Thoughts,opinions and musings of a restless nomad

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A nomad in today's world, a world traveler in essence

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Come alive with freshness



Many years ago, Liril came to us through the print ad’s featuring a gorgeous girl wearing a lime green bikini, joyously splashing around in a waterfall. Then we saw it in movie theatres & TV for the next few decades. Karen Lunel, the lady who cavorted under the Kodai waterfall modeled for Alyque Padamsee from Lintas, the great ad maker working to launch HLL’s new soap and was photographed by Surendranath. Remember the simple jingle tune (composed by Vanraj Bhatia) la, laaa laaa la..la la laaa??? …..Oh! How I wish I could see that old ad all over again!!



The year was 1975. Karen did this after her accidental discovery in a boutique by the ad makers. The soap went on to become a top seller and many a rumor killed off Karen at the waterfall by drowning, or was it a mobike or plane accident somewhere? Anyway, she never died, but
continued her work as an airhostess with Air India and now lives with her husband in Bombay. I read also that the Lunel family was originally from Whitefield Bangalore, had a funny egg shaped house there and were Jazz aficionados….

As Karen moved away, many girls moved in to take her place under the waterfall, and the waterfall itself moved to jungles, deserts & glaciers (mercifully I have seen none of those morphs). As time went by the green soap moved on to a blue mint (ad shot in Iceland?) version, then zesty Orange (with Priti Nair at Lowe’s (Lintas had become Lowe’s) taking over the creative mantle from A Padamsee) and finally in 2005, 30 years later, the whole format changed to a daring one showing how bathing with a Liril soap can lead on to other naughty matters…….I have seen that one, looks too firangi actually, I have heard the new sexy tune la era ela… , it seems to be a rage out there in India, but I am still stuck with the simple old tune and Karen, no wonder Karen’s ad ran for 12 years before the other girls came.

Many a girl rose to fame under the Liril waterfall, the most famous being Priety Zinta. Some others who did this ad were Aneesha Dalal, Pooja Batra, Anjali Jathar
Hrishita Bhat, Tara Sharma, Ruchi Malhotra , Deepika Padukone and also a US-Mallu actress called Divya Palat (Was she in the print ad?). Almost all of them ended up in the movies.

As you can imagine, this ad was & is one of the most written & talked about ad’s. There are plenty of mainstream articles and blogs, showing how dear it is to the Indian of the 70’s through 90’s. Also, Padamsee had been interviewed by so many about the how’s and why’s behind the pioneering bikini & waterfall ad. First test marketed as a blue soap in the 70’s ( Padamsee wanted it to be blue and the Englishman Wooller suggested green to add the freshness of lime), it finally got launched as the green marble textured soap, that we knew…created to make bathing a ‘bindaas’ experience.


Let us see what Padamsee had to say, some lines are quite poignant, especially the fact about the average Indian woman (this was discovered after
extensive marketing research by HLL) He says - Take Liril soap. It not only offers you freshness but offers you a sense of freedom. It is not just an ordinary bath. The girl in the waterfall symbolises that the bathing experience can be bindaas and free. For the average Indian woman who is surrounded by chaos, in-laws, husband, children, the ten minutes in the shower are her own, where she can day dream. Now that was so compelling that the Liril ad has remained unchanged for 25 years by Hindustan Lever. They tinkered with some ideas but then I noticed that they went back to the waterfall. These long term propositions, these human values are embedded in the brand’s very soul. It overnight made Liril the top selling premium toilet soap in the country and it has retained that leadership till today.

The ad was originally done in Khandala, but did not quite feel right and so was reshot down south –
Padamsee says - The first time, the girl by the waterfall was photographed in Khandala, but something was missing. The production team then ventured South - to the Kodaikanal waterfalls. When Karen Lunel, the water sprite, first stepped into the pool, it was freezing cold. And, instead of the glittering Liril smile, all she could show were her `chattering teeth'. But Karen, being a real sport, braced herself with a few shots of rum and gave a wonderful performance. ``Did the naughtiness in her eyes reflect Liril or Old Monk,'' Padamsee jokes. BTW, the falls where this ad was shot, was called Pambar falls, in Kodaikanal. It has since then been renamed/known as Liril falls!!

