Monday, August 31, 2009

Career query of the week

An interesting question from a software engineer who wants to study filmmaking abroad...:

I m a software engg. Age is 26. I am very much interested in doing FILM Making (Direction) Course & making my career in this field out of india, preferably in US or Europe film industry or television industry.

Now I wud like to know what is the way I can proceed in this direction.

Q 1- I want to take admission in some good film making college in US or EUROPE. Concern : the fee structure is very high. Pl let me know any good film making schools with affordable fees either in US or Europe.

Q 2- : What will be the career path after learning the FILM making course. I mean I am ready to struggle few yrs with low compensation in that country from where I will complete the course.

Q3- : What is the way (entrance exam) to join film making colleges in US or Europe.

To be honest, I do not know much about film making courses abroad... Any recommendations or advice you can share in the comments would be a great help to this guy! And many others..

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Does India need 7 more IIMs?

The cabinet has just approved the setting up of 7 new IIMs over the next 2 years. Locations range from Tamil Nadu and Haryana to Chhatisgarh to J & K. A sum of Rs 1057crores has been alloted for this purpose, reports Business Standard.

My question is why - why set up SEVEN new IIMs in a single go?

There are 1000 + bschools providing management education in this country. No shortage of seats there. Yes, 'quality' education is offered only at a few but what guarantee do we have that these new institutes will live up to extraordinary standards in any case?

What does one expect from an IIM? Well:

a) Quality of students: Intake being through CAT, toughly contested etc

b) Quality of faculty: A committed set of high quality people

c) Infrastructure: Land, buildings, ek acchha campus

d) X factor: That special something in terms of academic orientation, student life and overall culture that sets it apart.

So far so good, but is all this likely to happen, all of a sudden, at seven new locations? I think not!

First of all, the idea of situating a management institute in remote areas cut off from civilisation needs to be examined. Take IIM Shillong, which I visited a few months ago. Beautiful, relaxing - but the nearest industrial town - and airport - is Guwahati, which is 3 hours away by road. How much industry exposure, CEO visits on campus or guest lectures can they hope to attract?

Not to mention placement. I *really* don't see companies taking the trouble to visit IIM Chhatisgarh when there are so many management institutes in Mumbai, Pune and Gurgaon offering eager-to-work, decent quality graduates.

Coming back to our original four points:

a) Students: New IIMs are not hot destinations for the brightest of
students. Many will opt for an SP Jain, XLRI, MDI or FMS over IIM Uttaranchal. IIM Shillong has had that experience.

b) Faculty: It's tough for IIM A, B & C to get great faculty - given current payscales. Wonder what extra incentive, if any, there is for an academic to join an IIM in the middle of nowhere. That too with only teaching, no research orientation in initial years.

c) Infrastructure: Sure, the new IIMs will have great campuses
within 5 years. But today there are plenty of private bschools with very nice campuses as well - SIBM for example. It's not that big a deal.

d) X factor: This is the toughest bit. Culture is a collective energy, a vibe which is part intent, part accident. It is the asking of questions, the seeking of answers: "Who am I" and "What do I stand for".

The DNA of an institution cannot be to be an "IIM". Because by today's definition that would boil down to "best students, best placements."

We don't need more government sponsored management institutes with no particular focus. Have some USP, some reason to BE and not just exist!

In short, I think we are simply wasting Rs 1000 crores. If we need to set up new IIMs - let's figure out why, where and who is going to benefit.

If the intention is regional social development, well then let's accept that an IIM in Srinagar is not really going to do anything for the youth of J & K. Just as IIM Shillong makes no difference to the youth of the Northeast.

If you want to make a regional impact then go ahead and reserve 50% of the seats for locals. But that will dilute brand IIM, you say? Yes - so choose another name. ike we have IITs and we have NITs. And now IIITs.

Let the new institutes start with a clean slate. Let the old ones not be asked to carry new burdens.

And let it be an entire package deal: IIM + SEZ + airport. A stimulus package to grow the local economy by attracting industry, jobs and students. With the bschool being integrated - in a deep and meaningful way - with its immediate environment, and constituents.

Kapil Sibalji - are you listening??!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Experience the Joy of Giving

Hum sab is duniya se, doosron se, bahut kuch chahte hain
Magar hum duniya ko, doosron ke liye, kya kar sakte hain?

No matter who you are - young or old, rich or poor - you can experience a special kind of joy. And that is the joy of 'giving'.

Yes, I buy that but a few months ago when my friend and batchmate Venkat Krishnan came to me with the idea of a 'Joy of Giving Week' I thought it was a pretty bizarre idea.

