CEO Presentations and Rocky Movies

As part of my consulting assignment, yesterday I had to make a presentation to the CEO of my client. The process of preparing the presentation reminded me of Rocky (or any other Martial Arts movie). In these movies, before the protagonist can challenge the antagonist, he has to go through a series of underlings. Only after the protagonists has defeated all the underlings does the antagonist accept his challenge to a fight.

The work itself was done in consultation with a mid-level manager who heads the division that follows the process that I was going to recommend. While we had had a few rounds of discussions which led to the recommendations, I had prepared the presentation all by myself, and most of Wednesday was spent with him fixing the presentation.

Next we went to his boss, and repeated the process. Then to the boss’s boss. Then to someone else in the top management who would not be available for the main presentation! The hour before the main presentation was spent with the head of the division in whose realm the processes I was recommending fell. And then I got to the CEO.

Two hours before the meeting with the CEO, a couple of client team members and I were discussing the finer points of seppuku and hara-kiri. An hour before the presentation, the division head and I were discussing the Mahabharata!

The entire hierarchy was present for the meeting with the CEO (the mid-manager I had worked with, his boss, his underling, his boss’s boss and a couple of other people). Still typing away on his iPhone, without looking up, the CEO asked, “are all of you in agreement with what is in this presentation or are these Karthik’s recommendations alone?”

The Rocky Process was worth it, after all!

PS: I’m writing this sitting at the client’s office, in between meetings.

Redundancy in movies

I’m writing this while watching this Hindi movie called Cocktail, which is being shown on the pay-per-view Showcase channel on Tata Sky. Ten minutes after the movie started, I remembered this review of the movie that I’d read back when I was released, and thanks to that lost most interest in the movie. However, I continue watching, giving company to the wife, and reading papers and writing, as I watch.

The last Hindi movie I watched with any degree of seriousness was Gangs of Wasseypur (1 and 2), which is an absolutely mindblowing movie. While watching that movie, I remember that time moved insanely slowly. After what I thought was an hour of the movie, I looked at my watch only to realize that only half an hour had passed. Each part of the movie (which actually lasts about two and half hours each) felt like it individually lasted five hours! There was so much action that was packed into the movie.

So coming to the point of the post – the problem with most Hindi movies (not of the GoW variety) is that there is heavy redundancy packed into the movie. Each concept that ties into the main plot of the movie is explained so many times, most times not even through different means, that it is quite easy to miss a part of the movie and still be clued in to the overall plot. Not so with the GoW type, where there is absolutely no redundancy built in, because of which you can’t afford to miss even a couple of minutes of the movie, without losing part of the overall plot.

If you were to read Benoit Mandelbrot’s excellent book on the financial markets (The (mis)behaviour of markets), you would be introduced to this awesome concept of “trading time”. In the book, Mandelbrot explains that markets are not uniform – there are times when there is much more action packed into the markets (like the first and last fifteen minutes of trading every day) than in slower times (mostly around mid-day). Thus, to get a better analysis of the market, Mandelbrot explains, you need to look at it not from the point of view of “clock time” but from the point of view of “trading time”, which “measures time” by way of volume of trade.

Drawing an analogy, a movie like Gangs of Wasseypur is like a snapshot of the financial market during the opening 15 minutes of trading. At every moment in the movie, there is so much happening. Scenes are short, and cut abruptly, and say only what absolutely needs to be said. So you get much more “action” for each minute you spend watching the movie.

(Ok I realize that by repeating the funda in the previous paragraph, this post tends more towards Cocktail than GoW.) Maybe that’s why I don’t particularly enjoy most movies that I watch – there is so much redundancy I get bored. Problem with most mango people is that it takes too much mindspace to be focused through the duration of the movie, so they end up losing parts of the plot in movies such as GoW, and so movies such as these are not as commercially successful as slower paced movies.

