Saturday, December 26, 2009

Rocket Singh

It's refreshing to see a Bollywood film that breaks the stereotype and goes for something new. And if that something is not a love story but instead a slice and dice of real life, what more can you expect? Enter Rocket Singh, my second most favourite movie of 2009 after the eternal masterpiece Dev.D. (I haven't yet seen 3 Idiots yet....)

This is a simple story about a young graduate who enters the cutthroat sales and marketing industry of personal computers. He soon finds out that it's not a perfect life out there where you go in the morning, do your job honestly, get your paycheck, come home, watch TV, have dinner and go to sleep. Clearly, honesty has little prominence here where sales means more about pushing the product and less about service. Forget after-sales service. A chance encounter with a corrupt customer who insists on a cut for procuring a large computer order for his company forces our young Rocket (Ranbir Kapoor) to look inwards and embark on a tough, yet spirited journey to lay his ground rules and play the game his way. Go and watch if he succeeds in his mission.

Rocket Singh is a terrific film that tells us a practical story. In a country like India, where the sales person- and never the customer- is the King, you'll identify with Rocket if you're a customer, you'll also identify with him if you're into marketing or sales of a corporate. Extra smart (and mighty arrogant SOBs) bosses that shower their staff with the choicest of abuses- not just in private but shamelessly in front of the entire department- and push them to the wall, unachievable sales targets, crook managers that demand a cut of the cheque of which he is responsible to procure the best quality products for the firm that pays him salary (legally) to struggles and sometimes humiliation that honest people have to face in a competitive dog-eat-dog world, Rocket Singh has it all.

The film is not preachy. It's fast paced and crisp and there are no songs to interrupt the narrative. The background score is ideal and the story unfolds in a way its believable. I didn't quite like the climax; I kinda felt it was stretched and a little too idealistic, but it never ceases to be an inspiration, so these are minor quirks in an otherwise good script. Supporting performances, especially from D. Santosh- the porn-surfing, computer maintenance guy- to Gauhar Khan- the fiery receptionist- are great. Ranbir Kapoor has clearly emerged as one of Indian commercial cinema's finest actors. He plays his part sincerely and turns in one of 2009's finest, yet subdued, performance. From showing his angst to his grandfather who breaks his own provident fund to buy him a scooter he detests, to being shocked and awed when his boss turns the tables on him despite having done nothing wrong, to going about his own business, Kapoor brings dollops of dignity and lends a soul to make Harpreet Singh Bedi (the character he portrays) a likable sardar and never ones makes it a caricature like some of his industry counterparts have done over the years. You could say this performance is a slap on the face of all those sardar jokes that have been internet favourites.

You should go and watch Rocket Singh.

K-Rate: * * * * * 

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Jingle Bells at NCPA

It's supposed to be an annual event, but somehow I was blissfully unaware. I will now mark my calender every December for this Christmas carol singing extravaganza that I went to yesterday. The venue was NCPA, Nariman Point, Mumbai. Some five-odd choirs sang beautiful Christmas carols over two hours and enthralled the audience. There are few sounds in the world that are more soothing than carols. The music comes from the heart, has a lot of faith and touches your chords. And when professionally trained carol singers take the stage, expect magic, expect entertainment and expect a lot of happiness.

The carols were sung mostly in English but had an occasional Hindi and Malayalam carol in it. Some choirs even had tablas also in them, especially the Hindi and Malayalam. I do not understand head or tail of Malayalam; it's Greek and Latin for me. But I have always believed; it doesn't matter which language the song is sung, if you can touch you, if you feel music in your heart, the job's done.

One of the best places to listen to carols is in a church early morning when it's almost empty and this choir group is practicing near the alter. The church is empty with an occasional soul moving here or there, it's serene and peaceful and you take your place quietly, close your eyes and listen to kids, boys and girls humming beautiful somethings that may not make much sense if you aren't musically- or rather carol musically- inclined, but they sound soulful. You sit, spend time, don't talk, be quiet, say your prayers and then leave.

But a church is far off for me; NCPA is fine if i get to hear something like yesterday's.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Going to a Sarkaari PC

As a journalist, I get to go to many press conferences (PC). But I find the sarkari ones the most amusing. I went to one such PC the past week. Here's what happened.

