Friday, May 30, 2008

'AIDS Jaago' waalon... Jaago

Read this interview by Mira Nair, the brains behind the Aids Jaago campaign! Aids Jaago campaign is a set of four short films directed by four Indian directors and funded by the Gates Foundation. But what intrigues me is the audience for such movies and the channel though which the target audience is reached.

Indeed all four films talk very real-life like about the human side of things moving from Pankaj Kapur making a passing comment on the difference between having AIDS and eing HIV positive to Arjun Mehta screaming at his dad saying 'You just didn't care. Protection toh use kar lete.' And then there are scenes which explicitly mention the importance of using condoms, where Vijay Raaz is shown doing a road show with a blown up condom tied to his hands! So, per se amongst all the four movies, the message is quite well covered.

However, it is appalling that I had to search it on the net to view these videos. Would it be an overstatement to say that most people who surf the net, which is a paltry 3% in India, and actually search for these videos surely do not need a movie to raise this awareness? And by this, I do not intend to demean the quality of the movies or intent of the makers in any way! Nor am I trying to say that only the ones who are less educated need to get the message. The movies, though might not suit the less educated, who IMHO certainly need more explicit messages to be passed across. I might be underestimating the intelligence of the average movie goer, but I am only basing my arguments on the kind of 'mainstream films' that top Box Office charts nowadays.

Anyway, I heard from my sis that she saw this movie on National Geographic! Now, in my accordance, what good can this possibly achieve! Shouldn't these movies be screened on the National DD network (which is the most extensive network in the country) or at least on the Star/ Sony/ Zee/ Sun network during prime time. I mean, I think, that would be the right way to target the mass. With the kind of following the 'Saas-Bahu' epics have, it would only be too appreciated if a certain 'Saas-bahu' pair come on screen and give a short 30-second speech on the importance of the awareness and dedicate one day a week for one of the short films! A month and all four are done!

Secondly, why aren't these movies been screened in movie halls. A mere 20 mins...! For a dying man's sake, can not the movie hall screen this short film before the movie begins? It has certainly be done before for a certain short film which starred Vivek Oberoi, I guess! I sincerely hope that a chain like the PVR or Adlabs (BIG, yet?) shuold take this up and let not such movies be 'relegated' to Cannes and Toronto.

Anyway, right now, all I can say is that perhaps this is too early and the Aids Jaago team is working on these. Well, I certainly hope and pray that they do! Otherwise it would be a job well done; yet futile! All the best...!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Surely, You must be joking Mr. FinMin!

This is ridiculous! Why the hell should I pay a 1% cess to fund the bleeding PSU's? If oil price is rising, LET IT RISE! For crying out loud, Mr. PC you are simply ridiculing the common man's common sense. Going by the audacity of this move, there will be a day when I am sure there would be a 'tax-cess', simply because there aren't enough people paying taxes and then it would be the I-T department's turn to save face! Sounds far-fetched? We pay a 'cess' because we pay tax!

Education cess (whether or not it is being used and furthermore rightly so is another line of argument) is still understandable and by and far acceptable. But why, pray I, should I pay for those who are using their vehicles! I shall, present a couple of points which would make it obviously apparent to the reader why rising the price of petrol would help matters
a. Only those with vehicles, presumably middle and higher class, are charged and rightly so
b. At best, people will stop using their vehicles and use public transport instead; thus reducing congestion on city roads and also helping reduce pollution - sounds like a government should be pro-this?!

Anyway... let's wait, watch and hope the FinMin's just joking about this.

AIDS Jaago

I have long been wanting to catch these short films by 4 really radical Indian directors - Mira Nair, Vishal Bharadwaj, Farhan Akhtar and Santosh Sivan. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, these films were released as a part of the AIDS awareness program, AIDS Jaago. All 4 stories, of about 15 minutes (give or take 3) in length each are brilliantly shot and performed. Do watch all the four movies.

Monday, May 26, 2008

There sure was a 'Foreign' hand in this one...

In a situation like that, I can't bowl a wide; not even if I badly wanted to! With 3 needed of the last ball, Fernando does it. No no, it doesn't end there... what should have been a regulation fielding off his own bowling goes through him for what you think is a regulation single. The Rajasthan Royals, quite obviously, go for the utterly non-existent second and Jayasuriya makes sure they make it...!

Shane Warne should be gifting away the MoM award to those two...! Kudos, I say! Mumbai Indians rock...

Slicky Situation...

If the prices are rising, why the hell not let it rise? The petroleum ministry has recommended at least Rs. 10 rise in the petrol price. Congress' stand of not letting the price rise, seems is totally unimaginative and only too imaginable, besides of course blatantly ridiculing the classic economic theories of supply-demand equilibrium. They are only making it shamelessly apparent that this is 'khursi' politics, what with elections round the corner! However, the underlying principle of this entire line of argument seems so flawed, that I fail to see how else the Congress is going to make it their vantage point other than retreating to the overtly abused socialist discourse. I call this flawed because of quite a number of reasons.

