Sunday, 26 December 2010

Super Hit?

Last week, I had written about corruption and how recent studies on organization behaviour can be used to tackle this menace. And it was pure coincidence that the only Kannada movie that I happened to watch during my month’s stay in Bangalore happened to be on corruption. I was really amazed by the way the movie had been made. If you understand Kannada or have even a little affinity and time to watch a movie, then I suggest that you watch this movie. Everything about the movie is well thought of and well made. I agree that it is overly done in parts and some parts are hard to follow if you haven’t followed the lead protagonist’s earlier movies. But even with all these, the movie still wins because of the style, presentation and the ultimate message it gives out.

Let us start from the title of the movie. Here is the title of the movie as it appears:

Confused? Interested? Amused? Well, you should be. Who makes movies with a title like this? Is this some sort of gimmick? Yes, it is. The movie marks the return of Upendra as director after a gap of 11 years and stars himself in the lead role. Upendra or Uppi as he is popularly called by his fans, has always used titles like these to arouse audience interest right from the word “go” and this movie is no different. In the past, the movies which he has directed have had single letter /single syllable titles like “A”, “OM”, “SHH”, etc and the last movie he directed had his name, ie, “Upendra” as the title. So, his return to direction after a long gap demanded yet another landmark title and he dint disappoint. He just gave the above symbol and asked his fans or the audience to name it. So, what do we call this movie as? A mudra in pranayama? Brilliant? nice? Good? In the censor board’s certificate the movie title is recorded as “Super” and let us stick with that as of now.

Next, we move on to the screenplay and direction of the movie. Uppi is known for his mix up style of narration and use of flashback and fast forwards very notoriously in his movies. In fact, the movie “A” in which he starred himself as an hero had such complex flashbacks that people had to watch it almost 3-4 times to understand. It had the tagline “Srtictly for clever people only”. One more marketing gimmick, you’d say. But it worked to great effect. And he is also popular for shooting movies realistically. His movie “om” used real underworld dons from Bangalore and runs to packed houses in BengLoor theatres even today. So, the screenplay and direction of the movie Super too is on expected lines with story starting from ancient India, moving to 2030 and moving back and forth thereafter. Also famous in Uppi’s movies are his dialogues which are delivered breathlessly. I was left completely speechless by the way some of the dialogues and lyrics were written and delivered. Though people usually criticise him of using too many vulgar and double meaning dialogues, the smartness with which he does so has to be applauded. For instance, he calls the citizens of India “satprajas”. Now, satpraja in Sanskrit is a combination of two words “Sat”, meaning good and “praja” meaning “citizens”. In Kannada, the word “Sath” is also a verb which means “dead”. In a scene where he praises the citizens of the country sarcastically for being uncaring, he calls them “sath praja” with a clear gap between sath and praja (dead citizens). For an ardent admirer of usage of language, this was a treat.

The best part of the movie is the way in which Uppi links two concepts together. There is a story of India on one hand and there is the story of the female lead called Indira(for obvious reasons) on the other. The screenplay is so marvelous that the story of India and the story of Indira go hand in hand and have similar climaxes. In a scene where Indira is attempted to be raped, there is the parallel scene of politicians auctioning off the nation which is nothing but siphoning off all its dignity. In a scene where Indira blames the hero for everything wrong in her life, the people of India are shown to be blaming the politicians for everything wrong in their country and so on. The similarities are striking.

There are boring moments in the movie and places where Uppi’s trademark mannerisms come in to play. It might be too much to take for the class audience but this is just for the frontbenchers. If you haven’t watched a single Uppi movie till now, then there will be few moments where you can just sit back and keep munching pop corn without missing anything, but the first few moments and the last few moments are really worth a watch. Some of the parts give sadistic pleasure when the Whites are shown to do all menial jobs in India and the Indian rupee fetches 80 pounds. The India of 2030 with all super fast trains, excellent roads, world-class airports, etc makes you want to be there right away.

The final part of the movie is what inspired me to write this post as a sequel to the article on corruption. The solution presented is simple – give responsibility to the people rather than politicians. I don’t know if there is a system of governance in the world which does that but it could be called crude democracy. I am sure it has been thought of before. Along with giving responsibility to the people, the solution also emphasizes the point that everyone must know the value of their nation. In the movie, people come to know the exact value of their nation only when their areas are sold off for crores of rupees. It is only that everyone protest the auction and promise to take care of their surroundings themselves instead of the government. Instead of blaming the government, people start cleaning their roads regularly, water the plants on roadside, take up power projects, repair roads, etc. And when this happens, the India of our dreams automatically happens. Though the movie is really optimistic in predicting that this will happen by 2030, I feel this solution, if taken in its essence could be a powerful tool in bringing down the corruption in our nation. This is what the recent studies in organization behavior also indicate.

To summarise, I would say that the movie “super” is as good or if not better than any other movie in its genre like “Nayak”(Hindi), “Indian” (Tamil), “Anniyan”(Tamil), etc. The solution presented is also more realistic than some of the melodramatic Bollywood movies like “jadoo ki jhappi” and “gandhigiri” (I really wish this worked). It also portrays Uppi in a politically active mode which could be a part of his larger plan to enter active politics later. But, for the moment, if you want to enjoy a nice movie with a thought-provoking message, then “Super” is the movie for you. Do let me know your comments on this if you have watched it.

Further Reading:
About Upendra:
The movie Super

Monday, 20 December 2010

Corruption and Organizational Behavior

He had the life that most people only dream of – a post-graduate degree from a prestigious B-School, a high paying job in a famous public sector oil firm, all comforts of life and what not. With his expertise and experience, he could have easily switched his job when he found that conditions were not favorable for him to stay on. His principles did not allow him to do so. But little did he know what fate had in store for him. His unrelenting attitude and tough stance eventually led to the tragic day in the winter of 2005 when he was brutally murdered, sending shock waves across the nation.

