MBA-Master of Bullshitting Artistically

I have finally found the MDH guide on ‘How to make your agency look up to you, in spite of sucking up to you?’

Its got some really valid insights, that can fool any agency fatang, without making him feel like one.

Here are a few excerpts…

CREATIVE CHALLENGE: A very motivating phrase, that masterfully disguises the fact that there are two bosses who have different points of view, and don’t even have the time to not see eye to eye. It is usually used in situations where you would want the agency to resolve this conflict. Other usages include: Budget v/s duration of commercial, thematic v/s tactical activity, product window v/s story etc etc. This simple re-phrasing of a ‘fuck up’ cunningly motivates naive creative people to become willing victims.

PROTAGONIST: Another useful term that automatically makes you the casting director. Finally, you need some incentive for having attended all those useless research groups in Kakinada and Sahranpur. This scary jargon, when used at the right time, gives you all liberty to be able to pick the face in the audition tape that most resembles the loudest respondent in your research group.

YOU MIGHT WANT TO: It’s a simple technique. Just replace all the ‘I’s with “You”. For eg: “You might want to make this colour a little more bright’. It sounds polite and is a simple mind game. It makes it seem like you are bringing out the best in the person, before you. You are recognising the refined taste that he has. All you are doing is just pointing out a little glitch that he might have overlooked. Go ahead and make these assumptions.

THIS IS A BRILLIANT STAGE 2: This is a refined way of bombing something you don’t like. An indefinite postponement makes the innocent agency believe that they are thinking way ahead of the times. 

LET’S PARK THIS THOUGHT: Another winning phrase, that makes the agency explore within the radar of mediocrity. Never underestimate the power of this. It leaves the agency with a hint of hope, and the confidence to confide in you, all the garbage that’s hidden in their disposal bag of ideas. A simple trick to now have your pick.

BRANDING SUFFERS: ‘Make the logo bigger’ or ‘increase the duration of the product window’ are passe. The latest is ‘Branding suffers’. Take it from us. Say this, lay back and watch the fun, of an entire agency going berserk. Senior management, Planning heads, Creative heads will congregate and think up of nothing but ‘making the logo bigger’ or ‘increasing the duration of the product window’. But hey, you didn’t say those bad words.

 

Please make sure that you don’t share this with agency folks. We’ve just had a joint body meeting and frozen on these highly highly confidential techniques on improving agency efficiency.

The little I know about Malgudi

I must be having a world record for entering into arguments. Somehow, on one topic, I have never found another point of view. That Malgudi Days is undoubtedly the best piece of work created for Indian television. 

I can imagine the nightmare Shankar Nag must have gone through to even gain the confidence to take up this masterpiece and convert it to film. 

That decision involves messing around with the million Malgudis that people might have formed in their own little heads. Albert Mission School might have taken various forms, Lawley Extension must have resembled some locality close to their home. The casting was complete in the head with faces of people they knew who fit the bill. 

Though the book took care to detail out every little nuance of the characters and the place, it still had blank spaces to make the audience fill it up with their own props.

It had become too real to remain unreal. 

To finally put a definite picture to this little town, that was only missing in the Indian map, was too risky a task.

That was not the only sensitivity that Shankar Nag had to deal with.

Malgudi was a small little town somewhere in South India, but he wanted to make a serial that reached the entire country, which would mean that it had to be in Hindi. Though the novel was in English, he now had to make them speak Hindi.

Then he must have thought in his own head, then if people can relate to the characters speaking in English, they could very well do so, even if they spoke Hindi. 

He perhaps made the most sensible decision in his life, to make the characters speak Hindi in a South Indian accent. And thankfully not the caricatured version of it, that Mehmood popularised in ‘ek chathur naar’. 

The characters of Malgudi, now found their own language, a simplified version of hindi, that had its own sweetness.

I have been such a fan of this series that now I have gathered some unverified trivia on it. Everytime I met anyone vaguely associated with this masterpiece, I have quizzed them endlessly on their experiences.

Apparently, Shankar Nag was very cautious during the making of this entire series. 

Earlier, when RK Narayan lent his story ‘The Guide’, to be made into a film, he was extremely unhappy with the result of it. The Dev Anand Starrer turned out to be a super-hit, but was anything but that to the writer. It was commercialised and reduced to such an unrecognisable form, that RK Narayan then swore to never again part with anymore of his stories.

