PIKU – More than just ‘motion’

Indian mainstream cinema is replete with movies cantered around parent – child relationships. As complex as they can get, the interpretations have, thus far, limited to exploring the byplay of role & relationship of parents and children. In Piku, we have, perhaps the first take on a key ingredient of this relationship – selfishness.

It might come as a huge surprise to those who firmly believe in infallibility of parents. How can they ever be “selfish” ? Piku suggests that they can be and perhaps for right reasons.

Piku is wonderfully scripted and all the lead actors – Amitabh, Deepika and Irrfan – play their part to perfection. It seems to have a simple plot, a cranky and constipated father trying to ensure that he remains the focus of his daughter’s attention, to the point of scuttling her every chance of a relationship.

The cranky father and his obsession with his bowel movements provide the comic relief but it is not until Irrfan joins them on a road trip, does Piku gets elevated as a movie.

The viewer who initially thinks of Piku as being unable to understand her father’s real intentions, finally realizes it is not her naivety after all.  Sitting on the banks of Benares, Piku makes a profound statement : “After a point of time, your parents are not alive, they have to be kept alive” !

Bingo !

It is this complex vortex of “duty vs. self-interest” that many of us can get into. There’s nothing in the movie to suggest that Piku has a ‘financial challenge’ but in real life, it may be so.

How “right” is it for parents to “demand” that their children take care of them, just as they took care in their growing years. And so the damning question : Is relationship finally a ‘quid-pro-quo’ ?

We may be loathe to admit so, especially as we are, a land of ‘Shravan Kumars’.  There are no easy answers though.

It would be naivety to assume that a ‘Piku’ is going to bring a drastic change in the relationship between parents and children, however, it should inspire the current generation to at least have a clear thinking about their ‘winter of life’.

If Indian families start becoming a little more open and if the parents of today can start planning their post-retirement life, especially financial security, it may really be the beginning of a matured approach to dealing with relationships.

Piku isn’t, contrary to what it claims, just about motion, it is more about resetting the laws of relationships.

Well done Shoojit Sircar.

The Time to Stamp Authority is Now !

One of the strongest planks on which Narendra Modi rode to power in 2014 elections was ‘Decisive Leadership’.

Apart from being no match to Modi in oratory, Manmohan Singh, especially in UPA II allowed himself to be portrayed as a timid and weak PM. And his infamous statement about “coalition pressure” completely negated the long held view that the cabinet exists and functions on the prerogative of the PM.

If not the first, but a very important moments of decisive leadership has arrived for PM Modi – Taming the right-wing nuisance.

I carefully choose the word “nuisance” but I strongly believe it is nothing more than that. History has shown that ‘right-wing extremism’ has found very little internal support from the followers of Hinduism. The structural model of Hinduism with it’s emphasis on a loosely coupled, non-aggrandizing nature means that it cannot sustain extremism nor can it aggressively proselytize. In terms of a ‘push-pull’ approach, no one can be “pushed” to being or becoming a Hindu but one can let himself be ‘pulled’ by the attraction of the ‘dharma of the world’ viz Sanatana Dharma.  It is this model that the right-wing rabble-rousers are trying hard to change.

The constitution of India protects the rights of every citizen to practice the religion of his/her choice and the freedom to propagate. This should naturally mean that campaigns such as ‘Ghar Wapsi’ are not inconsistent with the foundational law of the country. So what’s actually shocking the so-called seculars ?

What has caused the ‘secular brigade’ to spring into defensive mode is the fact that the right-wingers have begun giving back dose of the same medicine, albeit in the crudest possible way. It is a pity that this country doesn’t have (or has very little) right-wing platform that’s credible, informed and can argue on facts, not on emotion.

The right-wingers have proved to be highly impatient and have lost the plot on making the “illegal conversions” as the center-piece of the argument. The campaign was NEVER about conversions, it was all about “illegal, forced and fraudulent” conversions. But in the way they have gone about their campaign, they let themselves upstaged by the so-called secular crooks.

Church vandalism is just that – act of few vagabonds and thugs who can’t distinguish between a Virgin Mary or a Bloody Mary. Sexual attacks on nuns are extension of the social evil that has plagued the country, objectifying women.

