Spotlight (#5 of 52)

I generally try my very best these days to not read reviews or detailed discussions about movies before I watch them, I’ve started to feel they take away from the charm of discovering a movie. A short teaser is ideal, a long trailer is fine as well but the problem with a review is that it passes judgement which then creates pre-conceived notions in your own mind.

With Spotlight, I did read a review by Raja Sen before I watched the movie. I actually wasn’t aware of this movie until I was scrolling through one of those Oscar Contender discussions somewhere on the internet where this name came up. I googled it to realise it was releasing this very weekend. Since I knew nothing about it, I read this review – which gushed effusively about it BTW – and it seemed like my kind of movie (yeah, I can’t explain that – only feel it).

So I may have made up my mind to like it even before I watched it perhaps. I used to think this paints me into a corner in my mind perhaps but have recently realised that even this is no guarantee of not being disappointed (Star Wars VII, I’m looking at you). I think reading a review here helped me understand the context to the movie better, the culture of Boston, the realistic nature of how the profession of journalism is shown on screen. So to read reviews or not – well the jury is still out on that one.

But Spotlight, as I have said on another platform – is exactly how I like my movies – medium rare. Medium because the tenor of the movie is exquisitely balanced, there is only 1 scene where a character kind of loses it -the rest is how everyday life is, how people go about their jobs, how things are avoided, swept under the carpet, probed, nudged and eventually resolved. Rare because it picks takes you to a world, an issue that you may not know too much about except for what the tabloids screamed out and gives you a detailed lowdown into the world and the issue.

Journalism is not a sexy attractive profession but one which involves a lot of hard work, cold calling, filling up reams of paper, copying data from one source to the other and filling up Excel sheets. I’ll remember that the next time I complain about not being a ‘strategic partner’.

By eschewing any kind of melodrama, the realisticness of the movie is never compromised allowing you to completely transport yourself to Boston at the turn of the millennium. The lighting, the cinematography and the ambiance is perfect – I think crucial to distinguish a movie like this from a documentary. This a movie which the director puts on slow burn and allows to simmer as we go towards a denouement which has many everyday conflicts, and pseudo villains lurking in the background but no bad guy in house or an uncalled for twist.

For those not up on steak analogies – and cool as they may sound, even I’m not, who am I kidding – Spotlight is a perfectly brewed cup of tea for a balmy winter evening. Doesn’t promise more. Doesn’t deliver less. 5 stars.

★★★★★

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Albert Podell – Around the World in 50 years (#4 of 26)

Date of Purchase (Delivery): 17th January 2016
Date of Completion : 21st February 2016

Sometimes the story behind why you end up reading a book is just as interesting as the book itself. Well okay, perhaps not ‘just as interesting’ but it can be pretty interesting nonetheless…

My first tryst with Albert Podell, the author of ‘Around the World in 50 years’ was while reading this article online : The Hardest Places in the World to Visit

It’s an intersting article but what I think made me really kicked about this were the comments where Podell toed the fine line between giving insightful answers and hawking his book. I’m a bit of a lapsed-geography nut so it seemed interesting.

As young men and women from this entitled generation with high disposable incomes are wont to do, I looked up the book on amazon.in and the usual Indian e-commerce websites to order it without moving my rear. Suprise, surprise – weren’t available. A bit of digging did show the book to be available on the international (or American) versions. Did I really want to buy this that badly? There are a ton of books I buy which I don’t even read – this could so easily end up that way. But oh well, what’s the point of having coming from a nation of 1.2 billion who generously deposits a portion across the world if you can’t use it when you need to? So I asked my brother if he would be kind enough to buy this for me (and is this an expensive price, which converted into poor ol’ INRs it did seem to be). He agreed, a couple of months later sent it over with someone who was travelling to the motherland (haah, surely we’re not paying for international courier!) and a couple of months later that book found its way across the country from 1 metropolis to another.
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As the tale above would summarise, there was a fair deal of pressure after the effort put in to actually read the book and not consign it to the ‘will be read’ section of that boutique book-shelf that we have. I was reading something else at that point of time (Fredrick Forsyth’s autobiography I believe). On finishing that, I picked up this and read the first chapter – which left me with raised eyebrows and not too impressed. I was beginning to fear an escalation of commitment similar to Graham Greene. Nonentheless, a weekend later I did manage to pick it up and although it took a couple of weeks to do justice to, my earlier apprehensions were more than suitably put to rest.