This is the story of Shanmugan Manjunath, marketing manager at Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and a post graduate from IIM Lucknow. He had been recruited in the firm through campus placements and had observed the rampant corruption at the pump-stations very early in his job. He was a man of principles and chose to work according to the rule book. He had ordered the shutdown of fuel stations which sold adulterated fuel. Sadly, during one such surprise raid, he was killed by the petrol pump mafia which perceived him as a threat. The news had stayed in the headlines for most part of 2005-06 and there were large scale protests and demands for the petrol pumps selling adulterated fuel to be closed down. However, as most stories in India, even this has disappeared from the public memory.

Corruption in India has reached such overwhelming proportions that every one of us has started to accept it as a way of life here. One of the most troubling question that India as a nation faces during its march to being a world superpower is can it do something to improve this sorry state of affairs? Every day, a new scam is unearthed and new stories are exposed as breaking news and even these incidents have failed to evoke harsh public reaction anymore. India is now 87th among the 178 nations in the world corruption index which is a very ignominious situation to be in.

One reason for such public apathy to the prevalent corruption could be the tedious procedures in our bureaucratic setup. The “
license-raj” which existed during pre-liberalization made matters worse by giving incentives for people who bribed and stayed in close corridors of power. The liberalization of the economy improved things to certain degree but a large part of the nation’s setup still faces this problem. Even today, a motorist on a two-wheeler finds it easier to bribe a traffic policeman a petty amount and escape rather than go through all the procedures of keeping the required documents for his vehicle such as insurance, emission test, driving license, etc. It’s a pain to run from pillar to post in getting most of the government work done and people who are short of time choose to ignore them. This explains why many of the educated working class people in India still do not have voter’s Id cards or the poor turnout in the elections.

Major fallout of the menace of corruption is the growing crime rates. The corrupt politicians and officials will go to any extent to protect their self interests. Thus, there will be a large scale evasion of laws and policies which leads to a chain of criminal activities. One such example is the distribution of licenses for petrol bunks. Since huge bribes are paid to obtain the licenses, the people who obtain them will be forced to sell adulterated fuel or retort to unlawful activities. They will also want to protect their self interests and hence breed local
goondas to eliminate whistle blowers like Shanmugam. This could easily spiral into a huge maze of lawlessness as we has been witnessed in the Laloo ruled Bihar or the current Mayawati regime in Uttar Pradesh.

A more dangerous trend is emerging out of all this – people have started to accept corruption as a way of life. Studies in Organization Behaviour such as the Cognitive dissonance seem to explain this fact. People perceive corruption as beneficial and hence try and rationalize that it is essential for their well-being. Also, studies in group behaviour have shown that there is a high probability that honest people succumb to the greed because of the rampant corruption that exists in the organizations. Maureen McNichols, Professor at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University has conducted extensive research in this area and concluded that even good people would turn bad under the influence of a large group or people. For example, a honest officer who is posted to a place where corruption is rampant has very high chances of turning corrupt himself. Even though, he can resign or expose the scams of others, the perceived risk in such activities is very high as has been shown in cases of Shanmugam and Satyendra Dubey. Thus the officer chooses to play along with the parties becoming involved himself sooner than later. Thus, the scourge of corruption has now grown into a all-engulfing giant which threatens to breakdown the entire administrative machinery of the nation. The recent exposure of Satyam in the multimillion dollar fraud case is all the more threatening as it has tarnished the image of the hitherto unblemished IT sector of India. This just is one more example of the cognitive dissonance where people at the echelons of power have justified their corrupt nature by rationalizing the benefits over the embarrassment of being caught in public.

One more reasoning for the rampant corruption is because of the social setup that exists in the nation. Usually, the bright children in the family get into high positions of fixed salaries or get the love and acceptance of their parents. The dull and illiterate kids usually end up in non main stream professions like party workers or politics. The constant pressure on them to go one-up against their intelligent siblings and earn the acceptance of their parents could be one of the important factors which encourages corruption amongst them. This has been clearly depicted in the yesteryear movies such as
Deewar where the anti-hero is proud of the fact that he has more money than his intelligent, honest brother. It has to be noted here that these are just one plausible sequence of events and need not be assumed to be the same all the time. And with more educated people choosing politics as a profession these days, we can expect a change in this trend.

So, how do we stop this menace or even think of controlling it to some extent? There is no doubt that harsh punishment meted out to the corrupt officers would scare the rest of the lot and thus they would abstain from getting involved. But since that seems far-fetched because of the delay in our judicial system, a more efficient and elegant solution is the need of the hour. There are already organizations which are started in memory of the innocent whistle blowers like Shanmugam and Satyendra which are fighting for the speedy justice and punishment to the guilty. Also, they are rewarding honest officials by numerous awards and thus promoting ethical behaviour. Apart from all these, the recent studies in organization behaviour could come to our aid. According to the Stanford Business Magazine, we can control corruption by taking into account Group power, organizational structure, rationalization and fear and confusion. By emphasizing the fact the whole group would turn against a person who goes corrupt, the organizations can cultivate en environment that is corruption free where people fear to tread in the wrong direction because of the fear of the other group members. This will only be possible if the policy makers are themselves honest and want such a healthy change in the organizations and in nation as a whole. With more and more affluent and educated people entering administrative services, we can expect better policy making and implementation of these measures in the mainstream politics soon.