La Dolce Vita- Classic Film Review

Though it rhymes with Bournvita, this is a classic film directed by Italian director Federico Fellini. It is a classic, sometimes abstract in its depiction of ideas-existential angst being one of them.

Loosely, the title means "Living the good life," and the hero's quest for one is the major theme. He is a member of the paparazzi who chase every sleazy story possibility, ad somewhere along the line, he realises the futility of it. Aspiring for what he believes is the ideal life, he tries to chase women, and then imitate a friend who seemingly has it all-a wife, two adorable children and a beautiful house and exotic interests (such as Oriental music). The hero is shattered when he finds that the friend has shot himself and his two children in a depressed state.

He drifts in and out of a hippie-style crowd, and out of his one long-standing relationship too. The film ends without resolving his issues, and could be a comment on many things wrong with our society, individuals and their goals in life.

It is a bit long, but mostly sustains interest due to the rich imagery and imaginative visuals, starting from the first shot of a helicopter carrying a statue to the Vatican. The acting is good, and some of the scenes are quite intriguing.

The Salesman- Film Review

This is an Iranian movie that just won the Best Foreign Film Oscar. In a word, it's brilliant!

This is the fifth or sixth film by an Iranian director that I have watched. It makes me think why we can't make films like they do..maybe some of our directors do make them occasionally. But usually it is an over-the-top formula film we get to see.

There is a lot to learn from this film- How to act, for one. Both the lead characters (shown above) are so understated in their performance, it reminded me of Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri in their heydey. Just too good.

How to direct a film, too. The way he has used the iconic play called Death of a Salesman in the background is great! The way the mystery unravels, and the climax keeps you guessing, is what cinema should be about. A wow experience, if you ask me.


Life is a series of experiences. I had an exhilarating one this weekend, akin to finding the unknown. Or discovering the meaning of life. I am a member of a Hindi film music-lovers' group online, and we had a get-together of the group over the weekend at a resort on the outskirts of Hyderabad.

I met around twenty people whom I had never met before (except online), and felt as if I had known them for decades. Hindi film music is our common interest, and it seems that was enough. We celebrated music, of course, with singing, antakshari, quizzes, leg-pulling and fun activities which kept us so busy we didn't realise how quickly the hours went by. Some spouses and kids whose curiosity was piqued by this "strange" group their family were members of also attended, and quite enjoyed themselves (we lived up to their expectations of weirdness, I guess). We had both youngsters and those young at heart, and it was overwhelming.

To the spirit of music, and new-found friends-cheers!

Leadership Fundamentals

I think I'll give it a shot. I know there are a lot of leadership theories in vogue and out of it. I studied quite a few while doing my MBA and Ph.D. But these insights are mostly my own, though they may bear a resemblance to theories living or dead.

The first thing a good leader needs is not an MBA, but clarity of vision for his/her organisation. Many flounder on this count, I think. As some great man said, "If you don't know where you are headed, the rest of it is a waste of effort." Just like when you are shaving, it's a good mirror (and lighting) that is most useful, rather than a great razor (I beg your pardon, Gillette).

The ability to appoint the right people for the right job (skill needed- being a good judge of capabilities), and lay out a vision for the key people. So they can achieve it (if they are the right people, that is).

Motivation- the greatest motivation for each type of job may vary, but for some, it is autonomy. For others, it could be tight monitoring (sales type of jobs where targets are what make or break a company).

Courage to sack people is another important one, if you discover that you chose the wrong person or that she is not performing in tune with organisational needs. Merit should count.

I think I will stop here, or else I may be tempted into doing another Ph.D. 

Photo Nostalgia

 KIAMS, Harihar- First Batch of PGDM. In my youth.
 IMT Nagpur, a few years ago.
 IIM Indore jailbird-present.
 Cool New Yorker, with cousin and family. 1987.
 At Clemson with wife, parents, brother and sister-in-law.
 Chala Murari Hero Banne- play (Waiting For Lefty) at IIMB. That's me on the right. 1983.
 Gautam Biswas and Venky, roommates in Delhi, Vasant Vihar 1985.
Mount Rushmore, with my dad. 1990.

Some Favourite Films

I have favourite films of almost all actors- will try and list some of these.

Rajesh Khanna- Kati Patang, Anand, Amar Prem and Aradhana.

