Nil Battey Sannata owned me.

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                                                                   Swara Bhaskar and Ria Shukla in Nil Battey Sannata

“Ladkiyon ki maths se banti nahi” , “Aur mera bhi maths nil battey sannata hi hai,” Ratna Pathak says and I don’t find it sexist for the first time. There is this charm around her, that fails everything and leaves you smitten every time she appears on the screen. She is clearly ageing very VERY beautifully. And, you know, I can go on and on talking about her, despite smaller than expected tiny-mini screen time she has in this film.
But lets stick to the film, for Ria and Swara Bhaskar’s sake. Or, Pankaj Tripathi’s sake, who played the idealistic school principal as impeccably as only Pankaj Tripathi could. Now you have a fair idea that this film is power packed with one of the most talented performers of our time. Add to it, great camera work and vivid stroy-telling, you have a treat to all five-senses. The treatment of the film is quite international and I loved the surreal jump cuts and fade in-fade outs.
Nil Battey Sannata explores the nuances of life of a house maid (played by Swara) and her child, Apeksha (Ria). It revolves around Ria’s secondary school education and very subtly touches the education mafia of the country, hits it hard, nails it and passes over like a summer breeze after spring clean. Then you utter in your head, Dafaq did I just see!
There is more to it though. So much more. NBS gets personal as it progresses. It reminded me of the snooty girl I used to be during my 11th and 12th std. in school. I remember being aimless, goalless and so pathetically in love with one of my classmates. Like Ria says to her mother in one of the scenes, “Doctor ka beta doctor banta hai, engineer ka beta engineer, isiliye main Bai banungi. She uses it as a weapon to avoid studies. Then you break into laughter when she says, “Iss desh mein career choose karne ki azadi hi nahi hai bachchon ko!”
That’s the other side of the spectrum, isn’t it? Chanda (Swara) toils hard to save some money for Ria’s pre-board coaching class. She knows her child needs the very unattainable coaching. Coaching classes are there for pure business because education is more business than ever before today. Ria remains unfazed of her mother’s plight throughout, like all of us. Allow me to digress a little here, we love to take our mothers for granted. She looks good in the kitchen,cooking and toiling for us. Even after we become “that something” or a collector in this film (the film ends there, spoiler, tada!), she is there in the kitchen because that’s what she is meant for, probably?
NBS is a fairy tale with a twist. We have a Cinderella who wants to do household chores but has fleeting dreams about Ranbir Kapoor and Salman Khan. She doesn’t want a night out or a prince. She is fine with what she is. Her name is Apeksha and that’s the twist. The film is surely about a mother’s Apeksha or expectation from her child. She expects a better tomorrow. Nothing extravagant, but better. In her past, Chanda had to drop out from her school because she was bad at maths or “maess” as she says it. She obviously doesn’t want the same for her girl. I was in tears throughout the second half of the film, to see a mother’s mammoth determination to bring her Apeksha on right track. For once we knew Apeksha could fail, but Chanda’s expectation would not.
NBS is about unnerving and unending dreams of the working class. We have an immensely hardworking child named Amar, whose brother runs a small time dhaba to bring him up. Amar works as a mechanic after school. When he comes out from under a car in one of the scenes, all covered in grease and dirt, that 15 year old lean sweet little genius of a child, it sure left me unsettled. Apeksha remained unfazed. Like all of us.
I could not understand though, why all upper caste surnames have been used in the film. Right from Chanda Sahay to Dr Diwan aka Ratna Pathak to principal Srivastava, everyone is upper caste! Was it to bring uniformity or to avoid the caste discourse totally?
Coming back, as Nil Battey Sannata shows education is still a far fetched idea in our country of over 100 billion people. But education mafia has full access to it. At school, we are goalless because of them and because “doctor ka beta doctor banega.” But we have determined mothers across class and creed. Maybe we should celebrate just that.
And oh, did I say Swara Bhaskar has stolen the show? I can’t imagine any other actor playing Chanda as good as she did. She was so much into the character that I could not find Swara anywhere on screen. This holds true for principal sir (Pankaj Tripathi) and Apeksha (Ria) too. That have owned it totally!
Only Ratna Pathak was Ratna Pathak, the most beautiful woman I have ever seen.:)
-
Mohi 
(originally posted on https://girlfurl.wordpress.com/ )
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The Motorcycle diaries: #4 To Lavasa & back #IndianArmyFC

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And why the #IndianArmyFC hashtag in the title you'll ask. We'll get there soon.