Meanwhile, Shankar Nag had a more genuine interest. He just wanted to present these beautiful stories in as exact a form, as it was in the writer’s head.

But the precedent had already been set at mediocrity.

He had a very tough time convincing ‘The once bitten, twice reluctant’  RK Narayan to believe in him.

After a lot of haggling, RK Narayan decided to give him a chance. Shankar Nag took RK through every single scene, and kept him informed on every single move he made throughout the making of the series.

This respect reflects in every scene.

There was no directorial input that threatened to steal the limelight from the story and its characters. Shankar Nag had the supreme wisdom to realise that these stories need no further value addition. He understood that his only role was to do complete justice to the story, and nothing else.

It’s surprising as to how he managed to unfold every scene at such a languid pace and yet wind up in the prescribed 20 odd minutes.

Every time i watch it, I pick up something new. He always kept his backdrops busy. His backdrops said everything else, that might have been an interference, had it been in the book. He cleverly borrowed characters from the other stories and put them in the backdrop, in a manner, where you could expect a story on them sooner or later.

A street urchin running past with an old cycle tyre. A bunch of jobless guys congregating to discuss on some useless topic. A mad man chasing a bus. A peddler sharpening knives. A street performance by a monkey and his troop.

Shankar Nag narrowed down on Agumbe as the location for shooting the entire series. Now, Agumbe had far more trees than needed. And Shankar Nag wanted to recreate the streets in the novel, and so asked his art director (the under-rated John Devraj) to cover up the trees with plaster of paris to look like poles, rather than fell them down.

I’ve even heard that he has cancelled shoots only because a prop used was not right, like a coffee cup. Shankar Nag cancelled an entire schedule because he felt that the coffee cup in that dingy hotel didn’t look authentic enough.

The casting of Swami has its own tale. Over a hundred kids landed up for the audition, and Shankar Nag instantly took a liking to Manjunath. He was certain that in Manjunath he had found his ‘Swami’. He decided to instantly sign him on.

Later, that night he discovered that Manju didn’t know a word of hindi. Shankar Nag pondered over the problem. He realised that he could not let a language barrier defeat the much needed innocence he saw in Manju. He didn’t want a duplicate Swami. He went ahead and cast him much against the advice of various others.

In fact, Manju had no clue about the story. He was far too young to understand the hugeness of his character. He had no clue that he was going to play one of literature’s best written character. Shankar Nag kept him away from all the pressure, just to preserve his innocence. He would give Manju the Hindi lines the previous day to rehearse, but never explain the story to him. 

Another story is that during the making of ‘Swami and Friends’, Manju had to stay for a prolonged period of time at Agumbe. After some time, Manjunath fell home sick. Shankar Nag decided to indefinitely postpone the shoot than force an unhappy child to proceed with the shoot half heartedly.

Manjunath came back to Bangalore and started attending school regularly. Shankar Nag patiently met Manju every other evening after school hours, and generally chatted with him about the day, never mentioning anything about the shoot.

It was only after Manju voluntarily said that he wanted to shoot again, Shankar Nag decided to resume the shoot.

 

It’s probably this purity of thought that makes this serial rise above all, to such a status, that even writing a blog on it is scary.

‘Swami and Friends’ went on to win various awards in the country and abroad. I recently read in an ‘Interview with Manju’, where he says that the biggest award he got was RK Narayan telling him that ‘You are exactly the Swami I had in my mind’.

 

That is a statement that could move anyone to tears.

 

What’s probably bigger is those million Malgudi fans echoing together ‘This is exactly the Malgudi, we had in our minds’.

 

Thank you Shankar Nag.

Me and my Jhankaar beats

It’s strange that every time I sit back to think about incidents in my life, songs from Bollywood always make their way into the memories. After 33 years of uneventful existence, the only thing I can proudly showoff, is the shitty deep association I have with Hindi songs.

And they don’t include any Gulzar or Burman’s work of genius. I am one of the few who remember songs from inane films like Tum Mere Ho, Phir Lehraya Lal Dupatta and Bahaar Aane Tak.

As I think about my past, ear shattering tunes with a thousand violins reaching crescendo automatically form background score.

