Sunday, 7 July 2013

Only Anil Kapoor found the Pulse to stay afloat

The new Rennault Pulse commercial made me sit up and take notice of how Anil Kapoor has been given a new lease to life. Among his contemporaries, including Govinda, Jackie Shroff and Sunny Deol, Anil Kapoor is by far the most relevant today. He seems to be the only one from his era to have found the mantra to age gracefully.

Someone who in his hay days was never counted among the bests and relied mostly on rugged and earthy characters has totally revamped himself and learnt to walk all over again. I rate his resurgence on screen very high and find it very moving. He had one of the trickiest tasks in hand to break the shackles – Image makeover - at a time when very few would consider risking their existing onscreen image. 

He perhaps had an idea that he would soon be worn out performing Munna and that he needed to change the course. And, gladly he did with panache and care. His experiments did not end with shaving off his mustache to appear classy; he tried over and over again to finally get to where it matters.

 He was first seen in a suave character in Lamhe in 1991 and then again in Taal, after a gap of eight years, in 1999. He still hadn’t found his mojo; however, it seems that he had recognized by then that he needed to push the envelope further to announce his re-launch of sorts. He nailed it with his dapper looks and performance in Musafir in 2004. And, perhaps that was just the beginning of the second innings that his contemporaries too would have dreamt of, but could never realize those dreams to reality.

What followed was a slew of such characters in Race, Tashan, Yuvvraj and finally his launch on the global platform with Slumdog Millionaire! The success of this film did not only give him enviable fame and recognition he had been missing all along in his career, but also opened to everyone his aspirations and big dreams. His onscreen reincarnation only suggests that a man who lived in shadows for more than a decade had gathered enough fire in him to be propelled to such unparalleled, meteoric success. Personally, I had never imagined Anil Kapoor in his current avatar. For me, his career was long over before Taal.

I have always maintained that he would be among the very few good actors from his era, but to come this far and achieve all this is astonishing. I now have great respect for the man and his perseverance.

Jhakas Bidu!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

IPL Mashup!

My friends come from all walks of life, and I am somebody who hobnobs with luminaries. I happen to have a WeChat group that boosts of who’s who from media, bollywood, cricket, politics and business. I am envied by one and all for having on my WeChat none other than Arnab Goswami, Sanjay Dutt, Navjyot Sing Sidhu, Manmohan Singh, and Prasoon Joshi.

It is a usual hot, summery day and all five-six of us are on our way home from work, generally catching up on the state of affairs in the country. The conversation begins with Arnab as he rants about getting bored of targeting government and having told the nation about every darn thing it would care to know. Sanju (Sanjay Dutt) is quite low today as he has to leave for his jail term next day. He requests Arnab to keep his hands off him and tell nothing to the nation about his parade to Arthur Jail. He would like to have a quiet farewell.

Joining the conversation, India’s first man and supremo Mr. Singh (Manmohan Singh) says how he is repeatedly failing to answer with his ‘quiet’ demeanor.  He likes it more on WeChat as he can express himself freely before all of us without fearing getting caught on the wrong foot. Jumping in the WeChat pool Sidhu Paaji, “Guru, here at IPL it is all very shining and everyone having a gala time, witnessing blitzkrieg by the Jamaican giant who is cool as cucumber and goes by the name Gayle.”

Prasoon, to make his presence, speaks about his recent ad shoot involving Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting in the same commercial. He is very kicked about prospects that Cricketers offer to advertising. By now, Mr. Singh has passed out showing no interest to our worldly talks.

Come next day, Sanju Baba is ready in his patent white-kurta payjama to get on with his Jail journey. Worried about the overwhelming response from media, he steps out of his sprawling vila. Keeping up with the tradition, he sends a WeChat to the group -

Sanju  – guys, I’m going! Wish me luck. Especially, you Arnab… don’t get too emotional and don’t lose your voice on TV for me

Arnab – Dontcha worry Sanju bhai! I have only ten people camera team to escort you on your last Mercedes ride in long time to come.