1. The ruling govt. at the center is currently popularly perceived as an impotent one, which does not have the audacity of taking decisions of any substance. (Read the 123 nuke deal with the US!) Petrol, as a commodity, mainly serves the middle class upwards section. Seriously, does the Govt. think that petrol prices are going to help them garner socialist votes?!
2. And, not acting, yet again, on the upward pressure of fuel prices as a measure to temper inflation is not helping matters either. All of IOC, HPCL, BPCL are bleeding and the deficit funding that is now obligated would do no good.

Read this. This not only makes it bogus, but IMHO, entirely ridiculous! I am no keen follower of politics or the parties thereof, but the continued lethargy of the center is now amusing me. It thus comes as no surprise that the Congress lost out to the BJP which will now rule any constituency in the South for the very first time!

Of course, the way inflation is rising truly sends shudders... but, this is no way to react(?) or is a 'ration' card for petrol next on the agenda?!

Yeh Fevicol ka mazboot jod hai...

"Yeh Fevicol ka mazboot jod hai...toothega nahi..." And that's the kind of impact great advertisements have on you! Amazing recall value, even years down the line...! On my way back from Daman this weekend, this sight on the highway reminded me, instantly, of an old Fevicol ad... Oh! Those good ol' days... used to love the Fevicol ads...!

Watch the original advertisement here.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Simple! Isn't it...?!

We don't pay; we bribe them!
They don't mind; they are not paid anyway!

This vicious cycle, even for the least keen, should be apparent! I think I have a solution; Oh yes! Just like the billion others...!

Raise the fine; make it inhuman!
Pay a part of the fine collected to the one who collects it!

In other words, what the corporates would say - tie the pay to the performance!

To elaborate: As of today fines for breaking traffic rules vary from Rs. 100 for parking related charges (towing charges extra) to about Rs. 1000 for license related issues. However, the problem is that about 70-80% (figure not reliable; it is simply heuristic) of us do not pay those fines! And, when offered the poorly paid constable has to be really stupid or fairy-tale good to not accept it! No challans; free for half the charges!

Now, I suggest set the fines at a flat rate of Rs. 2500 for any and every offense committed (revised upwards for repeat offense). Further still, the constable gets 20% or Rs. 500 for every collection he makes and submits! This measure would be two pronged...
1. The constable is now keen to look out for smart-asses in the traffic
2. No smart-ass dares to break the rule!

Of course, one could argue that the offender could still bribe off the constable. Well, let him! But now, his wallet would have to be lighter by Rs. 500 (at least). This by Indian standards is high; very high. So, either ways people are now doubly disciplined. To start with, at least...

Simple! Isn't it...?!

Can't be a Gandhi...

"A century from now..and Mr. M.K. Gandhi would be fiction." - said Einstein, not verbatim, somewhere in the mid 1930s...

And along with his other inventions and discoveries goes one of his predictions towards achieving universal acceptance.!

Come to think of it; would it even be a century before this happens...if we are to go by the present rate, i doubt it.! Yeah... this blog is a result of my reading his autobiography and then having a long-ish serious discussion with a few of my friends. This blog was originally written a long time before, around 2 years ago! Anyway...

Its really amusing how people form impressions about one Mr. Gandhi who apart from giving us a National holiday seems to be remembered only as a cause for the partition. To speak against Mr. Gandhi seems to be totally in fad and fashion. Or worse still, people fear being mocked if they believed in Gandhi. Some think he was no more than a traitor, some think he was a fool who got his ways, some feel he was right for most part of his 'political career' and then later faltered, some think he was a selfish goose, some think he 'hypnotized' lakhs of Indians to adhering to his ways, and I for one believe that he did the best anyone could have done.!

I believe in him. I did before I read his book, I do even more now. I mean... that guy was just too much stuffed in one. He is an idol, at least to me, in all aspects. The thought of living a life as he did, is a challenge so great in itself that one would shudder if he were to give it a serious thought. To gauge him on his personal life becomes too much to digest. He has stretched determination to the extent of being called stubborn. Stretched faith to the extent of being called ridiculous. Stretched love for human life to the extent of being called a 'traitor'!!!

I mean look at this guy. Started off as a young, married at 13, responsible(?) bloke, who did all the miscreants that we would; smoked cigarettes, took alcohol (both w/o parents knowledge and consent) and further still, indulged himself in carnal pleasures even before he was a major.! With a background as his, he starts off to England, all alone, not even able to speak their tongue wholly and then 40 years later, more than 75% of a nation that is struggling under a foreign rule follows his word in letter and spirit. Such was his command on human feelings. If experience were a teacher, Mr. Gandhi would undoubtedly be its favourite student. So great were his abilities to learn; not only that but to enrich his own experiments with all the lessons learnt.

