Sunday, November 30, 2008

Film Directors

There are many film directors. Some are over rated while some are under rated. In my view Bansali is highly over rated, thanks to media. Media tries its best to over rate or under rate anyone they choose to. In late 50s media gave a verdict that Dilip Kumar was over shdowed by Raj Kumar. Similarly, in mid 80s they gave another verdict that Vinod Khanna had over taken Amitabh. What a joke! Don’t believe me? See the archives of newspapers and Magazines.
Sorry for shifting from directors to actors. In my view Guru Dutt was another over rated director. His films Pyasa and Kaghaz ke phool were appeciated largely because of Sahir and Azmi.
Take Biall Roy and Bansali. They made Devdas based on the same novel. Bimal Roy’s Devdas is realistic apart from excelling in naturalism. Bansali’s lacks in both. Realism is about treatment of a subject, while naturalism is about external factors such as settings, attire, customs and traditions of the period etc.

Realism is not photographic representation of life or just a slice of life. There is something called artistic liberty, but that liberty has to create suspension of disbelief as well. There are two aspects—probable impossibility and impossible probability. It is the director who has to visualise and select probable inpossibility while taking liberty with the subject.
In one scene in Bansali’s Devdas you have Mrs Kher running through a hall. She is shown running for a number of minutes and the hall seems to get lengthier. If one were to combine Diwan e aam and khas of Agra fort the length would look shorter than Bansali’s hall.
Then I saw a film called Black. Amitabh is shown shouting at a dumb, deaf and blind girl in the name of teaching. Mind you, this film was highly acclaimed and had received very good crtical acclaim. How the girl responds to this shouting and then benefit by it and thereby learns to lead a normal life is a matter of mystery to me. This was a case of impossible probability.

Let us take Lagaan. It is an insult to the game of cricket. We must seek the opinion of Sunil Gavaskar to know if a team can be formed the way it was done in Lagaan. The director depended solely on patriotic feelings of the viewers for success.
Another case of impossible probability! If the film were made in a comic genre, it would have been better.

The there was swadesh. The lead actor is a NASA employee. He is shown directing the operations of NASA over telephone. He is very indispensable to NASA. The film should have ended with the collapse of NASA when the lead character returned to India for good.

We do have very good directors in Shyam Benegal, Kunal Kohli and Prakash Jha.

I have chosen only those films, which were critically acclaimed.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Dilip kumar was my favourite actor in my high school and college days. I watched Devdas in 1960. It is amazing to see pain in his eyes and on his face. The scenes of bullock cart ride, train journey and the last scene which ends with his death were superb. It was an excellent combination of Bimal Roy and Dilip Kumar. No other director would have done as well.
Naya Daur, Kohinoor, Ganga Jamuna, Moghal-e Azam, Paigham and Leader, I consider, are best examples of his acting talent.

Later he turned theatrical. He got carried away with his accent and intonation. He started sounding affected.

Amitabh bachan is another great actor. When he came on the scene I was working. When I saw Amar Akbar Anthony, I knew here was a good actor. Between 1975 and 1982 I hardly watched films. I saw Shakti in 1983. I thought he performed beautifully. Some time in 1984 Mr. Rath said that I must see Bemisal. I saw it in Chennai. He was good. In 1987 I saw Deewar. I was impressed. Television happened and I saw a lot of films. I was disappointed. Film after film he was doing the same role. But I thought he did well in Abhiman. When I saw Main Aazad Hun, I was amazed by his voice, way of dialogue delivery. His plus points were really exploited. Then I saw Alaap. His performance was very good. He was able to portray agony on his face and in his eyes. All I can say is that his talent has not been exploited.

Monday, November 17, 2008

INDIANOIL-Siliguri Tenure

That was the year 1980. I reported to Siliguri terminal as operations officer. Mr. G. Mallick was the head. Siliguri had the history of union violence. It was widely known that Mr.Malai Ghosh and Mr. Subir Raha were slapped across the face during some altercations with the union leaders. Unusually they did receive management support and the employees involved were suspended. But that was history when I reported.