The concept of Around the World in 50 years is simple. This was a guy who wanted to visit every country on earth. Definitions of ‘visit’ and ‘country’ kept aside – which were quite fair, this is a tougher journey than you’d expect. Podell doesn’t necessarily go chronologically – except at the beginning and towards the end as he starts checking countries off – but takes readers through a reasonably coherent highlight reel.

There are a few things which really really worked for this book for me. The first was that I love geography – especially political geography if that’s a term and this was a wonderful way to revise, remember and look up how our world really is. Quite a lot of people like to travel. A few of them might like to rough it out as Mr. Podell does while others may prefer to yacht around – to each his own (I’m really trying to be less judgmental). Point is most of us will not be able to. We will face hindrances in terms of work commitments, family responsibilities and most of all, the unassailable one – which is a lack of money, especially when you’re not earning in US Dollars (tell me Big Al’, does Playboy magazine pay that well?).

The next best alternative is therefore to live through these experiences vicariously. We clutch at stories from people whom we know who visited distant lands and their descriptions. Podell helps us along this journey. The style is conversational, the perspective is first-world enough to relate to (yes, even we in 3rd world countries live lifestyles closer to the 1st world than our brothers closer home) while not being outdated or elitist (well except for the Potty Paper Rating stuff – you need to understand after a 196 countries that no toilet paper is not necessarily unclean or an indicator of poverty, and is definitely better than bad toilet paper). It is therefore the closest way to vicariously travel most of the world in around 5 hours unless you want to watch documentaries about the each nation on earth.

This is also an educational experience. I really enjoyed the fact that the author seemed to have a strong understanding of the politico-economic scenarios of wherever he visited, took time out to find out and share in this book the background, how the nation and the people have changed, details about languages, flora and fauna, roads, historical points of interests and his 2 cents as well. I find a lot of travel and tourism to be check-marky : go here, see this, do that and fly back home. This is more than that – it’s well written thanks to the army of editors, the vocabulary used is befitting the editor of an illustrious magazine and wherever explanations are provided – are with depth and reasoned out. I’m not saying there isn’t any subjectivity involved – this isn’t an encyclopedia – but it’s balanced subjectivity, without too much political correctness either. Where else would you find out about how Nauru was destroyed by phosphate mining, about species such as the pygmy hippo and large lemur’s in Madagascar, waterfalls in South America, voodoos in Togo, difficulties in getting to a lot of places (air travel still does not cover as much of the world as easily as one imagines!), why various countries are paranoid about giving out visas and many more. Sit down with a laptop to Google, keep an atlas handy and this will be an enlightening read.

One of the peeves that I originally had was that this only seemed to touch on certain parts of the world – the more exotic and challenging ones if you may – but then to restrict the manuscript from a 1000 page tome to a readable 300 odd page book, some compromises are inevitable. Some of the experiences do seem a little exaggerated, however am willing to ignore as well. The one thing that however did get my goat – and this may seem like nitpicking – was that on the one place where I did no something about I saw errors. And that kind of made me question the credibility of the rest of the work as well. Referring to Mizoram as ‘Metoram’ – surely any half decent editor or a Google check could correct this for you, the variety of spellings of Dhaka (I know he joked about it but still…) and putting all the North East states of India under the bucket of ‘likely to secede’ (Sikkim, really?) makes one wonder how much of the rest is heresy as well.
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Definitely not a ‘Crocodile Dundee’ on steroids – I don’t see someone who doesn’t enjoy trivia or esoteric geography to like this book. If you do however, it’s an absolute delight – one that will encourage you to travel more and teach you a lot on the way.