As if a 155km bike ride from Mumbai to Pune was not enough, I took Faisalwa (my Avenger 220) for another spin, only a day after. And this time we were three - Pranav with his white Bullet and Mathur with his black one accompanied by my red Avenger. The plan was to ride up from Pune to Lavasa, spend the evening there and come back - some 130kms doorstep to doorstep.

A tale of two Bullets and one Avenger.

The Route - The Good, the Bad and the Godly.
The boys did have the toys but none of us knew the roads to Lavasa. GPS Mata ki Jai, but we didnt have no pillion riders to be our navigators even. Precisely here came to our rescue an old purchase of mine from Mumbai's grant road - a GPS device holder for bikes. Fortunately I had taken it with me for the Mumbai Pune ride. It had been unused till then.

As a wise guy, Sir Vedder once said, "...just where to put all your faith and how will it grow."
I put that random purchase of mine to task.

Long live Eddie Vedder!

And the GPS screen showed this - 65 km ride up into the mountains!


The delay.
We were enthusiastic but we were also super hungry. One thing led to another, and we found ourselves getting super late for the trip. The original plan was to leave at 3pm, by 4:10 we were still in a small coffee shop, sipping iced lemon tea. So much for our first ride up into the mountains!
Anyway, we packed our stuff, put the helmets where they belonged and throttled up the beasts.

An hour later, we were again having tea, but this time in the mountains. Oh my love for recurrent tea breaks while biking knows no bounds!

The Indian Army Fan Club.
One day before all this happened, both Pranav and I had done some bro-shopping at Pune Decathlon - you know, this pair of running shorts... that hell of a wind cheater etc. We both had gotten two full sleeve t shirts with the Indian Army camouflage design. And we both wore that to the Lavasa trip. a few jokes later, we named our pack 'Indian Army Fan Club Riders'. Wannabe stuff, but it stuck like all wannabe stuff.  Yeah, what's in the name they say!

Now you know the secret behind #IndianArmy FC in the title!


Lavasa bike trip - A couple hair pin turns too many.

The road remained good for almost 2/3rd of the trip. Then things began to fall apart. Next thing I knew, my GPS holder (with my darling nexus 5 phone) spun off on the road from the bike. Thank God neither did it roll off the hill, nor come under the tyres of other vehicles. I promptly put the phone back where it belonged to. Inside my jeans pocket. As we reached up, hair pin turns started appearing more frequently. Things did get tough on a couple of occasions but we managed our way!
 "Darling, let me show you the hair-pin trick". (Opens the lock.)

"The North Remembers."


Make photographs while the Sun shines.
And we finally reached a high point from where the entire Lavasa could be seen. Sun was setting faster. Time for us to get some quick snaps!
Mathur looks like Danny Denzongpa.

Wine colored days.

Almost posing in front of a painted landscape. Almost.

Lavasa - The night of colors.
Finding a budget one night stay in Lavasa can be tough. Fortunately not the case for us. We managed an easy access to Lavasa clubhouse's landscaped amphi-theatre. A beautiful open sky amphitheater with the lake forming the backdrop of the stage. And distant colored lights making hazy images in the water.
Writer's note: The activitied & discussions that went on till late night/ early morning on that amphi-theater have been censored. Jai Gajendra Chauhan. 

When the stage in front goes in the background.

 What the dawn revealed.

All things good come to an end.
Time had come to return back to our senses. And bikes. And senses. We had come to the clubhouse in awe. We left in awe. Beautiful it was. Everywhere!
A colorful morning with a promising return bike trip ahead!

One for the road!

