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Archive for October, 2012

Movies reflect what is happening in the society. In some cases, like literature, they also hint at what could be in store for us in the days to come. They not only influence what happens in the society, but also take a harsh look at its ills – including their own! There are a number of spoofs, created by some of our best known dream merchants, which reveal the level of maturity the film industry has attained.

Somehow, movies examine only some segments of the society; that too, mostly along predictable lines. Politicians, cops, industrialists and others are mostly depicted in a stereotyped manner. Business and management have so far not merited much attention from our film makers.

If business has been captured, it has mostly been depicted to be ruthless. Catering to mass appeal, the film makers have propounded the belief that big money is invariably bad. The fact that wealth is not always ill-gotten has been ignored. The reality that every business activity has social spin-offs – like employment generation and wealth creation –   has invariably been given a short shrift.

Likewise, the subject of management appears only on the fringes of the narrative. If the story revolves around a business family which is trying to modernize its factories by bringing in advanced equipment and machinery, the issue gets hijacked either as a personality clash  between the hero and the villain, or as an industrial relations dispute between the management and the workers.

Nevertheless, quite a few movies have captured some facets of management. It would be instructive for us to review a random sample and see if we could learn some lessons from these. 

Setting Clear Goals

Way back in 1992, we had “Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar” (Director: Mansoor Khan) which showed the single-minded pursuit of the hero avenging a humiliation by winning a marathon cycle race in an interesting climax.Lakshya

Lakshya” narrated the story of a youngster drifting in life, clueless as to what he wants to do for a living. Circumstances lead him to join the Indian Army and he gets involved with the Kargil incursions by Pakistan into Indian territory. In the process, he discovers himself, achieves a clarity of purpose and leads his men to victory. (2004, Director: Farhan Akhtar)

Yet another coming of age story came our way in “Wake Up, Sid”. It is the heroine (Konkona Sen Sharma) who inspires the hero (Ranbir Kapoor) to set his own goals in life. (2009, Director: Zoya Akhtar). 

Let Goals be Based on What You Excel In!pondy movie 3_idiots

Rajkumar Hirani explained this concept rather well in his immensely successful “3 Idiots” (2009). If you are passionate about a hobby of yours, and make it your profession as well, you would surely excel. Happiness, contentment, recognition and rewards would automatically follow.

Ethics in Business

Rocket Singh – Salesman of the Year” (2009, Director: Shimit Amin) had a theme which spoke of ethics in business. If marketing efforts are directed at deceiving customers and if either the product or service is shoddy, the business will go down in the dumps. Philip Kotler would have surely approved!

Managing the Boss

Aziz Mirza delighted us with both “Yes Boss” (1997) and “Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani” (2000). Scratch below the glitzy surface Yes bossof these slick flicks and you are sure to learn quite a few tricks on managing bosses. If “Yes Boss” was about being a yes-man, “Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani” was about manipulating bosses to get them to announce decisions which were contrary to their original stands. Yes, the bosses were mere caricatures and depicted as bumbling buffoons. But the hero and the heroine could get away with it purely based on the outstanding results they brought in!

Another interesting dimension we got to see was in “Aitraaz” (2004, Directors: Abbas Mustan). The movie was based on a Hollywood flick by the name of “Disclosure”. In return for rapid promotions, the female boss ends up trying to seduce the subordinate hero. However, thanks to a zealous wife and smart technology, the hero manages to wriggle out of a tricky situation!

Handling Corruption

Hrishikesh Mukherji came up with “Satyakam” in 1969. Based on a Bengali novel by Narayan Sanyal, the movie tugged at our heart-strings by taking us through the trials and tribulations of Satyapriya, a whistle-blower who suffers in his professional as well as personal life and loses the battle against corruption.Well done abba

In 1983, Kundan Shah gave us the memorable “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron”. With sterling performances by Nasseruddin Shah, Ravi Baswani and others, it tackled the issue of corruption in real estate and construction deals in a humorous vein. The movie ends with a cut-throat gesture made by both the protagonists, signifying the death of justice, fair play and truth in an age of corruption.

Fast forward to 2010, when Shyam Benegal gave us a heart-warming “Well Done, Abba”. A great satire on our public delivery failures, the movie captured the effect of rampant corruption on laymen. Armaan Ali, a driver, plans to dig a well in his farmland to ensure adequate water supply. Depending upon a government scheme, he soon learns the pitfalls involved. How he wriggles out of the situation forms the interesting part.

Getting Hired!