Entertainment Quotient : ★★★★
Education Quotient : ★★★★★
Readability : ★★★★

Neerja (#4 of 52)

I was less than blown away by how Neerja began. The disclaimer is well – a product of the times we live in I guess. I thought the society party in Mumbai they showed seemed more like 1996 than 1986. Thought the proud, affectionate and super-protective parents part in the first 15 odd minutes was overdone. The love angle seemed a bit – well jarring. Rajesh Khanna seemed shoved down our throats. And the scenes in Pakistan seemed like a Control C + Control V from one of the thousand odd Hollywood + Bollywood movies referencing terror since Islamic terrorism has become a peripheral figure in the modern world.

Having said that, these scenes do set the context for the next bit of the movie. And once the flight takes off the movie has you hooked. I loved the fact that there was nothing outrageously unrealistic (well, except for those couple of scenes where gun-toting nutcases agree to allow you the freedom to ‘farz nibhaana’ because you spoke to them sternly, but I’m nitpicking already). The flashback scenes with the abusive husband – never over the top – more is said by showing less. The quick unfolding of the drama, the sincere yet botched attempts at negotiation with the terrorists, the dynamics of the terrorists themselves, the way the family reacts at home – all fit in with each other, adding to the core storyline without excessively masalo-fying it. The denoument at the end was a bit confusing and sudden, but that’s probably true in itself.

The much maligned Sonam Kapoor is really good wherever she doesn’t have to overdo the histrionics. She looks, seems and fits into the composed airhostess mode like Cinderella’s lost slipper. One of the villain’s – the one who goes a bit loco – really stands out. And Shabhana Azmi – wow – now I know why that reputation is what it is. Loved the father and the two brothers as well – small but really well played roles (and the Hindustan Times office of 1986 – felt that felt perfectly as it would in that time). The length at a pinch over 2 hours seems just right as well.

If a movie is to be rated by how much it moved you, Neerja would squeeze every star out of every reviewer in the country. I personally can’t ever recall at have ever shed so many tears in a movie hall (OK – sobbed a bit too!). Sure the team has milked these scenes to a maximum (the speech at the end for one), but they never felt overcooked and they were very very impactful. And a couple of songs which will be remembered way way beyond 2016.

Some minor nitpicking aside, another great watch. The fact that it’s based on a real story despite shifty disclaimers, is only a fitting cherry on the tribute cake. A solid 4 stars here – just try to not sniff your way out of this one.

★★★★

The Big Short (#3 of 52)

Once upon a time, watching movies at home on your computer (laptop/desktop/whatever) was supposed to be the next big thing. With various convenient formats (CDs/DVDs/USBs – take your pick based on how old you are) each of which was the next big thing, I guess people imagined it’d be doomsday for the cinema hall owners.

Well that hasn’t quite happened has it? In fact as I’ve grown older (and I like to think of myself as a reasonably early adopter-ish representative of my generation), I’ve actually found myself watching lesser and lesser movies at home. Sure you occasionally catch bits and pieces of something on TV but I’m not counting that unless I ‘block time’ to use corporate parlance and watch it from end to end. I have the broadband connection, the 1 terabyte hard disk, the laptop lying around the house but I can’t recall the last time I was keen to watch a movie outside a cinema hall unless I was travelling.

Part of this is probably because once you start working you can afford to visit the uber expensive multiplexes of modern Indian cities more often, but I think the other reason is the millions of distractions at home. Sure there will be these when you’re staying with a large family at home and there’s a common desktop computer which four people are vying for but even if I’m home alone these days – I find them to be too many what with the smartphones, TV sets, messengers, emails and your laundry-man ringing the doorbell right when the shower-curtain is about to be pulled back by the masked murderer on screen. Oh for the escape to a dark sanctum where you’re on your own and thoroughly ‘engaged’ (HR speak again [:-/]) is something which can’t be replicated.

So I’ve realised there’re two categories of movies which I’ll probably end up watching at home – the one’s which don’t release in India (or get a mainstream release, a 600 rupee ticket at PVR Ambience does not count) and the second one which I’m toying with adding now – those with too many cuts which may take away from the experience of watching it in a cinema hall. ‘The Big Short’ falls in category 1 I’m guessing. This movie had an entertaining promo but also had real potentials to ‘learn from’ which I’m embarrassed to say is what excites me these days.

