Archive for March 2006

Lajja by Taslima Nasreen

March 27, 2006

I was born to sing these sorrows
to expose the destructive beasts…
I stir up the grief of my people,
I water their subterranean hopes,

for to what purpose my songs,
the natural gift of beauty and words,
if it does not serve my people
to struggle and walk with me?

–Pablo Neruda, I Come From the South

Backdrop
The historical context of the novel Lajja (Shame) by Taslima Nasreen is the demolition on 6th December 1992 of the 16th century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya, U.P., India, and its devastating fallout in Bangladesh where, in reputed vengeance, temples were destroyed and the (minority) Hindus overnight became victims of insensitive and barbaric violence at the hands of Muslim ruffians on prowl.

Characters
The stage is set in Bangladesh and the story revolves around an extremely patriotic Hindu family. Suranjan a profligate middle-aged man with little or no accomplishment in his life to boast about is the son of a doctor (Sudhamoy) with strong national values. Sudhamoy’s past tells the story of his support for his clan during the national movement and of his work for the cause of the nation. In turn people whom he considered his own rewarded him by mutilating his genitals. Despite all this he strongly believes that Bangladesh is his home and refuses to move to Calcutta (India) to seek refuge like lakhs of others. Suranjan also loves his motherland just like his father despite being deprived of equal opportunities due to his religious background. Kiranmoyee, Sudhamoy’s wife is depicted as a loveable character who stands by her husband and son in the times of all adversities killing her own personal desires and wishes in the process. Maya, Sudhamoy’s daughter is flustered with complaints, as her family wants to live in the same country even at times of peril like this one. Taslima in her tale buttresses her fiction with facts. Her attempt in this book is not to malign any religion, it is an earnest beseech to the human race to embrace humanity and shun fanatism. The story is gripping and extremely poignant.

Two essential points highlighted
Renaming Lalmohan Poddar road as Abdul Karim Gaznavi Street, Nari Shiksha Mandir as Shere Bangla balika Bidyalaya is just two of the many examples of similar kinds. On the surface the renaming may appear to be mere sorting but when one digs deep into the matter, one realizes that this is an attempt to erase the very existence/feeling of existence of a certain community (usually the minority) from the society.

Rape is infringement of a woman and her body and tries to establish that a woman is subordinate to a man. A woman is looked down upon as a property and not as another human. Thus a man can command over her and can do whatever he so pleases to with this property. Maya’s abduction in the latter part of the story clearly tries to signify a possible gang rape. All those examples of alleged instances of raping women in various parts of the country also help raise the gender disparity issue.

My take on the book
Literary joie de vivre, arty language, analogies are characteristics that are rather absent in the book. Yes, you must not read this book if you are looking out for any of these. But, some books acquire over time a piquant distinction and abiding relevance in human affairs. Lajja is among them, at least in so far as the sub-continent is concerned. It remains influential and remarkable.
Lajja totally changed the life of the author forever. The book was first banned in Bangladesh. A fatwa was announced by the Muslim clerics to kill Taslima Nasreen and an award was announced for the one who would carry out such an activity.
Taslima has taken on all these monsters single-handedly. She has pierced into their primitive egos and their monstrous ignorance, as she tears to pieces their age-old immoralities and habitual hypocrisies. There might have been several other Taslimas in the making, conscientious and capable, perhaps but who remained suppressed because of the intimidating example of her travails as a woman, as a writer, as a nonconformist, as an independent thinker. She certainly opened the doors and windows for others to breathe the fresh air of freedom of thought and expression and venture forth to get rid of the choking murk of merciless and enslaving superstitions. All in all, a great book!!

Wrap up
Should we expect Dhaka to arrest and punish the goons and gangsters terrorizing the Hindus? “The creator is always indulgent to its creatures.” As in Bangladesh, so in India. Do we expect the BJP-led National Demolition Alliance to arrest and punish the Hindu anti-socials guilty of rape, rapine, arson, assassination that they commit with impunity against the Christians and Muslims? Certainly, not. Because they have been brainwashed and convinced that their crimes constitute “cultural nationalism” and real secularism, that these make them robust and patriotic. These bloody and tribal savageries have made them more and pure Hindus.

As an Indian, I feel, we belong to a country where Religion is politicized, politics is criminalized and crimes are nationalized. This is indeed a shame and this book talks rather boldly about all this and much much more………
It is quintessential for each one of us to protest against and show resistance to inhuman injustice and feral blood lust. The Bangladesh government, denied all the atrocities happening there, and called evidence and reports detailing these alleged crimes against humanity as exaggerated and fabricated. This portrays the routine and reflexive response of the complicit administrations of countries in the subcontinent. It is nothing new to us Indians. There is a sense of deja vu in the verbal pall of inanity that the states ineffectively but aggressively seek to spread over their crimes. This is the triteness Indians regularly hear in clemency of the Saffronite criminals belonging to the Hindu fundamentalist parties.
Lajja is an exposition of true and real life hatred that runs in veins and arteries of the fanatics and the story according to me, would not have been any different had it been staged in a country like ours or for that matter even in Pakistan.

