Tentwallah Movies

Movie Review 

The Cinema Travellers
Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya
Cave Films

Vikalp, a group of five filmmakers from Bangalore came together to revive the screening of documentary films, given the lack of viewership or enthusiasm for documentaries. Over the last three odd years, they have been screening documentaries every fourth Thursday of a month at Everest Theatre in Frazer Town, Bangalore. That is some 40 screenings and they are going into hiatus, post their last screening last night of “The Cinema Travellers”.

This is a story of three personalities, and their environments in the Maharashtra heartland of Satara. This is a story of three people passionate about cinema as their world changes around them. This is a story of two folk using older technology carbon rod arc projectors to show movies in makeshift tents in rural settings where movie halls might not be close by. There definitely was a time, when these travelling cinema guys covered quite a distance screening movies; but the world has changed a bit. And this is also a story of the ace movie projector repairman, and innovator and his passion.

Mohammad, the travelling cinema businessman struggling to make ends meet; Bapu, does it completely out of passion, benevolence and his desire to take cinema to the villagers; and Prakash, the projector repairman, the innovator and inventor. Three related stories, interwoven beautifully.

Mohammad runs a crew of eight-nine men, going from village to village, small town to small town and pitching tent with village fairs, and other social events and screening the movies under the title of “Sumedh Talkies”. They do not make a lot of money anymore, what with Rs 30 a ticket. The projector keeps malfunctioning, the repairmen bungling more often than not and the movie distributors often getting late in getting the celluloid reels to the screening. Must have been a challenge getting movie reels to a moving destination in any case.

Bapu, based in village Ond in Satara, runs “Akhay Touring Talkies” not necessarily as a business, but more of taking cinema to the villagers. His old truck has caught rust, is crumbling away, doesn’t run, is pulled by a tractor to the destination screening location; but houses the projector. Rainfall causes havoc to the truck. The children from the village make the announcements to pull people in. Some of his crew have been with him from the beginning. But, times continue to be bad. The year is worse than the previous one which was worse than its previous one.

Boy watching travelling cinema in Ond, Maharshtra

The magic. The magic of cinema.

And then, there is Prakash. Repairs old projectors. Projectionists would pay obeisance to him, should a projector go bad mid show, just to make the machine work through and bring it to Prakash in the morning. As the travelling cinema business started on a downward spiral, many of these cinema folk fell into bad times, and could not even collect their projectors (which they had left with Prakash) back. Meanwhile, having done repairs for over 40 years, Prakash understood what is wrong with all these machines. He has made a projector of his own, named it Prakash (light, in Marathi and after his own name), which uses the motor to also rewind the reels and runs the moving parts in an oil bath instead of using the usual grease. These certainly are revolutionary changes in a way. His story is one of nostalgia, of machines waiting to be picked up, of water spoiling cans of film, dust gathering on the old machines, journals of dues that moviewallahs owe him and of the dwindling business.

Yet the movie is in a way about looking ahead, with the protagonists making peace with the change around them. Some changes that they accept, some that they despair about and can’t understand. The world has moved, movies appear on the telly, satellite television has arrived, and so has the internet.

Both Mohammed and Bapu go to Mumbai to buy new digital projectors, laptops and UPSes. Works out for the former, even with the loans that he has to take, even with him having to sell his old projector as junk. But the new complications do not work too well for Bapu. For his last shows of the season, before the rains set in, he has to fall back to his old faithful. Ironically, he even latches the door of truck with a strip of celluloid. Prakash shuts his repair shop for the day and heads over to the farms where his nephews still till the land, and the former has created handy seed sowing tools with a definite rate of seed sowing based on the speed of gait of the bullocks and the distance they cover. And that he plans to computerize the operation over time. Prakash emphasizes, how important it is to teach the young and encourage them.

