Friday, May 30, 2008

Jumping Lights - A Consulting Perspective

*Dedicated to Surya Kurosaami aka Kuro - who was longing for such analysis

It was a bright 1p.m Delhi afternoon. The roads shimmered in the sun. I slowed down to a stop at a junction. I was following the law with pride. I held my head high, even though it was getting cooked inside my helmet (read about my special helmet here). A bike passed next to me, standing for merely a fraction. He looked left and right as prescribed in books and jumped ahead. I stared in anger. Some others followed his example. His size turned smaller and smaller, till he merged with the azure sky. Eventually, I dribbled ahead with the remaining traffic.

This is the piteous world of the law-abiding citizens. We roast and simmer, getting garnished with dust and vehicle smoke; While the zippers and zappers are a step ahead, probably enjoying a chilled drink at home before we are halfway through our treacherous route.

Is there no way out?
Yes there is. I managed to switch to the group of outlaws. It ain't easy. But I'll show you how.

Two Checks Before Considering a Jump

Gaadi mein dum hai ? A 60cc moped isn't the best vehicle to try such antics. A simple test - if a rickshaw can inch ahead of you at crossings, then your vehicle isn't meant for this Delhi Daredevil activity. In those moped days, I swallowed my pride, smiled at the rickshawaala and eventually cruised ahead. I've never zipped, zapped or overtaken many till recently. Bikes changed my outlook towards life. Read ahead, and it'll change yours too!

Look out for the friendly neighbourhood policemen. Even if you see no evil men policing a crossing, they may be just around the corner. You've to build your database over time, understanding nooks and special hiding places for thullas. Some crossings will be manned, while others will be left free for the rookie jumpers to train themselves. This is why it's very important to make sure you aren't dressed funny. On one of my rookie days at Lucknow, I found myself on a Scooty. There we were, Pritu and I, cruising on an average Lucknow road, with the driver wearing a red helmet. If we had on board extra monkeys doing headstands, it wouldn't have aroused additional interest. The thulla didn't even wave hard to stop us. We lost some money, pride and a crucial campus vehicle account. Miss Nandu didn't oblige us after that. (No Pritu is not a female, and Yes the helmet was really bright red. Check this mugshot for proof)

Key Competitors

Pedestrians - You may have planned your timing and speed. The route may be clear except for those odd people. But they can ruin it all. They have a bhramaastra - an extended flexed hand which unfortunately all motorized vehicles have to accede to. Most of them are fearless, occasionally hell bent on colliding with your vehicle. Beware.

The Rickshaw - Like the hair and tortoise race, a rickshaw will start early, move consistently and perfect his timing. At the moment when you are ready to cut-maaro, a rickshaw will lurch forward, burdened by multiple passengers. The ignorant rickshaw puller obviously shows no understanding of traffic laws. But his literate passengers too will show no vexation at being drawn into a possible collision! In those few seconds of obstruction, you may lose your slim time gap for jumping ahead.

Of course your most serious competitors will be the other vehicles.

Plan Your Strategy

Inspired by the BCG Matrix, I've added some animals of my choice.
Makhi - Sticky behaviour

When few have a strong drive to skip the light, then the ones in minority will have to feed off each other. Vehicles will eye one another and slowly gather at the road periphery. If a critical mass is reached, they will lurch ahead and cross over. If you join this group at the right moment, you'll safely make it. Quickly the next makhi collection will began to form at the same spot. And repeat.

Chameleon - Tentative Steps

Traffic during siesta hours will show this behaviour. Very few vehicles will gather at the crossing. They'll be too lazy to move ahead. Drivers usually ignore one another and do their own thing. If you find yourself in such a situation, you are pretty much free to move ahead. Of course, laziness will seep into you and you may not finish your thought.....

Leopard - Race Ahead

This is a no brainer. No one to stop you (except a possible thulla). Move on. Zip ahead.

Snake - Hiss and Slither
Traffic from all directions will attempt to cross before the other. Its pure brinkmanship. In the limited central space, the other vehicle will aim to occupy unwarranted space as much as you will. You'll have to assess your opponent well and break the weak ones. The strong ones will forge ahead. Assuming you succeed at this, you'll eventually find a meandering path amidst honking traffic. Avoid making eye contact, because out here tempers will run quite high - Looks Can Kill You!

