Saturday, May 24, 2014

Successful Repetition – Yash Chopra Style

We love Bollywood. We love our actors and directors. We indulge them, criticize them but still love them. One of the points that I repeatedly hear is that our people are not experimental enough.

Creative people are expected to experiment with their styles and try to be different. Repetition is a big no no for creative people and SRK is flogged for repeating himself in his movies. But apart from theory, is this really true in real life?

Not exactly. Look at the life and works of Mr Yash Chopra – undoubtedly one of the most successful and creative brains of Bollywood who single headedly built one of the most successful production houses in India. Most of the movies that he directed had the same theme – one hero and two heroines – with slight variations in the plot. I am in no way questioning the creative genius or the talent of the man – the point here is that if something is successful then one should not tinker too much with it.

Movie Name
Year of Release
Main Cast
Mala Sinha, Shashi Kapoor, Ashok Kumar
Sharmila Tagore, Rajesh Khanna, Raakhee
Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman, Raakhee, Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Singh
Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar, Shashi Kapoor
Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Shatrughan Sinha, Raakhee, Parveen Babi
Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Sanjeev Kumar, Rekha
Sunil Dutt, Rekha, Farooq Sheikh, Deepti Naval
Rajesh Khanna, Hema Malini, Rishi Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, Meenakshi Sheshadri
Sridevi, Rishi Kapoor, Vinod Khanna
Sridevi, Anil Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman
Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Sunil Dutt, Vinod Khanna
Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit, Karishma Kapoor
Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Rani Mukherjee
Shah Rukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma

Other directors have also done well to stick to their genre – Karan Johar to Romance, David Dhawan to comedy, Rohit Shetty to comedy/action, Farha Khan to light hearted movies, Raju Hirani to light movies with a social message – maybe it helps for the audience to be aware of what to expect when they go and see a movie by a particular house or director. Same is true for heroes and some supporting actors as well, what we call their “signature styles” Even sportsmen have their signature styles.

Typecast may be a point of criticism but it definitely leads you to success. If you are very successful it also inspires duplicates to copy you. Repetition is only looked down upon in the creative field, in other fields it adds to your experience – the more surgeries a surgeon performs the better he gets at it – no one asks them – so you are a good heart surgeon, but how many knee replacements have you done? No one asks Zakir Hussian – so you play the tabla well but why havent you tried the flute? Then why the obsession to see our actors and directors play different roles all the time? I haven’t found the answer yet – maybe the readers can.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Beyond the numbers - observations from Elections 2014

The dust has now settled and a historic mandate delivered. Enough has been written on the magnitude of the mandate, as it should be given the unexpected results.

Let us look at the key takeaways from the campaigns of the three main parties in these elections -

From the BJP -

Well begun is half done –
The party was down and out after two consecutive defeats in 2004 (hey have no idea why they lost the election) and 2009. They began early by backing their best candidate and the campaign started in earnest a year ago. That gave them a huge head start which became impossible for the others to beat.

Full backing of the party machinery –
Once they selected their head of campaign and the PM candidate the full party backed him whole heartedly. Dissenters were put in their respective places (Sushma and Advani). Others who did not fall into place were expelled (Jaswant). No emotional drama, no nonsense’s. Everyone else automatically fell in line.

Get likeminded people together –
While the religious leaders of the Muslim community have been openly wooed by various political parties, till now Hindu religious leaders were only met behind closed doors so that political parties remained “secular”. For the first time people like Baba Ramdev, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar openly backed NaMo. This “we have nothing to hide” policy paid rich dividends for the BJP especially in the Hindi heartland.

Longest ever poll season –
The longest ever poll season (9 phases – 7th Apr to 12th May) gave enough time to the one man army (NaMo) to travel to practically all the constituencies and campaign to gather support. Congress was hoping that Modi’s campaign will peak out in the long season, not realising that it will go from strength to strength.

