Friday, September 28, 2007

Incest in the air… er, swear.

I have always been intrigued by the genealogy of the two ancient-as-the-hills, incest-loaded swear words of choice in India, cultured India not excluded. and My very first childhood acquaintance with them was in the boisterous bezique sessions that used to be held every week-end at 233 Khetwadi Main Road. I noticed my father never using them but neither objecting to nor minding his friends using them even with me hovering around all the while. Even now, I keep hearing the same usual suspects being bandied around off and on all over the place. Nobody – neither the swear word user nor the swear word listener – seems the least bit embarrassed by the sudden expletive. Of late, I’ve even overheard seemingly respectable women freely resorting to them – without batting a just-glued eyelid. I have a feeling these once potent expletives have lost their original intended “swear” meaning and continue to exist as empty impotent shells. In Marathi, we have a word for it: tondi lavne. In other words, something to improve the taste on the tongue. Like pickle and chutney, for instance. With some, the insertion of these expletives in speech substitutes endearment or acts as an attention-catching device. Given the reality of the swear world, I guess there’s no point either wondering about or investigating their genealogy. QED.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Making a spectacle of himself with a pair of them.

I don’t know how I happened to see at the Regal Cinema, probably in 1950 or 51, Harold Lloyd’s last movie, Mad Wednesday (aka The Sins of Harold Diddlebock). It was a full-length feature made the year India became independent. The one scene I’ve not forgotten from it is a shell-rim spectacled Lloyd, in his usual timid nice-guy character, hanging for dear life from the minute hand of a giant clock on a tower. The pair of spectacles – actually no glasses but mere frames – was his distinguishing trademark, a “positioning” prop. Lloyd’s other distinguishing characteristic was he did impossible-seeming stunts himself. It appears that he kept himself in a fighting fit condition in order to be able to do them without a double. His earlier silent films, I found out, were made without a script. Start with a central idea and go on from there was his favourite formula. He got his movie break – and bug – in San Diego when the Edison Moving Picture Company visited San Diego where he was schooling and attending a drama school as an assistant to Mr Connor in 1914. He went to work as an extra at five dollars a day and got hooked for life. He followed the Edison outfit to Los Angeles and joined the Keystone Company. There he teamed with Hal Roach in the latter’s own company. (Roach later produced Laurel and Hardy comedies.} At that time, the benchmark for a comedian, Lloyd realized, was Charlie “The Little Tramp” Chaplin with his funny baggy attire and a tiny moustache. Not wanting to be a Charlie clone or imitation, he wore tight-fitting clothes and a different kind of moustache and made 150 farcical one-reelers featuring ‘Lonesome Luke’. They – and he – made people laugh and made lots of dough too. But he wasn’t happy with what he was doing. By then, he had started “to make a serious study of comedy” (“a contradiction” to his way of thinking) after he realized that there was no “harder job in the world than to make people laugh”. Around that time, he chanced upon the pair-of-spectacles device and a different type of character, the timid nice guy, who got into doing all kinds of unexpectedly and spectacularly bizarre stunts. “Folks like to be surprised” was the logic of his new style. It worked and Lloyd became a legend in his own right. "Harold Lloyd was not a comedian. But he was the best actor to act the part of a comedian of any person I ever saw." That’s what Hal Roach once said of Lloyd. And, here's what Lloyd said about a comedian: "I feel that to be a comic is as vital and important a mission as being a physician, healing other wounds.” There’s a July 1922 interview of Harold Lloyd (The American Magazine) here:

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Got killer instinct to spare, dude?

