Category Archives: Review

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.

Lootera: Review

Lootera

I almost did not watch this movie. I am not a great fan of Ranveer Singh, and the trailers themselves were so uninspiring. This makes one remember how important are promos for a film, particularly in how they are supposed to give you the flavors and more importantly, the strengths of the actual movie. Here they did not. I went to the theater expecting a love story with some gun shots at the end against the backdrop of Bengal with the picnic scenes ripped off from Chokher Bali (unless it was typical of the Bengalis of the yore to picnic in their tree gardens and exchange glances). It all was there, but there was much more this movie, had to offer, was all about.

For starters, the makers chose Bengal. There is something about the place which imparts gravity to any work which is based there. Bengal, I think, still stands for culture, its natural beauty, its adorable language and its utter stubbornness to change. The movie makes great use of all of this. It is beautiful to look at. But that is not a lot to say, is it? A beautiful movie has got to be backed up by performances. It is.

It was really sincere, the movie. It did not overtly try to be a period drama, or a bengali film, or a heist movie, or a love story or anything for that matter, and in the process became all of it. It just told its story, if I might add, on the shoulders of Sonakshi Sinha, who is in such top effortless form that it was an absolute pleasure to watch her. Right from the scene where she takes her hands off the car wheels and takes for granted her driver would take the blame, to spilling coffee on the cocky guest, to setting up the art classes to regularly meet the guy and ends up teaching (the whole leaf drawing episode was hilariously sweet), to expressing her sadness and then the anger, particularly the anger, upon realizing that her love might be lost. She is amazing and here it only helps that she speaks with a little Bhojpuri touch. And she was so in character though in through. I could point out at least three occasions when she was not in focus and still carried the same intensity. The first half was so amazingly flawless that I was wondering how are they going to keep up in the second, or were they going to mess it up.

Another character who made an unassuming but sure mark was the gentle Zamindar, played by Mr Barun Chanda. I had never seen him before and he was absolutely a treat to watch. He was calm in his portrayal of a man of means, trusting  and warm and you could feel for him when he was betrayed. I wish we see him more often.

The background score (especially just before the intermission) was another aptly placed winner of the movie. It was spot on. The songs are good too. And they were not sung, on screen, thankfully.

Ranveer SIngh. I thought he was miscast, before I saw the movie. And he just barely made his grade. He was not bad, of course. I think, he is an extremely hard working guy but his fusion with Anushka Sharma has left such an indelible (north Indian, quick speaking) mark on him that it must be hard for him to speak like a man from Darbhanga. So the director just said “Speak as flat as you can, Ranveer.” And he did just that. There is one more character, played by Vikrant Massey, who is Ranveer’s friend and accomplice, a position so almost absolutely reserved for Aditya Roy Kapur, that I actually saw Kapur when the character walked in. LOL

And lastly the curious case of The Last Leaf. I realized it about halfway through the second half when SInha writes about it. It was kind of nice to remember a story you read (Read for Pleasure, I think) in school all of a sudden. I could not remember the author of course and promptly tried to spoil the suspense for my partner who was watching the movie with me. But looking back, it was a  little funny how the filmmakers actually accommodated the inspiration from the short story, starting from the Art Class episode of the first half and the totally random desire by the protagonist to someday draw a masterpiece.

But you know what, I loved the movie. And I strongly urge you to pay a visit. I fought my desire to write a review for almost two days, and it still got the better of me. The movie is that good.

PS: I almost forgot one of the things which made me smile. The use of third person between the girl and the guy while they talk about themselves in matters of love. Absolutely masterclass !!

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.