“Let another name for secularism be Humanism” – Taslima Nasreen

(PS: Blogging will be sporadic for sometime)

Brand Melody – Part I

March 4, 2006
Authors’ note
During my final semester in Bachelor of management studies (BMS), I majored in Marketing of which a large chunk (as I figured out) comprised of Advertising and Brands. Very soon I developed a keen interest in the subject, especially brands. I had an urge to know more about the genesis of various brands and their related topics. I enjoyed reading more and more of brand building concepts, branding strategies, their application in today’s business and advertising scenario. That apart, another one of my ardent interests is Music.
Hence, when I thought of merging the two – Brands and Music, here is what I could come up with. Apart from reflecting my own opinion and ideas on the subject, a good part of this write-up discusses facts about companies, brands, etc based on a research I did during BMS. Also, this is my first post with a few photos/pics. Read, learn and enjoy!!

“The advertisers who believe in the selling power of jingles have never had to sell anything.”
——- David Ogilvy

In recent years, consumer purchase decisions have become more weighted towards emotional attributes rather than functional benefits. As consumers become increasingly ‘high tech’, they crave personalization and ‘high touch.’ Music is one such instrument in the hands of advertisers and marketing personnel that enables them to touch the personal chord of the consumers.

“Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent.”
——- Victor Hugo

The true marketing potential of music is that without any other stimulus, it can access a mood, emotion, and deeply move specific demographics within a target market in just a few seconds. In addition, the heritage of music, through the artist, Genre, etc., can reflect a culture, a time period and lifestyle without even playing a note! Musicians and songwriters themselves have an innate talent for making connections and distilling a message into its essence. They are often dreamers and visionaries who operate on an emotional level – natural drivers of direction and catalysts for expressing complex social issues in contemporary voice. In addition, with new multimedia platforms such as interactive mobile phones, music can further extend its reach and ability to impact the consumer on a multitude of levels. The television commercial has historically been the initial platform where brands have used music to support a visual idea.

Creating Brand identity through music
The GAP creative teams have excelled with this approach. The GAP has a very clear and compelling music DNA: fun, edgy, innovative, approachable and personal. The consistency of the style of its television commercials, plain white backdrops with young energetic multicultural people, with bold exciting music, is The GAP identity glue under which a host of different products have been successfully launched. They created a formula that clicked in the consumer’s mind. The GAP clearly understands that building a Brand by ‘tone of voice’ requires repetition and exposure. The GAP repeatedly used this format and as a result helped promote artists’ new tracks in seasonal commercials. When singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright appeared in a Christmas commercial, the record company began promoting him as “that guy who appeared in the GAP commercial.”

Music Strategy
A classy example of a great Music strategy is Nike’s use of an old, relatively unknown Elvis track as the soundtrack to a commercial. The commercial gave the track huge airtime on broadcast media, something that the radio stations would not give to an artist who had been dead for 25 years.
The hype was not about the quality of the commercial or the cost of the shoot but the fact that the Elvis estate had been persuaded to allow a modern remix of the track by a popular DJ, JXL and that this was the 25th anniversary of the death of a superstar. The amount of column inches that the partnership produced was beyond the wildest PR expectations. BMG, the record company that owns the Elvis catalogue, had spent 25 years repackaging and reinventing the Elvis back catalogue with a very steady but modest level of success. Off the back of this commercial and the subsequent No 1 single hit in 22 territories, they were able to produce and release a new CD of the Elvis No 1’s over the last 25 years and shifted tons of millions of copies of the album. What made this CD so powerful was that it included the latest hit No 1 “A Little Less Conversation” which charted in the year of the 25th anniversary. The Nike logo had a tag of the Elvis Charm and magic that worked for the brand as well as the record company, BMG.

A more Indian example would be that of the Close Up commercial created by O & M, for instance, superim poses a K L Saigalesque background score on a comic book style visual, while the in-house team at Indore designed the Radio Mirchi segment in which it was to be played. Both hit the funny bone with their parody of old-world Hindi musical styles and thus the jingle, “kya aap close-up karte hai…” proved to be a super-hit and we all found ourselves humming it from time to time.