It is essential to now not throw away whatever I learnt, so I intend to break down the story of the movie for me in great detail to quickly brush up on when I forget again (never know which job interview this may come in handy ;)).

So the year is 2005 or there abouts. We’ve got three parallel tracks running. Christian Bale is Dr. Bury, a nerdy OCDish guy who is the financial equivalent of a science nerd. You have 2 younger guys (don’t know their names) who run a garage-hedge-fund and are mentored by a neurotic Brad Pitt. And you have a cocksure bank employee (Ryan Reynolds who does his usual stuff) whose dealing with Steve Caroll (wonderfully different role) who is a righteous yet slightly psychotic investment banker who also in a weird kind of way works for a big bank.

At the cost of making a fool of myself, the following is purely my understanding of what went down (note to future self: this is not necessarily right):
– Bank gives loan to people who want to buy house
– People keep house as mortgage
– Banks start to ask investors to invest money for these mortgages
– If loan fails, investor keeps the property, else he gets interest on his loan
– Bank charges a commission on this deal for putting these in connection
– Instead of individual loans, banks start to bundle up these mortgages – so that institutional customers invest money for them instead. This is called a ‘Collateralized Debt Obligation’ (right?)
– Now originally loans only given to people with good credit rating – these are ‘prime’ mortgages
– However as demand for these CDOs increase, banks start offering loans to people with not so good credit ratings. These are called sub-prime mortgages
– Each CDO made of many smaller mortgages – so even if some fail it should not affect the overall payoff
– However with time more and more poor-credit people also get loans
– There is a funda of adjustable rate as well which will kick in if the loans can’t be financed on time. So people basically taking loans to pay loans?
– No one looks at the contents of the bundled mortgages in detail assuming property rates will continue to go up
– Ratings agencies also keep giving them a high rating
Now these 3 groups above, figure this out. They also realise this a ticking time bomb by actually studying the contents of these packaged mortgages. They figure out at some point of time these loans are going to go bust. Therefore these packaged CDOs will also collapse. They therefore bet against them (don’t ask me how!) through something called ‘swaps’- this is called shorting.

– Banks create something called swaps – these will pay off if the CDOs collapse, this is essentially like insurance where you get payoff if someone dies
– However until time they keep increasing, the premium on these swaps will also keep increasing
– Over a period of times people start defaulting on loans
– Logically this means that the CDOs value should go down
– However this does not happen because for the banks this would be an admission of having screwed up
– So the rate continues to rise, premium on these swaps keeps increasing
– Ratings agencies are also ‘bought into this’ and hence they also keep rating these CDOs very highly
– People also take loans on loans – leading to something very complicated shit going down and no one knowing what it is

After a fair deal of drama, showing how corrupt and connected the system is, how much hubris the bankers and everyone involved essentially really had and how our heroes are really heroes – the collapse predicted by everyone does happen.

– This is because basically ‘the housing bubble bursts’. What this means is the value of the houses goes down. Therefore it does not make sense for the house-owners to keep paying loans on their houses, even if they default and the bank seizes the property they’re okay with it.
– The bank however is also being saddled with tons of ‘housing’ which has very little value
– This leads to the banks also bleeding and because US economy is connected to the world economy, financial Armageddon happening
– Were the banks stupid to do this? Essentially, no because they knew the governments would put in their own money and bail them out – they were too big to fail

Loved seeing a lot of the key actors in the kind of roles we don’t see them in too often. The film makes a genuine attempt to dumb things down (okay ‘simplify’ them) for the audience through a lot of breaking of the fourth-wall kind of stuff. And although it’s still probably to complicated for most average-Joe’s – it does provide an insight into the kind of humongous fraudulence that happens at that level. And also that no one really knows what is going on in Finance. Ever.

Happened to read a similar piece at the right time, about the rise and fall of the East India Company some 200 + years ago by William Dalrymple where he draws a lot of parallels between the two events, a must read to provide further perspective.

Okay, that ends today’s finance/history/geography lesson. The movie – a solid 4 stars please.