Hard work with smart work is an unbeatable combination –
There is no doubt about the hard work that NaMo put into this campaign. He also worked smart with a great team backing him. The results are for everyone to see.

Get your best people in the most problematic areas –
BJP was down and out in UP. They sent Amit Shah there to set things right. What he has delivered is unbelievable – he was an outsider there and he got the best mandate ever for his party from a state that is as complicated as the Duckworth Lewis method. On a lighter note, he can make the BJP win in Pakistan if he were to go and spend a year there!! Then the BJP will become an international party!!

Ignore the noise –
In the start of the campaign there was a lot of noise from the media, intellectuals and a section of the BJP clamouring for an aggressive stance to counter the AAP. Modi believed in his message and ignored the noise choosing not to get drawn into the negative agenda of the AAP.

The product has to be good –
His opponents tore into his “Gujarat model”. Anarchists went on a whirlwind tour of his state to immediately declare that there was “no development” in the state. Dynasty came up with baloon model, toffee model and what not. Ultimately the truth prevailed.

If you want it badly enough – it will come to you –
I called NaMo “destiny’s child” in my earlier blog.
The stars aligned for him to become the PM of our country. Look at the way things fell into place – political vacuum in the BJP, his 12 years of delivery as the Gujarat CM, massive corruption and resentment against the UPA, longest ever election phases, BJP gaining the momentum by winning key states over the last 2 years, the opposition ignoring the writing on the wall out of their arrogance, Social media becoming a force multiplier, none of the regional parties thinking big – it all beautifully came together for NaMo and for us.

Get the opposition to play on your pitch –
The whole campaign was “positive” in approach. “Acche Din Aane Wale Hain” was the mantra. The entire political discourse was cantered against NaMo – he dictated the tone of the campaign and he kept it positive till the end. His opponents helped him by talking only about him in their campaign instead of talking about what they stand for and will deliver.

Note of caution –
NaMo is assuming power at a time when the expectations from him are running high. He is mindful of the huge responsibility that he has taken and will deliver. As his well wishers we should be mindful of our expectations.

Congress –

Numbers are no match for quality –
Three members of the dynasty were no match for the one man army. Although I have not done the numbers, I am sure that NaMo addressed more campaign rallies alone than the three dynasty members combined.

Learn from your mistakes –
The “zeher ki kheti” and “maut ka saudagar” had failed 4 times earlier. You still choose to stick to that. Blunder blunder. Rahul had failed miserably earlier. What do you do – instead of being despatched to the wilderness he comes on the centre stage. Either it is foolhardiness or just plain stupidity.

Be accessible, be humble –
The dynasty is never accessible except to the few who derive their power from their access to the clan. The dynasty also believes in their god given right to “rule” this country. My limited point – be more accessible, build your credentials by participating in governance and above all, be humble.


Know your limits –
They contested 424 lok sabha seats. How many did the BJP and Congress contest – 427 and 462 respectively. I rest my case.

Stick to your strengths –
The DNA of the party was “anti corruption” but they were seen as fighting only the BJP and being soft on Congress. Did not work.

Pick up your candidates well –
They did well in Punjab as a result of picking up very good candidates and the public resentment against the Akalis. If the parties can create a scientific way of picking up good candidates then the elections in the future will become very interesting.

Respect the electorate –
We Indians are easily swayed. But we are also unforgiving if taken for a ride. By running away from Delhi and then justifying the same you insulted the very people that brought you into power. Unpardonable.

Be long term greedy, not short term opportunist –
Like everything else in life, politics is for the long term. Mr Vajpayee contested the first ever elections in 1957 and became the PM only in 1996 (for 13 days, returning back in 1999 to become the first non Congress PM to last  full 5 year term) – nurturing his vision and the party for 40 long years. Same for Congress which was built with a lot of toil. Do not take short cuts – they will lead you nowhere in the long term.

Now that the good days are here let us hope that India achieves her destiny in the same way as NaMo has achieved his.