Saturday, August 25, 2007

Three Takes of a Feverish Mind

A few takes as I am recovering from a bout of the “viral fever” that is currently circulating in the satellite city of New Bombay. The mind is comfortably and serenely numb, the senses are still keen and the mouth feels as if has been rubbed with wire gauze made of untempered steel. It feels good though, to be away from the office. Most of my time was spent before the telly, watching news channels, game shows, and CNN.

TAKE ONE: Hindustan Unilever Advertisement

Seen the latest ads on television? You should. There’s this Surf Excel ad that says “Daag Ache Hai.” Honestly, are stains that good? Our politicians would love these words. The merits and demerits of this statement can be debated endlessly but that isn’t what I am trying to focus here. Having been the executive secretary of the Advertising Standards Council of India (the self-regulatory body of the Indian advertising industry), I have more than a passing interest in advertising. I still can quote the ASCI Code of Self-regulation from memory, and it certainly offends the bit about ads not offending public decency.

But after the abovementioned Hindustan Unilever ad that says “Daag Ache Hai” comes another ad of the company’s (incidentally, one of the biggest advertisers in India) for Fair and Lovely cream that has this opening line “Ooohh, yeh daag dhappe….”

Some paradox this? Is “Daag” (stain) good or bad, please, please, Hindustan Unilever make up your mind.

TAKE TWO: Sanjay Dutt’s release from jail, and the media overdrive

I am a great admirer of Indian media, and the men behind the news, as I was one in an earlier avatar. But, I must say, one thing that gets on my nerves is the way news channels, how should I say this, “tooth pado-ing” on celebrity news. The release of Sanjay Dutt filled the newscasts with the media going into overdrive, as expected, even the repeated relay of same footage. The virtual frenzy to get a quote from the traumatized-looking Dutt was obvious as the mediamen covering the release kept shouting (in between jostling each other) “Baba bath kar baba, Baba bath kar baba, Baba bath kar baba, [Baba (Sanjay) say something]” while the tired looking star could only say reply, “Bad mein, bad mein [later].” Tut, tut.

Perhaps, much as the media creates the darlings of the public, they are the first to expose them when they stray from expectations. This is the advice I received from a former boss, a politician himself, “Never, fight or insult a journalist, never.” They may dress badly, look scruffy, be manipulated and harassed by their business managers, but they know too much about what is going on. I only wish they would cover more droughts.

TAKE THREE: Christianne Amanpour’s “God’s Warriors”

While on the subject of journalists, watched CNN’s Christianne Amanpour’s “God’s Warriors” trilogy which is an in-depth analysis of the extremism that has penetrated three world religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism – that worship one God, the God of Abraham. Yes, all three religions worship one God, the God of one patriarch they consider as their father – Abraham. So my question is why not co-exist and try to attain syncretism [as India has done, to some extent] instead of going for each other’s necks in the Middle East, especially in Israel?

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