Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Voice of youngistaan

I don't know what it is. I can't put a finger on it. But I feel the force. I feel the power. I feel the emotion. In the world of marketing, this would pass as a brilliant campaign. In the world of patriotism, this is a phenomenal campaign. Its ROI may not be tangible but its essence is there for everyone to experience.

In case you’re still wondering, I just saw the newly created and majorly overhauled "Phir Mile Sur..." song released on the Republic Day eve by Amitabh Bachchan. It's been over 2 decades since the original one, which was an instant hit and had quite an impact with its ‘Unity in Diversity’ message. This one is the latest 16 minute run to hit the tube where the glitterati take you across several locales of historical significance within the country with a very special message delivered in an eye-catching and foot-tapping manner. Several known faces from various walks of life, be it super stars, be it musicians, be it sportsmen; all singing the same tune calling upon the nation to unite using extraordinary yet simple poetry.

What I loved about this one was the breathtaking visuals shot with new age techniques, several new variations of the first two lines of the songs and the undertone which subtly points to a new, young India. Like Anushka Shankar's manicured fingers on sitar instead of Ravi Shankar's, like Shreya Ghoshal singing in an open bus while letting the wind blow her hair instead of Lata Mangeshkar in front of a dated microphone in a studio and Shahid Kapur pulling off a rock star act as opposed to a more understated Amitabh-Jitendra-Mithun trio displaying the bonds of brotherhood. The seamless contrast between tabla/santoor/sitar and guitar/fingerboard/piano is striking. And of course I loved the goose bumps it gave me. Some things never change though; like Amitabh's aura, Sallu bhaiya's MIA shirt and Aishwarya's acting (yes she did emote!). All the next door faces in the original version have been replaced by popular ones though making it a tad too Bollywoody but going by how crowded Bollywood has become lately, a lot of them are indeed next door faces. Which also means it feels like a mini movie, going by the length of it but who’s complaining?

Whether you’re chilling or slogging away with no time to breathe or on Prozac or just not in the mood for anything, go watch this. It’ll perk up your spirits. And you won’t feel left out when everyone on Facebook and Twitter is talking about it.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

2009 the year that was…

This appeared in The South Asian Times on Saturday.

How does one write about a year that is coming to a close? Like everything else if you generalize and take a high level overview, then the graph would have similar patterns, with spikes and dips in different places. From a macro perspective this could be remembered as the year when the global financial system came to the brink of disaster. Or it could be remembered as the year that resulted in one of the most fantastic rescue efforts from all the major central banks. But the story is much different when you get into the details. That is where life takes place. It's not in the statistics that get reported on the GDP growth rate, the unemployment numbers and the dozen of percentages with a negative sign preceding it. But it is in the day to day struggle of families, people who lost their jobs, for whom the unemployment rate is nothing but 100%. Here’s the year through my eyes and from my memory.

The year started off as one of the scariest times to be employed in the US. Amidst the
news channels blasting comparisons with the Great Depression and predictions of everything collapsing, there was little to smile about. One came to realize how truly interconnected the global economy is these days. A crisis that started off in the US financial system quickly brought the global economic machinery to a screeching halt. I guess this is what Thomas Friedman meant when he said that the ‘World Is Flat’. It was the year when I had to see some of my close friends and colleagues let go of the stability factor in their life, not for any real cause of their own. It brings to mind the question - do we really control our destinies? Somebody once told me that life is like a game of poker. The key is not the hand you get dealt with, but your decision afterwards - whether to fold or to play on.

2009 was the year I saw one of the most eloquent personalities take office of the President of the United States. It was a landmark event for my host country and I personally felt very proud of it. In my opinion there was no one more deserving to take that post at such a time of crisis. After all the man exudes hope and optimism. Where it did go overboard was the giving of a certain prize that I had vowed never to talk about again but just couldn’t help myself. I guess it's just not me who wants to cling onto something positive at times of crisis. The jury is still out on whether he will prove himself worthy of it, but if I were to wager I would say he would come out shining when all is said and done. (Mr. President, hope you are listening!!!)

On the tech front, iPhone makers probably understood what Amitabh Bachchan meant when he said the world is made up of two kinds of people; in this case, the iPhone users and the rest (losers?) It found unmatched popularity with new models alright but not without the birth of its potential contender, Google's Android. The real war will begin this year and I’m already hooked. Google employees probably spent hours trying to develop it, just as scientists spent hours trying to develop a flu vaccine and as for me, I spent hours trying to fight cellulite and the Conflicker virus, the later a definite victory for hackers inc. Oh and China has one more star in it’s kitty, like it needs any more, with the most dazzling celestial phenomenon of the year and of the 21st century, the total solar eclipse, being completely visible in parts of the country. China 1 – India 0 on that.

This year unfortunately was the time to say good byes to many of my beloved personalities like Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze, Farrah Fawcett, Ted Kennedy and Britney Murphy amongst others. But we’ve survived and emerged stronger, haven’t we?

2009 was also the year I saw a very confident, young and ambitious India make its presence felt on the world stage - be it the in pro-growth policies of a young breed of politicians coming of age, the leadership shown by the country with its 7-8% GDP growth rate or the stance we took at the Copenhagen climate summit. I see this as a fore bearing of great things to come from that region.

And best of all, to close out the year Aamir Khan decided to give us one of the most brilliant movies I have seen in a long time. The message couldn't be more apt for a year like this "Jab life ho out of control..."

In the end for me 2009 was the year of great change and promise for a bright future. In the last few days I have had the time to reflect on the year gone by and when I look at the sheer pleasure my 19-month old daughter gets out of simple acts, the good things far outweigh the not so good ones.

In life, irrespective of the cards you get dealt with you always have to play on. That's the only way I have learnt to live and that's the way I plan to welcome 2010.

Have a great year folks!