Thursday, May 14, 2015

How many is one too many? Piku and Product Placements

An intense scene in Piku where Irrfan Khan offers to drive Deepika and Amitabh down to Kolkata as all his drivers refused. They start their journey on the Noida Expressway. Camera pans out to the board; and a Jaypee Greens advertisement stares out at you. Cut to another scene, camera pans out on a shopping mall - that has a Snapdeal - dil ki deal hoarding and later one more scene where Piku places an order for a gift on Snapdeal. Another with Deepika sipping water from a Himalaya Water Bottle. 

The CEAT co-branded advert for Piku
Image: Twitter
Or the wonderful scenes of Amitabh going around Kolkata and rejigging his old memories on a cycle. The camera slowly pans into Amitabh; and then goes on to focus on the "Hero Cycles" logo on the cycle he was pedaling. 

That scene where Irffan and Deepika discuss about "90 saal ke bacche ko bhi adopt karna hoga" chomping down a Priya Gold Snacker. Deepika gets ready for the wedding, and the camera zooms into a SENCO Gold Jewellery box, as she picks up her earrings. Or the Amul Ice-cream during lunch, Amul Milk boxes in the fridge and dining table. The CEAT Tyre workshop where they stop during the journey for some repair. The Mitashi TV at their home that plays a Sony SET Max Xtra Innings advertisement. SYSKA bluetooth devices and Power Banks that come in use during the long journey to charge their devices. The Parachute Hair Oil Deepika uses when in the Kolkata. Or the Red Label Tea packet while they sip a cup of tea.

The Priya Gold Product Placement in Piku
Image: YouTube
Thankfully, they didn't have a car partner (or is it sadly?) where they could've zoomed into the logos (like the Volvo car in 3 idiots) or made sly comments about how spacious and comfortable the car is, for such a long trip. And Kayam Churn, who had the best fit with the theme of the movie (Or not, cos Mr Bachchan finally did pass away?) signed up for the movie post the release of the trailers. Actually, now that I think of it, they could have done a very effective brand plug at the end when Deepika finds out about her friend also having constipation, by suggesting him to have Kayam Churn, rather than suffer like her dad. 

Anyways,  how many is one too many? As a movie, it makes complete sense to plug in brands. The saved promotion costs for the movie, given most of the brands associated with Piku did co-branded commercials or painted the town Piku with hoardings (like SENCO in Bangalore); or did co-branded ads in newspapers - like CEAT today; make it a no-brainer decision for the producers.  

But as a viewer, you end up feeling 'cheated' as me and my bunch of friends did, during the movie - and by the time the second half of the movie started, we were groaning when the camera slow focused on a product placement for the heck of it. 

One of the Sony Vaio plugs in the Bhai starrer - Bodyguard
While in a masala movie, as a viewer, you go in resigned to the fact that it is a commercial fest; in a 'artsy' film like Piku or a Shamitabh (that had its own share of plugs - Amazon, Lifebuoy and what not) the placements come across as very jarring. 

And when the placements get one too many, and instead of one brand having a few memorable inserts, there are 15 brands all getting a fleeting mention here and there; which means that the purpose of the placement is more or less lost. Like the 8 brands that lined up for placement in the visuals of the viral Kolaveri di song (Aircel, Supermax, Emami, Parachute, Audi, Air Asia, Vasanth & Co, Lawman Jeans etc) Yes, the brands can still do co-branded commercials like Syska did, or release a Piku product line like Priya Gold did. But sadly what started off as a non-intrusive way to plug in your product into the theme of the movie, and hence better re-call with the audience, is now going the "Lets-kill-the-Golden-Goose-while-it-lasts" way. 

If you still have your doubts, just ask people who walk out of Piku, how many brands they remembered from the movie. One or at best two?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Itna kamake kya fayda sir - A conversation with an auto driver

It was just another morning, when I was quite enthusiastic about getting back to work after a refreshing 10 day break away from it. And as ever, post haggling with the Gurgaon autowallas, we (me and my roommates) managed to find one to take us to office. 

