Saturday, June 21, 2014

If you were a young adult in Bangalore in the early 90s…

Disclaimer: There are many Bangalores from that time, and this is just one of them, but they all shared that certain something.

You saw Jerry McGuire in Symphony, and Pulp Fiction in Blue Moon. You’ve seen at least one Disney movie in Rex when you were a kid. You remember a long-ago drive-in your parents used to go to. The version you saw in Grease on a VHS tape was both completely different and vaguely familiar.

You went to shows in Chowdiah Memorial Hall, Ravindra Kalakshetra and Guru Nanak Bhavan. You went to European film festivals at Alliance Francaise and Max Mueller Bhavan. You had a British Council Library card. And you still have a book somewhere you never returned to Eloor Lending Library.

You had steak at Shezan and apple pie in The Only Place. It’s still the best apple pie you’ve ever had, though you’ve become fussier about steak. You ate pasta at Casa Piccola, and you know by now it bears no resemblance living or dead to any pasta anywhere else on the planet, but you’re going to be sentimental about it if it kills you.

You had Hot Chocolate Fudge at Corner House, lychees and cream at Lakeview and gulab jamun at Bhagatram’s. You had Chinese at Chung Wah, Rice Bowl and Ginza. You didn’t have sushi anywhere, ever. You didn’t know it existed.

You ate biryani in a lot of places, but the best was always at Muslim weddings.

You can’t look at Central Mall now without remembering scrambled eggs on toast under the trees in Victoria. And thinking of Victoria automatically leads you to Koshy’s.

You’ve spent years learning one or more of these – Bharatnatyam, Carnatic music, any Indian instrument, the complete playlists of Lata Mangeshkar, Mohammed Rafi and Mukesh.

You went clubbing to The Club. You drove there in a car crammed with too many people. Which is why your kids’ lives are that much harder now. You also remember a converted iron foundry called Lee Dance Furnace. And tea in Russell Market afterwards, sandwiches at the Taj Coffee Shop, kababs in Fraser Town or rolls in Fanoos, depending on what time you left.

But when you said the Club, you meant you were swimming, playing tennis or snooker, going to the library or hanging out on the lawn.

You’ve been to a Christmas Dance or a Mayflower Ball. Or both. You’ve jived, waltzed, breakdanced, done the Birdie Dance, the Macarena and the Vanilla Ice thing. You’ve looked doubtfully at the Lambada.

New Year’s Eve meant at least three parties to hop to. And you’ve rounded it off with breakfast at Airlines Hotel.

A fancy “going out” mostly meant somewhere within the area enclosed by St Marks Road, Dickenson Road, Commercial Street and Richmond Road. You know about the drag races on MG Road late at night.

You remember being kept on a fairly short leash by your parents, and not being given very much money, but you’re reading this list and thinking that you seemed to have done a lot anyway.

You remember bars named Underground and Black Cadillac that seemed like fabulous high-life at the time. You knew people then who were openly gay and it was just another strand in the regular fabric of life. You knew at least one person who was in a band. You knew aspiring artists, actors, directors, writers, fashion designers and models. You’ve since watched several of them become famous.

You remember when Bangalore was India’s most liberal, laidback city. That’s the India you take with you when you travel, and what you mean when you’re so happy to say you’re from Bangalore.

Friday, June 13, 2014

An underwhelming Cannes 2014?

It’s one of those years where two exciting things in my life come together – the FIFA World Cup and the Cannes Lions. Both generally build my exhilaration and energy to fever pitch.

But just as the World Cup opening yesterday was less than satisfactory, the Cannes entries so far are strangely dispiriting, with good ones being exceptions rather than the rule. Last year, almost every shared video or magazine list made you go “I wish I’d done that”. There were so many new ideas, so much creative fearlessness that it was simultaneously wonderful and terrifying, made you proud to belong to the industry and fired a fierce determination to do something like that at least once in your career. Usually they fall into four categories:
1. Pure creative genius, the joyous insanity of a good idea.
2. Fantastic brand or consumer insight wielded with consummate prowess.
3. Pure brand building, the celebration of a glorious brand.
4. Social change effected using 1 or 2.

But 2014 seems overwhelmingly to be the year of the Awards Entry Video – and these seem to be sticking doggedly to a formula that was great four years ago. Now, the music, typography, animations, transitions, cuts, pans and zooms, the very structure and script are all dully familiar. In the digital entries, there seems to me to be too many cases of technology for its own sake threatening to overtake idea, insight, even brand. This should not be the arena, surely, for apps or games in and of themselves? Just because it has a brand name attached to it, doesn't mean it's a communications tool. This is what the entry rules have to say about the Mobile category: "The definition of Mobile for the purpose of Cannes Lions is creative work which lives on or is activated by a mobile device, app or mobile web." Cannes Lions is first and foremost - should be only - about the advertising idea. That's the immutable core of our business. How the idea is expressed changes according to where the relevant consumers can be best reached. And it's that magical combination of idea and delivery that builds brands, sells products, earns loyalty... and wins awards. Ideally.

Of course, I've hardly seen everything that’s out there, so maybe I’ll be proved wrong next week. I sincerely hope so. Until then, thank God for automobiles, alcohol and New Zealand. They never disappoint.

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