A sunny, happy, chirpy morning in the mountains.

Epilogue.
Return trip was faster than what we had expected. As I rode up and down the mountains with blind turns and known hair pin bends, they all seemed way more familiar than they should have been. The sun shone bright on the horizon, rising & getting stronger by the second. Cool winds made the head bands useful and brushed past our cheeks, as we made our way back to the Pune city.

I realized how much sense it all made - taking my bike from Mumbai to Pune and then to Lavasa. A good break from all the monotonous shades of a corporate life. I promised to myself I'd cruise more. 
And more often.

Cheers!
Alok 
Pune - April 10th 2016

P.S. The Pahadon waali Maggi should not be forgotten. It fed the Indian Army FC Riders well. Three glasses down to the Pahadon wali Maggi.












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The Motorcycle diaries - #3 Mumbai to Pune on NH4

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Maintaining any kind of blog is cumbersome. A travel one at that, even more so. One, the job world robs you of (m)any such traveling chances, two the lethargy that sets in after a rare travel or two kills the rest of the scribbling mood.

Anyway, beating all that and a hiatus that has seemed to have spanned a couple of centuries, here we are - aS travel tales are back, with an additional flavor of motorcycle grease (I know. Bad pun; in my defense, didn't i say I was on a hiatus?).
And so I re-start with my recent joyride from Mumbai to Pune on my Faisalwa- Bajaj 220 Avenger.

Faisalwa eyeing Dum Biryani midway. (More pics below) 
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 The analysis paralysis.

So many reviews on the internet about biking route maps from Mumbai to Pune and all too confusing! I remember having thought of taking my bike along for a spin whenever I went to Pune in the last year, and that has been like at least 7-8 times. Each time I would read some 4-5 reviews, contemplate the pros and cons of a bike ride on highways and end up taking one of those "cool cabs". All the blogs talked about how you have to make sure you never touch the Mumbai Pune Expressway, how you would anyways touch the Mumbai Pune Expressway, how you would have to have a good eye on the signboards how you should never assume and how you could be fined by the cops for riding a two wheeler where it ain't allowed. And of course there is worse.

I don't think travelogues should discourage travelers.

The Go.
And one fine day (Gudi Padwa I guess), I had had enough! I just took my riding gloves, my helmet, my keys and hit the road on Faisalwa. Simple as that! Let's tackle one signal at a a time, let's tackle one sign-board at a time, like the Kapur son had said recently to his father. I understand pro-bikers will remark that Mumbai-Pune bike trip is no big deal; the thing to remember here is, I have never rode for more than 30 km at a stretch, and we are talking about some 155 odd kilometers.

The Route. The Rule.
 One thing I really like about Maharashtra in general and Mumbai in particular is that there is always a sort of discipline in everything they do. There is always a rule for everybody to follow. And if you find yourself walking in the wrong 'lane' on the pedestrian part of an overbridge, you'd often hear "Mumbai mein naya aaela hai kya?"

Anyway, the rule of the game here is, there is a route parallel to the much hallowed Mumbai Pune Expressway, partly formed by the NH4 and Old Mumbai Pune Highway and partly by other side-roads. It's a biker's delight. The heavy vehicles (also, most cars) would never tread this route (for it's longer) and the bikers would stay away from the expressway for obvious and legal reasons.

TL;DR? Zoom this pic and ride off.
Above is the route I took. From Dadar in Mumbai to Koregaon Park in Pune. Took me some 4 hours to size it up. If you're a biker who has reached this blog only to get gyaan on the Mumbai Pune bike trip, here's where you should have scrolled to directly instead of reading all the arbit speculations above. ;)

One more thing before we begin. Here's the google maps link for the trip: http://bit.ly/1Sa3GwV . All the Mumbai Pune Bike trip blogs I read had failed me here. You can read all the warnings and suggestions and get even more confused or you could just hit this link and ride off. And no, this is not what you'll get by default if you search yourself on maps. No option there to disable the expressway but keep the highway. I had to manually add all the places I rode through, in retrospection. Thank me later. ;)