This is, one of the best documentaries I have ever watched. A documentary that my 11 year old enjoyed. For many things really. The cinematography is fantastic, some of the still imagery even better. This is a story shot over five years, of a legacy of over 70 years falling to pieces. Again, as I mentioned earlier, this is a story of hope and not of despair. There is respect for the old, and some delight of the new. There is some sadness, but certainly some moments of joy.

In Abraham and Madheshiya’s not over the top work, you get an given intimate access to a delicate and sensitive experience. The scenes do not seem contrived, and the people seem to be oblivious of the presence of a camera, adding to the authenticity of the film.

The documentary won a special Jury award at Cannes last year, and got selected at Toronto, New York and many others. If you spy a screening somewhere, make time and go see it.

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…of Panchkanya, and Bencho of Benares

iyer-kPNFBook Reviewstar_4

Mr. Iyer Goes to War
Ryan Lobo
Bloomsbury

Ryan, is a well known TED speaker, photographer and a film maker. Plenty awarded, and recognized. A fellow Bangalorean and a Koshy’s frequenter. Now he is a debutante novelist too. People are surprised, pleasantly so. But, to me, writing isn’t that far away from what Ryan has been doing in the past. He tells stories, either through this pictures, his films or even his blog posts. Writing a novel, was but the next step. What you might not know is that Ryan also is a competitive shooter; and a fairly good one at that. Now, that makes for a diversely talented individual. Or maybe you would say that photography and target shooting are similar in nature. Maybe, depends on where you are sat at. I can assure you, the feeling of exuberance is somewhat limited should one be facing a barrel instead of a lens.

The excitement started building at the square table at Koshy’s as the book release became imminent in 2016. Conversations over Koshy’s coffee, often, meandered towards how publishers are, how authors are asked to pander to other semi-fraud (or totally) intellectual type but famous authors and how we might have to stand in line to get Ryan to sign a copy of his book for us and so on. How multiple local publishers rejected his manuscript or wanted him to add in sex, or provide a literary angle on LGBTQIA issues in today’s faux liberal world and how Bloomsbury picked it up finally.

This story is about Lalgudi Iyer, a somewhat infirm senior citizen, who has been left in a ‘home’ in Benares by his kith and kin to spend the last days (hopefully) to die, attain moksha and not come back to bother the human kind again. He spends his days and nights in the company of a retired Major (a PVC awardee) who passes away into oblivion, uncared for by his family.

A few days later, accidentally, Iyer’s head gets knocked and he starts getting visions of his past and imagines himself to be Bheem (way back from the epic) out to defeat Bakasur. Somewhat Don Quixote -ish, if you will; or so everyone says. …and Iyer has a Sancho Panza in Bencho, a ‘dom‘ from Manikarnika Ghat. The similarity of his name to the commonly used Hindi invective is unmistakable and perhaps deliberate.

Bencho is an aspiring politician, inspired by Iyer’s erudition and poetry recitation. Iyer escapes from the home, and runs away to find Bakasur, along with Bencho on his boat. They, post many adventures, skirmishes with criminals and the police alike, reach Allahabad and the Poorna Kumbh mela. There are petrol tanker explosions, goons and henchmen chasing to kill, helping policemen, bored wife of a local politician, and the antique smuggling politician too. As Iyer sets each ‘wrong’ right, he asks witnesses to convey the story of his deed to his Panchkanya, an acid burn victim called Damayanti, in Benares. In the epics, panchkanya (as the name suggests) is a group of five women – Ahilya, Tara, Mandodari, Kunti and Draupadi. Sita is added in, depending on who you ask.

In the end, the politician remains, the rich remain, the power wielding police remain. So does the day dreaming Iyer who continues to be Bheem and chasing Bakasur with help from lepers. He imagines himself contracting leprosy given his proximity to lepers (which is a bleak probability), and being unable to use the mace (gada) because of his bad knee and lost fingers. Iyer fades away in his world, without much glory.

Most reviewers seem to find the book humorous. At book readings, I find the hosts unable to stop the glee from dominating their faces; a glee which comes from reading Obelix going “biff”. Everyone that I have asked, who has read the book, finds it funny.

