Wednesday, February 04, 2015

AIB Roast: Take a chill pill guys

Humour in India died a small death today, yet again. All India Bakchod (AIB), the Mumbai based stand-up comedians who had brought us the wonderful satirical videos on, among many, Kejriwal and Alia Bhatt, brought their latest videos down. Those were the videos of AIB Roast which was a stage show that took place on 20th Dec 2014 in Mumbai. While the event took place in Dec, the videos were released in end Jan 2015. They contain the roast (an event in which a guest of honour is subjected to jokes at his/her expense.Roast on Wikipedia ) of Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor by panellists – AIB team members (Gursimran Khamba, Tanmay Bhat, Rohan Joshi and Ashish Shakya), Rajeev Masand, Raghu Ram and
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Aditi Mittal & Roastmaster – Karan Johar.
What was interesting was that AIB were not notified, forced or threatened to pull the videos down (their YouTube channel and other videos are still up, thankfully). There are police complaints registered against them by Akhilesh Tiwari, president of Brahman Ekta Seva Sanstha in Mumbai, filed at Sakinaka police station but they haven’t been informed officially about any action against them. There are statements by Censor Board members (read: Ashoke Pandit) against them but the Maharashtra government has simply said that no moral policing would take place until it’s found that they have broken any law. While there is a huge hoopla going around this, they have brought those videos down (at the time of taking them off the views had touched 8 million and thumbs up outnumbered thumbs down by 10 to 1) because they didn’t want those associated with the videos – all those involved in the actual stage show to get hurt/affected (Aditi Mittal’s show has been cancelled). And here in lies the problem. While I would be really surprised that they would not have expected this backlash, especially since various religious groups have been unofficially doing moral policing of any kind of humour which is western-influenced or bordering on sexuality for some time now in India, they might not have expected that even the celebrities who were part of the event were likely to get hurt too. Hence they acted by bringing the videos down. As I write this article, there are different threads of debates going on mostly involving AIB and Karan Johar. The celebrities, as expected, have simply asked those enforcing moral policing to piss off (Not your cup of tea...don't drink it!!! - Karan Johar (@karanjohar)). But the full episode of this incident is still to be played out and we shall see that soon.
This incident follows many other which have taken place in the past year in India and abroad where satirical humour has been pushed back, by violent means like attacking the office of French satirical magazine – Charlie Hebdo; and some not so violent means. The comedy groups – AIB and The Viral Fever (TVF) had been pulled up during the run up to the 2014 Lok Sabha Elections in India when they were making satirical videos on politicians because yes, the politicians, let’s just say, couldn’t take it. There were debates on various news channels, most notably on Times Now where Arnab Goswami had invited representatives from these groups and spokespersons of political outfits. AIB’s Shakya, poor lad, had to not only defend himself in front of the ear shattering noise of Arnab but also educate those spokespersons to have a good laugh. The situation then was different. They had joked about some people. Those ‘some people’ didn’t like it. So they revolted. It is similar to when in college you make fun of a fellow student or play a prank. If the person doesn’t like it, he / she revolts. You either laugh it off or don’t make any further jokes on that person (if you fear that person or care for that person too much) or you ignore his revolts (if you think you can’t be harmed by that person).