There are two simple strategies to attempt the actual jump.

1. The Green-Red Chasm

Traffic lights, especially in the NCR area, have a LED timer - which in loud red digits indicates the time left for a signal change. These indicators were meant to calm the drivers, to enjoy the minute or two before they could proceed ahead. Well for most of us, its a rather painful countdown of impatience. Those ending 10 seconds our brain screams, "Look you stupid machine there are no vehicles there! Can you speed it up!!" Unfortunately, the LED counter is not very fluent in telepathy english, nor does its stiff neck notice the lack of adjacent traffic. The preceding lane gapes blankly while your lane traffic growls.

Its at this moment that the whole traffic edges forward - its a massive spectacular group-think "Look I know we shouldn't be moving ahead. But as long as WE ALL are inching ahead, its ok I guess."

Sieze this moment, and zip ahead.

2. Tag Along
For every stupid person, there's always another waiting to beat his record. As you pump up your accelerator and prepare yourself for a leap, you'd have unintentionally set off a ripple of unease. A pliant biker, who had no malice towards the law and its kin, will mimic your behaviour. This illegal energy seeps through thick windows too! Cars, SUVs and even rickshaws will smell your evil intent. Once the army is ready to move ahead, the best vehicles to tag with are the Qualis and the Taveras. These call centre rickshaws drive so rashly, that your gentle desire will appear almost logical. As they bully their way through the incoming traffic, let them bear all the glowering looks and abuses. Stick by their side and reach the other end safely.

whatever you do, you should never back out. Because you surely know what such people are called in traffic lingo.

A Chakka!

No. not really. But its something equivalent. You can't ever attempt to jump the light and get stuck in between. Once you head out there, there's no way back. As you race ahead, the ones left behind will gape and think about your bravery. If you join this cult, the lawful citizens may jeer at you, mock your actions. But remember, they are simple mortals. We are the men of steel. They have to be concerned about merely one lane. We have to observe, judge and tackle vehicles of lanes from 3 directions.

Jumping lights would have been a noble and revered skill....had it not been illegal and stupid.
Drive Safely :)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What makes Chetan Bhagat a Success

Chetan Bhagat recently (8th May) launched his third book titled 'The 3 Mistakes of My Life'. Is it a success ? If sales are your primary criteria, then yes! His first two books 'Five Point Someone' and 'One Night @ the Call Centre' sold over 7 lakh copies. While this book sold two lakh copies in the first two days of the launch! [Source]

What we'll attempt to do in this post is break down this success into parts, so that it makes sense.

The Book

Remember, this is the 3rd book by Chetan Bhagat (CB). So the story is spelt out quite differently for the launch. Expectations for the new book are defined by the previous experiences with the author, which have been quite encouraging for readers. There have been others who tried to emulate his success - like Joker in the Pack. These have not succeeded. In fact, it was a pain to unearth their book titles. They just didn't deliver.

Of course book number 3 can't purely ride on the success of the previous books or the hype associated with the launch. Yash Raj's movie Tashan provides an excellent analogy for "Overpromise and Underdeliver." The reviews for the movie (online and WOM) were so vile that it sank within 3 weeks. The hype won't ever be a substitute for the book.

The reviews for the book over the last 2 weeks have been satisfactory. Given the positive vibes for this release, sales should match or exceed that of the previous books.

CB will be conquering the 'Pop Curve' - which Seth Godin depicts in this graph above. The curve to the right caters to a bigger market - the people who don't want to try things too edgy or focussed - a wide set of customers who want to read books that are good (not necessarily great) and don't really want to get into make specific choices (jargon: dissonance reducing behaviour). John Grisham is another example of an author riding the right curve, while Jhumpa Lahiri would definitely be on the left.

(On a different note, I find the music business in India to be focusing solely on the right curve. There aren't any niche artists at all.)

The Author

Chetan Bhagat has a cheerful and chubby face. Seriously - you don't expect an IITian to look this smart. In fact, when I googled IITian, one of the first pictures turned out to be of another IIT-IIMA guy. This one is more stereotypical and realistic!

