Monday, March 11, 2019

All that's wrong with the new Surf Excel ad

It is not India-Pak LOC, but Twitter that is the hottest war zone right now. And after Balakot, the josh is so high that my twitter timeline is filled with the proponents & opponents waging their solo battle for or against anything & everything. Including a harmless commercial for a detergent powder. While I have nothing against Hindustan Unilever (HUL) & have been an admirer of its marketing skills, a critical viewing of the new Surf Excel TVC (https://youtu.be/Zq7mN8oi8ds) made me see all that is wrong in the ad. So, here I go...


Firstly, the tagline - Daag achhe hain. My kid loved this tagline when it was introduced & would merrily tell this to her mom. But no longer, after discovering that it had a short shelf life as an antidote to the scolding she receives after dirtying her clothes. Yes, this tagline sounded good the first few times. But now it sounds like a lame excuse for a sub standard product. Come on HUL, after all these years couldn't you come up with a product that would remove all stains? The kids would love it & you would have a loyal customer base in the next generation too.

Moreover, these topical ads no longer have any novelty value as there are many other advertisers who come out with TVCs focused on a particular event or theme. Tata Tea still manages to recycle its ads during election season & it works every time (for our netas, or their politics, is never going to change). But detergent is not such a product. A Holi-themed commercial would have worked well had HUL launched a detergent that specifically removes the holi colours. But it is selling the same old detergent. This is not even a case of old wine in new bottle. In this age when all the information in the world is freely available on Google, you cannot fool anyone for the shortest period of time.

I also do not like the empty street shown in the ad. Holi is one festival where everyone is outside the house. At least the kids are, for no self respecting mom likes her home dirty with holi colours. It is a festival celebrated outdoors & one comes inside only after every one has run out of colours & water. Here we find the young kids safely barricaded on the first floor & an empty street below. During my younger days, we would have thrown a water balloon back at the boys above. Even at the risk of not being seen around this house for the next week till aunty had forgotten all. It appears the creative director has never played holi the way it should be.

What I disliked the most about this ad was the girl on the bicycle wearing no safety gear. Kids should mandatorily be made to wear not just the helmet, but elbow caps & knee caps too while riding. Yes, this doesn't happen in India, but shouldn't a socially responsible advertiser show a properly geared rider? Watch any ad for a car & you will find front seat occupants wearing the seat belts. Now watch the cars on the road & you will find very few doing so. But the car manufacturer/marketer has done its job & it is for the society and law enforcing agencies to do their bit. If you have watched the Edelweiss Tokio Life advert, the girl learning the bicycle is also properly decked up. If Edleweiss can, why can't HUL? I find the ad, while aiming to be socially meaningful, simply promoting a chalta hai attitude towards road safety. Which is a major cause of accidents on our roads. HUL, you are not responsible enough.



But these should not give rise to the kind of protests that HUL is facing. And I wondered why. For the answer I turned to a dear friend who is actively involved with a political party of a particular hue. What he disclosed really stumped me. In the ad, the little girl eggs on the boys by saying "fenk ke dikha na". And this is what pissed off the devotees, for there is only one person with the divine right to fenkofy. Hence the battle cry #BoycottSurfExcel.


Pics source: 
Surf Excel ad.: https://trak.in/tags/business/2019/03/11/after-kumbh-ad-hindustan-unilever-faces-backlash-over-holi-ad-for-surf-excel-boycottsurfexcel/ 
Edelweiss Tokio Life ad: https://www.zeebiz.com/companies/news-edelweiss-tokio-life-insurance-launches-its-tv-commercials-directed-by-noted-bollywood-director-shoojit-sircar-86596

Friday, February 22, 2019

Avenging Pulwama


So BCCI is still not sure whether it wants to play Pakistan in the world cup. Whatever, at least they have started thinking on the right track. 

I believe it does not behove a country of India's stature to get into a skirmish with a country like Pakistan. But it is #TerrorStatePak that we are dealing with & we shouldn't endure the bleeding through a thousand cuts. And #Pulwama has to be avenged. However, I advocate going about it in a manner that they don't even realise what hit them.

