or any social ritual. In fact, this tendency resonated with our government approach also in the lead up to these games, resulting in unnecessary expenditure on beautifying already well laid roads and footpaths, Connaught place and Khan Market for instance.
The pseudo-nationalist approach adopted by a proliferating media of late that epitomize the acknowledgement of a rising India, particularly by western media, with great fanfare has given further legitimacy and credence to Kalmadi’s half baked efforts.
Commonwealth Games were widely tipped to be a PR’s lost cause by all but now seems to have been salvaged just by a colourful show. Any communication practitioner or PR professional can draw lesson from this to come out of an improbable crisis situation. In the midst of a crisis, relying on symbolism, traditional customs and cultural representation could help in turning the things around your way.
There are leadership lessons to be learnt as well. The thundering applause received by the Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit who did pretty little in the run up to the Games is now basking in the glory of pulling up a Houdini act. This is on the basis of her brief stay at games village which portends popular perception that wants their leaders to be in the midst of action when the occasion demands. The public lapsed on the fact that Dikshit had brushed aside the scandal of the collapse of a footbridge near the main stadium that had injured many, labeling it “minor glitches”.
Now the focus is on the closing ceremony. Bolstered by the euphoria of the opening event, Kalmadi has claimed of an encore. The expectations had hit rock bottom just before the opening ceremony, which later played a great role in the eventual success.
It’s ironic while public may be saying Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro, it will be Kalmadi who would be humming Hum Ho Gaye Kamyaab!
Finnish telecom handset giant Nokia, which not very long ago was enjoying the monopoly over the Indian mobile handset market, has fallen off the clip, and how!
The latest report by IDC India, an IT research firm, has estimated that the market share of Nokia has alarmingly shrunk to 36 per cent this July vis-à-vis 54 per cent last year. Though Nokia has refuted the findings, alleging that the exports figure from its Chennai plant have not been taken into account but it is a reality that Nokia has taken a beating in consumer confidence over the past few years due to which its market share has been eroding continuously.
It is interesting to note that the case of Nokia is not very different from the two other monopolists – LIC and Maruti Suzuki. Both of them have had a market share close to 90 per cent when the competition caught up with them. However, unlike Nokia that failed to respond to the changing market dynamics, both LIC and Maruti showed amazing alacrity and came up with nimble footed response to manage its leadership position. They are still controlling close to 60 per cent share in the territories that matter most – Maruti still dominates the compact car segment and LIC still being the favourite of the ubiquitous middle class when it comes to new premiums.
From their success Nokia can really believe that it can recover the lost territory if it acts swiftly with its rearguard action. What it can do?
Showcase your strength: Maruti has been harping about its massive service network. In fact, one of its memorable commercial showed two lost tourists in Laddakh who did not get food and water but got surprised to find a Maruti Network in the Himalayas. Point is you need to speak about your strengths in your communication. Maruti has also managed to generate word of mouth publicity targeted at first time buyers that they will get a better re-sale value for their cars. Similarly, LIC also boasts of the massive agent distribution network unmatched by its peers so far. Moreover, the quasi judicial nature of its existence has so far been perfectly exploited.
Stay ahead: Maruti has not rested on the laurels of the success of either 800 or its current best selling model Alto. It has kept the competition on its toes with its tactics to unveil new models each year. While its detractors have slammed the strategy to crowd the space of compact car segment, its rising market share has proved them wrong. In fact it has introduced as many as 5 cars – Zen, Wagon R, A-Star, Ritz and Swift in the sub-Rs 500,000 segment that contributes nearly 80 per cent volumes to the car industry. While, skeptics fear that each car will eat into the market share of others but it has kept the customers within Maruti stable by providing them with more opportunities and more models to choose form. LIC also kept its focus more on the unit linked insurance plans to provide higher returns to policyholders. The approach was on providing market-linked products rather endowments policies that have been the bread and butter of LIC.
Follow the trend: Maruti underwent a makeover by offering new designs with the launch of swift. Earlier, its cars had classic line designs be it Zen, Esteem or even Boleno. It changed track with the launch of Swift and adopted a sportier, muscular and aerodynamic approach for its designs. Maruti positioned itself as the car for today’s generation with its trendy look. Similarly, LIC too is focusing on youth brigade in its communication. The new commercials, though less appealing on aesthetics, are being made keeping in mind the demographic profile of below-30 age group. Today, youth is increasingly becoming aware of financial planning practices and hence LIC is trying to pose itself as a company that is aware of their aspirations and needs and hence capable of providing answers to their problems.
It is obvious that Nokia has fared poorly in following the above mentioned dictum. It has almost got wiped off from the entry level segment. It did not pay any attention to the mid level segment for close to one year and did not care to launch any successful model when the market was asking for it. Samsung stole the thunder with the success of Corby in this segment. Then again its inability to successfully penetrate the market of Smart phone/Touch screen mobiles further turned away customers. On the marketing front, the strategy to rope in Shah Rukh as its brand ambassador too failed to evoke positive response.
May be a massive public relation campaign is the need of the hour than an array of endorsements. What do you think?
To fight the growing autocracy of rickshaw and taxi drivers, thousands of commuters have pledged to not to use them for travel tomorrow.