(I don't know who this guy is. Guy, if you are reading this, you're welcome :D )

Hmm....Like I was saying, apart from writing a good book, CB has made sure India discovers more about him as a person. A dozen references to his IIMA wife and twin kids on the media and soon he doesn't seem like a distant author at all - instead what is conceived is an image of an aspiring IITian who has found his calling for writing books relevant to Indians. So any Big Bazaar customer with an additional hundred in his pocket, a soft corner for CB and with even substandard reading habits will think "Why not! I'll try out his book now!!"

Though I admit that's not the only way. you can emulate Melvin Udall and be a prick, but CB's strategy is definitely better! Some of his quotes which support my argument.

“I started writing when I was in class 5, and in those days, seeing your name in print used to be a big thing. Since then, this desire to become an author was there inside me,”
"Hey, one more thing. I am Chetan Bhagat, and I just want to be known and remembered as that.”

"What I want to do is entertain people, and I want to do it by writing nothing serious or highbrow."

Beyond the Book

There are two key elements in for the explosive sales for the new book.
  • Pricing it at 95/-
  • A tie-up with Big Bazaar for greater reach
I am sure the J.K Rowling route of pricing books at ten times this price has some logic behind it. But they suffered a loss of over 40% sales due to pirated copies. As a contrast, books priced below 100 will hardly have a piracy market. (I am quite astonished that music CD's are still priced in India in the range of Rs 300-500/-)

The tie-up with Big Bazaar has turned out to be a symbiotic extravaganza. The book launches have been planned with sessions for Book Reading and Meet-the-Author. Shake hands, get a signed copy of the book - and turn into loud megaphones for the book. Its perfect. Of course, by the time the 5th author tries the same stunt....

CB also started blogging around 3 weeks prior to the launch. (This is much better than the Aamir, BigB, Salman crap). It talks about his reasons for writing the new book, his style of writing, the book launch schedule - same ingredients mentioned above: the book, the author and going beyond the book.

To sum it up,

1. Maintain a quality level to please your book reader (critics and literature knights can go to hell!)
2. Give them a reason / lower their hesitation for trying out the product (in this case the pricing of the book)
3. Look beyond being just an author - be a whole person to your reader - online and offline.
4. Be visible - people want to know more so that they can talk more about the same to their peers.
5. Hope for the best!

p.s: I know this should be followed by a normal review of the book (looking beyond Chetan Bhagat's face to judge it :D). I'll have that in the next post!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mango Drinks - A comparison of TVCs

To provide some base to the analysis, I'll briefly describe the fruit based beverages market in India- divided into 3 categories shown below.

I personally feel that the consumer does not differentiate between fruit drinks / nectars. Frooti, Maaza, Slice all fight for the same mindspace. The juice category (spearheaded by Real) however has clearly scooped a separate space for itself. If you are preparing the strategy for a product (marketing followed by communication strategy), you need to have an idea about the consumer's buying behaviour before deciding how to action communciation objectives. So here are two suppositions:

1. Beverages are low involvement products. In simpler words - They are low cost and I do not go through extensive information search prior to purchase.
2. There are few differences between the brands - in terms of features, taste, pricing etc

Hence, the brand choice is driven by habit rather than any sort of loyalty. (reference: Assael Consumer Behaviour)

Thus the communication objective is that through constant repetition I need to connect with the consumer (who passively receives such inputs). In simpler words - after all the hoochamoocha of marketing, as my consumer stands at at Kirana store, he/she should say "Bhaiya ek Frooti dena" before coming down to option2 or 3 (A similar scenario holds for modern retail outlets, where the consumer should pick up my brand over the other stacked products).

Now that we are thinking on the same platform, let us explore what such products require from TVCs. The framework used in this discussion is the Rossiter-Percy grid. I've summarized the grid recommendations here. (More details are available here). The grid splits ads across Level of Involvement and -ve/+ve reinforcement. Beverages are clearly benefit based products (As a contrast Harpic, Insurance, Clearasil would be -ve reinforcement). The Grid suggests that:

Sell on emotions - try and trademark an emotion
Visuals on their own must do the selling (as contrasted with an informative narration)
Sparse Copy, Strong Slug Line
Celebrity Endorsements and/or humour works well here

Bless the Admakers for dovetailing the theory. Makes our analysis easier! Now lets indulge in the fun activity of nitpicking advertisements.

