August 23, 2012

Letting It Go

All my life I have been brand loyal. And before I knew the science behind it, I had found myself making choices which baffled many, sometimes even myself. When I got deep into it much later into life I realized few things, got more questions than answers and the fascination remained. A couple of months I made a decision which shook the very foundations of my life long belief system and my choices. And while making the decision I realized an absolute irrefutable truth about psychographic segmentation – we all have multiple personalities and rarely does any archetype explain an individual completely.

In the early nineties entire India was swinging to a song called, “Yehi hain right choice Baby” and we flocked to the stores to drink Pepsi while all of us had grown up on Thums Up. It was a difficult transition but we all made it. In a country starved for lifestyle brand, the eighties children lapped up the promise of Pepsi.

It was the brand of the rebel, of changing stereotypes, of a new India yet to find its place. When coke finally came in, the battle was already lost. It did a smart move by acquiring Thums Up but by then it had lost the moral high ground to fight for the minds of Indian youth.

It was My Brand. I respected Coke, admired their ‘Paanch’ campaign but always it was the brand of the others, of older people (who btw loved their old Coke coming back), a brand of the establishment. I continued to order Pepsi when we went out with friends.

But for the last few years Pepsi started losing the plot. It did too many things, stood for too many aspects of youth and you never knew what it was saying. Was it Sports? Was it Music? Was it Youth? I never knew. I still continued with Pepsi graduating from Pepsi to Pepsi Max. But almost always it was a choice forced due to a lifelong loyalty.

Coke in the meanwhile came up with their ‘Open Happiness’ campaign. The first few executions went over the top. I did not know what it meant. But to give them full credit, they stuck on with it and became better. The conviction behind their Masterbrand was phenomenal and slowly I saw myself liking the latest coke ads and while I did not want to let the rebel die within me, I saw him transform into a rebel with a cause.

The other day I went to the supermarket and suddenly I did not want to pick Pepsi anymore. The generational shift had happened. The eighties children had started moving onto their thirties and the new age Pepsi made small sense to them just as Lady Gaga remained incomprehensible. Coke had taken over the family space.

Will Pepsi again speak to me? Will a 20 year old relationship truly die? What will Pepsi’s new found mantra of focusing on Music do for me?

We wait and watch.

August 21, 2012

Fast Food Movie Reviews

As I wrote the review for Ek Tha Tiger I realized that it has been a long time since I have reviewed any movies and suddenly as I checked the list of movies I decided to write about, for good reasons or bad, lots of names popped up. So instead of a long drawn discussion on each of them, here’s a McMovie Review, if I can call it so.

Let’s start with Ferrari Ki Saawari. You probably have missed it. It apparently did not do well but then few good movies do. Watch it to understand how middle class India survives on dreams and hopes, how honesty is relative, how honesty and integrity generates goodwill and respect from almost every quarter of life, how a father tries to get a Ferrari for a marriage procession so that his son can go to his cricket training. Sharmaan Joshi excels in his act and probably would do good to stay away from the senseless comedies he makes at times.

Shanghai was one of the scariest movies I have seen in recent times. Rarely does a movie come which so blatantly portrays the reality of the realty sector in India and the nexus between developers and politicians and the entire debate between development and displacement. If you can get over the fact that Bumbada and Kalki kissed, you will be amazed at Emraan hasmi’s portrayal of the common man caught between the wars for land.

Kahaani was a fascinating movie to watch. Beautifully directed it brought to life the city of Calcutta which was as important a protagonist to the movie as Vidya Balan herself. Intriguing, taut and helped with a power packed performance by Vidya Balan it saw its climax against the backdrop of Durga Puja in Calcutta. And what could be more apt than the Female Power of Shakti triumphing over evil with a movie where Bollywood finally breaks its glass ceiling. Balan is our Fourth Khan!

I should not waste my time with Sherlock Holmes – A Game of Shadows but more and more I watch the franchise I realize this is something I can rarely digest. The histrionics of Holmes gets crazier and then you wonder if Robert Downey Jr. would be better off playing Tony Stark.

Brave was the new Disney Pixar offering for Summer. And while it had the brilliance of technology and a new Disney Princess, it lacked the heart of Pixar. The storyline had one single twist and you knew what was coming your way. I loved Merida, the latest addition to Disney princess but like everything in our times, she was the most obstinate little thing I have ever come across. I pity for her mom and absolutely love my sister for the way she has to handle my niece.

Iron Lady was one of the best bio pics I have seen recently. Meryl Streep brought to life Margaret Thatcher as accurately as possible. We lived with her through the unrest in Britain, through her struggles in the party, through the challenges in her own family life, through Falklands crisis. But it meant something more to an Indian. Her daughter travels in a black cab without security, her son works in South Africa without any political ambition. This is a country which has a dynastic monarchy. I wondered when we will learn to let go of our political dynasties.

And finally it was time for Hugo. Martin Scorcese gets better with age and in his latest film, he pays tribute to the man who gave us the magic of movies. In an unique way, the life of Georges Melies comes to our screens and we bow our heads to creativity, to craziness, to those few people who sacrifice themselves for following their hearts. Beautifully directed and scored, Hugo remains one of those movies which tell the story not just of a man, but of an age.

August 19, 2012

The Story of a Spy

Or maybe not. That’s what was going on in my mind as I came out after watching Ek Tha Tiger. One of my most memorable spies of course has been GunMaster G9 – our very own Mithunda saving India from the world’s deadliest villains.

Indian spies have it tough. Ask Sunny Deol. He had to even call his movie Hero – Love story of a Spy. Agent Vinod kept confusing people about whether he loved the girl or not and audiences kept away from Saif. We need our spies in our own Made for India format!

But Salman is in a different league of his own.

And therefore strangely Ek Tha Tiger is not an out and out Salman movie. Imagine a tiger in the forest and a tiger in the cage. This film is the cage of Yash Raj Films which keeps Salman toned down.

The movie to be honest is good. It’s not Jason Bourne; neither it’s Veer Zara but imagine Pierce Brosnan going all Hugh Grantish in a Bond movie and you would have figured the movie out.  And add to that a Katrina Kaif who seems to become better with every movie.

Salman’s entry is less than spectacular in terms of histrionics but fantastic in the use of the slo-mo camera. He doesn’t let go ever in the movie. It seems he feels the pressure of a prim and proper studio watching his every move. This movie was made to appeal to both the urban elite and the urban poor and thus Salman loses his T shirt only once in the movie.

His films in the last few years have 2 kinds of audience – the first who watches his movies to claim how mass minded and absurd it is. And the second, people like me, who still go to the movies to believe in the magic that Georges Melies had first shown us. We go to the movies to forget, to laugh, to cry, to love, to suspend reality as my dad calls it.

It’s the split that’s evident in India today and the stars who can crossover effectively are becoming rarer. Salman remains one of them. The intensity in his eyes is still the same that had made my sisters swoon in the nineties when Maine Pyaar Kiya had released. His buffed up body looks more chiselled than ever but nowhere in the movie does it look that he is having a lot of fun doing it. The humour is measured, the fights are less than fantastic and his dialogues lack the spice that makes him the darling of the masses. Thankfully Katrina does that with aplomb.

But in the end when ISI and RAW are both chasing them, and he is shot by his friend, he still rides the bike towards the plane and in one spectacular jump catches the open door; the prim and proper Singapore audience erupts in cheers reminding me of my past in Gaiety Galaxy.

People kept asking me how the movie was and my answer was simple – it lacked the rustic charm of Dabaang, but it was worth the ticket. That’s what Bollywood should be about – Paisa Vasool.