Maybe, I am odd. I do not find the book funny at all. I found it dark, with a continuing unbroken strain of melancholia. To me, it seemed like a story of ambition and failure to win against one’s deranged environment. A story of being called mad, when the surroundings are nothing but.

But, that is not a negative adjective for the book or the writing at all. The book is a fantastic first work and is a tightly run story which I finished (most of it) being driven through particularly nasty traffic during my morning commute. Thank heavens Mr Iyer was with me. Or was it Bheem?

Buy yourself a copy, and read it.

Movie Review: Double Feluda

Feluda would have been 78, if he were real and alive with us.

For all Bengalis who have grown up being Ray or Feluda fans, a movie with the latter in it is something to eagerly wait for. Regardless of the fact there is no sense of suspense given that the stories have been committed to memory long back by many of the viewers. The debate about who has played the best Feluda between Soumitro Chatterjee, Sabyasachi Chakravarty and Abir Chatterjee continues.

Double Feluda, movie poster with two pictures of Sabyasachi as Feluda

Double Feluda, movie poster

Oscar winning Manik babu’s son Sandip followed his father’s trail and made some Feluda telefilms, and then moved on to making regular movies starting with Bombaier Bombete, and contiuned with Kailashey Kelenkari, Tintorettor Jishu, Gorosthaney Sabdhan, Royal Bengal Rahasya. Sabyasachi Chakravaty played Felu in all these outings.

Cinematising a character over multiple decades and many stories, especially when the stories are known by the viewers is difficult. Easier to get a miss than a hit. Unfortunately, Babu da (Ray jr.) missed it more often and continues to prove it. However, that would be too blanket a statement to make.

On to of that, the absence of an appropriate actor to play Jatayu poses a problem. All the Jatayu’s have passed on rather early or at least without having played the role too many times, Sadip Ray might not have been left with too much of a choice in terms of stories to cinematise. One option was to reboot with an early Felu story with a younger Felu, Topshe and no Jatayu. That is what he did with Badshahi Angti with Abir Chatterjee as the new Felu. The reboot idea didn’t last long, inspite of the promise that Abir Chatterjee put on display in Badshahi Angti. Chatterjee signed up with director Arindam Sil to play Byomkesh Bakshi (another super popular detective character) and that put paid to his being Felu.

Double Feluda book cover with Satyajit Ray's illustration

Double Feluda book cover

In the new Feluda movie, Double Feluda, Sabyasachi is back as Pradosh C Mitter and so is Saheb as Topshe. Double Feluda, is two stories in one movie, based on Ray’s (senior) book by the same name.

The first story, Samaddarer Chaabi, is around Radharaman (Samaddar) who had retired in sub-urbs of Calcutta and had stoked his passion of collecting rare musical instruments post retirement. Post a heart attack, in the presence of his cardiologist, nephew (Monimohan) and his househelp Anukul, he refers to a key in his name. The nephew assumes it to be an indication to a will or some stashed away money both of which would be of interest to him. Monimohon reaches out to Felu to unravel the mystery of the key.

The story then revolves around deciphering the Radharaman’s last words, understanding how the musical instruments work and complexity is added by another musical instrument collector who wanted to buy two of the collectibles, a grandson and the lying nephew. The nephew ends up being the villain, and a neighbourhood boy (Sadhan) the hero. The story is narrated somewhat better than on previous occasions.

Saheb is too old to be Topshe. And, Sabyasachi is a 60 trying to play a 28 year old. He has a large pot belly, (seems like) a neck problem and is unable to do much in terms of action. An unfit Feluda is rather unpalatable. Incidentally, the actor playing Sadhan’s father might not be a bad choice for playing Felu in the future.

But, wait. The movie starts with a changed and a fine format of non-boring opening credits with pictures of various Feluda book covers. What also is new is additional new pieces of music composed by Sandip Ray, to go along with. Well done.