Sanju – Ass you’re! Manu Ji, how are you doing? Say, goodbye to me.

Mr. Singh – Yeah! Goodbye mate. Catch you after three and a half years. Don’t you worry I will have an exception for you in Jail; I will arrange for an internet connectivity for you. We will still be connected by WeChat. :)

Sanju – Manu Ji tussi great ho!

Sidhu – Oh Guru! Nobody travels to the road of success without a puncture or two. I hope you come out wiser and nicer. And, we have enough cooking in cricket to keep you busy. I will give you live commentary on WeChat all along.

Prasoon – Mate, you come back and I will have a song ready for you. We will sing it in your next release after your jail term. I am right now shooting with Virat in the toilet – he is selling ladies sanitary napkins.

Suddenly, there is a sudden rush and we all hear Arnab screaming on TV screen while his WeChat is still on.

Arnab – The nation wants to know which side did Sreesanth hung his towel to signal bookies. There is a big story of the day unfolding before all of us. Don’t go anywhere; see you on the other side of the break.

Arnab on WeChat – Sanju bhai, it is your day. You should have asked for something better. I am sorry but I am taking my camera team away from your cavalcade to the stadium. Catch you later, buddy!

Sanju Bhai – Arey wah! Kya baat hai, IPL main jhol! Matlab, mera rasta clear. Let me get to my den faster.

Mr. Singh –Arey Arnab, take your guys away from my house also. You know how little I speak and they have tons of questions for me.

Arnab – Manu Ji, don’t you worry. You are not my target today any longer. I am taking my team away.

Mr. Singh – What you saying man? Who better than me can be your target?

Arnab – IPL is rigged! The nation wants to know who all are involved and how deep does this dig?

Mr. Singh – Whoa! Man you gotta keep this running for days to come. I am longing for vacation. Do me a favor: please have this stretched out as much as you can. Let me give you another angle – involve politics in it and question involvement of Narendra Modi. I want to show him down.

Arnab – Very smart Manu Ji! I let you be this time. Say my hello to Bhabhi ji.

Mr. Singh – So, I’m free! See you later guys.

Sidhu – Oh Guru! Tussi kithe chal diye?  

Prasoon – Wolla! I smell a good story for my TV commercial here. I will now mock at these cricketers who I have been raving about all along in my ads. Sree tu toh gayo!

Sidhu – There is a light at the end of the tunnel for IPL, but it’s that of an incoming train which will run it over

Arnab – Talk simple buddy! Who gets your quotes?

Sidhu – The cat with glove catches no mice. Keep your eye at it buddy, this has a never ending story; tighten your grip

Arnab – Yeah! I sense it boiling too hot in days to come

Mr. Singh – I am loving it! Guess, where I am? Italy! :)

Arnab – Even on family vacation?

Mr. Singh – So, what? I am working even when I am not working

Arnab – Long live you!

Prasoon – I just sold three TV commercial ideas involving cricketers, but this time - mocking at them! Lol

Sidhu –Oh my my! Where you taking my cricket to? I wish someone could tell Sree – when you dining with demon, you gotta have a long spoon.

And, it goes on….! Sorry, guys got to take a leave. I have got notifications coming from my WeChat group.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Are advertisers hurting their own cause by targeting Cricketers in cheeky commercials?

Left side of my brain said, ‘It is tongue-in-cheek and shrewd, yet very clever and timely’ and the right side shouted with a counter argument: it is a mean, mean world that means only business. No one is for anyone, and everyone in here is in it to make a quick buck, at whatever cost.

Here, I am referring to the fresh commercial, perhaps aired for the first time today, of online sale and purchase platform (better call it e-commerce) Quikr. The commercial begins with a monologue by a policewala who rants about the corruption in Cricket and appeals to Cricketers not to sell their integrity and instead sell their old belongings on Quikr. The camera pans out the next moment and appears a bowler rubbing a Cricket ball against his right thigh (a clear prototype of Sreesanth).

