Wednesday, October 26, 2005

In all fairness

“Gore rang pe itna gumaan na kar, gora rang do din mein dhal jayega” Song from the film Roti, pictured above. Loosely translated it means, don't be proud of your fair skin, it'll vanish in two days.

And now a fairness cream for men. Emami has launched a fairness cream for men called "Fair and Handsome". With a name like that, Emami leaves nothing in the dark. Clearly, their marketing people as well as the geniuses at their ad agency spent long nights to carefully craft this well-thought out and utterly brilliant, path-breaking strategy for a product that promises to ligten up the faces of dark-skinned men. And where's the best place you'll find them ? Aha ! master-stroke #2 - launch the cream in - you guessed it ! - Andhra Pradesh.

Our legendary obsession with fairness has spawned off an industry worth Rs1,000cr (US$200m+), led by HLL. All this for the Indian man's fairness fetish that has always been and will always be so damn unfair on the woman. That Indian women are the most beautiful in the world is fairly (pun intended) well proven by our bevy of Miss Worlds, Universes, Solar Systems, etc. I don't need inane beauty pageants to certify that - take a look around you. Indian women rock. Even white-skinned Caucasians visiting India drool over them.

But back home, bride-seeking families are shameless enough to demand a "fair" woman in matrimonials. And groom-seeking families flaunt their daughters as "gori" (worst case, wheatish) in the same columns. Where did it all start ? Was it an inheritance from the British ? Or as my colleague Mahesh mentions, perhaps its got to do with mythology ? Remember a scarred Zeenat Aman in "Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram" singing about Lord Krishna asking his Mother why he's dark and Radha is fair.

Get over it guys. Remember Bipasha ? or Rekha ? Or Zeenat ? or Rani ? Ah naaahh, you prefer Kareena and Preity ? God ! they talk so much, and they aren't even as amply endowed! Even if men don't accept it, at some point of time they realise that its always the inner beauty of a woman that matters. But they have to get over their baser instincts to bite that bullet. Till then, they will continue to fall for fairness. Thankfully, intelligence and sense of humour don't have a colour. And like your skin, you're born with them.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Fortune at the bottom

“No wonder you’re late. Why, this watch is exactly two days slow” Mad Hatter (Alice in Wonderland)

More than two days slow, Fortune's latest India special issue is also not a case for timely and incisive business journalism.

It takes effort to even begin reading a report on a billion strong country, with huge income disparities, that starts with "Vijay Mallya". Yet, surely the flamboyant Mr Mallya grabs the attention of Fortune’s typical reader. But then, who is Fortune’s typical reader ? American corporates and investors ? Most of them have been in India for a long time and already know what Fortune is talking about. Those coming new to India ? Please refer above comment of the Mad Hatter.

As for the rest of this India special, its full of Fortune's typical high-on-style and low-on-substance reporting. What's new? Certainly not this -

  • India v/s China ? Yawn, Businessweek beat them to it.
  • Strong growth rates, IT sector, foreign investment, modern Indian factories (note Bajaj "Automotive" not Bajaj Auto), call-centre operator, blah, blah. Yawn again.
  • Mandatory mugs of shiny, happy, people, i.e. business families and their rich and wealthy next generation. I'm sure Clay Chandler and his team had a good time at their parties.
  • Poverty alongside progress - check the dhoti-clad old man standing next to a section of a new highway. At least its better than their earlier photo of a sadhu with a mobile phone.
  • Also don't miss an atrocious, full-page drawing of India with lotuses coming out of key places, for eg. Bombay (Bollywood, Ambanis), Chennai (call centre), etc. etc. Completely puerile, tasteless and pointless.
  • The only good write-up is Suketu's Mehta piece on Bombay. After all, he's probably the only author in this report who knew his subject well.

At the end of the day, Fortune is a magazine and I’d assume its model revolves around getting more ads and more readers. This issue serves both purposes. Most well-heeled Indians (and they are large in number) would grab this issue which should be at almost all bookstores and newspaper stalls. And the issue has loads of ads from Indian companies – so that takes care of the business.

For those who want an alternative - and probably far more timelier - opinion on India and China, check out the Economist’s last survey on India and China and their earlier survey on India.

For those looking for eye-catching photos and catchy stories, this Fortune is a must have. After all, as Alice mused “what is the use of a book without pictures or conversations”.

Crashing into lives

“We’re always behind so much metal and glass. Think we miss that touch so much, we crash into each other just to feel something”. Detective Graham Waters (Don Cheadle ) in "Crash".

Paul Haggis' masterpiece features an ensemble cast and looks at the lives of a handful of LA residents whose lives cross each other in the matter of a night. It’s impossible to watch the movie without thinking “What would I do in this situation?”. And if you can answer that while seeing this brilliant movie, you’d also probably conclude that it’s so damn easy to pass judgment on others from your very own comfortable ivory tower. Or your car. Or your house. Prejudices are easy to form and virtually impossible to break.