A web campaign – Meter Jam – which was kicked off a few weeks back, has been very well received by people who now plan to say a big no to autos and taxi-wallas in Mumbai on August 12. The three advertising professionals who came up with this idea say on their website, “Strikes need a strike back! We’re tired of meter that always reads more than it should, drivers who refuse to ply and demand return fare whenever they want. And if all that wasn’t enough, now we have to deal with strikes too, any time the ‘unions’ decide! Everyone is holding the janta to ransom. How much more will we pay? It’s time to turn the tables.”
Apart from the page on Twitter, the fan page on Facebook that was created mid-July has received the support of almost 20,000 people who are addressed as ‘Jammers’ and asked to flash Jammer badges, stickers, placards and posters as a sign of protest.
Meter Jam asks commuters to opt for bus services or car pool tomorrow. There are 90 supporters who have registered on the website to provide car pooling services through various destinations in the city. A list of bus services and their respective routes is also provided.
An NGO, International Consumer Rights Protection Council’s (ICRPC), has acknowledged the initiative and requested its members to join in the protest.
Do you think such a campaign is required in other cities like Delhi and Bangalore too?
“I cannot believe its 2010”, a reviewer of the controversial Vaseline Men Be Prepared application rants on Facebook. Another reviewer goes, “Supporting the maintenance of insecurities about the need for lighter skin is one of the most unscrupulous things a company could do to young men and women the world over. UNILEVER = modern world fail.”
Hindustan Unilevel Ltd (HUL) and controversies go hand in hand. The issue has always remained the same- they want all of us to “whiten” our skin or how many call it, get “fair”. Companies leading products like Fair & Lovely and Pond’s have always kept the women’s skin lightening debate on rage and this time men are also involved.
‘Vaseline for Men’ has launched a unique application on Facebook that asks you to upload your photograph, which you can then lighten and keep as you profile picture. The application has attracted over 900 fans and almost 9000 monthly users. However, the reviews of the application aren’t every appealing- Based on over 70 reviews, the fairness calculator has received paltry 1.6 stars out of 5. Many are offended by the application and demanding it to be removed.
According to the research agency AC Nielsen, the Indian market in skin-whitening creams for men and women is now worth over US$430 million and is growing at nearly 18% a year.
FICCI, says that the FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) market in India is worth Rs 1200 billion and HUL has a share of Rs 80 billion in it.
Top Bollywood stars- Shahrukh Khan, John Abraham, Shahid Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan have been promoting men’s skin lightening agents for sometime.
A member of Facebook group called India against fairness creams comments, “The real issue with it, just like with any beauty campaign, is that it’s taking advantage of people’s poor body image to make a profit. But there are countless products and companies that do this every day all across the world. Entire industries are dedicated to it. If you’re going to be upset about one of them you should be upset about all of them.”
Do you think it’s another shade of racism or merely a marketing campaign gone totally wrong?
“I never knew how a bunch of people half a world away chose a random town in New Jersey to populate. Were they from some Indian state that got made fun of by all the other Indian states and didn’t want to give up that feeling? Are the malls in India that bad? Did we accidentally keep numbering our parkway exits all the way to Mumbai?”
-Joel Stein, Time Magazine. Article- My Own Private India.
Here are some reactions on blogosphere-
“Joel Stein is a racist, xenophobic PIG. The last I checked, pigs were not Kosher.”
“I assume Stein is eating bagel and lox in his mother’s home while she cooks him a brisket.”
“I think America needs geniuses like us to keep you falling in the marsh of drugs and prostitutes. Someone with oiled-hair and extra cologne carrying an intellectual head on his shoulders is far more superior than a typical American pot-head.”
Time Magazine has apologised to the Indian community but has not removed the article from its website.
Joel Stein (who is Jewish) Tweeted- “Didn’t meant to insult Indians with my column this week. Also stupidly assumed their emails would follow that Gandhi non-violence thing.”
Do you accept Time Magazine’s apology?
& only few care…
In one of the most daring moves in American television, channel Comedy Central has taken a giant jab at religious beliefs of people across the world. Much worse, the makers have put their lives at stake by messing with Islamic community.
South Park, an animation-adult series, somewhat on the lines of The Simpsons, commemorates its 200th anniversary by burlesquing religious figures from around the world- Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, Moses, Joseph Smith, Lao Tzu and Muhammad.
In the episode titled ‘The Super Best Friends’, Kyle and Stan revisit the group of superheroes ‘Super Best Friends’ to try to get Muhammad to come to South Park, because Tom Cruise demands to meet the Prophet so he can steal his “impervious to being made fun of” goo.
Buddha is shown snorting coke, Krishna snaps and turns into a badger, Tom Cruise is a “candy packer in a fudge factory” (a hint at the rumors circulating around Cruise’s sexual orientation), Jesus is called ‘Jesus f****** Christ’ and Muhammad cannot be “presented to the township because violence can not be risked from the Muslim people”.
It’s not new though. In an article by Erik Childress in cinematical.com, he says, “ In 2006, South Park aired the two-part episode, “Cartoon Wars”, which featured Eric Cartman on a crusade to get Family Guy canceled after Muhammad is slated for a guest appearance on one of their episodes. Fearing a terrorist attack, the town buried their heads in sand in a show of solidarity to Islamists that their eyes would not feast on this unholiest of acts. Ultimately, the Family Guy episode airs but the moment of Muhammad’s appearance is cut away from with a message that read “In this shot, Mohammed hands a football helmet to Family Guy. Comedy Central has refused to broadcast an image of Mohammed on their network.” Strangely, unlike this time, there was no raging criticism or protests over the episode then
Revolutionmuslim.com has given a serious death threat to the makers of South Park ‘reminding’ them of the Van Gogh incident. Film Director Theo Van Gogh was shot 8 times by Mohammed Bouyeri. The assassin proceeded to slice his throat practically decapitating the filmmaker, stabbed him in the chest and then left two knives in his torso with a 5 page letter attached.
