Friday, August 11, 2006
  "Corporate" - Two Thumbs Up!
I watched a Hindi film after a long time. Unfortunately, College Station, TX, does not have a single theater that shows Hindi movies. We have to drive, at least, an hour and half to enjoy Hindi movies in Houston. The source of movies for the desi junta are the Indian grocerywallahs. I frequently visit a desi grocery joint named "Mini-Mart", managed by Sadiq bhai and his wife. I must say that he has done a commendable job in fulfilling the needs of the desi population of College Station. His clientele is primarily comprised of the students and the faculty of TAMU, and working professionals residing in College Station.

Sadiq bhai has a policy of not letting the poor students use credit cards to buy their purchases if the overall amount of the bill is below $5.00. The reason for this is that after paying the fees for the transaction to the credit card agencies on a purchase less than $5.00, Sadiq bhai does not earn much profit to justify putting in so much effort to bring the joys of Indian spices and culture to the city of College Station/Bryan.

Nowadays, I rarely carry cash in my pocket. Primary reason for this is that my financial situation is so pathetic that even beggars in India will show some sympathy for me after going through the average balance in my bank account. Like many middle class Bengalis, I have started believing that, in life, you gotta make a choice - between Goddess Saraswati (culture, knowledge, education) or Goddess Lakshmi (wealth/prosperity). There are people who believe that you must please Goddess Saraswati first in order to please Goddess Lakshmi. You realize the utter futility of the previous statement once you go through four years of hell as a PhD student. Anyways, to cut a long story short, at this juncture of my life, I have been flooded with the blessings of Goddess Saraswati and for some reason Goddess Lakshmi has decided to disown me. This explains my fascination with credit cards - the greatest thing humanity invented after wheels :-) If a giant entity like the American economy runs on credit (check out their deficit in recent times), who am I, a mere expendable mortal from a developing country, to complain about living on it?

My practice of not carrying cash in USA has led to a strange situation. Most of the times when I want to watch a Hindi movie, I do not have the cash to pay $1.00 to Sadiq bhai. When I go to buy Indian groceries from Sadiq bhai's shop, I do not feel like watching a Hindi movie. The planets have to be aligned in a specific way before I can actually either pay in cash or buy enough groceries to pay by credit card to rent a Hindi movie. Yesterday was one of those days. I had some free time, I felt like watching a movie, and I bought enough groceries (> $5.00) to pay for the movie rental using my plastic money. I was overjoyed - the small pleasures of life are really remarkable as I can not really afford big pleasures nowadays. After lot of deliberations, I decided to watch "Corporate". The reason - Bipasha Basu, the busty Bong lass.

I started watching the movie while cooking my dinner - chole, rice, and pappadums, the staple food of Indian graduate students when you are not in a mood to cook something elaborate. The movie started a bit slowly but I did not mind as I was paying more attention to the cooking. Madhur Bhandarkar, the director, started laying out the web of circumstances that would eventually reach a decent climax by the end of the movie. Bipasha Basu plays the role of Nishigandha Dasgupta, a high flying corporate executive working for a fast food company run by Vinay Sehgal, played very well by Rajat Kapoor. Her company, Sehgal Foods, is at loggerheads with their business rivals Marwah International run by Raj Babbar. The movie chronicles the circumstances leading to the rise and fall of Nishi in the corporate ladder. Kay Kay Menon acts as the beau of Bipasha Basu.

The movie has a nice story line that borrows from the controversy about unacceptable traces of pesticides in Coke and Pepsi in India. The screenplay is good. Most of the dialogues uttered by the actors are realistic and do incorporate relevant management jargon used by the executives in the real world. Although the movie is based on fiction, Madhur Bhandarkar has made a statement in the media that many of the incidents depicted in the movie have happened in reality. He got to know them as humorous anecdotes from his friends in the corporate world. The movie has three songs - very unusual for a Hindi movie.

