Sunday, January 29, 2012

"So, tell me about yourself"

Sounds very familiar? You have obviously attended a lot of job interviews. This is the single most annoying question that the interviewer can ask. This means the interviewer has not read your CV that you have painstakingly made after using dictionary, correcting grammar, justifying lines, asking Peter Ponnambalams about the language to be used in the covering letter and all, sending it to him/her months ago. The interviewer summa comes and asks this ondrai ana annoying koschan. I wonder what they expect you to say that is not there in the CV.

Let me confess, I love giving interviews. Unlike you less fortunate makkal who go formally attired with coattu suittu kannadi ours (the media hep types) are a little less formal and can be fun. The boss was slightly (no, verry) doped out in my very first interview ages ago. So I ended up asking more questions than he did and joined work the following day (ya that vetti, what to do?). Years later, during freelancing times, the interviews became more like cold calls when I'd land up at the door step of various production houses at Famous studios. Most of these were run by husband and wife duos where the husband was the director and the once-upon-a-time-vetti assistant director got married to him and by default became this annoying producer. So, during these interviews while he'd be busy discussing the CV, Producer Madam would be checking me out, staring to see if you are potential purushan stealer. If a Madras ponnu like me could get that looks I could only pity the olli piccchan Delhi girls.

Apart from the profile of the job, the space as in physical workspace is something that I am particular about when choosing a potential employer. Five years ago, when I was on yet another interview giving spree, had almost said a yes to this production house. In the second and almost final interview when I had to meet the team, realized that their office , a make shift apartment in the lanes of Bandra was too dingy, with hajjar assistant directors, freelance producers sharing a cramped work station, the lunch being served at the receptionist's desk and all. Konjam Pukeshwari happened! The boss out there and I were discussing the salary bit but all that was running in my head was a picture of self sitting in one of the cubicles working with twenty others wanting to pull my chair in that office! By the time I was back to reality, realized we had already agreed upon the remuneration , had said a Yes and was back home. With great difficulty I had to pull myself out giving vague reasons on why I wasn't going for the offer. Two years ago, gave an interview with the rival company to the one I am working with. The interview happened over a video conference at their Bombay office. The first impression of the office was terrible.Eerie is the word. Very boring post office employee looking boring crowd, badly lit office, cramped etc. I soooo didn't want the job there. Thankfully they never got back to me post the interview.

The aruviest part is not being interviewed but being the interviewer especially when it is

a) candidates who are in the category of sending "I want to be copywriter" CVs marked not just to you but to those in other companies as well.

b) And there are others whose work (scripts for ads) is of superlative quality when they send it across to you along with the CV. When you meet them there is one mega distance between the Amaavaasai (scripts) and the Abdul Kadar (Candidate). Don't understand why they surutufy someone else's work and post it as theirs.

c) The over smart 20 somethings who think they know it all. Have had candidates saying "Nothing. I am good at everything I do" when asked about that one thing that they think they don't do well and need a little bit of improvement / training. #onetightslap.

d) People with chipped nail polish, dirty nails.

Every once in two years, even if one is not bored of his/her job one should summa attend interviews like I do. These days, I am back in the interview circuit not summa but seriously. It is increasingly getting difficult to think of excuses to get out of (present) office for interviews. How many times can I visit the doctor every week and sound like a perpetual noyaali? How many times can I get out for "bank work" or "rental agreement registration with tenant"? But kinda managing well till now I think. These days the interview locations and those who interview have changed. Coffee shops, South Indian restaurants have replaced dingy offices. Twitter makkal have replaced faces I have seen only in afaqs articles. The one thing (but for one or two occasions) that still hasn't changed .. almost every interview starts with a "So, tell me about yourself".. arrgh!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Met A R Rahman!

It was a dream come true. Never thought I'd meet A R Rahman again, chat with him, take his autograph (yet again) on the Rockstar CD and click two lovely pictures!

Classic Incantations - The Babelsberg Film Orchestra is in India performing A R Rahman's background scores as part of the year of 'Germany in India'. "Let's make it happen!" was Rahman's one-liner sent to Dr.Marla Stukenberg (Director, Max mueller Bhavan) when she discussed the idea of the project with him, two years ago. In this five city tour, Germany's oldest film orchestra from Babelsberg are playing Rahman's famous and popular compositions arranged by the London-based conductor, orchestrator Matt Dunkley.

As media partners we were assured of an interview with Rahman and other dignitaries part of the project during the press conference in Mumbai. Honestly, I wasn't sure. There were more than 20 different crews from the electronic and print media but my colleague and I thought we'd wait and see if we could manage an interview with Rahman, when we reached the press conference on the 19th of January 2012.

The press conference started with a ten minute piece the orchestra and K M Music conservatory choir performed. What an experience! Watch it here . Here is a picture from the press preview performance.