Dev Anand- Jewel Thief, Des Pardes, Shareef Badmash

Amitabh- Chupke Chupke, Amar Akbar Anthony, Don, Namak Halaal

Shah Rukh Khan- Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge, Baazigar

Aamir Khan- Dangal, 3 Idiots, Taare Zamin Par

Biswajeet- Kismat, Bees Saal Baad

Kishore Kumar- Jhumroo, Chalti ka Naam Gaadi, Padosan

Navin Nischal- Dhund, Sawan Bhadon, Victoria No. 203

Dharmendra- Jugnu, Sholay, Satyakaam

Anil Kapoor- Woh Saat Din, Mr. India,1942- A Love Story

Jeetendra- Parichay, Humjoli, Farz, Geet Gaaya Pathharon Ne

Sanjeev Kumar- Aandhi, Manoranjan, Koshish

Sanjay Dutt- Munnabhai MBBS, Lage Raho Munnabhai

Shashi Kapoor- Namak Halaal, Kabhi Kabhi, Sharmeelee

Shammi Kapoor- Prince, Bramhachari, An Evening in Paris

Amol Palekar- Gol Maal, Rajnigandha, Chitchor, Chhoti si Baat

Rishi Kapoor- Khel Khel Mein, Rafoo Chakker, Hum Kisise Kam Nahin

And now, the actresses-

Hema Malini- Abhinetri, Johny Mera Naam, Kinara

Tina Munim- Des Pardes, Baaton Baaton Mein, Karz

Mumtaz- Roti, Tere Mere Sapne, Aap ki Kasam

Saira Banu- Padosan, Jhuk Gaya Aasmaan, Victoria no. 203

Smita Patil- Arth, Baazaar, Aakrosh

Vidya Balan- Kahani, Parineeta, Paa

Neetu Singh- Khel Khel Mein, Rafoo Chakker

Dimple Kapadia- Bobby, Sagar, Dil Chahta Hai

Nimrat Kaur- The Lunchbox

Deepika Padukone- Finding Fanny, Bajirao Mastani 

Stating the Obvious

..and getting away with it, is the full title of this post. You see it happening all around you. Corporate honchos, economists, teachers, and many celebrities, commentators (yes, cricket commentators) keep giving us their wisdom by stating something that is obvious. And make the headlines.

India will keep, any dumb idiot can see that. At least in population, if nothing else.

The party with the largest number of seats will form the government.

If we have headwinds from US policy, blah, blah, blah,...growth will slow.

If you study regularly, you will score well..that's a big IF, isn't it?

That ball was hit for a six by XYZ..really? Are TV viewers generally blind?

That new Bollywood film is short on Story..Tell me something new.

The TV serial actors can't act (and directors can't direct. Only producers continue producing).

Interest rates should go down/go up. There are only two ways it can go. I can toss a coin.

Don't Frown on the Boring

Boring has a role to play. And so do the boring people. Here's why.

If there was no boredom, you wouldn't know how interesting interesting was..a contrast makes it easy to find out.

The boring people make it easier for you to become interesting. Example- when everybody in a group discussion is silent, you can steal the show just by opening your mouth. Similarly,..

If everyone was interesting, you might find it boring after a while. Too much of anything, you know.

Variety is the spice of life, a wise person has said. Therefore, it takes all kinds...

Hope this was (interesting and) convincing.

Marketing and Tourism

I don't remember the statistics, but I think Sri Lanka gets a lot fewer tourists than other destinations around the world. It has a lot to offer, but I believe prices are on the higher side, though their visa process is very easy and online. Dollars are in use most tourist places, or can be exchanged easily at banks. One hundred and forty nine (SL) rupees to a dollar last week.

Marketed well, it has the potential to substantially increase the number of tourists, particularly from India. Package tours could be one answer, where bulk discounts given to organisers might bring prices down. The weather permits all-year-round tourism, like in many topical destinations.

Many drivers speak English, which is a big plus. They are also professional, and drive well, following rules most of the time (unlike some places we know). Kandy, Galle, Anuradhapura, Dambulla, Nuwara Eliya are some places you can set up a base in and go around. We did it from Negombo beach.

One concept I liked was the Spice gardens which show you a lot of spice trees/creepers, give you  a free head massage for a few minutes, and sell a few Ayurvedic preparations for various ailments. We saw one such. Tea factory tours are also an attraction. A 9 km trail at Horton Plains National Park is good for those interested in such things.