Monday mornings and IFFCO chowk just equate to one thing - Traffic Jam. As we were waiting in the jam for vehicles to move, we spotted this pretty senior looking executive driving his car, a pretty high end one at that. And then the autowallah said - 
"Sir, ye dekho isko. Khaane ke liye bhi time nahi hai inke paas. 20-25 laakh ka gaadi hogi iski. Par ghar pe baithke khaane ke liye bhi vaqt nahi hai, to Itna kamaake kya fayda hua.
(Sir, look at this guy. He doesn't even have time for eating in the mornings. His car must be worth 20-25 lakh. But if he doesn't have time to even sit at home and enjoy the food that he can eat, then what is the point of earning so much)

And then he pointed to a beggar on the other side of the road, and went ahead with his "work-life balance" perspective (in the words of my roommate)
"Isko dekho. Ye bhi na, bhaikte ghar pe aaram se khaana khaata hai. Us aadmi jitna nai kamayega kabhi, par jab kamaake aise jeena padta hai to ..."
(Look at this guy. Even this guy would be able to sit patiently at his home, and enjoy his food. He'll never earn as much as that guy would, ever. But what's the point, if you anyway have to live like this, when you earn so much)

The signal turned green, and we reached office on time. But as I looked around in the rest of the traffic, I could see guys reading the newspaper hurriedly. Or typing away on their laptops or rattling away with a frustrated look on their mobiles, while someone else was driving the car. 

The incident reminded me of Raghuram Rajan's IIMA convocation address some time ago where he said ..
"If you do not like going to work every day, the fact that you are driven to it in a Mercedes is not going to make it any more pleasant.
What do we really work for? A comfortable life? Food at the right time? Intellectual stimulation? To have something to do in life? Because everyone else is? To achieve something in life? To leave behind a legacy, saying you improved life for everyone else in someway? For the money to sustain? To have the comfort and the ability to enjoy that football match on the weekend, and that festival in new clothes with your family? And what is that tipping point, where we can say - "Hey, all that is fine. But with so much to do, despite all the money, I'm not able to go back and enjoy what I actually work for - which is watching that late United goal on TV over the weekend, with a packet of chips to munch"

This whole thing takes me back to that conversation between Hrithik and Katrina in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara post their deep sea diving. 
Katrina: "When you've done so well in life, are you really happy? Even today if you feel something is missing, what is it? Take time out for things that give you genuine joy. Like cooking"
Hrithik: "Well, that's the plan, I mean. I'll retire at 40 and..."
Katrina: "Dude! How do you know if you'll be alive till then? Seize the day, my friend. First, live this day to the fullest. Then think about 40."
I thought I'll give time to the things that give me genuine joy as well. Like writing this post! 

PS: I do not hate my job! Not one bit. In fact, starting to figure out my own ways to make job-life even better! :). This is more of a musing on the 'greater' things in life. 

Oh! And there's this category of people as well ...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

10 books that had an impact on me!

Hard to ignore with 5 people tagging you to do it; so here I go with a list of 10 books that had an impact on me some way or the other. Thanks for the 'nominations' Nikita, Yagyesh, अनुग्रह, Ankur and Abhinav :). 

In chronological order of their impact (and not necessarily the best books I've ever read!) ...

1. Treasure Island (RL Stevenson) - Treasure Island is one of the first novels that I can remember reading. The entire joy of visualising the whole treasure hunt, the maps, pirates, cannons, ships and the whole thing being organised by the young boy. The excitement of reading all of it as a kid! 

This was the book that inducted me into this world of reading; and what a world this has been!  

15 men on a dead man's chest, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! 
Drink and the devil had done for the rest, yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! 
Oh, and at that age, I had no clue what rum even was.  

2. The Magic Faraway Tree (Enid Blyton) - This series was semi-inception-like; in hindsight. Where I read about characters entering a world of fantasy, by walking down a ladder and having to come back into it before the world shifted away - my parallel being entering this whole colourful visual world every night while reading some part of it, before having to come back to reality when the next class at school started; or my mom came into my room to check if I was doing my homework or whiling away time. 