Valentine's Day, Mother's Day - sure these days have been created by card companies. But can all of India really come together for one week of every year and celebrate something as 'giving'.

Three months later I have to say the answer is 'yes'. The 'Joy of Giving Week' from Sept 27-Oct 3 is turning into a national movement. People from all walks of life are coming together to create something very special.

Something you will hear a great deal about in the weeks to come.

So what is JOGW? Simply put:
It is a platform for all across the country to celebrate the joy of giving. Whether you are a paan wala in Lucknow, a traffic cop in Mumbai, an idli seller in Madurai, a millionaire in Delhi, a multinational company in Bengaluru, a saree shop owner in Kolkata, a teenager in a school or a college goer in Vadodara...

This is your opportunity to reach out to someone less privileged – by donating money, volunteering time, providing your skills and even just saying a kind word to someone who may not have expected it from you.

All you need to be part of the Joy of Giving Week is to do one simple conscious act of giving. So join the movement, now!

Some of the activities planned during Joy of Giving Week

* School Design Challenge - 35,000 schools across the country to participate in a new contest that invites children to think of solutions to India's problems, and implement them during the week.
* Goonj's Clothes collection drive will reach out to 25 cities across the country and raise 10 million donated clothes.
* Apollo Organ Donation Campaign -- Apollo Hospitals will promote a large campaign inviting people to pledge their organs and save lives
* Stars 4 Charity -- To be anchored by Farah Khan (with many from Bollywood participating). The proceeds will go to Jai Vakeel Trust.
CEOs Walk The Ramp - Taj has agreed to host the event pro bono. CEOs do a fashion show for charity
* Shadow A CEO - Indian School of Business to get on board India's top 50 CEOs and elite B-schools for a unique fundraising and learning opportunity
* Wildlife Conservation Trust - To match all donations made for certain wildlife conservation projects during the week, up to 1 crore rupees.

And, of special interest to college students - the Joyfest to be held in 300 colleges across India.

What is Joyfest?
Every college has a festival but this one is different. Joyfest is an opportunity for two Indias to come together - on a common platform

Step 1: Every college selects an NGO of its choice to partner with (orphanage, old people's home, orphanage etc)
Step 2: The college holds a cultural program of 60-90 minutes where students & NGO members participate together
eg Antakshari - one student, one slum child form a team and so on
Step 3: The NGO is the special guest of the college for that day.

Students will raise funds for the NGO through any activity of their choice eg sell tickets to the show, game stalls, sale of old books - or whatever they decide to do.

Why Joyfest?
It would have been easier to just hold a funfair and donate the money to a charity. But we think that you, the future leaders of this country, should actually reach out to the underprivileged. Get to know them, connect with them as human beings.

Giving is not just about money but about your time, our attention, your heart and your soul.

Joyfest is supported by MTV and JAM magazine, because we believe that youth does have that heart.

Do come forward and start a Joyfest in your college. You can register at the Joyfest website - Or drop me a line at rashmi_b at and I'll get someone to take you through the process.

The first 25 colleges to register will get 'pioneer status' and special media coverage. All students who participate in Joyfest will receive certificates from 'Joy of Giving Week'.

But hey, that is just a bonus! of As this film made especially for Joy of Giving week by ace South Indian Director, Jayendra should convince you.... This was his 'gift' to the movement!

It had to be an NRI

Madhuri Dixit did it.

Madhu Sapre did it.

Found an NRI/ phorener and rode into the sunset, I mean.

It's no surprise then that Rakhi picked Elesh from Canada as her future husband. The baby faced Manas and Chittiz (yuck what a name!) did not even look the part. Much less play it.

Elesh was the only one who said "I love you", with conviction.

The others were just acting, and Chittiz in particular was clearly not interested. Manas ki ma was hysterical throughout the finale - bete ye mujhe kahan le aaye ho. Laughing at all the wrong places and unable to say a single line to welcome her hone wali bahu. After all, her son is barely 22 years old...

OK - so the show was cheesy but well executed. Thank God there was no 'viewer poll' -- keeping in mind 'ek ladki ki zindagi ka sawaal' and all that.

And we do hope this *engagement* fructifies into a wedding nahin to Rakhi ki khair nahin! All of India sat up till 11 pm to 'bless her'. And confirm she would not wriggle out of it somehow. No 'kahani mein twist'.

I enjoyed the entire shindig, and whatever you say, the idea that a girl can choose her guy in this way is empowering. It's quite the opposite in the traditional arranged marriage where men still have the upper hand.

