February 27, 2010

The New Old War

We at SNDU were stunned yesterday. We were trying to leave early on Saturday when someone came running and said that there is war on the streets. We rushed to the TV sets and there it was. The battle had begun. We at FMCG business always look up to the Cola Wars as the definition of marketing warfare. The Cola Wars probably ended up ensuring that neither was declared a winner, territories got carved out for both the parties but what it gave rise to was a folklore.

When future marketers would refuse to go to sleep, their moms used to scare them and ask them to go to sleep, “So ja beta, so ja. Nahin toh tujhe Cola Wars mein Bhej denge.” Well, if it was not mothers then it would be marketing professors who would scare the hell out of them.

Today there is blood on the streets once again. The war has broken out on one of the world’s toughest terrains, for one category which everyone thought was getting commoditized.

The Detergent War Round II is here in India.

It had started quite a few years ago when P&G had decided to enter India with Ariel and Tide. The Indian arm of Unilever fought back to safeguard Surf and Rin. Their Wheel was fighting another battle. After few years of struggle there was a lull.

Today again the war is here. And this time it’s about to get better. Rin is out with a fantastic advertisement. For the first time, in detergents we have a direct competitive ad like we see between Horlicks and Complan. It is as blatant as it can get. Every television channel in the country is playing the ad at every single ad break multiple times.

The ad is simple. It shows two women, one with Tide and the other with Rin. While the Tide lady sings praises about her product, Rin lady just smiles. And then when their children walk out of the bus, everything becomes crystal clear or should I say, sparkling white.

Comparative advertisement can’t get better than this.

It is unbelievable. It takes guts to create advertisement like this. It takes guts to make claims like this. And finally it takes guts to take competition head on to defend one’s own turf.

The war ladies and gentlemen is here. We are now a part of the Detergent Wars. No one will be taking prisoners here.

But as of today, Rin has decisively won the first round. It’s ironic. The War will be waged while India will celebrate its festival of colours.

Daag/ Rang sab achhe hain :)

February 15, 2010

Heart Break Story

So something interesting always happens around Valentine’s Day. This year also was no different. Given that I had shunned human contact this weekend, I was sure that nothing exceptional can happen this time. Yes, I knew two kids would call me up, sweethearts that they are. You know they are the kind of people who visit senior citizens in Old Age homes. But then, you can never be sure till the fat lady sings.

So I was cycling one fine sunny morning wondering what’s the next important thing I will decide not to do, when suddenly the message came. Let me explain a bit what exactly I was doing. Every time I was remembering something that needed to be done, I said to myself, “beta, zindagi ka mazaa le. Kyun apni jawani gawa raha hain” Yes, I was giving the gyan to myself in Hindi as it sounds like a third person gyan. Anyway back to the story.

The message was from a close friend. The contents were like this. “I want you to buy flowers and give them to Manjeet on the 14th.” I screeched to a halt. Wait, let me think, I probably was already standing in order to read the message. The details are a little fuzzy now as I was ecstatic.

“Isse Kehte hain dost,” I said to myself. She has found the perfect match for me. Of course she would not ask me to take flowers to Manjeet unless and until she was sure we were made for each other. Manjeet and Madhurjya, how wonderful it sounds! The bells started ringing in my ears and the bells changed to constant honking and then a very gruff voice yelling at me. But I forgave the driver. I was taking flowers to Manjeet.

I cycled back as fast as I could to my house. I needed to get ready. Missing breakfast would mean almost 400 gms and 4 mms off the waist. That would probably be to my advantage. Hair, something needed to be done about the hair. So the hair which was being groomed and was not cut even at the not-so-veiled threat from office was sacrificed. I got a shave in the middle of the weekend, the hairdresser (Bandra does not have barbers, we have hairdressers) thanked his lucky stars after fleecing me. But as I said, life was beautiful. Manjeet, Madhurjya, Magnolias. Ahh perfect. You know Agatha Christie dialled M for Murder, but you could dial M for so many other beautiful things.

I could see my grandmom shedding buckets of tears at this joyful news. My mom was thanking all her Gods, Didi was making plans to fly back again. That’s when the bells started ringing again. This time it was the cell phone. My friend was on the line.

“Listen, Saloni said if you could get lilies it would be great.” Saloni!!! Who’s Saloni? Wait, I know Saloni, friend of my friend. Ahhhh!!!! She must be the one who is the informant on Manjeet. I was so thankful to Saloni. Plans needed to be changed. No more Magnolias. Lilies it would be. Lilies are good. Both are flowers. The flowers, the thoughts – that’s what matters. Right?

I had also made my grandmom read 2 States a few days back, smart cookie that I am. She would know how exactly to deal with a Punjabi family. Again, I could see the huge glasses of Lassi I would be gulping down when we visited Manjeet’s place together.

But reality struck. The rates of lilies were at an all time high. And as much as I would love to take Lilies to Manjeet, I just could not afford them. I ordered a nice bouquet of roses. Dejected, I called up my friend. I had to share my misery with someone. She said she would consult with Saloni and get back to me. Saloni was becoming irritating. I just wished she was not like Manjeet’s “our lives are one” type of friend.