The second story, Golokdham Rohosyo, (post intermission) revolves around a theft in a scientist’s (blinded in an explosion) suburb home and leads through to a murder. The scientist is played by an aging Dhritiman Chatterjee. Chatterjee, like always, does a stellar job with a character whose eyes (in dark glasses) are never visible in the movie.

There is at least one script fault in the movie, and at least one translation from the book to the movie problem. However, it does seem that most people watching the movie never caught these. Most likely, because they had might not have read the book carefully enough.For the former, the murder weapon is somewhat malformed. You can’t kill with a murder weapon which is shaped the way it is, in the movie. And the second, I will let you figure out on your own when you watch.

By the way, Sanyasachi’s son also gets a place in the movie and plays a supporting bad guy.

The second story has turned out to be more or a mystery drama rather than a thriller or action movie. Convinces me that Sandip Ray can make movies of other genres, but not a detective thriller. Usually ends up making documentaries, but this time he did not have the scope. Having said all that, the movie has turned to better than his previous outings.

What you will like, if you are a Feluda fan is how the ending credits appear. There are short pieces by people who have acted in Feluda movies in the past – Siddhartha Chatterjee who was Topshe (Felu’s cousin and assistant) in the first two outings; Biplab Chatterjee who has appeared in Joy Baba Felunath and Kailashe Kelenkari. Also the two Mukuls, Kushal Chakraborty and Santanu Bagchi, from Sonar Kella made and appearance. All these actors shared remembrances from the movies that they acted in, of their experiences with Satyajit Ray and how they are remembered by the cinema going people even today. Siddhartha Chatterjee, incidentally, has acted in another 3-4 movies and is a partner in the restaurant chain “Bhjohori Manna”. Kushal Chakravorty, is a civil engineer by training, but continues to act in Bengali movies even now. Soumitra, Feluda of the first two outings, however was conspicuous by his absence.

So, how did the movie fare? If you are looking for an edge of the seat suspense, you will be dissappointed. If you went in with an open mind, two pretty decent stories narrated and shown much better than they have been in a long time. Go spend the money.

Piku – twisted from the intestines!

Wondered before I watched the movie, if it had anything to do with “Pikur Diary” which was written by Ray and then later turned into short film titled Pikoo. A little bit of googling told me otherwise and that today’s Piku is completely different. The movie I am reviewing is the Piku being shown in theatres across the country and is directed by Shoojit Sircar. Shoojit has directed Vicky Donor, Madras Cafe and two-three other movies. I have watched Vicky Donor and had enjoyed it. Seemed like a reasonably safe gamble to watch Piku, also given the pretty decent cast of Amitabh

Bachchan, Irrfan (Khan) and Deepika Padukone. Piku as you might have read elsewhere, is the story of a Bengali father-daughter who live in Chittaranjan Park in Delhi. Piku (Padukone) is an architect, and Bhaskor Bannerjee (Bachchan) is the retired completely hypochondriac 70 year old father. Bhaskor spends most of his time figuring how to get “motion” to be good and most of his world revolves around exactly that. His bowel movements. Strange, huh? Not for most Bengalis who are focussed on two separate parts of the human body. The head, right at the top and all that happens just below the midriff – ingestion and digestion of food, and expunging of waste. If you have lived in West Bengal or known Bengalis closely enough, you might have sensed this. The number of advertisements and consumption of ‘digestive’ medicine is phenomenal. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the highest per capita consumption of Digene, Gelusil, Vitazyme, Aristozyme, Isabgol and Aqua Ptychotis is in that state. You haven’t even heard of the last one on the list, have you? Every household stores all these and also carom seeds (ajwain). Digesting, and keeping the bowels clean is very important, a Bengali believes. Doctors of yore (LMPs*) used to focus on the stomach first, for any type of ailment. But, I digress. [Read this for more on this Bengali fascination]

The father-daughter duo share an interesting relationship. Father is quite accepting on his daughter not being a virgin before her marriage, her dalliances and speaks about it openly to Piku’s embarrassment. Father’s being hypochondriac drives Piku up the wall and then some. Father has an ancestral house in Kolkata which he doesn’t want to sell and the daughter does. Piku’s kaka (father’s younger brother) and his family live in that house. But, to sort that situation out our two main protagonists need to go to Kolkata. They can’t travel by air because Mr Bannerjee fears his blood pressure might fall. Can’t travel by train anyways. So, they need travel by road.