I was cautioned the working life was tough and Mr Mallick was a no nonsense man. I always had a reputation of being a rebel (iconoclast in my view). I landed a toughest assignment of MG operations. There was a single gantry for full rake. A rake in MG is lengthwise more than BG rake. Each wagon is almost double the length of BG wagon. With one gantry there were three spurs. That is to say one spur was without gantry. And all full rakes were placed only there. Placement was never perfect. At least an hour was spent in hand shunting.

I can never forget my first working day there. A full rake of loaded wagons was placed in third spur sometime after lunch break. The hose connections were given after verifying the dip measurements, lines were made through and the decanting operation commenced.
Normally with the good pumping capacity a full rake is unloaded in about five hours. Things were in perfect order and after three hours decanting was at normal rate. It was around six in the evening. I was feeling tired being at the site for four continuous hours and decided to have a cup of tea and start working on the release papers.

I returned to gantry after an hour. On checking I found the product levels in the wagons were the same as when I left the gantry an hour ago. I walked the entire length of the spur to see what was happening. I found that the valves of at least three to four wagons were in open condition even though the decantation of those was completed. That meant the entire suction line was with air. I did not say a word to any worker. I just told them to prime the line and close the valves of completed wagons. I could see the pain of realization of guilt in their eyes. The entire decantation was completed around twelve midnight.

Next day they volunteered to confess their guilt. There after I enjoyed working with them.

This was yet another confirmation of my belief that one should never lose faith in the goodness of human beings.

The first installation Manager of Siliguri was Mr. Savur, who retired as GM some time late eighties (I may not be accurate about the date). There are a number of hilarious incidents narrated very fondly by the workers of Siliguri. Of them I recall one here. Those were the days when many of the facilities that we have taken for granted today were non-existent. Working life in terminals was tough. Added to that the managers who migrated from Esso or Burmah Shell or Caltex were always keen to drive in to every one that they were superior. Well, that is not the purpose of this writing.

From a balcony of Installation Manager’s bungalow, which was within the compound wall of installation, one could have a clear view of happenings in the Installation. Mr. Savur used to stand in the balcony, bare-bodied with a folded-up dhoti, sipping his morning coffee. It was not unusual that a wagon would overflow. And it was not unusual to see Mr, Savur, with folded lungi and yagnopaveet on his bare body chasing the culprit all over the installation. Whatever was the feeling of being chased at that time, the workers remembered it very fondly. That probably was a comic relief in an otherwise tough environment. They remembered him very fondly.

If you follow the Manuel on operations you cannot load wagons when both bottom and master valves are inoperative. But scarcity of wagons, immediate product requirement was possibly the reasons for ignoring the instructions. One can know the upper valve is inoperative, but you cannot know the condition of the bottom valve till the flange is removed. Once the flange is removed and the bottom valve is inoperative, product just gushes out of the faucet. When this happened, a worker on the spot just put his head against the faucet flange to arrest the flow till others rushed there. Putting the head against the faucet flange meant a great risk. The flow could even suffocate, apart from the danger of soaking in petroleum.

That was the commitment of the people. Think of their contribution to the growth of this corporation!

Mr.Mallick valued punctuality over anything else. The Terminal timings were 8 am onwards. A little before 8 am he would stand in a small garden close to the main gate.
Every time I saw him there I wished him with all respect. I have always respected authority even if the authority is mediocre. But Mr. Mallick really deserved respect for his many good qualities. I found blue-collar workmen never wished him. They either lowered their gaze and walked away or looked the other way. In one of the tea sessions with workmen, I did spend sometime with the workers when there were no placements, I asked them the reason for their not wishing the TM. There were two very outspoken boys, Niranjan and NandaLal, who told me that whenever they wished him in response he merely looked at his c… and that was the reason they stopped wishing him. Mr. Mallick was a body builder and used to cycle in the terminal premises during early hours. He used to stand straight, legs a bit wide apart and wrists placed on his hipbones. Whenever someone wished him he merely gave a nod. Well, the inference of workmen was not totally misplaced. In one of the informal get-togethers I narrated this to Mr. Mallick. He really laughed and there after he responded by raising his hand.

