Wednesday, November 30, 2011

FDI - Bring it on

FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) is about to be allowed in the retail sector in India. If the proposed bill is passed, FDI is to be allowed – with 100% for single brand and a 49% ceiling in multi brand outlets. There are wholesale protests from several political parties against it , but the Prime Minister is firm in his stand. Various reasons against the policy are being bandied around, but this reform has long been overdue. Besides, competition in a market economy is important and so are fresh funds and regular funds. What is there to be circumspect about, to be worried about? There was similar resistance in 1991 too, but we now know how the view was short sighted.

Yes, intense competition may kill local brands. But that’s only because they are uncompetitive. Sure, Bajaj scooters’ sales plummeted, but they re-invented and now they export their Pulsar bikes to Latin America.

Coca-Cola couldn’t kill ThumsUp and had to buy it out and it is still Coke’s best selling product in Indian even today. McDonald’s could not kill the Chholey Bhaturey wala and dhabas still give KFC a hiding when it comes to flavor and pricing. So there !

The competition may lead to better supply chain management and lesser goods will rot in government godowns or worse still- in the open.

The farmer will earn more, the consumer will benefit with more options. Only the middle men will get eliminated. What is wrong in that? ITC is already doing that with its ITC Choupal stores in rural India.

Local grocery stores buy from supermarkets and sell with marginal gains in their shops, which are in closer proximity to you .Convenience, home delivery and monthly credits are added benefits. Don’t worry about him. He will innovate and survive.

And what is this running scared of Walmart. It has failed and shut shop earlier in Germany, Indonesia and Argentina.

Besides there are better retailers like Tesco, Carrefour, Sainsbury’s and Metro. And these all will run with a 51-49% partnership with an Indian company.

Brands come to India because of the numbers. If they can’t cope, they will scamper to other countries that they can plant their stores in .

There are a string of conditions that have to be followed- sample this. 50 % FDI investment in cold storage and warehousing. 30% manufacturing to be sourced from local producers and supermarkets can come up only in cities with more than 1 million population.

Call it AgarWalmart, KhandelWalmart, SabharWalmart, MalamaalMart…but please give better prices to consumer and farmer- Pankaj Pachauri, NDTV

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rookie F1 fans

F1 is getting really popular in India and is a bonafide ‘must-be-seen-there’ showpiece event. But then when has F1 has not been glamorous. Fast cars, machinery, grid-girls, money, attractive locales, brands and business in a weekend of action.
As a new event on the F1 calendar, The Grand Prix of India was a huge success and media played up the event and maintained the hype .India always had latent support for F1 although it was restricted to the metros and other A1 cities like Bangalore, Hyderabad and Pune.

That F1 will take off in India is a great thing ! But in it is a set of people who are new and recent converts and fans of F1. And some of these are real snobs and won’t learn a sport that is new to them with humility. They act pompous. That is where humour can be found.
Some pointers of recent F1 fans, rookie smart-ass F1 fans.
  • Success breeds popularity, so most of them love RedBull. And by extension Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber that order. Mark being the sympathetic favourite, Sebastian the obvious one.
  • They are RedBull fans and don’t know the genius that is Adrian Newey.
  • They tried their level best for ticket of F1 party to see Metallica (hahaha) and Lady Gaga, but will return and say that the race was the best noise they ever heard.
  • They don’t find Hamilton-Massa duels funny, its wheel to wheel action for them. Serious stuff, high octane crash and bang.

  • They will say Aryton Senna was the best ever. Why? Because they heard Michael Schumacher say so. And who the heck is this Alain Prost?
  • After this they watch Asif Kapadia’s documentary Senna ..and get back to you and say “Prost is a prick”.
  • Ask them about DRS and they will say – the Decision Review System is not 100% reliable yet .The Hotspot doesn’t work in the cold English weather. Oh! DRS is Drag Reduction System as well? Is that why there is that movable rear wing ? Shoot :X

  • Their favourite McLaren driver depends on whether they like Nicole Scherzinger or Jessica Michibata..
  • If you mention the Brazilian GP has an anti-clockwise circuit, they might think it is because of the time-zone ,Southern hemisphere and the time differential.

  • They often pronounce Renault as r-e-n-a-u-l-t and not Ren-o, although they know that the Pirelli tyres are filled with Nitrogen and the car's body is of carbon fibre.
  • A naive guy may ask innocently – do these cars have keys?
  • Before long, RedBull was an energy drink, Lotus was a flower, pit was spelt Pitt and came with Brad, F1 was help, F2 rename, F5 slideshow.
  • They cram up every circuit name and its location to sound knowledgeable.Make mental notes
Singapore – night race
Abu Dhabi – twilight race
Monaco- glamour street race
 Montréal - island race
Now repeat...
  • They don’t get the Kinky Kylie reference to RB7, instead think of this this Agent Provocateur ad of Kylie Minogue.

  • Sebastian Vettel’s car is called Kinky Kylie, something that every driver wants to ride on. See below.