“Hey!! What did she say?”

“Hello Banjo! Listen she said he doesn’t like roses much. Please see if you can get something else.”


Wait… Hang on. She said HE. HE? HE? Really? I was being asked to buy flowers for a guy!!! On Valentine’s Day. Did one of my closest friends think I was …? No that’s not possible. Definitely not. No. No. No way.

And then the picture became clear. Thank God I was good in DI as I was preparing for CAT. Friend- Saloni- Manjeet the Man – long distance – late realization – personal touch – Valentine’s Day – Flowers - Sure shot delivery.

I stared blankly at the Florist. Next I know I was back at my room drowning my sorrows in Mix Fruit Cucumber and Spinach juice. Last known Manjeet got his flowers.

And thus ended Valentine’s Day 2010.

February 12, 2010

Uncle Antics

When I was young I used to listen to one song quite repeatedly. It wasn’t a classic but somehow one line kept ringing in my head, “it’s not me but my attitude is the real king” can be taken as a loose translation of the lyrics.

Last few weeks have been crazy on every account possible. Sometimes it felt there was a major conspiracy against my peace of mind, at other times it felt as if things could not have been better. Close friends have been tying the knot and I have been missing every single one of them. I was supposed to be in Delhi, Calcutta, Tripura and yet I wasn’t there and I have got messages from friends saying, “I was expecting you to be there.” There have been instances when I have felt miserable as I have read those messages but like a long distance runner had steadied myself to run.

Some good news kept coming, people made jobs, embarked in the process of having kids. Vindication and retribution kept coming hand in hand. G left but V arrived. Circle of life would go on. Nothing stops. Birthdays come and go. Sometimes you advance them, sometimes you ignore them.

Marathons are exciting. You make sure you just have enough energy for the final dash. However, the question is what if the marathon distance keeps on changing as you run. Would you want to test your mettle against a shifting horizon?

I was running and I was tired. Really tired. But then like a sudden relief, today was a holiday. Room mates ran off to family. Being the worthless son that I am, I called up Mom to say sorry that I was not coming home. I needed to plug in to the wall socket and recharge.

Today as I blog, mails are downloading in the background, I have a 2 BHK to myself, I have asked Swati to stay away, I am playing the latest Bengali Rock, I have cycled at 11:00 in the morning and after a long long time I am devoid of any human presence in my surroundings. It is bliss.

But if everything was so sweet life would not be exciting, would it? As I was parking my cycle, this kid asks me, “Uncle why do you use a helmet?” Leave aside the fact that the kid does not understand important safety instructions, he does not even recognize young men when he sees them.

His friends stared as I looked up and challenged all of them to “dodge the ball” and “dog and the bone”. So for an hour I sweated, heaved, pushed, ran but ultimately came out victorious. Now who’s the uncle!!! They actually are young enough to scramble from between my legs. But still, Uncle!!! What Crap.

It’s 3 in the afternoon. It’s time to shift the choice of songs to Tagore and look at the 196 odd mails that I am supposed to respond to. In the evening, I might also go and play “Hide and seek”. The only issue is that the hiding places are not designed for people with waist quite a few inches bigger than 30.

February 08, 2010

Hypocrites Amongst Us

Finally I watched Veer. For the first time in life, I was swayed by public opinion and had lost the interest to watch the movie. And once again I realized how the people around me thought so very differently from the India around me. It was a Sunday evening 3 weeks after the release and yet Galaxy was full of people supposedly rooting for Salman Khan in a movie that has been dubbed as everyone as a flop.

This is where our hypocrisy comes forth. If you could have loved Troy, there is no way you could not have liked Veer. Yes, it has its flaws. The same song gets repeated whether he is wooing the Princess or when he’s marrying her or when he’s done killing her brother, well almost. In addition, I am sure any self-respecting Indian in the late 1800s did not dress in cowboy look-alike leather pants.

The storyline is by now known to everyone and this is the problem. People judge a movie by its reviews. Probably as we had gone with very low expectations, it turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The action sequences of Veer are great as the front benchers in Galaxy vouched. As Mithun and Salman started fighting their duel, there was silence all around me. Whenever Salman entered they clapped and cheered for him and to be fair this is the best opening for a period ‘filam’ I have seen. So where does this fail?

The movie misses two counts. First, the editing which could have been crisper. Secondly, the dialogues should have been delivered in a simpler manner but with a lot of depth in meaning. Unfortunately, the dialogues became hysterical with little meaning within them.

The other part was perhaps the ending. It left much to be desired. The build up to the climax fizzled out in the end. But like Wanted, this movie was a complete “Paisa Vasool”

Unfortunately the other movie that disappointed me was Rann. I had gone to see the movie with huge expectations. However, all I saw were stereotypes and expected storylines. While there were fantastic performances from Sudeep and Ritesh Deshmukh. Amitabh unfortunately has started to slowly take on the role of Morgan Freeman of Bollywood.