On the day of the travel, the slated taxi driver doesn’t show up and so the owner of the taxi company Rana Choudhary (Irrfan) shows up instead. The story thus is a bit of a road trip, at least half of it; when gradually Rana influences the way Mr Bannerjee thinks and gets him to let his hair down a bit and ease up. That is all that I will talk about as far as the story goes. You can watch the movie like I did.

Bachchan plays the 70 year old ‘bhadralok‘, and does a pretty swell and cute job of it. Because he is that age himself (maybe slightly older), he fits in well. His early years working in Calcutta, and the Bengali influence in his life serve him well too. I am not really a Bachchan fan, but will definitely say that he did a good job in the movie. Though the movie is named Piku, he makes it his movie. Completely.

Irrfan is his usual self. Dissolves himself into the role, and fits in like a comfortable glove with ease. He is a tremendous actor, and goes about his job with fluently. Enough said.

The sore point of the movie, unfortunately, is Padukone. The characterization of Piku is very interesting, but completely wrongly cast. Padukone doesn’t cut it. Her dialogue delivery is off, her shrieks are neither from Kolkata, nor from C R Park. Just saying “baba” once in a while doesn’t work. Ending a sentence (in English) with the word “only” hints of Bangalore. People are raving about her acting, and I can’t see why. Her chemistry with Irrfan isn’t smooth even at the end. Her comic timing is a little off synch. The actress (female gender of an actor, is an actress. Not actor) who would have done a swell job is perhaps Konkona Sen Sharma. Great actress, ethnically correct for the role and has good comic timing as well. Oh, BTW, I think Rajiv Masand is humbug of a reviewer and should restrict himself to movies of the type of, say, Wanted.

The movie is different from the usual and complete drivel that the Hindi movie industry dishes out some hundred times in a year. Talks real life in a funny way. Shows independence of women, as is real. Has some real life slapstick, but also some subtlety. But, this isn’t a movie that you can go watch a bunch of times. Neither is it Dabang, Hum Apke Hain Kaun, Kick or similar crap. But, there are many amusing moments which will tickle your funny bone gently.

Rajiv Masand is humbug of a reviewer should restrict himself to movies of the type of, say, Wanted.

Juhi Chaturvedi has done a good job understanding the psyche of a 70 year old ‘probasi’ Bengali and has shown good script and screenplay writing ability. Lack of tight editing, or lack of story-telling ability have usually been the bane of Indian cinema. Piku has a tight script and editing is sharp. Though the movie doesn’t feel fast paced, the two hours pass quickly. The background score is nice, there is no dancing around trees, and the songs are not in your face. If you expected Padukone or someone else to do an ‘Item Number’, you will be disappointed. I won’t try to interpret what went on in Chaturvedi or Sircar’s heads, but this is an interesting look at life, its myriad hues, some hints at its vicissitudes through the lens of a father-daughter relationship.

Go, see it!

* That would be Licensed Medical Practitioner – Doctors without an MBBS degree, but with appropriate education and practice to be a good GP. These folk used to be all over the country, and in rural areas too. The government legislation which made MBBS compulsory to be a qualified allopathic doctor wiped the LMP variety away, and thus obliterated a fairly robust layer of health care from the country.

Badshahi Angti – Sandip Ray’s latest Feluda documentary

Cover - Satyajit Ray's Badshahi Angti

Cover – Satyajit Ray’s Badshahi Angti

This one is a movie review. But, perhaps would be appreciated more by people who have some familiarity with Feluda – the quintessential detective and a Satyajit Ray creation. The stories originally appeared either in Sandesh (a children’s magazine run primarily by Ray’s family) and then in the annual festive editions of Anandamela. Not too long, these stories have delighted children and adults alike and have created an ardent set of Feluda fans. “da” of course is the abbreviated form of dada, his name is Pradosh Chandra Mitter whose “satellite” (sidekick) is his school going cousin Tapesh.