And there's no concept of wooing the bride, is there?

What Rakhi said about choosing Elesh was also interesting: "He came across as a genuine and caring person on and off camera".

Off camera is the important aspect. But in Rakhi's case then, do we believe the 'genuineness' she portrays on camera?

I liked the fact that even at the final stage - in the wedding outfit - she exposed a bit of cleavage and a lot of navel. "That's who I am, take it or leave it!"

Chalo, wishing Rakhi and Elace all the very best. I know there are lots of jokes about the impending divorce (if the marriage happens at all). But I think everybody deserves a chance and the happiest of couples are often the most unlikely ones.

Aapne sab se maangi, Rakhiji, toh here are my blessings!

And congratulations to NDTV Imagine for finally cracking the 'Hum aapke hain kaun' format which worked - for television.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Ode to Teenage - video library of my teens

Yesterday I saw a movie called 'Seven Pounds' on DVD which is one of the most pointless and depressing movies I have ever seen. Seriously, Hollywood seems to have lost it.

Of course I have not seen either Kambakht Ishq or Luck (and do not plan to) but even those cannot beat the sheer lack of colour, sense or style in 'Seven Pounds'. Will Smith, what were you thinking??

But this is not a lament on a specific movie, rather the whole DVD rental experience. A couple of months ago I joined Bigflix 6 month 'unlimited rental' plan. Which basically means you can keep 2 DVDs for as long as you like; or rotate them every day. Why Bigflix?

Well, their selection is not all that hot. Most of the movies they stock keep playing out on TV but this way you can watch at your convenience, and without ads. But the biggest point in Bigflix's favour is they actually have a store which is 5 minutes away from my house.

This is of course, a Reliance mobile showroom whose primary job is to sell SIM cards and collect bills. But, it also has a (mostly empty) cybercafe and small area devoted to BigFlix. Which means I can actually go across and pick up a movie - if I feel like.

I can also queue up movies and have them delivered but I like having the option of acting on impulse.

And being Reliance ADAG you have some surety that they won't just pull down the shutter one fine morning. Like did in New Bombay without bothering to inform customers. (reminder to self: must write a separate blog on that someday!)

My grouse with Bigflix - the corporate DVD rental experience - is that the folks who man the store are just doing a job. They don't really care about movies. Or wouldn't one of them have warned me: "Seven Pounds is absolutely avoidable!"

And my point of comparison of course is the one and only "Teenage video library". The folks who literally took me through my teens.

In 1983 my dad went to Japan and brought back a Hitachi VCR. Clunky by today's standards but an object of extreme beauty - and desire - back then. Promptly, we joined 'Teenage video library' in Colaba and began our romance with renting films.

The chief attraction at "Teenage" was a guy called Asif who was extremely cheerful and appeared to have seen every movie ever released. You just had to mention the name and he had an opinion for you. Or you said "I want a comedy" and he would recommend a few.

Asif must have been in his early 20s but for some reason did not have much hair on his head. I might have had a small crush on the guy, for some time. Even borrowed 10 bucks from him once, when on my way home from St Xavier's (as an FYJC student) I had no cash to take a BEST bus.

Asif had a brother who was older and had curly hair. He was obviously the 'boss' - probably the 'brains' of the operation. But Asif was the heart and soul.

The point is that a mom and pop shop like "Teenage" (or bhai and bhai in this case) had a certain charm. A stickiness, a sense of 'this is a service I trust'.

Unlike Bigflix they never ever shut down at 8 pm. Yes, we would argue if the 'print was bad' and much of their business came from pirated films. Bad bad boys :)

Bigflix cannot follow such a model (and those who want pirated don't rent DVDs - they simply download from the internet). But I wish they had a kid at the counter who was doing a part time job because he loved movies. I think it adds something to the experience.

Of course one can check reviews on the internet - or even on GPRS. But the point is, a human touch.

That touch is disappearing not just from DVD rental but every retail space as it 'modernises'. Salespeople come and give you a perfunctory "Madam can I help you" without the intention or inclination to do so.

And so many people behind the counter are busy jabbering away on their mobiles, or lost behind their headphones. Even when customers are waiting for billing, or for assistance of some kind. Because it's just a job and that means 'physical presence'. No energy, no emotion, no interest because "yeh mera thodi hai".

Aaj idhar hoon, kal kya pata.

I am sure "Teenage" still flourishes at Hampton Court in Colaba. Wonder if Asif still mans the counter. If not, I hope someone like him - to sell dreams and DVDs to the next generation of teenagers.

Disqus for Youth Curry - Insight on Indian Youth