Incidentally, the fortunes of the soap started to decline once the girl and waterfall concept was changed.The story does not end here, to boost sales; HLL tried the Indipop medium for support. The original tune was indeed catchy and it so got embedded into Shweta Pandit’s ‘Main Zindagi hoon’ album, at least in a couple of tracks, when it was released in 2002.In a way I am thankful, because I got to hear this great jingle again from that track. The video has Shweta singing the song, with water spray and all….sponsored of course by Liril/HLL.

The
orange campaign with Deepika – and The newer naughtier Liril ad is linked here for those interested…with it storyline explained frame by frame. Has a South African model, it seems or was it the Pakistani girl Amna Mahmood? I don’t know for sure, maybe Amna was only a print model.

Liril- The soap whose name is a Palindrome!!! Like the word Malayalam, spelt the same forward & backward…

Liril ad images – various sites, acknowledged with thanks

A detailed article on the
soap’s fortunes & ad’s

Sawdust in the hearth


How many of you have any clue to what a sawdust stove or eearchapodi aduppu is all about? I still remember the ones we used to have in our house at Calicut many a decade ago. I would be the first to help get that going in the morning, running to the kitchen, I would be chirping to the maid, let me do it, let me do it..

Balama used to work at the standard furniture company in
Kallayi (remember the new song from PMK and another old song with those words? Pathinaram ravudichadu manatho, kallayi kadavatho) a place where they had huge numbers of logs floating down from Nilambur and other places to be taken places. Once upon a time all the teak that went to Europe for ship and house building went via Kallai ( 2nd largest in the world)and there were many a sawmill beside the river shores. Standard furniture however was the only company that made plywood (posh in those days!) furniture. They used to give sacks of the sawdust to favored employees. The sawdust sacks found their way to our place in Chalappuram and to the cavernous kitchen.

The stove was like any other wood-burning stove, probably a bit taller and more cylindrical. We would put two ‘wooden ruler’ like objects, one from the front and one from the top, then stuff the sawdust in tightly and compact it. Once that was done, the stove was lit with a burning firewood shoved in through the front opening till the sawdust started to glow, the evenly burning stove producing hardly any smoke. It provided solid heat for hours and with a couple of stoves, all the days cooking was completed with ease. I used to sit near the stove and watch the glowing fire till it was time to eat breakfast and trudge to Ganapathi LP School, nearby….The kitchen walls were blackened with smoke and rays of light streamed down through a few glass tiles that were laid for that specific purpose, I used to peer at and through those light rays, watching the dancing dust particles, till I was jerked out of the reverie by Kochoppa’s strident demand that I get ready for school.

Some days, mostly weekends, I would complain about Idli being too repetitive for breakfast and Kochoppa would say the magic words, OK let us make Karandiappam. She would pour the Idli batter into a well (really well) oiled ‘karandi’ and I would be allowed to hold the karandi over the ‘eearchapodi aduppu’ till the appam was all brown, evenly cooked inside (tested with a theepatti kol) and moriyali - fied. Well, to this day I can savor the taste of that fine karandi appam, if only in my mind!!!

After the morning cooking was all done, a Kalchatti (you don’t get such vessels easily today, see them here) would be placed on the dying embers and it would slow cook an ‘olan’ for lunch…water, ash gourd, salt, chillies and whatever…another taste that remains in my mind.

