Category Archives: rant

Here and There and This and That: Ads I can’t stand

There are two things on TV which vie for the most irritating tag for me these days. And the news channels are losing to the advertisements. Only slightly though, but losing. And for something which you are supposed to tolerate every 15 minutes, making a (aesthetically) bad advertisement should be a criminal offence. Sadly, it isn’t. Let me share a few which really get on my nerves these days.

So there is this new Airtel ad which makes me shudder more, every new day I watch it. It is the My Plan ad. Airtel basically has this new flexible plan which anybody can customize according to their usage requirements. So they have this ad, where they show different individuals interacting with their cellphones in different ways. This is, of course, to show how we all use our phones differently, and hence our data/call plans should be according to our needs. The video is shot in slow motion. Why? Probably because the ad wishes to be BIG. It wants to make an impact (crater). And like filmmakers who slo-mo certain parts of their visual pieces to emphasize those parts, these guys shot this ad in slow motion. And since every single bit of this ad is important, well, the whole of it is in slo-mo. But that’s ok really, it is shot well. I really have no issues with the video of the ad, apart from this guy whose unique expression I cannot stand any longer. I could not figure out any song, which would induce this (below) smile with eye-brows smugness in me.

Image
Cool song enjoyer in an albino Dhoom 3 hat

But the video is alright. The music is good. It has 30 seconds to Mars kind of feel to it. And it carries forward the visual’s endeavor to impart the ad a grand setting. It is one of those songs which start slow and the beats progressively get stronger and reverberating and the vocals get ‘scream-ier’. Anthem rock, if there is any. Then there is the conclusion: a firm female voice which takes over from song-vocals to deliver the message. The message, keeping in with the Grand theme, is very brief.

And emphatic.

And stops suddenly.

To stun the audience into awesomeness.

And it would have been an awesome ad but on my third viewing of it, I paid attention to the lyrics. And it blew my inner-ear-fluid-balance thing. The lyrics just did not match the Grand overalls. It was like Sachin holing out to McGrath in the world cup finals chasing 360, in the very first over. It goes something like this:

(The singer starts in his most grunge-growling voice)-

(Slow) ♫ We’re all so different. ♫  (with the TH of differen-th so pronounced, I am sure he looked away from the mic, still holding it, for a sec, in the style of those rockers who deliver a great first line, and draw breath for the next, because the first was so amazing and took such an emotional and physical toll on them)

(And belts this legendary line) ♫ That’s how it should be. ♫(That’s how it should be?? Why do I need this random lame reassurance?)

(Vocals gaining momentum, gradually) ♫ Love, hate, fear and joy. Emotional fingerprints. ♫ (Profound.)

(Towards the crescendo now)♫ Coz I am not you and you are not me. ♫

(And the feverish, heart pounding repeat of the last line) ♫ Coz Aiyaa am not you and you are not me. ♫

(And the lady takes over) Each one of us uses our phones differently. That’s why, MY PLAN. The first ever postpaid plan, that’s created by me, FOR ME.

END. DAMN. Or as a dear friend of mine would have said: Ae Dhishum.

And that ‘Created by Me, FOR ME’ line trod so closely to Lincoln’s “(Government) of the people, by the people, for the people, I cringed. I think one should steer clear of lines which sound like other famous lines. It is hard to make people believe that you were not inspired.

But the real disaster for me was the quasi-big lyrics. How many great ads do you remember which use background songs which actually say what the product is all about. Hint: not a lot. And not only does this Airtel ad almost does that, it has to insert such a lame filler line in between: That’s how it should be. And to follow it up with such brilliant lines like Coz I am not you and you are not me. It is like Ravi Shastri’s commentary.
Watch the airtel ad here.

Another ad which annoys me a great deal with its substandard writing is the Micromax ad featuring Hugh Jackman. I mean, why would somebody spend big bucks on a Hollywood star and then employ a buffoon for a writer (maybe that is the reason. No money left.). This ad has Hugh Jackman opening with a line

“People have heroes..”.