Maaza (view storyboard)

Maaza has continued to use Satish Shah Kaushik in their campaigns. The baseline is 'Bina Gutli Waala Aam' - claiming Maaza is as pure a version of mango as any other variety. They have used an obvious version of humour - a cheeky kid outsmarting an older person (usually handled by confectionery commercials like Candyman, Mentos). The visuals are below average - long footage for small narratives. At the end, the baseline clearly stands out - so Maaza earns points for that.

Slice (view ad)

They have used a fresh/unique baseline of 'Aamasutra' (a play on the word 'Kaamasutra'). This matches with the suggestion of trademarking an emotion - though I feel its a weak tagline for a mango drink. They have used Katrina in the ad - the first actress to endorse a juice brand. Visuals are again unique for a mango drink, but the excess white reminds me of Air Conditioner Ads!

Will Katrina help break away from the beverage clutter ?

Frooti (view storyboard, ad)

They have reinforced the impression that Mango in India is synonymous with Frooti - explicitly connecting the brand with indulgence in consuming mangoes. Unlike the cheesy nature of Maaza humour, this one is more understated and contemporary (like Vodafone, Virign Mobile commercials). The visuals are a treat, especially the kids getting whacked for mango aspirations! Makes one nostalgic and giggle at the same time.

I personally feel that Frooti has created the best advertisement of the three. I hope that some data on sales would validate these opinons. Till then, enjoy the season of mangoes.

p.s: I hope your understanding and respect for Marketing theory has inched ahead :)
Afaqs: 1,2,3
Beverages Industry: 1,2
Blog : Marketing Practice

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Jashan Mana Le ?

Coca Cola Advertisement (Aired in May 2008)

"The bad thing about television is that everybody you see on television is doing something better than what you're doing. Some people have a little too much fun on television: the soda commercial people - where do they summon this enthusiasm? Have you seen them? "We have soda, we have soda, we have soda", jumping, laughing, flying through the air - It's a can of soda!! Have you ever been standing there and you're watching TV and you're drinking the exact same product that they're advertising right there on TV, and it's like, you know, they're spiking volleyballs,jetskiing, girls in bikinis and I'm standing there -"Maybe I'm putting too much ice in mine." "

Seinfeld (from "204 The Phone Message")

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Garden of Nonsense

A 'family trip' was in the offing. It was rare that the four of us were in the same city and a plan was hastily made. After a few queries we shortlisted a couple of places. Two of my architect friends had recommended this Garden of Five Senses as a decent tourism spot (Rupesh, Shweta - I'll deal with you later :D). Location wise it fit with our plans and thus we made a trip this Sunday. As would be obvious from the post title, it was miserable. Albeit I haven't come across any visitor reviews, the official and tourism descriptions are morbidly saccharine. The truth must be told.

View Larger Map

"Located in Said-Ul-Azaib village, close to the Mehrauli heritage area, The Garden of Five Senses is an attractive park developed by Delhi Tourism Transportation Development Corporation. Visitors can relax, enjoy the park's amenities and take a break from the daily routine of their hectic lives, as well as develop a greater sensitivity to the environment."

Factually, the first sentence is correct. The site lies off Badarpur-Mehrauli road. Once you are around a mile away from the garden, the route is plastered with abject directional boards, as if an odd visitor might choose to wander to the nearby landfills. They point disobediently in varied directions. As soon as we saw the logo of Delhi Tourism alongside, our expectations plummeted. Nevertheless, we decided to go through the experience.

"The project was conceptualized as an answer to the city's need for leisure space for the public, for people to socialize and unwind. Such spaces add atmosphere and life to a city and cater to all sections of the society."

All tourism websites maintain this stance of this garden 'catering to everyone'. Has the Zoo, Delhi Haat, Kutubminar or India Gate somehow become biased or unsuitable for any age group/caste ? The farce permeated into other features. The parking lot itself was a miniature version of quota system - A clump of Bicycle Parking, Handicapped Parking and Administration Parking. The relevant visitor parking was thrown out into untarred dusty territory. The checkpost blockade read "Stop Here For Parking The Garden of Five Senses". The horror had begun.