This is not a typical desi masala movie with cheesy dialogues, forbidden love, and love songs. It manages to show the dark side of the glamour associated with the corporate lifestyle in India without boring the audience like an obscure art movie. If you are interested in economics, you will understand how "crony" capitalism, promoted by the license raj socialistic policies of GoI, has managed to destroy the ethics of business in India. The film throws some light on the relationship between the business houses and the political class of India. My only complaint is that the movie is too pessimistic. The only shred of hope is shown in the character played by Harsh Chayya, the CEO of Sehgal Foods. The real world is dark and slimy but it is not hopeless. The power plays happen but the honest do get to take home the cup. Not everybody is motivated by power, money, and fame.

Rajat Kapoor and Kay Kay Menon turn in really good acting performances. They do not overact and emote competently without getting to the point where acting turns into hamming. Bipasha Basu has come a long way in the department of acting since the days of "Jism" where her only asset on the screen was her body. She still has room for improvement but, nowadays, she can at least cry without making me feel disgusted enough to move my attention and, in the process, start appreciating her body - God's gift to mankind. Raj Babbar acts in a reserved fashion and does very well to represent a conservative Hindu businessman. There are quite a few other characters in the movie. You can peruse through the whole cast of the movie here.

Movies like "Corporate" will not become runaway commercial successes in the Indian market. "Corporate" will probably do well in the urban centers like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad etc. However, the movie has nothing of interest to cater to the rural population in order to draw them to the theaters. It also does not exotify or sensationalize India to interest the NRI population in foreign markets. At best, Madhur Bhandarkar will be able to recover the money that he and his producers sunk into "Corporate".
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
  Upside of reservation
After all the power play and trickery in the last three months regarding the issues of OBC reservations in India, Arjun Singh finally managed to do something useful for the citizens - start the debate about increasing the budget outlay for supporting primary and higher education in India. Read this report in the Indian portal,, and feel satisfied: Cost of new quotas: Rs 165 billion and counting.

It seems that India spends only 3% of its annual budget on education as compared to 10%-13% by USA, and 6.5% by France. When compared to the South-East Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia, we rank very poorly. In this scenario, if even a part of the proposed increased expenditure for the education sector is implemented, India might benefit in the long run.

Every issue has two sides. The reservation issue generated a storm of protests across India from the General Category (GC) students. This prompted the government to postpone the allocation of quotas for OBCs in the institutes of higher learning. The federal government promised that the loss of seats for the GC students because of the implementation of the quotas will be offset by the increase in the number of seats for the students in various science, technical, and professional institutes funded by the center all around India. This led to the formation of the Oversight Committee - set up to draw up a roadmap for the new quota regime. This committee is headed by the former Karnataka chief minister M Veerappa Moily.

The price of the new infrastructure and the recruitment of new faculty and staff in order to educate more number of students in the higher education sector has been approximated to be Rs. 165 billion or $3.55 billion over a period of five years by the Oversight committee. I do not know where GoI will get this kind of money in the next five years. However, the good news is that the government is thinking of investing heavily in the higher education sector. Even if GoI decides to increase the budgetary outlay for higher education by some fraction of $3.55 billion, it will have an impact on the Indian economy in a positive fashion. It is far better for a nation to spend its money on the education and health sector than on stupid schemes in other sectors. India has squandered billions of dollars of money in trying to support all sort of socialistic policies in the past. These policies have not even made a small dent in fighting poverty.

I must admit that if the government increases the total intake of the students in the higher education sector in order to compensate for the reservations of OBCs successfully, it might turn out to be a win-win situation for everybody. However, if I have to take into account the past record of GoI in implementing policies successfully, I have to weigh in all this optimism with a pinch of salt. Indian bureaucracy is one of the worst in the world when it comes to bungling even the most simple of all the policies. I do not trust them with such a complicated task. It is prudent for the government to start involving the private sector in higher education as an equal partner. There is money to be made in this sector. This will also help people to have a sense of ownership of the educational institutes of the country!

"Saptarishi" in Sanskrit means the Seven Sages or rishis who are extolled at many places in the Vedas and other Hindu literature. They are regarded in the Vedas as the patriarchs of the Vedic religion. The constellation of Ursa Major is also named as Saptarshi. (Source:

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  • Blogger Rangakrishnan Srinivasan // Friday, August 11, 2006 2:27:00 PM
  • Blogger Shiv // Tuesday, August 15, 2006 6:54:00 PM
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