Stealing, openly

February 26th, 2009

I haven’t watched Slumdog Millionaire as yet, but it’s got little to do with the growing feeling that the movie represents nothing but poverty porn. I must be in a hopeless minority as every other person you meet these days seems to have seen the film many times and is eager to give you a scene-by-scene description of the fairy tale that shows how the film’s young protagonist, Jamal, overcomes long odds to live happily ever after.
Courtesy the Slumdog watchers, I also know how in one of the early scenes, Jamal dives into a raw sewage under the outhouse where he is trapped, to get a movie star’s autograph.

It’s almost like those gold old Sholay days – everyone seemed to know the number of glass pieces that pierced Hema Malini’s feet when she was swaying to the song `main nachungi’.

The difference is Sholay had a dream run in movie halls for over five years, while Slumdog ran out of steam barely a week after its release. If so many Indians have watched the movie, why were multiplex owners complaining about unsold tickets even in the first weekend after the film’s commercial release in India? The truth is for all the attention in Hollywood, Slumdog has failed to set the box office alight in India.
The reason is quite obvious: Slumdog must be one of the most counterfeited movies of all times. You can see them everywhere: hooky CDs and DVDs of the movie are openly on sale for Rs 40-50 with a little bartering, prompting US-India Business Council President Ron Somers to say, “Imagine how many Slumdogs could be conceived, produced and premiered if only there were greater efforts to crack down on film piracy.
In fact, a study commissioned by USIBC as part of its Bollywood-Hollywood Initiative, found that India’s entertainment and media industry loses some 820,000 jobs and about Rs 20,000 crore to piracy each year.
It’s true that the grey market that had once decimated the music industry has always been there. But they were sold on the sly earlier; the veil seems to have been taken off now. I suspect no law can prevent this as no law can change people’s minds. If rich and educated people lecturing the world against piracy etc don’t mind enjoying the knock-off versions of the film, the law cannot be anything but a mute spectator. Somers, meanwhile, can keep on pleading.
Just the other day, a friend was recounting – quite gleefully – how he saved Rs 1,120 (the price of four multiplex tickets on a Sunday) by downloading the film from his relative’s pen drive. Isn’t this encouraging piracy?  India’s high & mighty and beautiful people couldn’t care less, it seems.    

del.icio.us:Stealing, openly digg:Stealing, openly newsvine:Stealing, openly reddit:Stealing, openly Y!:Stealing, openly

Caesar’s wife…

February 6th, 2009

I don’t know A S Murty; in fact, I must admit that I heard his name for the first time yesterday. I am sure there are many like me who know only one IT man blessed with that name, though spelt differently.
All of us know Mr Murty now. For, he is the man in the hottest seat that India Inc can offer at this point.  He has been described by his friends and well-wishers (their tribe seems to be increasing every second) as Always Smiling Murty; a people’s man; man for the moment; meticulous; hardworking; consensus man; focused on work etc.  Those who came in late and ran out of words are saying he is the right person for the job simply because he is a `gentleman’.
Some others say he knows the DNA of the company, though I am not too sure whether anyone is terribly impressed with Satyam’s DNA. For, I remember Ramalinga Raju once telling me during an interview that `corporate governance is in his genes’.   
At the moment, Mr Murty’s main qualification seems to be that he knows Satyam well as he has worked in the company for almost 15 years. It’s true in these times, Satyam needs an insider who can marshall his forces well. And that can only happen if the new CEO knows Satyamites for a considerable period of time.
Mr Murty, a workaholic (a media report stresses this point by saying he has no hobbies), will of course try hard to make a success of his job — that is guiding Satyam through the toughest time in its history.
So I wish him well. But I see three problems in my wish being fulfilled. The first is the nature of the job itself. He would possibly be the CEO with the shortest tenure as he would be the leader in transition. The company will be sold shortly and no one knows whether the new owners would like to keep him as the CEO. It’s doubtful whether it will be possible for him to establish any sort of confidence with either his employees or his clients. Already some entities with substantial stake in Satyam are resenting the fact that they were not consulted for the selection of the CEO. Also, it’s well known that no outsider, with any sort of track record, was willing to take up such a short-term job.
The second problem is the fact that he is perceived to be among Raju’s favourites. He was given a clean chit by the former Satyam chairman in his famous confessional letter to the board.  Mr Raju had said Mr Murty was among those who had no knowledge of the situation in which the company is placed. I admire the guts shown by the government-appointed Satyam board to appoint as CEO somebody who was given a character-certificate by Raju!
The third problem – and this is the most complicated one — is the disclosure that Mr Murty sold 40,000 shares in two transactions in December, 2008 – the last one being on December 16 just hours before Satyam announced its aborted bid to buy two Maytas firms.
It could be sheer coincidence, or a fantastic sense of timing on Mr Murty’s part to have sold a majority of the shares in his company just a day before the scrip slid over 30 per cent following investor outrage over the Maytas deal. Mr Murty gained Rs 90 lakh through the deals and the sale was done to meet some of his personal financial commitments.
To be fair, he was not part of the board and may not have been privy to any of the wrong-doings. But there is also another section of people who are saying that Mr Murty had sniffed the negative implications of the buyout scandal much before others did.
This may well be loose talk. But the point is it all boils down to perception at the end of the day. And as they say, Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.
 

 

del.icio.us:Caesar’s wife… digg:Caesar’s wife… newsvine:Caesar’s wife… reddit:Caesar’s wife… Y!:Caesar’s wife…