Since the writeup mentions sections of society, I must inform you that there were 2 groups in the park. One was us, and the other was as we like to call it Shady Couples. Shady concurrently refers to three things - the dark skinned male Delhite with a made-up clingy girlfriend, the dark shades that he wears, and the shady activities that they plan to indulge in within the garden.

The guards were obviously pained by the latter. So although the garden is meant for people to socialize and unwind (as the description suggests), the administration has gone for a quick-fix solution. Every other lamppost, pillar, rock had a "SITTING PROHIBITED" pinned on it.

The stones below such signs had obviously been carved for our bootius-maximus. The lush fountains (had they been working) would have liked an audience for admiration. But the series of barricades, ropes and signages spoke another language. We thus rarely stayed in a spot for long - propelled by impatience rather than any obedience to the directives.

"The garden itself is divided into distinct areas. On one side of the spiral walkway is the Khas Bagh, a formal garden patterned on the lines of the Mughal Garden. Slow-moving water cascades in channels along its length, while flowering and fragrant shrubs and trees line its paths. The Central axis leads to a series of fountains, some of which are lit up by fibreoptic lighting systems."

Reality: The water cascades are dry and there is nothing Khas about the Bagh. Delhi Tourism spots usually have misssspelt and grammatically incorrecting descriptions of various spots and sculptures. Given a tight budget of 10.5 crore, I guess they decided to do away with that. Instead, we have friendly signboards. The first board had 3 items - prominently spelling TOILET. A subtle hint by the Government - 'Loosen up. This will take a while.' A few signboards inside had both West and East Bagh indicated in the same direction. That's when we decided to follow our own path.

"The garden has many unique features which makes it different from other parks. Not only is its beauty marvelous, it also has a lot to offer in terms of education....The garden is a wonderland for children and adults alike, who are virtually starved of this bountiful natures gift."

It is a good idea to create a garden promoting natural beauty. But transplanting a variety of flowers and embedding a tiny board next to it is a failed archaic method of evoking appreciation. A visitor's attention is rarely kindled by the Latin origin of the flower' name. A boxed space containing a dozen varieties of cactus is dull and reminds one only of excess thorns!

"The garden is also an art lovers delight. About twenty-five different sculptures and murals were brought together for this project making it one of the largest commissions of public art in the country. The artists were selected as per norms, by a special committee set up for this purpose."

I leave it to the readers to imagine a government committee selecting artists based on their work. Finally what has been achieved is an amalgamation of nothingness, a rude collection of art pieces each speaking their own language (often gibberish). Here is a sample. This odd set of smiling kids (the white ones) now lies dilapidated, with headless pieces and steel rods peeking out of them. This picnic snap has apparently been clicked in the garden's early years.

I do not aim to attribute the poor quality to vandalism. There were also other sculptures, atop mounds - untouched yet ugly. The art aspect of the park is conceptually flawed.

"Majestic rocks stand silhouetted against the sky, others lie strewn upon the ground in a casual yet alluring display of nature's sculptural genius. It was the ideal ground on which to realize the concept of a public leisure space that would awaken a sensory response and thereby a sensitivity to the environment."

There is nothing majestic about the garden. The largest building at the entrance houses the administration. One frequently encounters urine enriched corners. At those points only the sense of smell is evoked (not sight, sound ... I won't describe the other senses!).

And yes there were dogs!

Lots of them - snarling, sleeping, wandering, spying. I am certain they contributed to the fragrances mentioned above. We were never at peace, constantly encountering the beasts. They seemed to know their way around the garden, which annoyed us even more. I don't know if was the effect of refreshing sights-sounds, or just the Mehrauli area, but they all looked exceptionally scary and aggressive.

"A visit to the Garden of Five Senses leaves you feeling quite refreshed. The sight of the plants and flowers, the sound of the melodious wind chimes, the aroma and taste of different cuisine and the feel of the sun-warmed rocks and stone benches in the amphitheatre, where you can sit and rest after a tour of the park, feeling pleasantly fulfilled."

As we dug out our car from the lumpy parking lot, the guard gruffed for the parking ticket. Given a heavy traffic of two cars, this man obviously was running a tight ship - ensuring six sigma standards set by the Delhi Govt. He gruffed once more, hoping to pick up a tiff about payment. My dad found the correct ticket, slapped it into his hand and sped off.

