Thursday, December 26, 2013

2013 Name Oscars

BEST BOOK TITLE: Worst.Person.Ever
The Ocean At The End Of The Lane
The Day The Crayon Quit
12th Of Never
At Night We Walk In Circles

John Dies At The End
Now You See Me
A Good Day To Die Hard
Blue Is The Warmest Colour

What The Fish
Sooper Se Ooper
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola
Phata Poster Nikla Hero

Theeya Velai Seiyyanum Kumaru
Kanna Laddu Thinna Aasaiya
Varuthapadatha Valibar Sangam
Kedi Billa Killadi Ranga
Madha Yaanai Kootam

BEST NEW BAND NAME: Diarrhea Planet
The Underachievers
Diarrhea Planet
Young Scooter
Whales In Cubicles
Post War Glamour Girls

BEST ALBUM NAME: 21st Century Loser
Adam Ant Is The Blueblack Hussar In Marrying The Gunner's Daughter
Bye-Bye Borderline
Pedestrian Verse
21st Century Loser
Twelve Reasons To Die

Yoga from Lenovo Ideapad
Oddka Vodka
Pebble Watch
Dead Crow Beer
Stingray from Maruti Suzuki

Milan (Shakira's)
North West (Kanye West's)
Bear (Kate Winslet's)
Klay (Wayne Rooney's)
Autumn (Jennifer Love Hewitt's)

Best Names of 2013

Mediocrity is easily the most infectious disease in the world. The reason no one talks about it is because it’s so commonplace that our eyes and ears stopped taking note long, long ago. Which is why the mind sends 99.99% of the things it sees into the recycle bin folder and stores only the truly remarkable.

Names are no different. Much of what is created is muck. A select few, however, shimmer through like a distant star in an ocean of darkness. We’ve got to celebrate the brilliant ones or else, we’ll be encircled by a sea of ordinariness.

Douglas Coupland’s satirical novel ‘Worst.Person.Ever’ is a twinkling example of genius nomenclature. The title will beguile you into reading the book whether you’re in a bordello, bathroom, or bookstore. I can’t think of any other tome with an equally arresting name.

Among Hollywood movies, three titles caught my fancy: ‘Sharknado’, ‘Blue Is The Warmest Colour’ and ‘John Dies at the End’. While I liked the fresh bite of the shark flick, I loved the audacity of the deliberate ploy to reveal the plot with ‘John Dies’. Why would they do that? The itch to solve the puzzle would make anyone take the DVD home. And that’s what great film titles do.

The mesmeric cadence of ‘Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola’ and the overt projection of cheeky protagonists with ‘Kedi Billa Killadi Ranga’ also appealed to my senses.

Relatively speaking, bands didn’t have such a good year. I had to really dive deep to fish out a few pearls from among the new kids on the block. ‘Diarrhea Planet’, the Nashville-based rock and roll band that dreams of being the worst group ever, won the sweepstakes for the most oustanding name by besting the proudly uncool hip-hop duo ‘The Underachievers’.

The celeb baby name of the year, in my book, is Shakira’s ‘Milan’. Her nod to the Italian fashion capital sounds way hipper than Kim Kardashian’s baffling choice, ‘North West’.

And finally, ‘The Brand of 2013’ is, without a peg of doubt: ‘Oddka Vodka’, the spirited drink from Wyborowa Company in bizarre flavours such as Caramel Popcorn, Fresh Cut Grass, Apple Pie and even Electricity! With a name like Oddka, your year is bound to end on a guaranteed high, doncha’ think?

A more detailed list of nominees here

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Jeez, look at those brands!

If a self-styled Hindu fundamentalist like Praveen Togadia were called on a quiz show and asked to name four brands funded by the Vatican, his fertile mind is likely to spout: Christian Dior, Cross, Virgin and Old Monk. Such is the profound knowledge of the saffron conspiracy theorist that he might even assume Nazareth and Judas Priest to be bands peddling Gospel music!

Jokes apart, are there brands that milk the religious equity of Christian icons? Oh yeah, there are plenty. But the funny thing is none of these have any connection whatsoever with the church.

‘Jesus Jeans’ is a stellar example. Made in Italy, since 1971, the denim brand raised the hackles of the clergy by channeling the divine carpenter for selling its wares. Ostensibly inspired by the rock opera ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, Jesus Jeans pushed the limits of provocation by featuring the generous rear of a woman wearing denim shorts with a strategically placed headline that read: “He who loves me follows me”. With time, the brand-named-after-the-lord somehow managed a trademark in the USA. And now, it’s busy issuing notices to anyone who uses the good shepherd’s name to sell anything. Can you beat that?