1. From Dadar to Panvel Naka: Easy peasy. Reach RK Studios. Take whichever route that strikes your chords. Then head on to Sion Panvel highway - keep on driving, you'll hit NH4 at the Panvel Naka. A friendly advice: After you reach Panvel, go hunting for the McD in Panvel. No, McD hasnt paid me for this. While doing that, you'll avoid the flyover which will directly take you to the mouth of the expressway. And McCafe has been good lately. ;)

2. From Panvel Naka to Lonavala: Stick to NH4 like it's your long lost love. It will take you home. Well, almost! When you reach Lonavala, you'd suddenly be betrayed by her and would find yourself driving right on the cruel expressway! Ignore the infidelity and drive on for 6-7 kms (highlighted in yellow on the map above). Take the Lonavala exit ramp and hug the AH47 now. She's a beauty with her curves. She's amazing.

3. Lonavala to Pune: Keep hugging AH47 and pass through Vadgaon. I had tea there. Bad tea. You may choose to move on. You'll reach Dehu Road. A tea here, maybe?

What's riding without those recurrent tea-breaks? Thank God those Tapris littered around, almost everywhere.

Now where you ask? Well, keep pressing the accelerator and you'd cross Pimpri Chinchwad and then the old Mumbai Pune Highway will do the rest.

Epilogue.
You may think what's so special in a regular Mumbai Pune roadshow. To me it did an interesting thing- it unlocked another degree of freedom for me - the one to long cruises on Faisalwa, and the realization that online reviews for bike trips are needlessly scary. And mostly boring. ( Does that apply to this one too? You decide.)

Anyway, here are some happy memories of the trip:

The Five Pointed star just doing it.

 Chaai with a Chick. (in background)


 Curves ahead.

 "Aaja Shaam hone aayi" "Oh no!"

In sharp contrast to Mumbai Pune Expressway.


 Cheers!
Alok
Pune - April 10th 2016

P.S. - This trip soon led to a more challenging one to Lavasa and back (a 130 km bike-ride into the mountains of the Maha Rashtra.) Will blog soon about that. I hope. :)

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Why are Indian brands going ga-ga over Dubsmash!

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#SocialKiAankh

Dubsmash used to be the new cool kid on the block. Not anymore. While most of us were finding it difficult to raise our gazes from the constant, pestering whatsapp notifications on our devices, Dubsmash was busy becoming the darling of Indian marketers. 

So what happened? We'll get there. First a couple of cases in point:

1. #Shopeepaah - Gaurav Gera doing ads for Titli, Shandaar, Pepsi, Pyar ka panchnaama 2, hike messenger, Big Magic Channel and basically everything that can be sold. He's serious about the selling business. He's a 'shopkeeper', after all. 

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Long live Kalam

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What I will be remembered for.. my memory of the last day with the great Kalam sir...
(From the pen of Dr Kalam's close aide Srijan Pal Singh)




It has been eight hours since we last talked – sleep eludes me and memories keep flushing down, sometimes as tears. Our day, 27th July, began at 12 noon, when we took our seats in the flight to Guhawati. Dr. Kalam was 1A and I was IC. He was wearing a dark colored “Kalam suit”, and I started off complimenting, “Nice color!” Little did I know this was going to be the last color I will see on him.

Long, 2.5 hours of flying in the monsoon weather. I hate turbulence, and he had mastered over them. Whenever he would see me go cold in shaking plane, he would just pull down the window pane and saw, “Now you don’t see any fear!”.

That was followed by another 2.5 hours of car drive to IIM Shillong. For these two legged trip of five hours we talked, discussed and debated. These were amongsthundreds of the long flights and longer drives we have been together over the last six years. 

As each of them, this was as special too. Three incidents/discussions in particular will be “lasting memories of our last trip”. 