I used to stay in a locality where Bollywood was like Hollywood. In the sense, it indicated refined taste. In my colony, you would rarely hear a Hindi song blare in the neighbourhood. Devotional tracks and Kannada music were the only cassettes people possessed. Hindi was cool, irrespective of what it was.
In this ambience, an electrical shop, “Kathyayini Electricals’ in my locality decided to make Bollywood tapes available to this part of civilisation.

The optimistic fool, also stocked titles like the ones mentioned above, with a hope that once people covered the basics like QSQT and Tezaab, they would eventually stoop down to such trash.

He made a grand showcase and displayed Gulshan Kumar’s garbage in them.

Nothing of such sort happened. All the money he made by repairing fans and geysers, he lost on T-series. Slowly, the bright coloured Cholis and Lehengas of these heroines on the cover turned sepia with dust.

He decided to do away with them, and dumped them in a huge cardboard carton box of Cosmo switches or something like that, and scribbled with a marker ‘All cassettes Rs. 5/- only.’

This was a splendid chance to improve my collection of Bollywood tapes. To increase it from a disgusting number of 9 to above 50. To me it never mattered what the songs were, who the singers were or who penned the lyrics. All that mattered was that it was Bollywood.

I bought all of them. Maybe I left one or two behind, as the covers were unattractive. I disliked combo tapes as the pictures of the heroes and heroines were reduced by half.

So there it was, a new collection that included unheard titles like Habiba by Bappi Lahiri, English translations of Hawa Hawa performed by Babla and Orchestra, Trinetra, Runa Laila, Baap Numbri Beta Dus Numbri, Baaghi and stuff like that.

I connected two bright green ‘Meenu’ speakers to my flat National Panasonic Tape Recorder and belted out numbers like ‘Narangi Musambi kuch bhi pila’ or ‘Neeli neeli aankhen’ or “Super Dancer’ with extra jhankaar beats, every afternoon.

When I finally joined Christ College with this enriched knowledge on music, I found no gang worthy to belong to. Everyone had wasted their childhood listening to trash like Dylan and Floyd.

Oh Shit!! I had to make a start again.

The idli vada at SLV

This is to put an end to all arguments on ‘Who makes the best Idli Vadas in the world?’ No apologies to anyone who thinks it’s their mom, their neighborhood idli joint or that lone idli cart in the middle of the night, beside some gutter.


 

Let me invite you (like it’s my pop’s cafe), to taste what is undoubtedly the only dish that you would be willing to survive on, for the rest of your life. It’s a trip to Sri Lakshmi Venkateshwara Coffee Bar at Banashankari 2nd Stage, Bangalore.

The route to get here. Get to Jayanagar, ask for Banashankari 2nd Stage. Get to Banashankari Stage and ask for the Bata Store. Take the road from Bata Store that leads you to Banashankari Complex, and keep looking to your left. In case you feel like looking at your right, then stop at the gigantic park, and look at this unassuming baap of idli joints, to your left.

What’s even greater is that the owner doesn’t know that he makes the best idlis and vadas on the planet. So, he still makes it from the heart, as nothing has gone to his head. 

You’ll find a humble ancient Bajaj scooter parked there, which belongs to the owner. 

Behind the cash counter, you’ll find a man from Udupi, who’s neatly scrubbed with Hamam soap, and finished with stripes of ash and a dot of vermillion on his forehead. He’s incharge of the coupons. Buy yourself a coupon for a double and a vada, and a coffee to begin with. ‘Double’ here is the accepted term for 2 Idlis.

Push yourself through the crowds and give your token to the man behind the delivery counter. An equally well bathed man. You’ll hear a loud shrill voice announce your order ”ondhu double barli’ (may the double come).

Through the dingy dark opening behind the counter, you’ll see the steamer being opened, and 2 hot Idlis will be promptly scooped out of a brown dhothi cloth.

Your Idlis will now slide out in a shapeless steel plate to the man at the counter. Don’t panic, he knows the order of the orders. Your idlis will go to nobody else. He’ll now carefully pick a nice crisp brown vada from the dozens he has piled next to him, add it to the plate, and pour 2 ladles of coconut chutney on them and thrust it before you. 

In case you want sambhar, then get back to that neighborhood idli joint of yours. You are not lucky enough to taste a slice of heaven, beforehand. 

Push your way through the crowds again, as the whiff of the waft hits your face.

 

And settle down on the stone steps, beside those two early morning elderly joggers, who’ve gathered to crib about the welfare of the state. 