Of the several interview scenes one has witnessed in movies churned out by Bollywood, the one portrayed in “Golmal” (1979, Day_of_the_JackalDirector: Hrishikesh Mukherji) remains my favorite. Facing an eccentric industrialist, Bhavani Shankar (Utpal Dutt), who believes in traditional values and thinks that all those without a moustache happen to be characterless, Ramprasad Dashrathprasad Sharma (Amol Palekar), desparate to get a job, puts on a moustache and manages to charm the boss in the interview. He not only lands up with a job with a salary higher than expected, but also manages to eventually sing his way into the heart of the boss’ daughter!

The Day of the Jackal” (1973, Director: Fred Zimmermann) has the professional assassin appearing for an interview. The OAS team is astounded by the fee of half a million dollar quoted by him to assassinate Charles de Gaulle. The Jackal responds by saying that he deserves the fee, because he is the best in the business!

In both the cases, professional capability, coupled with self-confidence, won the day!

Industrial Relations

In “Namak Haraam” (1973, Hrishikesh Mukherji), the issue of rising trade unionism was portrayed effectively. Vicky (Amitabh Bacchhan) plans to defuse the situation by getting his friend Somu (Rajesh Khanna) to become a union leader. In the process, Somu gets influenced by the workers’ point of view and a confrontation between the friends ensues. Love-u-mr-kalakaar

Management Lessons

In Rajshri Production’s 2011 offering, “Love U…Mr. Kalakaar”, Sahil, a struggling artist, is faced with the challenge of running his future father-in-law’s business empire more profitably, so as to be able to win the hand of his lady-love Ritu. In order to ensure success, Ritu, a fresh MBA, ends up giving marketing and HR lessons to Sahil. The movie, directed by S. Mansavi, also captured office politics effectively. Performance on the job and the strong bonding between the lovers eventually saves the day.

Self Confidence vs. Shyness and Diffidence  

Basu Chatterji treated us to a sumptuous fare in “Chhoti Si Baat” (1975). Both the hero and the heroine work in different offices. Love blossoms, but the hero is a simpleton and keeps losing to a colleague of the heroine – whether in social skills or in indoor games. Eventually, Arun (Amol Palekar) decides to undergo a crash course in self-confidence, comes back in style and wins the hand of Prabha (Vidya Sinha), the girl of his dreams!Guru

Finances, Share Markets

Satta Bazaar” (1959, Director: Ravinder Dave) portrayed the ruin of a family due to over indulgence in the share markets very effectively. In another Rajshri offering, “Jeevan Mrityu” (1970, Director: Satyen Bose), the hero uses share price manipulations to seek revenge from the bad guys who had got him convicted for a theft he had never committed. “Guru” (2007, Director: Mani Ratnam) was loosely based on the life of late Dhirubhai Ambani. It restored our faith in the equity markets and showed us how one’s fortune could get reversed and then regained!

Work-Life Balance

In “Chhodo Kal Ki Baatein” (2012, Director: Pramod Joshi), the hero is so busy pursuing his career goals that he fails to attend his daughter’s arangetram. His family deserts him for a weekend. The movie is all about his regaining the work-life balance, and 220px-Bumbumboleposterarticulates the current dilemmas being faced by managers. There are some useful tips on the art of living, placing the movie on a spiritual plane.

Innovation

A high-risk business like producing movies can survive only on continuous innovation. Of late, the upwardly mobile middle class in India has opened up a new segment of the movie goers’ market. Bollywood themes are no longer confined to romantic duets, with the hero and the heroine chasing each other around trees. New themes have been experimented with, and the results are heartening. Consider movies like “Iqbal”, “Pa”, “Bum Bum Bole”, “Chak De India”, “Dor”, “Welcome to Sajjanpur”, “A Wednesday”, “Udaan”, “Taare Zameen Par”, “Vicky Donor”, “Kahaani” and “Barfi”. The sheer diversity of themes is remarkable, even if there is a romantic angle deftly woven into some of the plots to ensure commercial survival. 

Giving Back to Society

Swades” (2004, Director: Ashutosh Govarikar) set a good example of how rural problems can be addressed by talented people who decide to chuck their lucrative careers abroad and return to their roots in India.

A recent IFC report showcases Indian Social Ventures like Husk Power Systems, WaterHealth International and Suvidhaa Infoserve. In the days to come, trust Bollywood to come up with more variants of the “Swades” theme!pati patni aur woh

Extra-marital Affairs

If “Pati Patni aur Woh” (1978, Director: B R Chopra) touched upon the boss going wayward, “Rang Birangi” (1983, Director: Hrishikesh Mukherji) brought home the issue of a bored housewife getting her busy husband’s affection back with the support of a mutual friend. Both were excellent comedies with serious messages; one showed us the futility of romancing a secretary, the other spoke of the need to attach a better value to the needs of our loved ones.