Many years went by, Standard furniture closed down, Balama retired, we sold the house, left Calicut (though I came back later for college studies) moving to Palakkad and bade goodbye to those times. The kitchens I saw later had Kerosene stoves and later the ever popular gas stoves…that was the end of the ‘eearchapodi aduppu’…like many other things in life, affected by changing times and tastes…

That was until my uncle got the idea of starting a Gobar-gas plant at home in Pallavur. The idea was forward thinking, eco friendly and fashionably green, the concept was great, the execution was competent, but the results???Well, the cows gave the manure that went into the Gobar-gas tank, the methane gas that was produced was precious little (leaked away, perhaps or probably the cows dung did not ferment as it should have due to the specific grass in Pallavur? I don’t know) and the pressure not sufficient to travel the distance of the pipes to the kitchen. The stoves had gas on some days for an hour or so, but the calorific value/heat was little and the women at the fireplace, perennially unhappy. The promise of a bright clean kitchen with no wood burning stoves had made them all enthusiastic, my uncle who in return had hoped for culinary splendors from the kitchen, turned sour in countenance. Even the gas lamps that were installed in the kitchen to cater to the omnipresent Kerala ‘powercut’ glowed dim, even more irregularly than the power supply, eventually all at home lost interest in the gobar-gas plant, and though it still remains in the yard between the cowshed and the kitchen, is not used anymore.

I checked out Google about such stoves only to discover that Sawdust stoves (though not the built-in kitchen ones I talked about) are still found in places like Kabul-Afghanistan, Ghana Africa and used to be popular in Europe & America before the great wars. Building a sawdust stove on the other hand, seems to be a science project in some schools, these days.

This took my thoughts in another direction, if the first Indian Provisional Govt had taken roots in 1915, and
Pillai continued on as PM, what would have been the situation in Kabul today??

P.S – Mamukoya the actor (a favorite of mine) used to work as a measurer in a Kallayi timber mill, also I could not resist adding this, Koya has acted in a French movie!!

If you want to build a sawdust stove at home, here are the instructions, not recommended though – refer this


Picture of GGplant – courtesy Childhaven International CA

Human Directionals


For many of you this title is going to sound strange, very strange.

What could it be? Well, I certainly did not know about it till I landed in California. As you neared major street corners, you would see young kids & older people at street corners holding signs, they are the living signs or sign twirlers. Not just holding signs, their job is to attract your attention, and do they do just that. The methods they use are pretty interesting, sometimes it is bright & skimpy attire, but mostly it is what they do with the arrow shaped signs they hold. They are spun, twirled, tossed, and what not. Mostly about new housing, it could also be about a new pizzeria in town, it could be whatever you want advertised, in the most alluring fashion. The pay is good, from $10 and hour to $60 an hour depending on how good you are with the sign.

Some counties, stating that these are traffic hazards, have insisted that twirling of signs is not permitted. So the signs are on stands and the holder, no longer a holder, but a side dancer.

As you near the corner, you sometimes see the bored/tired kid resting on his sign. Ipod phones in his ear. The California sun can be merciless, and a few quarts of water are not sufficient. Hang around for a while and you see the employer coming in her (I have not seen men handlers yet) SUV to castigate the kid. Sometimes you see that the replacement has not come in time and the chap has walked away leaving the sign at the corner. Some kids naturally get bored, so they chat around with other directionals at the corner, forming endearing relationships – hopefully, or well, they count the birds & the cars…

I wanted to write about them a few weeks ago, but I had not the faintest clue what they were called. I tried the internet, typing sign holders, placard holders, banner holders, moving signs, street corner signs, nothing worked. Maybe I should have typed ‘human billboards’. Then came
this LA times article that covered the subject in length, here is where I got to know the innards of the scheme.



Qualifications – clean cut, fine arms, athletic body, and ability to stand for hours ( usually 4-6 hours).

Moves – Trictionary covers Helicopter, backbend, crab walk, Blender, spanking the horse (The spinner puts the sign between his legs, slaps his own behind and giddy-ups)

The trainer is called spinstructor. They even have an annual awards competition.

It is a regular industry with AArow advertising training many hundreds for their jobs. Clients are charged $60-70 an hour.

They are mainly found in warmer cities like Florida & California, but if you go around the world, big cities have something similar, guys holding signs at crowded streets directing you to a pizza place or a dress shop that has a big sale going on. In Vegas and places like Madrid, Lisbon etc people are passing around cards advertising the vast possibilities with good & discreet escorts….In the 19th century, it was quite popular in London.