A comparison with life in Bombay seems opportunistic but perhaps might not be entirely inappropriate. Think about it. How many times have you cursed corruption and at the same time broken a signal while rushing home to be with your family. And bribed the cop who caught you. Or bought your flashy, new car with a Thane registration to avoid paying a higher price, while shaking your head at the horrendous state of the roads. Or bought tickets in black for that that must-watch film, and seethed in rage at rising crime in the city. Hey, come on you’re entitled to a good time, right ? And hell, if there’s a loophole in tax laws, you are going to use it, right ? After all, like every honest, salary-earning, hard-working Bombayite, you pay your taxes and are entitled to a good life.

“Crash” doesn’t deal with these issues. But it makes you think. Dealing with diverse characters and various aspects of their lives, it puts you at the centre of it all. There are some gut-wrenching scenes that shake your senses and make you wonder- “What if it happened to me”. Watch the movie for the performances, depth of characters and the sheer thrill of the ride.

And watch it before the next brain-dead, retard, intellectually-challenged, creatively-deprived, imbecile, fool and poor excuse for a Hindi film director sees the DVD and steals the idea for the next Emran Hashmi, Rakhi Samant, Irrfan Khan starrer. Hey, its so much easier now yaar – call Sarvodaya, Shemaroo, etc for the latest DVD, copy the damn scenes, thrown in good skin and item songs and you got your next flick to hit the multiplexes. The good part is that I doubt these crap movies make money. The bad part is people still make them, and people still watch them.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Govinda and Dawood - of Gods and demons

BBC NEWS South Asia India MP in TV 'most wanted' row

So a TV channel aired footage of actor-turned-politician (buffoon-turned-imbecile) Govinda meeting Dawood in Dubai, which the joker claims is 16 years old. Of all the things to crucify this worthless politican, this seems to be the kindest.

Replacing veteran BJP MP Ram Naik, this cretin got a ticket from the Congress and won the elections from Virar, which is his home-town. But hey - he's also got a plush bungalow in Juhu. The joker was last in the news for mysteriously vanishing when a 15km thick cloud gave 944mm of rain in the suburbs of Bombay. Thankfully, he was hounded by the news channel and in interviews he did what he does best - put his foot in his mouth. Sample this - Our Honourable MP thought that PIL, which stands for Public Interest Litigation, meant Public Relations Officer.

Then, finally sick of it all, he decided to quit. Probably someone reminded him that he'll earn..sorry, make more money in politics than in the film industry (no one sees his movies anyways), prompting him to change his mind. (

Bombay's been let down by the same politicians elected by its own sick and tired populace. If this so-called scandal can get rid of Govinda, surely its for the best.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Dribble, dribble, drool

ZeeSports :: AIFF

My prize for ad campaign of the day goes to "ZeeBras" (yes, don't miss the capital "B"). In an effort to promote domestic football (at a time when cricket crazy fans crib and cringe on the crying shame the Indian team has become), Zee will have 8 models ("ZeeBras") as cheerleaders at the Federation Cup this year.

If spaghetti straps did wonders for Indian cricket, it was because Mandira Bedi wore them. The good part is that Zee has realised that the only way to get anyone to watch its channel is to get pretty women with zebra tops and hot pants to advertise the event. Well, if that can do wonders for Indian football, what the hell. Yes, the taste of the ad and the imagination, or lack thereof, can be questioned, even criticised, but if these are the hoardings I'll see spread across the city, I say "yeah baby !".

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Mill land, mall land, brawl land

And finally a victory for a crusader. I'm referring to this week's High Court decision on the mill land case. Sure, the Supreme Court could easily reverse this ruling, but what the hell - its a victory and a nice kick in the right places for the builder-politician nexus.

But there were some who didn't take the news too well. Stock prices of real estate developers crashed. The Economic Times did what it does best and gave the whole issue a nice negative spin (for eg. disaster for ICICI Bank which had lent money to developers. Er... the same article also carried a quote from a senior official saying that the exposure was not large). And they followed it up today with an editorial that is best appreciated only by the editor. He suggests that courts stick to their turf (doesn't that include passing verdicts ?) and not interfere in legislative and Government matters (and what if both fail as has been amply demonstrated in Bombay ?).

Another set of people who were reasonably upset were the well-heeled, well-educated and rich young execs who booked lavish apartments in the high-rises which were to be built here. Didn't know that there was always this risk when they had entered into this purchase ? Or did their greed for grabbing cheap land in Bombay come in the way ?

Where have all the Bombay lovers gone ? Why is the city so systematically going to the dogs and various other animals ? Indifference and apathy abounds. The same people who bravely helped out while a 15km tall cloud showered 994mm of water on suburbs, are probably the same who wouldn't care a damn if their daily lives are affected by bad roads, garbage, corruption, etc. The residents excel in short-sightedness and lack of awareness or concern on civic matters.

Is this city dead ?