Sri Lanka- Photo essay

 Way down from Nuwara Eliya.
 Long trek in Horton Plains
 The beauty spot on way from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya.
 Rocking in Sigiriya.
 Painted earth.
 The long trek made easy with posed pics (above and below).

Book Review- Ghachar Ghochar

This is a book translated from Kannada, written by Vivek Shanbhag. This is worth reading for a brilliant translation alone, the likes of which are hard to find, I am sure.

Its narrator is a businessman whose family gets lucky in a business, and gets rich overnight. Mainly, the story concentrates on the narrator's uncle (Chikkappa in Kannada), his father, mother and wife. Each character is developed from scratch, and their peculiarities and singularities come through nicely.

The impact that the sudden entry of money has on the formerly close-knit family is the theme, and the author effortlessly brings out the breaking of the ties, embellished by the break-up of his sister's marriage earlier (she comes back to live with her family). His own marriage also seems on a tightrope, given his wife's idealistic views and his family's pragmatic ones.

Indian literature must certainly have more gems hidden in different languages. Hope we unearth them. This one is beautifully produced in hard cover.

Initial Impressions- Sri Lanka

Went for a family (destination) wedding to Sri Lanka and stayed in Negombo beach. First impressions-

It is expensive compared to many similar Indian destinations. Particularly, entry fees for foreigners are high in many sight-seeing spots. Some may be worth the price, some not.

The people are nice and friendly. Mostly, laid-back. The cleanliness is a lesson to us. They also obey traffic signals.

The women wear sarees, but in a slightly different way.

The towns resemble Kerala in colour of store-fronts, and appams are available everywhere. The greenery is similar too.

So are lunch buffets with prices varying from 250 Sri-Lankan Rupees to 500 or more. Lots of women entrepreneurs in this business.

Tea, gemstones, cashews are some specialities.

It would take a week to see all the sights. We did a couple, along with the wedding.

E-visas are very easy to get online.

Hair and There

I am propagating a new theory about people and hair-styles.

My theory is that -

People with straight hair are simple and untwisted human beings.

Those with curls want to be different, like their tattoed counterparts.

Women with short hair are more career-minded and professional.

Those with long hair (women) are dedicated and persevere in their chosen task, whatever may be the effort.

Those with fancy hair styles (men and women) are unpredictable, could be be fun, or dangerous, depending on your perspective.

Balding gentlemen are mostly gentle, because they are conscious that their best hair days are behind them.

Pleats in hair (women) indicate they are comple(a)te women, and not afraid to do what they like.

Funky hair styles and tattoes are a heady mix..rocking? May be.

Anopheles and Trump- 2017

Anopheles was always perceptive about goings-on in the human world, though she was a mosquito, and I enjoyed my conversations with her. We had become friends ever since we had debated the merits of her tribe biting humans, a few years ago (she convinced me it wasn't such a big deal).

She was looking serious this time when she asked, "Who's this Trump character? And what's he known for?"

I am a follower of Gandhiji's maxim to speak the truth, so I replied, "He's known for groping, and running businesses into bankruptcy. And building walls between man and man."

She was aghast. "And he got elected to a high office?"
So I spoke what I thought was the truth again. "Women don't really count. We mostly treat them as an accessory in a man's life. Tell me, how is it in mosquito-land?"

She was thoughtful. "We don't discriminate among males and females. Everyone has equal rights and opportunities. All adults have to earn their own blood. Kids are brought up by both parents participating equally. There are no crimes against female mosquitoes, like you humans seem to have, if your news channels are to be believed." That stunned (Trumped?) me. One, she was even more aware than I had imagined, and two, they were a more advanced civilization than ours- on this count at least.

I muttered something about our race having lost the race, ..or something to that effect, and bid her goodnight- we had a gentle(wo)manly pact that she wouldn't bite, if I talked to her.

Lucknow Diary

Had a chance to go to Lucknow to speak at a conference recently. I was pleasantly surprised to find several people whom I had never met but was aware of. Rama Bijapurkar, who has worked in advertising and marketing research (like me) was a co-speaker. Prof. Mirza Saiyadein, whom I had heard of, but never met, retired prof from IIM Ahmedabad. And then, many faculty who had some links to IIM Lucknow, where I had worked before, 2001 through 2003. That's where my first book got published (Marketing Research, First edition)-  I am fairly bookish.