Rann was not a bad movie. But when one goes to see a RGV film, one still expects a Satya, a Kaun. Someone correctly said, if this were a Madhur Bhandarlar movie, it would have been so much better. He tells us reality stories better than anyone does these days.

I am worried about King Khan. For the first time he is acting someone who is not completely perfect. I just hope he keeps his performance restrained. I am tired of stereotypes.

February 04, 2010

The Role is Filled

When S left for a new life, I was shattered. I didn’t know what to do. It was as if a part of my life had ended. Where else would I get to know about the latest in the Indian television? How would I know the complexities of Indian family drama that is shown regularly between 8:00 pm -10:00 pm? After all, there were not many friends who would agree openly that they saw these shows as often as their mothers.

The transition that people face when they graduate out of college is absolutely fascinating. From watching Scrubs throughout the night to watching Uttaran every day at a specific time is a huge jump. And most of the people I know become closet watchers. I remember a period of time in my life when watching “A Clockwork Orange” meant that something was achieved on that day. I was coming closer to what the masters were portraying on screen.

But then slowly Kubrik began to make lesser and lesser sense as I went about trying to comprehend the minds of the Indian housewife. And since then I have whistled along with the crowd at the premier show of Wanted on the single screens. That’s where my work is. That’s where I breathe life into my work. But few people understand this. Often, it’s completely incomprehensible for them to appreciate why the masses will still fill up the front rows for seeing Veer in the small towns across India. But then that’s how elitist societal norms operate. I don’t oppose it, I don’t give in to it and I look at it as a stage of my life that has passed since then. This is my back to the basics :)

Anyway, if there was anyone as prudish as I once was, it must have been H. So as I was cribbing to her about the loss of S in my life, she suddenly said, “Oh… which show? I would probably know.” I was stunned for exactly 22 secs. After that I remembered I still am not on per sec billing plan on my cell and I asked in a trembling voice, “Are you sure?”

She rattled away and it felt as if the church gongs were reverberating in the Valley of Hope. She would know, she would know and even if she might be amongst my friends who demand the maximum amount of “Bhao” it is worth giving it to her. She knows that Ammaji is not actually dead. And one of Dadisa’s sons is not her son!!!

She said she had a TV on her desk and typically watched all these shows. And I loved it. Paapi pet ke liye kya kya karma parta hain. Here I laugh the evil laugh. Now she cannot turn her nose up on hearing my desires to watch Veer :) and she can save me in the absence of S.

In an aside, why are people being mean to Sania Mirza? She has every right to call of her engagement. Everyone has and should have.

Btw what’s the exact English expression for Bhao?

February 01, 2010

Dilli Ka Kya Kehna!!!

Everyone who knows me knows how I love new cities and how I fall in love with them. Yet one city which has always repulsed me has been Delhi. I have been ok with Chennai not welcoming me or cheating me in broad daylight through its Auto Drivers but somehow Delhi I could never forgive. Not that it has done anything to me, ever.

Yet as we grow up, things change. Life slowly removes the tinted glasses from your eyes and you begin to just bend down a bit from your lofty moralistic ideas of right or wrong. Over the last 15 odd months, I have begun to see Delhi through a new eye without staying there for more than 24 hours at a stretch. It helps when most new friends I have made at work are from Delhi and while I still am mortally petrified of women from Delhi :) I think given time I can fall in love with the city. After all, I already am in love with Pammiji.

As I sit in the new, swanky Delhi airport, I am trying to figure out Pammiji. Of all the women I love, starting from Sen Kakima to Pavithramma, Pammiji is perhaps the simplest and the most open of them all. Sitting in the heart of Delhi, happy with her life as a housewife, Pammiji is the one lady who can laugh in the face of all adversities. That’s where perhaps the difference is. Sarbajaya epitomized grit, Rojamma epitomized supreme sacrifice, Kamla behn epitomized silent suffering but Pammiji? She laughed her sorrows away.

While the men in her city are often heartless, she is the fussy caring Indian mother, seldom saying anything against her husband, supporting him through his drinking binges and caring for him all along. She loves the chill of Dilli, She loves its sweltering heat, takes the Bong under his wing saying, “Kuch meetha doon? Aaplogon ko toh itni tikha jamta nahin”

And that’s why I think Dilliwallahs can not like my Mumbai. Mumbai is nice to everyone in equal measures. Also Mumbai knows what to say to whom and when. But Pammiji decides at the very first go, if she likes you and then she will open her heart out to you or be extremely possessive about the information she wants to share. Boisterous, noisy, talkative, she can make you her friend for the couple of hours you spend with her, talking about her life, her aspirations. People make fun of her saying she is superficial. But if her exaggerated affection is superficial, so be it. For those moments, it makes you feel cared for.

Dilli ko main dil de na baithoo :)

PS: In other interesting developments, Sayrem has made a masterpiece out of my ramblings. This is a first time in my blog and I am awesomely kicked about it.

Also actually someone I reviewed read my review :) Does make me feel special :)