Watch the rare scenes (backwards, due to copyrights issue) from the controversial episode. (Note Muhammad’s image in the video has been censored)
The world isn’t perfect without Prahlad Kakkar…
Or is it?
Post IPL snub, Mandira Bedi sets a feminist statement - protests through a ‘clothes burning movement’. In case you missed it, the brand is called Shree Ganesh.
JK Cement reported huge profit recently and we reveal their secret. The ad is pretty much self-explanatory.
Either the long due surgery took place or Harper’s Bazaar India is too keen on perfection.
Presenting a normal limbed, 10 fingured Hrithik Roshan.
Watching Filmfare awards and then Academy awards just a few hours later was a cultural shock of sorts. Academy awards hosted by Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin were a sheer sense of relief from the ridiculous shenanigans Shahrukh Khan and Saif Ali Khan indulged in at Filmfare awards last night. Although, Hugh Jackman last year, was tad bit better in his “musicals are back” act, but the 82nd Oscars at least reach upto the level of those compered by Whoopi Goldberg, Jon Stewart and Ellen DeGeneres. Academy’s choice of Martin and Baldwin comes from their tremendous one show act in 30 rock season 3. The banter between themselves, mocking Meryl Streep, George Clooney and other Hollywood stars was hilarious. Neil Patrick Harris’ opening act didn’t seem Academisque-grandiose but Ben Stiller’s Avatar act was his best amongst all his Oscars presentations so far. The winners were upto everyone’s expectations (read Sandra Bullock, Monique and Christopher Waltz) but Hurt Locker’s 6 wins seem surprising as its over movie like Up in The Air which was ignored. Sad one of Hurt Locker’s producers was banned from attending the event.
Slapstick and burlesque, I would say are equally serious and tough genres to adapt especially for Indian awards ceremony. It’s very much out that Filmfare awards are rigged but what’s worse for then is that they are not doing a good job covering the fact up. No nomination for Abhay Deol, Ranbir being nominated for Ajab Prem, putting Sushmita Sen on the jury was one of the many mistakes… biggest of all- repeating “SRK” and “SAK” as hosts for the third time. The only person laughing to their jokes was Gauri Khan (who for once seemed a bit zonked about their “security check” act). Shahrukh seemed exhausted and Saif seemed uncomfortable, Neil Nitin Mukesh’s argument was clearly staged and the entire ceremony was way too long. The Lifetime Achievement awards to Shashi Kapoor and Khayyam and Katrina Kaif’s performance were the only saviors for Bollywood lovers as rest of the event was a giant snore.
Economic Times’ post Budget event with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as the key guest ended on an embarrassing note.
Actually, it didn’t even begin.
The event titled “Breakfast with FM” , which had 200 invitees waiting, was cancelled as the FM backed off at the last moment. The reason why Mukherjee didn’t make it was not disclosed but we can tell you that it was a giant snub.
On March 1st, ET’s front page boasted of Mukherjee’s quote – “I can’t think of a day without ET” along with a picture of him reading the paper. A seasoned politician like Pranab Mukherjee is not too publicity savvy and may have not liked his association with ET as was displayed by the paper. Another version doing rounds is that Pranab babu did not like the fact that ET decided to telecast the interaction Live on ET Now. Considering the fact that Opposition has turned the heat on the UPA government in the Parliament ton the price rise issue, hobnobbing with corporate class would have send wrong signal to the masses.
In the ad published in the paper, ET mentioned that Chanda Kochhar and Azim Premji would be ‘interlocutors’ for FM. Seeing his colleague Shashi Tharoor embroiled into a controversy over the use of this tongue twister, Mukherjee would have developed cold feet, perhaps!
2010, the beginning of a promising decade, did not begin on a very good note for major car manufacturers across the globe. The year saw several car manufactures resorting to the most unprecedented thing in the past two months by recalling their highest selling brands. What began with Japanese auto major Honda recalling 8,532 units of its sedan ‘City’ in India due to defective power window switch, as part of a global recall initiative, was then followed by Volkswagen recalling 193,620 vehicles in Brazil because of a lubrication problem with the rear wheels. It was Toyota motors then recalling 4,36,000 hybrid vehicles worldwide, including the newly launched 2010 Prius model. The latest to join the recalling bandwagon is the country’s largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki which is recalling about one lakh units of its flagship export model ‘A-Star’ to replace a faulty fuel pump part, in cars manufactured before August 2009.
What can this really be attributed to? In a bid to maintain their leadership position and to take competition head on, companies are hastily launching models in each product category. This in turn leads to specifics being ignored and the quality of ‘quality control’ taking a hit. Not to say that harried customers too are looking in the opposite direction for their next car purchase.
Also read Total Recall.
Amongst HT City’s creative line of front page columnists introduced recently, one is a Ms Lara Dutta (Ex- Miss Universe and an “actress”). Her entire column speaks about her three New Year resolutions that she wants us to be aware of. First- awareness about her body and what she eats (not to forget Dutta’s a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador). “Like when I have stuffed another spoonful of low fat yogurt with a chocolate sprinkles into my mouth, I can hear voice in my head say ‘what are you doing’?”
