Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Book Pyaas

Everyone I know, and their uncles, have either recently published a book or in the process of writing one. Clearly, authoring a book is the "in" thing this season. He has done it, she is doing it. And if everyone is doing it, I too must jump on the bandwagon.

The only thing I need now is the genre, theme and topic to start penning my future best seller. I have thought of a few genres to begin with.

I could try my luck with fiction since I do have a mean imagination. However, I don't quite have the ability to sensationalize the  mundane, which is a must-have for fiction. Also, I believe in using the least number of words to put forward a point, which clearly does not agree with the fiction genre. Further, fiction requires the author to ramble on for pages describing the scene to create a vivid imagery. I, on the other hand, do not delve on imagery and would rather jump straight into the plot. Clearly, fiction is not for me.

Which leads me to consider writing non-fiction. Maybe a celebrity biography. But then that might require me to do a lot of research. I don't mind research normally but I am not particularly fond of reading gossip columns and spicy magazines since that’s where all the juice about celebrities can be found. Also, biographies can attract controversy, and I am currently not looking to become a millionaire this early.

The only non-fiction that I could contemplate attempting is about my own life. The good part about that is most of the research material is already in my head. And whatever else I need to know about myself I can find out from my friends, and more so, from my enemies. However, at my tender age, I do not have too many interesting experiences in life to fill up a book and therefore, non-fiction must wait.

Having ruled the two main genres out, I am left with few options. I could attempt to write an extended commentary on the geo-political landscape in India, examining the various factors responsible for how the country turned out, and also evaluating what could have been if certain things about the country could have been corrected before it was too late. It could be a life-changing experience for me as an author, but chances are that it could also be a life-changing experience for me in general. In India, certain topics are taboo, and I am not too sure if I want to attempt a topic that can put life and property at risk. So this too, I shall have to pass.

The only remaining options are humor and sports. I love sports and am fairly knowledgeable about most sports. I can also conjure some wicked humor. And in India, sports offers immense opportunities for humor- the IPL drama, the Indian Hockey federation and its constant squabbles with the players, Sania Mirza and her love life, etc. Clearly, there is much fodder for me to chew on. And I can even venture overseas occasionally to munch on some EPL, La Liga, Seria A, MLS dope- the likes of John Terry , Cashley Cole and the WAGs contingent are born to be made fun of.  The Galactico circus in Madrid offers great potential for comedy as well.

This is great. I think I can already see a book coming up. And nobody who has ever played a sport will be spared.

On a closing note, shouldn't it be safer to make fun of an athlete since he/she is expected to be a good sport anyway?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Housefull - The Return of the King

This past Saturday, we caught the evening show of “Housefull”. After nearly 3 hours of continuous entertainment, we walked out with a smile on our faces. “Housefull” will remain memorable for years to come.

With an impressive ensemble star cast of Akshay Kumar, Deepika Padukone, Riteish Deshmukh, Lara Dutta and Arjun Rampal, director Sajid Khan has managed to pull off mind-boggling action with mind-numbing comedy, in what is a thoroughly entertaining journey into madness and absurdity. The movie does not even attempt to pretend to be an intelligent movie, and clearly calls for the audience to “leave your brains at home” to be entertained.

The story, in short, is about a man (Akshay) looking to find true love to turn his bad luck into good. In this pursuit, he marries Jiah Khan, only to find out she loves someone else. True love then makes an entry in the form of the leggy Deepika Padukone, and the rest of the movie is all about how Akshay, with the help of Riteish and Lara, manage to convince Deepika's brother (Arjun Rampal) for his consent. In the process, Lara and Riteish also have their own sub-plots, to add to the confusion, leading to a crowded climax and happy ending.

There are many great performances in the movie, not the least of which is the short yet impactful “Blink and Miss” performance of Jiah Khan. It takes a “big heart” to accept an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, bit-part role, and yet manage to display such immense talents. Yes, Jiah has indeed outdone herself, as well as the other two girls- Deepika and Lara. It amazes me how such a petite, gentle girl can possess such immense talents. At times, you wonder how she could keep such talents suppressed all this while, and how she could suddenly pull-off such a well-rounded performance.  One also wonders if one can really be born with such talents, or if these are acquired ones. Regardless, she has used her talents well to bounce back from the debacle of her debut movie. Especially in the scene when she emerges from the sea to Akshay’s amazement. Jiah’s scenes are the “Mind-Boggling Action” scenes, in case anyone wondered.