First, Dr. Kalam was absolutely worried about the attacks in Punjab. The loss of innocent lives left him filledwith sorrow. The topic of lecture at IIM Shillong was Creating a Livable Planet Earth. He related the incident to the topic and said, “it seems the man made forces are as big a threat to the livability of earth as pollution”. We discussed on how, if this trend of violence, pollution and reckless human action continues we will forced to leave earth. “Thirty years, at this rate, maybe”, he said. “You guys must do something about it… it is going to be your future world”

Our second discussion was more national. For the past two days, Dr. Kalam was worried that time and again Parliament, the supreme institution of democracy, was dysfunctional. He said, “I have seen two different governments in my tenure. I have seen more after that. This disruption just keeps happening. It is not right. I really need to find out a way to ensure that the parliament works on developmental politics.” He then asked me to prepare a surprise assignment question for the students at IIM Shillong, which he would give them only at the end of the lecture. 

He wanted to them to suggest three innovative ways to make the Parliament more productive and vibrant. Then, after a while he returned on it. “But how can ask them to give solutions if I don’t have any myself”. For the next one hour, we thwarted options after options, who come up with his recommendation over the issue. We wanted to include this discussion in our upcoming book, Advantage India. 

Third, was an experience from the beauty of his humility. We were in a convoy of 6-7 cars. Dr. Kalam and I were in the second car. Ahead us was an open gypsy with three soldiers in it. Two of them were sitting on either side and one lean guy was standing atop, holding his gun. One hour into the road journey, Dr. Kalam said, “Why is he standing? He will get tired. This is like punishment. Can you ask a wireless message to given that he may sit?” I had to convince him, he has been probably instructed to keep standing for better security. He did not relent. We tried radio messaging, that did not work. 

For the next 1.5 hours of the journey, he reminded me thrice to see if I can hand signal him to sit down. Finally, realizing there is little we can do – he told me, “I want to meet him and thank him”. Later, when we landed in IIM Shillong, I went inquiring through security people and got hold of the standing guy. I took him inside and Dr. Kalam greeted him. He shook his hand, said thank you buddy. “Are you tired? Would you like something to eat? I am sorry you had to stand so long because of me”. The young lean guard, draped in black cloth, was surprised at the treatment. He lost words, just said, “Sir, aapke liye to 6 ghante bhi khade rahenge”. 

After this, we went to the lecture hall. He did not want to be late for the lecture. “Students should never be made to wait”, he always said. I quickly set up his mike, briefed on final lecture and took position on the computers. As I pinned his mike, he smiled and said, “Funny guy! Are you doing well?” ‘Funny guy’, when said by Kalam could mean a variety of things, depending on the tone and your own assessment. It could mean, you have done well, you have messed up something, you should listen to him or just that you have been plain na├»ve or he was just being jovial. Over six years I had learnt to interpret Funny Guy like the back of my palm. This time it was the last case. 

“Funny guy! Are you doing well?” he said. I smiled back, “Yes”. Those were the last words he said. Two minutes into the speech, sitting behind him, I heard a long pause after completing one sentence. I looked at him, he fell down. 

We picked him up. As the doctor rushed, we tried whatever we could. I will never forget the look in his three-quarter closed eyes and I held his head with one hand and tried reviving with whatever I could. His hands clenched, curled onto my finger. There was stillness on his face and those wise eyes were motionlessly radiating wisdom. He never said a word. He did not show pain, only purpose was visible. 

In five minutes we were in the nearest hospital. In another few minutes the they indicated the missile man had flown away, forever. I touched his feet, one last time. Adieu old friend! Grand mentor! See you in my thoughts and meet in the next birth. 

As turned back, a closet of thoughts opened. 

Often he would ask me, “You are young, decide what will like to be remembered for?” I kept thinking of new impressive answers, till one day I gave up and resorted to tit-for-tat. I asked him back, “First you tell me, what will you like to be remembered for? President, Scientist, Writer, Missile man, India 2020, Target 3 billion…. What?” I thought I had made the question easier by giving options, but he sprang on me a surprise. “Teacher”, he said. 

Then something he said two weeks back when we were discussing about his missile time friends. He said, “Children need to take care of their parents. It is sad that sometimes this is not happening”. He paused and said, “Two things. Elders must also do. Never leave wealth at your deathbed – that leaves a fighting family. Second, one is blessed is one can die working, standing tall without any long drawn ailing. Goodbyes should be short, really short”. 

