Movies, Politics … and Memes

Here i am again, talking about my pet topic – memes. I’ve talked about them many times – here, or here. Or here. But here we go again!

First of all please understand that a “meme” (rhymes with cream) has only now come to be “merely” an internet meme. The idea of a meme was initially postulated to try and understand how cultural ideas are “transmitted” from one person to another. Richard Dawkins postulated that an idea was made up of memes (analogous to how genes make up the body).

For Example Take a look at this

Check it out! Is this a gangs of wasseypur 2 "viral"? - @aniguha @SupraMario

At first glance you know exactly what it is – yet another one of those political posters that our wonderful politicians put up given any excuse they have. The “MEME” of a political poster is so strong that this is instantly slotted in as one.

… Then you notice that it has “Wasseypur” written on it – yes, its a promotional poster for Part 2 of Anurag Kashyap’s Magnum opus.

Then you read a news article about Some Congress Party workers in Ahmedabad and see THIS image

Congress's 'Gangs of Wasseypur' poster targets Narendra Modi

A typical looking street procession with a typical banner… wait a minute… Does that say Gangs of Chorpur? Yes! The Congress party has taken the “idea” or (meme) of Gangs of Wasseypur and used it to paint their opponents as thieves!

so yes, obviously there’s the whole ironic “Art imitates life” then “Life imitates art” deal, but for me, there’s more.

This is an example of how people use/co-opt memes as they tryto transmit ideas. Its a real life look at how the concept of using a meme is beneficial – the political meme for the film poster, and the movie meme for the politicians!

There’s more to a meme than we give it credit for. Its much more than “Bad Luck Brian”.

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Watch out for Assumptions

Imagine – You are the CEO of a company that provides a product whose service to its customers is absolutely undeniable – people will always want the service you’re selling (though not necessarily “your” brand).

Apart from some refinements, the technology of this product has remained essentially unchanged for hundreds of years, but it seems to suit everyone well, and all your consumers are happy.

One fine day, out of the blue, your R&D head comes to you with a breathtaking innovation. Made a product innovation that will solve the one “problem” with your product. It will make your product extremely easy to use! This is the next step!

What would you do, Mr. CEO? Would you embrace this innovation?

Well, obviously there’s a trick in this question somewhere, but some quibbles apart, usually people are forced to agree that, yes it makes business sense to “go for it”.

OK. New question – How many of you wear digital watches?

I am sure I can guess the answer. If you *do* wear a watch, nine times out ten its a good old “normal” watch, with  those familiar hands moving inexorably in that familiar circle.

But have you ever wondered…WHY? Why are you wearing that kind of watch and not a digital one? Isnt LED/LCD technology undeniably superior? Doesnt it make it so much easier to tell the time? Then why isnt it the “top choice”?

When digital LCD technology came along it heralded a brave new dawn for the wristwatch. Imagine! You could finally see, in numbers, what time it actually was! This was a godsend! All watch companies gleefully embraced this technology, and it seemed that how we “tell the time” was finally going to change for the first time in a hundred years.

But did it? No.

Why not?

Well, LCD/LED technology seems awesome, because there was an unspoken assumption that seemed so obvious that, well, no one bothered to think about it.

The assumption was that we use watches to tell what time it is.

Believe it or not, this assumption isn’t true – we don’t use watches to tell what time it is, at least  “right now”. Rather we use our watch to calculate “How much time left till a predetermined time in the future”. And when we understand that, we can why digital LCD watches have not been the “hit” they promised to be.

Lets take an example – you have to get to a meeting at 1045. On your way you look at your watch – why? To find out “how much time left until 1045”. If you’re wearing a digital watch, and the time is say 10:09 – you have to do a little bit of mental math to tell yourself how much time you’ve got – some 46 minutes. wait… 36 minutes. Right?

However, with a normal watch, telling how much time you have left is a breeze – this watch gives you a VISUAL representation of time. You look at it and you see “How much of the arc of the circle” is left till 1045 – you see that its a shademore than 50% of the circle, you know you have slightly  more than 30  minutes to get there.

Think about this assumption the next time you look at your watch, and you’ll see that the only time you actually care about what time it is “right now” is when someone actually asks you what time it is. And notice how when that happens it actually takes you that split second of time to answer – Because youre not USED to using your watch in that manner; usually, you look at the watch to find out “how much time you have left” to some predetermined time in the near future.

All around us, such assumptions abound. From using GDP to measure wealth, to “established” business models even to the reason why women’s shirt buttons are on the left, these are remnants of certain environmental conditions that necessitated design in a certain manner. Very often these assumptions lose their raison d’etre in a changed environment, but we persist with them, simply because we never bother to question them.

