Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

Death of a Villain

November 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Manish Sharma


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. 

Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro

October 8, 2010 1 comment

Manish Sharma

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!

Nokia – disconnecting from people

October 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Manish Sharma

Pic source:

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?

Delete that Tweet!

March 12, 2010 Leave a comment

Emanuel Joute

A simple status update of Tweet might seem harmless. But With the growing popularity of social media, the chances of leakages and defamatory information coming out from employees are quite high.

 Read more.

Good, Bad & SRK

March 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Rohit Sharma

Sandra Bullock. Pic source:

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.

Budget Poll

February 26, 2010 Leave a comment

These deadly recalls‎

February 25, 2010 1 comment

Geetanjali Kalra

Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda. Pic source:

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.

Like only blondes aren’t dumb!

February 23, 2010 1 comment

Rohit Sharma

Pic source:

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!

In the name of Khan

February 11, 2010 3 comments

Manish Sharma

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.

Total Recall

February 11, 2010 Leave a comment

Manish Sharma

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.