"Colour, fragrances, texture and form all come together in an evocative bouquet that awakens the mind to the beauty of life and invokes a grateful prayer for the gift of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste."

Here is a summation of senses that the Garden of Five Senses really evoked:

Fear - of being bitten by the pack of rabied dogs
Disgust - evoked by the shady couples and the urine smell
Laughter- created by the masterpiece headless and misshaped sculptures
Impatience - caused by the lack of a single interesting item in the garden
Disillusionment - after reading all the online descriptions

Moral1: Stick to KutubMinar when making Travel Plans
Moral2: Don't believe what architects tell you :D

Source for excerpts - 1,2,3

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Cinthol - Analysis

[Warning - A bit heavy on marketing concepts and jargon. Reader discretion is advised :) ]

Ironically, this product has a tagline '24 hour confidence'. When I read this recent article on Cinthol's strategy, it scared me. In a typical MBA marketing course, we were trained to confidently handle such hypothetical scenarios. Say you are the brand manager of a X year old brand. The market share has dipped from 9% to less than 2% over the last few years. You need to define activities to be undertaken to revive market share to X%. Here's what we'll usually come up with:

1. We'll understand a) what are the new/changed/evolved consumer needs b)perception of our brand
2. We'll do repositioning based on existing brand values and on insights from the previous step.
3. We'll use heavy advertising campaign - print, TVC, Outdoor to communicate the change.
And of course we'll throw in some social networking, a bit of online experience and web2.0 jargon to boot.

(And this is a best case scenario. Usually MBA class participation is diminished, the objectives blurred and the output a khichdi of activities)

The brand is doing all of that.
And that's what scares me.

Cinthol Activities

1. Understand changed consumer needs
'Cinthol has always been associated with the alpha male personality. We have revived it, but in a more contemporary manner'
2. Reflect the change in product communication
'The new communication has a masculine tonality, but it is targeted at young adults who aspire to an active lifestyle.'
3. Have a distinctive celebrity endorsement(which according to HarishB was the right thing to do)
4. Reflect the change in packaging (view)
5. Run a planned campaign for 12-18 months bringing together all the above elements
6. Have a website for interacting with customers and creating tribes of like minded users.

One half of me (the MBA part) is acknowledging that Cinthol has been pumped with all the right ingredients. The other half (the consumer part) is indifferent to the efforts being made for the brand. A website for this brand ? So what! ( Objective according to them - 'It will bring together like-minded individuals who keep on moving, irrespective of the hurdles in their life.') Maybe, just maybe some Cinthol loyalists will reach the website.

The Cinthol Website

Interactive ? I don't think so

There are a total of 3 links. One is a link for the TVC, already available on youtube. The other two are static pages - one of which gives banal advice on being physically fresh. The second page has a dumb flash game, I didn't care to play it through.
Loading Screen
Every click is followed by a annoying loading screen, which a visitor with just passing interest (rather than an inquisitive disposition) would have avoided and quit the 'experience'.

According to Sameer Penkar, general manager, marketing, Godrej Consumer Products, “The site will be modified in phases. Currently, what you see on it is part of Phase 1. In the second phase, we will be tying up with portals such as Yahoo!, Rediff, Google and Zapak in order to direct traffic to our site.". Though I don't agree with the phased approach. There won't be a revisit by an online user unless it is enjoyable the first time.

Is there is any piece missing in their campaign ? It would be naive to applaud the strategy and impute execution quality for any poor results. Even if you get all the steps right, follow the tenets of good marketing, how can you hope you've done good work ?

The Cinthol Ad (indianbrands)

Cinthol on Marketing Practice

Cinthol on agencfaqs (here and here)

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Memoirs 2002 - Pinky and Me

A play called Pinky and Me was my my first independent attempt in theatre. I came across a few scanned pictures and want to talk about the experience.

Pinky and Me - September 2002

Dramatics at KGP began for me with ETDS - A freshers event with the primary motive of mingling with first year females. The second one was to introduce the enthusiastic kids (facchas) to night-outs and fun-life of kgp. The objective of doing good theatre work was usually relegated to third position. This romance with theatre for me continued for another 3 odd years. Then I discovered I am truly not meant for this art. I quit it then and have been quite happy about the decision.