After she finishes conversations with her own head, Dutta tells us that she needs to be committed to learning to drive. But the word commitment scares her, “I hate committing to anything if I know there is possibility that I might abandon it before completion… I guess this is the military background in me.” Somewhere Kelly Dorjee is guzzling down Smirnoff and crying himself to sleep.
Third, Dutta wants to concentrate on writing for the HT supplement for the next 10 months, “But it’s opened a Pandora Box”… for her or us, she doesn’t clear.
The article is titled ‘A New Start’ and subtitle reads ‘New Columnist Lara Dutta promises to bare her soul’ and below it is a life-size picture of Dutta… with her bare legs. You know what’s in store for next 10 months!
“There would be some security lapse here and there but everybody would be safe.”
-IOA chief Suresh Kalmadi at Commonwealth Shooting Championships
For more hilarious gaffes at the event read this.
If Disney can do it, so can Mattel. Disney brought in a black leading lady as its princess in “The princess & the frog”, Mattel, now hopes to reach out to Muslim girls worldwide through its ‘Burqa Barbie’. The idea is novel- the doll went undercover for a charity auction in connection with Sotheby’s (auctioneer) for Save The Children, a few months back, when Barbie celebrated its 50th anniversary.
But why burqa? After the launch, there were swarms of online protests when people questioned Mattel’s choice of a symbol of oppression. President of the National Organization for Women NY said, “Women are forced to wear the burqa or risk being murdered. Mattel should be ashamed. Making a profit by selling a doll that is clearly wearing a symbol of violence is not acceptable and there should be a public outcry to take this doll off the market.”
Someone in an interview to dailymail.co.uk made fun of the new doll saying, “The message with Barbie for women is you can be whatever you want to be… I have a Barbie in a wheelchair that was only out for six weeks.”
Mattel which reported a 3% slump in the worldwide gross sales for the Barbie brand clearly seem to be desperate.
American writer, Phyllis Chesler said, “Will clean-cut Ken now come (pun intended) with four burqa’ed Barbie doll wives?”
Shah Rukh Khan, the self proclaimed Badshah of Bollywood, finally got what he wanted. His latest offering My Name is Khan (MNIK) has created a monstrous hype before its scheduled release date, February 12th, 2010.
No amount of marketing gimmick would have generated the round-the-clock buzz on newspapers, TV channels, blogosphere, twitteratis and not to forget the age-old word-of-mouth flurry. The stand-off with Shiv Sena, another publicity hungry political outfit that thrives on controversy and rabble rousing passion seems to have paid off nicely. So much so, the mammoth marketing budget — touted to be around Rs 25 crore — now appears to be unwarranted and has gone unnoticed by many. Such is the power of PR.
When news channels flashed the story of his detention and subsequent questioning at the US Airport on Independence Day last year, it was evident that King Khan (as he prefers to be addressed) was trying to plug in his movie. However, turning a one-off skirmish into a strategic masterstroke would have been difficult had the issue of eschewing Pakistani players not came into being.
The decision to keep Pakistani players off the auction block was a business decision and not a political one. Pakistani players did not play in the last season that was held in South Africa and no one created a hullabaloo then. But, SRK smelled an opportunity to stir up the debate and deliberately attracted the ire of Shiv Sena, it seems. Just a day after the joint press conference of the owners of various teams, who staunchly denied any political motive behind their decision to steer clear of the neighbours, SRK played his tacit move. With his deliberate remark terming the whole incident as ‘unfortunate’, he very cleverly set up the media for the long haul. Shiv Sena, smarting under the setback of Raj’s growing clout and its own diminishing aura, found the moment opportune to shoot back to limelight.
The incident proved that though Aamir Khan is a savvier marketer, Shah Rukh knows how to manipulate the media too well.
Toyota is facing a lot of flak these days for its tardy crisis management. The company sent the auto sector into a tizzy over its decision to recall nearly 8 million cars and trucks, including its leading sedans Camry and Corolla besides its much hyped hybrid model Prius, across continents. Read more here.
Today, the business of Public Relations is extremely competitive. PR executives need to have an edge that makes them stand out from the crowd. Apart from the usual qualification demands, most would agree having a good relationship with a journalist is key. This brings us to the question if media rounds are important at all.
There are usually two standard responses to that.
1) Yes, it’s a relationship-building process.
2) No, it’s a waste of time. They can be contacted over phone or emails.
A dipstick among journos from leading dailies across five metros shows that 80% of them favour media rounds. Here are some interesting takes.
a) If it is meeting for the first time, media rounds are better. Subsequently, phone would do.
b) They go and watch movies.
c) A must at initial level, and regular intervals after that.
d) No, unless they are bearing gifts.
e) I find it pointless and annoying.
What do you guys say?
How many reach out to public with a relevant social message and a marketing agenda cleverly packed together? Miles away in Bangkok, Thailand, Mechai Viravaidya runs an amazing restaurant chain, ‘Cabbages and Condoms’, which gives “information about safe sex in a funny, palatable manner!” The Times of India Crest carried an interesting piece, written by journalist Sharif D Rangnekar, about this restaurant with many flavours! Read it here.
