January 19, 2008

We the Bloggers

Last Sunday, on ‘We the People’ (NDTV) the topic of debate was – Should blogs be regulated? My immediate reaction was - What sort of question is that?! Despite the absolutely senseless topic, I dutifully watched the entire debate - thought it was my responsibility as a blogger to do so :P

On the panel were people behind some popular blogs:

Compulsive Confessor
Emancipation of the Eve
Sour Apple Martini

To my surprise, the debate was highly disappointing. I thought it was meant to take blogging seriously. On the contrary, it displayed a very shallow understanding about this whole new means of expression. Add to it the many digressions it succumbed to only to return to the topic towards the end of the show.

Imagine this: Barkha Dutt reads some shocking lines from a post where the blogger talks about his sexual orientation and returns to him to ask ‘Do your parents read your blog?’ Excuse me? Is it some kind of exercise where your parents’ permission is mandatory?

The show was full of contradictions and superficial knowledge about blogs. A teenager proudly announced that he considered it to be a cheap stunt and his classmates had started blogging to get famous overnight! Sigh. He still hasn’t seen anything beyond Orkut.

Thankfully, towards the end the segment on the good and bad about blogs managed to pull out some decent threads. Again, nothing new was spelt out but it encouraged some discussion. Mr. Jagdish, a journalist who maintains a Hindi blog asserted that blogging has revived a new way of writing. Now you don’t have to wait for a newspaper or a publisher to print your stories. Add to it the instant responses! (I told you, nothing new!)

Barkha’s personal experience of an anonymous post holding her responsible for the death of 4 soldiers during the Kargil war led her to believe that though blogs offer freedom and eloquence, they lack accountability. This, in turn raised a question (which apparently was the original topic of the debate) “should blogs be subjected to some level of regulation?”

Towards the end of the show I felt it was a complete waste of time. I wish the NDTV team had done some decent research to know that not all blogs are ‘personal blogs’. Comments like they are a threat to the ‘indian culture’ and a mere way to get ‘cheap thrills’; picking up writers of only personal blogs as panelists; Barkha's superficial knowledge about the subject and the dearth of audience participation marred an otherwise potent topic of discussion. Nothing new was articulated, no conclusions were made. It was an utter disappointment, except for the fact that it became this post’s raison d’etre.

January 15, 2008

Cut-throat competition – literally!

Uttarayan – the kite flying festival was celebrated with much gusto during the last two days here in Gujarat. Colourful kites, loud music and voices screaming ‘kaypo che’ and ‘lapet’ filled the air. Relatives visited each other, friends indulged in some fruitful bird-watching on the terraces and undhiyon-fafda-jalebi was the obvious menu in every household. The tanned faces, bruised fingers and sore throats of every second person I met were a telling tale of the fun-filled day spent on the terrace.

But today is a different story all together. The colourful kites that adorned the skies are now seen entangled in the branches of every tree and electrical wire that comes to sight. The dangerous glass coated threads (manja) that became the reason of much jubilation and many frustrations until yesterday now lie on the roads, clinging to every vehicle and passer-by in its way. And I haven’t even spelt out the worst that could have happened – something I feared the most.

The headline reads that a man lost his life after a Chinese thread (apparently with more glass powder) slit his throat while he was driving on his two-wheeler. Seven other people lost their lives while chasing kites and two toppled off the terrace. More than 500 birds were injured and 90 lost their lives during these two days - some of which include the most endangered species.

I cannot help but think, are these celebrations even worth it? Why don’t people understand that their moments of joy could cost someone his life? It degrades the very essence with which such festivals were started in the first place. And Uttarayan is not the only festival to be blamed here. In every festival - be it Holi or Diwali – the nuisance overrules the celebrations. Chemical colours burn the skin; black smoke chokes the air – but we wouldn’t stop celebrating such festivals. Afterall, they are a part of our tradition, isn’t it? Think again. Do we still have to continue like this? Can we not think of better ways of celebrating these festivals in its true spirit?