Upendra’s Super is a funny movie, in terms of the pace at which it moves. The first two hours are full of theatrics, and unnecessary redundancy that makes you ask why you are watching the movie at all. The last half an hour, both in terms of content and the concept it gets across (property rights, concept of ownership, etc.) packs in so much that you leave the hall feeling satisfied. Maybe the two parts of the movie are aimed at different segments and Uppi seems to have cracked the formula!

Wannabe no more

Right from the time I started subscribing to the Times of India (and consequently, “Bangalore Times”) back in 1998, I’ve wanted to be a “party types”. While I’ve always been quite nerdy and anti-social and socially awkward, I’ve always wanted to attend parties, and perhaps even attain the holy grail of being a “party types” – having my face on a tiny corner of Page Three of Bangalore Times (my wife, five years younger than me, beat me to this “achievement” in February this year; I was away romancing my bike and the roads (and cows) of Rajasthan when she unlocked this achievement).

I must say I got a chance rather early. The school I had just joined then (National Public School, Indiranagar) was full of interesting people, and my classmates used to organize “parties” every month or so. The “party hall” at an apartment complex where one of the classmates lived would be booked, audio equipment would be rented, out of which “music” of the likes of Prodigy and the Beastie Boys would be blared out. Girls would dress up (I was positively shocked when, just before one of these parties, two of my classmates were talking about buying new dresses for the forthcoming party!), boys wouldn’t, strobe lights flashed, and we would cry our throats hoarse trying to make conversation over the “music”. There wouldn’t be any alcohol, of course, as we were all under-age (we were in class XI), but that didn’t prevent us from having a good time.

Unfortunately, I wouldn’t have too much fun, as I attended a grand total of three parties over the course of two years, during which four or five times that number were organized! It didn’t help that I lived quite far off from most of my classmates (I was in Jayanagar; I’d bus 12 kilometers each way to school, and most classmates lived close enough to school to cycle). It didn’t help either that those were “JEE mugging years”, and my parents thought I shouldn’t be “wasting my time” partying. Adding to the mix was my parents’ conservativeness and their view of dance parties as being immoral imports of undesirable aspects of western civilization. My “party life” was off to a slow start, and I continued to be socially awkward.

The less I talk about the “party scene” over the next four years (when I was at IIT Madras), the better. The only thing that “happened” was an article I wrote decrying the page three scene for Total Perspective Vortex, the newly launched “literary magazine” on campus. It was like a frustrated old fogey writing about sour grapes, but I thought I wrote quite well.

The famous bi-weekly “L square” parties on campus at IIMB revived my party life. I continued to be socially awkward, but here you knew most people, and most of them knew about my awkwardness. This was around the time I started drinking alcohol, though I wouldn’t drink much. When I drank, though, I let go of myself and I think I had a good time, though I continued to be socially awkward. I developed a reputation of hugging women when drunk. And when I decided to not drink and only observe, I would feel miserable, and “left out”. My red bandana became famous, though!

I contributed significantly to the literature on partying in those two years. It helped that I had started this blog (ok it’s predecessor on LJ) back then. I documented my first ever experience of getting drunk. Another day, I had one drink, stood aside and made pertinent observations. And then, on another occasion, I decided to write a letter to my mother (!! ) about partying.

The downside of L square was that I was used to partying “among my own people”, at organized parties. I never “went out”. As part of my first job, I remember going out one night for a party, but I was so tired from work that I wasn’t able to let go. There was another occasion when I went with a bunch of seemingly random people to Insomnia, the disco at the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai. Was again way too self conscious, and made my exit pretty quickly. Same story at my favourite “cousin sister”‘s bachelorette party. Too self-conscious. I should have perhaps interpreted those as first signs of my anxiety.

Priyanka had always claimed to be a “party types”, but would artfully dodge every time I suggested we go out “partying”. She perhaps recognized my social awkwardness (yes, that part never changed) and didn’t want to embarrass herself. She kept saying we should go out “with other people”, and put the onus on me to find other people to go out with, knowing fully well that I was completely incapable of convincing my friends that we should go out “partying”.