★★★★

How Recruitment works: The other side of the fence

This piece was first posted on Careerizma

For every job-hunter out there, there is but one sworn enemy. The thorn in your side, your nemesis who stands between you and that dream job. The devil incarnate who stands between you and the salary you deserve, the designation you are suited for and the wonderful perks that come with it.

Yes, it’s your not-so-friendly neighborhood recruiter from the organization you’re trying to join, also known‘that HR person’, ‘hiring manager’ and ‘talent acquisition fellow’ amongst others. The Kancha Cheema to your honest Vijay Dinanath Chauhan or the Joker to your Batman depending on how you like your movies. But there is no escaping the recruiter and dealing with them is a crucial step in succeeding in your quest, so let us take a look at the other side of the fence!

The Hiring Process

Stage 1: Open Position!

Typically, on any working morning (and on many non-working mornings as well), a recruiter at any organization will be pulled in whenever there is a ‘manpower requirement’. This is HR jargon 101 for what the rest of the world terms as a ‘vacancy’ or an open position. This may arise due to multiple reasons such as:

  • The previous employee finally cracking his dream job at the bigger, fancier office down the street and exiting.
  • The job incumbent being given, what HR teams after watching too many Hollywood movies like to call, the ‘Pink Slip’ – even though there’s no concept like this in India! Essentially terminated or asked to leave.
  • Someone getting promoted, moving internally to a new location or role or just finally giving up and retiring.
  • A geographical or business expansion where even by organizational standards, it is not possible to give the existing employees any more ‘additional challenging work’ and more people or people with a very specific skill set need to be hired.

The rules of this piece do not apply for walk-ins, job fairs and campus hiring, which are separate ball games in themselves to be played another day!

Stage 2: Need Identification

In an ideal world, the recruiter’s first step will be to understand as much as he/she can about the position that is to be filled up. This involves getting expectations from managers and leaders about the kind of work which is to be done, the skills & experience the role-holder must possess and the qualifications and the background candidate should ideally have.

Also the all-important input on how quickly they need the replacement or new hire to be on board.

Now this may not seem very difficult. However if you have any experience in a corporate environment you will know every manager worth his salt will claim that almost every position is extremely critical and urgent and as important to the success of the organization as Tendulkar once was to India’s cricket fortunes!

Of course, every replacement must be a ‘potential future leader’, with every skill from the ability to crunch numbers on excel sheets to picking out the perfect set of flowers when the boss forgets his anniversary. Such is the expectation from the modern worker.

Scene 3: Sourcing

Armed with these inputs, the Recruiter now moves to what is commonly known as Sourcing. As the name may suggest, sourcing is identifying the right channels to procure the profiles of candidates with relevant skills and backgrounds.Typical sourcing channels today include:

Recruitment Consultants

These are independent third party organizations who work with multiple organizations – and will if one were to put it crudely – sell the candidate to the highest bidder. They maintain databases of job-seekers and when contacted by any organization, supply a pool of candidates who may have even remotely have similar profiles.

Earn revenue from organizations on a commission basis – either a fixed amount basis the level of the candidate or as a percentage of the offered CTC. This is therefore expensive, however recruiters always resort to consultants because they hope to get a shorter and more relevant list of candidates, since they have a reputation to uphold.

Their real advantage is that over the years, they have built their databases and hence also have links to passive candidates who may not otherwise be in the job market.

Official websites

Most organizations have a dedicated careers section on their website where they put up open positions which are in public knowledge (sometimes hiring happens on a hush-hush basis due to which openings can’t be shared openly).

Interested candidates can directly apply here with the other couple of thousand candidates who think their profile is a perfect fit for the role!

Along with filling up the CV there is also a complicated form which needs to be filled which will make you respect the entire IT returns process and the tatkal railway booking process amongst others.

This is generally linked to an even more complex recruitment system, known as Applicant Tracking Systems which thankfully as a job seeker you probably don’t have to see.

Social Media

Today, whether they use it effectively or not, every organization will have a careers page on social media. By social media of course, we refer to the Holy Trinity or Big 3 of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.

Recruiters believe this is an excellent way to communicate or spread the word free of cost using crowd-sourcing and appear hep and new age at the same time.