Corporate Intrigues

When it comes to the inner machinations of business empires and corporate feuds, one readily remembers “Kalyug” (1981, Director: Shyam Benegal) and “Corporate” (2009, Madhur Bhandarkar). Even though such efforts have been few and far between, the honesty with which these movies have got made speaks highly of the directors, producers and the script writers. The underbelly of over-reaching greed, unbridled ambition and business rivalry – all have been brought home very candidly in both these works.Duplicity

Duplicity” (2009, Director: Tony Gilroy), starring Julia Roberts and Clive Owen was an interesting take on corporate espionage. “Pyaar Impossible” (2011, Director: Jugal Hansraj) touched upon the issue of software piracy, though the basic theme was romantic in nature.

Team Work

When it comes to team work and bonding, who can forget the Jai and Veeru duo of “Sholay” fame? Personality-wise, both are poles apart. Jai, played by Amitabh, is sober, quiet and meditative. Veeru, played by Dharmendra, is loud and outspoken. The ways in which they go about wooing their sweethearts in the village are as different as, say, chalk and cheese. But when it comes to confronting Gabbar, they work in perfect unison, displaying a unique understanding and respect for each other. (1975, Director: Ramesh Sippy).

MOVIES AS AN INSTRUMENT OF CHANGE ?!

In the scam-ridden exciting times that Indian managers operate in these days, new social developments are taking place. Thanks to a byte-hungry media, we have a torrent of CAG reports, court cases, corporate misadventures, information tumbling out of closets courtesy the RTI Act, sting operations and confidential conversations getting recorded and leaked at regular intervals.

One has no doubt that our movie makers can be relied upon to soon start churning out movies with scripts which highlight management and governance issues with a sharper focus.  Hopefully, these would capture the business world in a more balanced fashion – depicting not only the seamier and manipulative side but also the philanthropic and CSR side, besides depicting initiatives in the realm of social entrepreneurship!

(PS: You may also like to look up https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2013/10/04/management-lessons-from-movies-2-0)

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As a simple minded mango, I am surprised that so many people in India have taken offence at a recent comment where they have been referred to as “Mango People”. To all those of my countrymen who are depressed about this description of themselves, I wish to say that they could not be more wrong! Look at my achievements and traits, and you would see what I mean.

There are well-known reasons as to why I am referred to as the King of Fruits. Since times unknown, I have been serving the mankind with utmost sincerity. I have provided a sumptuous and fulfilling diet to the homo-sapiens since times unknown.  Let people just imagine me, and their taste buds start tingling.

My health benefits are well-known. Besides a heady mix of sugar, fibers and anti-oxidants, I provide a ready supply of vitamins and minerals. Admittedly, diabetics refrain from eating me. When these hapless guys see folks around them relishing me, smacking their lips and licking their fingers in gay abandon – without any pangs of guilt whatsoever, they merely twiddle their thumbs, give me a wistful look, sigh and resign themselves to their fate.  

I have a definite role towards India doing well in all the Olympic and other shooting competitions for quite some time now. Since childhood, unable to resist the temptation of enjoying my unique taste, kids start practicing by throwing well-aimed stones at me. Young ladies in particular are very fond of me, and eagerly await my blooming season to begin, so as to be able to feast on me even when I am in a raw condition.

Housewives who have to feed a bevy of hungry family members day after day convert me into delicious pickles which are lapped up with utmost glee by all members as well as guests and visitors. The ladies who are in the family way make sure they have a ready supply of mine so they might give birth to healthier and contented babies who actually look forward to being born early, so as to be able to have the unique experience of tasting me. Several movies – from Bollywood and elsewhere – have famous songs to cover this aspect of my personality.

Other than my contribution to human well-being, sports, procreation, family bonding and entertainment, I have brought laurels to India by being recognized under the Intellectual Property regime. Several of my species have won recognition by getting a Geographical Indication registered in their favor. Junagadh Kesar from Gujarat, Malihabadi Dussehri from UP, Banginapali from Andhra Pradesh, Appemidi from Karnataka and Lakshman Bhog, Himsagar and Fazli from West Bengal already enjoy this honor.

If there is someone who deserves to be awarded a Bharat Ratna for promoting regional integration and religious harmony, it is me. While lending my edibility charms to people who profess different faiths, I do not discriminate. People of all faiths, gender, nationality, caste, creed, income levels and professions relish me and attain exquisite taste bud bliss.