So the first “party” we attended together ended up being at the mantap, on the night before our wedding. We had arranged for a DJ, and while some elderly relatives looked on, shocked at our “lack of culture”, others gamely joined in. The music was kept in line to the median demographics of the crowd, and songs such as “aa anTe amalaapuram” sought to drill into my head that I was condemned to lead the rest of my life married to a Gult. The party ended abruptly when the cops from the nearby station made an appearance asking us to tone down the volume, and most people promptly went home.

I could say that my life changed last night. At long last, at the ripe old age of twenty nine, nearly three years after I met and fell in love with the self-proclaimed “party types” Priyanka, and nearly two years after we moved in together, she “obliged” and took me for a party. Joining us for the evening was her spiritual guru (hereby referred to as “Guru”) and a common friend of theirs (who we shall refer to as “Date”). We were headed to the City Bar at UB city, which was hosting a party with DJ R3hab (sic) at the turntable. Priyanka (we’ll call her “Wife” henceforth) would be my “guide” into the world of partying. For the record, she had only recently finished reading Raghu Karnad’s excellent essay on how the liquor industry shaped Bangalore. I had read it maybe a month back.

People talk about female infanticide and selective abortions, when they talk about the ticking time bomb that is India’s declining sex ratio. They quote numbers such as “914 girls for every 1000 boys for population aged 0-6″, and compare it to other countries, and our own numbers in the past. They talk about “wife sharing” and migration of girls from poor states such as Bihar to states starved of women such as Haryana. The starker story about India’s gender gap, though, can be told by observing the crowd trying to get into nightclubs.

In the Western world, nightclubs are frequently seen as places to “hang out”, and find interesting people, typically of the sexually preferred gender. Men and women alike, looking for interesting company, hang out at nightclubs, and many a relationship is formed because people “happened to meet at a party”. It is approximately as likely for a group of men to go out, as it is for a group of women, so most of these clubs typically see fairly balanced gender ratios. Apart from perhaps a few exclusive clubs, few see the need to take measures to ensure a balanced gender ratio, and this too is done “gently”, through measures such as “ladies’ nights”, where women get free drinks.

It is instructive that one of the most popular sports bars in Bangalore (Xtreme sports bar in Indiranagar) prevents stag entry. It is hilarious, because watching sport is usually a male-bonding activity. If I want to get together with a bunch of fellow Liverpool F.C. fans and go watch a game, it is impossible to do so unless at least half of us are women (and I know only one woman who is a Liverpool F.C. fan and she doesn’t live in Bangalore). Preventing stag entry, as drastic it seems, however, seems like the only practical way for clubs to ensure a fair gender ratio and enable people to have fun.

As we rode up the escalator to the “Piazza” area of UB City last evening, we were greeted by a massive, mostly male, crowd. Most of them were trying to get into City Bar, but were being held off by bouncers who had declared a “couples only entry” policy. The few women we saw there were perhaps waiting for friends, for there was nothing stopping them from entering. The stags didn’t have any such option, but still hung on in the hope of being let in (City Bar usually doesn’t have any restrictions. My guess is that the rule was made on the go in order to ensure a balanced crowd for the party), and in the process made it difficult for couples and hinds to get past them and get in. The scene at the bar there told the story.

This was a puzzle that had puzzled me back when I was looking for a long-term gene propagating partner. Every social network I had been part of, every seemingly upwardly mobile cohort, there seemed to be a disproportionate number of men. A woman for every sixteen men at IIT. One in six at IIM. One in three, one in ten, none in ten and one in twenty in my four jobs. The story was similar in most engineering colleges and IT companies. And the heavy imbalances reflected in the club scene also. Where, I wonder, where have all the women gone?