Not every car passing by rewards these chaps with $250 watches like one lady did, nor will Jay Leno always stop by to complement you, as he did once, but you could get pelted with eggs as it happens – a competitor maybe? Who said business is not cut-throat?

Like one directional said – In my city there is an abundance of teenagers and a lack of jobs, so man, I went for it. Look at it this way; an agent gets 6% for a house sale. Consider an average home price of $400K and the fact that if the agent hires a couple directionals, he would have increased his chances considerably!!

BTW it is very popular in Mexico and that is how the idea probably came across the border to California. And do you know why it is so popular? A vast majority of Americans are impulsive buyers. Point them in the right direction and you will be surprised to see the positive affect on sales (Smaller pizzeria’s claim about 10-12K increase per month!). More than everything else, they increase brand awareness!

But then, street corners can provide you other surprises in California. It is where people have their protest gatherings, be it the ‘Impeach Bush’ group or ‘save animals’ group or the group protesting their management for laying them off or reducing wages. If you are in agreement with them, you are expected to press your car horn once or if you really agree, pra pra bro bro (that is how American car horns sound).And of course, you also see the odd homeless man with signs round his neck stating – ‘hungry, need to eat’ or ‘spare me a dollar to buy gas’..

What people do to get other people to do, what they want done!! What people do to make a buck or many, faster!! Well, here is a master human directional at work…enjoy


French fries & cars


Oh! Oh! This being USA, I should probably have stated more correctly, freedom fry cars..

When my son first told me about this, I was taken aback; first I thought he was joking as he does so often – pulling the old man’s leg. Then I started picking up French fry smell in the middle of the highway with just mountains around and Arun said, see dad, what did I tell you?? What an idea!! You do a small modification to your ‘diesel’ engine car, go to the nearest McDonald’s or KFC or whoever and buy a few drums of their waste oils (French fry waste) for a pittance, they may even pay you to take it away!! You can’t yet fill it into you car (you have to refine that stuff – take away the fatty acids etc) and drive on, but almost. Of course you irritate the guy behind you since there is a strong French fry smell in the exhaust emissions…but well, who cares about that!! With gas at US$ 3.30 a gallon and higher in California, this is a bright idea…costs $1 or less per gallon.

Normally
done with diesel cars or trucks…the conversion kit is available online. SVO or straight vegetable oil or WVO waste vegetable oil is perfect for hot places like California (it congeals in colder places). Biodiesel is another thing and is different from SVO, where the fuel itself is properly made with the oil mix and costs a little bit more than diesel. Our governor Arnold Schwazenagger drives a Hummer run on bio diesel. A chap called ford popularized SVO, there is an award winning movie about this called ‘French fries to go’. Personally I think it will be good in cities like Chennai – hot and developing, with the fast food giants coming in….(Note that this won’t work on a petrol or gasoline car as vegetable oil, in simple terms, is far too thick to burn in a gas engine).But then, I guess if the Tata plans work out, it will be much better in India, with cars running on compressed air. In a recent pollution map, I saw that India is spewing muck into the air, at much higher rates than others – so this will go a long way to sort that problem out…

If you wanted to make the fuel yourself, the system might cost in the region of $500, also you need to make friends with the nearest fast food outlets…The car kit is around $900 or less ( make sure you buy an old diesel car, like the Mercedes300D). If you are really serious about setting up one, check this forum out, they go down to the
pennies and the nuts & bolts needed. Pay back is in less than 6 months and then it is happy driving for 75 cents a gallon…Yup, you also need some space for the fuel plant!!

And I remembered my
old transformer oil story. Hey, I heard Prince Charles is converting his Jags to Biodiesel
Another great SVO site, even tells you how to make the fuel. And another….

Picture of the fuel making
from this page

Some good movies....