Today, I look back – he took the final journey, teaching, what he always wanted to be remembered doing. And, till his final moment he was standing, working and lecturing. He left us, as a great teacher, standing tall. He leaves the world with nothing accumulated in his account but loads of wishes and love of people. He was a successful, even in his end. 

Will miss all the lunches and dinners we had together, will miss all the times you surprised me with your humility and startled me with your curiosity, will miss the lessons of life you taught in action and words, will miss our struggles to race to make into flights, our trips, our long debates. You gave me dreams, you showed me dreams need to be impossible, for anything else is a compromise to my own ability. The man is gone, the mission lives on. Long live Kalam.

Your indebted student,
Srijan Pal Singh

(The post has been taken from Srijan Pal Singh's Facebook wall)


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Masaan - Poetry of 'bambooed' pyres.

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A good friend of mine had once defined a made up word 'sonder' for me. 

sonder

n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness.
Masaan reminded me of this quaint word. Two stories, both of love, bereavement and acceptance run parallely, in the literal sense of the word. The open end is like the infinity where parallel lines intersect. Or not, for infinity is as abstract as life.



Personally, my optimism found Masaan to be a prequel of an endearing love story.
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Piku and Margarita With A Straw: A collective review of sorts

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"It reminded me of my relationship with my father" said our bachelorette Bengali professor for whom Piku, the movie was relatable at all levels. Creative people go berserk. It is the quintessential aspect that makes them creative. This subtle nuance is visible in Architect Piku's (Deepika Padukone) behaviour and her entire character sketch (her limits of patience, her fears and how they relate to her attitude) reveals itself gradually as the taxi progresses. It is almost like watching an artist make a figurine. You can stand there for hours and keep appreciating every stroke being smudged on the canvas.In that similar fashion, you keep appreciating Piku while it lasts, but it won't stay with you for long like the hangover Margarita With A Straw gives you.


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aS Featured: The Lost Bride

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One who reads, writes. As promised, We keep bringing to you 'aS featured' where we publish select ‘arbit speculations’ submitted by our readers to us. Ujjwal Raghuvanshi brings to you a heart wrenching piece of poem this poetry month. Do you think you might have some long lost poem kept somewhere that might be worth featuring? Send it in to arbitspecs@googlegroups.com. We're waiting, poets!

Door was ajar, waiting for the eonian night to end.                                  

Window was still, heralding the arrival of the moonlit breeze.
Still as the sun, she laid, her face trying hard to deceive the phantasms of her mind.

“Pas, laisse-moi” shot through the silence, she fell of the lair.
Once a pleasant face of a bride was now contorted with hapless fear.

Beads of sweat rolled down her marble skin; a shiver ran down her spine.
She knew her time was coming lest her conscience believed it.

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Basics of basically

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Sitting in the midst of my interim thesis viva presentation, I couldn't help but listen to the plethora of basicallies spewed into the air by everyone while speaking. Intrigued by this, and inspired by this fad of writing pretentious articles analyzing indicators of forever ensuing trends (even when you don't know shit about it) an arbitSpeculation had to arise out of the attic.

Follow this link if you're the kind of reader who does. http://bit.ly/Ak7Fle
If not, I won't basically define basically for you, but I will embed this oh-so-geeky graph of the usage of the word.

[insert random quote that sounds pretty impressive]
Orwell wrote: "If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought."

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In case you wondered, why the Yepme delivery box in #MaukaMauka ad 4!

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So the #MaukaMauka series of advertisements goes on with the winning spree of the Indian team. While I'm totally loving the fact that India has had a hat-trick of impressive wins already, I was a bit disappointed with the fourth ad in the series, this time against West Indies.

The ad is surprisingly weak and apologetic in establishing any emotional connect unlike its predecessors, but what disappointed me the most was the almost random Brand placement of Yepme.com! A little googling (news) up and I found out the real reason why!


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