As against in a typical 5-star hotel banquet room, this one was held in an auditorium. There were many visitors, but hardly any journalists. Or so it seemed. So many guests There was a large stage where the dais was there and as typical as a government way of working, the dais was quite large; around 6 odd people were slated to address the PC. In a private-company organised PC- much like their lean style of working- you'd find only about 2-3 people on the dais.

The guests arrive, most do with their entourage. But they don't go to the dais straightaway. The emcee takes the stage, welcomes the guests and then one by one starts calling out the names of the people who are slated to sit on the dais. People applaud as if catching a glimpse of Sachin Tendulkar. The room is full with people; sarkaari PCs seldom run empty. I am told that's probably because most of the seats are occupied by company employees. Ah well, that could explain why so many people were in suits and boots.

The game starts. The emcee begins by thanking (so profusely you'd think the world goes around thanks only to the people on the dais) one and all that 'matters'. No sooner that the people get settled on the dais than they are unsettled once again. The lighting of the lamp. Very Indian governorship. A big stand with many lamps is placed either at the edge of the dais or just below it. The chief guest lights the lamp amidst traditional Indian classical music being played in the background. Massive photo opportunity. I remember my childhood days when newspapers used to carry pictures of such lamp lighting moments of many events, every second day. The chief guest takes time to smile at the camera at the same time he lights all the lamps; and there are plenty lamps to be lighted, so more photo opportunities. Cameramen scramble to get a glimpse of this historic event.

The game continues. 'Respected and honourable members of the dais' are back in their seats, adjusting their suits, buttoning or unbuttoning (as the case may be) in a very dignified way after an accomplished task, as they settle down. Now, comes the token of appreciation. Flower bouquets are presented. One by one, pretty ladies come and present the bouquets to the 'respected and honourable members of the dais'. Mind you, this is a sarkaari PC- grounded with traditions- so the ladies are clad in sarees. This is not a Kingfisher Airlines PC or anything! More applause. As each 'respected and honourable member of the dais' gets presented with a flower bouquet, there's a huge round of applause.

The PC now starts and one by one, each member gets to come on the podium and gets about 5 minutes to speak. They speak, thank people before they begin their speech, thank people after ending their speech, talk to journalists, answer their queries, give one-on-one interviews to TV channels and then they go away. We return back to our offices with quotes and start writing our stories for next day's edition.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Save Britannia

Mamu was saying earlier today he wished to go to Britannia- the single-most famous Irani / Parsi restaurant in Mumbai that serves the world-famous Berry Pulav- with me sometime soon. I couldn't agree more. As it is, there are many murmous going around that the place might serve it's last meal soon.

Of course, Berry Pulav or for that matter even Dhansakh, is not something you can eat amost everyday, you know. These are heavy delicacies and I don't know about others, but I can't work much after devouring a plate of either of those. I need my afternoon siesta after that. But the place is worth visiting I tell you.

I prefer to sit on the upper deck. This used to be a special thing with almost all Irani restaurants. There is a ground level seating as you enter and then there is the upper deck. This is either for large groups of for love birds who want to enjoy their meals in privacy. But I feel it's a great place to get a bird's eye view of the whole restaurant, watch who's coming in, who's going out, who's eating what and so on. Ofcourse if the food is great- which in most of these place it is- then you'd soon turn your focus on your plate, but oh well what's the use of being a Parsi if you don't do a little pozuli?

Britannia has an upper deck too. I usually prefer sitting up there, though the last time I went, the  area was fully occupied. Notice, when you sit on Britannia's upper deck, you could actually feel the ceiling fan  under you revolving. It gives you that funny tingy feeling. That's the thing at Britannia. For whatever reason, the place needs some serious sprucing up. Don't expect any fancy interiors in here; you'll see the paints peeling off the walls. None of which matters much though, because once the food is on the table, you forget everything else. Though how you secretly wish the place is better maintained. But the food's quite exquisite. Everybody knows that their Berry Pulav is awesome and so is their Dhansakh and Sali Boti and Sali Chicken. The red-coloured berrys that are generously sprinkled all over the berry pulav are specially imported from Iran. Try their boi fish and round up the meal with the world's best caramel custard. I am a sucker for desserts, so I almost always bring back home an extra caramel custard.

Do remember, if you are going in large numbers or you feel you might land up there a little after, say, 2 then make sure you call them up (2261 5264) and book your Berry Pulav in advance. The food here tends to get over fast and they don't make many extra servings. 

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