Bollywood Fixation of Indian Media



Kung Fu Lessons To Panda On

panda-3The son dragged me to see KFP III last weekend. The story was predictable from the first 5 minutes onwards and the antics of a food loving warrior panda are becoming a bit of tripe trope. The film, however, repaid its ticket price in form of a couple of leadership and life lessons that  it dispensed. Sure, there are many other films dripping with heavy thoughts but the following dialogues remain in the mind and have survived the subsequent Monday morning shock to the system!

  • Self-Recalibration: Continuous learning and humility. Learning never ends.

Shifu: There is always something more to learn. Even for a master.

  • Self-Discovery

Shifu: If you only do what you can do, you’ll never be more than you are now

Po: But I like who I am!

Shifu: You don’t even know who you are!

  • Self-Confidence

Po: There’s no way I’m ever gonna be like you.

Shifu: I’m not trying to turn you into me. I’m trying to turn you into you.

  • Self-Propagation

Shifu: You must take the next step from warrior to teacher

I guess teaching is the best route to achieve each of the four self actualization objectives mentioned above. The best way to learn is indeed to teach. It is by teaching others does one really discover who he really is and gains true mastery and confidence on whatever tricks he is a master at.

[Spolier alert (for those who don’t know much about the KFP series): Shifu – He is a red panda and trains warriors; Po – the Panda]

Bollywood “Chart”busters…Part One

Graphs, Venns and the junoon of the vaudeville that is Bollywood. 🙂 

ek do teen film stillek do teen


naino mein sapna film stillnaino mein sapna



kabhi mein kahoon film stillkabhi mein kahoon



aankhon mein kya ji film stillaankhon mein kya ji



seene mein jalan film stillseene mein jalan chart



aine ke tuke film stillAine ke tukde


Hum Aapke Hain Kaun: 5 Degrees of Separation

It is nearly a century since the first film was made in India (Raja Harishchandra in 1913). Last weekend, I watched the Marathi film, Raja Harishchandranchi Factory (2009) and read up a bit on the moolah trends associated with Indian filmmaking. The website boxofficeindia gives collection figures for films since 1940 and while the data is not uniform across the entire period, one can deduce the earnings trend of the top grossing film per year since 1940. I plotted net revenue collections of the number 1 film per year since 1940 and came up with the following chart (click to enlarge)

Initially, the success of a film was determined by longevity as opposed to revenue. Have you ever tuned in to those lazy Sunday radio programs where they interview some senior film artiste (director, cinematographer, musician, playback singer, actor, etc) where the favourite songs of the person being interviewed are played. The guest on the show almost invariably mentions something that sounds like “woh picture ki to golden jubilee huyi thi“… Nowadays there is total front loading of revenue around the initial days following the film’s release. Front loading of revenue also reduces the bleed which a long running film may suffer due to piracy.

A couple of points stand out from the chart: the lost decade of the 80’s and the phenomenon that was Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. HAHK, in short, transformed the whole process of making money from films in India. While it may not be as dramatically causal as a single film being responsible for moving the industry into a higher orbit but the film certainly gave enough reasons for uncles and aunties, grannies and veiled bahus to venture out into the dingy, single screen, paan stained cinema houses across the country. HAHK and Jurassic Park (both released in 1994) gave reasons for movie watching to become a family experience in India. Jurassic Park was timed very well as it got in just as the Government (in 1992) ended the National Film Development Center’s monopoly over film import into India. Jurassic Park’s technical sophistry, which was never before seen (or heard) in Indian movie theatres, forced theatre owners to upgrade their demonstration equipment. HAHK’s pull ensured that the hygiene and comfort levels of movie theatres in India improved dramatically – going to movies was no longer taboo. I was in my late school years in Ranchi during this time and I do remember that no one – absolutely no one among my parents’ milieu used to visit theatres. Or even in modest Jalgaon. Imagine what a social phenomenon it must have been for a product to come along which got four generations of a family into a lice and bed-bug infested theatre to watch HAHK! We had reaffirmed our resolve not to watch any movies in theatres but just this one exception. That promise got quickly broken as the theatres (in Jalgaon) plowed back some of their profits and improved their property. Maine Pyaar Kiya, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak and Titanic were testaments of those broken promises. While that is what happened with my extended family, it may very well be the case across most Indian families. Such feel good, family oriented movies expanded the market – big banner production houses started releasing a large number of prints. A 2nd tier city used to get the prints in the 3rd of 4th week but now even a remote village gets to see Bodyguard on day 1. And now that the entire family is walking in to a cineplex on weekends, ticket prices are also very high on the weekends. That is how we entered the 21st century.

