Monday, April 23, 2012

Why is Akshaya Trithiya like Valentine’s Day?

The answer is a no-brainer, come to think of it. Hint: Buy, buy, buy. Spend, spend, spend. Better still: splurge, splurge, splurge. Shop, shop, shop for expensive baubles and trinkets till you drop, drop, drop out because your credit card limit is kaput or ennui has finally set in. In short, both AT and VD have been spawned by Commerce as ideal days to prove how big hearted and deep-pocketed you are. Both AT and VD got a fresh lease of life in the heart of Middle India, post-liberalisation. Neither was top of the mind prior to the turn of the century. I know somebody who’s going to be very, very unpopular for telling the truth. But what to do? Satyameva jayate!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

When will the Titanic sink, Dadi?

That was one of the most astute comments coming out of the mouth of a bored 5-year-old watching James Cameron’s much hyped Titanic bleary-eyed when it was first released in Mumbai. I was sitting in a seat within earshot and couldn’t agree more with the remark and the sentiment. In fact, watching the over the top brouhaha going on the wide screen, I could not help wondering if the much celebrated director had taken – prior to making his magnum opus − a sabbatical in Bollywood in order to observe how they blow everything out of proportion out here or sometimes make it crawl to a mind-numbing statis that pretends to be the very thing it is not. This rant was brought on by the reminder over the FM Monday morning that the centenary of the Titanic’s demise was on 14 April. To me, all luxury liners stand for monumental extravagance, wastage of precious resources, elitist vanity and an insult to common folks. So what are the losers the world over celebrating the centenary for?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Purple prose. Scarlet sirens.

When it comes to gossip, I am neophobic. Old is gold for this old timer. You may have noticed my predilection here, here, here, and, here too To indulge in my fondness for time-tested gossip, I recently breezed through two books of the canon. Truth to tell I had bought them both in the US in spring 2010 and devoured them hungrily post haste. Both the books deal with Hollywood’s dirty linen and scrumptious scandal of mid-20th century vintage. Of the two, Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon (Dell Publishing, 1981) is the so-called “legendary underground classic of Hollywood’s darkest and best kept secrets”. Anger’s angry and frenzied – though unauthenticated − narrative rips along merrily into the innards of the studio system, spilling rumours and innuendos galore and generally playing havoc with the filmdom’s carefully crafted propagandistic iconography. An entire chapter of Hollywood Babylon (Con Game) is devoted to the brief but sensational career of the tabloid that spawned the celeb-centric yellow-journalism culture. Confidential was its name. It trashed exalted reputations willy-nilly spreading terror in the hearts of the denizens of tinsel town for a span of no more than five years. It opened shop in New York in 1952 and folded for all practical purposes in 1957. The second book of the canon I ran through recently was Henry E Scott’s Shocking True Story (Pantheon Books, New York, 2010). A real page turner it is – fully living up to its subtitle: The Rise and Fall of Confidential, “America’s Most Scandalous Scandal Magazine”. Trying to live up to its don’t-give-a-damn motto: “Tells the Facts and Names the Names”, Confidential spawned an entire tabloid, paparazzi sub-culture whose banner is kept flying today by the likes of People, E! Online, Ok! and TMZ.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Corn sells. And, how?

Corn sells. That used to be the war cry of Mrs Tara Sinha in the good old late 60s as she restlessly paced the passage way in front of her office in Advent, next to the Golwalla Swimming Pool near Sachivalaya. This was her daily clarion call for the print ad for Tata’s Magic detergent. Almost every single morning, there used to be a planning meeting, sometimes because Mrs Sinha had come up with what she thought a better idea than the ad made by the creative team . A new layout would be presented in the afternoon. By evening, it was back to the drawing board. (The product manager for Magic was Camellia Panjabi. She was the Marketing Manager of The Taj Group of Hotels in the JRD-Ajit Kerkar era where she pioneered Szechwan and Thai cuisine in the 5-star restaurants. Later on, she made a name for herself as the trail-blazing restaurateur who almost single-handedly introduced Indian regional cuisine in the UK.) Mrs Sinha had just taken over as the Bombay Branch Manager of Clarion-McCann and was heading a group of clients as well. She was a dynamo of ideas and, later in her career, worked for Coca-Cola in India as well as the US. She was always ready and willing to chip in generously with advice for any problem, including a personal one. In the early 70s, my friend, RV Rajan, had worked closely with Mrs Sinha in the Delhi-based but unimaginatively christened Advertising Corporation of India, a Clarion-McCann sister company meant to handle public-sector accounts. In his self-published autobiography, Courage My Companion, Rajan recalls how she had clearly specified what a corporate wife should be like: her qualities and her duties, so to speak. On pages 63 and 64 of his book, he quotes Mrs Sinha’s advice “… on the type of girl I [he] should marry. Because I was a successful adman and had a bright future, she felt that my life partner should be a smart and capable girl. She said, ‘Marry a girl who will be comfortable entertaining clients at home. She must be sophisticated to be able to socialise with the wives of the clients.’ In other words, she wanted me to marry a girl who could support my career.” He did exactly the opposite. Maybe, in her heart of hearts, she thought of it as the corniest thing that could have happened to him.