The compound wall of terminal and quarters was common. From the quarters to the railway station or to any place was lonely and desolate. Areas on either side were low lying full of shrubs, bushes and wild grass. After the twilight, it was an experience to walk on this road. On both sides of the road were glowworms in their full glory presenting the entire area as a replica of the heavens above. The feeling was one of walking over a galaxy.

Siliguri terminal was situated in New Jalpaiguri. Officers and staff stayed in the same residential complex adjoining Terminal. When the sky was clear Kanchanjanga could be seen. It was a beautiful view. Siliguri is about 8 kms form New Jalpaiguri. But the short cut was just about 4 kms. Talking of Kanchanjunga I remember my visit to Darjeeling, which is just 70 kms from Siliguri. Siligiri is in Darjeeling District. At Darjeeling with family I spent a week in our beautifully located Holiday home, which was next to Oberoi hotel. From the window I could see the kanchanjanga in its glory.

One day during the week we started for tiger hills at 4 in the morning. Tiger hill is the place from where one can see Kanchanjanga in all its glory. It was sometime in November and most of the days the sky used to be cloudy or the atmosphere misty. Many visitors returned disappointed, as they could not see because of inclement weather.
We waited breathlessly. As the twilight broke the unimaginable happened. The purple glow of the twilight covered the snow-capped mountain. There it was-- breath-takingly beautiful. I felt the ‘sparsh’of God. I cannot forget the experience. My ‘rongte khade ho gaye’.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

INDIANOIL- SR had super efficient ED

It was in the year 1996. Southern Region had an ED, who was considered excellent managerial material. How else would he become ED at the age of 45 years, in an organisation, which shouted from the roof top that their promotions were absolutely merit based? Only by being just the top material! There were groups in the organisation, infact there have always been of brahmins and non-brahmins. The brahmins, among them the Iyers were in awe of him. There never has been an ED of his stature, they would say. On the other hand, the other group was on the extreme opposite of that view. They called the Regional office building an ‘agraharam’. An agraharam is a locality around a temple whose residents are only brahmins. There were many such places in southern India where people outside the fourfold soceity were apart from being untouchable, were also unseeable. Remember Waikom? This is not the subject of my writing. So I get back to what I began to write about. This gentleman was fair (complexon) but sounded slightly affiminate when he spoke.

His greatest virtue was love for his mother. There is nothing wrong in that. All scriptures advise that. But it was different. It was bordering on mother fixation. He refused a posting with promotion out of Chennai because his mother did not want to move out of Chennnai. In many cases this organisation woud transfer such an officer without promotion, but in this case the conscience of the organisation came in the way. They retained him, only to promote him the following year without sending him out. After all he was indispensable!

As Ed his achievements were remarkable. On the advice of his numerologist his office on the 9th floor would not only keep him away from evil, but also bring him fortune. There were 8 floors in the building. But brilliant as he was he changed them to levels, with first level being ground floor. Lo behold! He was on the 9th level.

His managerial skills were demonstrated in his tour programmes. On the day of his scheduled departure at least 3 flights were booked to a single location with a gap of one or two hours. This was a brilliant example of time management. He was not sure whether he would be free from a meeting or from the files and he did not or could not afford to miss the most important work, which awaited his attention at the place where he was scheduled to go.

On many occasions he avoided overnight stay. He would come back late evening flight and go back again early morning, thus keeping both official and filial commitments at the same time. Many argued he was doing the right thing. Afterall he was saving hotel charges for the organisation. Flight charges yes, but he travelled Indian Airlines, which meant money was with the Government.

He always advocated loyalty to the organisation. But then he quit to join another organisation. Quitting was technically right, but was it ethical. Afterall, ‘jo jeeta wahi Sikandar’!