Now we see films rapidly busting the Rs. 100 crore mark with regular precision – while it does sound very prosaic and formula driven, there are two external factors which may be at the root of this ‘leg up’ which the industry is enjoying at the box office. The rapid urbanization of India would certainly be the first – with the share of services income continuously rising, more and more people are coming to towns. Spending nuclear money on weekends in malls is becoming quite a habit. The other reason for the recent increase in film earnings is also the gradually increasing size of the Indian NRI diaspora. Overseas earnings are a very high (and growing) proportion of a film’s revenues these days – the INR:USD and INR:GBP exchange rate translates into high takings even if the number of viewers abroad are much lesser than that in India. While India gets trounced on most parameters when compared to China, there is one comparator where the Chinese should see red: Indians overseas remain far more loyal and patronize Indian cinema far more than the degree of adoption by overseas Chinese to flicks orginating from Hong Kong.

Finally, I have a prediction to make. Taking clue from the other mass obsession of Indians – cricket – and noting the declining length of popular formats of the game (test matches to one-dayers to T20), it may very well be possible that Indian films (musicals as they are sometimes categorized by foreign audiences) may shrink their run times from the current 150 – 180 minutes. Makes immense commercial sense as well since more shows can be packed into a weekend.

Personally, I feel that the product quality (as judged by the strength of the storyline) has, on an average, waned considerably during the last 70 years, but since the purpose of cinema is to entertain first and enlighten later, who cares about the content of films beyond a point? If someone talks of enlightening entertainment or entertaining enlightenment then all I can say is that the film – The Three Idiots is a true black swan of our times.

Inception, the Movie

Saw Inception (after everyone else) and yet was gripped. My kind of movie – big, nerdy and fast. Now, the aural spectral response of my ears is a bit defective and I sometimes strain to hear sounds which others hear easily – a.k.a. I hear low! That factor, combined with low end sound producing transducers in my laptop/earphones could have made following the “train” of thought in this movie a bit of a challenge. Thankfully, that did not happen and I could hear all the sounds easily. Which meant I allowed my mind to move in step with the movie’s narrative and appreciate the nuances. And spot the flaws.

The nuances (numerous classical physics lessons sprinked everywhere):

1) Liked the usage of general relativity trick in dream world #2 at the end where Arthur invents the ‘kick’ by setting off a charge in the lift shaft of the hotel elevator. Idea being that in a zero – gravity world, an explosion would provide a differential acceleration to serve as the waking jolt. But I dunk that as a major flaw later on.

2) Restraint on part of Chris Nolan. As per the plot, killing someone in a lower level dream wakes him/her up in the immediately higher level, but the story avoids this tactic and adds to the drama by relying on an innovative invention of kicks. Chris Nolan spent 10 years on Inception! It shows. Perhaps.

3) The Penrose Strairs.

The flaws (I guess you can come across more, but these are the ones that hit me):

A) Cobb’s kids are with their grandfather in the US. He wants to meet them and that’s his motivation for all that dreaming. The movie makes you believe that he is on the run and needs to win his right of passage back to the US. But then there is one scene where he does meet with his father – presumably that meeting was in the US? How did Cobb get into the US then? The picture on the right, taken from also brings out a related thought.

B) Speaking of Physics, can you fight someone in zero gravity, stack your colleagues in a dormant layered sandwich, tie them up securely, cut off the wires supporting the elevator cabin and set off a charge – all in 3 minutes?

C) The totemic flaw of the movie: At the start, Ariadne is explained the solid reference points that the dreamers’ personal totems  provide. Idea is that by noting the physical behavior of one’s totem when spun/thrown/used one can determine if he is dreaming or awake. Now, Cobb’s totem is a top that spins. If it keeps on spinning then it’s spinning in a dream world and if it topples over then Cobb is in the same world in which you are reading this post! Now, what makes a top topple? Friction. What causes friction? Gravity. So, ideally the dream world should have no gravity. Which should explain why spinning tops keep on spinning. But the dream worlds 2, 3, 4 did have gravity, right?

