Thursday, August 30, 2012

When Britney checks in.

Poor Prince Harry. He went to the Sin City trusting the movie adage, ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas’. Unfortunately for him, the code was compromised. Someone set up the honey trap. Harry was made to meet Sally. And the Prince was caught wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes!

Put yourself in his embarrassing shoes. If you were Dirty Harry, what would you have done differently? Banning camera phones is out of the question, as they are too ubiquitous. The one sensible thing Princess Diana’s son could have done is to check in quietly with a bland alias. That would have given him the mask of anonymity to be his primal self.

Which is precisely why, travelling incognito is a favoured strategy among celebrities. It is said that Marilyn Monroe was one of the early pioneers of this technique when she escaped to New York, using the nom de plume ‘Zelda Zonk’.

With a wig, without any make up, whether Miss Zelda Zonk bonks a mystery man named John F. Kennedy or lets her white skirt billow, no one would really give a fig. Such is the power of a pseudonym.

Sometimes hotels play along just to protect the privacy of the superstars from the prying paparazzi. In such moments, the celebs get to cherry pick their fake names. Britney Spears has confessed that she prefers Ms. Alotta Warmheart, Mrs. Diana Prince, Queen of the Fairy Dance or simply Mrs. Abra Cadabra!

The Talented Mr. Matt Damon signs in as ‘John President’ as he could have White House like conversations when someone asks him, ‘Would that be a wine or champagne, Mr. President?’ In stark contrast, Johnny Depp opts for the downright uncool Mr. Stench or Monseiur Poopy.

Famous people often use mock monikers to express their sense of humour. When Jeniffer Aniston was dumped by Brad Pitt after ‘Mr and Mrs. Smith’, Aniston playfully chose Mrs. Smith as her check-out name. Likewise prankster Marlon Brando is reported to have registered as Lord Greystoke (Tarzan’s real name) several times during his career. But the one who takes the cake is George Clooney. They say he often pretended he was ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger’!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Rule of Three

In advertising, a print campaign invariably has three ads. In screenwriting, 99% of movie plots follow a 3-act structure. In arts, just three colours are enough to derive every other colour. In genetics, information is always represented using a system of triplet codes. In yoga, they say, we exist in three bodies. In Ayurveda, good health is all about achieving a balance of three doshas. And in Indian marriages, the symbol of marital union is the mangalsutra with three knots!

So what’s the mystery with number three? Why on earth is the Earth, the third rock from the Sun? Why is the USA (a triple letter nation) the lone super power? Why are the UPA and the NDA, the lead coalitions of India? Why do the Iyengars and Iyers sport three lines on their foreheads?

For the answer, we just have to turn to Pythagoras. He saw three as the perfect number symbolising a universe ruled over by the trinity – Jupiter (heaven), Neptune (sea) and Pluto (underworld).

Brands across the world have harnessed this power of the triad by naming themselves after it. 3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing), Mistubishi (Japanese for ‘three diamonds’), Samsung (‘three stars’ in Korean), and Sanyo (‘three oceans’ in Japanese) are some billion dollar enterprises that have reaped the dividends.

In India, the story is no different. ‘3 Idiots’ is the biggest ever Bollywood blockbuster in our history. Rajiv Rai’s ‘Tridev’, Yash Chopra’s ‘Trishul’, Shyam Benegal’s ‘Trikal’ and Dev Anand’s ‘Teen Deviyan’ didn’t do badly either. Down South in Kollywood, Balachandar’s ‘Moondru Mudichu’, Balu Mahendra’s ‘Moondram Pirai’ and Rajnikanth’s ‘Moondru Mugham’ fared spectacularly. Aishwarya Dhanush perhaps assumed her film ‘3’ will enjoy a similar fate. Unfortunately for her, the flick sank without a trace. But not before delivering Kolaveri, our very own global chartbuster!

To sum up, whether you’re sipping ‘3 Roses’ tea, or wearing jewellery from ‘Tribhuvandas Bhimji Zaveri’ or watching a 3D version of a trilogy in the comfort of your living room in Tripura, or talking on a 3G phone in an ad agency that used to be called ‘Trikaya Grey’ never forget to ask yourself as to why threesome is awesome!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Bowl of Blistering Barnacles.

Cheetahs can scorch any race track. Cuckoos can sing any tune. Parrots can talk eloquently. Rats can travel to outer space. Chimps can be trained to paint. Horses can slog harder. Dolphins can think smarter. Rabbits can multiply faster. Dogs can teach us a lesson in love. Lions can offer us a doctorate on brutality. So what is the one thing that sets us apart from animals? I think it’s the act of cussing.

Cussing or the ability to use language colourfully to vent one’s anger, has done more for world peace than diplomacy or nuclear deterrence. Tragically, our society has rarely acknowledged the unsung contribution of swear words to mankind. We shall right this hideous and historic wrong by celebrating the Picasso of Profanity – Captain Archibald Haddock!

Haddock, the mealy-mouthed multi millionaire friend of Tintin, has a lot to offer to anyone whose lexicon of unparliamentary lingo begins and ends with F-words. With his genius to sculpt expletives out of even cyclotrons and gyroscopes, Captain Haddock is the undisputed God of Foulese.

