Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The 'person' of the year problem

It's that time of the year again when we look back at the 'year that was.' And agonise over who might be worthy of the title: 'Person of the Year'.

Time magazine - the guys who invented the concept - just chose U2's Bono, along with Bill Gates and his wife Melinda.

"For being shrewd about doing good, for rewiring politics and re-engineering justice, for making mercy smarter and hope strategic and then daring the rest of us to follow," were the reasons given by the magazine .

One of the other 'persons' who made it to the shortlist was Mother Nature. In light of the tsunami, earthquakes, Katrina and other unusual natural phenomena shaking our world, a strong case indeed. But not one providing any inspiration or hope. You can't tame nature, can you?

But you can celebrate the good being done by mere mortals. Especially those who 'are not the people you expect to come to the rescue'. As the essay accompanying the mugshots elaborates:

Rock stars are designed to be shiny, shallow creatures, furloughed from reality for all time. Billionaires are even more removed, nestled atop fantastic wealth where they never again have to place their own calls or defrost dinner or fly commercial. So Bono spends several thousand dollars at a restaurant for a nice Pinot Noir, and Bill Gates, the great predator of the Internet age, has a trampoline room in his $100 million house.

It makes you think that if these guys can decide to make it their mission to save the world, partner with people they would never otherwise meet, care about causes that are not sexy or dignified in the ways that celebrities normally require, then no one really has a good excuse anymore for just staying on the sidelines and watching.

Offbeat choice but eloquent justification. I buy it!

This morning, the Economic Times also announced its 'Person of the Year'. No, not Manmohan Singh or the Ambanis or any of the usual suspects. It's Abhishek Bachchan.

Granted, a pink paper does not have to select a businessman to 'capture the new spirit of confidence that's emerging across India Inc and represents the spirit of 2006'. But the connect they've tried to make between Aby's career and Indian business is well, not that convincing.

"So, why is he on top of the heap these days? Because he worked at it. And that is our connection with confident new India of 2006. None of these companies had it easy (care to elaborate "which companies?"), they faced competition and hurdles ("doesn't every company, and every individual?"), both nationally and internationally, and had to overcome their small-town image ("maybe in the year 2000! With India now the acknowledged hub for IT and outsourcing... what are they talking about??)

This part is more well reasoned.

"An Indian company becoming a global leader? AB Baby becoming a hot stud? Yet it's happened. With some luck and a lot more professionalism, hard work and sheer grit..."

Very true but 'hard work' and 'grit' are such boring cliches. Isn't it also about being in the right place at the right time? A number of factors have come together to script the 'emerging India story'. A youthful demographic, burgeoning middle class, low-cost worker advantage etc etc.

Same is the case with AB jr. Shahrukh turned 40 this year. India needed a hot new, 'youth' star. Aby finally started working with better film makers. And he decided not to shave.
ET credits him with 4 'hits' this year: Bunty aur Babli, Sarkar, Dus and (strangely enough!) Salaam Namaste - in a cameo.

Yes, Abhishek was outstanding in B & B and Sarkar. But both films were painstakingly crafted in all departments - whether subject, script, cinematography, music or art direction. The star's success was born out of working with the right people and the right projects.

Just like business mostly is.

There's a lot more one can dissect but my fingers hurt from typing. No, the article is not yet online (today's ET is available online only tomorrow you see)

"When Aby Baby rocks, India rolls..." says ET. For those still looking for their cool, offbeat, under-30 'person of the year'...

"When Sania serves, India lurves..."
"When Mallika reveals, India squeals.."
"When Irfan takes wicket, India buys ticket "...

The possibilities are endless!


  1. why is the media sucking upto Abhishek Bachchan so much??? He is neither a tremendous looker..neither a great dancer...nor a great actor...then why is Indian media hyping a person only because of his lineage, contacts and power in the industry??? It really upsetting to see the "real talent" being ignored and the undeserving walking away with all the glory.

  2. With this post, my assessment of ET being a shallow paper remains intact. Only ET can stoop to this level and give an award to somebody who, even after more than a dozen flops, survived in the show business only because of his father's demigod status. No prize for guessing who will win the Filmfare award for Best Actor.

    BTW Rashmi, I have added* in my adblock extension. All google ads will be blocked for me. Not that I don't want you to make $$$, but I find it plain irritating.

  3. It makes me think "r the people working in ET r such a dumb people ?".

  4. My choice for the award this year - S Manjunath (Urge those who agree to vote for him by SMS to NDTV where he is a nominee).

    The lie could be
    When an honest is killed - honesty becomes immortal.

  5. When Amitabh groans, India moans
    When Shahrukh dreams,India screams
    When Bollywood dances, India advances??

  6. In hindi they say "Ugte suraj ko har koi salaam karta hai" Its exactly the same scenario here. if there are no gods, we create our own gods. Media can do it very easy. In the end, we the mass always look for someone who can inspire us. So here is just one more of those attmpts.

  7. hi rashmi. just read your piece on the person of the year. stark difference between the kind of people time has chosen, and the reasons for the choice and economic times. but thats so et, dumbing down, pandering to mass appeal so they can sell more. doesn't make for a quality paper, good writing or a good thought provoking read. liked your piece on po bronson very much. being an aspiring writer, i must read his book!