Ray started turning his Feluda stories to movies with “Sonar Kella” and brought the desert town of Jaisalmer to national limelight and opened up possibilities of tourism. His second of the series was “Joi Baba Felunath” based in Benares. That was that. Later Manikda’s son Sandip started cinematising (a neologism) the series starting with “Bombaier Bombete”, “Kailashe Kelenkari”, “Tintorettor Jishu”, “Gorosthane Shaabdhaan” and “Royal Bengal Rohosyo”. But, you might already know all this.

Start of the chase (on foot) in Lucknow

Start of the chase (on foot) in Lucknow

Sandip Ray’s latest is “Badshaahi Angti” which released in December last year in Bengal and is getting released in the rest of the country. The first bunch of his movies except Tintorettor Jishu and Kailashe Kelenkari (in parts) did no justice to his father’s stories nor his way of film making. His choice for a Feluda in his late twenties was a brooding actor in his late forties. In the last two outings the actor was visibly old, already in his fifties and had developed a paunch. Seriously? His choice of stories, and the sequence has been pedestrian. Gorosthane Shaabdhaan, for instance, is a story with little physical action and does not lend itself to a movie. Royal Bengal seemed like a West Bengal tourism documentary on the Dooars with poor CGI of a Royal Bengal Tiger. The music created no sense of suspense.

The same chase, in the movie

The same chase, in the movie

Anyways, let me to focus on Badshahi Angti and not on his previous juvenile misadventures. This has been a movie about two years in the making based on Felu’s second story and tremendously anticipated by Feluda fans. Felu has yet not become the professional detective, still works at some corporate, does not yet own his Colt .32, Jatayu has not arrived on the scene and Tapesh’ father does accompany Felu and Tapesh in their travels. This is Feluda’s second adventure.

The story is brilliant, based in Lucknow using the prominence of Bara Imambara and its labyrinth, the ruins of the Residency, the Baradari and of course Hazratganj. Ray’s (senior) work weaves the story of a diamond (and other precious stones) ring owned by Aurangzeb, a seth (merchant), an Osteopath and a peculiar Bonobihari babu whose pets are a Hyena, a jungle cat, a rattlesnake, a blackwidow spider, blue scorpions and the like. Towards the end it gets revealed that this gregarious but somewhat menacing Bonobihari Sarkar is the villain of the piece. The story is interspersed with little very interesting tidbits about the town itself which lends a flavour to the story and adds character to Lucknow as a city. The story is about the theft of the ring. Bonobihari babu’s character slowly gains prominence along with his growing menacing behaviour and reaches its peak towards the climax which is full of edge of the seat suspense, fear created by his rattlesnake, some quick fire action, and some shooting by Mahaveer (Seth Pyarilal’s cricket playing, actor and crackshot son).

The movie starts okay but becomes a UP tourism documentary on Lucknow very quickly and has short term memory loss about the purpose of the movie. Most Bengali folk reading this most likely have already sharpened their knives to stab me in the heart.

As usual Sandip Ray’s casting is sketchy and off the mark in parts. The casting coup definitely is Abir Chatterjee who joins the Feluda franchise in the lead character. Good looking and young Abir certainly is going to be around for some more outings. His acting skills are very acceptable, has the tinge of humour and the twinkle in his eyes – all that Felu is supposed to have. The new Topshe (Sourav Das) appears has the always surprised expression which, one hopes, will change with some experience.