In South Africa, an airline is named after me. There are fashion houses selling exquisite apparel under my brand name. Not to be left behind, musicians have formed bands with my name. A TV serial named after me has been immensely successful.

Having won global recognition, I am all the more happy that I have recently won the best accolade I could think of; I have been equated with the general public of India, this great country of ours!

India has great people, possessing unique qualities. Centuries of spiritual grooming and meditative practices have left them very docile, adjusting and compromising. For any failure in life, they have a ready philosophical explanation. In the face of grave deficiencies in public services, they have learnt to suffer in silence. If asked to queue up for essential commodities and facilities, they do not revolt. Thanks to runaway inflation, they face a continuous erosion of their saving potential; they bear such challenges with a sense of detachment and fortitude. When they experience a torrent of scams tumbling out of the closets of our politicians and administrators at a frequency which could put trains of Switzerland to shame, they do not complain. Instead, they just continue with their daily struggle to eke out a living.

I am delighted that finally I too have a role – howsoever modest – in ensuring the greatness of the people of our country. This is a belated recognition that the greatness of Indians lies in their ordinariness; in current parlance, in their “mango-ness”!   For all the Indians, it is a time to rejoice!

I wish to convey a big Thank You to those who have chosen to refer to ordinary people as “Mango People”. May their tribe increase!

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For those of us who live near the equator, it is rather baffling to sit down for dinner at, say, 9 pm and find that the sun is still shining bright outside the window. The digestive juices go in for an initial phase of revolt and the stomach refuses to accept any offerings coming its way! One somehow persuades oneself to gulp down a  few mouthfuls so as to keep the body and soul together. The sun reluctantly sets at an hour close to midnight and is cheekily up again at 4 am, waking one up in a rather befuddled state of mind!

Well, this is what happens when one visits a country near the Arctic Circle. The days tend to be much longer – upto 20 hours long – and the nights shorter. Also, the night sky never turns pitch dark. It always retains a dusky-hued feel to it. That is how, a country like Norway is also known as ‘The Land of the Midnight Sun’.

A short trip to Norway – tucked away as close to the North Pole as one can imagine (between latitudes 57° and 81° N ) – was overdue for us for quite some time. Frankly, the Land of the Midnight Sun did not disappoint us! Like most of Europe, we found it to be immaculate, spick-and-span, and highly organized. The two cities we could visit during our sojourn were Oslo, the capital city, and Bergen, a commercial hub. The trip gave us a first-hand feel of the great country, its rich culture and traditions, and its warm and helpful people.

Norway has a geographical spread of 3,85,252 sqkms, which makes it somewhat larger than, say, Rajasthan in India. Population-wise, at close to 50 lacs, it happens to be smaller than Himachal Pradesh. As the largest cities in Norway, both Oslo and Bergen are small by international standards. Oslo has a population of around 9 lacs and Bergen has a population of only about 2.35 lacs.

 From Oslo to Bergen : An Enchanting Journey

The train journey between Oslo and Bergen is said to be one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys. One goes throughbabuji_028 awesome countryside with a stark beauty that is typical of Norway – endless forests, placid lakes, swamps, red-painted houses, cottages with grass roofs, and at the top, a trackless, desolate snow-covered mountain landscape interrupted by the odd frozen lake, even in mid-summer. Often, a single house quietly enjoying its isolated glory whizzes past us, surrounded by snow on all sides for miles together.

On the way, we get to experience the warmth of the people. A train conductor who sees us trying to get some coffee from the machine on the coach of the train finds us fumbling for coins of the right denomination. He comes up and offers a steaming hot cup drawn out of his own money. When we offer money, he refuses to accept it, saying we are his guests! We learn that Indians do not have a copyright on atithi-devo-bhavah!babuji_041

The mountains here rise to 1,300 meters; the Hardangervidda is the highest mountain pleateu in North Europe. It also houses Norway’s largest national park. There is a lovely biking trail through here, part of which is parallel to the railway. Eventually we arrive at Myrdal, a small hamlet boasting of few houses in the middle of nowhere that is the junction for a narrow-gauge railway to Flam.

The Flamsbana train is a star attraction. It runs up to 15 times a day, and takes an hour to descend more than 850 meters to sea level, down a steep-sided valley studded with cliffs and waterfalls. A taped commentary in several languages and overhead screens tell us all about it as we pass through. The train actually stops at one point, between two tunnels, so people can get out to view a stbabuji_043upendous waterfall. It is the Kjosfoss, that too in a frozen state!

The Breathtaking Fjords On The Way

At sea level, the first thing we see is a vast cruise ship, completely dominating the little settlement of Flam. It is on one of the innermost arms of the famous Sognefjord which is 204 kms long and up to 1,308 meters deep. Flam has become a popular cruise terminal with lots of tourist amenities, a superb little railway museum, hiking trails and a wide choice of sightseeing tours by coach and boat.