It has the advantage of going beyond the active job-seekers to the passive ones as well since people can share this, tag relevant potential candidates and basically bring to use a phrase – Muhammed to the Mountain.

It also however brings everyone else from Ali to Zaheer to the mountain as well, so doesn’t solve anything for the recruiter.

Job Portals

This is the modern equivalent of advertisements in newspapers from a generation ago. Today portals such as Naukri, Monster, BabaJobs are the first place recruiters run towards to put in a job-posting.

These have the advantage of a huge pool of potential candidates, and the equivalent disadvantage of allowing anyone to apply to anything they want to.

Just like matrimonial websites, these are now diversifying into more niche target audiences from iimjobs to iipmjobs, however the anyone-can-apply-for-anything rule still remains!

Referrals

Organizations look at employee referrals as a way of leveraging their existing employee base to get a pool of vetted candidates, without a significant expense.

Employees however look at this as an opportunity to finally send the CV of their neighbor’s son and that annoying second cousin who keep hounding you to help in their job hunt.

Stage 4 : Screening

From sourcing we move to screening. For reasons which may now be obvious, sourcing does not always provide a quick list of suitable candidates. Whatever the requirements are, a job-hunters always have the nothing-to-lose or let-me-at-least-apply tendency which leads to a huge number of original applications anyways.

Most job portals and applicant tracking systems shortlist or suggest relevant profiles on the basis of certain keywords, which an experienced candidate has ways of including in his CV whether relevant or not.

The end result is more often than not a mountain of 50 ‘excellent’ candidates from the consultants, around 200 notifications on Facebook and maybe even a 1000 applications on Naukri – a good deal of which are unsuitable.

Thus despite technology, most recruiters eventually fold up their sleeves and end up screening candidate applications manually.

The first stage is to weed out the extremely irrelevant applications based on their profiles and CVs. This pruned list would then be screened by quick telephone calls to establish genuine interest and broad compatibility with the location, salary and designation offered.

The end result of this is a finally a short-list or a shorter long-list from the original set of profiles.

Stage 5: Evaluating

For most recruiters, scheduling an interview is often more difficult than conducting the interview! Organizations use multiple modes along with interviews such case-studies, psychometric or aptitude tests or other activities in the hope that candidates either do something exceptionally good or exceptionally bad to help them narrow down the pool.

These may or may not be elimination rounds depending upon the nature of the role as well as the level the candidate is applying to.

Interviews however (when they are finally scheduled at the convenience of both the interviewer and the candidate!) remain the most common method of doing so.

As a rule most organizations will look to check your technical skills or suitability for a job through a Functional Interview and then evaluate how well you will fit into the role and the organization through a competency based or behavioral interview (also known as an HR interview for the rest of the world’s population).

Interviews come in many forms and sizes – so these may be combined or scheduled independently, conducted by individuals or panels, all scheduled in a day or spread out over weeks, be telephonic, over web-cam or in person. There is only one rule for interviews – Murphy’s Law will prove its existence.

Stage 6: Closing

Once a candidate is deemed suitable, clears all the basic requirements and receives a go-ahead from all the stakeholders starts the process of offer-negotiation. Sometimes, organizations prefer to do this stage as part of the HR interview itself to save time.They don’t really, but that’s another story.

This is essentially where the candidate and the recruiter channelize their internal bargaining skills honed over the years in the bazaars and fish-markets. They go back and forth on the exact salary which will be offered, various bonuses, allowances and benefits which can be squeezed in, the exact role title and level and the all-important question of ‘how quickly can you join?’.

The process of arriving at a salary figure to be offered is more a science than an art taking in inputs from external market benchmarks, salary structures of internal employees etc.

Most recruiters expect candidates to negotiate and hence there is every chance the original offer would be 5-10% below what is the maximum that can be offered, however there is not much of a bank to pay with.

Organizations try to therefore throw in sweeteners such as joining bonuses and buy-outs of notice period which are one time payments without a long term impact!

Stage 7: Pre-joining

Once the offer is closed, the next stage of the recruitment process typically involves the recruiter waiting with a bated breath, chewing on finger-nails and hoping that the candidate actually does join on the agreed upon date!

