Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Worst commercial of 2014: Lufthansa

There have been commercials; and there have been horrible commercials; and then, there have been those eerie commercials that leave you thinking: is the advertisement good or bad for the product?

Tired of making clichéd lists for the year, I thought of identifying the most irritating television commercial of the year. That award should go to the Lufthansa commercial below.


 I own a Star Alliance membership card (warning: this is when I start showing off) that it has Lufthansa written on it. I came close to discarding it.

***

Let me give an introduction on what the advertisement tries to do: it tries to convince the Indian audience that the airlines is more Indian than German, which means it tries to pass inedible microwaved yellow goo as daal. The authentic German Lufthansa would ask “chicken or pasta?” and serve dry rubbery mush and call it chicken.

Let us look at the video. It involves a kid. They have named him Aryan. They must have tried to send a message across by calling him Aryan; unfortunately, I could not grasp it. This may be some very authentic Indo-German joke that eludes me.

The grandfather and grandson start in a room, walk over a bridge, and stroll past a park to bad-mouth Germans. The punch-line-in-apparent, of course, is “their movies are always gray; probably they have not even heard of Bollywood!”

Erm, the last time I had heard, Indian producers send movies to win awards at Berlinale. It does not work the other way round. I have never heard of German movies competing for the Filmfare.

There is also disapproval about food, though they are not going to stay in Germany. They are going to New York, and, in all likelihood, they would at most have a stopover at Frankfurt. So why prejudice your grandson before he reaches the age to take his own decisions?

They are going to USA (they also ride a Japanese car, but let us not get into that). Should the discussion not revolve around American food and movies?

Let me put myself in the old man’s shoes. Suppose I am flying KLM the first time. Will I try to form an idea of Dutch movies before I fly? Will their Bollywood-awareness become a condition?

Here is a list of what I will try to find out:
1. Whether they are usually punctual.
2. What I can and cannot carry (the list is usually the same).
3. The dimensions and weight of the check-in and hand-baggage.
4. The stopover time.
5. A Google Images view of the air-hostesses (or female flight-attendants).

***

But even that is not my point here. They are namaste-ed by an attendant; the grandson is obviously confused, given his grandfather’s moronic inputs. They get seated.

Lufthansa plays an Indian movie. They also serve Indian food (I know they are flying business-class, but what airline serves six colour-coded gulab-jamuns?).

 
Whatever you do, Lufthansa, do not make them diabetic; and why are they colour coded?
 The poor child has every right to be confused. He even looks out of the aircraft for some unfathomable reason. Then, unable to control his confusion anymore, he blurts out: “grandpa, we’re in the wrong plane!


This expression has to win an award of some sort; I wonder how short the air-hostess's skirt was
Then, the grandfather takes his glasses off in what he probably considers the most reassuring gesture in the history of mankind, and utters: “no, no, everything is fine.”

Think of the child. Think of the poor child.
1. He was told what to expect on flight.
2. He finds that things are ridiculously different from what his idiot of a grandfather had taught him.
3. He obviously thinks there is something wrong.
4. His grandfather tells him that everything is fine, without offering an explanation.


If I were that kid, I would have grown up as the most confused individual ever. I kid you not.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

PK and Rajkumar Hirani: a few words

Courtesy: Bollywoodlife.com
Read the original article on Ideetube.

***

No one, even Rajkumar Hirani himself, will place the man in the pantheon of Bollywood’s greatest directors. It is difficult to say who will make the cut, but one can safely assume that Hirani will not.

But then, again, Hirani’s movies never fail to touch a cord; they work well with Indian audience in the same way that vada works with paav. They win awards, you seldom get tickets unless you go via BookMyShow, and you can take both the dudes and your girlfriend to them.

Oh, and in case you are wondering, this is not a PK review. This is an effort to understand the man. PK had its high points, but once you have seen OMG Oh My God! you will be almost expecting every turn in the movie. The only twist in the movie is rather predictable, and the clichés are, well, clichéd.

Of course, some things clicked. Some of the one-liners and satirical plot points are contemporary, but it would be unfair to give Hirani credit for that. It is akin to Rajiv Gandhi’s Bofors strategies: they were certainly not part of Indian military strategies, but they ended up being helpful at the turn of the millennium.

