(This is a dramatized version of the experiences of Prof. Sandeep Mann while he was at UBS. It is built around some facts furnished by him as to his movie marathon experience of those days. Inputs from him are gratefully acknowledged.
The narrative below is penned – or, key-board-ed, if you prefer – on his behalf. For bouquets, if any, please feel free to contact him. As to brickbats, you may risk hurling those at yours truly.)
Much before one of our learned professors started sharing with us, the batch of 1990, the nuances of Decision Making Under Uncertainty (DMUU, in short) and statistical models of exponential smoothening, we had figured out that two of the most high-risk businesses that beckoned us in the post-UBS phase of our lives were Politics and Movies, not necessarily in that order. Both need deep pockets, a very high risk appetite and, of course, the kind of obnoxious approach to human relations which many of us were not quite comfortable with.
Be that as it may, endeavours in both fields need as much support as they can get. The support may be in the form of either adulation or vitamin M.
Learning DMUU from movies
I confess my approach to learning Decision Making Under Uncertainty was by simply trooping in to movie halls and making my humble contribution to keep the hapless producers afloat. As the lights within the hall faded, I could readily identify myself with the kind of uncertainties the hero and the heroine faced in their lives, and how they managed to overcome the same.
This is precisely the manner in which I focused my energies on supporting Bollywood in my own humble way. Bollywood’s financial stress was pulling at my heart-strings and I did my very best to cheer up our dream merchants in days which were so very obviously distressful for them.
Anyone in my place, exposed to an all-male batch listening to monotonous lectures inside class rooms, would have preferred the company of the likes of Sridevi, Madhuri Dixit, Kimi Katkar, et al.
From the 1st of July 1989 till the 30th of September 1989, in 92 days flat, I saw 104 movie shows. Quite a few were repeated several times.
The Just-In-Time approach
Here is the general schedule I used to follow:
11 AM: KC theatre
3 PM: Jagat theatre
6 PM: Neelam theatre
9 PM: Kiran theatre
The Just-In-Time approach always worked. The fact that three of the theatres mentioned were located within a walking distance of each other made the project feasible. The shoeshine boys outside these halls contributed their own bit by providing tickets as and when the same were not available through the official channels. As to meals, these comprised ‘samosas’, ‘bread pakodas’ and sandwiches dished out by the theatre canteens during intervals.
The Guinness Award which never came
There were several perks that I enjoyed in the process.
With all the brisk walking and jogging between theatres, a healthier glow suffused the physical frame. My interpersonal relationship skills got honed up, what with the extent of networking with ticket counter clerks I had to indulge in.
Each night, during sleep, dreams came of the motley gang of heroines seen on the screen, somewhat filling the void created by a singular absence of the delicately nurtured in our batch. Some dreams were about terrifying encounters with villains and their henchmen. During day times, I would imagine myself to be one of the dashing heroes, though I never dared to bash up any gang of broad-chested males I encountered on and off the campus.
I am still baffled though as to how I was never contacted by any pretty lass from Guinness, offering me a kiss on a cheek and a nomination for holding the world record in watching so many movies back to back.
The magic of movies
The movies seen then remain a string of blurred imagery in the deep recesses of the little grey matter I can boast of.
Come September, and the priorities of life changed somewhat. The task of supporting Bollywood was left in the safer hands of the average person on the street, while the budding manager in me strived to catch up with my academic pursuits, so as to not cause a distress to my family.
No frivolous pursuit, this
Mind you, this was no frivolous pursuit. UBS indirectly enabled this with a deeper purpose. Several management lessons were learnt from the movies seen. The value of perseverance and hard work was understood. As the lights dimmed, one learnt the art of suspension of disbelief. Appreciation of arts led to an expansion of the consciousness. This led to some degree of spiritual upliftment.
The mind could get back to the all-male boredom of the classroom with some degree of freshness. The tyranny of the classroom became more bearable. The academic content could be absorbed better.
With me being literally off the campus for 92 days, peace prevailed. The delicately nurtured, giggling around at the Student Centre and hassled in general elsewhere, breathed easy.
Reorienting Management Education
People like Sanjay Leela Bhansali, R Balki and Rajkumar Hirani can teach us quite a lot about the techniques of managing uncertainty in our lives. Actors of the stature of our current MP from the City Beautiful, or her famous spouse, Anupam Kher, could also make us understand the nuances of managing careers rather well.
Lessons from literature, fine arts and movies have already become a part of the curricula at the premier institutes of management. I heartily approve. That is indeed the right way to make the young minds to get reconnected to their hearts and blossom even better. Absorbing the academic inputs with a dash of fine arts.
Mandarins who design courses for aspiring managers would do well to take note.
(Have a juicy anecdote to share with the alumni of UBS? Write to yours truly at email@example.com)