Priyanka argues that it is down to our conservative culture and relative ease of boys to live away from their parents and to be able to “go out”. Another reason she gives pertains to girls getting married at a much younger age in our country (relative to boys). While  these make sense, the latter is a “problem” Western countries also face, but they don’t seem to have a problem attracting balanced crowds to public spaces. Nevertheless, we seem to have fallen into a Nash equilibrium where most single women stay home, for a multitude of reasons, and most single men go to bars searching for single women, mostly in futility. It is only the arranged marriage market that perhaps clears this deadlock.

“No one drinks at clubs”, the experienced Wife had informed me, “everyone gets drunk before they go in”. In accordance to this diktat, and also seeking to warm myself after a swim in reasonably cold water earlier in the evening, I had carried along some (excellent) Amrut fusion in the car. Wife and I drank from it before we made our way to City bar. We were to realize we hadn’t been too “liberal” when we had stocked up liquor for the car.

If you are tall and big, like me, it is easy to get spotted in the crowd, and this can help people locate and keep track of you when you are at public spaces (like a club or a crowded market or a concert). But it can work against you when you have to weave through human traffic in order to get somewhere, like to the gates of the club as we had to last night. Wife, however, had chosen our company well, as the tiny Guru expertly weaved past the crowds and got us past the gates, with stamps on our wrists. My life as a “party types” was actually about to begin.

The alcohol took a long time to act, and even mixing drinks (the entry fee included a free Bacardi+Lime, which I gulped down to go over the Amrut I had drunk earlier) didn’t help. I instinctively reached for and fidgeted with my phone, to tweet, but met disapproval from Wife, who thought that was too geeky. I actually tweeted that I wanted to blog about what I was observing. Then things started to get interesting.

Wife and I decided to look out for interesting people. She quickly found two boys to lech at, and pointed them out to me. I wasn’t so lucky with the women. There was a sameness about their appearance. They all seemed to be wearing similar clothes, or perhaps most of them could be classified into two or three types based on the clothes they wore. Most of them were in skirts/dresses, though some wore trousers. Most shoulders were bare, with strappy and strapless tops/dresses ruling the roost. Long straightened hair was the norm, as were high-heeled shoes. To the slowly-getting-drunk me, even their faces all looked alike. There was little idiosyncracy about the looks of any of them, to particularly draw my attention. The only one I found remotely interesting, of course, was Date, who I had briefly talked to while we were getting in (she too, of course, was “in uniform”, as was Wife). I walked a bit after I finished my rum to dispose of the bottle, looked back, and thought I saw a girl who caught my eye. Turned out it was the Wife!!

We moved into the heart of the party, close to the stage where R3hab had by now taken over. I noticed a pile of women’s shoes near a pillar, and soon discovered that Wife and Date, too, were dancing barefoot! What is the point in wearing fancy shoes, I thought, if one has to take them off to have fun. However, I guess such questions are not to be asked about one’s wives.

The first cop made his appearance at about 11:05 pm (the deadline for bars and restaurants is 11:30). Wife and I decided it was time to move on, and since I hadn’t eaten anything after the swim (and had quite a bit to drink – I would drink another shot of whisky at the bar), I thought it would be a good idea to hit a “midnight buffet”. We presently left the party, bidding goodbye to Guru and Date, partly in our effort to beat the crowd out of the parking lot. Bangalore, and UB City continued to party on as we drove out (yes, I was sober enough to drive). Some aimless wandering followed (I remembered people mention the Midnight buffet at Windsor, and promptly drove there without checking only to be told they had stopped it some time ago) before we settled down for the midnight buffet at the ITC Gardenia. It was past 1 am by the time we got home.

I’m a wannabe no more. I’ve always wanted to be “party types”, and I took my baby steps in that direction last night. “Project Thirty” is well and truly on, I must say! Much fun was had last night, and I kept telling Wife that “we should do this more often”. It helps that Bangalore has moderately relaxed the dancing-at-bars laws. My friend Deepak who runs Eclipse at The Leela tells me that there is a new “discotheque license” which enables an establishment to permit dancing. Of course, the 11:30 deadline remains, but I shall not complain.

