Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Guru and business history

Guru is all about daring to dream and making it big in what you do best. It's a typical Mani Ratnam film - a reasonably good storyline ( could be been made into a biopic on the life and times of Dhirubhai Ambani), exceptionally good acting by Abhishek, standard fare from A R Rehman, excellent cinematography etc etc. Well, I could go on to write a critical review of the movie. But that's not what I intend to do.

Plus or minus, Guru is a watchable film though the plot had some loose-ends at times. Most of it verbose, at times it gets decontextualised and fails to provide links while building on the main character. What is interesting here is perhaps this is the first Indian movie to attempt this genre of films, I'm not sure how easy it would be for an Indian Director to venture out a biopic of a business tycoon `a la Aviator. Understandably even though Guru is obviously based on the life of the older Ambani, it could not have dared to present his life without the necessarily censoring the facts. Nevertheless, in a fictional way , the director has made deliberate attempts keep the characters as his creations, though bearing a strong 'fairytale' resemblance to the Reliance and Vimal saga.

Political history is taught as a subject in school whereas business history is not. Culturally (with a predominant middle class) we are biased towards doing something on our own, starting a business venture for instance. A majority of us are still comfortable being employees (than employers), we think twice before supporting new ideas for business, we are happy to find ourselves smugly nestled in our comfort zones. Entrepreneurship is rarely encouraged. On a different front, this movie makes us think of the role played by business persons in the development of a country. How often do we think of the contribution of Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis or Premji or NarayanMurthy when we talk about progress, growth and development? We often measure things by chronicling them with political landmarks and political leaders. It is easier to remember how things changed during the time of Nehru or Indira Gandhi or Vajpayee.

After watching Guru I wondered: what if one makes a movie on the life and times of Narayana Murthy. Isn't he as passionately involved with Infosys as Ambani was with Reliance? Don't they both dream and share the same entrepreunerial spirit? So what, if they come from different educational backgrounds? If one was fighting the License Raj, the other reaping the benefits of 'globalization' and Liberalization - but share the same sense of volumes in whatever they do. Jobs in manufacturing or jobs in services, jobs for educated and less-educated millions of the Indian middle classes. If Ambani's vision was derived from post-independence India, Murthy's , a few decades later. Their mantras for economic growth too find some parallel. I'm sure this movie would inspire several youngsters to discover the entrepreneur in themselves as they write the business history of 21st century India.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Scientific Creativity

These seemingly incongruous terms are synergized into a 'fashionable' novel that goes with our times in http://www.amillionpenguins.com/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

Yesterday, the discussion on one of the TV channels threw up quite a few points and counterpoints on collaborative writing. There were some interesting concerns about the future avatar of creative writing in the wake of wikis, blogs and podcasts that have empowered so many of us to don the role of an author. We no longer have to wait for a 'publisher' to scrutinize our writing to deem it fit for popular comsumption. At the same time it's exciting to see our work being
'e-published' and share it with our network of family, friends and colleagues.

Following this discussion here are some pros and cons on writing for new media:
There are no two views on the fact that Internet has democratized the 'process' and 'product' of writing. Isn't this true of the nature of this literary genre? The medium lends itself very well the the fluidity and flexibility demanded by any exercise in writing. The malleable features of the medium encourage us to revisit our writing as an ongoing effort and even seek inputs from editors and other writers. Eventually we discover the empowering potential of technology as we unravel the possibilities of various modes of self-expression, celebrating the 'literary' democracy.

What could be the fallout of marrying creativity and collaboration? Too many cooks are sure to spoil the broth. For obvious reasons, creative writing has long been described as a personal and secluded effort where the author usually produces the creative stuff all by him/herself. In such an endeavor it's difficult to imagine how he/she could 'collaborate' to further enhance the creativity that results in sound narrative and unchoatic plot. The complications get multiplied as several people 'contribute' their creative mite to this project and there is no 'anchor' to the hold the things that fall apart.