Who messes up a promising opening line like that? You invariably expect something amazing following ‘People have heroes’. But what he says next is:

“… I found mine in a circus. A Juggler.”

Ok, hmm, well, what, in a circus? A juggler? Really, Hugh Jackman? Mind you, he is playing himself in this ad. He then proceeds to tell us that he, too,  is a juggler now, thanks to his cellphone. How? He juggles the many lives of Hugh Jackman through the services of his Micromax CANvas turbo, which can multitask! So Hugh Jackman got this new phone and suddenly he was what he wanted to be all his life: Juggler? The problem is really the small scope of the product. It is a smart phone with a decent processor, that’s all. No big deal. But the brand wants to get big. So it hires a big star, but since they just have an ordinary feature to highlight, they write a script around it which is equally pathetic. What are the many lives of Jackman?

“Friends, work, my passions” (nausea).

And then they keep emphasizing their CAN (taken from CANvas). CAN do this, CAN do that, CAN juggle many lives. Somebody needs to tell them to get rid of that.

Watch the Micromax ad here.

There was this Samsung tab 2 ad which had a jingle like this:

♫ “Anything that’s making news, funny videos on youtube..

♫At the café with angry birds, all the news I read it first..

♫Making calls from everywhere, play cool (..) games anywhere..

♫.

♫.

♫Reading mails from my boss, downloading files from Dropbox,

♫Here and there and this and that…on the go with my tab”

Watch the ad here.

As if it was not enough that they actually had to list everything their tablet could do, they sang it too. And if these guys could not write a few lines without resorting to using fillers like ‘that’s how it should be’ and ‘here and there and this and that’, why are they writing at all? Why do not they just pay up a little and use a real song, or hire a better writer instead? I am sure they do not really care, because they use the logic that the primary aim of an ad is not to look or sound good; it is to sell stuff, as their shield. Even then, would it hurt if they tried a little harder to dish out something more presentable?

But there are so many ads which do such an amazing job with their songs. Below are two which…wait a min, I guess I would write a separate piece celebrating the good ones. Later.

Part Dui

rev202022

This is the second part of a series of posts which appreciate (NOT!) the writing of Chetan Bhagat through his latest book ‘Revolution 2020’. I hope you have read the first part.

One of acquaintance of mine, having read a Chetan Bhagat novel herself, described his writing style thus:

“I think he intends all his books to be made into Indian movies, and hence writes like that”.

That one sentence analysis was bang on. Both of CB’s novels that I read, played out like stock Hindi movies: full of stereotypes, clichés, poor character development, simplistic, poorly researched, lacking personal insight and avoiding any thread which might be touchy, complex or taboo.

A very strong feeling which pervaded while reading his books was, it was like he first visualized all that he wanted to write, and then actually wrote it. Nothing wrong with the visualization there but I think the problem in his case is, he visualizes the actual movie which is going to be made on his novel and writes that exact scene in his novel, maybe to lessen the work required on film makers’ part. And it does not help he never visualizes Satyajit Ray making his movie, it is always TLV Prasad. And hence, his attempts at character development are…, well, let me explain through these examples:

To establish his two protagonists one of which is morally upright and the other a poor kid showing early shades of grey here is what Bhagat has to offer-

The setting is that the two kids have stayed back in their classrooms, bunking the prayer assembly, to raid their classmates’ tiffin-boxes. This, they tell us, is their weekly raid. Wait a minute, why weekly? They don’t feel hungry every day or their petty crime instincts arise just on Tuesdays? I never came to know, but anyway, moving on. So they are raiding. The morally upright one says “I have brought Poori-aloo, we can share that. It is wrong to steal from others.” Really?? Is that what he says to the other fiend every single week? That it is wrong to steal? It is like the ubiquitous ‘Ramu kaka’ asking his master, while he hands out blankets to be distributed among poor “Thakur Sahib, why do you distribute blankets to these poor people every full moon night?” Why would anybody on earth ask this question any time other than the first time they did it? I can understand an unimaginative movie director doing this because he had to establish his character and move on, but there is absolutely no excuse to employ it in a novel.