I mentioned earlier that I had a reputation at IlIMB of hugging girls when drunk. I lived up to that last night as I repeatedly put my arm around Date and posed for photos, and gave her a hug as we were about to leave (Wife looked on, and clicked photos). However, Wife maintains that I lack social skills, and I really need to make an effort in the art of making conversation with women, and etiquette of taking a woman out (I continue to commit silly yet cardinal mistakes, like when I took Wife to the Windsor yesterday before checking if they had a buffet). I’m looking for a “social skills” coach. If any of you are willing to help me on that, I would be extremely glad. If you agree to guide me, I will treat you every time we meet as part of “my course”.

I’ve told the story of fourteen years of my life in this rather long essay, along with some comments and tidbits on India’s social structure. In these fourteen years, a lot has changed, in India, in Bangalore and in my life. One thing, however, refuses to change. I continue to be socially awkward.

 

The success and failure of Coupling, this blog and the Benjarong Conference

One of the few sitcoms that has remotely managed to hold my attention is Coupling, the series on BBC. I don’t think it runs “live” any more, and even when it did, the quality of the episodes fell off sharply in season three, and even more sharply in season four. Episodes of those two seasons simply cannot compare to the episodes of the earlier seasons. In possibly related news, a number of blog readers and commentators mentioned to me that they saw a sharp fall in quality in posts on this blog sometime in late 2009. None of them have told me that the blog has made any “comeback” of sorts. And given this theory, it is unlikely to.

Back in March 2009, there was a meeting of six great minds at Benjarong Restaurant on Ulsoor Road, which has come to be known as the Benjarong Conference. The main topic of discussion that evening was about chick-hunting, and more so in the controlled environment of South Indian Brahmin arranged marriages. The conference was a grand success in terms of the quality of discussion, and left lasting impressions on the minds of the participants. Kodhi, who is going to be arranged married later this year, mentions that over two years on, it was the proceedings of this conference that helped him make his decision.

The main attraction of Coupling, for me, was the theories that the character Jeff used to propound. Starting in Episode One of Season One, where he comes up with the concept of “Unflushable” as his best friend Steve repeatedly tries to dump his girlfriend Jane, and fails. And in subsequent episodes, when the three male leads (Steve, Patrick and Jeff) meet at the bar, Jeff always has a theory to explain why things happen the way they happen. Masterful theories, at a similar intellectual level that was exhibited at the Benjarong Conference. Jeff has a theory for everything, except that he is unable to implement his own theories and get hooked up. And what happens in Season Three? He gets hooked up (to his boss, as it happens)! And starts falling off the social radar, and even when he is there at the bar, he is incapable of coming up with theories like he used to. And in Season Four, he disappears from the show altogether, thus robbing it of its main attraction.

Four of the six participants at the Benjarong conference were single, with three of those having never been in a relationship. The two that were married were married less than a month, and one of them had met his wife not too long before. The conference drew its strength from this “singularity”. Single people, especially those that have never been in a relationship, have a unique knack of being able to dispassionately talk about relationships. The problem once you get committed, as readers of this blog might have noticed, is that there is now one person that you can’t disrespect when you talk or write. So every time you concoct a theory, you have to pass it through a filter, about whether your WAG will find it distasteful (most singletons’ theories on relationships have a distasteful component, as a rule). Soon, this muddles your thinking on these theories so much that you stop coming up with them altogether.

One of the pillars of strength of this blog between 2006 and 2009 was the dispassionate treatment of relationships. Then, in late 2009, fortunately for myself and unfortunately for my readers, I met Priyanka, with whom I have subsequently established a long term gene-propagating (no we haven’t started propagating, yet) relationship. And on came the “distaste filter”. And off went the quality of my posts on relationships. A large section of the readership of this blog knew me as a gossip-monger, and they would now be sorely disappointed to not find such juicy material on this blog any more. The only good relationship posts subsequent to that, you might notice, would have been on the back of some little domestic fights, which would have led to temporary suspension of the distaste filter.