The policewala hurriedly holds bowler’s head from behind and smashes it into water in the bucket that is kept in front of the bowler (here you will for sure be reminded of Chloromint commercial with a tagline ‘Dubara Mat Poochna’). The policewala in Haryanvi tone utters exact words that news channels have been playing out over and over again – spot-fixing karega, towel latka ke bookie ko signal dega, blah blah…

Well, like my left brain indicated, some will say it is a sharp piece of advertising - very timely and relevant - and will have viewers’ eyes lit up. I am sure people will take notice of it like I did. But, another aspect to look at it is whether it is a mere cheap tactic to ride the wave and tweak it to your own benefit. These are the same sports celebrities who you run after weeks and months to pay obnoxious sum to endorse your product and appear in your commercials. We all know it is a phase which too shall pass in Cricket. And these are the same Cricketers who after a big tournament win will bounce back and be the poster boys again. Will they then take it on their ego and make the whole industry pay with their tantrums?

Are such quick wit strategies in favor of the advertising industry? By doing this, aren’t we confusing our consumers and breaking their trust in our endorsers, who here are Cricketers? Or is it a hint in the direction that Cricketers are no longer advertisers’ first choice and that they are willing to sacrifice them? In my view, it is a matter of debate which has the potential to become a talking point of the night in News hours on news channels such as CNN IBN and Times Now.

I would like to end this blog with a thought I shared with my colleague the other day – in today’s world of media and glare it does not really matter how you are being talked about. What really matters is whether you’re being talked about. And, for sure, Cricket and Cricketers are! 

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Interesting world of Television Commercials

I have not been watching a lot of television these days and whatever little I get to watch is either sports that too Cricket or prime time soaps that my mom like any other middle-aged women is in the habit of watching. I have not noticed a substantial change in the content for past many months: the sport is still the same apart from induction of fresh faces in Indian squad and soaps too surviving on unlimited supply of rambling; iconoclastic, rebellious women; and melodramatic frames and effects.

In the hope of some change, at times I would switch to News but there too you find Arnab screaming at the top of his voice and others simply trying to ape him. However, in the midst of all similar looking and sounding scriptures I find a fresh breath in television commercials. In this post, I am going to talk about my thoughts on commercials I have recently come across.

Havells that took me off guard last season by having late Rajesh Khanna narrating a story on fans has once again surprised me with its out of the box thinking. It is one brand that I admire for its admittance of the fact that fan as a category on a functional aspect has limited penetration through advertising. The latest Havells’ campaign speaks about ‘taaza hawa chali’ which is a metaphor for ‘change in code’. To establish this thought the copywriters of this advertisement have referred to two social norms/stigmas that are widespread and deep rooted. The commercial per se does not highlight product differential nor intends to underline social caring of the brand. It is simply a thought provoking commercial made with an intention to refresh the brand in consumers’ minds and build salience. Full 10 from me!

ICICI Prudential’s Bande Achche Hai is again a nice thought provoking advertising, high on emotional quotient. It will definitely score high when compared to peers such as Max whose corporate campaign is built on a cult song Sar Jo Tera Chakrai. The move by both these private sector life insurers suggest a change in approach to reach out to consumers: from scaring, in your face reality content to feel good, pat on the back storyline. The underlying message is still very strong but subtle, making viewer think positively rather than having them commit to doing something out of fear. The commercials are now made with an intention to evoke a thought and involve consumers at emotional level. Thumbs up again!

Apex Ultima I noticed a technical glitch in the two commercials that this brand is presently running. The story narration is same in both the commercials but actors are different apart from one person. However, the closing frame has two characters one of whom is common in both the commercials but the second person is carried from the other commercial. It is confusing in a way for the consumer. On effectiveness scale, the commercial is good but could have been represented better. The storyline is quite old and a drag. The other brands have not come out full hog yet, so hard to predict the salience of Apex Ultima through this commercial. In my view, it needs to reboot its thinking.