You can rediscover the magic of Haddockery by deploying his unique creations in your everyday encounters with numbskulls, bloodsuckers and bashi-bazouks. When you spot the familiar silent visage of Manmohan, you can perhaps yell, ‘Certified Invertebrate!’ If that didn’t whet your appetite, you can try ‘Macrocephalic Mameluke’ or ‘Unfeeling ungulate’.

In case, some politicians are up in arms objecting to your insult, just shush them by saying, “Lily-livered bandicoots! You profiteering pachyderms will never understand what I am getting at. Go be your miserable pithecanthropic pickpocket self. And spare me your loathsome lubberscum!”

Talking like the Captain can make you feel good when you feel biliously bad-tempered. When a girl friend dumps you can thunder like ten thousand typhoons by shooting an SMS labelling her as a ‘two-timing troglodyte’.

When your boss denies you a raise, dismiss his as ‘blundering bird-brained bell bottomed balderdash’. When your colleague stabs you in the back, call him, a ‘cowardly cro magnon cannibal’. When your dad bugs you, put him in place with ‘anachronistic antediluvian autocratic Arabian aborigine’. That iconoclastic gobbledygook should work like a road roller road hog!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Partying with the Kejriwals.

Right Wingers swear that they are Naxalites. Left Wingers aver that they are Saffron Chaddiwalas. Conspiracy theorists whisper that they are Congress Agents. While the Congress thinks they are nuts!

So how does one slot Team Anna? Are they the proverbial elephant being pre-judged by the ideologically blinded? Things will get clearer when Kejriwal & Co pick a suitable name for their party.

Meanwhile let’s analyze their options. ‘Swaraj’ and ‘India Against Corruption (IAC)’ are two names doing the rounds. ‘Swaraj’ has gained currency as Arvind has penned a book by the same name. And ‘IAC’ must have been floated as it’s been spearheading the anti-corruption movement for the last two years.

Although single minded and powerful, ‘India Against Corruption’ is highly unlikely as it sounds like a mouthful and feels like a one-issue party. ’Swaraj’ on the other hand is highly evocative and stirs the imagery of ‘liberation’ as voiced by Tilak and ‘rule of the self’ as imagined by Gandhi. Given his newfound love for ‘the village and the farmer’, I am sure Arvind Kejriwal would plump for ‘Swaraj’.

But there are some basic naming issues to be taken into consideration. The domain has already been taken by Swaraj Foundation, an NGO that focuses on community development. There are two ways to circumvent the problem: call it ‘Swaraj Party’ or ‘Swaraj Andolan’. But Swaraj Party reads ‘SP’ when abbreviated and we all know SP is Samajwadi Party, so that’s out. ‘Swaraj Andolan’ is a likely prospect as ‘Andolan’ gives it a movement feel.

‘Anna Dal’ is another suggestion that’s become popular. But it is personality-centric and seems like a poorer cousin of Apna Dal. Also, it could be spoofed as ‘Anna Dalal’. Humorist Ramesh Srivats has come up with the baap of all names. He’s proposed Bharatiya Anna’s Alternative Party (BAAP)!

‘Parivartan’ or ‘Change’ is a dark horse that might clinch it as Kejriwal already runs an outfit by this moniker. If I had a say, I’d pick ‘Jai Hind!’ where JAI can stand for Jan Andolan for Inquilab (People’s Movement for a Revolution). That way, every time someone utters ‘Jai Hind’, they’d be unknowingly campaigning for the party!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Going ballistic over missiles.

To understand missiles, you just need to study two Indian politicians: Subramanian Swamy and Digvijay Singh. Swamy typifies the guided missile. His target is anyone who rubs him on the wrong side. His warhead, the explosive dossier he keeps on his enemies. His guidance system is a secret army of moles who supply him the inside dope at will. The flight system he uses is pesky litigation. And his engine is his belief that someday he will be the Prime Minister.

Diggy is the other extreme. He is a classic unguided missile hoping to create impact with the incendiary nature of his bizarre barbs that defy all laws of physics.

Now that we’ve got our heads around missiles, let’s launch into the smoky world of missile names where countries use nomenclature to flex their muscles and to perpetuate an illusion of being macho.

Nations with a treasury of mythology have no qualms in calling upon their angels, gods, demigods and revered figures to dignify their destructive war toys. Israel’s Gabriel (guided anti tank), Barak (naval defense), Delilah (cruise missile) and Nimrod (long range point target) are all biblical in origin. In the cold war era, the United States had Nike (anti aircraft), Hercules (short range), Zeus (interception missile), Titan (Inter Continental Ballistic Missile) and Poseidon (submarine-launched). Closer home, India relies on Vedic mythology. Agni (surface-to-air), Prithvi (surface-to-surface), Nag (anti-tank) and Surya (the work-in-progress ICBM) were carefully picked to project an image of being benign protectors.

Over time, Pentagon decided to drop all pretence of goodness and named the missiles after monsters. Gorgon (the snake haired sisters), Gargoyle (the fire breathing creature), Griffin (lion body, eagle head) and Snark (the snake cum shark monster invented by Lewis Carrol) are telling examples.

After exhausting all Birds (sampler: China’s Hong Niao means Red Bird), Animals (sampler: Germany’s Gepard derives its name from the German word for Cheetah), Weapons (sampler: Tomahawk the Indian hatchet) and Invader Names (samplers: Pakistan’s Ghori, Ghazni and Abdali), soon the defense establishment will run out of ideas. That’s the time to perhaps explore names of people with a destructive streak (read: Swamy and Diggy)!