Saturday, December 30, 2006

Peasant to President to Pauper

December 30, 2006.
Today civilised society committed a cold blooded murder. A man of 60 odd years was hung by the neck till he died, in a very deliberate, premeditated act. The powers deemed it an act of justice, as Saddam Hussein's life was brought to an end for the killing of 148 people in 1982, among other inhuman acts.

Now why didn't the long arm of the law (read United States) get hold of Saddam then? It wasn't a profitable time for Big Brother to act. So the self-appointed conscience of the world slipped its hands into its pockets and watched - the wars, the massacres, the killing of innocents...

Till Saddam became a threat. So out came the hands, years later, holding a noose with the Iraqi dictator's name on it. It scares me to think that America and its allies can walk into another country, hang its head-of-state and put another in his place. And get away with it. Saddam and Iraq today. Who next?

How different is America from the terrorists who kill innocents and send video evidence to news channels? How different is George Bush with Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay to his discredit from the barbaric Saddam Hussein?

I have never been able to accept killing. On one hand it's called murder. On the other it's the death penalty. Makes no difference. Taking life is an abhorrent act. Saddam Hussein did it. Now it's George Bush.

A few years ago, a cowboy rode out after Osama bi Laden. He returned with Saddam Hussein. One dictator is dead. Who will stop the other?

Robert Fisk: A dictator created then destroyed by America

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Celebrity endorsements for free

A smart media plan can get you more bang for your buck said the wag. That was a decade ago. Since then all media planners have got smart. A few of them have got smarter and have forsaken media plans for media conspiracies. Look at the above billboards. Hard to say where one ends and the other begins. And in the bargain Barclays picks up a few more eyeballs thanks to Sania'a cute mug, while Tata Indicom picks up the tab.

Or is a billboard contractor behind this coup? With a sales pitch that goes, 'Buy one, get one free".

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Hotel VSM

Not a blast from the past. I shot the picture a few days ago. A little hotel with a charming name. Not the run of the mill Hilton or Marriott.

Black humour

There's a common thread running through many of Bollywood's recent hits. Or should I call it a rope? Of a fabric picked up from Hollywood classics. Some so old, the similarity escapes the eye.

Take for example the movie 'The Miracle Worker'. Watch this clip from the movie.

Click for CLIP.

And if you don't see the miracle it inspired in Bollywood, I'll be damned.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Baby's day out

Some time ago, I was helping a designer with the packaging for a baby food. Asked to write the ingredient story by my servicing buddy who had as much an idea of the ingredients as he had of Central Africa, here's what I came up with. It didn't make it to the final pack design, but makes for a more interesting read than what finally did.

A rather interesting study was conducted by an enterprising student of psychology from the Asansol University, on how male babies react to weaning food. Based on his research, Mentalstatistix (an exchange student from Gaul) delivered a lecture, which fetched him a degree of some altitude.

Below are excerpts from his lecture.

"After you ask your baby if it would please his lordhip to have a meal, study his digits cosely. If he puts his little finger up, he is trying to tell you that he will consider your request after a leak. If he shows you his ring finger, he's telling you not to treat him like a baby - he's old enough to be married. If it's the middle finger, he wants you to 'go forth and multiply'. The index finger pointed at you is his way of saying, he doesn't like your face. If he puts his thumb up, it means he is ready to eat."

Mentalstatistix however did not touch upon the movements displayed by another very important digit found on male babies. I'll leave that for you to figure out.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Where there is a wall, there is a way

Peeing in public is a very popular sport in Chennai. Wet patches can be found on almost any wall in the city, even on a sunny day. Such is the passion with which it is practised.

The local record for the highest patch is 4 feet and 3 inches. It stands in the name of a gentleman by name, P.P. Peeter. For a while rumours did go around about the record being achieved with the help of a stool. But only till Pee Pee sir (as he fondly referred to by his fans) quashed the allegations by offering to repeat the feat live on national television. This did catch the imagination of the man on the streets, and overnight Pee Pee went from being just another prick on the wall to the city's phallic symbol.

The plan however fizzled out when Pee Pee refused to wear the sponsor's logo. The sponsors didn't understand Pee Pee's stance, and in their defence referred to superstar cricketers who wore logos on the tools with which they practised their trade. It also left their ad agency very disappointed, as they lost out on what they maintained was as an emerging medium of advertising.

So at 4 feet and 3 inches it stood, and still stands.

