Tag Archives: srk

Grandpops didn’t know you had cheese fries

Of all the photos that I took in Delhi, this one surprised my grandfather the most.

“This is another one of your jokes, Dave,” he scoffed, turning from my computer screen to glare at me. “Are there really Ruby Tuesday’s in India?”

Grandpops wasn’t alone in his shock at seeing a familiar brand in an unfamiliar place. I myself had no idea Ruby Tuesday’s would be in India until I first set foot in the GK II market.  Which is why, in fact, I took that picture in the first place.

And remembering Grandpops’ reaction reminds me of why I felt the Slumdog Millionaire controversy in 2009 was so misguided. People called it ‘poverty porn, with one blogger chiding it as “a collection of clichés from the Third World’s underbelly for the viewing pleasure of a First World audience.” And while it’s true that Americans are fascinated by foreign poverty (even though we’re blind to it on our own shores), there’s something the critics of Slumdog misunderstood: the movie actually did introduce Americans to a side of India we’d never seen before.

Not the slums, but the skyscrapers.

The modern side of the country. Most Americans had no idea that India had televisions and game shows and popular culture; we certainly had no idea that India has two homegrown Regis Philbins!

I remember one Thanksgiving in the early 2000s, long before I ever visited India, when my grandmother made a “final answer” joke at the dinner table. Every one of us — from nineteen to ninety — laughed at her joke. And then we all marveled that there was an aspect of our culture that all generations could share.

None of us had any idea, though, that 7,200 miles to the east, there were a billion more people who would have laughed along with Grandma — much less that those billion were also discovering that Ruby Tuesday’s “Thai Phoon shrimp” doesn’t quite look on the plate like it does on the menu.

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an open letter to our omniscient friend, Shahrukh Khan

(Astute readers will remember when we stumbled upon SRK. The letter below details what we now know to be the TRUE meaning of that experience.)

Dear Shahrukh,

I use your first name because I see us on intimate terms.

That’s not because you’re the spokesperson for every single brand that has ever advertised in India, though. No, it’s because you and your marketing people invested millions of rupees to target my wife and I in your most clever image campaign to date.

Money well spent, I’d say. It’s amazing how perfectly your team pinpointed our habits.

You knew that Jenny and I would use that pleasant February morning to wander an area of Delhi we hadn’t yet explored.

You knew we’d stop to gape at the ice factory.

And you also knew we’d stop again to write in the dust on a nearby car.

These conclusions were critical to your strategy, because they predicted the exact moment when we’d reach Lala Hardev Sahai Marg. With that knowledge, you knew exactly when to flip on the red light so we would impatiently turn down Zorawar Singh Marg instead.

Which meant you knew exactly when to clear away the clouds so that we’d walk under the trees to avoid the sun.

Which is where you knew to place your ads.

What perfect research your team did! You’d learned that your Om Shanti Om posters had imprinted your ab muscles so indelibly into our skulls that we’d conditioned ourselves to ignore all subsequent posters of you. Which is why you chose NOT to hang a poster, but instead to drape strips of film over those trees in the exact configuration we were sure to notice.

khan

Just as you predicted, we stopped. Just as you predicted, we saw your face. Just as you predicted, we took pictures.

And now, just as you predicted, I’m praising your cleverness on our blog.

You, sir, are a marketing genius. You, sir, are the king of all media. You, sir, are—

Wait.

What if… what if this article isn’t your goal at all? What if this whole thing has been a clever campaign… to reach whoever is reading these words right now?

Reader! You’re reading this because Shahrukh KNEW you’d read it!

Did you just scratch your nose? Shahrukh knew you’d do that, too!

You have to ask yourself: what else does Shahrukh know you’re going to do? And what does Shahrukh want from YOU?

Shahrukh, I’m frightened by your omniscience. I want to cower under my desk. Except… you already knew that, didn’t you? Who knows what you have waiting for me under there?

Your unwilling pawn,

Dave Prager

the loneliest walla I: the auto driver

I’ve been doing some writing for a brand new blog/magazine/community called The India Tube. My first essay is now online. More to come!

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The Loneliest Wallah (I): The Auto Driver
by Dave Prager

Originally published on The India Tube

All the autorickshaws in Delhi appear to have their genesis in the same factory, for all are exactly identical. Before their labor-intensive customization. Variation comes in accouterments added by aesthetically-minded drivers: Shah Rukh and Kareena looking equally sultry in heart-shaped stickers on either side of the rear-view mirror, or life-sized cutouts of scandalously-clad heroines tucked behind the clear vinyl that protects the auto’s side panels and passenger seat from the sweat of a thousand sitters.

More than once I’ve been scared silly by the sudden appearance of a face when I turn my head to see what street I’m on: a starlet I didn’t notice is suddenly pursing her lips at me, a poster positioned there not to promote a movie but to keep a driver company while he spends the night,as auto drivers often do, on the side of the road, bare feet dangling outside, head resting comfortably on a fantasy’s two-dimensional lap.

Imagine if his loneliness was yours: you negotiate fares all day long, but you talk to no one at all. You try to meet a passenger’s eyes in your mirror, but all you see is a set-jaw profile looking anywhere but at you, or a steely glare warning you not look any more.

Confronted with the solitude of the service professional, you too would take refuge in Salman’s biceps or Priyanka’s neckline. Each of them would tell you what you want to hear, if only paper could talk; neither of them will ever ask you to put your eyes back on the road.

unexpected, even for SRK

Shahrukh Khan is everywhere. We’re not talking about his ads or his movies, either, even though his face makes me and a billion others run out and buy Pepsi, Compaq, DishTV, Linc Pens, and Emami Fair and Handsome Fairness Cream (the ad for which makes every  post-colonial liberal feel guilty and ashamed, even without understanding the dialogue), and a hundred other products.

No, this weekend we spotted SRK’s beautiful face hanging from trees on a some random street during a wander through North Delhi. You had to look close to see it, though.

khan

It’s Shahrukh’s most subtle ad campaign to date. We like it.