But then, the movie is magical. This is not the Aamir Khan magic that keeps you glued to your television sets at ten in the morning on Sundays; neither is this the Anushka Sharma oomph that had made Band Baaja Baaraat work. This is different.

This is the genius of Hirani. As I mentioned, Hirani will never come remotely close to be the pantheon of Bollywood’s greatest. But take a minute to consider the Who’s Who of Bollywood: consider Bimal Roy and Raj Kapoor; Guru Dutt and Yash Chopra; Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Ramesh Sippy; Shyam Benegal and Anurag Kashyap; and more.

Visualise them, sitting, with sombre faces, making small talk, waiting for some coveted award. Hirani does not belong there. But he will gatecrash. He will gatecrash and embarrass Yash Chopra on those chiffon saris and Raj Kapoor on waterfalls, or Guru Dutt on his antipathy towards straight eyebrows.

Worse, he may end up giving a completely unexpected jaadu ki jhappi to, say, Bimal Roy, scandalising the entire table.

He is that cheeky, Hirani. You will not be awed by him. His characters turn up from random nooks and corners of your life, preach inanely, laugh and leave you in splits, and disappear, just like that.

Munna had Circuit. Phunsukh Wangdu and PK are lonely. Munna was simple. Wangdu made things simple. PK is perhaps too simple. Neither is real. Yet all of them are. They will catch you unawares if you confuse yourself and will end up simplifying your lives.

That is the risk you run if you get too close to a Hirani movie: you end up questioning yourself. That is what the man can do to you. He has probably overdone things a bit with PK, but he will turn things around. Wait for the next one.

Till then, enjoy your comfort zone.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Peshawar aftermath: the horror of the what-ifs

Courtesy: Coalition to Stop Gun Violence Facebook group
A day went by after the Peshawar horror. A second day went by. The second night seemed too long. Maybe I was too affected. Or maybe I was human. Or maybe I was too human. Or maybe insane.

But then, I am not known for losing my composure. They generally say I am devoid of emotion. They are true. Or maybe I am the emotional one and they are devoid of emotions. Or maybe both are true. Maybe it was because I am a parent. Or maybe despite the fact that I am a parent.

It did not matter. I tried to sleep. Then something hit me.

What if… what if… this became the norm? What if massacres became so commonplace some day that we would not care anymore?

Parents in Peshawar will probably be too scared to send their children to school. But what if… what if… they stopped being scared? What if it reaches a stage when everyone accepts violence as a part of our lives?

When I was in my tweens all my parents were scared of were kidnappers. We were told that random kidnappers prowled across the nooks and corners of the city, and would swoop down upon us at the first opportunity and carry us away in large gunny-bags.

Parents of five-year olds are scared of worse things these days. Growing up I had no idea about the existence of words like paedophile. Or child abuse. And now, this. Those kidnappers seem almost toothless when put into perspective.

What if such massacres become commonplace some day? What if parents of the future have to go through experiences so gruesome that mass execution of children seem tame in comparison?

The very thought left me in cold sweat. More than the thought of children desperately crying out for their parents when asked to stand in a queue in front of a firing squad without a chance to protest or hit back; more than the thought of a wounded child gagging himself and silencing himself with a tie; more than when I got to know that Class 9 had only one survivor — a boy whose alarm did not work that morning.

Those parents at Peshawar, checking the hospital lists frantically, have been shattered. We had come down crashing with them, as did humanity. We cried with them, and, as is the norm, we shared Facebook posts, changed our wall pictures, and made hashtags trend on Twitter.

All that will subside. All that has started to subside.

There will be an encore. We will rise again.

This will become commonplace. There will be revenge, mostly without proof or vindication, mostly on the innocent. We will simply like or favourite or retweet.

That will happen because something more horrific will be in news.

That will happen because something will churn our insides to such an extent that the Peshawar incident will seem as innocuous as kidnappers with gunny-bags seem to our generation.

That is what I am scared of.

That is what left me sleepless last night and is making me type my fingers to numbness at two in the morning. The what-if bit of it.