Shiv Sena is at its shenanigans again with Mumbai civic polls around the corner, raging up the ‘marathi manoos’ debate once again. But this time, Balasaheb’s drama hasn’t had the expected start - major ally RSS-BJP have refused to play the puppet to Sena and frittered away the undemocratic idea.
Steve Jobs is at his best again. No, it’s not about the iPad, but that of him changing the rules of the game. Love it or hate it, we all know that the iPad comes with intriguing possibilities – browsing web, photos, watching videos, listening to music, playing games, reading e-books, etc. But Jobs’ got more on his sleeves. He has now shaken the e-book domain as he did with the music industry.
Even before selling its first e-book, Apple is already making e-commerce leader Amazon blink and bend the rules. Less than two days ago, Amazon stopped selling books published by MacMillan over pricing dispute. Now, Amazon has conceded to MacMillan’s demands to sell its book at a higher price, in line with the publisher’s pricing plan with Apple. Apple wants to sell e-books for US$12.99 and US$14.99, instead of the US$9.99 or less that Amazon had been charging. It will be interesting to see the response of the other big publishers who have sided with Apple in the pricing war — Pearson’s Penguin Group, News Corp’s HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group and CBS’ Simon & Schuster. As of now, all of them sell their e-books through Amazon. What about Kindle buyers? Many of them are price-conscious consumers. Will they agree to pay more? So far, there has been no immediate reaction.
No doubt, Jobs’ effect can already be felt in the publishing world. Any revenue-generating ideas for the print media? For that matter, what’s in store for other online contents? The game is becoming more exciting by the day.
But that’s exactly what Domino’s Pizza has been telling everyone since last month.
In a not so traditional form of advertising, Domino’s has launched an almost 5 minute ad that focuses on an array of bitter complaints from customers, shows Twitter and Facebook users criticizing the pizzas (customers said Domino’s pies were even worse than microwave pizza and “totally void of flavor) and the company President admitting to their mistakes.
The company that reported net income of US$17.8 million in US, in October last year, is in no mood to take criticism down low – the chain decided to start refurbishing its recipe about 18 months ago. But for a 50 year old company, how ingenious would it be to wash its dirty linen in public saying what we’ve been feeding you for years is just crap? The ad boasts of company’s confidence of staying as the pizza king but moving the focus from speed and reliability to their deteriorating hold on taste seems indigestible.
The third largest newspaper in US, The New York Times may soon begin charging for their online content. It’s likely that they will use a metered system, which will allow viewers to read a certain number of articles for free before paying.
The Times have tried something similar before with TimesSelect that operated from 2005 to 2007. The system charged US$50 per year or US$8 per month for access to certain areas of the site, but failed horribly and it was taken down. To make up for the blunder, The Times opened its archives from 1987 to the present, for free.
Last year, New York Times Co. posted a steep first-quarter loss of US$74.5 million. Their weekday circulations also fell 7.3% the same year.
Readership will continue to fall if such plans are thought of. Would you pay to read news online?
Jug Suraiya in his column has said that the highly ambitious TOI campaign ‘Aman Ki Asha’ is not merely an attempt to bring India and Pakistan closer but also ignite bonds between publications Hindustan Times and Times. On one end as Pakistani media speculates over the success of the campaign, Suraiya moves beyond Times’ “novel agenda” and takes a dig at the rival.
Shortly after the article came out, Vir Sanghvi Tweeted- “Sad to see Jug Suraiya reduced to corporate stooge in todays Times….thought he was better than that…”
Emanuel Joute & Manish Sharma
Another year, another plan that’s likely to go up in smoke. According to a report by the Indian Express, the Union Health Ministry has said that the pictorial warnings on tobacco products have not been making the desired impact. So now it seems the Ministry is considering replacing them with new hard-hitting images. These pictures could be of a bent cigarette depicting impotency, a person wearing an oxygen mask, a picture showing mouth cancer and that of a heart affected by smoking. But will this drive home the point?
The initial response to the pictorial warnings, implemented from 31 May 2009, was tepid. And it kind of fizzled out in due course. The ministry said that the chest X-ray image that currently adorns cigarette packs was perceived by many as a “man wearing a black coat” and not “affected lungs”. And it’s business as usual for the many roadside cigarette vendors. Similarly, the ban on smoking public places that was enforced during the tenure of ex-health minister A. Ramadoss has little or no meaning now. Many pubs/cafes/bars/ restaurants flout the rule, with no policing in place. Even otherwise, smokers can be seen puffing their dose of nicotine at places they find deem fit.
If the government is hell bent on taming the sales of tobacco, it should have stricter policies and not fly-by-night ideas. Its attempt to ban smoking on screen has not produced the desired results. Even the ban on surrogate advertising did not seem to work. Liquor moghul Vijay Mallya has very cleverly named his outfit as ‘Royal Challengers’, thus extracting every ounce of mileage for the liquor brand that was earlier owned by Shaw Wallace but now falls under the ambit of Bangalore baron. The ‘Red & White’ bravery awards too strengthen the positioning of the brand further. The company that enjoys monopoly in the cigarette market also runs a clothing brand to exploit the lifestyle theme for its tobacco entity more than a meaningful brand extension tactic.
In short, if the government really thinks of banning the sale of tobacco products than nothing short of an actual ‘ban’ can work, ever. By posting an ugly image, the government might assist though unknowingly in boosting the sale.