A fun fact: most recruiters are more worried than candidates in the lead up to the date of joining.

Candidates do not join due to 2 major reasons – either they are retained by their current employers (many employees use an external offer as a bargaining chip internally) or by using the interim time and available job offer they look for a new better one.

Also most such candidates will not inform the recruiter of the decision either so it is only when they refuse to take any phone calls or respond to emails on the day of joining that the penny finally drops.

This illustrates where the power centers in these relationships, which is a good opportunity to segue into the nature of the Job Market.

The Job Market

Candidates typically look as the organization (and therefore, the recruiters) as always having the upper hand in a hiring relationship. However this is generally not true. Let us equate the job market to a marketplace, once again considering campus hiring and walk-ins as different markets in every way.

The recruiter is equivalent to the ‘seller’ selling a job while a job-applicant is the ‘buyer’ who is looking for a job. Every day a position is vacant is a set-back to the seller, it is a product or inventory which remains unsold and is not earning a profit.

Consider, yourself to be a job-seeker. Depending on your situation – you may be a very active or a passive one. And whichever end of the continuum you are at – with a few exceptional situations such as where you are out of a job because your previous company closed down, or you just happened to get the boot – you will definitely have a set series of expectations before you accept any new job-offer.

These may typically be the role offered, the organization brand, the salary, benefits, team, office location, feedback about culture etc. and how all of these things compare to your current job offer. The list may vary for every Amar, Akbar and Anthony -however there will be that minimum threshold expectation for each one of them before they accept an offer.

We all know of friends and colleagues who crib and complain around the clock on how bad their job is. Yet don’t take up any of the million referrals and opportunities which are passed on to them. In most of these cases, it is because they cannot say with certainty that the opportunity is meeting their expectations or is better than where they currently are placed.

The recruiter at any organization rarely has that luxury. He/she has a position which is open and for which someone needs to be hired. And whatever the reason for this may be, there is an urgency or definite need which cannot be postponed indefinitely.

Hence contrary to the popular perception of cowboy recruiters who throw their weight around with a swagger to boot, it will very rarely happen that a recruiter will reject a candidate because his he didn’t like the shirt he wore or she didn’t like the perfume she used. It’s too much of a risk to take. What if they couldn’t find another candidate?

Most existing candidates will serve a notice period (which may vary from 1 month to 3 months) before moving on. In an ideal situation, the New Hire should thus join before the existing candidate exits, and even that with a good buffer to get the all-important ‘handover’.

No pressure, especially when this is happening for multiple candidates with multiple open positions. So job-seekers be aware that you share the driving seat just as much as the recruiter. Now go get that job opportunity which is knocking on the door!

Airlift (#2 of 52)

When I think of Akshay Kumar, I always remember a line he uttered on the inimitable Koffee with Karan a few years ago. When quizzed upon why he was involved in inane comedy after comedy instead of doing ‘quality cinema’ he’d said something to the effect of – ‘A man’s gotta feed his family… these are the kind of roles I’m offered, and therefore these are kind of roles I can do’. And also recall how on that cold Lucknowi winter evening, I’d wondered whether that was true or an excuse to avoid doing anything risky which may affect box office numbers.

With Airlift, Akshay Kumar gets more salaamis from me – which were already pretty high after starring in what I believe was one of the better masala movies of the last few years: Special 26. Make no mistake, Airlift is a fine fine movie based on true incidents(or with a real-life premise depending on what the media will have us believe), but it is Akshay Kumar’s movie. He is there in almost every frame and he does not appear out of place in any of them. His character may be a little inconsistent in his metamorphosis, but it is a minor quibble – more down to the script and direction.

The story in itself is an interesting one, an Indian Argo if you will – however more recent and on a much much larger scale. The first Gulf War breaks out with Iraq invading Kuwait. A nice history recap and a summing up of the geo-political situation in the early part of the movie without any gyaan was nice – especially for a generation of movie goers in India who’ve grown up in their own bubbles (I will never forget having to explaining to a girl while watching Madras Cafe that it was based on true incidents as well). Especially loved the introductory joke on how to fit 30 Iraqi’s into a telephone booth – intelligent humour. Maybe a lot of the audience wouldn’t get it, but shows you’re not taking the rest of them for granted.