As the cruise ship navigates through the fjord, we marvel at Mother Nature’s virginity on offer. Crystal clear waters, mbabuji_047ajestic mountains with mirror-perfect images down below, absolute stillness and peace, pristine beauty, small hamlets surrounding beautiful churches after every few kilometers, and the  single odd house precariously perched – either on mountain tops or jutting out of the dizzying slopes. Occasionally, we pass by some magnificent waterfalls, their cascading waters making the only sound audible in the immediate vicinity.

The fjords were carved out during the ice age by melting water pushing its way under the ice, forming deep valleys in the mountains. The result as we see  today is a spectacular landscape. Glacier capped mountains rise more than 2,000 meters, steep above the fjords. Waters run as deep as 1,300 meters and we can easily navigate into the open North Sea. Between mountains and fjords, people have lived their lives since before the viking-ages.babuji_065

The ship eventually drops us off at another place, from where a bus whisks us off through enchanting countryside to a small town by the name of Voss. We  board the waiting train there and finally reach Bergen after another short and comfortable ride.

Bergen, A Commercial Hub

Bergen is a UNESCO world heritage city, partly because of its unique waterside, the Bryggen, which has been photographed so often it has become iconic. Originally a Hanse port settlement, it was run by German merchants, and no Norwegians – or women – were allowed on the site. On the neighborhood quay is the world-famous seafood market. And there are so many round trips to Fjords on offer that one is literally spoilt for choice.

Bergen is a lovely city, with a brand new tram line connecting new suburbs to the city centre, a spectacular fort, museums, beautiful parks, a new opera house by an artificial lake and a fountain, and so on. We visit an aquarium where sea lions, penguins and several other creatures of the ocean frolic about in their respective enclosures. The flower of Bergen is the rhododendron – there are about 300 different species and they love it here because of the mild climate and the rain.

The city is surrounded by seven mountains. There was a light drizzle, so we  take the funicular train up to Floyen, from where the view is inspiring as well as invigorating. It is fun to ride in coaches with a glass roof, affording a great view as the train takes us up 320 meters above sea level. The floors of the coaches are at an angle of close to 40 degrees, and it is interesting to get in and out. Once on the top, we appreciate how well the outlying islands protect Bergen from the North Atlantic weather. There is a restaurant and a well-stocked souvenir shop. Incidentally, all the places we ate at in Bergen made a point of serving only local produce in season – talk about sustainable living!

Oslo, the Capital City

Central Oslo has a typical big city feel about it. The architecture is imposing and the infrastructure is elegant. There is the Kon-Tiki museum, the Viking museum, several art museums and lots of parks and squares. It is easy to move around, as the city has an integrated transport system. We exercise the option of buying only a single ticket at a standard price; it is valid on trains, buses, metro, trams, boats, or all five.

The national gallery has wonderful landscape paintings. There is the Oslo City Hall where the annual Nobel Peace Prize is awarded. We also see the Royal Guard with military band parading up the main street to the palace for the changing of the guard – a stirring sight!

We are told that for a breath-taking overview of the city, one can take the tram all the way up to Holmenkollen where the newly built ski jump is. A climb up the viewing terraces leads one to the ski museum (the oldest in the world and absolutely fascinating). The adventurous can then take a lift to the very top. As well as a dizzying view down the run itself, there is said to be an impressive view of greater Oslo and a wonderful panorama of the bay with all its islands and headlands, as well as the surrounding mountains.

Major Tourist Attractions

Eastern part of Norway has stunning mountains and the Jotunheimen National Park. Northern part has the Arctic Circle and the Sami people, who are the original inhabitants of the country. For those who are fond of fish, there is salmon fishing.

Above all, one can not miss the spell-binding wonder of Aurora Bouraelis, or of  Northern Lights! Alas, due to bad weather, we are forced to cancel a visit to Tromso to witness this unique natural phenomenon. Also, on this trip, we miss meeting any lovable Viking a la ‘Hagar, The Horrible!’

We leave these attractions behind, hoping to come back once again and continue exploring The Land of the Midnight Sun on a future date!

General Information

Most people in Norway speak English as their first foreign language. The currency is the Norwegian Kroner. Even compared to other European countries,   things are pretty expensive. Both Oslo and Bergen offer tourist cards giving you free or reduced admission for museums, cultural events, tours, restaurants and parking, as well as free use of public transport. There are quite a few hotel chains which also run a line of budget hotels.

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