But the clever manipulation of the ‘secular brigade’ has positioned these issues right at the door-step of the PM, conveniently forgetting the fact that “law and order” is a state subject.  I haven’t seen any condemnation of the Govt of WB which is blaming the right-wing brigade for these deplorable acts. No one has questioned them – if you know who did it, why don’t you just go and get them ?

The rousing defeat of the BJP in Delhi has added a huge fillip to the campaign against the party and the Govt. The right-wing which is often seen as an extension of the party hasn’t helped the cause of the Govt. with strange utterances on matters like the family size of hindus, absolutely counter-intuitive to the plank of development.

So what should the PM be doing ?

He made a decent comeback with his strong utterances in the Lok Sabha conveying his allegiance to the only “holy book” that he cares for – The Indian Constitution. However the malcontents in the right-wing are not taking the cue, which seem to be thinking that they can get away with anything, now that a “Hindu Govt.” is in place. This is the impression that Modi should strive to dispel and dispel very fast.

The moment some elements of the right-wing behave as a ‘first-among-equals’, Modi would begin to lose the plot.

I am a bit disappointed that PM Modi hasn’t done anything that’s different from what a Manmohan would have done – seek a report. A different and decisive leadership is what we voted for isn’t it ?

The following, in my view, would constitute decisive action from the PM :

  • Relieving the MHA from the responsibility of Delhi police and handing it over to the State Govt. With such a massive mandate, AAP has to prove why it can make Delhi more safer than any other. By clinging on to the responsibility of policing Delhi, Modi is letting his Govt. go more local.
  • Decisive discussion with RSS : RSS has to be told very firmly that they have to find better ways of raising genuine issues such as “illegal conversions”. The polemics against right-wing groups are determined by “how-something-is-said” rather than “what-is-said”. Someone like Modi with his superior oratory, must be aware of this critical factor.
  • Modi must make it amply clear to all his party MPs that Governance runs from 7, RCR and not from public platforms. So if they can’t say something sensible, they are better off not saying much at all.
  • If need be sack a few : On the coalition front, the going seems to be steady. So if Modi wants to send a tough message, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to show a few guys their political place. It wouldn’t, of course endanger his position or the Govt.
  • Setup an internal security review mechanism with State Govts to ensure that the law and order is not a problem that can be perennially “kicked upstairs” to the Union. The states have a significant role to play, and so they must.

On the political front, Modi would do well to articulate a ‘nuanced position’ of his Govt. with respect to “conversions”. The response must not be seen as a “Hindu response” but a response that seeks to protect the right of every faith and every faithful.

During the US presidential visit, Modi made no secret of his sartorial sense, changing into multiple hues in the course of the day. But the last thing that he’d want, is to be seen as someone who has changed his political hue.

If seeing is believing, acting is being decisive.

Modi’s victory : Lessons in Election Strategy

Very often when it comes down to learning strategy from others, it is the successful corporates that one thinks about. Though strategy plays a significant role in architecting electoral wins, they are more about demographical strategies like caste, linguistic, religion etc..

However in the massive mandate that Narendra Modi and the BJP have got in the General Elections of 2014, I believe there are significant lessons to be learnt on various elements of election strategy.

  1. Timing

Modi got the ‘timing’ right : Be it in getting himself anointed as the Prime Ministerial candidate or pacing of his campaign, he got it absolutely right.  When he got himself nominated as PM candidate, BJP’s partner for 17 years the JD(U) decided to snap the ties, which again, from a timing perspective worked in favour of the BJP.

  1. Use Differentiation to your advantage

‘Ab ki Baar, Modi  Sarkaar’ became such a great meme throughout the country. It can always be argued whether it is wise to “personalize a government” which is elected in a democratic process. BJP realized that the Brand Modi was more powerful than Brand BJP and despite criticisms’ and barbs, stuck with their decision. The majority that the party got on it’s own without allies is a result of the premium that they derived out of Brand Modi. At the end of the day, If you’ve got it, you’ve got to flaunt it.

  1. Invest right, Invest in the right people

There are several estimates on how much BJP spent in the campaign. While the extent of investment is not really known, an article that I read suggested that BJP had earmarked around Rs. 400 crores for their media campaign. They also signed on two major stalwarts of the advertising industry, Prasoon Joshi and Prahlad Kakkar, to design their media campaigns.