Veteran Dipankar Dey plays Tapesh’ father and is wasted there. He would have done a great job as the devilish Bonobihari babu. Then there is the actor who plays Bonobihari babu. This character is middle aged, well built and full of villany. The role is played by Paran Bandopadhyay who is about tottering in his old age. Allow me to single out this man’s continued bumbling movie damaging run in the Feluda franchise despite his acting skills (or the lack thereof). Grandfatherly, Paran Bandopadhyay, should belong to the “Jatra” world with his over dramatized way of acting, introduces frivolity to what should be a character with gravity. Besides whatever else might have contributed to this movie, this individual is the iceberg to the Titanic, the torpedo to the Bismarck and the Zero to the USS Arizona all rolled into one. Rajatava Dutta does a decent job as Ganesh Guha, but again his talent is wasted in the cameo.

Sandip Ray in Lucknow for the shoot

Sandip Ray in Lucknow for the shoot

While music used to play a role to be important enough to be a character (in Manikda’s Feluda), it loses its hold in this movie. Sandip Ray’s music is as lack lustre as Anu Malik’s (minus the yodeling) and seems apt again for an Incredible India documentary. The music fails to create atmosphere, fear or suspense and turns out to be pedestrian.

The CGI (as in the previous outing) is poor and would appear in place in a Hollywood 3rd tier movie from the 80s. There is plenty good quality CGI work done in India now. Why Sandip Ray would avoid that quality is best known to him. The rattlesnake looks almost comical.

But the movie isn’t all drivel. The story is good (no credit to Junior), Lucknow appears cleaner than it is and Abir shows promise. He will develop in the next outing for sure. The dialogues are straight from the original story, and thus tight. The best shot in the movie, also a stand out, is the very last one where the sun glints off “the ring” on Felu’s finger.

It might not be a bad idea to get someone like Anjan Dutta to jump over and start making the Feluda series with Abir, instead of us being subjected to documentaries about different locations in India by India’s famous documentary maker.

10 Leadership principles – The Genghis Khan way.

genghisThe empire that this man founded became the largest contiguous empire in history, after his demise. His empire, which extended from China to Afghanistan to  Hungary, was about 12 million sq. miles in area. Among his other achievements was also bringing the the silk route under one cohesive political environment. Born Temujin around 1162 and about 0.5% of the world’s male population carries his DNA. There clearly was something about this man, though most of us prefer to hate him. Peeling the wraps does exhibit some qualities which might have made him the man he was.  Let us examine the 10 basic principles1 of leadership that he exhibited.

Genghis' trivariate which worked as the base of this leadership principlesThe foundation of his principles rested on the trivariate that Genghis worked with. He ran his conquests, his kingdom and life by creating a delicate balance between the constant pulls of corruption or paranoia, the probability of losing reins of power and allowing events to dictate his agenda. This maintenance of equilibrium in a way shaped him to be the leader that he evolved to be.

1. Reward Loyalty

Genghis remembered generous acts of people that he interacted with. He honoured the brave and loyal, regardless of their status.  Once convinced of a person’s loyalty, he delegated large responsibilities.

This perhaps is an easy one. A leader in the modern age (like any other time) needs to be able to reward loyalty. But, as important is locating people who will be are willing to be loyal. These people could easily be part of an inner team or be spread out across your larger team or enterprise. These are people who will pick up your burden and also make you look good.

2. Be austere

He despised luxury, and honoured simplicity. People say that he would give the shirt off his back to a Mongol in need.

There are many examples of people who espouse simplicity; The Mahatma, Steve Jobs and Warren Buffet are rather famous examples. In modern times, it is less about wealth or luxuries, but more about simplicity of living as such.

3. Exercise self  control

Of his many extraordinary qualities was the fact that he used to seldom lose his temper and also did allow others their say.

In our times, and always moderation and self control are ideals to be cherished.  Krishna, or the Mahatma would be two examples to espouse.  Calmness of the mind, obviously is helpful and many leaders get to that state either with meditation or picking up a stress buster set of regular exercises.