But the AIB Roast case is different. The person being made fun off chose to be part of the event. In fact, he was there when the event took place. And he wasn’t alone. He brought his girlfriend along too, because, you guessed it right; she was made fun off too. And wait, his friends weren’t spared too. Even they were ridiculed but they were at the event too. And they too had agreed to attend it. What did they do while all those filthy jokes were being heckled at them? They simply laughed it off and happily walked off after the show. They chose to loosen up, take jokes lightly and laugh on themselves. For a community which is known to be snobberies and touch-me-not-I’m-a-celebrity kinds, it was delightful to see them shake those rumours off. A thumbs up to Bollywood!
So if those making the jokes and those being joked about were present at the event (incidently all parties – AIB team, Karan Johar, Arjun Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Rajeev Masand, Raghu Ram and Aditi Mittal made jokes upon each other, no one was spared) and have no complaints, why do the “3rd parties”; the people who have no relation to any of the involved parties and who have no say in the way the involved parties should behave, have complaints? To understand this, we also need to understand the progress of the world around them and influence of that progress. Availability of information, dissipation of media and access to that has reached a point of neutrality. Internet has ensured that information is available abundantly. Social media has made sure that any media after creation, can be released and made “viral” (i.e. accessed by hundreds and thousands) in a matter of seconds. And advent of smartphones has ensured that access to that “media content” is seamless. So a video made by a group of stand-up comedians can be “viewed” by millions in a matter of days. So a false rumour through social media channels that all people from a certain part of the country living in a particular Indian city would be targeted would make those people flee that city and possibly cause a riot. Its this neutrality that the people who are complaining against the AIB Roast are fearing. It’s a classic case of one having had a particular kind of education and upbringing where these kind of jokes were frowned upon and forcing that kind of mindset on all people around. So you start bossing around. Does the censor board have any say on content that is being published on youtube? The content had disclaimers, adult flags. So much so, that at the beginning, the Roast Master – Karan Johar says that if you can’t handle filthy jokes, you can simply switch off. Yes, Mr. complainer, you can switch it off. But you choose to complain. Why? Because you think its bad influence. Then why do you not complain about the hate speeches by political outfits? Just because the community participating in the AIB Roast are easy targets, you complain about them. Isn’t this hypocritical?
I remember one of the shows of Comedy Nights with Kapil where the guest was Yo Yo Honey Singh (I know it’s a crude example but its apt in this situation. Episode). When an elderly gentleman from the crowd said that Honey Singh’s songs were a bad influence on his son, Honey Singh gave a superb reply. He said that when the gentleman was young, he used to listen to songs like “chalkaye jaam” etc. which celebrate alcohol consumption, then why complain about his songs like “Chaar Botal Vodka” where alcohol consumption is celebrated. So, my friend, it’s all hypocrisy. You would complain about some lads who were trying to lighten our day by asking people to take themselves lightly. But you won’t complain about those who instigate fighting amongst communities who are probably right now living in harmony. You would enjoy songs and shows which celebrate alcohol consumption but complain when these songs are heard by your kids. Instead of educating your kids, you would seek ban of that artist. Just because these artists, the celebrities, are easy targets you choose to file cases against them. Why? Maybe you seek limelight. The limelight, that comes with taking on a big personality. Maybe you feel that your agenda (external or internal) is wronged. Maybe your favourite artist was being made fun off and you couldn’t take it. But that gives you no right to boss around these stand up comics.
Friday, January 03, 2014