  8. I love Bono unquestioningly. Mostly for his music, but it makes me happy that someone in his position is doing something, no matter how haphazardly, to make a difference. At least, I think, he's informing many of us who can't point out Rwanda on a map that there are people much worse off than the rest of us who could do with a better deal.

    However, here's an extremely interesting article by Paul theroux. It appeared in the NY Times last week. He makes a good case for how ultimately shallow the promises of Bono and the Gateses are. Rather bad-tempered but very intelligent writing all the same.

    Hope everything's going well! I miss Bombay intensely.

  9. abhishek bachan sucks! if amitabh wudnt have given birth to such a dud he wouldnt have to work at this age and thereon go on to spend time in lilavati! i think amitabh knows very well that after him , his sons career is going to plumment and eventually end and he will be lost in the depths of obscurity!

    my advice to abhishek!
    plz dont even remotely think that you are even somewhere remotely close to being remotely cool! whats the deal about that right here right now song from bluffmaster? i guess you have been watching too much hip hop , gansta kinda stuff and the video and the music(?) . but guess what you are NOT black!?!?!? you are just plain dumb. kindly stick to the sidey kinda roles which you get in movies. its abundantly clear that you make a very bad Amitabh jr so plz dont even try!

    the "go fida" ad really sucks! what was ford thinking? they thought they were getting a good deal in getting a not-shaven hunchback stud???!?!?! no wonder FORD is going into losses! i guess this is the first campaign and hopefully the last

    i feel sorry for amitabh such a great star of yesteryears! if this ABCL bug hadnt bitten him he would be cooly enjoying a retired life.

  10. I have always considered ET/ToI to be an Extra-terrestrial newspaper - *ToI*ng with their page 3 celebrities.

    Although Abhishek Bachaan has done good movies in 2005, but that doesnt qualifies him to be 'Person of the Year'...
    Time for Times group to do some justice to their left brain (or what is left of it!!)..


  11. Acchi maari hai - he he :-)

  12. I quite like Abhishek but Person of the Year !!!! thats stretching the imagination a lil bit too far.
    And if he had actually had it tough, then there wouldnt be ING Vysyas of the world promoting their products with the catchline " Abhishek has Amitabh, Whom do you have?" (Thats also quite a sad line)

    Nope, definitely not my choice of person who's overly shone out, way ahead of the others to become "Person of the year". What did he do that others around him didnt?

  13. ET does it again! They keep exposing their dumbness everytime with their man of the year or personality of the year!!
    If ET had selected NRN again as person of the year or some Business Tycoon, It may have had to throw a conservative party where the tycoons just speak in whispers and talk tall of the growing Indian community. Whereas, by choosing a film personality, ET can call more filmish people and add glamour to the show and make the party more "marketable". pink paper will sell like hot cakes then!! And since, AB baby endorses some brands nowadays, Ad revenues too add to ET's kitty :) Apart from this, I don't see any reason for ET to choose AB baby as the person of the year..

  14. ET picking Abhishek Bachchan as the person the year is not his fault. Wonder why many of you are targetting AB jr.

    He's definitely one of the better actors we have.

  15. Hey...

    I agree it really is that time of the year... Read my post on a similar subject on


  16. The problem really is not AB. Poor guy. His whole life, he'll try and prove to the world that he can be something as magnanimous as his father...what a complex (reminds of Krishna's pseudo brother Balram. Krishna had the babes, knowledge, respect, aura, brains, and a publication - bhagwad gita :) ...and what did Balram have ?? A HULL !)
    The root of the problem is the shallow editors of Times of India. I hate to use the american word, but they truly 'suck'.
    Their sales are based on building a hype - around Mallika, around MMS scam, around Delhi Univeristy (what bull) and other stuff...
    ET should have kept out of this drama. Its sad that the Delhi Times bug is infecting other publications of TOI
    God save them. and us :)

  17. Who would you choose, Rashmi? Is JAM going to do a similar PersonOfTheYear thingy? Curious.

    My vote goes to the ponytail. Why? Just :D He's easily been one of the most talked about 'personalities' in the Indian blogsosphere.

  18. We should be objective. Beginning with Shiva, he has had two more hits so he has come into his own and is out of the shadow of his father. Person of the year is still a long way to go though. The media has its own vested interests. They promote what will get the best exposure.

  19. I am not going to belabour ET's choice of the person of the year. These choices are based on judgment of a few and if i don't agree with their choice i shall not get agitated about it.

    what does it mean to be the person of the year ? Yes this is a rhetorical question.

    Bill and Melinda are doing good by donating their wealth for causes crying for attention. It is easy to get cynical and attribute ulterior motives isn't it ? India has enough problems to solve. Abhisek's prowess as a actor and his looks don't matter in the larger scheme of things.

    Go ahead and think of your person for 2005. a friend or a parent or a colleague ? it may be worthwhile to thank someone or at the least remember that individual.

  20. B & B a good movie? Noooooooooooo....

  21. No Offense..but it seems that people here are all against AB Jr. Lets face it, he is not as great as his father but lets not compare..He is an intense actor and can play any role with ease. He may not be great in everything he does..but so is not Shah Rukh Khan..Media can create hype only if there is some substance....lets give him a fair chance (Remember AB initial days...who would have thought that tall doctor in rajesh khanna movie will become a superstar..a legend)

  22. arvind iyers comment was hilarious!and yeah abhishek bachan with his new stubbled look and "god on earth" persona SUCKS!

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