Brand weds Emotion
Music is essentially emotional and there are few other elements of a brand that have the power to be as responsive to people’s needs for sensory pleasure and to promises of delivery. People relate to brands in a similar way. They form relationships based on personality, appearances (style and image) and trust. Great music can create yearning for a Brand, self-confidence and security through ownership, and make us feel as if we belong to a larger group. Arguably, it is not just the music that evokes the emotion but rather the whole Brand or image of that music entity.
The lingering notes of Obsession between the folds of satin; the sight of a fast-melting dollop of Amul butter with the connotation of “The taste of India!” the aroma of steaming Campbell soup; the texture of Wedgewood artifacts; the electric blue of Pepsi; and the haunting tune of the Cadburys ad (Kya swaad hai zindagi mein) …brands market experiences. The “Sound of a Brand” is more complex. It is the emotional response to the Brand that is evoked universally, from the commercial players in the management of the acquisition of music content/property right through to the consumer on the street at the receiving end. The consumer on a conscious or subconscious level between the Brand and the music being used about the initial connection makes the “Sound of the Brand”. For example the Cadburys advertisement of the lady dancing in the field had left its strong impact on the emotional levels of the consumers as it said ‘Kya swaad hai zindagi mein.’ The music always connects to the lives of the Cadbury’s chocolate eater. Cadbury’s jingles have always maintained the personal and emotional aspects right from in all their advertisements which include ‘Kya swaad hai zindagi mein’ (the cricket ground), ‘khaane waalon ko khaane ka bahana chaahiye’ (Cyrus Broacha ad) and ‘khush hua mein khamakha.’

The two Mc Donald’s campaigns, “McDonald’s mein hai kuch baat” and, “I m lovin’ it” have also been successful due to differentiated music strategies. McDonald’s, consistently attempts at striking a common chord between the emotional quotient of the consumer and the brand name making it more personal so as to make believe each and every consumer that ‘yes, he’s lovin’ it.’ The music is brief yet powerful, full of energy and more fun oriented. Also, the TV commercials are conceptualised in such a manner that the music/lyrical song is completely soaked into the script of the ad. The best example of one such commercial is that of the stage-fearing little boy who recites a poetry in the restaurant and is applauded by all. This is the music differentiation strategy that McDonald’s has constantly followed. What a customer hears may make the difference between his choosing and not choosing a particular brand. Music can make the difference.
Music rekindles human emotions with respect to a brand and in this way helps to marry off the two – brand and emotions. Music is an incredibly powerful vehicle that has the power to convey the emotional attributes of products and services while simultaneously creating layered, textural experiences in our lives. A shift in thinking, from regarding music as a soft service function to a cornerstone of business/brand strategy has indeed occurred.

Sources of research
Books:
Gerald J. Gorn’s The Effects of Music In Advertising on Choice behaviour, 1982.
Ogilvy on Advertising
How to capture the advertising high ground by Winston Fletcher
Advertising express – a monthly digest by ICFAI, January and March’05 issues
Sites:
Agencyfaqs
Google images
Wikipedia

Summers are a comin’

March 2, 2006

The unmistakable typical smell of unfinished cement exterior, coated by films of dust, in scorching afternoon Sun. No wind. Standing in the shade, the sun is out of sight, yet it makes you squint your eyes. A thin layer of sweat coats your palms and feet if you stay long enough. Yes, it is the advent of Summers. Not yet hot enough for it to be bad standing in the open, yet hot enough. Dry dust in the air and around you.
Summers are coming.
But even more, it is THAT season. The season dreaded and looked forward to since childhood. The time when evenings become suddenly cold and pleasant. When the wind picks up and evenings become longer, while still retaining that charm of winters. Clear skies, intercepted by puffs of traveling white clouds. Yes, this is the weather and the time of the year when as a child I would yearn to play, longer and longer, outside, postponing the moment when I would have to sit in front of the table and prepare for the examination the next day.
The afternoon is the unmistakable time when the double-edged sword (time) would have its effect. That time of the day when exams (in school) would be over, granting relief, a few times I would be home in the afternoon, and also a time when I would think and talk about the exam paper just taken – good or bad, right answers and wrong.
The time for change. The time to get the old class and studies done with, and look forward to the unknown. To the summer holidays, and a new class, new syllabus, new teachers.

Here is a villanelle. This one is an attempt by yours truly, accomplished during a severe bout of my occasional [coffee-induced] insomnia. Can’t think of a title yet, so I guess `Insomnia’ will serve.

A city sleeps between us two tonight.

Downtown is still up — suburbs snooze away;

widely waking I scan red skies for light.

Beggars mutter deep in dreams — they might

wish they picked a purse full of meals someday;

a city sleeps between us two tonight.

Screams and howls fill up air — the dogs still fight.

A lone cat stalks a silent prowl for prey;

widely waking I scan red skies for light.

The phone cord looks as if it will invite

someone who wants to hear what I’ve to say.

A city sleeps between us two tonight.

Temples and mosques sound a call for some rite.

The devout ensure all gods hear them pray.

widely waking I scan red skies for light.

Downtown blinks and puts its dreams to flight,

Suburbs stir from sleep to a routine day

A city wakes before us from the night;

Suddenly sleepy, I shut out the dawning light.