As our environment gets more chaotic and turbulent, it becomes increasingly important for all decision makers to question the underlying assumptions behind the situation, and exploring if those assumptions still remain valid.

After all, the clocks ticking.

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What they don’t teach you at IIM

This month, i complete 10 years of working after my MBA. And, well, its been an interesting journey. If its worth it to anyone, i thought id put down what i learned.

1. Your “well-meaning” Colleagues will give you advice. DONT TAKE IT.

When i graduated from IIM in 2002, i had job offers from HLL and Phillips – both were the “dream jobs” that a Marketing graduate hopes for. But it just didnt seem interesting. So, instead, i took a 50% salary cut to Help Yash Raj Films set up their Marketing Department. This was BEFORE the “corporatisation of Bollywood”…. people were still thinking that movies were all about black money, underworld etc. I think i was the first Marketing MBA in the industry.  My classmates and teachers strongly dissuaded me from taking the job. Some thought i was “Starstruck”. I’m glad i didnt listen to them though.

2. You’re not going to become a CEO in 3 months

Everyone equates my time at Yash Raj Films with the boom in Marketing, starting with “Hum tum” which quickly became a case study and established the rules of Marketing in bollywood. Hum tum was followed by dhoom, veer zaara, bunty aur babli, Salaam namaste, Fanaah, Chak de india, Dhoom 2 etc etc…. suddenly i could do no wrong. However, noone remember that it was TWO YEARS between me joing YRF, and the release of Hum Tum.

That was TWO YEARS of toiling, of making mistakes, of being disheartened. Two years of wondering if i’d made a mistake in choosing this career. MBAs have a habit of quitting their first job within a year. If I’d done that, well… i wouldnt have done some of my most well-known work.

3. When you’ve gotten really good at your job, QUIT

Why do we do a job? To earn a salary? or to become all that imagined we could be?

Some 5/6 years into my Job at Yash Raj Films, everything had gone into autopilot (or so i thought). My learning curve had become less steep, and life was, frankly, easy. Now one would be tempted to feel “Well, ive done the hard part, let me sit back and enjoy it”. However, i saw it differently. It was simple – i wasnt learning, i wasnt growing. You only have one life, only one chance to push yourself – is it really worth it to just… take it easy? I quit, after following the advice of a student. Which leads me to the next two points…

4. Your education isn’t over, keep paying attention.

You think you’ve done all the hard work, or maybe youre proud of having done so little but still having conned the system. In either case its over, you’re DONE! No more studies! Right? Wrong. Boss, the party is just starting. If it is not your priority to constantly upgrade your knowledge, to learn then, in a few years, you will become strictly mediocre. Like your cousin brother, who did engineering, and is working an IT job but isnt really “going” anywhere. And dont wait for someone to organise a “training”.. you should be studying now!

My first 2 years at YRF, i went right back to study. DId my own research. Worked with students across the country – i still use results of their research when i teach. Suddenly all that “Research Methodology” really made sense. One of my biggest eureka moments was when i equated the faffy “Product Lifecycle Curve” into a movies release earning, and actually LEARNED something for once!

Also, For me, Teaching was a great way of Learning. I had to stay sharp, i had to be organised, and over the many hours and  years of teaching the same thing over and over, i had to learn how to keep it interesting for me! And that somehow made all my fundas clearer. I threw in a few of my own too!

5. Shut up and LISTEN

We cant help it. when we are in our early 20’s we are full of exuberance and invincibility. We know best. Well, I’m sure you do. But do yourself a favor and really… Listen. Pretend you’re a master samurai who treats his enemy with great respect, and learns everything he needs, so that the master stroke is…exquisite. Just … listen. Then, the times you open your mouth, you wont be just adding to the static, something im sure you agree happens in most meetings!

While i was teaching “The Business of Entertainment” some years ago at MICA… i think it was 2007, i kept harping on and on about how “the internet will change the world”. One student piped up “THen why arent you working there”. And it made me think…  “you know what… she’s got a point” .And, because i was really  listening, some innocuous words from a student were a clarion call for me to change track. I started looking for  job change.

6. If you’re in a Job because “The money’s good” get out. NOW

I dont mean that you shouldnt earn money. It just shouldnt be the “reason” you’re doing what you’re doing. When i joined MySpace, i was earning really well… mucho dinero. But… i slowly realised it wasnt what i thought it would be. I thought Myspace was a guerilla/fast organisation. But it was an MNC, owned by newscorp. It was less “free flowing” than i thought. After a year and a half, i was desperately unhappy. But man, i was earning so MUCH!

…. but then, i actually LOOKED at my life.