Renjit is a big bombastic businessman settled in Kuwait City, who doesn’t really think much of India and is shown to be a not-so-nice-guy (the money-minded sorts from our older movies) through a couple of incidents with his friends and wife. A word for the song ‘Deedee‘ which probably has the most realistic video for any item number ever. Loved the details such as the singer and the band frustrated when our hero begins hijacking the scene and cavorting around, loved how he actually has to get into the song to do all of this and the expressions his pissed-off wife displays while feigning nonchalance. Anyways, back to the story where with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, their world comes crashing down. Renjit suddenly finds himself responsible for not just his family but also his employees, their relatives and pretty much the whole Indian population in a series of reasonably believable sequences. And then starts the battle to actually find their way home.

Without getting into the script in itself, it is refreshing that there are no major logical loopholes. The direction is taut and realistic – I’m sure there would have been many a temptation to throw in a few more songs, add a few more fight scenes and some twists at the end, but the restraint is admirable to stick to one fight (exaggerated but within bounds I’d say) and a couple of songs which again are not completely out of place. The protagonists are also not shown as supermen – sometimes things get resolved on their own, they break down and they do make mistakes. The rich guys stay rich, the poor guys do get angry and not everyone in the Indian government is a lazy ass.

The minor characters are a nice touch and all do their bit – Purab Kohli, George – the guy from Madras Café and Talwar, Nimrat Kaur (who I thought didn’t do her one big dialogue all that well) and the rest as well. The number of refugees seemed a little exaggerated compared to what was shown on screen, with visual aid the enormity of one lakh, seventy thousand refugees could have been conveyed better. The cinematography and realistic art direction – homes from the 1990’s, Government offices in India, the cars, even the glimpses of Baghdad from that age – was a major win for me. Very similar to the perfection I saw and enjoyed in Special 26.

After the disappointment of Wazir, an excellent beginning to 2016. I hope the success of this movie brings about more cinema based upon true-history stories there is a market and a definite need for that. See, Madras Cafe incident above. So if nothing else, here’s to a more aware society. Airlift and the upcoming Neerja on the hijacking case from 1983 can hopefully provide a fillip to that. A solid 4 stars for my couch.

★★★★

Zadie Smith – White Teeth (#1 of 26)

Date of Purchase – 11nd October 2015
Date of Completion – 4th January 2016

Started reading this book on a Shatabdi on the morning of 1st January and completed this 450 page behemoth over a 3 day long weekend vacation.

Is White Teeth a good book? Yes, probably – it ticks a lot of boxes for me. It has characters with detail, it is the product of a lot of research which means just reading the book you will learn a lot, it really gets into the immigrant experience (something I love reading about) and a dark humour based on stereotypes permeates the length of the book. So yes,a zany, educational and fun read.

Is White Teeth however a book I would recommend to someone? Grab the person next to me and go – please read this? The answer to this is no. And I had the feeling of it being something I had to get over with by page 100.

Am trying to put my finger on what exactly about did not quite work:
– Exhausting, 500 + page story. Don’t get me wrong, I love long novels however a lot of the background and the detail is purely incidental to the story. 3 generations of all the characters from varying PoVs – a detailed job for sure however beyond what most readers can digest. Needed a sharper editor for sure
– Complex plot, which meanders along and along and along : see above.
– Veering from character to character, with differing level of detail. There has to be an anchor or a central character. We start off with 2 central characters and there families, then someone like Joshua turns up and suddenly becomes super important while we completely lose a Clara whom I’m invested in. The Root Canals are especially excruciatingly difficult to relate to beyond a point..
– Am all for stereotypes, but with the exception of Arie – most of the characters ended up as completely unlikable and exaggerated and after a point of time, unreal
– Also repetitively hammering the point in, see : the O’Connors track, Jehovah’s Witness’ track

Maybe more interesting, useful and relate-able for someone with a British background. For the rest – an interesting experience without a ROI on it.

Entertainment Quotient : ★★★
Education Quotient : ★★★
Readability : ★★★