Nokia for its Lumia 800 and Samsung for Grand are pitching hard with consumers these days. The former is a premiere category product whereas the latter is in mid category. However, the common between the two is reliance on photo features. These commercials make it evident that the smartphone category has moved ahead of higher pixels to photo editing/enhancement. Nokia hinges on cool friends circle storyline whereas Samsung presents Grand as a thing for a highflying, go getter and aspiring youth. Nokia seems to have better presentation and recall value than Samsung through these commercials. However, Samsung has more purpose. The product per se has been launched with an intention to bring advanced features of an advanced smartphone in approachable price band and lift consumers who are stuck in below Rs. 20,000/- category with a value for money product. The consumers who aspire for S3 or Note II but cannot afford are the real target for Grand. The messaging is moving and appropriate considering the background.

Kent RO Peete Raho is a cheap and failed trial to ignite a wave. Hema Malini who I believe is ill suited for such a brand stutters Peete Raho two times to end the commercial with little or no impact. The makers of this commercial should learn a thing or two from cola brands whose lifeline is more and more drinking, and how effectively they execute it. Urging someone to do something in access is the biggest task for a marketer and Kent Ro is clearly struggling to get past the ‘convincing’ line. 

Saturday, 23 February 2013

An obituary – Brutal death of Jodhpuri Pants at the hands of street tailors

Democratization of Jodhpuri Pants has breached the code of Royalty and brought to streets what could mostly be seen donned by descendants of royal families in Page 3 parties and/or during the Polo game. It first came out of the closet and caught the eyes of shutterbugs when Rohit Bal, famously known as Gudda in fashion circuit, designed a show around these pants and walked the ramp with a battery of macho men led by John Abraham and Arjun Rampal. It was surely a magnificent sight, so much so that it was capable of sending aspirations of a middle class Indian soaring. And, it certainly did! Mine too.

It was in 2009 around my sister’s wedding that I thought of myself in the shoes of those stunning looking men in Bal’s show and had a strong desire to replicate that look on my sister’s big day. I tried finding an authentic Jodhpuri pants in garment shops, but to my surprise I could not find one. My desire was rolled over when I learnt that such pants were not sold to masses and that were made to order. Where could I have found that Master Ji, a revered artisan, to stitch a bespoke Jodhpuri pants for a lesser mortal like me in the modest surrounding of the capital city? Much to my dismay, I dropped the idea.

Come 2012, we see Jodhpuri Pants becoming a rage, a fad and an endemic of sorts. Every other guy is wearing these pants, not necessarily the original pattern, but a range of cheap renditions. In no time, the princely charm attached to these pants is snatched and crushed under the Converse boots of local tailors. These pants are given a new name - Male Leggings. What effing is this name? Least they could have done is to maintain its original name, thereby its lineage and history.

Jodhpuri pants fall from the cliff and enter a league of Wannabes. The impertinent, impenitent youth clamoring for attention forms an integral part of this league. These young men are seen abusing the legacy of yesteryears Maharajas by having the waistline hanging till the bum cheeks revealing their worn out underwear, which could read anything from Jockey to Tommie Hilfiger (not a spelling mistake as counterfeit lingerie does write the name like this), to famous Rupa. They would usually pair these pants with fitted shirts, so fitted that ripples are formed at the centre and buttons make it apparent that they are totally detached, abhor this idea, and willing to fall off.

Well, don’t forget that these are well meaning guys, making a desperate attempt to show off their chiseled torso, so what if their inside is struggling to breathe. The balloon around the thigh area which gave a peculiar shape to these pants has been deflated, perhaps to bring its cost down by saving some money on the cloth. It now in some cases is clinging to the wearer’s thigh in fear of likely ripping. An apparent cloth mask around the thigh results into crotch sticking out. I wonder how the wearer would tackle a sudden erection in such pants. Is he susceptible to ejaculation due to friction that would be created between the inside of his pants and tool? Or would his tool succumb to the pressure and melt down? I am sure if he is a regular member of ‘self service’ then his tool would trespass into embarrassing territory: making its way to the right of the pant as if a thick pen is kept in the pocket originating from the rear not the opening.