I was still smoking the same cigarettes, drinking the same amount, eating the same food, living in roughly the same house. My “lifestyle” wasnt very different. SUre money was accruing in the ol’ bank account, but… was it worthi it? We spend75% of our waking life at our job – how much money is worth “losing” 75% of your LIFE?

I was about to turn 30… and i thought… is this really how its meant to be? I quit. And took the biggest risk of my life.

7. Life is short, but DONT RUSH.

We have very short event horizons. Its hard to think about the fact that life will be longer than a 3-4 yr window. So we’re always hurrying. Hurrying to get a raise, to get a promotion, to take a better job, to close the deal, to prove ourselves. And when we are hasty, we sometimes make hasty or shallow decisions…

Your career is going to be unbelievably long. You’ve got more time than you think. Take it from me. Ive been working for 12 years now, and trust me, ive barely BEGUN! SO dont be in a rush. Dont try to do it fast, try and do it RIGHT. Try and do it WELL. Trust me, as your career progresses it will make you stand out.

When i quit myspace, i had 150 job offers. Instead i thought… before i know what im going to do next, im going to really explore my passions, my daydreams, see which ones im truly serious about, see what i really wanted to do.

I worked in Fair Trade, Architecture and Urban Development, Independent Music, as a teacher across Business Schools, i wrote (and sold) a TV show, helped a movie get crowdfunding. I learned how to survive earning 30k a month – which was 10% of my previous salary. I realised that even then, if the work was exciting, nothing else really mattered.

I took all the time i needed before i aligned myself to my life goal. And because of that, there is a strang “certainty” about my life, which is irrespective of how my “job” is going. Because, well, Life’s good.

8. Understand that this is your LIFE

THis isnt a movie playing out. This isnt an ignored moment fading into another. THis is YOU, dying, slowly. How do you want to be remembered? When they write your obituary, what do you want them to say? What is actually worth while?

For me, I came to a conclusion that a good life is one that helps as many as possible. You may come up with something else. But itd be nice if you thought about it.


I wanted to have 10 neat bullet points, i have 8. On reareading this i feel that maybe its a bit rambly. Maybe its a bit trite. Maybe you’ll read this and laugh at me. WHo knows? ….which, DOES  bring me to another point.

9. Life is Unpredictable – so enjoy yourself right NOW.

We keep thinking that “WHen THIS happens, THEN life will be perfect”. WHen i earn this much, or hen we get married, or when i have a child, or when my children graduate…. But think about it. Right now, this moment. You’re healthy. Your family is happy. THings are pretty much ok. Nothing massively catastrophic happening. People love you. Your stomach’s full. Its pretty damn perfect, no?

You’re going to look back at this time with such nostalgia and wistfulness na…

So, dont wait for something to make you happy. just… BE happy. NOW. Because life is unpredictable – store up your happiness today for a potential rainy day.


The rest, will take care of itself. I think.

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When did your education go wrong?

Its a simple question, but it cuts deep.

If you could be so kind as to fill up this tiny little questionnaire, it’ll help me make all sorts of graphs etc.

Please do leave comments below if you want to share your thoughts with everyone.

thanks so much

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Female Foeticide – Please Help me Fight this logic

Following Sunday’s airing of Satyamev Jayate, it isnt a surprise that the hot topic of conversation around watercoolers is Aamir Khan/ Female Foeticide. As one would expect, the overwhelming reaction was positive, admiring the actor and deploring the practice of killing the girl child.

I did, however, have one conversation which left me with a lot of difficulty – though morally reprehensible, this gentleman (who shall not be named) provided a logical reason to support female foeticide. And, for once, i could not argue with him on his logic, which has caused me considerable distress.

This is how the conversation went.

Him: Ok, imagine that there is one man and 100 women. Theoretically how many children can be born in 1 year?

Me: Theoretically, well, 100 i guess. (Assuming that man is as virile and handsome as me of course)

Him – ok, now assume there are 100 men and 1 woman. How many children can be born in 1 year?

Me – well, only 1.

Him – Correct.That is why forced sterilisation didnt work in the 70s – we were focussing on the wrong gender. Instead of vasectomies for men, if we had forced tubectomies on women, we would have had more of an impact on birth rates.

Me – well, you can’t be sure about that

Him – I can. Women are the limiting factor in children. Specifically, the less working  wombs there are the less kids you can have, right? if you tie one man’s tubes, some other man can still f*** his woman and make her pregnant. Tie a woman’s tubes, and then, no matter who f***s her, she cant have kids – its more efficient

Me – dude, that’s callous

Him – its a fact! Lets take it one step further. If the limiting factor of population growth is number of available wombs, then the “ideal” way is to kill a female child even before its born. That way we dont even waste resources in making her grow to a reproductive age only to tie her tubes. We have the same effect – one less available womb. Except its even MORE efficient.