This to me is the biggest flaw in the logic.

Did you know that Ariadne, the French student of architecture who helped Cobb create the architectural cobweb of dreams shares her name with the Greek mythological character also known as the Mistress of the Labyrinth? She had helped Theseus escape Minotaur’s labyrinth by giving him a sword and a spool of thread to mark his tracks through the maze. That was good symbolism in the movie.

Also, the first thought that came to mind when seeing the last few frames of the movie was that Christopher Nolan could be setting the stage for a sequel. I’d rather that he returned back to caped crusaders and left this plot just where it is at the moment – in a state of “limbo”. The point is that at the start of the movie, when Cobb shows his totem spin to Araidne it spins and drops. Count the time it takes. And compare that to the time that his totem keeps spinning during the last scene. The latter spin is longer. I guess the assumption here is that all along the force (or impulse) with which the top is spun by the totem owner remains the same all the time – hardly likely. Inebriated Cobbs, sweaty palmed Cobbs, tense Cobbs – would all spin the totem at differing initial speeds, right? And that would mean differing spin times, right? Anyway, perhaps the spinning top was never really Cobb’s totem – A thought that got ‘seeded’ in my mind was that perhaps the ability to see his kids’ faces was his real totem after all. In which case, it’s ‘limbo’ all the way…

If you have not watched this apparent brainteaser of a film, please do so – I recommend it. Moves fast enough and if not anything else it’s good to exercise those grey ones once in a while. In the end, I hope somewhere this leads to reality 😉 – in the sense that perhaps there will come a day when humans will be able to mine the data hidden in our brain (aka subconscious?) better. I read about the fourth fundamental electronic device called the memristor on the flight to Hyderabad recently. While discovered almost 30 years back, commercial production and application seems to be happening only recently. Couldn’t the neural synapses – many of them unused but full to the brim, represent something of a biological memristor? With deep, old memories that get “called” from functions that run during dream time?

Yaaaawwwwn. Good night. Sweet dreams.

Cover his Butt

In case you missed this, one of the news item last week was the massive attempt to cover John Abraham’s butt. With an insurance policy of a 100 million rupees! The Deccan Chronicle carried a note about a policy being worked out to support his back, but I think they missed the object of the policy. Or maybe that newspaper is modest. John may have to pay quite a packet as premium considering that he seems to have suffered a minor muscle pull recently. Maybe the sprain was to his back muscle or maybe the largest muscle in his body itself was pulled. Why do we think of buying protection only when we have a close shave with calamity?

One buys insurance cover to protect an ‘ass’et which is income producing such that in any unfortune eventually, if the asset stops productive work, its owner or it’s beneficiaries can receive some consideration. This clearly means that John intends to truly work his posterior out in the coming future.

His butt sits right on the top of the Bollywood apex. Ouch! Must hurt a bit. Some time back (in 2008?) he was placed at No. 7 amongst the World’s Top Sexiest Men. He rounded up his performance by topping the honours in a poll of Asian men that was conducted by a leading British Asian weekly and said,

“From being among the top in the world to top in Asia is superb. The air is really nice up here”.

The air is nice up where, I wonder. Bipasha Basu, in an interview during the launch of her Fondaish fitness video gave us a marketing lession. Move over 4 Ps – you’ve been Pissing around for too long. The three Bs of Bollywood that now ring up Business are: Beauty, Bosoms and Butt. And Bips, if I may add a 4th B or maybe an even bigger B to complete the quadrant? But there was something more she confided to us: that the whole world has seen John’s butt, but the butt that not many know about and is also nearly up there in the eyeball grabbing, high butt stakes (so high that the air is really nice up there) belongs to none other than Shahrukh Khan. And what about Salman Butt and Ejaz Butt? They might just become greater batting sensations if they take up John’s lead. The oppositions’ wicketkeepers field of vision might get blocked and they will just not be able to see which way things are swinging. 😉