Pinky and Me happened in my second year. For the play I was the director and voluntarily took no role on stage. I wanted to do a really good job with it!

Script Selection happened a fortnight before the event. This was for English Open-Dramtics. As a contrast to the event's vision, teams were invariably formed from within the same hostel. This was the practice ground for a more crucial Inter-Hostel Dramatics event that ensued after a few weeks. The audience was usually limited to the close circle of the cast and director. They too sometimes politely refused to show up.

Arranging for a judge for this event was one of the toughest tasks for a dramatics secretary. The professor would be subjected to bad theatrical experiments by raw engineers. He would have to sit through all of them (lasting upto 8 hours over 2 days) and also judge their quality. I tip my hat to these professors who still endured it all to keep the spirit alive in the campus.

Casting was the next task. As such finding enthusiasts for a rookie director was hard. I managed to find one good guy (that would be you Sandeep!) and roped in two of my wingmates (Jason and Parthiban). They were completely raw when it came to theatre. So that gave me some obvious standing. I was an ETDS member!

But we also needed female cast members!

You must remember that this was Kharagpur. Around two dozen seeds were sown annually. A few blossomed to full bloom in four. Some were reticent, surfacing only after an year of nurturing. A few never saw the sun in that time. So when it came to selection of our cast, our options came down to two girls. yes. two.

We finally managed to convince Saumya for taking part in our project. I remember the other option was PRB, on whom I had a bleak crush at that time. This factor was also added in the analysis. But Saumya was the victor!

Saumya on stage

The script involved two female characters. Aiming to uphold the virtue of good theatre, I refused to have a male guy playing a female character. That would be sacrilegious! We all decided to deal with it in some other way.

Theatre scripts are subjected to various constraints in kgp. The casting constraint I mentioned above was one of them. Two other problems were time slots and the stage. Budget was always close to zero, one's room inventory serving as props, stage sets etc. Time slots meant that scripts would be brutally chopped / altered to suit the event. I'll be focussing on the alteration bit.

A few days into practice we discovered that the second female part also flirted around with the protagonist. We tried to divest her role, but couldn't afford to do so. And the storyline would be incomplete without her.
And it was impossible to recruit another girl.

So we decided to turn the character into a male gay.

Parthiban - Our fresh gay psychiatrist and Sandeep

Yes, such were the predicaments back then. We had the pyschiatrist hitting on the protagonist with some corny lines. We realized that since we've already burnt the script, we might as well throw in a few comical scenes. So much for sanctity.

The play went off fine. There were a few happy moments after it was over (displayed below). I truly don't remember my reaction to their performance. To Pinky and Me cast - Thank you for the experience. It was totally worth it :)
Clockwise - Parthiban, Sandeep, Jason, me and Saumya

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Happy to Yelp

Did you read this news about the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) issuing a legal notice to Vodafone for indulging in cruelty to animals ?

AWBI claims - "The pet dog was made to run, gallop and chase the school van for a long time on a public road. Thereby, the dog was made to undergo severe pain and suffering due to the exhaustion caused by chasing (the bus)."

Dear AWBI,

It's a dog.
Its name is Rocky.
Dogs are happy chasing objects.
It was the dog chasing the bus and not the bus chasing the dog, which could have been interpreted as bullying behaviour (in which case you could have also filed a complaint against automobiles).
Had the Ad been made for say a Sumit Mixie or Ambuja Cement, then you might have had a point - since a heavy bag or carton isn't a dog's favourite play object.

But the pug is carrying a tie.
A tie!
Get a life you losers.
And find some other way to gain attention.

A Vodafone Fan

In line with Vodafone's positioning of VAS (Value Added Services), the Customer Care TVC is one of the best ads aired in year 2008 (close competition being the 'Kabhi Kabhi' ad again made for Vodafone).

Nirvana Films, aware of such inanities, had also got a 'post-shoot fitness certificate duly signed by the veterinary doctor'. But apparently thats not enough for AWBI.

Maybe we viewers should file a petition against AWBI, for making us undergo severe pain and suffering due to the exhaustion caused by their stupidity.

On a completely different note, IPL is turning out be an awesome entertainment avenue. Here are two interesting articles providing more insight about its marketing and success.