Now sample this: The poor kid’s reply back on  the Poori logic “Forget it, your mom cooks boring stuff. Poori every day.”  Sure, of course. That is exactly how a poor kid responds to an offer of Poori, that it is boring. A kid so poor, he cannot afford to bring lunch ever.  Even if we assume that this weekly raid was just an escape from the boring Poori this poor kid had to share with the rich kid every other day, then also he would not have had explained himself…oh that was way too much of my typing effort wasted on this little piece of bullshit. Moving on.

Ok, so the guys are raiding. Suddenly they notice a fancy school bag. The poor kid asks “Who sits here anyway?” As I learnt a little while later, the owner of that bag was a pretty girl. Tell you what, when I was a kid, I knew every fancy bag that was in my class, especially, if it was of a pretty girl. So, for that poor kid to not know this, he must be:

–          Dumb.

–          New to class.

–          Certified owner of super cool school bags himself.

He was none.  So, I assume, that was just to build a little suspense before the introduction of the third protagonist, a female, a pretty one, and the third vertex in this, guess what, Love Triangle!! Master stroke, isn’t it? A sure winner, this formula.

The raid. Yeah.

So they open the fancy bag. Find a piece of cake inside and cut it in half with a plastic ruler. This was what my friend noticed and shared with me. That was nostalgia right there. We all had cut stuff with rulers. It was a ‘relate’, and a good one, I must say. (No sarcasm here)

So they cut the cake, eat it, the girl finds the cake missing, shouts, cries, the teacher notices and starts investigating the crime scene. She is taking a round of the class, looking for the guilty. The poor kid narrates “when Gill Madam walked by, I stared at the floor. She wore golden slippers with fake crystals on the strap….” Now which 10 year old tells if the ‘crystals’, I think crystals are a noteworthy dumb choice here, are original or fake? Do kids, especially guys, that young even notice that? I sincerely doubt that. And that was so unnecessary. If details were what Mr. Bhagat had to give, the kid might have noticed the blisters on Ms. Gill’s foot or something, fake crystal?? Not impressed.

Artificial and undercooked. These words kind of define his writing. The tragedies never made me feel bad for the characters that were in it. In the book, the poor kid, is a motherless kid who lives with his ailing father, who coughs (!!!!). Their stove takes ‘six’ times to start. These guys are really poor. I don’t know how many of such people put a ‘warm water bottle’ to their head when they are having a headache, as the father did in the novel. People like this don’t give a shit about headaches; headaches are never ever considered an ailment worthy of thought.

(This, some years later in the story) The poor kid’s father always wanted him to go to IIT. But he fails to get good score even after dropping a year. Here is an excerpt of when the kid breaks the news to his father:

‘I wanted to tell him that I did work hard. You do not get a fifty thousand rank, however useless that may be, without working hard. I wanted to say I felt fucked up inside. I wished he would figure out, I wanted to cry and that it would be great if he hugged me.

“Go away. Let me have some peace in my final days.” He (the father) said.’

Now who the f’k says that? Let me have some peace in my final days? The stupidity of this dialogue is stupendous but it somehow sounds familiar…yea, from the millions of movies. 70’s movies. But even that is a surface-wound compared to the senselessness of ‘great if he hugged me’. Why? This needs a little deeper analysis.

The analysis: “Wish he hugged me”. This, in its levels of stupidity, is very similar to an Airtel ad which aired some time back. The ad was about an offer through which some kids would be chosen to participate in some European soccer club’s training camp. The ad sang something like this:

“Are You Readayyy?

Are you ready for Football?

Ready to go far?

Are You ready to be a (Airtel’s) Rising Star?”

