Trials & Tribulations of a life in advertising

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Media Nights at Turquoise Cottage

Among the many questions that life throws up at advertising professionals in Delhi, there is one that’s paramount. The issue that most of us spend hours trying to fathom. We discuss it in great detail during office breaks (which is most of office hours), lunch hour (which stretches from one to somewhere between three thirty and four), and we analyse it threadbare during our drives to and from office. With multiple philosophical, psychological, sociological and financial layers to it, we come to office everyday trying to grapple with this fundamental question of our lives.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the number one question that every advertising professional asks himself or herself in Delhi is, "Why is Turquoise Cottage (TC) so overcrowded?"

For those of you not so privileged to be in the luxurious confines of South Delhi where water and power shortages have migrated to such a level that people are surprised to see running tap water, TC is one among the most popular pubs that plays mostly classical and modern hard rock and serves good liquor. And the crowd is very cool too. But that bit about music is very important because in Delhi, Jazzy B is considered to be alternative heavy metal.

With another branch in Gurgaon – which, to put it softly, is dead – TC is the most sought after place to party for the entire media crowd. For a very good reason too. Every Wednesday is a media night where there is a flat 50% off for those in the media.

So every Wednesday you’ll find TC brimming with both true media and the surrogate media crowd. Surrogate media crowd comprises of those fortunate human beings who do not happen to work for advertising agencies or media firms, but are unfortunate enough to have friends in media with clearly legible visiting cards. Put these two crowds together and you have the entire South, South West, South Central and South East Delhi in TC every Wednesday and even during the weekends.

I believe there is space for about 100-125 people in TC, which most of my friends who frequent the place like me, would claim is a gross exaggeration in itself. But on these special days, don’t be surprised if the actual figure is something like 12,000. It’s so crowded that I’m looking forward to a Lost & Found poster outside the pub very soon. I sincerely believe there are guys still wandering around TC, who have "lost" their girlfriends in the basement.

Last night I was in TC. And as usual, the crowd was cool, the music was rocking and everyone was jostling for enough space to bring their drinks to their mouths. That tiny movement might take anything between 5 to 15 minutes depending on who’s pushing you from where. In fact, after sometime, you forget the fact that you ever had hands. If your mobile is on vibrator and it’s in your trouser pockets, by the time your hand reaches that pocket, most of your genitalia would have been electrocuted.

OK, enough about elbow space and legroom. I am more interested in the fundamental natural act of breathing, or the lack of it. Because of an amazing system of ventilation done by a firm called "No Ventilation", the smokefilled basement makes you think you’re somewhere outside Pushkar trapped in a dust storm.

If you happen to be away from the bar, it might take an hour to get a drink which is roughly the time it takes to reach Manesar. And by the time you actually get to the bar you would have forgotten what you were drinking or more importantly, who you were with. There have also been documented cases of people forgetting who they were. To avoid all that, I was standing near the bar. So, every time someone wanted a drink, I would be pushed like an arch towards the bar with my face very close to the sink and would be in that position until that drink got served.

Even if you are not into headbanging, you’ll end up doing it at TC because that’s the only way you get to talk. "You need another drink?" my friend asks in a sign language. I violently bang my head to and fro to signal that I need one. And it’s is an amazing place to shake your legs. Just stand anywhere the designated dance floor, which is most of TC, and you’ll be pushed from all sides, and forget shaking your legs, your entire body will be swaying to Linkin Park. Which is exactly what I did last night. (And, last night there was an exceptionally hot girl in black with a nosering and a red dupatta to make the night all the more happening.)

All said and done, TC is definitely one among the best places to be seen at and to party in South Delhi.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

We only kill each other

"Life being what it is, one dreams of revenge."

The then Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir didn’t exactly quote Gaguin after the gruesome massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. But the ethical dilemma of a nation constantly in war to protect its borders doesn’t prevent her from speaking her mind. It’s time to avenge the insanity. It’s time to be as resolute and as merciless as the enemy. After all "every civilization finds it necessary to negotiate compromises with its own values."

Steven Spielberg’s Munich is an investigation of those compromises. An impartial narration of the Israeli retaliation through the hands of a not-so-elite team from the otherwise elitist Mossad. The team is headed by Avner (Eric Bana) and comprises Steve (Daniel Craig), Carl (Ciarin Hinds), Robert (Mathieu Kassovitz), and Hans (Hanns Zischler). Their mission is to assassinate the leadership of Black September responsible for the Munich massacre. With the inimitable Geoffrey Rush as Ephraim, Avner’s case officer, the team sets out to seek out the terrorists from the shady alleys of a deeply unpredictable Cold War Europe. It’s an "officially unofficial" mission. They begin to pursue leads, build contacts, use moles and execute their targets one by one.

But this isn’t your typical Spy vs. Spy vintage Cold War story. This isn’t a terrorists-on-the-run Hollywood cliché either. It’s a dispassionate account of the reasons and the moral dilemmas involved in the transformation of people from individuals to instruments of an ever-escalating war. As the Black September leadership is eliminated in carefully planned individual attacks spreading from Athens to Beirut, the moral issues that got sidelined in the immediate aftermath of the Olympic Village Massacre begin to surface.

In a world where nobody’s trust can be safely secured, even after the payment of millions of dollars, team members begin to doubt the efficacy of their mission. National sentiment begins to be balanced by religious righteousness. And it’s the same spirit of vengeance Avner finds in a faction of PLO they are forced to share a room with. It’s the same questions about the search and denial of a homeland. As Munich unfolds into a human drama, you realise that the combatants can easily switch places and it would be hard to recognise them.

It’s also a crude reminder that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. There’s little of black and white here. Munich is more about the innumerable shades of grey that all of us possess. And precisely because of which, the most interesting moments in the movie are not the exceptionally well shot action scenes. The most captivating moments are when the characters from both sides express their moral dilemmas and limited choices. As a committed, and soon to be murdered Ali from PLO explains to Avner, "you don’t understand the struggle for a homeland because you have a home. The home is everything".

Yet, even after the end of the mission and from the confines of his apartment in New York, it’s his feelings about home and his past deeds that keep Avner awake. He believes he is being hunted and he blames everyone from KGB to Mossad for that. And Avner discovers a particular feeling that some of his erstwhile colleagues had begun to nurture – guilt. In one of the most poignant conversations towards the end of the movie, Avner confronts the hardened Ephraim to question him about the choices he was forced to make. Ephraim gives the reply that could have come from any of the characters on either side of the movie: "We kill for our future. We kill for peace".

Steven Spielberg needs to be lauded for his objectivity and impartiality in bringing to screen one of the most controversial events from the most tragic geographical struggle in human history. It’s an in-your-face account of what happened in that Olympic Village and more importantly, what happened next. More than the possibility of peace, what haunts you is the prospect of a never ending conflict. As one of the characters says in a reflective mood, "all of this blood comes back to us". Yes, Munich is proof that no matter which side you sympathise with, it always does.