This is why we should call for expulsion of Pakistan from ICC. That will really hurt them, and their new PM too, he himself being a cricketer of repute once. We all know how Pakistan has been pleading for Paki players be allowed to play in IPL. When they are not able to play any international game whatsoever, they will come to their senses. Today, the Pak army has crippled democracy. But seeing the state of affairs of cricket, I am sure retired cricketers like Miyadad & Waqar, with many an old axe to grind against Imran, would float their own political fronts. The Pak army top brass will the be too busy with this new internal politics to even glance across the border. And let us live in peace.

But till this happens, TV channels in India & the Indian websites should stop covering any match involving Pakistan. Cricbuzz is already on the job on this & the Pakistani fans have started clamouring for the good old days. And not just Cricket, the same should be done for Hockey too. These are the only two sports Pakistan is good at, and India provides the maximum eyeballs to both. The international federations of both the sports are too accommodating of Indian interests. I am sure if our federations apply enough pressure, the Pakis would be left with playing only Gulli-Danda in the streets.

The Bollywood has also jumped into the ban Pak artist bandwagon. But they should draw a line - artists of Pak origin but brought up elsewhere (UK, Canada, etc.) should be welcome to make India their home. The Indian film buffs can always do with another overseas actress like Katrina Kaif or Sunny Leone & should not be denied the simple pleasures. In fact, we should make Sunny Leone the beacon of Bollywood. Her films should be bombarded on the satellite networks & her videos on the mobile networks. Her films would lure the Pak actresses to ditch their homeland & cross the border. Her videos would ensure that the idle men who now carry guns would be too busy with their phones. 

And all those young men who take up the gun will realise that there are more "hoors" on earth than "jannat". And that these hoors are migrating from their country to the neighbouring one. They will drop the guns & get busy protecting their riches. And you know what, Sunny Leone also promotes Mankind Pharma products. It will get a new market on the platter. And this is one product where a customer will never trust one made in China. Even if sold at Chinese costs!!

The Indian government should also pardon Vijay Mallya on the condition that he settles down in Dubai & starts new businesses in Pakistan. I am sure he will be too eager to push his two most successful products into a new market - Kingfisher beer & Kingfisher calendar. If this happens, it will be the knockout punch. Both of these are haraam in Islam & the mulla brigade out there will not take kindly to this. But will the illeterate, unemployed, idle Pak youth shun what the King of Good Times offers simply becuase a priest sitting inside a mosque says so? I very much doubt this. In fact, with a bottle or two of the Kingfisher beer down their throats & emboldened by the Kingfisher calendar in their possession, these youth could revolt against the clergy. Forget Kashmir, they won't even be able to defend their own mosques.

But these are all short term measures & we need a permanent solution. With Pakistan, one never knows when they get bored with killing each other or the afghans & get back to meddling in India. We should resort to cultural warfare to show these people their proper position. Starting with Biryani... We should claim GI tag for Biryani. Pakistan is sure to counter this. But the kinds & varieties of Biryani's available in India, and that Biryani's popularity began when the subcontinent was a single nation, should suffice. Why this is important? Once GI tag is received, every time a Pakistani eats Biryani he will be reminded of the big brother India & be thankful that we gave this wonderful dish to the world. Or, shun this pleasure altogether. Let the Pakis enjoy their Biryani-less feasts, if they can! And what will they offer to the Saudi prince when he comes calling? Hakka Noodles & Chicken Fried Rice? They will not get even $ 20 million then.

At the same time, the government should declare Urdu as our second national language. Which is legitimate as Urdu was developed in India & is our native language. And we should go around the world promoting Urdu as our language. For, our cultural & literary heritage in Urdu (and otherwise too) is much richer than Pakistan's. You want a separate country? Get a separate language too. With Arabic & Persian also having their own homelands, the paki boys will have to develop their own language from scratch. Once they get free from scratching their butts. It will be fun watching them do so (developing the language, stupid), for its no nuclear secret that can be stolen.

India & Pakistan have a lot of shared cultural heritage. We should start appropriating it. Now, the Punjabis are still an influential community despite the Sharif family falling foul of the defence establishment. But with Bhuttos practically exterminated politically, it opens space for us. We should declare Cheti Chand a National Holiday, at par with Diwali, Holi & the Eid's. And also start celebrating other Sindhi festivals publicly. Let the Sindhis in Pakistan know that across the border too their customs are respected. Also, we should award LK Advani with the Bharat Ratna (hope the PM agrees for the sake of the nation). This would show them that while the Pak establishment kills the Sindhi leaders, we respect the ones we have. Hopefully, this would give rise to a segment within Pakistan that is friendly with us & works for a closer integration of the hearts. And maybe, well... let's not speak on this that openly & publicly.