4. Find talent where you can, and use it

Under his reign, enemies became officers in his administration or army; herdsmen rose to be generals too. There were many non-Mongols who served under him

This is interesting. People usually gravitate towards people who are loyal (or seemingly so) to promote or elevate. But leaders do, and should pick their team members from competition, from inside their own teams and also from completely different industries. People with intelligence and talent are able to easily jump the chasm formed by difference in domains.

5. Kill enemies without compunction

He never forgot a favour, but also never forgave an insult. He was merciless, once convinced of disloyalty.

This sounds more politics related and is. No enterprise or company of some size is bereft of some manipulation, games and politics. It is only silly not to play these games once you are in the middle of them. A large part of the learning is to nullify obstacles ; that is people (inside or outside your organization) or organizations who work against your goal.

6. Oppose cruelty

Though he did order mass killings of those who opposed or insulted him, no one ever accused him of cruelty.

This perhaps would get interpreted somewhat in a different context. Arrogance while on the ascent is a negative virtue to carry.

7. Adapt, and be open to new ways of ruling

Though totally illiterate, over time he evolved and learned from many of the vanquished. An example would be getting record keeping done, and starting to put processes in his administration. This evolution happened as his kingdom grew in size.

Simply about nimbleness and agility in times of change. Whether one is able to adapt to change and modify one’s thoughts and ways of working.  Or even how ready one is to appreciate and go with new paradigms. What does not matter is in-depth knowledge of the agencies of change, right up front.

8. Know that you have divine backing

Foreign rulers just had to acknowledge and understand this “truth” and all would be well for them.

Lets modify this to have a sponsor backing. It does not matter whether one is at the helm of an organization or leading a group of just two people; it does not matter whether you are working for someone else or yourself. You need to have a sponsor. Many a times you will need to use derived authority to push your ideas and actions through.

9. Make your followers and heirs believe it too

His followers acknowledged the heavenly diktat and saw success along with the Khan.

A large part of the concept of derived authority is to ensure that teams and other people who surround you accept the sponsor as a higher authority.

10. Respect freedom of belief

He was known to listen to advice, and also to all those who acknowledged the divine backing.

This principle perhaps has more to do with

  • Respecting an individual
  • And being open to thoughts other than one’s own.

This would require the leader to have an open mind and allow others to challenge a thought.

1. The principles are picked from John Man’s book – Genghis Khan, Life Death and Resurrection. However, the interpretation is ours. You may find similar other leadership principles described in Jack Weatherford’s biography of Genghis Khan.

Interesting spending power trends (survey)

Before engaging on our business plan for KOOLSKOOL, we wanted to test waters a bit and check if there is any hope for what we wanted to do. We also wanted to know a bunch of other things e.g. actual usage of the internet in our country (at least in our target market areas), amount of money being spent by students outside of the school system, or even clear adoption of technology.
We ran a survey in Delhi and Lucknow (two sample cities) covering about 400 students in multiple schools. The surveys were given out by school students and we did use a bit of the viral technique to get quick and decent sized coverage. Most of the schools had students from average income to high income families and belonged to senior middle, secondary and senior secondary classes. What came back validated quite a few of our assumptions and surprised us with some of the numbers. Below are some of the interesting ones.

Siblings in the household
  • 31.5% are single child households
  • 51.9% have one sibling, 13.7% have two siblings and 3% have three or more siblings
Primary stationery purchase
  • 73.4%  buy from the neighborhood stationery shop
Pens
  • 70% buy upto 5 pencils a month
  • 21.2% buy more than 10 pens a year
Computer usage
  • 91.3% have a PC or laptop at home
  • 58% have a printer at home
  • 27% buy between 2-5 cartridge (or set) in a year
Email usage
  • 80% of respondents use email
  • ~75% students do not have email communication with their teacher
Mobile Phones usage
  • 72% own mobile phones
  • 16.6% spend >Rs 500 per month
Electronic games console, personal music players ownership
  • 49% own electronic games consoles
  • 69% own a personal music player or some sort

The conclusion is as was evident to us. There is a lot of money in children’s pockets today or at least lots that they have access to. They are the customers of a Retailer’s future.