Cigarette smoking is an addiction rather than a habit. And, like any addiction, kink plays a greater role in satiating the urge. A smoker may be smoking more out of a desire to belong to a cult rather than the need to inhale tobacco. Thus, the ‘herd mentality’ to belong to a particular tribe to present a particular image to one’s own self works behind the seemingly simple exercise of lighting a cigarette. Any pictorial representation indicating a heart affected by smoking might actually work the opposite ways and trigger the stimuli for smoking as people resort to smoking as an anti-depressant too. Moreover, human behaviour works on a ‘wishful thinking’ theory whereby most human beings tend to display overconfidence in their own abilities on most occasions. Thus, they are able to distance themselves from the object like ugly warnings of a mouth infested with cancer or a bent cigarette indicating impotency and make their mind believe that this may never happen to them.
The government needs to come up with some ‘out of the box’ ideas to dissuade people from smoking. This may include among other things a steep tax on retailers or may be even abandoning the sale in a packet altogether, thereby making it inconvenience for smokers to easily access their quota at one particular time. Else, any flaccid plan would just be another one of those “bent” attempts.
It’s definitely not a Happy New Year for Tiger Woods as January first began with one of his biggest advertising client AT&T dropping him off after his adultery case. The fallout with many other brands surrounding Woods’ now very public romps has significantly brought down his status as a sports celebrity who previously earned an estimated US$110 million annually in endorsements. Back home, ND Tiwari, 87, on the eve of his life and career has grossed the title of a “dirty old man” (as Hindustan Times call him). After ruling Andhra, Tiwari’s ruling YouTube with lacs and lacs views to the blurry pictures of his “sexual transgressions”.
What do Tiwari and Woods share in common apart from their powerful positions? Amongst other things, perils of mismanagement of image, timely but worthless public apology, merciless chops of media gossip and a nonchalant love for women. Woods’ damage is done and he is paying (including monetary wounds) for it heavily. Tiwari has quit and probably will not be able to recover his image in the years left to him, just like Bangaru Laxman who is nowhere to be seen. Mr Ex-Governor’s case is more violent as the blot is so deep and malignant that it’ll be tough for the clean-slate-Congress to lessen the impact as of now.
It was in many ways a sloppy fall for Tiwari- the man known for his uprightness and white kurtas that symbolizes the purity and integrity of an Indian politician. Just before the sex scandal, few months ago, Tiwari was dragged to Delhi High Court in a paternity case. I don’t even think his administration has been a great success by far- at least in the wake of with Telengana tamasha. Years back, Bill Clinton survived the sex scandal because he came clean later, if not very soon. Tiwari is confusing everyone with his stance by staunchly denying his involvement but also apologising to the country. What is the need to apologize when he’s done no wrong?
Politicians are forgiving creatures- BJP took Modi back, Congress reassigned Vilasrao Deshmukh and R R Patil and in sometime Tiwari might just pave his way back into active politics. Even with the oozing of damaging information, he may not come out clean on the issue because the punishment is a mere “wait”, for few months or maybe a year.
The oozing is vulgar and noxious. “ND Tiwari sex scandal clip” is amongst the top Google searches in India. ABN Channel that ran the lewd clips of Tiwari in bed with three women quoted Radhika, a woman from Uttarakhand, as saying that she sent the young women to the Raj Bhavan on Tiwari’s request through his aide. The woman said she had to expose the governor as he failed to provide her an iron ore mining license in Andhra Pradesh. Tiwari is also accused of abusing young girls and arranged the filming of his dirty secrets in order to blackmail girls.
On being asked his opinion on the journalism that is going in the bedrooms of politicians, Tiwari laughs and says, “Well, how can I support otherwise no one can have a private life”.
Perhaps, “sex life” is the functioning word here.
Marketing plan gone bad… really bad!
American company that plan to open 30-40 counters in India says on its arrival – Sorry, foreigners only!
Would you eat there?
As Congress clean the Ayodhya laundry in public, the blame game is once again at its high pitch. 17 years ago, BJP rose in prominence with its role in the Ram temple movement, knocking down a nondescript mosque that lay on the sight since 1528. In 1984, the party had only two seats in Parliament, in 1991, it won 119. The achievement didn’t take long to turn into the ghost of past that has been haunting the VHP-BJP combo at every elections and now at Parliament. As BJP MPs struggle with the fresh round of accusations, the Government is sitting back and having the last laugh. Congress’s hypocrisy comes out as a shining beacon as they overstate a sensitive issue ignoring the shuddering impact it had and repercussions it could bring. The day Rahul Gandhi says Atal Bihari Vajpayee is “respectful” and speculates over the accuracy of Liberhan report indicting the senior BJP leader, is the same day another Congress MP calls Vajpayee a scoundrel in his native tongue in the Parliament session yesterday. MP Beni Prasad Verma’s usage of derogatory slang against Vajpayee is a sheer contrast to the subtle PR practice that the Gandhi scion usually indulges in.