From co-authoring to collab-authoring:
In functional/professional communication, writing in pairs or groups is quite commonplace. Textbooks, non-fiction and similar projects are successfuly achieved in collaboration where a 'team' of authors jointly write and edit. Perhaps creative writing too is evolving with times as an 'open source' project. Or, will it shape into another fragmentary piece of 'fiction' like an SMS novel, for example at: http://cloakroom.blogspot.com/. What about writing conventions, genre-specific standards etc, etc...well, that's for the purists and classicists to keep pondering.

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Grass-eating Leopard

"We don’t see things as they are. We see things as we are…Seeing is subjective. Seeing is active…" (source unknown)

A leopard seen from the eyes of a four year old cannot be more imaginative than this picture. Shreya's grass-eating leopard could be a typical example of child art, but for me it's much more than that. Like all her paintings and drawings here too, there's something for me to learn. Rather, there's a lot that I should 'unlearn' about my perception of world around me. A good way to start could be some conscious efforts at seeing things differently.

It is simply mindblowing to view the world from the perspective of a four year old.There's an immense sense of gratification when you look at things devoid of the boxes we have put around them as adults. Children visualize things in their pure form. They percieve the reality around them as they are - innocent, uncorrupted. Just as they tell stories by making their imagination run wild, they can also create visual representations of their 'perceived realities'.

Shreya, the child artist has 'taught' me that creativity knows no boundaries; she draws and paints her crows in red, flowers in black and leaves in blue. She need not think twice to 'defy' all rules of proportion and perspective of her paintings. However, her drawings of human forms are consistent - they always constitute a triangle, a circle and some 'standing and sleeping' lines. Her flowers are always much greater in size than the stem and the leaves. She has no hang-ups in drawing her imaginary universe with all the nuances of pristine creativity. I'm lucky that I can closely observe and learn from this abundantly talented kid.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

When the bees buzzed in my balcony

Honestly, let me confess I'm really bad at handling emergencies that test my home management skills. It was simply impossible for me to imagine that I would be faced with a domestic SOS which involved swarms and swarms of honey bees attacking the balcony off my bedroom. True, balcony on a sixth floor can be very tempting for these buzzing creatures to build their hive. What infuriated me was their self-proclaimed right to occupy my 'private' space and threaten me with their painful sting. The very sight of several bees was making my skin crawl with fear.

When my mother informed me that a huge thick swarm of bees were suddenly clouding the balcony I told her to immediately shut the windows to prevent their entry into other rooms. Amazingly, in about 20 minutes they managed to 'build' their nest and by the time I reached home I could see an active population of these insects busily buzzing around. Probably, this was a case of honeybee migration, as I learnt in hindsight. Let me admit, this was my first 'close encounter' with these insects. Instantly, I was reminded of my college where we had huge beehives hanging down from the ceiling in between the pillars of the Durbar Hall. The history of their settlement seemed to be as old as the British resident who lived in that palatial monument several decades ago. I was also reminded of the 'warnings' issued to us, as students, whenever the bees were disturbed and got scattered from their colonies.

The problem at home needed urgent treatment as we depended on our balcony for some of our daily chores like drying clothes. At the same time, the sight of some bees that had already entered my house was very unnerving. Some people advised us to get the honeycomb burnt in the evening, perhaps that was a standard practice to dislodge these insects. I managed to get it burnt (with the help of a construction worker) although it presented a sorry sight as I would be held responsible for 'killing swarms of these innocent creatures' who in turn give us a wonderful health-booster like honey. Sad, but there was no other option. After the flames went off I heaved a sigh of relief for I was sure that these creatures would not dare to venture again into my space. But I was proved wrong the very next morning when I peeped into my balcony from the glasspanes of the wide window. I could see several of them, actively involved in building another nest. However, they had dispersed by evening. In the process I also sought the help of some professional pest control services but this did not prove to be a viable solution to my problem. Eventually, I got the affected spots sprayed with Gemaxin and other pesticides. This definitely helped us in preventing them from entering the balcony again, although the next morning I could still see a few of them still buzzing around as if they were searching their loved ones whom they lost in this mass annihilation.