Sometimes, though not in public forums, I do get my old distasteful sense back. Not so recently, I was counselling my little sister-in-law about relationship issues. After thoroughly examining her case history and then situation (examining case history and diagnosis is her domain. She’s studying to be a doc), I recommended to her that the solution for her then relationship woes was to get herself a Petromax. While it did help that my wife and her parents weren’t around then, the tough part was to convince her that it was a serious well-researched piece of advice. Maybe I should have packaged it less distastefully. And maybe it is time to accept that the distaste filter in my case is on permanently, and I’ll never be able to spout theories like I used to. And my dear blog reader, it is time you accept that, too, and stop holding this blog against its pre-2010 standards.

Brute force and elegant fight scenes

About a month back I happened to watch some random Kannada movie playing on TV starring wifebeater Darshan (it was called “Boss”, I think). It seemed like yet another of those typical masala flicks, with twin brothers and a weeping mother and lots of rowdies and corporate rivalry and all that. Overall it was a mostly sad movie but for me the biggest turn-off was the final fight-scene that takes place in some warehouse.

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a big fan of action movies. After we got our VCP, I remember going up to the videotape rental store close to home every Saturday evening and asking for “some fighting movie”. I didn’t care at all for the story or the lack of  it in any movie I saw. All I cared about was for “action”. After I had whetted my initial appetite for “fighting movies” by watching a bunch of Shankarnag action flicks (CBI Shankar, the Sangliana movies, etc.) my father started bringing home James Bond movies. I remember watching You Only Live Twice and Moonraker back then. I remember watching The Spy Who Loved Me, too, but there was a problem with the tape so I wasn’t able to watch it fully.

Coming back to Darshan and Boss, the turn-off about the fight scene was that it was an unbelievable “brute force” scene. The hero, a rather muscular sort of guy, singlehandedly beats up a whole bunch of bad guys. And it’s not even in the traditional form where the bad guys come one by one. They all come together and attack him and he repels them all simultaneously by means of sheer superhuman muscular strength. There was absolutely no fun in watching it. It was a similar story with the Puneet Rajkumar starrer Jackie, which I saw on TV last weekend. Though it was a rather well-made movie with a nice (and unusual) storyline, it again suffered from the problem of a superhuman hero who would overpower bad guys by means of muscular strength.

Earlier today I happened to watch the “Indian James Bond movie” Goadalli CID 999 starring Dr. Rajkumar. A rather poor attempt to make a “James Bond style” movie in Kannada, with a rather lame plot and underground hideouts involving automatic doors and the likes. The redeeming feature of the movie, though, was the fight scenes, especially the ones with Narasimharaju (who plays CID 888, 999’s sidekick). Clearly recognizing that this fellow didn’t have any means of brawn to beat up the bad guys, the fight scenes were “elegant”, where the good guy uses his brain rather than muscular strength in order to overpower the villains. So you have a gun that fires ten seconds after the trigger is pulled, and you have the good guy getting the bad guys to shoot each other, and things like that. It was a joy to watch.

The unfortunate trend in recent Kannada movies, though, is to make a superpower hero who simply beats the bad guys, which completely takes the joy out of fight scenes. That clever movement to deflect a punch, the use of easily available props to get away from the bad guys, setting bad guys against each other, stuff like this is completely missing from these movies. One reason could be that directors are not imaginative enough to put more care into fight scenes to make them enjoyable (though this is doubtful given that the general quality of Kannada movies in the last 5 years is better than that of earlier movies). The other reason has to do with the actors who play these roles. Perhaps they want to build up a superhero kind of image among their fans, one in which they can do no wrong and are supremely powerful. And a scene where they have to rely more on their intelligence and trickery to win a fight might go against this kind of an image they want to cultivate. Whatever it is, it only goes to remove entertainment value from a fight which could have been a joy to watch.