I don’t watch much Hindi movies. It’s not that I get repulsed by butts but just because that’s way ‘behind’ in my list of priorities. But I am aware of the apperance of the biggest B in the movie No Smoking. I also heard it reappeared in Kabir Khan’s New York? Saw the former – John played a character called K – a chain smoker trying hard to stub his butt! And of course, Dostana. Most male actors are bending backwards and seem more than eager to unbutton their low waisted trousers after John’s success. Laxmi, the goddess of wealth seems to be making a backdoor entry for these gentlemen. Salman Khan will do it in his forthcoming film, Wanted Dead or Alive. Imran Khan and Ranbir Kapoor literally sprung into Bollywood on their respective butts. But the pioneer himself seems to be impressed with Aamir Khan’s body instead.

“I’m never ashamed of talking about my body. Though at times I do feel like a meat shop”.

It seems a young girl once came up to John and offered to bite into his butt. John said that he took no offence since he has to respect his fans. And maybe it is to target such fans that PETA had come out with a campaign on vegetarianism when they showed a poster of John wearing a skirt made of spring onions and decked in red chillies and peas. PETA must have seen red when John went on to acquire all that beef. All this seems to be before they discovered Sherlyn Chopra!

But it’s a good thing. Such creativity on part of our general insurance companies (it would not come under health cover, would it?) is good. The risk managers at the lucky insurer will be watching John’s butt very closely indeed.

What about you? Are you adequately covered? Like our hero I hope you treat insurance as an expense ONLY and not as an investment vehicle. Maintenance of our houses and cars are expense line items. Life cover should not be treated any differently. There are so many of us, highly educated and wise who get trapped by the relentless and crafty marketing messages and buy money back, guranteed returns, premium return kind of insurance policies. These help to fatten the wallet of the insurance agents and advisors. Stay away. Insurance companies sell insurance. These people are experts at macabre things like statistically analysing death and doom and gloom and selling probabilities. That’s their core competence. They are not investment managers. Best is to DIY – construct a combo of a term plan (cheapest cover for your life) and a small, well reasearched portfolio of Mutual Funds (or an Exchange Traded Fund). You’ll do better.

That’s about life. Regarding health, I am not so sure. I did mention in my previous post that for me, health is not wealth, though a lack of the former can sap the latter. The trouble is that most of us feel that since we are anyways covered by our employers, we do not need additional health cover. This may work if the cover provided by your company is adequate enough. Health covers provided by companies are linked to seniority and salary of the employee concerned. But the probability of health issues cropping up does not depend on seniority of the employee concerned. In that case, you should take out some additional health cover to protect yourself and your family (via a family floater plan). The thing that I am not perfectly clear about is that unlike life insurance where longer term cover can be purchased, I am not sure if such long tenured health covers can be purchased. This might be due to the fact that the Indian health insurance industry is not able to construct reliable statistical tables re health and disease data. Also the fact that inflation in medical expenses is very high may be preventing insurers to offer much longer term health plans (10 – 15 years). This means that one has to keep renewing health covers.


Maybe you know all this but I can bet that you might just be undercovered. (I am not a peeping tom, but the odds are in my favour if you want to wager). You might have had John Abraham for company, but not anymore. Don’t remain naked. Cover up.


And BTW, in case you are wondering, the objective of this post was not to introduce more internet search friendly tags to trap unsuspecting eyeballs. If that were the case, I’d have used Katrina Kaif’s name in this post :). (most searched Bollywood personality apparently). You feel that I am misselling? Then what about those insurance agents that sell you investments?

They Had Two, But Could Show Only One Ball

Running to empty houses all over England, nevertheless playing all over the country 🙂 I guess we hear and feel and are made aware of the English pain the most of any nation that exits the World Cup. One reason for that could be the fact that a large section of the media that covers soccer comes from England. And its no guess which way their hearts will beat.

Speaking of movies, watched The Shawshank Redemption based on a recommendation of a past colleague. Wasn’t watching much films back then in 1994, so had missed it then and ever since. Powerful performances and super dialogues:

 I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border.

There’s another line about a bird with beautiful feathers that comes to roost quite evocatively as well. 

And another: The A-Team. I remember reading the books way back when I was half the age what Wayne Rooney is today. the movie was nothing special but I read somewhere that Fox Studios has hit big and nicely with this one’s release in India.


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