  1. Adapt to Technology

Modi used the 3D technology that he introduced in the Assembly elections to great effect. In the run up to the elections, the print media was full of campaign coverage, but nothing succeeds like “putting a face to the campaign”.  The illusion created by 3D, of hearing to Modi in person, went a long way in establishing a deeper and far-reaching connect with the electorate.

  1. Be Alert to Opportunities

Not even the person with the best of intentions for Modi could have predicted the faux pas of Mani Shankar Aiyer, the manner-less, senile veteran from Congress. So when MSA derisively mocked at the humble origins of Modi,  BJP was alert enough to swing it to their advantage. The “Chai pe charcha” was a smart, agile and an appropriate counter punch from which the congress couldn’t really recover.

  1. Strike where it hurts

It had become norm for BJP and other parties, even without a quid-pro-quo arrangement, to skip aggressive campaign in the bastions of the Gandhi family. Though the election of the Gandhi family was never in doubt, by campaigning in their bastion, Modi made it very clear that he’s challenging the ‘legacy’ and he shouldn’t be expected to show any favors.

  1. Display external flexibility but be rigid on the core

Modi kept reiterating that he’s open to aligning with any party. He may have been secretly confident of an independent majority for BJP, but he ensured that he’s not seen as the one who’s shutting the doors.  His willingness to accommodate new partners, proved to be an effective way to quell “internal discontent” within his party on the issue of “acceptability”. New partners were welcome only if they “accepted” Modi.

  1. Use crowd sourced support

Modi’s clever use of the surrogate support system in the form of Ramdev or Sri Sri Ravishankar was an excellent ploy to consolidate his vote bank.  A ‘free run’ to the surrogate group often helps.

  1. Be Stoic to constant criticism

Modi’s personality was such that he was a cult figure – loved or hated but never ignored.  His opponents may not have realized but the accusations against Modi had attained a level of “sameness” that any criticism, abuse was washed off like water on a duck’s back. Reacting to constant criticism would have meant providing new axe to grind. Modi’s stoic reaction to “same accusations” by different opponents punctured their arguments. They desperately wanted him to react and that’s exactly what Modi didn’t oblige.

10. Develop oratory

Be it the AK47-Antony-AK49 barb or the RSVP model snide remark, Modi outdid all his opponents on oratory skills. India’s demographic structure which uses Hindi as a link language across East to West worked to his advantage, but without the kind of oratory skills that Modi has, it wouldn’t mean much. Delivering comes later, but without talking, one wouldn’t get a good shot at the opportunity to Walk the Talk.

Modi’s elevation to the highest office of the land is a great testimony to clear strategy, thoughtful planning and precise execution. While his fortunes for the next election in 2019 may depend on his performance, I trust Modi and his team to strategize his repeat election 5 years from now.

IPL : Time to Reflect

If a name holds the key to understanding the priorities of an organization, BCCI, one must say couldn’t have got it more wrong.

First it seeks to operate as a corporate managing ‘board’ , next it seeks to ‘control’ whatever it can or rather wants to, after which it identifies itself with ‘cricket’ and finally the consumer base, that is ‘india’.

Though I don’t have privy to the actual working mechanics of the BCCI, I do believe that I may not be very far off the mark with my summarization of it’s working style.

The power of the BCCI does come from the fact that it operates in the biggest market in the world for cricket.  Post liberalization and especially after the growth of the IT service sector saw the emergence of an affluent Indian middle class with willingness to spend.

IPL was the offering to these affluent new-age middle class.  Though T20 originated in England mainly to cater to the needs of those who wanted an evening game of cricket but allowing them to go back at a decent time for the next workday, it was the ingenuity of the BCCI which productized the game as a customer offering.

With the system of ‘price discovery’ for the players through a free-market system, it was obvious that the league was talking big numbers.

With big numbers come big responsibility and big problems.

Sadly BCCI never recognized the challenges of keeping the league clean, reputations intact and intellectually honest. After all, it took the captive audience for granted.

It is a huge irony that the franchise who is the current leader in the table for ‘Fair Play’ must suffer the ignominy of sheltering alleged fixers. It just goes to prove that administering the game is far more difficult and a professional job rather playing the game.

When you are a player, you need to be the best for your own sake ; when you are the administrator of a game, you need to be the best for the game’s sake.

