Trials & Tribulations of a life in advertising

Thursday, March 16, 2006

A Weekly Hoax Called Job Meeting

On a predetermined day towards the beginning of every week we gather together in our conference room. The agenda is to understand the current status of almost every job, projects that are likely to come up during the week and to schedule meetings both internal and external. Theoretically, there’s nothing wrong with such a lofty idea. But in practice, well, it’s another story.

Your interest in any particular job in an agency is inversely proportional to your involvement in it. People come up with blindingly obvious insights about things they have nothing to do with in the first place.

In case you’ve spent the weekend in office (the higher you go, the rarer it happens), you want the whole world to appreciate it. People will give extremely focused hints about it, “Heard Crash is a nice movie, then again, I was tied up last Saturday…”

If even a single senior manager comes on or before time, however unusual that may be, you can safely expect a 15-minute lecture on the merits of punctuality. That will be closely followed by another 15-minute sermon on professionalism or the lack thereof.

The most crucial aspects of a job are left out of the meeting since it would take some time in explaining to others who have virtually no interest in it. So, the job meeting becomes a weekly update of the most mundane chores including mailing of an excel sheet.

This is an unparalleled occasion to demonstrate to the rest of the world how diligently committed you are to the organisation. Which means you are eternally tied up in the greater cause of serving the agency. So, you could be “flying to the HO” or “busy preparing for an annual review”.

If you happen to be one of those professionally challenged, stuck up managers with nothing else to do in life, in response to your colleagues’ busy schedules, you can always get away with, “I have something critical coming up towards the end of the week, slightly confidential you see”.

If your group has done something commendable, it’s simply because of you. If your group has messed up something, ladies and gentlemen, take this opportunity to admonish your subordinates in front of everyone to prove your soaring leadership skills.

The most unbearable, yet universally accepted law of job meetings. At any point during the meeting, you will give your right hand to find faults with others’ projects.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Trance America

Cowboys in love, crash victims of racism, an upmarket intellectual search of a cold-blooded killer, the journalist who voiced American fears and hopes during the McCarthy era, the behind-the-scenes weaknesses of an American legend, and destabilising effects, courtesy a transsexual crisis. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences needs to be lauded for capturing an America in suspended animation; a nation coming to terms with its inherent and ever evolving crises at both private and public spaces. This is the year of the uncomfortable. This is the year when the marginalized became the mainstream. This is America in Trance.

So what if the peripheral didn’t become the popular in commercial terms (As of last week, the documentary “March of the Penguins”, another winner this year had grossed more than Brokeback Mountain in ticket sales). And let’s also forget that the ultimate winner, Crash, hasn’t been universally adored by critics. Because this year, the exception became the norm. Critically acclaimed but commercially misplaced independent efforts normally become an apologetic assurance from the Academy that they do have such parallel struggles in their minds. But this year, they took centre stage. From Good Night Good Luck to Brokeback Mountain to Crash to Transamerica to Capote to Walk the Line, it was the march of the frequently forgotten. Heck, they even apologised to Robert Altman!

And it was America all the way. The fevers and phobias that obsess the land of the free. Other than Munich and Memoirs of a Geisha, the other nominees were predominantly born out of themes turbulently set in the American psyche. And unlike American Beauty – an English man’s satire of manicured minds in American suburbia – this time around, the players were primarily American.

So, let’s celebrate this moment of the cerebral. For all you know, next year they might return to the usual suspects of resurrected dinosaurs and overblown apes.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sex and Philosophy

He is turning forty today. With lit candles in his car, he is cruising around the city, looking for street musicians to join him in the celebration. But the big event is slated for the afternoon. He’s been calling up four of his former lovers for a rendezvous in his dance class. This afternoon they’ll discover that they were sharing his love simultaneously. This afternoon, the narrator in Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s Sex and Philosophy will share and discover the anatomy of love. This afternoon, the secrets he shares will get counterbalanced by the intimacies he discovers, in a breathtaking account of inclusion and isolation.

In an age, where Iran is in the news for all the wrong reasons, this remarkably original filmmaker, tutored on the streets of Teheran, circumvents the stereotype to deliver an inventive reportage of human desires. And, thank you Zee Studio for an indulging us to an Oscar feast that goes beyond the clichés of Hollywood.

The narrative takes us through the beginning and end of each of his affairs, with the protagonists defining it in their own ways. When Maryam, the airhostess he meets and falls in love during one of cinema’s greatest solo flight fantasies probes him, he narrates his central dilemma: “Four girlfriends at the same time? Is this love?” “It’s a search, Maryam. I found a piece of my heart with each one of you”.

Love is just a euphemism for enduring happiness in Sex and Philosophy. Beyond the narrowing confines of intimacy, what he seeks is individual bliss, something that’s finite and where demand is currently outrunning supply. He knows exactly how long he’s been happy in these 40 years. His constant companion of a chronometer tells him it’s been roughly 2 hours. Weighing his existence vis-à-vis butterflies that live their entire life in a single day, he knows the search will never get over. Because in the last 40 years, he hasn’t lived a single butterfly day. And no one is surprised. Least of all, the narrator.

And in a mystical twist to his odyssey, he realizes that one of his intimate girl friends has been doing the same. That she too has been seeking love from many sources at the same time. Chaotic, yet content, left to his own chiselled fantasies, he can only mourn, “I sought love all my life/but found loneliness/So let everyone light their own candle of loneliness”. Using ballet as a visual accompaniment to the dancing narration of personal fantasies and shared passion, Makhmalbaf sculpts a cinematic odyssey that delves deep into the desires and obsessions in the lives of urbanised and lonesome adults. “In the cold streets of the city there’s no echo except farewell, farewell”.