Mercedez-Benz had five seconds.

This is June 2012. These days when you want to watch a video on YouTube, there are ads which start that you can only skip after 5 seconds. I hate these ads because they eat into my meager bandwidth. I watched one of them to the end, the new Mercedez-Benz ad. Why did I do that?

Mercedez-Benz had five seconds to do something that the user wouldn’t skip. What did they do?

They started with a nice music video-ish clip of a scene moving past the screen, and some nice music in the background. You see what happened there? For a moment you wouldn’t know this is an ad. I didn’t hit skip. I waited. Then I was sucked into the ad, which is what they wanted. I didn’t like the whole ad so much, but that’s irrelevant; they got me to watch it.

I don’t know if this was intentional. Probably not, because they didn’t do this ad just for YouTube. They did it for TV, everywhere. But it worked here.

Here’s the video:

The Cool Hollow

I read in the paper today about how the awareness about hip-hop and street dance genres is spreading through India. The article featured a couple of break dance groups that now conduct short hip-hop workshops and shows around India. Pretty remote areas too. There was a photo with the article, featuring one of the group members performing some move on the street as youths dressed in various western urban hip-hop outfit looked on.

This wasn’t somehow a happy article for me. I find a sad, hopeless hollow in this mindless aping of whatever the West happens to dish out. And how like an epidemic any of that spreads, ready to be lapped up by the eager Indian youth.

Where is we? Where is our stuff? Why is it that through centuries of civilization we haven’t been able to create culture and arts that is fun? That people will practise and enjoy and share? Or have we, and then quietly forgotten?

The media has a hand in this. Both its sticky little hands, rather. The marketing of any (modern) western culture is served with spaghetti sauce and fries on the side, with an overpowering aura of glamour and coolness to which You. Shall. Bow. If you are not this, you are nothing. You are old and forgettable. Bollywood movies, you’ll notice, have this recent increasing trend of shoots abroad, settings of the stories abroad, and in general most of the objective of any mainstream Bolly flick these days seems to be the portrayal of western life, culture and this radiating urban coolness for most of its running time.

If you will look at the ads on TV, have you noticed an increasing occurrence of hip-hop wear, skateboards, western settings, and a general aura that confuses you whether it is an Indian ad at all?

I took drum lessons from a band drummer for a little while. I noticed the other guys who used to go there. More about metal outfit and attitude than about placing the beats correctly. I mean, mate, it is about hitting a membrane with a stick.

The mind of the nation is molded by the media. In our case, an irresponsible, short-sighted, self-serving, but all-powerful media. When we are in its grip, we forget about independent judgement and personal taste. It is a great monstrous conforming machinery at work. And we submit to it, because it is too easy. So much easier to dress up in hip-hop wear and tilted cap and get spiked hair and call that culture than learning the piano or the sitar or read good books.

And we create emptiness. An emptiness that will eat us back some day.