Oh I always wanted to be a ‘rising star’.  Wish he hugged me.

For quite some time I could not really put my finger on what exactly was wrong with these two sentences. Do you see it? Both of these things, people do not wish for ‘themselves’. It is almost always a third person’s point of view. People call us the rising star. We never see ourselves as a rising star (Who ever says that he wants to ‘show promise’ when he grows up. Getting my point?). Similarly, people wish somebody gave us a hug when we were down. We don’t wish for ourselves, at least not at that moment (we might when we look back at it in future). Not that we don’t want the hug or don’t like it, but if the situation at hand is so problematic that it warrants a hug, we rather are searching for its solution or some sort of respite than a hug, though it would be hugely comforting.

Let me continue this in a third part. There is so much frustration inside me right now.

Revolution 2020: review…sort of – Part 1

Rev 2020

I first read Chetan Bhagat in college. It was ‘5 point someone’. I saw it lying around on a hostel table and the cover and the title looked smart. I had absolutely no idea who CB was or what the book was about. I read it, and found it a tedious read, to be honest.  It started with an anecdote which I found rather unrealistic and after that it was plain bore. I finished it extraordinarily fast. Not because I was hooked but because I had to return the book back and leaving unfinished a book I had started, was like leaving a movie theater before the credits roll: reserved for the worst of the worse (I am yet to see such a movie. One of the books I left similarly, ok I do not want to lose some of you here but I have to mention it, was ‘100 years of solitude’ (wha…?), yeah, it seemed to me that the book was written particularly to irritate and confuse the single processor, low RAM having brains like mine). The only part of 5PS which really got me engaged was the small romantic episode between a student and his teacher’s daughter. Interestingly, I found, that is not one-off. CB writes about romantic tension rather well. Or it might just be me. My threshold here is so low, almost anything interests me. Anyway, so that was the only part I read properly and skimmed through the rest, with a note to never read Mr. Bhagat again. But the book became BIG. It turned into one of those books which you would be an assh0le not to have read. This kind of started irritating me, like ‘Rang De Basanti’. People were carrying it everywhere, it was everywhere and they could not stop raving about it. It got worse.

He released four more books. None, I guess, topped 5PS but they sold very well. CB got bigger: Movie adaptations of almost all his books, guest lectures which spawned chain emails, columns in leading national newspapers and the cherry, TIME 100. I mildly cried that day.

But I soon realized that he is just a guy writing books, presumably to the best of his abilities. He did not ask to be famous. He, I am sure, wanted to be, but it just happened. I do not think he can write deeper or subtler or better if he wanted to. He is not playing to the gallery. His articles, his speeches, his books all display a common, how shall I put it, callowness (?). I do not think he writes this certain way because he thinks that this will ‘connect’ to a majority of people. I sincerely think he is doing his best and most honest and people seem to like it. And he is TIME 100. F.U.C.K.

So this other day, I was just fooling around with my friend and some of them (females) are chatting among themselves.

“This new CB book is out. You read it?”

“Yea, Revolution 2020 isn’t it? I like CB”.

“Yea, he writes simple stuff but you can relate to the characters”.

“Exactly. But some people (points to me) think he is beneath them”.

 

OK, so I am an infradick now for not liking CB?

But it got me thinking. Why do I hate him? Is hate even the right word? Does he really write that bad or is it just his Content-to-Fame ratio which irritates me and I have hindsight-f’d him? I needed to find out. So I decided to read his latest offering and make honest, impartial notes. And I did. I read and completed Revolution 2020 and made honest notes. And I shall present them in part deux.