My all time favourite movie fight scene is from the “original” Don, featuring Amitabh Bachchan. The centre of attraction in this scene is this little red diary which contains all the information about the bad guys, and the good and bad guys are fighting for it. In the mix are a bunch of kids, the heroine, a paralyzed stuntman and of course the hero. The good guys play “monkey” with the diary, and in the process beat up the bad guys. It is an absolute joy to watch and for me that was the high point of the movie. Sadly, they don’t make movies like that any more.

Dhobi Ghat

It’s been a long time since I got a movie that I got so involved in that I never once even felt like getting away. Given that I have a very short attention span, that’s a really hard thing, I must say. Frankly, I don’t remember the last movie that I saw in a non-theatre environment which I watched without any distractions.

This is the best “Mumbai movie” I’ve seen, I must say. By the end of the movie, as the end credits rolled, I had the same feeling that I did when I watched Taxi Driver (incidentally, that was on a plane to New York), which I consider to be the quintessential “New York movie”. It’s hard to explain what it was about this movie (Dhobi Ghat) that got me so hooked. But the movie did make me miss the (mostly miserable) four months I spent in Mumbai back in 2006, and any movie that does that deserves credit.

There was a combination of things that got me hooked to the movie. Firstly, there was a weird connect I felt with the Aamir Khan character, especially in an aspirational sort of way (given that I aspire to a “hippie lifestyle” like his in the movie). Then, Monica Dogra plays an investment banker on sabbatical, and it’s only natural I connected with her. And then there was  the length. At an hour and half, the movie is extremely “crisp”, and when the movie ends, it leaves you asking for more.

Then, there was something about the Monica Dogra character here that reminded me of Poorna Jagannathan’s character in Delhi Belly (I had a huge argument with the wife, btw, about Poorna’s hotness. The wife believed I was getting turned on only by her character in the movie and she’s not “inherently hot”, and that I’m a wannabe. I won’t go into furhter details here). And the way she (Monica) speaks Hindi reminded me of Yappings. Don’t know why.

The deal with plays

I live near Basavanagudi in South Bangalore, hardly 6 km from the city’s best theatre Ranga Shankara. In the other direction, a (relatively) new auditorium which plays host to several promising plays (KH Kala Soudha) is even closer. There are times when we consider going for a play at one of these locations. To date, however, I’ve been to a performance (can’t call it a play) at KH Kala Soudha once. The only time I’ve been to Ranga Shankara was five years ago, back when i was in college.

I think one of the reasons for this is that I can never muster the necessary incentive to go watch a play. A large number of plays, as I understand, hold nothing much of promise in the stories that they tell. I’m not much of an actor, and don’t have an eye for fine acting which I want to discover. Yes, sometimes the way some stories are told is fantastic, and this is even more so when the play in question is telling a known story (the one play I’ve watched in Ranga Shankara was a Harivansh Rai Bachchan interpretation of Hamlet; where they use Yakshagana dancers for the play-within-a-play, and that was a fantastic way of telling the story).

Still, the thought of having to sit there in one place, without doing anything that might distract the performers, focusing all my energies on the performance, for the “option value” that there might be something really insightful in what the performers are trying to convey is daunting. With widespread sponsorship from governments and corporates, most plays are very reasonably priced, but the attention they demand can put me off.

And then I wonder if the reason I don’t like plays so much is because they’re rehearsed, that everything goes according to a particular script, that every move of the actor has been choreographed! The way plays are structured essentially requires discipline on part of all the actors, and the play could sometimes be seen as just an exhibition of discipline! I must mention here that I have even less patience for other more obvious exhibitions of discipline such as parades.

I read that the Rangashankara  festival is coming up soon, and I do hope I can get myself to at least check out a few plays (especially since I’m now fairly rich in terms of time). However, I must say it will take a lot of convincing on your part to make me come watch your play. If you say “we’re performing Shakespeare’s Romeo and juliet” I’ll say “why should I come watch you when I can read the play?”. But if you tell me that there’s a story that you want to say, which you’re going to say in a particularly unique way, then I might be interested.