A few months ago, Pee Pee retired from the sport he graced for over 2 decades. "It's time to make way for the younger lot", he told the press. "In my finest hours, I touched great heights. Now I want to put my feet up." One journo did point out that it would be a lot harder with his feet up, but was tactfully ignored by Pee Pee, who said, "Next question." He also informed the press of his autobiography that would soon be hitting the stands. The Rising by P. P. Peeter.

Pee Pee Peter's son, an energetic 8 year old named Repeeter, following in his father's footsteps, is now making waves on the city's walls.

Will he break the long standing record?

The city holds its breath. In anticipation? I guess not.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bollywood music. Inspired, perspired or conspired?

Modern day Hindi film music has always been in the news for its origins. From the early days 'composers' have drawn 'inspiration' from music from around the world. Or so they say.

It all sounds very different to my ears. A little fishy too. Something Adnan Sami sang in a very different context sums it up very well. 'Lift kara dey'. And Bollywood's most famous fiddlers seem to be doing it with all enthusiasm. The debate is now on to decide the most original copy.

And the award goes to... (remember to tune in to the next Bollywood awards nite).

Recently I found a track from Parineeta on an old Louis Armstrong album. Or is it the other way around? The conspiracy deepens.

Click here
if you'd like a little more light thrown on the matter.

Thirty something

I'm finally done recording my second album - Thirty something. I decided to call it a day at 6 songs, since shuttling between Chennai and Bangalore to record was becoming increasingly difficult.

On the positive side, 6 songs. Songs that I hope will provoke thought.

I've questioned the war over the LoC in 'Whose line is it anyway?'.

Written a satire on a Texan called George - 'Hey Mister Cowboy'.

Dug out a decade old verse called 'Let me go', which expresses my anguish over peer and parental pressure over what I was to do with my life.

'Missing you', on my travels in Sydney and my first tryst with racism.

I sing about the perils I faced with plastic money in 'Love at first swipe'.

And my favourite. 'The simple joys of life'.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

India needs him once again

He stood for non-violence. Today he stands in anything but it.

The muck is all around.

At the traffic signal, grown men are at blows. "Who goes first?" is the argument they are trying to resolve.

In another part of the country, a much loved citizen passes away. Few mourn, but the city burns.

Elsewhere moviegoers are lining up for a much awaited Friday release. The action sequence however, starts much before the movie, as goons ravage the theatres and obstruct screening.

And that's just the tip of the pile o' crap.

"Bapu, bachao."

Monday, December 04, 2006

In the rear view

I pulled out a couple of pages from my 2005 diary.

July 2005

I shifted house a few days ago. And with it I was disconnected from the world. No I haven't moved to the outskirts of the city. I'm on Airport Road now, but my Internet connection had to be cancelled since my service provider hasn't made forays into these outskirts. My computer is all packed up. And till I find someone willing to hook me up to cyber land without taking all my money, it will stay there.
Got a call from Delhi last week. Unidentified number.
"Is this Manoj Jacob of Shoestring?"
"I'm calling from Platform magazine, and we'd like to do an interview with you."
Gee, and to think I was disconnected.

Aug 2005
Mangal Pandey - The rising that wasn't
The higher they go, the harder they fall. And how 'The Rising' collapsed. In 3 hours, every expectation of mine was dashed hopelessly to the ground. The Saturday night show of Mangal Pandey was money well sent. Down the drain.
That apart, the 3 day weekend was fun. Caught up with some long overdue beer and sleep. I also found time to start putting my verses together for a new song. There's nothing more inspiring than the Monday morning blues being postponed by a day.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The common factor

"What's common between Melbourne, Paris, Wimbledon and New York?" screamed a billboard featuring an Indian sports starlet.

"A first round exit", I started to think. (It was actually international roaming on a mobile phone service.)

Quite the case with most wannabe sports icons. Advertising and endorsements elevate them to a stature far beyond their achievements. And soon they end up spending more time before cameras than on court or field. Another common factor?

Check this out too.
Sania Mirza wants land. CM not game.

Boys by the sea

Goa, Dec 2003

Friday, November 24, 2006

Public service advertising

This hoarding encourages you to do a Devdas. Fall in love with a woman. Then drink your guts out because you can't have her. Kill yourself. But don't drive. That could kill you earlier.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Mobile conversations and immobile complications

You're driving. And the phone rings. The hands-free set is at home. Just then another phone rings. In the pocket of the friend who is riding with you. So you pull over, and pull out. Like the law abiding citizens you are. And answer the phone. Minutes pass. Half an hour. And another.