The Monsoon Article

Let me set the tone for this one: I hate Rains in Mumbai. I have been thinking of writing this ‘How I f’king hate the rains in Mumbai’, for three years of the six I have lived here. So why am I actually writing it this time? I think it’s because rain did not soft land this year, which, if the term can be applied to it, which I think it could be in a relative way, is the way with most villainous seasons of any place: they start mildly, gradually  increasing in intensity and then unleashing their full fury. Rains this year, sucker punched me. I was doing the usual, planning to buy my rain-special lace-less shoes, trying to locate my umbrella, chalking out my strategy as to how and what will I carry with me to office, so that the collateral damage can be minimized, you know, rain spray dirtied bags and stuff. The rains were supposedly still a week away. There were clouds in the sky, but they didn’t look like coming down. And then suddenly, one day, without warning, it started. And did not stop. That day, I was in not at my usual office but at a place from where transport is not easy to find, even on a regular day. It was nearing my would-leave-for-the-day time and I could see the skies getting dark. It was the kind of dark which you don’t like ever, I can’t think of a time I like that kind of dark skies, invariably gloomy. And soon enough, the heavens broke loose. It was not the kind of downpour which shoots and scoots. Mumbai rains have this amazing quality of maintaining insanely protracted quantity. These are not the cute Katni style rains which pour down with lot of sound and then after 7 minutes, are gone. Mumbai rains hit first, hit hard and keep on hitting. But on the very first day of the monsoon??? God damn it. The lady who I was sharing the auto with, while my time at this non regular office, had a baby waiting for her at home, and generally people don’t give a shit, so she was ready to go, like nothing was out of the ordinary outside. But I could see the long wait for the auto in rain, shoes and the trousers getting wet and dirty with mud. My Shoes. F’k. I had my dear canvas, suede, leather having adidas shoes on; it was Friday for god’s sake. The first monsoon f’k on the very first day of the monsoon and that too on a Friday? What were the odds? How the fuschia was I supposed to clean my precious shoes?  But I couldn’t be a pussy and wait it out, it wasn’t going to wane anyway, it was my moment of screw. We got an auto but it insisted we take the long route, what magnificent bitches these cunt autos become in rain warrants another separate rant-athon, so I would not elaborate on that here, and we obliged. 1 hour and 30 minutes later, I reached home. Sprayed on the face, trousers dripping and a long bath session lurking ahead.  I had to write this article. But. But I did not write it that night. It was too late till I washed off my battle scars. I wrote it 2 days later, when another rain-r@pe descended on me and this time I was just coming to office, my day was just about to start. Some office work was about to be manhandled because I had to write this article.

But why exactly I hate the rain here in Mumbai? Doesn’t everybody love it? Not just rain in general, but Mumbai rain? You ask people what they love about Mumbai and they would say “Rain”, and vada pav, which is another overrated item of food but that’s ok. Girls seem to get wet being in rain and I am not just talking about being drenched. But I don’t think I am overreacting here. I, and I think everybody should, have good reasons to hate it.

What are those?

As follows:

Vehicle showers: I didn’t know they even existed before coming here. They happen when the tyres of fast-moving vehicles, throw tangential streams of water owing to their threads and grooves. These little streams of water hit the mud-flap or any adjoining hard surface and break down in this fine barber’s water spray like spray which clouds the tyres and trails as the vehicle surges ahead.

                                               Rain jet

 It travels far and wide and gets sucked in the auto you are travelling in, because autos are what you can afford daily. That is the water from a bloody tyre!! And I didn’t even use Bloody as an expletive here; it really could be bloody. Run over snake, mouse, cat, dog…Human. Shit, diapers, that tea brown mud you saw back there. Damn. And it sprayed the wash right on your face. And you know what, getting your face dirtied is not even the worst part. This shit cloud gets in your ears, a place you can’t even wash with much soap, and even water. That’s the ear where you would later insert your finger in and give a nice little shake and feel good, and get that shit mix out on the finger tip. Eat it.

So why won’t you take the bus instead, if your daily destination does not fall on a local train route? Buses in Mumbai are so convenient, available everywhere. I am sure that should be the solution. Right? Wrong. I will tell you the story of my moment of awakening.