I was most amused when I saw a bunch of school kids whose pants were altered to the narrow calves and slightly baggy thighs, giving a stark resemblance to Jodhpuri pants once a royal attire, adding glimmer and glitter to the appeal of his highnesses! Where the world has come to, where are the fashion police, where is the Aam Aadmi Party? Won’t they come forward to save the fate of a rare emerald in authentic Indian fashion? 

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Do patrons of Micromax get ‘Nothing like anything’?

Micromax has grown leaps and bounds in all these years and is among the major successes that telephony market in India has ever seen. Its initial innovations were no less than remarkable and had everyone take notice of it. Despite being an Indian brand, assembled and made in Chinese and Taiwanese markets, Micromax rung up to the top league and sat comfortably next to biggies such as Noika, and Samsung, in considerably less time.

Micromax’s rampant success caused heavy losses to other foreign brothers including LG and Sony Ericsson. Micromax did live up to Nothing like anything.

However, as it has happened with other Indian brands in the past, Micromax could not keep up the momentum and capitalize on the hype it initially created. As the story unfolded, its quality which was always a question mark became a reason of its fall from the growing quality conscious, fashionista customer base. Micromax may still have held tight control over the price sensitive, fad catching customers. In my mind, Micromax could easily be called Ravi Kisan of Indian mobile market.

Now that Micromax has reached where it belongs I have for a long time had this question lingering in my mind – what would its patrons make of Nothing like anything? Please bear in mind the customer profile which in my view can be sketched as –

  • A willing man belonging to a working class has come to the city from a small town in hope of making big. He is in a stable job or a business, slowly and steadily getting his foot in. He has only opened books to see pictures and rarely read. A half of his teeth are dark red, if not fully spoiled.
  • A college-going teen caught in the fad, competing with better offs in his/her surrounding and trying best to catch up with in-things.

The consumer base that Micromax is now serving is quite Desi. Nothing like anything is a US-born phrases to which a parallel can be drawn with I ain’t no anything. They both sound more complicated than they actually are. The literal meaning of Nothing like anything is Incomparable. But, those who must get it for Micromax would actually get it? I have my doubts.

I can say it with lot of confidence that a consumer survey done on what Micromax users make of Nothing like anything will throw some startling results. Anyone interested to pitch in?

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


What is a word made up of 4 letters yet is a word made up of 3. Although is written with 8 letter, then with 4. Rarely consists of 6, and never is written with 5.

Some might find in above a conundrum of a sort and to some it might appear simplified. It caught my attention for I could see in it the way we read ourselves – our mind and consciousness. Going back to above, it is a simplified statement which inherits the answer yet as we read it in flow we tend to lose connect and find it all gobbled up.

Doesn’t it present a fitting analogy as to how we tend to catch and lose connect with our core? Often than not many of us are aware of who we are and what we stand for, yet on exposure to temptations we tend to reconcile and shuffle our thoughts over and over again whereas the response stands still before us. On other hand there are those strong characters who hold it firm and read accurately without any aberration.

If there was a belief, “when you want something, the whole universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.” There also exists a reality that the world inside outside you also stops you from believing and clouds your mind and heart to weaken your sight of the core. Those who hail the storm steer pass everything only to be left with elements that work in one’s favor.

Easier said than done! Perhaps this could only be simplified by treading on an even tougher path of unified aim and bringing renunciation in action. Harsha Bhogle summed it up too well in his praise for Rahul Dravid, “giant edifices are built on solid foundations.” The foundation itself runs many out of patience and pose toughest test to your grit and substance. May be that’s why it was said that the real wealth is ‘patience’; patience to not lose hope and conviction that ‘tomorrow never dies.’