Impact of Social Media on the Indian General Elections 2014

           Two weeks back, one of my roommates was discussing that he had been approached by the local Haryana MP to spearhead his social media campaign, essentially design the strategy for online branding and awareness. Having had considerable experience in social media campaigning for an eCommerce giant, he thought this was a good chance to see how that actually impacted people at the grassroots. The target was the General Elections 2014 and the MP in question was 3 time elected from his constituency, but this time it was different. He was going to defect from his party and move to the rival camp. Hence the added complication and need for branding.
          8 Dec 2013 was a red-letter day in Indian politics. Delhi, a state where Congress was ruling for 15 years straight, had given a verdict against the incumbent, handing them a mere 11% of seats.
Although the anti-incumbency factor was strong, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) undoubtedly was a greatest benefactor of that, what surprised everyone was that the newest kid in the block, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) got 100% more seats than what anyone (media personalities, opinion polls, even their supporters) had predicted. It was nothing short of a miracle. A movement which was started by a Padma Bhushan awardee turned social activist, then carried forward by the vision of a IITan turned Income tax officer and backed by supporters who were fed up of the current state of Indian politics and the neglect of the middle class by the ruling class had achieved something substantial where it mattered. The AAP had utilized all kinds of legitimate resources at their disposal to create the awareness, the motivation and the passion to turn a socialist movement from a mere agitation to a government. From being outside the system and criticizing it, they are now in the system to clean, recreate and instill trust in it.
If one analyzes the methods the AAP had used to create the loyal following that they had, one would recall the days when the India Against Corruption movement in Jantar Mantar was going nowhere. Anna Hazare's fasting was not yielding anything from the government who simply turned a blind eye to the demands. The crowds were thinning and the media coverage too. The movement had to turn into something else. Upon the request of eminent personalities, the movement's team organized a opinion poll using Social media, online networking services. The verdict was to politicize the movement and then AAP was formed. The rest is history. Such is the power of social media, and awareness it can create that even governments were forced to change or become extinct.
What has happened because of this success is that everyone is sitting up and taking notice of this. The old school methods of postering, shouting at rallies, then paying off voters is paving way for new ways of campaigning. I was talking to my roommate as he was framing the roadmap for his candidate (the 3 time MP), he was talking of not just creating a facebook page and having discussions there, which by the way is still novice to majority of the political class, but having other channels of spreading propaganda. He was talking about how to involve more people with his MP, about how to engage them and create more followers. Facebook was the first thing on the list. Usually the fan page is present, but not much activity
Arvind Kejriwal's facebook fan page.
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happens apart from small posts. My friend's plan to rejuvenate was to create opinion polls. A very simple and basic method to get feedback from followers who were already on his page. Its amazing how such a simple technique can get you so many answers. Then create targeted campaigns like online events where discussions and promotions took place. This was to engage the followers to participate in the decision making process, a highly successful technique used by AAP and Modi.
With more than 40 mn users, twitter is the next social media channel that was on the list. Small updates, promoting twitter hashtag of his MP, answering queries and issues of followers is a must.
The next was to have more interviews of his MP with media houses and sharing them in youtube and other
Narendra Modi youtube channel.
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channels. Its a method used to propagate the agenda of the candidates. With a whopping 50mn+ users in India, youtube streaming is definitely a channel you can't ignore. Cross promotion of videos on other channels also adds to the traffic.
With the advent of smartphones, autographs have been replaced by photographs and instagram pages where you share the coverage of various events participated by the MP was next on the list. A subtle but high-recall channel, primarily because its visual and not text.
Blogging and sharing articles on facebook, linkedin etc was next on the list for the more serious fan following, people who had more time to get a full idea of the policy plans of the MP.
A highly successful but tough channel was to create a dedicated app for the MP. The app gets the dedicated share of mind of the users and ensures that promotion blasts could be tracked properly. But tough because creating a good, user-friendly and content rich app is expensive.
I sure hope that my roommate does well in this role and gets maximum success for his MP. The list is long, the channels are a lot and a lot of work is required to monitor each platform and ensure that each have the same message. Tough but not impossible.


Walking around the silky smooth beach, one couldn't help but marvel on the stunning clear sand and water. Seen here is a leaf carrying some sand on the Om beach.

Suryanamaskaar! On the 2nd day of our trip, we decided to start the day with a trek in the morning from the Om beach via Half moon beach to Paradise beach. The fresh, cool breeze and the rising sun lifting your spirits early in the morning. A perfect start to the day. Seen here embracing the rising sun at Half moon beach.

Epic pic! In the evening of the 1st day of the trip, we decided to do a beach hopping ride. When our boat dropped us at Kudle beach, it was almost evening. With water-sports galore, we ventured into taking a banana boat ride. 20 mins and lots of salt water, but totally enjoyable. Seen here is the entire group just after the ride.

During the early morning trek, we were almost at the end of Paradise beach. Looking for some restaurant, we came across this small pond which we needed to cross on stones. Seen here is Jasmeet crossing the pond.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Trip to Kerala (Wayanad)

The misty, cloudy mornings of the Vythiri Peak. Seen here from the courtyard of our room.
Let there be light!
This is how close we were to nature. Breathtaking!
The beautiful and majestic Mysore Palace.
On the way to the Soochipara falls, in awe of the beauty of the surroundings.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Durga Puja in Kolkata

Monday, July 09, 2012

Trip to Hogenakkal

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Trip to Kerela (Backwaters in Alleppy, Kovalam, Trivandrum)

 The beautiful backwaters. Seen here from inside our houseboat.
 Wandering in the lanes of water.
 Early morning mist!
 Flora and fauna
 The untouched beauty of Varkala beach.
 The evening calm of Lighthouse beach
Finding our footsteps in Varkala beach.
Sunday, March 18, 2012

The night before convocation

At the convocation stage
The night before the convocation, after the wonderful dinner with parents and faculty, we decided to take a walk around the campus. And most certainly, the stage was the place to be.

The seating area for the graduating students and family members is seen on the right.

Yep. That's me with the 'globe'!

Seen here is the convocation ground from atop the new classroom block.



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Abhishek Saha
Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
A NRB (Non Resident Bengali) or rather a 'Probashi Bangali'; born in Kolkata, brought up in Jamshedpur and now trying to make his mark at IIM Lucknow.
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