Just then you hear another call. The traffic cops. Your car is in a no parking zone. Uh-oh!

And eventually, your call is charged at a lot more than a rupee a minute.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

In the rear view

Meeting the maker of the Common Man

Captain Gopinath and I meet RK Laxman in Pune. Seeking the great man's permission to use the Common Man in an Air Deccan ad.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The common man

Of all the ads I wrote for Air Deccan, this one made the most sense.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dixie Chicks vs George W Bush

While on a concert tour in London on March 10, 2003, Natalie Maines told her audience: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas."

Now was that being gutsy? Or was it a spur of the moment shot fired off the hip?

I'm not sure about either, but how Natalie and the Dixie Chicks handled what followed certainly showed courage. The witch hunt by the machine run by Bush left no doubt about the President's displeasure. Radio stations pulled their music off the air. Dixie Chicks merchandise was destroyed. The ladies were branded traitors. Natalie received death threats. Yes, in the country that prides itself on free speech. And if Saddam and his armed troops couldn't take on Bush, how on earth were 3 young women with guitars and violins going to?

It's all been documented in a a film called 'Shut up and sing' released only in the US. And as I wait to get myself a copy, I'm going to buy every Dixie Chicks album. Oh, I already have.

Well, with Democrat victories in the recent elections, I certainly hope that we are seeing the beginning of the end of the reign of the biggest tyrant of the century. America and the world will certainly be a better place.

Here are links to a few videos:

The protest song 'Not ready to make nice'

Dixie Chicks Destruction in Bossier, LA

Dixie Chicks "Shut Up and Sing"

"Shut up and sing" trailer

Trailer and clips

Demand and supply

Monday, November 06, 2006

A babe called Jasmine

A body to die for.

Curves that no supermodel can match.

Willing to perform just about anywhere,
at just a moment's notice.

In bed,

on the beach,

in the car,

at a party,

on a stage...

Am I a lucky man or what?

Meet Jasmine from the Takamine family.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Mahabalipuram, a picture tour

50 km from Chennai. A beautiful town by the sea. Mahabs, as younger Chennaiites call it.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Indian economy

The Indian economy is going in the right direction say the Government and their financial wizards. They've got stock market figures and other calculations to support their claim. When however I see a man having to use a sidewalk to rest his tired body, it troubles me. It troubles me that in a country where skyscrapers of glass and steel are being raised everywhere, there are human beings who cannot afford a place called home.

So then, do we measure financial health by numbers that tell you how the rich are getting richer? Or should we put a scale to how well this country looks after its poor?

Monday, October 30, 2006

The festival of lights, Oct 2006

No enlightening words of wisdom here. Just a few shots of Chennai celebrating Diwali. Some from ground. Some from 6 floors up.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Vulture shock

It's not easy getting around town on a rainy day. Chennai's drainage system becomes conspicious by its absence. The roads are flooded, and with vehicles occupying every inch of dry space, the pedestrian must wade. Or find transport.

The ideal setting for the city's buzzards to hold the common man to ransom. I'm talking about the yellow bellied creepy crawlies called autos.

They are a law to themselves even on a sunny day. But when it rains, the greed seems to multiply. Outrageous demands for money greet commuters. It's a gun to the head - pay up or soak it up.

Is the Government listening?

Perhaps the common man must wait till the next election to bring them to the streets once again.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The vilest of pollutants

Ask an environmentalist and he will talk chemical composition, vehicle exhaust, deforestation and more. But who's to question the pollution of the city's environs by advertisers?

Billboards, posters, wall paintings, gate signs, auto backs, bus panels, shop signs, leaflets, scooter seat covers, pole signs, beach signs, tree signs, this signs, that signs and everything else signs. It's nauseating.

Who is responsible? The advertisers who do it? Or the Government that allows them? Or is it the citizen who doesn't care?

But no matter where the buck stops, Chennai needs respite from this visual trash.

"As a private person, I have a passion for landscape, and I have never seen one improved by a billboard. Where every prospect pleases, man is at his vilest when he erects a billboard. When I retire from Madison Avenue, I am going to start a secret society of masked vigilantes who will travel around the world on silent motor bicycles, chopping down posters at the dark of the moon. How many juries will convict us when we are caught in these acts of beneficent citizenship?" David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man, 1971