Now, let loose your 4 gm spoon, to sink into these soft cakes of paradise. And scoop out spoonfuls, one by one, to the rhythmic sound of the old lady who winnows rice in the neighboring provision store. 

Dodge them in your mouth, roll your tongue to not be stung by the heat of these dumplings, and let the taste of the chutney take over. Give your teeth some rest. Leave your tongue do the crushing. Swallow, and feel the steam go down your food pipe.

Now, alternate with bites of the crispy vada, to give your restless teeth some role to play.

Soon, you’ll run out of chutney. Get back, but not all the way inside. You’ll find a little boy standing near the cash counter with a bowl of chutney balancing over a red gas cylinder. Take a greedy helping, and return to your uncomfortable seat.

Once you are done, proceed to the delivery counter again with your coffee coupon. Return back in time to catch the climax of the conversation of the 2 joggers, trying to balance a steaming cup of filter coffee. 

Light up your smoke and enjoy.

If you still don’t enjoy this, then burn up a few thousand dollars and take a sky diving trip to the alps.

Also available: Chow Chow bath, Khara Bath, kesari bath, Masala dosa (Limited Qty), lemon rice, puliyogare (tamarind rice), Vangi Bath (brinjal rice), curd rice, buttermilk, tea, ciggies and water. (and everything as good as the idli vadas)

Kurosawa Jr

We are a wonderful tribe. We open our pants, and also take the shit. 


 

For 6 long months, we battle every idiocy that the client comes up with, tackle every piece of insane comment made by research respondents who only come for the ‘Free Varun Stainless Steel Plates’ at the end of it, work our ass off till there is no coffee in the vending machine or auto willing to drop you home, finely balance between the 29 parameters of the most puzzling briefs, wait endlessly for meetings to happen in no-smoking zones, accommodate everyone’s wish list down to the liftman to come up with an approved script.

By now, you’ve reached a point where the only non-advertising life you’re left with is probably that school friend you’ve added on Facebook and sent a ‘wassup’ scrap.

But that’s ok. Now, you have with you a script that can change your fortune, an approved script. 

You’re just one man away from being a superstar…
Kurusawa’s step son ‘The Director’. (background music)

In the beginnning, it’s difficult to even talk to this man. You would have sent the script but he’ll be busy shooting another happening commercial. It’ll seem like that you are actually intruding into his award winning efforts, by wasting his time on your pathetic script, while all he’s doing is actually shooting an irritating hair cream commercial with some superstar, just because that agency head has asked him to do bloody well do it. 

But don’t blame him yet. 

The poor chap still doesn’t know the crap he’s just dished out. It’ll take the poor fellow a little while to figure that one out. 

He’ll first invite all his smoking buddies at the editing studio, to stub their ciggies and watch the masterpiece he’s just made. It’s only when, after over 7 of them run back to their ciggies, he’ll get the first stench of his own crap. 

He’ll now join back his ciggie buddies, make some quick comparisons of his shot breakdown to some world cinema, blame the illiterate agency and the client for not letting him do what he set out to, and then with a deep sigh, decide to move on to the next script. 

The crappy printout of some struggler’s script, keenly held out by the anxious producer.

He’ll make faces, ponder, and ask a few questions ‘Writer kaun hai? agency kaunsa hai? paisa hai?’. Then, then….he’ll see his share of the money in the twinkling eyes of the producer (Mr. Warner Bro)……but no,….he’s only …only going to do it, because he’s taken it upon himself to fight this noble cause of bettering the quality of Indian advertising.

Kurosawa Junior has finally agreed to stoop down and uplift your piece of crap.

He’ll ask Warner Bro to ask you to give him a call.

After that, he’ll ask you to narrate the garbage you’ve written, in your own style. You’ll put on your best voice and narrate the script with all the enthusiasm that’s still left in you. 

Silence.

‘Hmmm….lemme think and get back to you.’ is all that you’ll hear. 

Then it’s suspense time. You’ll be given a few clues here and there as to what is happening. You’ll now send him a long note on all that you forgot to tell him over that conversation. The boring product window, the longer version of the line that you just told him, the stupid client remarks on a few scenes, the kind of models you have in mind, and of course your two silly world cinema references, which are still german or french but not untapped uzbekistanese….

Its now PPM time…the time when client gets to meet the pedigree and not just the everyday barking mongrels. 