Any kind of punitive action against the players in custody is just a minuscule part of what should be happening next.  BCCI must self-introspect and evolve a mechanism to keep the league away from the reach of the manipulators.

At the end of the day, BCCI, as much as it may bask in the glory of it’s Balance Sheet, will still be guilty of failure if it cannot, despite being the richest body, keep the game clean.

For all those bashing the IPL and/or the BCCI, it isn’t the time : For I believe, despite all the over-the-top-glitz and glamour, IPL has been a good cricketing platform. It is a trifle sad that IPL hasn’t created an Indian Hero in all of these years, but IPL did contribute in letting the world know the prowess of Pollards, Watsons, Narines, offering a decent income stream for Rajat Bhatias and Ajit Agarkars and also providing the opportunity for many Indian players to share the same dressing room with legends of the game. The educational value of a Vijay sharing the dressing room with Hussey cannot be replaced by any number of coaching hours.

So without throwing the baby with the bathwater, it is time to think constructively on restoring the confidence in the IPL.

The BCCI must convince itself and the world that it is committed more to the beautiful game rather than laughing it’s way to the Bank.

Changing it’s name to something like Cricket India, however semantically inconsequential to the actual problems, may be a good starting point.

The 4Ps of Sanjay Dutt’s case

The foundation of a good marketing ploy, as any marketing pundit would say lies in the 4Ps – Product, Price, Place and Promotion. It seems that those campaigning hard for Sanjay Dutt have to also align with a 4P strategy which of course would mean – Parity, Partiality, Precedence and Probity.

While the last word hasn’t yet been said on this issue, with Dutt himself trying to distance himself from the attempts to seek pardon, it is very clear that the issue does result in a polarizing debate.

Without getting into the merits of the case for pardon or for that matter without getting into any legal technicalities, it should be clear to anyone that similar crimes cannot have dissimilar consequences.  Those who have to make a decision on Sanjay’s case must first evaluate the demand from the crucial perspective of parity.

A good measure of whether India is a ‘super-power-in-the-making’ does not depend on our military might but rather how equitable a nation we are. For years, brazen disregard for equality in favour of those rich, powerful and famous, in no particular order was part of our social structure. But the India of today is not the India of 80s. This is a new India in the making which does not take high-handedness lying down. The second principle that needs to be applied in the case of Sanjay is one of partiality. There is no case for a preferential treatment merely on the ground of his popularity or his father’s popularity, surely a lame duck explanation it would be.

Most members of film industry often point to how sanjay has suffered those ‘long years’ as if it was a penance that he was serving. The long process of law certainly cannot make a case for a lenient view on conviction because the complexities of the case were such that Sanjay couldn’t be dealt with an open-and-shut process. The longevity of a case, if taken into account to press for a pardon and/or a lenient view would set a very dangerous precedence in our justice system. Complex cases which require a certain time frame for effective dispensation of justice would then become an automatic redemption route even for hardened criminals which is not in the best interests of the society

To me the most important and clinching factor in deciding Sanjay’s case is one of probity. The additional sentence is not going to be easy for him but does he have to go through the same fate as someone who gets released after incarceration for a period of time ?  Is Sanjay Dutt’s social approval going to be any less or would he have to restart his life from scratch?  Certainly he is not going to have air conditioned comforts, fine dining or social meets during his tenure in jail but he is not going to miss them for ever either. To me it seems that the principle of probity would require comparing the certainity of  Sanjay’s post-sentence lifestyle with someone who walks out from prison with an uncertain future and a huge social stigma.

It would be very interesting to see how the powers that be go about deciding on Sanjay’s case but it is very clear that his friends make out a better case rather than relying purely on emotional appeal. Certainly the India of today wouldn’t believe that Sanjay was just a munna who didn’t know that he was dealing with the bhais of the underworld.

Random Thoughts

Forced to use public transport yesterday, I had this sudden brainwave that  city buses have such symbolic importance in transforming our country, albeit momentarily, into a true socialist republic. Oblivious to all those high-powered, Armani suit clad, Harvard B-School educated investment bankers and unmindful of all kinds of valuation models – Asset Based, DCF, P/E based – commuters in my bus were happily buying Banks and Corporations.

‘Saar Ondu Sony’ (One ticket to Sony Center Bus stop)

‘Iredu Canara Bank kodi’ (Two tickets to Canara Bank Koramangala Branch Bus stop).