The rest of the movie is all Mind-Numbing. Clearly, this is in the “Singh is King” mould, and uses a generous dash of slapstick to cover up the lack of real humor. Nevertheless, when you have actors like Akshay and Riteish, you can pull off even slapstick and make it seem fun. The scene where Akshay brings home a Tiger is funny, although clearly devoid of sense, for the intelligence use of word-play. Likewise when Riteish word-plays on "Phone-Tubble" in a rare show of actual intelligence from the script-writers.

Akshay Kumar finally returns to his forte, after a less than satisfactory report card last year, in his role as a jinxed loser. He is so pathetic that a Casino actually hires him to jinx a winning table to cover its losses. It’s zany for someone to actually think of such a job, but trust Sajid Khan to think of exactly such zany stuff. Riteish has carved a niche for himself playing the funny side-kick to the hero, and is a natural in his role as Babu Rao a.k.a. Bob, a dealer at a Casino in the UK. Arjun Rampal is strictly tolerable as an Intelligence Officer cum over protective and suspecting brother of Deepika. 

Among the girls, Lara turns in a fine performance, and is both funny and sexy. Deepika is hot and pretty, but acting, clearly, is not in her genes. As regards Jiah, where do I start? She is truly an asset. Or two.

The rest of the cast is competent- Boman Irani, Lilette Dubey, Randhir Kapoor, Chunky Pandey and the British Royalty Look-alikes. Special mention for Chunkey- he is quite a charmer as Aakhri Pasta, the flirtatious but well-meaning Italiano.

In short, Houseful is a fun movie, and a great weekend watch, especially after (or even better, with) some beer. Strictly frivolous and completely wacky- Akshay Kumar is certainly back. And the two Sajids (Producer and Director) are laughing all the way to the bank.

As for me, it is a memorable movie as this was Vivaan’s first movie in a theatre. Not only was he well-behaved, but also quite enjoyed it. The scene with the Tiger was his highlight of the movie. As a family, we enjoyed the movie thoroughly. I had my own reasons.
For Vivaan, it was the Tiger. For now.

Smart or Intelligent- The Consulting Question

There is a common misconception, that being smart is the same as being intelligent. While there are many situations when the two might converge, there is still a clear difference between the two traits.

I have often come across “Smart Consultants” who have a fantastic way with words, and can paint a picture out of the most mundane things. They can handle customer situations very deftly, and can "smartly" contain many situations from getting out of hand.

However, most of the times, they don't deliver, in the most objective sense of the word. A smart consultant will find a way to evade blame or accountability without really addressing the core problem. They can, with their mumbo-jumbo, confuse the client to a point where the customer starts doubting his or her own understanding of the situation. In the “convince or confuse” debate, the smart consultant, more often than not, chooses the latter.

If consultants are paid purely for the time they spend in engaging the customer, a smart consultant is the ideal employee to have.

However, with the Management Consulting world converging with the Business Consulting world that the likes of Accenture and IBM have found their niche in, the pure-play Management Consulting industry would soon have to move away from its tried and tested Time & Material commercial model to a fixed price delivery based model, in order to keep pace with the bigger, full-services consulting players.

The need of the hour, therefore, is to breed "Intelligent Consultants". This is a breed that differs from the Smart Consultants in the fact that their objective is to solve the problem, regardless of the dependencies and challenges. An Intelligent Consultant is driven by the need to deliver in the least amount of time and effort, since he or she is paid on the end result rather than the time they put in.

As customers have started to realize their historically wasteful spend on Management Consultants, who focus more on identifying the problems rather than envisioning solutions, there is a clear role for the Intelligent Consultant to play.

Armed with traits such as empathy, ownership and accountability, an Intelligent Consultant would solely focus on the end product and, in the process, will own and drive all the intermediate activities. While he or she will identify the risks, there will not be any risks transferred to other parties. Instead, he or she would drive the risk mitigation strategy to closure.  As opposed to a Smart Consultant who would look at the problem at hand in terms of what is in his or her scope and what are the out of scope activities, for an Intelligent Consultant, the problem is the scope and the scope is the problem.

Of course, some of the traits of a Smart Consultant are still very important even within the Intelligent Consultant realm, specifically the ability to engage the customer and manage expectations. However, these traits would have to be applied in collaboration with the other traits that I have discussed in my previous paragraphs, to truly add value to a customer.

In conclusion, in the battle between the smart and intelligent, I am going to put my smart money on the intelligent ones. Aren't you convinced yet?