Kurosawa Jr and Warner Bro will walk in 15 mins before the event. Everything from the new far off airport to the disgusting traffic will be discussed. Anything but the script. Any queries regarding the script will be brushed off with a hollywood expression of ‘main hoon na’.

The moment has arrived. Tea in special cups and premium biscuits will arrive.

The same script will now be narrated to the client by Kurosawa jr. (It’s the same news that’s on doordarshan, but it sounds so much better on STAR TV.) The same line, where no one got the humor in the past six months will now sound doubly funny. The whole hall will be in splits except the writer. 

The client will now ask some vague questions, Kurosawa Jr will give some inane replies, servicing will masterfully jot it down to make it sound open ended and creative will decide to have a private discussion with the director later.

Time for Timeline discussions…Kurosawa Jr will step out for a smoke warning Warner Bro to speed up and Creative will step out for a leak.

And then ….all of a sudden…..KABOOOM!! See you on the day of the shoot.

It’s nothing close to what was in the script or the story board or what was discussed in the PPM or in that world cinema reference. 

Two people are specially engaged to keep you busy with yummy refreshments in a corner. Keep your mouth busy or keep it shut is the unsaid message.

Every time Kurosawa Jr screams, you feel its directed towards you, so you rather enjoy that special dhokla with imli chutney.

Any attempt to talk to K Jr. in the meanwhile will be tackled with a ‘we should have discussed that earlier’. 

Soon, you’ll be in that studio. K Jr will beam over his masterpiece, storm out and return with a few nicotine smelling buddies. They’ll watch it, smile and return in a hurry to their ciggies.

You’ll be curious. You’ll step out to only find Kurosawa Jr sitting with twinkling eyed Warner Bro. 

On another pathetic script.

Dial M for madness

I love you Nanjunda, even if you’ve gone for your 16th coffee.

I love you Manjunatha, even if you eat your lunch till 3:40.

I love you Nirmala, even if you turn the board ‘Closed’, sharp at 1 P.M. 

I love you Hanumantha, even if you are on leave for one month.

I love you Kencha, even if you keep chatting with Nanjunda endlessly.

I love you all.

Wherever you all are, please come back. 
And rescue me from this solitary telephone number.

Called
The Customer Care Number. 


Dial

Welcome to our new ad jingle that will be played to you 3 times in a loop.

“If you are a man dial 1, if you are a woman dial 2, if you still deciding who you are dial 3………dial 93 for the Azherbhaijan weather report”

Dial 3

“The new flexible plan with an all time low interest 2% for stalactites, 3% for stalagmites….eeny weeny china mo…….’

Kenny G

“If your finger is paining dial 1, if you had channa bhatura the previous night dial 2, if your neighbour watches Eenaadu TV dial 3.”

Kenny G

“Please enter your ration card number. Please enter your 16 digit esophagus scan report. …..If you don’t have one, then please enter your dog flea’s numerical code.”

“Your call is important to us. Please wait…..”

Kenny G

“Our fake accented customer care ‘Mangolina’ will attend to you shortly”

Kenny G jarring. Kenny G with breaks.

Pause.

“Hello hello…..maam my name is Raaa…”

Pause release, Kenny G’s back. (that was just to break the monotony)

“Hello…this is Mangolina here …..whish pish…tish pish…..la di do daaaa…….’

“hello….hello…my name is …..’

 “Sir…..can i have your….zva di la di dum zum….zo zaaa….’

“Pardon’

Mangolina, letting a little bit of her Indian accent, creep in

“Can i have your birth identity index number, Your neighbour’s aunt’s Electricity Bill No. and The biological name for hibiscus?…….Thank you for the verification, your call has come to the wrong department…..lemme transfer this call to ‘The Amazonian Adivasi’s Amalgamation’ Department.

Kenny G Side B

“Hello this is Svetlina Gycochea ……zva zve zvooooooo zvaaaa…’

“Where is mangolina…..?’

“Sorry sir, our systems are down…..could you please get on to our website and enter this unique andromeda case sensitive pseudopodia…’



Nanjundaaaaaaaaaaaaah
Nirmalaaaaaaaaaaaaaah
Manjaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah
Kenchaaaaaaaaaaaaaah
Bhagyaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

I’m sorry. Please come back and dust those old fat registers. 


On my dirty face.