And from these, I went into the magical world of Enid Blyton books - Secret Seven, Famous Five and the entire 'detective' mode. 

3. Hardy Boys Series (Franklin W Dixon) - And from the Secret Seven 'detective' mode; I grew up into the teenaged Hardy Boys series, that caught my fancy as it was one series that I could always find a book of, in the school library; so much that I used to borrow library cards from my friends to pick up additional books in their names for reading. 

Fell in love with the series, that I promised myself that when I grow old, I would buy all the books in the series for myself. And the plan is still on! 

4. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (JK Rowling) - Harry Potter was just another series of books that I had laid my hands on, till I started with Prisoner of Azkaban. It was in this book, my favourite by far in the entire series, that I got emotionally tied to the entire series, in a way no book ever has managed to since or previously. 

The whole Sirius and Remus back story. Friendship like I had never seen before. And given I grew up with the characters, right upto reading Deathly Hallows in a hotel room, one day before my first day in College at Bhopal, purchasing the book at a queue in a bookshop I hunted down in a new city. 

After all this time? 

5. My Side (David Beckham) - It was in a Young World feature on the 2002 World Cup, that I first read about David Beckham. And love at first sight, it was. He was my window into this world of football that runs my life today; and one of the biggest passions of my life - Manchester United. 

Was he the best player at Manchester United? Nah. Far from it. 
Is My Side the best football autobiography I've read? Nah. No way. Keane, Gary Neville, Sir Alex all outscore him. 

But My Side was my 1st footballing book, that gave this Football-information-hungry-boy, a view into what it is to be a player at Manchester United, in those days when there was no high speed internet or Twitter. And what it is to really make it large in life. And when I had my own money to buy books finally, My Side was the first one that I ordered, from Flipkart. 

6. Mathematics for Class X (RD Sharma) - A book that brought out the nerd in me - and was the reason for my Math love till I found a barrier in the form of Integration and Differential Equations. In a way, this book shaped my entire career - for the worse and the good. With all the practice from it, I ended up with a 100 in the board exams that meant the whole relative clan thought I was IIT material, that I ended up screwing my last two years of schooling. But given all the practice that I had, CAT preparation and the whole 'hardwork' that came with it, was a cakewalk. And probably led to where I am today. 

7. Five Point Someone (Chetan Bhagat) - Say what you want about his English (especially when your lines criticising his grammar themselves have grammatical errors!), but the man had a blockbuster with this book. Especially given I was in Engineering college at that time, and could so relate to most of what Chetan Bhagat wrote about. And who doesn't want an entertaining book. The book had such an influence, that for a long long time, my Blog was called Seven Point Someone. And oh, to be honest, it made me aspire to write something, someday. 

8. Stars Shine Down (Sidney Sheldon) - Bhopal used to be a 24 hour long journey. And it was before one such journey that I picked up this Sidney Sheldon book and what a book. As a Civil Engg student, the whole real estate industry and OPM (other people's money) left a lasting impact on me. The rise and fall of Lara Cameron, and her characterisation made the book unputdownable; that in the next 4-5 months, I devoured the entire list of books that Sidney Sheldon had written. 

9. Marketing Management (Philip Kotler) - "What? Kotler? Seriously?" is what most of my friends have asked me. But that was one academic book, that I read from cover to cover without any 'pressure' of an exam behind it. And it was the book that gave me a view into the world of 4Ps, 5Cs and what not. The boxed anecdotes about real world marketing examples - in one world - brilliant. 

10. Rafa (Rafael Nadal) - If there's one person I idolise, it is Rafa. (Okay, two actually but given Rahul Dravid is yet to write his autobiography...). This one gave me so much insight into what makes the man, what makes him tick, and what has helped him reach such heights - his values, and principles in life. His never say die attitude; and the ability to come back, when people think it's done for. This book inspired me like no other has or probably ever will; and is probably a fitting way to finish this list! 

PS: Thanks to the ones for tagging me. Made me write something non-work related, after a LONG LONG time.