Then there’s JCLU (Jesus Christ Loves You), a women’s t-shirt brand that proudly plugs lines like: ‘PTL (Praise The Lord)’, ‘Keep Calm & Pray On’ and ‘Jesus is my saviour, not my religion’.

If others were blissfully spinning a yarn around Christ, sandwich chain Pret A Manager went a step ahead and put out tomato crisps under the ‘Virgin Mary’ label. Their logic being: if Bloody Mary were okay, so was Virgin Mary. Unfortunately for them, the religious lobby raised hell and Pret A Manager had to find a thick shroud to bury the crunchy Virgin Mary.

Despite the protests, many companies still continue to exploit biblical iconography thanks to the ready-made recognition enjoyed among 2.2 billion Christians. Perhaps that’s why, you have a Taiwanese E-commerce chain calling itself ‘Buyble’, a European food and beer chain opting for ‘Holy Grail Pub’, a German start-up choosing ‘Amen’ as its name, a New Zealand shirt brand picking ‘3 Wise Men’ and a cheese grater giving itself the cheesy moniker ‘Cheesus Christ’. One wonders how these brands will fare on Judgement Day.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Burden of Taint

Let’s start with a thought experiment. You’re a young, eligible lady. You’ve got two job offers. The job description is more or less the same. The pay packet is almost identical. You hear that your boss in Company X is going to be Tarun Tejpal. And in Company Y, it’s Alexander Wilberforce. Which offer are you likely to take up?

Your answer is a no-brainer. 11 out of 10 people would pick Alexander Wilberforce over Tarun Tejpal because somehow being stuck in a lift with Mr. A sounds so much safer than hanging out with Mr. T.

You may not change your mind even if you were told that this Tarun Tejpal is no way related to that Tarun Tejpal. The ‘why take a chance?’ mindset is at play here. It’s the same stupid mindset that makes many Americans suspect all men with turbans!

Another little game. You flip for a stranger. She’s good looking, smart, witty and is everything you imagined. You don’t care about her religion, caste, language or nationality. You just feel like going across and proposing to her. Just when you’re about to go down on your knees, she tells you that her name is Shakeela. Would the name affect your decision or would you still be head over heels?

To many South Indians, Shakeela is a B-grade actress best remembered for movies you can’t watch with your family. Marrying a Shakeela would mean opening yourself to taunts from everyone. The last thing you want from your friends is Shakeela DVDs as your wedding gift. So what would you do?

Bold men would just brush aside the jibes and get on with life. But not all of us are bold. In a conservative society, names develop their own reputations. And namesakes have to live with those reputations, whether they like it or not.

The Aarushis of the world will have to bear with jerks who keep recounting the murder of Aarushi Talwar. Your friendly neighbourhood Smitha has to put up with the ‘Silk’ Smitha nickname all her life. Every Nathuram will have to live with the ghost of Nathuram Godse. There’s no escape for Sheelas from ‘Sheela ki jawani’. The only way out is to either change your setting or name.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Home Tweet Home

Twitter is no level playing field. There’s an invisible poverty line that runs through the cacophonous pyramid of the twitterverse. Those below the line are tagged as ‘low life’ while the rest, walk with the swagger of the blue-blooded. ‘Low life’ are by definition, social lepers like me, with less than 200 followers in their kitty.

To escape the label, you either need to create fake accounts and follow your good self or implore your fourth grade classmate’s third rate friend’s second cousin’s first love to do you a resounding favour. Since both the options look ridiculous, a simpler way out is to have a hypnotic twitter handle.

Karachi-born entrepreneur Abu Ibrahim Muhammad Aly Balagamwala may not exactly tickle your fancy but his twitter avatar @discomaulvi kind of intrigues you into shedding your pouch of Pakistani prejudices and adding him to the list of people you’d like to know.

Sarah Ruth Lucy may not mean much to you. She’s a renowned journalist in Silicon Valley running the technology news site PandoDaily. Nothing may interest a stranger about her. But when you notice her twitter handle @sarahcuda, things change. Her word play catches your eye and you feel like adding her to your social circle.

Sonal Dabral is a mini-legend in advertising circles in India. But not many outside the profession may have heard of him. He spent much of his early years in Agra. His twitter identity @agracadabra is a tribute to his hometown. The magical fusion of his surname with the city he loves, evokes an instant empathy.

Gauri Kamath is an avid healthcare blogger. Like all of us, she could have used her personal name as her handle but instead she opted for the charming @apothecurry. The Indian ‘curry’ spin to the archaic word for a pharmacist certainly makes her more eligible for attracting followers than us low life.

When Mira Nair becomes @MiraPagliNair you expect to discover her crazy side. When tennis ace Djokovic chooses @djokernole, he becomes more likeable for laughing at himself. So to sum up: if you want to reveal your character with 140 characters, you could make a start by having a twitter handle that’s too hot to handle.