Lucknow has grown from being a small, under-developed capital, to a decent-sized city, and has good roads-at least ones I travelled on were good. Did not get a chance to go Ganjing at Hazratganj, but saw a branch of CMS, the school where my daughters went for a couple of years. I still remember the kababs with a melt-in-your mouth texture that we had eaten there.

Made famous by its tehzeeb (don't think it can be translated-just look it up), and the famous 'pehle aap', it remains a beacon in a state which has always performed below its potential, and remains plagued by many negatives-perceived or otherwise.

Wisdom on a Tee

Tee shirts can carry a message across faster than a lot of fat philosophical tomes, or boring lectures on the subject-or any subject. A smartly designed set of words or a picture is all it takes. For instance, Sula (the wine maker) has a few that promote wine- Drink some wine, become a Winestein, with a pic of the great man. There's one going around on fb right now, a Mexican/Spanish woman wearing one that says-Relax, GRingo, I'm legal, referring to Trump's immigration policy.

A lot of things that need saying can be said easily on a tee-shirt without offending anyone (oh, that's so easy to do on some media). I just found something that fits me to a T- "You can't scare me-I have two daughters."

Just got one the other day that says "Rajni inside" -obviously, in Chennai. Makes me feel like a superstar. Got to wear it more often.

Selfienomics- Book Review

If you take this book seriously, you may not like it that much. If you don't, chances are you will like it a lot. Because it is written in a folksy (facebookish) style with plenty of hashtags and humour. There is an underlying seriousness, though. It aims at improving you. If you are like 99% people (or is it 99.98, like the CAT cutoffs) who believe firmly that they will not improve (# Hum Nahi Sudhrenge), then that is effort wasted (# Gaya tel lene).

But it is definitely worth reading. He even takes off on IIMs and other holy cows, after saying how we Indians don't like anybody criticising our icons. Some of his jokes are ROFL type, and will keep you going through the boring parts- there are a few, like advice on how much water to drink a day and why (haven't we been through this somewhere?).

There is also a panacea for many of India's ills- a better justice system, which works fast and well, and online where possible. The solution may sound naive (after all, he did not take the offer from IIM Bangalore), but the point is well-taken, that many of our systems of governance and citizen services are archaic.

Another point well-taken is about our responsibilities to society, and to ourselves, being neglected in the blind pursuit of the "family's good" (# Mere paas maa hai).  His advice on personal branding is good, and the reason why I bought the book in the first place. Create a first opinion, rather than just a first impression. Because people take time to form an opinion, but stick to it after they form one. Don't waste money on branded clothes, but dress well. ("If you want to know how, look at gay people-they have been in the closet longer than most"- jokes like these abound in the book). Remember things about people who you want to know better, if necessary by digging p info on the net, and using it to make conversation (# Stalking-the good side).

Generally, quotes from lots of people (like 'Patriotism is loyalty to a piece of real estate'- be a global patriot instead) also make this readable. (#Go Read it)

Drama Queen-Suchitra Krishnamoorthi's Book-A Review

Remember the cute heroine of Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, a Shah Rukh film? That's her. Remember Shekhar Kapur married her? And then they divorced? That's her too.She also did her share of pop albums.

Drama Queen takes off a few years after the divorce, and is a rollicking, no-holds-barred look at her life, including her fantasies about killing er girlfriends, Ram Gopal Verma, and her mom in a big blaze, among other things. Written in a completely different style, its novelty may not appeal to everyone. You either will like it or hate it. I did like it, after I got used to her style. Also, I had a soft corner for her because she is Telugu (and I grew up in Gulti-land- not because she is cute).

Her outings with her shrink get a largish, hysterical coverage, and is antithetical to what you may expect after seeing Dear Zindagi where Shah Rukh played a likeable shrink. Her dogs also get lots of cverage, but surprisingly, her mom gets a lot more than her daughter- and it's not reverential, exactly.

All in all, a new-gen storytelling style, and I liked her girlfriend's attempts to do her good by buying her a ..well, I won't give it away.

Review of The Sky is Pink

True stories are sometimes difficult to handle. The Sky is Pink is an uplifting story of a child (actually, two) with a rare condition at b...

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