It’s one of the biggest ironies of sorts how the best management institutes in the country – the IIMs – failed in managing their common admission test, known as CAT, this year. Many feel that the IIMs were over ambitious and ill-prepared to go the online way for one of the toughest entrance exams in the world. A few questions arise. For one, what made them believe they can conduct an online test for over 2.4 lakh MBA aspirants in just 10 days, knowing full well how bad the online infrastructure in the country is? Secondly, were they short-sighted? There was no Plan-B in place. Thirdly, don’t they teach crisis management? They way they have handled the situation so far has been pathetic. For the first two days (tests began 28 November), it seemed they were clueless about how to handle the crisis. Communication was poor. It was only much after some politicians raised the issue that the IIMs and Prometric, the company entrusted with conducting the test, came out with a statement that several centres across the country had been affected by viruses. On 3 December, finally, the IIMs came out with a list of instructions for aspirants whose tests have been rescheduled, as well as for those who have already given the test.
In all, it has been a big drub to the IIM’s brand image. This comes in a year when the number of CAT takers fell from 2.7 lakh in 2008 to 2.4 lakh, with many attributing this fall to the poor 2009 placements. Also, some observers attribute this fall to CAT going the online way, taking into account the discrepancy of students’ background in India. “A mere mention of ‘online test’ would scare away a dozen people,” quips a teacher from an MBA coaching institute.
CAT is usually conducted between the last week of November and first week of December every year. This period is crucial as most of the universities across the country conduct their internal exams in December. In a country like India, it is well known that exams not only affect the student but the entire family. Preparation for any exams has its momentum, and re-igniting a lost momentum is not easy. And as Mint commented, CAT is a test that promises educational, financial and social mobility. Chaos and a lack of transparency is not what they expect from the high priests of management education.
India has changed a lot in recent times, much faster than we could have imagined. Things that were a part of our daily lives till a decade back have become obsolete today. Not only that, even their memories too have faded away. TV antennas adoring roof-tops, an office typewriter, the big bulky MTNL phone, or a Murphy transistor glued to every year during a cricket match; I bet the population that frequently uses the Net these days and form the majority at social networking sites would not even relate to what I am writing. But that’s understandable; those things were meant to become redundant with the advent of technology.
However, when it comes to government the same swiftness is missing in its approach. It seems that those palatial-bhavans (buildings) that housed our esteemed legislatures prevent any fresh thought or idea to sneak in. I don’t know why age-old conventions that made sense in a different era are still being pursued with a missionary zeal. Here is a list of three things that could easily be done away with for the convenience of not only the common man but also for the government.
India International Trade Fair: Yeah IITF or just plain ‘Trade Fair’, as it is referred by the masses, tops the list. Now, when India was a closed economy, it made a sense to organize an event that brought international-level business person to deliberate business prospects with Indian counterparts. However, today when the charm of imported/smuggled goods from Dubai/America has become nostalgia and the internet has revolutionized the trade world; it is only fair to expect the government should stops such ‘Fairs’.
Rail Budget: This is another bogey of the British Raj that is being carried on despite losing its track. Now what is the need to provide an hour of fame to the Rail Minister to indulge in nothing but political grandstanding? If it is for the government officials, then they are supposed to do their duty with or without the minister’s speech. If it is for the common man, then in today’s age of satellite TV a simple press conference would do the needful. The lives of people are not hanging on fare revisions, and the new train services that are usually announced take years to get functional. However, considering the fact that it takes the government more than 50 years to change the timing of the Budget presentation from 5’o’clock in the evening to 11’o’clock in the morning, the yawning Rail Budget speeches will be a part of the Parliament for the next 50 years at least.
This is the annual colorful military musical extravaganza that happens two days after the Republic Day parade. The event that symbolizes the returning of troops to their barracks is again the legacy of British rule. With due respect to our military forces, the ceremony should be held without a doubt. However, with rapid urbanization it causes a lot of inconvenience for three full working days, almost always to the citizens. May be, it could have been accommodated during the same evening. I hope it is not cast in stone that the event should be held exactly three days after the event.
Sharif D Rangnekar
When it comes to communications and PR, President Obama knows it all and does it all. There are oh so many case studies related to his campaign that a book can be made on it. During his visit to China earlier this week, he cleverly used words on how China would ‘encourage’ better ties between India and Pakistan. While he did not specifically say that China would ‘negotiate’ or ‘involve’ itself in this direction, he virtually gave this large nation a role to play in South Asian politics.
What he also did is ignore China’s investments in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). What a sentence or two can do is amazing and disturbing given the role a US President plays in global politics. So far the Indian government has close to ignored the statements and is fortunate that the media has not chased it down. A continued engagement with the media would mean keeping the story alive and further embarrassment for the Indian government and nation. According to sources, the PMO intends to maintain one line – a holding statement of sorts – the Indian PM will take the issue up when he visits President Obama a few days from now!
It is surprising and actually disappointing to see an aged and respected (at least by his cronies) Bal Thackeray’s jabberwocky, that supposedly “warns” one of our nation’s beloved personality. It’s disappointing because at an age when colleagues like Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Abdul Kalam gracefully take a backseat, Thackeray has been wasting the little time left for him in dividing Maharashtra from India. Taking a snap at Sachin Tendulkar for saying Mumbai is a part of India; Sena scion might regret the mistake for the rest of his life.
Shiv Sena has usually gotten away with its ‘A-Marathi-first’ agenda. Whether it’s beating up immigrants, rampaging media offices that dare to speak against Sena’s autocracy or threatening celebrities, each time Thackeray has outrightly challenged Indian democracy and constitution. For decades, we have seen a bunch of gutless goons creating a terror of sorts in Maharashtra, without anyone even trying to stop them. UPA or NDA- all governments in power have neither raised a voice nor taken a concrete action against vandalism in the name of Marathi chauvinism. Sena is now working to hold on its core constituency ground as the monster it created, called the MNS, seems to be championing the Marathi-manoos ideology (that slaps a Member of Parliament who represents thousands of people and dares to speak in Hindi). The rivalry between two idiosyncratic groups continues with innocents getting harassed – those who pay the price of not being Marathi.