Maybe things have just begun.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Beyond capital punishment

Cricket was not held up. Humanity was. In fact, humanity was pushed back by a few centuries, perhaps millennia, at Peshawar — a city that was synonymous to Arbab Niaz Stadium to me. Till yesterday.

I was determined. I would not read news. I would not check the trending hash-tags on Twitter. I would not see the pictures. I knew what had happened.

I read funny things. I cracked jokes. I read funny one-liners. I watched cricket. I checked obscure cricket statistics. Sitting in the newsroom, I would prepare myself for The Gabba.

I was scared. Not because of what may happen to me, but because we were now devoid of hope. They would not spare children. Remember those cute commercials that say all children are created equal, and it is only when we grow up that the chasms are created?

These children were denied a chance to grow up. Those bastards denied them the chance in the name of religion, or whatever it is that teaches them that murdering children is a way to make this planet a better place to live.

I still decided to stay away from this. Not like an ostrich, but perhaps because the 37-year old father in me did not have it to take this anymore. Then two things happened today.

***

The Test at The Gabba had got over. The one at Centurion had started. All eyes, however, were on the one at Abu Dhabi, where Pakistan was supposed to take on New Zealand. The two-minute silence was expected, as were the black bands.

Shehzad, Pakistan’s wonder-kid, broke down when the stadium rose to a silence. Waqar, Moin, Mushtaq, Younis Khan were visibly traumatised. Irfan, all of 7’1”, looked as small as any of us as he prayed under his breath.

Even that did not break me. I pretended everything was normal.

What broke me was a solemn, sombre, gloomy Afridi.

It was then that it hit me. Afridi was the man who was not supposed to grow up. Afridi was the man who was not supposed to change. The short speech was so unbearable that I almost wanted to mute the television, but could not.

Be professional, I told myself. I could not. I had to make excuses to leave for the restroom. I am a parent. My daughter goes to school. I felt claustrophobic.

Afridi broke me today.

***

I kept myself hooked to the other match, at Centurion. Enough was happening there. I calmed down as the day progressed. Then I checked social media, and saw this headline.


What if I was the only one, left in an entire class, across sections? What if I turned up at school to see I was the only one? What if walked inside an empty school to know that I was the only survivor because the alarm did not go off in the morning and my friends were all lined up and massacred to death by (probably, I hope not) the smiling guy who sold sweets outside the school?

My Class IX memories involved trying to woo a girl, watching cricket and Chitrahaar, listening to Vividh Bharti, and a routine that shuffled between tuitions-school-home and home-school-tuitions (sometimes tuitions-school-tuitions home as well). I am happy with my childhood.

This boy’s Class XI memories would involve his alarm clock not working on the most dreadful morning of all.

***

Go ahead, Pakistan. Do not rest till you dish out the worst to these creatures. Capital punishments will not suffice. It is too soft a punishment for people who can take up arms against children. Do something beyond my limited imagination.

Remember the images. A group of children, being asked to queue up, with full knowledge of what was about to follow. Imagine their horror. Imagine the horror of the parents crying in panic as they looked up the list of the dead.

Dish out something to them — the kind of which the world is yet to see. Take something away irretrievable from them. Something. Something. Something.

Please.

PLEASE.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Friendship, tuberculosis, shuddh Hindi, and apology

The ubiquitous tuberculosis patient. Courtesy: Telugu One

I have a friend. She lives in NCR. I live in NM.

Okay, fine. She lives in Greater Delhi. I live in Greater Mumbai. Etc.

She lived in the same city two years back. I lived in Mumbai. Not Navi Mumbai. Mumbai. On the other side of toll naka

She worked at a place that sounded fun. I worked at a place where a person who sat three seats away from me hummed "o mere papa the great" throughout the day.

We talked every weekday on email, mostly in Hindi, a language we were equally proficient at. Some of these emails were slightly non-trivial.

Here is a sample:

***

Me:
Aap kaisi ho jee? Aur aapka woh kaisa hai?

Friend:
Achche hai hum. Woh better hain. Mild petbyatha chhod ke baki sab thik. Aaj pet specialist daktar dikhaya, who has suspected one of the following:
1. Intestinal tuberculosis
2. Crohn's disease
3.Salmonella infection
Kalke ekgada test, colonoscopy karne jayega. Agar number 3 nikla, toh thik hai. 1 ya 2 nikla toh chaap ho sakta hai. Sigh.
Tumhara kya khabar?