India, where we live in modicum of everything – governance, justice, propriety, democracy – wonder whether the Communists should be happy with the level pegging that typifies our city bus services


The bus travel also clearly proved to me the “real place of a man” in a household. Lest friends think that i am too much into eavesdropping, the conversation between two women, was so loud that it couldnt escape anyone.

So, here is the conversation between 2 women in the bus, apparently school buddies, meeting after a long time.

First Woman (FW) : ‘Hey <Name not clear>…How are you ?’

Second Woman (SW) :’I am well, How are you’

FW : Doing good

SW : So you are back to Bangalore (presumably FW was Onsite !)

FW : Yeah

SW : Now you are with ?

FW : Yahoo

SW : You are at the same place ?

FW : <smiles, a bit embarassed ?, I wouldnt know>, y-e-a-h

SW : Such a big house for the 2 of you ?

FW : But, you know, I have a dog !

Me : No comments !!!!!!!!

The ceiling of cobweb


Returning home in the office cab may not be the best time to engage in kind of political discourse but the temptation to eavesdrop into a conversation is irresistible for most.  The temptation is further accentuated when the conversation is in a language that you understand but the fact isn’t known to many, giving a near horny pleasure of the right kind.

The co-travelers in my journey back home were from the land of freebies, Tamil Nadu. Naturally the political conversation centered on the change of guard and the ramifications. While I was almost contemplating to stop eavesdropping to take a small nap, a comment, certainly loose cannon, made me abandon all thoughts of sleep and forced me into some reflective thinking – the result, a post after a long time.

It is part of the political culture of Tamil nadu that whoever comes back to power overthrowing the incumbent often cancels the schemes of the previous regime. One is entitled to criticize this and even brand it political vendetta or naivety depending on the individuals political dispensation but the gentleman who was discussing it called it the “function of the fickle woman’s mind”, as broad-brushed a comment as one can ever imagine.

I started wondering as to whether one would be inclined to comment upon Karunanidhi, for instance, as a “fickle minded man” if he chooses to cancel “Amma’s” schemes. And in fact he had done so previously in the round-robin political fortunes of the two major political forces in Tamil Nadu.

So how does one explain the blatantly condescending attitude towards women in politics? Why does one feel emboldened to drag “gender” into what should essentially be a debate of policies. Ideally the debate should be based on facts ;  The ‘impromptu panel’ in the backseats of the cab was most economical with the facts not because they wanted to be so, but they may not have the sources for the facts. While I don’t hold that against them, the debate can still, I feel, be based on ‘political affiliations’ in the worst case but   I was appalled to find it based on a misplaced gender chauvinism.

I have often heard about the existence of a “glass ceiling” for women in the corporate world. Despite the stupendous success of Indra Nooyi, Chanda Kochar, Naina Lal Kidwai to name a few, Corporate India doesn’t have too many examples of women who have broken through the ‘glass ceiling’. But I think and continue to believe that the glass ceiling is creaking if not cracking and women are going through the invisible channel.

Outside the corporate world, the scenario continues to be bleak.

In general,  Indian women are either gloriously glamorized as incarnation of Devi or content being arm candies or door mats of the Ekta Kapoor variety. It explains as to why the number of women who exhibit any kind of interest in joining politics or mainstream is very few.

The comment coming as it does at a time when 30% of Indian population is led by Chief Ministers who are women is deeply reflective of the impoverished state of the Indian thinking, more specifically the Indian male mindset.

By no means am I making a case for Indian men to be less critical of Maya, Mamta or Amma or the Queen Bee Sonia but can we be more legitimate in the criticism than give vent to gender biases ?

A politician is bad for bad policies, graft, mismanagement, lack of ability and so on, but not, for chrissake, for being a woman.

Comments such as the one I overheard make me really wonder whether “political reservation” for women is really the way forward.

Whether one accepts them or not, I am of the view that the political prowess of women has reached a tipping point, waiting to be unleashed. It would certainly be important for men to evaluate them on the basis of their performance or otherwise, certainly not on their gender.

The time has come for the Indian male mindset to clear it’s mental cobwebs about women in politics. Because today’s woman has no patience for such mental cobwebs precluding them for being equal partners in the cause of nation building or joining the loot. Either way.


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