Me – DUDE! That’s just wrong! Your mother is a woman! if she didnt exist, neither would you!

Him – that’s just the luck of the draw. Some people get born, some dont… it has nothing to do with the logic

Me – ya, but increasing birth rates have to do with NRR (net reproductive rate), if we can bring NRR down…

Him – again, thats post facto – we are trying to bring down NRR because of so many available wombs. If those wombs didnt exist, birth rates would automatically drop. You cant fault the logic

Me: But…

Him – you *cant* fault the logic. Female foeticide is the most efficient way of long term population control, which is india’s biggest challenge

Me – …. …. I am *SO* tweeting about this.

So, there you have it. One man’s logic as to why female foeticide should be supported. And for the LIFE of me, i cant find a way to LOGICALLY argue his point. I can always get emotional and call him a murderer, or a nazi or try to make him think aout how sweet little girls look like when dressed up as a princess, but he’s just going to respond with “That’s all glitter, my underlying logic is sound”

Female Foeticide is morally reprehensible. And what Satyameva Jayate is trying to do is to bring up these onversations for discussion. How do i fight this guy’s logic? Someone help me?

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The Collectivity Writers’ Apprenticeship Program – 2nd Batch

After a great first batch, Collectivity is pleased to announce that the 2nd Batch of the Collectivity Writers’ Apprenticeship Program will be starting in Mumbai from May 2012.

This program is meant for young writers who are looking to develop their skills in order to output ideas which can be used in the media industry.

With real world clients, including film and tv channels, mentoring from established writers, specific goal oriented deadlines, a monthly stipend paid to all writers and due care in ownership of IP, this program is geared to identify and nurture fresh writing talent for the media industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How does this work really?

Initially all shortlisted writers have weekly meetings (usually on saturdays) with collectivity and the clients, to get an idea of the client requirements. Following this, they are guided through a pitch process and workable ideas are identified. These ideas are then developed further with individual attention to each writer, and the guidance of industry professionals and the COllectivity Team, until they are in a position to be registered and then pitched.

ALL IP RESTS WITH THE WRITERS – we’re not evil 🙂

2. Pitched?

Yes, pitched. Once your idea are registered, Collectivity also takes the responsibility of representing your work to media clients. In other words, you get your very own agent.

3. Sounds cool… AND i get paid?

Yes you do. No matter what happens, collectivity will pay each writer rs 15,000 per month (thats nearly 50k across the project!).

4. SO is it only for movies and TV?

On the whole, yes, we’re focussing on films an television. However, there will also be “Live work” – most usually in the area of comic books (yay!), giving you a further opportunity to earn even MORE!

5. W00t! where do i sign up?!

Well… the signup process goes like this – email your cv, a covering letter, and an example of your best work to us on FOllowing a short list, we will invite you for interviews in May

6. Cool… sounds Easy.

Its NOT easy. if you’re chosen, you will be expected to perform, meet deadlines, and push yourself. No silly excuses, no lazy halfassery. At the end of 4 weeks we will have a review of progress, and may choose to discontinue our contract with you. That means you get fired from a writing job – not nice for your ego.

7. But… i have a job!

That’s cool – we do the workshop on saturdays, so it shouldnt matter – as long as you are there on time! Once your ideas get firmer, we will spend personalised time with you, at a mutually convenient time. However, be aware that we will expect at least 6-8 hrs of work from you WEEKLY. if you cant give it that time, then dont apply

8. I need more details!!

Well, comment below and we’ll try to answer!

Looking forward to working with you!

NB – if you want to be considered, the deadline for all applications is by 15th April, 2012

UPDATE – As i was chilling in Japan, deadline has been extended to 22nd April!

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Education in India – White paper

As you know, my company, Collectivity, is working to try and improve “What and how we teach our students”

As a further step in this journey, we are currently preparing an exhaustive “white paper” which we will be presenting to The Ministry of HRD, as well as to top college and university administrators and Teachers

We are all impacted by our current education system, and therefore our opinions matter. Id really appreciate it if you could give me yours. There are 3 different surveys depending on your current “station in life”

1. For Corporates/working professionals

2 For Teachers/administrators/people working with educational institutes

3 For Students

Depending on who you are, i would request you to kindly take 5-10 minutes of your time, to click on the appropriate linke above and fill up the survey?

Also, id be extremely happy to have any further inputs from you – if youd like to volunteer to help, even better! DO transmit this link accross your social networks, workplace/educational institute – the more responses we get, the better!

Thanks so much. I promise, together, we can be the change we want to see in the world.

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