Parzania
It is Naseeruddin Shah all the way, and to a certain extent Sarika & the American Nemec, who is actually telling the story…How nice it was to see Sarika after ages. A perfectly happy family, even though Shah is just a theatre camera operator…. Life chugs along, two active kids and a truly enjoyable family, when disaster strikes with the Hindu Muslim riots. Together Naseer & Sarika struggle through the aftermath of the Godhra riots in search of their lost son. Many of the scenes are heart wrenching, but the film cavorts through those days, displaying vivid images of the tragedies of mankind … The raw taste of the horror your own brethren can wreak, will remain with you for days..

Based on a true story, the boy Azhar is still missing…


Kathavasheshan – For the shame of being alive
I was quite hesitant about watching this movie, had it for a while. Finally we played the vcd’s last Saturday and the movie left me amazed, not for the fate of the hero, but the technical quality of the movie, the way the story is told and the unraveling of the character played by Dilip. It is really brilliant, the way the chap reached out across India, working in many a place, forming endearing friendships…and how the friends eventually viewed him. Each understanding one or a couple of aspects that make this hero’s complex character.

Dileep is a decently employed civil engineer who in the opening frame commits suicide. He was engaged to be married, and life seemed quite perfect, but he hangs himself. The distraught fiancĂ©e played by Jyothirmayi goes about trying to figure out why he did what he did…The story comes out in a gripping fashion, through flashbacks, during interviews with 14 people from all over India, talking about the protagonist in their own styles. Some may say it is a way of paying homage to suicides, but I could come to terms with the movie…

Incidentally this movie focuses on the same theme as Parzania, the Godhra riots!!

Karutha Pakshikal
Well, that was a classic from Kamal. I still wonder if Mamooty deserved the award over Pritviraj in Vaasthavam. I think Mamooty deserved it. A very grey movie, it covers the sad story of an ‘Isthri’ man, a refugee from some drought hit part of Tamilnadu, working in Kerala. His simple & widowed life is shared by three children, one of whom is blind, in tow. As he goes around with his Charcoal iron, he comes across the terminally ill rich girl Meena. No sparks of love follow as many would expect, but a philanthropic offer to donate her eyes to the small girl is made…Life however, is life…and what happens thence provides the movie a Malayali ending.


Vaasthavam
I longed to go back to the place where I did high school, Trivandrum after I saw the movie. The typical Trivandrum accent from Jagathy took me back to the days when people there used to make fun of our Palakkad Malayalam. Brilliantly showcasing the bureaucracy in the Secretariat at Anathaputam, the movie is a marvel. How a youngster Balachandran (Prithviraj) who lands a job there, manipulates people and the system, brilliantly aided by Unnithan (Jagathy) is something that cannot be missed. The best scene in the movie is when Unnithan and Balachandran sit with a bunch of envelopes and stuff notes into each for disbursement to every level of the section concerned. Unnithan wryly explains how the envelope vendor across the road, went on to become a very rich man…depicting the state of our ruling clan today…


Pursuit of Happyness
No it is not a spelling mistake with ‘Happyness’, this is how it is spelt in the movie.
While ‘Karutha Pakshika’l shows a guy who never strives to go beyond his limits, this movie portrays a person who wants to achieve the American dream and make millions. Again, based on a true story, the penniless Chris Gardener (Will Smith) juggles with his attempts at trying to sell bone density scanners, balance his family life and earn some money…none of which he manages. His wife leaves him and he struggles to look after his small son (real son in real life). He then gets an internship with Dean Witter, and eventually a full paying job there… goes on to make millions, write a book and have this movie made about him… All in all, pretty good.



Namesake
This is one great movie, starring Irfan, Kal Penn and Tabu, the travails of a Bengali immigrant family in USA. How they blend in, their children’s life, how tragedy strikes and so on…Many an NRI will find parallels with their own lives where there is always a distinct lack of identity, even if you are willing to embrace the mainstream…Written by Jumpa Lahri, the movie is directed by Mira Nair. I am now tempted to read Gogol’s writings, especially the short story ‘Overcoat’ after seeing the movie!