This is all I can think of at this time. Maybe, some other ideas would crop up the next time. 

Hopefully, the government would have implemented some of the above by then & there will be no next time. 

Jai Hind!

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Letter to the School


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Dear Madam,

The complain note was a pleasure.
Yes, you read that right!
Whatever may be the insinuation,
It filled me with delight.

Firstly, what she has done
Little kids are expected to do.
And such others that I know
Number much more than a few.

This is how friends and own self,
Our creativity, we expressed.
This being a kid's natural instinct,
Our school/parents never suppressed.

And before my girl discovers life
And navigates this complex maze,
I want her to have all the fun
In these few childhood days.

While I have not tutored her
On what all fun acts to do,
It was a wonderful realisation,
The same mischief, we did too.

But no such reprimands befell us
Because the town that we stayed
Always had an assimilative culture
And knows how characters get made.

Thus, we may now pin the blame
On free thinking, this town gives.
And suggest the aggrieved parent
Move to a place more conservative.

For, its most likely his own son
Should come under the same influence.
And consider, in the growing up years,
For these views, his dad a dunce.

The aggrieved parent has all right
To question my kid's upbringing.
But let him know, for all he knows,
That he actually knows nothing.

Else, why hasn't he realised
That upbringing is a long process,
And a ten year old child
Is just a work in progress?

Its not as a child, or even a teen,
But growing up to a mature adult,
That the parent can proudly show
Upbringing and its due result.

Let aggrieved parent share his coordinates.
Our performance, we may then compare.
For, its a good fifteen years away,
To know, as parents, how we fare.

I have spoken to the girl
And she admits her part,
But also that she is not
The sole contributor to this art.

So, if you will delve a bit deeper,
I am sure you will find
That in your lovely class
There are other creative minds.

It may very well be the victim child
For all that I do know.
And this is not far fetched,
If, by his own reaction, you go.

While the aggrieved parent
Would still thrust all blame,
Let those little kids know
That harmless fun has no shame.

Lastly, this being the week
Dedicated to St. Valentine,
I wish the aggrieved parent
All that is fine.

(Ashish Dimri, 09/02/2019)


p.s.: The above was in response to a complaint (appended below, names struck off) by a parent that my daughter had drawn on his son's portrait in the school diary. While this would have been brushed off as a case of being too touchy & overprotective, I had to respond because he questioned her upbringing for the same. So, if you come across your or any other kid doing the same, let them be. Its their childhood & we shouldn't interfere with it. Let them enjoy the childhood while it lasts. 



Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Backbenchers of the World


Yesterday, we finally had traditional powers, Brazil & Belgium, bucking the trend of upsets at FIFA World Cup. While Brazil turned it around in the 2nd half, Belgium managed to do this with just 15 seconds left of the added time. This time, the heavyweights of the football world will remain in the shadows of memories.

What we recall would be the speedy Mexicans outpacing & outscoring the Germans, or Iceland defence, packed denser than an iceberg, puncturing the halo around Messi. But Argentina has a knack of getting into such spots. Remember 1990, when the defending champions lost to Cameroon in their opening fixture?

But this post is not about Argentina’s World Cup woes. It is about those unheralded teams & players who rose to glory during this once-in-four-years event. Like Cameroon, guided by an ageing sub, Roger Milla, reaching the quarters in 1990. That cup also saw the 2nd choice Argentine goalkeeper (another sub), Sergio Goycochea, stopping spot kicks like never before (or after) to take his team to the finals.

Not just 1990 (or 2018), but the history of the World Cup is replete with such upsets. Like North Korea defeating Italy in 1966. Or Nigeria reaching the knockout stage at its first appearance in 1994. And USA defeating England (unbelievable but its true) in 1950.

What makes these teams & players punch above their weight, defying al predictions & destroying reputations? The major reason, I believe, is an absence of any expectations. Devoid of pressure to perform, they attempt & deliver their best.