  • Others support Ferrari because they like history and also like being miserable ( these are also Arsenal fans)
  • Will start playing the fantasy F1 league, buy merchandise from Puma outlets,follow F1 twitter feeds of Scuderia Ferrari, Steve Slater and Martin Brundle
  • The most fun is through reverse snobbery (i.e. if you yourself are mature F1 fan) to let them explain some technicalities like rear wing or downforce and then ask with a poker face “So what is the mileage of an F1 car?” If they know they will reply condescendingly (oh what fun), if they do not, just say, I will ask someone else and walk away.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Deconstructing a flashback

This is my reading of the flashback sequence of Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!. A story based on the real life notorious thief famously called SuperChor Bunty – Bunty the thief.

This is Lavinder Singh Lucky . Age 31 years
And this is Lucky aged 15 .

That is how the story of Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! goes into its flashback. What makes it out of the ordinary, is the immense detailing of the characters, dialogues and locations. The time period, although not specified can be deduced by Lucky’s age. It is designed to resemble the late 80s and early 90s in Delhi.

The film opens with Lucky, the protagonist in police custody and about to be presented before the waiting media that is getting increasingly impatient for a tasty news nugget. The accompanying Crime Show on TV called ‘Criminal’ enlists the theft list of Lucky over a period with an estimated value of 7 crore. This immediately raises the curiosity of the audience as to how can a thief be so prolific. It is quite like the Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks starrer Catch Me If You Can, where the character’s reputation precedes his action, which in turn is shown afterwards. While the films are distinctly apart, the narrative technique to create intrigue is the same. Tell the audience – this is what he did and the audience will wonder back – how the hell can a person do such audacious things?

If a film manages that, Bang ! It has the audience interested and ready for the story. A good beginning is crucial.Watch the first 15 minutes here. This includes the opening credits.
The flashback in Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye! is more about the evolving character that is Lucky. There is no single event or cause of him becoming a thief. Lucky, being a boy from the lower middle class craves for wealth that his socio-economic status can’t help him achieve that easily, what with his municipal school education. That he knows that English is important is shown in the greeting card sequence where he asks the hockey playing schoolboy about greeting cards and girls’ affinity for it. And that he is terrible at English is shown in the same scene when his friends mock him by asking 'can he speak English'. Lucky being the overtly confident young guy answers “why not” in a thick Punjabi accent.

Lack of an elite education is also not an excuse to become a crook, for Lucky’s elder brother is shown to be honest, hard working and studious. The family is conflicted and disoriented. A demure mother who is unable to even convince her youngest son to gulp down a glass of milk and a loud bossy father, who knows that Lucky is more street smart than himself.Lucky’s inventiveness and smooth talking is both an acquired aspect as also a positive that he polishes and practices daily to be what he is. A suave talker with ample charm that is not completely independent of his crass street lingo and which has its roots in his growing up environment .

Lucky’s attitude is seen in the way he stands in for a word of words with his father or the way he twirls his kada (bracelet) on his fingers. He is an opportunist and a manipulator who tries to butter up his father for a bike and his equally sinister father nods along to the idea to get Lucky into a trance of fulfillment of expectation only to shouted back to reality making him flee the house with his friends to yet another of his shenanigans. Lucky is also aware that a ruffian’s life is not safe. They witness one of his friends being killed for unspecified purposes by a couple of thugs. That is probably the reason why he stuck with Bangali as his partner in petty crimes and minor thefts until he hit the big league.
I found mild inconsistency in the heavily overpriced food rates in New Amar restaurant that Lucky takes the girl to and that the bill amount was different to the amount he told his friends at the garage that he paid at the restaurant. That apart, there is admirable detailing. Where banners show old hand painted film posters and sugar is sold @ Re. 1 /kg, there are Bajaj scooters on the roads and messy illegal electricity wires running over narrow lanes.
In the scene set in Lucky’s house, ‘Street Dancer’, a popular song in the late 80s of composer Bappi Lahiri picturised on Mithun Chakravarty is playing on the tape recorder. The car seating rich school students has the number plate – DIL 1000 and the background track is ‘Tu Raja Ki Raaj Dulaari’. Translated which means ‘ you are the princess and I am the poor pauper of the streets’. That subtly indicates the arousing aspiration of a life of cars, girls and money.

The production and costume designer’s work is worth a mention to bring the authenticity of it.The transition to Lucky’s present is through a series of faded photographs with rounded edges that establishes both the passage of time and the friendship between him and Bangali.

What is appreciable is that Dibakar Banerjee and Urmi Javekar’s screenplay focuses on the claustrophobia that the protagonist Lucky feels in a Delhi ghetto in his growing years. The only way out of it is by getting rich and hence he steals without apology or remorse. He wants to escape his native culture which he finds stifling and regressive by embracing the consumer culture. He is an anti-thesis of a male Punjabi lead. He wants nothing to do with the traditions and functions, but then the same ostentatious parties are where he gets to steal expensive Mercedes cars.

The reason it is such an effective flashback is that it is driven by both circumstances and characters. As for why Lucky was a turbaned Sikh and now has shorter hair... well doesn't a thief need to have guises and be sleighty ? The intelligent audience can figure that out.