This morning, I read about the appointment of small-town boy, MS Dhoni, as the Indian captain in the coming ODI encounters with Australia and Pakistan. A little later, at, I came across what I thought was an amusing online adver-game, Book of Deviants, meant for 18-34 old male “deviants” evidently with no moral objection whatsoever to mindless mayhem. By the way, I chanced upon the game while listening – irony of irony! – to mushy Rajendra Kumar love songs sung by Mohamed Rafi. The object of this role-playing game is for the short, pudgy, scythe-wielding monster, Little Deviant, to beat, mutilate and murder spineless “Sheeple” – people who don’t drive Toyota Scion, in other words. As the player progresses through the ascending levels, he keeps collecting Sheeple blood in a tube. At the last and highest level, he can use the blood – horror of horrors! – to fuel the Scion factory. This deviant behaviour by Toyota has earned the ire of the blogosphere. “People that find it offensive are not our target,” Simon Needham, co-founder of ATTIK, the game- designing agency, told the online magazine Slate. This is an example of a recent viral marketing gambit. The question often raised about viral/word-of-mouth marketing revolves around the measurability – and trackability – of its ROI. The detractors of viral/WOM marketing accept that it can create brand awareness but doubt if it can generate market share. Can marketers identify and/or spawn brand evangelist – those consumers who actively promote their favorite products and services to family, friends and business associates? Can their effect on the bottom line be measured? How can viral campaigns link to existing loyalty-marketing efforts? Is a cool viral video really all you need to create customer advocates—or are agencies who sell viral services simply blowing smoke? Before there was the printed word, broadcast media and the Internet, WOM was the only way to sell the wares. So actually it’s as old as the hills (or, is it Jurassic Park?). Two recent examples of WOM successes at share building and awareness building respectively were the 2003 Pabst Blue Ribbon beer 134% sales spike and the 2004 20-million-hit Burger King website Nearer home is the Unilever Sunsilk Gang of Girls online initiative with its unique online Makeover Machine: It harnesses the upsurge In broadband usage in India to use the power of social networking and WOM as well as user-generated content for product promotion. A noteworthy evangelist initiative is P&G’s Vocalpoint where 600000 “connector moms” share new product knowledge with more than 20-30 other women every day. A 29 May BusinessWeek article reported a doubling of sales in test locations as a result of the Vocalpoint initiative. Then there is BzzAgent, an essentially smaller, brand-neutral version of Vocalpoint with an army of 300,000 agent volunteers who receive coupons and sneak previews of new products and evangelize the client’s marketing message to an average of 12 other people – just the first-generation contacts. The next generation percolation will be an average of 4 people, as the BzzAgent experience shows. (P.S.: According to an eMarketer research report, there are currently 33.2 million Indian Internet users. That’s 2.9% of the total population, to be precise. The broadband households and penetration are 3228000, i.e., 1.6% of the total households. The comparable Internet user estimates from comScore, Internet & Mobile Association of India and JuxtConsult are 22.8, 42.5 and 30.3 million respectively. & The GOG website was designed by the award-winning web designer

Sunday, September 16, 2007

What do I know?

Nothing – after I take stock of what I presume is my sizeable reservoir of knowledge. I have gathered over the years scraps of information. I reckon. When it comes to the crunch, though, I know just about enough to get by. This morning, for instance, I read in the papers a juicy bit of gossip about an actress who I think has oodles of talent, much more than her sister who has been in the Hindi films for much longer than her. I thought of the time I had seen her at close quarters, close enough to make an eye contact. It happened to be a preview of one of her early movies. The movie was nothing much to write home about, terribly derivative and much too long. She held her own against another much more experienced actress. What was important for me was the eye contact. It immediately told me here was an actress worth watching. Also, a person who would go her own way no matter what. She proved me right soon enough. Then she was in the midst of an “affair” that seemed to me to be made to order for the media and her fan following. Now it seems she is out of it and in another “relationship” where she is probably following her own inclination and instincts. What has that got to do with the price of potatoes? Nothing. Only I wonder it what I “knew” or “sensed” in the moment I described is “knowledge”. If it is, what use is it? P.S.: Maybe, my understanding of this whole business of “knowing” is all wonky. Maybe, know-nothing is my middle name.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

The black buck stops here.

I am not for capital punishment. In fact, I’m against any sort of punishment. I don’t think it works in changing behaviour. So, I am not a part of the whisper campaign that goes: Do unto Salman as he did into the black buck: shot her legs and slit her throat with a knife. My view has nothing to do with his giving away pedal bikes to street urchins or a Rs 25-lakh Mercedes to a fellow artiste or a lakh of rupees for the medical treatment of the Dalit poet who called Mumbai a whore once upon a time. To retract a bit, I first became aware of his propensity to give away pedal bikes sometime towards the end of the last millennium. On my way back from a business trip to Colombo, I had broken journey in Bangalore to visit Ashu, Nandini, Aditi and Avantika in their Koramangala residence. Salman was then shooting a David Dhawan flick there. Nandini, Aditi and Avantika had gone to watch the shooting. Avantika who used to be quite a smart tot caught Salman’s eye and fancy. Pat came a mock marriage proposal with a pedal bike thrown in as an additional incentive. I remember calling the gesture “cute” and “sweet” like everyone else. All this happened before the poor guy’s sadistic steak made a public showing: manhandling girl friends, mowing down street dwellers, slitting the throat of a member of an endangered species and who knows what else. And, yet his colleagues and fans – who, I’m sure, are all honourable men and women – say that he is a victim of celebrity, a much misunderstood person, a benefactor of humanity. Maybe I’m mistaken but I happen to strongly feel one ought to side with the Bishnois and Maneka Gandhi here.