Then we have the lack of fear or risk. A star footballer is always worried about the injuries that he may pick up & plays it safe (a superstar footballer is more proactive, he feigns injuries!). But for these little known ones, playing at this stage compensates several times a few months of injury lay off. Thus, they go all out & give it their all which reflects in the result.

Next, is the joy they derive from the sport. They still are not the mercenaries of the sporting world, they play for pride, passion & fun. A missed chance is as good as a goal scored. Even in defeat, they are not heart broken.

Theirs is not a David vs Goliath tale. They shine briefly before the big boys take over. But in that short period, they leave behind indelible memories. And we love them for this. For want of a better term, let’s call them Backbenchers.

Another two weeks & the cup will be over. Or backbenchers will also disappear from the screens only to reappear in repeat telecasts four years hence as a build-up to the next World Cup.

But, worry not… If you have some understanding of Gujarati, you may as well go & watch the movie being released on 20th July – Backbenchers (brought to you by Purple Wings Productions). And relive those good old days!!



(And till the movie is released, you have the above vdo)


Pic source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_FIFA_World_Cup 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Thank You, ABD



AB De Villiers, the Mr. 360 of cricket, announced his retirement from international cricket yesterday. This had to happen & would have been equally sad whenever it would have, for even legends have to call it a day sometime. ABD says he is retiring because he is “tired”. Now this is something not easily digested. Not only the most entertaining & awe-inspiring, he was also an extremely fit & athletic cricketer. I think the reasons go beyond cricket & I am hazarding a few guesses what those could be…

Is he looking at a post-cricket sports career in another sport. We already have Usain Bolt who is evaluating a stint in pro soccer in Bundesliga. And ABD has been proficient in other sports too. In fact, he played hockey, football, rugby, tennis & badminton for South Africa as a junior. Maybe, he is considering a return to one of these or some other sport where he could utilise the skills he so splendidly displayed while playing cricket. But I think, it will be definitely a contact sport. Playing cricket at the top level for such a long time makes players such as ABD experts in avoiding unwanted contact, with not just other players but also other elements of the game like bookies, journalists, etc. When avoiding a sliding tackle by a defender, ABD will thank his clean record while in international cricket.

We also need to acknowledge that cricketers of today play a lot more cricket all year round than their predecessors. This takes a heavy toll on their body. We have already seen MS Dhoni, another very fit cricketer, playing only the limited overs variety for this very reason. Players such as ABD & MSD give it their all when on the field. As the body ages, the physical capacity also reduces. Like MSD, ABD could also have opted to play the shorter versions of the game. But he didn’t. I think this is because he plays for RCB in the IPL, which necessitates staying in Bangalore. It is actually the Bangalore traffic that is tiring not a 40-over game of cricket. Imagine going to (and returning from) the nets or an IPL match on the Bangalore roads. And ABD had to hit all those amazing shots & take unbelievable catches. While ABD is only “tired”, ordinary mortals would be exhausted by the time they took the field. Maybe, he should have moved on to another franchise, say Kings XI. But that’s something ordinary people do.

Cricket is no longer a lazy gentleman’s game (the game being lazy, not the gentlemen). Especially the 20-20 version. It is adrenaline charged, high energy game from start to finish with packed stands cheering (or booing) every ball or shot. And with stakes so high, it is also a mental game. At the end of the day, a player is bound to be drained out physically, mentally & emotionally. It is for this reason, the promoters hold post-match parties for the teams & guests. This helps the players to totally forget the on-field action & wake up the next day mentally fresh & emotionally stronger. But with the King of Good Times, the singular Mr. Vijay Mallya, no longer around, I doubt the RCB’s post-match celebrations any longer help. Perhaps, this is why ABD said he has “run out of gas”.

Have you been also intrigued by the date of announcement? The day he tweeted his plans, a new CM was taking oath of office in Bangalore. After a week of political games that were as beguiling & had as much drama as an IPL match. But this was totally different than the way ABD played his cricket. In the way that a team won on the basis of how it played & consequently, result of the match. Or the manner a player’s performance was appreciated even if he happened to be in the other team. Or, walking off even before the umpire declared him out. But what happened in Bangalore on the days leading to ABD declaring his retirement from international cricket was just not cricket. An absence of honesty, integrity, ethics. How soon before cricket too embraced the ways of the outside world? ABD simply signed off before that happened. Leaving behind unforgettable memories for the fans to savour on a rained-out match day.


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