Sachin stated a fact when he said that he is an Indian first then a Maharashtrian. Both Balasaheb and Raj Thackeray are blithely unaware of the fact that today people with Marathi as their mother tongue make only a small proportion of Maharashtra’s population than they did three decades ago. From 76.5% of the population in 1971, Marathi speakers gradually decreased to 68.8% in 2001, while Hindi speakers rose from 5 to 11%, according to the Directorate of Economics and Statistics in the state Planning Department.
Our government need to gear up against raging violence and casteism bubbling in the state before those who are suffering take the matters in their own hands and consider the good ol’ tit-for-tat.
Lifestyles of the rich and famous. Photographs from a Hyderabad hotel aired by NewsX, has shown Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and few of his teammates enjoying the company of female “admirers” at a party which the channel claimed was held after India lost to Australia by three runs in Hyderabad on Thursday. Manu Sharma and Rahul Mahajan need to be RSVPd on such events people !
News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch is talking about stopping Google from indexing his newspapers. He wants his content to command a premium online, and not give search engines a free ride. So what gives? Leaving aside the financial risks, the immediate fallout would be a steep fall in traffic. According to Web tracking site Experian Hitwise, News Corp.’s flagship publication The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) could lose up to 25 per cent of its traffic. Hitwise said that on a weekly basis, Google and Google news are the top traffic providers for WSJ.com, accounting for over 25 per cent of its traffic. Also, over 44 per cent of WSJ.com visitors directed from Google are “new” users who haven’t visited the domain in the past 30 days.
Does Murdoch have a new gameplan and willing to accept this fall in online traffic? Or is this just a ploy to get Google into talking money? Google, on its part, has no plans to bite the bait as yet. It issued a statement saying how easy it would be for News Corp. to remove itself from the Google News tool and the search engine itself. This episode raises other issues such as the future of online content distribution, plagiarism and revenue models. According to Hitwise, links from social networks such as Twitter and Facebook account for 4 per cent of visits to news and media sites in the US – a percentage that is up 490 per cent year-over-year.
So, can Google live without Murdoch? Or can he live without Google? Pick your choice.
MNS activists rake up another national shame
Meanwhile, Jessica Lall murder accused parties on parole and Sheila Dixit defends it…
- Vande Mataram was actually author and composer Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’s response to ‘God Save the Queen’, a song that the British rulers were trying hard to force their anthem, around 1870. The song was later included in his novel Anandmath, which has been widely criticized by Muslims as a propaganda and an attempt to spit venom at their community.
- The novel alludes to the devastating Bengal famine of 1770 and unsuccessful ‘Sannyasi’ rebellion. Based in an era when Mir Jafar, a Mughal emperor was ruling in Bengal, Anandmath also hints to the tragedy in 1771 when 150 Hindu ascetics were put to death in Natore (now Bangladesh), apparently for no reason.
- “Shatru ke khoon se seench kar man ko shasya-shyaamla karunga”. (From the blood of enemy, ill soothe my heart) – A line when a character from the novel pledges retribution from people, those seem to be Muslim. ‘Shasya-shyaamla’ are also the words used in the first stanza of the song Vande Mataram.
- The song offers the chanter to worship at the feet of Goddess Durga. Muslims clerics argue whether bowing in front of “mother” is salutation or worship. The religion does not allow a Muslim to bow down in front of any body else except allah.
- Rabindra Nath Tagore who had first sung the song before it became a war cry says the song in just a hymn to Goddesss Durga (Mother India). In a letter to Subhash Chandra Bose, Tagore said that “no Muslim can be expected patriotically to worship the ten-handed deity as the nation”. He did not want the song to be stressed as the national song in the Parliament saying, “When Bengali Mussulmans (Muslims) show signs of stubborn fanaticism, we regard these as intolerable. When we too copy them and make unreasonable demands, it will be self-defeating.”
Another blow for the Indian cricket team at the hands of once mighty Australians, which has lost much of its invincible tag over the last few months! It’s interesting to see how both the Indian media and masses commiserate with the Indian team (and Sachin Tendulkar in particular) for their ‘narrow loss’. And it’s equally fascinating to see a severely depleted Australian side to fire up at this occasion and take lead in the 7 match series when odds were clearly loaded against them. With their frontline bowlers injured, the Aussies are struggling to put on field an eleven member squad and add to that the inexperience of playing on the sub-continent pitches for the bench which has to fill-in for the injured players.
Coming back to the issue of both media and masses sympathizing with the Indian team for their supposedly ‘valiant efforts’ – should the Indian cricketers not be scorned at for their feeble bowling and fielding? As many as seven Indian batsman scored runs in single digit in response to a mammoth Australian score of 350. The team deserves nothing but criticism and hostility. Our cricket board which runs like a private corporation (and makes heavy profits) pays handsomely to its first-rate employees (read cricketers)! It is time that the board gives a boot to some of its redundant employees.
And our much befuddled media should do a double think before sympathizing with a team that does little on the turf!