India would have achieved Independence without Gandhi, no doubt, but then he aimed to do it without shedding a single drop of blood.! And it is also true that we would have got ndependence even by his ways, with no disrespect, without Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose. The argument that seems to dominate, though, is that the way this nation has shaped, "because of Mr. Gandhi". "If he had not called of the Civil Disobedience movement...", "If he hadnt called off the Non-Co-operation movement...", "If he had not agreed to the partition..." ... and so on... but then ... if he hadnt called it off... would we ever had a bhagat Singh in the first place..??!! is another issue to ponder upon..!! Coming back...if we hadnt stuck to his ways of ahimsa...we might have got Independence at least a decade earlier, but at what cost? The lives of thousands? (Arguments regarding 1000s died anyways are duly, and in my opinion rightly deferred to another space.!)

All easier said than done! Just as everything in this world is... easier said than done.

This is getting too assorted, and lacks focus ... but basically ... a discussion the other night warranted this blog..!!!

If you were to look at his picture now, with the current definitions of success and failure, Mr. Gandhi, was one heck of a failure. I mean what did he achieve...he was a failure as a husband, as a child, as a father, and as far as being the bearer of a title of Father of The Nation is concerned, thats about what he is achieved, a title.

And yet... he was the gutsiest soul this world has ever seen ... by far.! As people say, his ways aren't feasible today, I couldn't agree more, for, people today are too feeble for it. Men of great strength and enormous stature are a thing of past; fiction.

In the end, people and young kids still believe that Lord Krishna lifted an entire hill by His li'l finger, but laugh when told a Man once tried winning independence by loving his enemy...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Thoda hai... Thode ki Zaroorat Hai...!

With the telecom players drawing a trump every time they come up with a new service, you expect that they have just about exhausted all options available to mankind! However, surely the game is turning out to become a price war! Well, as much as it benefits the end consumer, it is simply not a way the industry gives the best to offer. So, as long as the price war is on, it is simply inevitable that the revenue stream keeps flowing through some channel; given the ever falling ARPU in the Indian market at least.

In this very vein, just a few words of suggestion to the mobile network operators and the now-booming Value Added Services (VAS) industry. There are some very simplistic services which arise out of a daily need to attend calls; not of the natural kind, of course; given that the cellular thingy has now become indisposable... So, here goes...

More Ad space....
Ha! Ads, ads and more ads. Even football player's jersey (the back-side) space is now officially ad space, the most sought after now-a-days! This; advertisements, not the footballers' butt space, seems to be the elixir for industries where service/ product differentiation no longer exists. In fact, the fight now has shifted to another arena; that of ad revenue generation. Keeping in line with the most lucrative trend, this might prove to be a revenue generator. How about this, "Offer advertisements as CBRTs".
- Users who choose this option will not have to pay for the CBRT, and
- Tariffs be waivered for those who use advertisements as CBRTs, which would, I believe be more than compensated by the Advertising revenue

Convey my Message...
Anything common to meetings, movies and driving? No mobile phones! And guess what?! I have no clue why people call time and again if you cut the ring or don't pick the phone the first time...! I mean, the second time is still acceptable! But 4-5 times... dude, I am in a movie hall and I could possibly not pick the call without righteous looking aunties giving strange glares or louder taunts, their 2 yr old crying kid notwithstanding! So, all you Vodafones and Airtels, there is a suggestion! In place of CRBT, user should be given an option (or a mode) to set a tone which says that the 'user is in a meeting' or 'watching a movie' or 'driving a car' or 'simply that the user is currently busy and will call some time later'. Of course more interesting options like 'user doesn't want to talk to you' can be explored! So, if I am driving and someone calls me, I could be rest assured that the caller has got the message and would promptly cut the phone and wait for the call instead of repeatedly trying to call me. This, I believe would save you bandwidth and channel usage. In fact, you could use this as a CSR step even as cell-phone related motor accidents is on the rise. Imagine an ad saying 'Ab Vodafone users ka accident nahi hoga!' or something like that...!

And I am quite serious about these...I have mailed Vodafone and Airtel in this regard too... Just suggestions, I don't know how feasible this would be. Do comment on why this would or would not be feasible. Well, interestingly Airtel has a 'Mind to Market' link under their 'contact us' tab! It encourages ideas from users and corporates alike... Nice going I would say!

* For the uninitiated
CBRT - Call Back Ring Tones i.e. when you call some one, you hear film songs, bhajans, etc. This is the single largest revenue earner for network operators. This music market has equaled the sales of traditional music i.e. cassettes and CDs.

ARPU - Average Revenue Per User

VAS - Value Added Services. Services like music downloads, games, caller tunes, etc. are provided by 3rd party providers