That was one of my first days in Mumbai monsoon. I used to take my office bus for commuting and I missed it one day. Sure enough, there were BEST buses to take me home. I hopped on one. I got a window seat and was happily looking out. BEST buses are good buses, not gloomy at all, so, as long as, the person in front of you is not spitting and the obliging wind not bringing it to your face, it’s all lovely in a BEST bus. It had just stopped raining a few minutes back and the roads were slightly over-wet, the state of being more than just wet, with a thin little film of water still on. But it was absolutely not raining. And just so I learn my lesson early and permanently, I was wearing a plain white shirt. A few minutes later I realized I had tiny brown spots on my sleeves. I was flabbergasted. Where the f’k from man? I was too high up for regular Vehicle showers, and anyway the traffic was not moving that fast. Suddenly I noticed tiny suspended water particles in air. There was no other vehicle nearby. It was my own dear bus!!! I was getting friendly-sniped by my own bus. The vehicle shower of my own bus was rising and staining my shirt. It was one of the most heart-breaking realizations I had, ever. It was so unfair. It was like getting shouted on by your own Dad when you got beat up in a fight you did not start and was just passing by. Why I had to know this grimy fact when so many others were happily oblivious to it? I was never to be the same happy me on a bus in Monsoon again.  As soon as the rain starts, I slide close my bus window and hope that he guy in front of me shares at least half of my rain-apprehension and keep his closed too.

But, you know what, buses are still the best way of transport in rains, second only to private cabs, but there is absolutely no fare comparison, so buses win hands down. Buses are spacious, frequent and save you from the world, you are so high up, and so cheap. But that’s why they are so crowded too, but then comes the champion: your office bus. It covers the maximum distance between your office and home, is inhabited by people just like you, you are guaranteed a seat almost every time, and you can doze off!! After having spent nearly five years commuting an average of 2.5 hours daily, I have come to the conclusion that the best you can utilize the commute time is by sleeping.

The auto inverted V-zone: But office buses would not take you elsewhere and it is the service of Autos that you invariably would fall back to. Now, autos are never safe. You always run the risk of tasting the paan the auto-driver is relishing via the spit-volleys. It seems like they spit out of boredom, I don’t know. There is no sane reason to spit so much. Only sportsmen come close to as much spitting. But that’s ok, you can always ask them not to. But the auto V zone, you can’t do anything about it.

It’s the inverted v shaped jet autos tyres expel in their wake. It’s amazing, because I rarely saw it form under any other type of vehicles’ tyres. Other vehicles seem to emit straight jets which just annoy the biker behind them. Not the autos. They spread it V-wise. I don’t know, maybe it’s the small size or the threads, but it’s amazing nonetheless. And it does the maximum damage to its other auto siblings.

The autos, during the monsoons, are generally fitted with plastic flaps to save the passengers from water. So the only open sides are diagonal to the passenger. You sit almost at the vertex. And it’s through this direction, those jets of inverted V variety hit you. It is beautiful in its execution. You get f’ked but you can appreciate the beauty of it all.

                                  Inverted V revised

In absence of transport, you are bound to be at home, which, honestly, I don’t mind at all. But you can’t be home all FIVE months of Mumbai monsoon now, could you?

But who am I kidding? Aren’t Rains, if somewhat gloomy, just the most beautiful? I don’t think the world is so wrong after all.  They stir up emotions like no other season.  I think it just has a lot of character, the rain. That’s why we respond so strongly to it. It takes you through such highs and lows. I have always been a lover of extreme weathers; the blazing hot summers and finger numbing chilly winters. The kind of weathers, which, overwhelm you so much with their, seemingly, prolonged presence, that you wish them to end and still, when they are gone, you look back, and, remember just the good bits, forgetting the nails, which, ironically, made the good bits good.    I think it’s my turn with the monsoons now.

And they make such a good photographer out of you!      

Caught a lightning strike !!
Caught a lightning strike !!

   

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