Me:
Humen bhi tuberculosis hua tha kabhi. Usi avastha mein humne BSc Part I diya tha. Aur pass bhi kiya tha. Par woh intestine mein nahin, gale ke gland mein tha. Naw mahine tak chikitsa mein magn the hum.

Friend:
Gale ke gland mein tuberculosis kaise hota hai mairi?

Me:
Haan mairi. Yakshma jism ke jagah jagah mein hota hai. Aur aajkal Deoghar jana bhi nahin padhta hai.

Friend:
Humne thoda bahaut Google kiya abhi. 1 aur 2 ek hi sikke ka epith-opith hai. 3 safe hai. 1 ya 2 hua to maamla thoda sangeen hai.
Kitna strange hai. Mere papa ko bhi intestinal tuberculosis hua tha jab woh college mein padhte the. Six months laga tha thik hone mein. Operate bhi karna para tha.
Par aap ko gale mein TB kaise hua? Thanda lag ke?

Me:
Nahin. Abohawa ka dushan se. Gale ka gland ful gaya tha. Dhnok gilne mein takleef hota tha. Phir ENT ko dikhaya. Usne kaha biopsy karwane ke liye. Phir pata chala ke yakshma hai. Phir nau mahine tak dawaai khaya. 

Friend: 
Yakshma hua aur kaasha nahin, black and white Bengali film ka hissa nahin bana, toh kya kiya?

Me:
Nahin, kaasha tha, bahaut kaasha tha. Dhnok gilne mein jab takleef hota tha, tab bahaut kaasha karta tha. Par rakt-bomi nahin hua tha kabhi, jo hona chahiye tha.

Friend:
Hna. Phir poshchim jana tha, hawa badalne ke liye. Phir ek poshchimi mohila ka premey parna tha, jo tumhe nurse back to health karta. Roj sokale tum chhota bihari town ke outskirts ke chhota bungalow ke bahar chhota garden mein chair paat ke mithe roddur pohata aur kobita likhta, (punjabi, payjama, aur chador pehen ke) aur woh aake tumhe peyala bhorti bedanar rosh peelata. :D

Me:
Phir main Kolkata laut aake shushil patri se shaadi karta, aur poshchima ladki ko bhool jaata. Poshchima ladki ko biroho hota, aur ajibon kunwari rehti, aur porikkha deke collector banti. Aur phir kabhi train mein safar karte hue mera poribarke saath ek hi kamre mein jaati. Aur phir bahaut double-meaning-wala bakyobinimoy hota.

Friend:
Hna. Tum family man hota, mired in family troubles. Woh free-spirited career woman hoti. Mota kalo framer choshma pehenti. Aur simple sutir saree.

Me:
Train mein hum "tiffin-carry" kholta. Meri biwi use luchi-mangsho offer karti. Mere mukh phoshke nikal jaata "woh nirimish khati hai". Phir ghoralo poristhiti hota.

Friend:
Nahin. Nirimish se utna gondogol nahin hota. One of your myriad kids usey tang karti, aur tum bolte, "use chhod do, usey migraine ka problem hain." Phir godo godo ho ke jigyesh karte, "abhi bhi chaaye mein ek sugar leti ho?" Isi moment mein tumhari biwi bathroom se wapas aa jaati aur tumhe cold looks deti.

Me:
Phir meri biwi ek kitaab leke baith jaati, aur bachchon par okarone chillati. Poshchima ladki choshma utaarke so jaati. Main na-honewala menage-a-trois ka khwaab dekhta rehta.

***

Her woh had nothing serious, and got cured in double-quick time. She got married to him a couple of days back. I had promised her I would attend her wedding in Kolkata. I failed her. The gift will follow, but kid, this post is it for now.

I have tried to "pitch" the story to a few others (without any purpose), but nobody else appreciated it, let alone be impressed by my suave Hindi. This may have included you. Or you. Or you. Or, for that matter, you.

There are friends, outrageously good ones, but none like you.

Have a super life. Beam.

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