“Looking into something with clarity and precision, seeing each component as distinct and separate, and piercing all the way through so as to perceive the most fundamental reality of that thing”
-Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, Sri Lankan Theravada Buddhist monk
As Managers one learns well to tackle the nitty-gritty of the physical world – what gets measured gets done, you need to strike the right balance on efficiency and effectiveness and the cost of achieving it, have the right motivations tools including the ‘carrot-and-the stick’ to drive desired outcomes, learn the ability to multitask balancing urgency v/s expediency, ownership v/s delegation.
The dualism is at the heart of the daily grind. You also learn to appreciate F Scott Fitzgerald when he said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Add to it the consistent ability to learn and adapt to the ever-changing world and looks like you have brought the bacon home.
Imagine being asked to read newspaper stories and analyse them to understand their impact on the Business world. It was unusual and entertaining way to learn about Business strategy and the need for constant renewal to survive in a competitive marketplace. It seemed an exaggeration then but the world truly is changing at a far more rapid pace than in the past and surely the nimbler players survive better in it than the stronger or even smarter ones.
The model was called PEST-E representing the strands of Political, Economic, Social and Technology factors that impact ones strategy. An overarching principle of increasing importance was ecology or environment that was then a newly evolving parameter. Over the years I have heard more complicated versions including PESTLE, STEEPLE, STEEPLED but the original paradigm was the first one to make an impact on me.
What is like a second nature to me nowadays was quite a challenge in those initial days. So any story in the newspaper was easily slotted in one of the above mentioned slots or so it seemed. But there was nothing without a context or subtext and the moment you set about unravelling it, you realized the interconnectedness of these factors that interacted in complex ways to create a story that was never quite that simple and not without intricate ramifications.
On a quick visit to Pune, I set up a meeting with a lawyer, who was an old school mate of my elder brother, and off-chance we decided to meet at the old South Indian cafe in one of the famous Peth areas in the city.
As I waded my way through the bylanes to one of those old ramshackle buildings, I wondered whether it will be trick or treat, coming back to a place that was part of our daily routine in my childhood.
It evoked the same pleasant smells of fresh food, freshly brewed Coffee and the strong scent of the incense sticks (agarbatti). The place was rather vacant which helped us a quiet chat but I wondered where was the bustle gone – usually one even had to wait for a while to get hold of a place to sit. It was run by a young chap in his thirties – the old proprietor had passed away and the place had exchanged hands.
Released way back in 1990, Keladi Kanmani marks a directorial debut of Vasanth who had assisted K Balachander in many movies. In my view it is his best work and a true tribute to his ‘gurunathar’- the great KB.
I regard it to be so as the story has no villains or overboard melodrama, typical of most Tamil films in those days. And it has a rare sensitivity of two loving adults who let go of their relationship because the child feels insecure and is not ready to accept anyone else in the place of her mother.
It is an off-beat love story between two ordinary real life characters – ARR (essayed by singer SPB) is a middle-aged widower and Sarada Teacher ( essayed by Radhika) is a mature and educated daughter of a ‘deaf-mute’ couple played by Poornam Viswanathan and Srividya.
Overall the movie runs for nearly two and half hours, but the first forty-five minutes could have been easily avoided as the focus of the story is ARR and Sarada Teacher. And the contrast of the narrative does make the opening sequence seem pedestrian and juvenile. Anju and Ramesh Arvind enact college kids puppy love romance with all its awkwardness and predictability. Indeed this segment may even put off many viewers from watching the gem that is to follow.
Vasanth gets his characters right – so we have ARR who is approaching middle age, unapologetically fat and not even having a proper vocation except possibly looking after his 10-year-old daughter, Anju. In contrast, Sarada Teacher is nearing 30 and has decided not to get married as she wants to spend her life looking after her ‘deaf-mute’ parents. Can one imagine a love story for such a couple and can one get people engrossed into their narrative? Vasanth answers the question superbly in about an hour’s time.
For well over a century now, young women have tended to have romantic ideas of a life partner who is ‘Tall, Dark and Handsome’ a.k.a the Mills & Boon dream.
The male vision has been even more stereotyped with a rather overt focus on beauty and fairness than over brains and character. It does seem that men may be intimidated to fall for a woman of intelligence and one who knows her mind.
Jean Piaget in A Town Like Alice breaks the stereotype and that makes the book so very special and enduring even nearly 65 years after it was first published.
The book is entertaining as well as inspiring. The opening scene in London has an ageing solicitor, Noel Strachan, advising a young Jean Piaget, working as a secretary, about her inheritance that makes her a wealthy woman. But most of the money is tied up in a Trust so that she can’t just blow it away and Noel will handle her financial affairs till she is thirty-five years of age. Her benefactor uncle apparently had a poor opinion about women managing their money and felt that they end up falling prey to Golddiggers.
Jean comes across a sensible and level-headed woman when she calmly accepts the good news but decides to continue working for the interim. She has a keen mind and asks some intelligent questions that engage Noel’s attention and so begins the relationship of a lifelong mentorship.
I reckon that Vasanth’s early movies have the right mix of story, screenplay, songs and commercial masala to ensure success on the box office. They appeal to various segments in the audience from the front benchers to the family audience.
Rhythm is a good example of the delicate balance he creates while narrating a rather off beat story of romance between two people who have lost their spouse in tragic circumstances. While we deal with mature and sensitive people with a sense of humour, their vacillation is a genuine emotion blighting their lives as they are no rebels and play real life people living in a conservative social milieu.
So we have a movie based in Navi Mumbai – lovely footage of the world-class railway station and the railway over bridge – and that sets a good pace to the story. Karthikeyan (Arjun) is a photo editor with an English daily while Chitra (Meena) works in a Bank. They have tragically lost their life partners to a horrific train crash and are yet to come to terms with it. Chitra’s life revolves around her adopted son,Shiva, who is growing up and missing a father in his life. Meena is perfectly cast in the role and her looks and expressions are dead right for a grieving lady coping alone with the vicissitudes of the life in a megacity. Arjun plays the lead of a soft romantic hero – quite a makeover from his Action Hero image. To add some mordant humour we have the characteristic Manivannan delivering his one line punches in his trademark style.
Back on a brief visit to Chennai I visited the friendly cyber cafe near my home to find a startling changes that are a hard reality for the owners as the traffic moves over to mobile phones.
It was deserted during peak evening hours and to think we used to wait at times for 15-20 minutes to get hold of a free PC.
The cyber cafe was our lifeline in my college days. It was a mix of work and fun. You needed to research for your assignments, write the papers, print and bind them, catch a bit of music and videos, chat with your friends winking into those pudgy cameras fixed on top, even exchange mails – all the action was at the cafe. It could be crowded and 12 PM meant close of business for the owners indulging the night owls willing to plug on over a cuppa of coffee. I used to like it a lot since the crowds would thin out after 9 and it was like a private party then. You got to know the regular crowd and exchanged a bit of pleasantry. Not much though as everyone got on with his own agenda.