January 07, 2008

Ad-dicted – The best ads of 2007

From typical saas-bahu soaps to typical reality shows - television programming is getting more and more stereo‘typical’…

Little wonder, there are only 2 things I watch with full devotion on TV – the amazing shows on Travel and Living and advertisements.

2007 I believe has been one of the good years for ad agencies owing to some major changes in marketing strategies, mergers and launch of some great brands. The following are some of my favourite ads that were showcased in 2007:

(Follow the link to watch the ad)

Happydent – Hats off to Prasoon Joshi – the man behind the 100 watts smile. What does he eat? I mean, who would have thought of such huge sets, never-seen-before idea and a crazy execution for a mere chewing gum? Little wonder, all the ad functions went gaga over this ad. It surely deserved it.

Bingo – Bingo marked a new trend in advertising – something that we’d never seen before. A clip which started as a tele-shopping ad for glad bangles gets weirdly associated to Bingo’s combination of mad angles! Stupid? Creative? Whatever people say, the fact is that you remember the ad because of its craziness. No confusion, great combination indeed.

Airtel – The brand moves from its “express yourself” tagline and goes deeper with a new thought, ‘Barriers break when people talk’. The original idea was to set the ad at the Wagah Border, and get Indian and Pakistani soldiers to start a football game together. But later, it was changed to make the appeal much more universal. The result – Airtel breaks the clutter and once again becomes one of the most recalled brands.

Vodafone– Hutch becomes Vodafone and the ads just get better. No dialogues, just some background music, great performances and gripping visuals. You’d leave anything aside to watch these ads one more time. I especially love the elevator ad where the poor chap waits the entire day to meet his soulmate and finally meets her. The song ‘take me away’ was especially made for the ad! Loved it.

Lee- This one’s Lee’s first television ad in India and what a success! Denims get a sensuous look and the song ‘I want to touch you’ does the magic. This one was made by a 6 month old ad agency from Bangalore called ‘Happy’ and here too the song was especially made for this ad.

Madhya Pradesh Tourism –Jheel dekho, taad dekho, sher ki dahaad dekho, aankhein neeche neeche dekho, aankhein phaad phaad dekho...
I wish I make something as lovely as this someday. The addictive music, the perfectly rhyming list of sentences, the tamasha treatment – you are sure to enjoy this ad everytime you watch it.

I’m sure there are many more ads but these are the ones that come to my mind instantly. While the world cribs about increased airtime to ads, I would say they are probably the only creative spots we are left with on Indian television today. And I strongly believe there should be a channel completely dedicated to ads so that soaps and reality shows do not spoil the fun of appreciating creativity at its best. What say :)

January 02, 2008

First post of 2008!

Couldn’t think of a better way of welcoming the New Year on this blog than posting one of my favourite poems…

Sitaron se aage jahan aur bhi hain
Abhi ishq ke imtehan aur bhi hain
Tahi zindagi se nahin ye fizayen
Yahan siakdon karwaan aur bhi hain
Khana’at na kar aalam-e-rang-o-bu par
Chaman aur bhi aashiyaan aur bhi hain
Agar kho gaya ek nasheman to kya ghum
Maqmat-e-aah-o-fughaan aur bhi hain
Tu shaheen hai parvwaaz hai kaam tera
Tere saamne aasmaan aur bhi hain
Isi roz-o-shab main ulajh kar na rah ja
Ke tere zameen par makaan aur bhi hain
Gaye din ke tanha tha main anjuman mein
Yahaan ab mere raazdaan aur bhi hain

Beyond the stars there are worlds more
Our quest yet has more tests to pass
This existence alone does not matter
There are boundless journeys more
Do not rest on what you have
There are paradises more to explore
Why worry if you have lost one abode
There are a million addresses to claim
You are the falcon, your passion is flight
And you have skies more to transcend
Lose not yourself in the cycle of days and nights
Within your reach are feats even more
Gone is the day when I was lonesome in the crowd
Today those who resonate my thoughts are more

Mohammed Iqbal
Naujawaan ke Naam, Bal-e-Jibraeel, 1908