The best part about the press conference were the strict instructions from the organizers that questions were to be only on the project and not anything else (read- Bollywood etc). But media being media had to , just HAD to ask Rahman about the Hosanna controversy . Thankfully, the organizers stepped in and requested the members of the press to avoid such questions.


(Pic above - Rahman at the press conference)

We had our questions ready for the one-on-one but still I wanted to ask Rahman a question on the project and my colleague encouraged me to since I was a little hesitant. Went ahead, introduced myself and asked Him about the pieces they were going to play at the concert and what made them choose the 15 pieces considering Rahman has composed for more than 100 films. Was super thrilled when both Rahman and Matt Dunkley answered the question.

(Pic above- Rahman at the press conference)

As soon as the press conference was over, I climbed up on stage ran behind Rahman not (just) for the one-on-one interview, but for a photograph. His trusted aide Swamidurai recognized me from a project I was a part of where Rahman played a key role . "Epdi irukkenga? Enga irukkenga?" he asked. Felt sooooo good! The organizers asked me to step aside and get into the press room for the one on one but Swamidurai called me aside when I mentioned I wanted a picture with Rahman. I sneaked in and thanks to Swamidurai, managed to click a picture with Rahman. When I wasn't sure if the picture had come out well, Rahman told Swami to click another one. My jaws dropped.. literally!


(Pic above - Rahman & I (minus 'I'))

After the picture, I hesitantly reminded Rahman about the project we had worked together way back in 1997. He gave one vague look and said "Yes I do ( from the old project and old company) and I was wondering why you mentioned a different company's name when you introduced yourself at the press conference". Jaw dropped again! Quickly took out the Rockstar CD, mentioned the songs and got his autograph. Blabbered everything I wanted to about his songs being my suprabatham to Rockstar songs to his music to.... blah blah blah ...Had to pinch myself again and again!

Post the personal interview which my colleague recorded, it was time to say tata bye bye. With the organizers around, Rahman asked my colleague and I "you are coming for the concert tomorrow right?" . We said "No Sir, no passes available.. konjam recommend pannunga". He looked up , smiled and I gave a paavam look at our client, the organizer and pleaded to give me a pass. She assured that she'd try but wasn't sure.

We thanked Rahman and left. The following day and thanks to our client and the group manager of the sales team in my office, managed two passes at the very last moment for the concert. Couldn't believe I was going to watch the concert after all the futile attempts to get passes calling Max mueller Bhavan, fb requests to Lapp India the sponsors , smsing friends etc.

It was concert time. The Mumbai concert started with the Warriors of Heaven & Earth suite. Lagaan, The Rising, Passage followed. Goose bumps when the Orchestra played 'Tamizha Tamizha' a tune very close to my heart. Navin Iyer joined the Orchestra for the Roja themes.

After full-on applause suddenly someone walked up on stage. It was Rahman himself who was greeted with non-stop applause for more than a minute. The crowd just wouldn't stop. He then played the final climax fight clip from Robot and then left it to the Orchestra and the choir ("Arima Arima") who played live for the same clip. Awesome it was!

127 hours and Lord of Rings followed before the short interval break.



(pic above - from the concert)

The concert resumed with the lovely 'Bombay' theme. Up next was an important piece. Wonder if any other composer would have ever agreed to include another composer's piece in his concert. And this is why Rahman, in my opinion is different from all the other composers, not just with his music but as a person too. The next piece was a 'Tribute to Indian composers'. It started with his father R K Shekhar's piece, followed by M S Vishwanathan's Malarndum Malarada, Illayaraja's Sendoorappoove, Salil Chowdhry, Laxmikant Pyarelal (Hero), S D Burman, Jatin Lalit's Pehla Nasha, Shankar Ehsaan Loy's Kal Ho Naa Ho (there were a few more Hindi ones). And Shankar Mahadevan was sitting as part of the audience and imagine how wonderful it must've felt for him. Watch it here .

And for him to include a fellow composer who once mentioned something on the lines of "Piano play pandravan ellam composer illai" IS something else only! As someone on twitter mentioned his mantra to choose love over hatred.Hats off to you Rahman!

And this Suite (Indian composers) ended with Rahman's compositions including "Oruvan Oruvan mudalaaLi" Missed the Madras crowd I say!

Elizabeth and my most favorite, Bose themes followed. Post the Meenaxi Suite was the much awaited Slumdog millionaire suite. Asad Ali Khan, the sitarist joined the Orchestra with the man himself A R Rahman playing the piano. Goose bumps I say !

Many thanks to the KMM choir, Babelsberg film orchestra, Soloists Kavita Baliga, Asad Ali Khan,Arun H.K, Navin Iyer, Deepiga ,Matt Dunkley and ofcourse Rahman for a magical experience yesterday.


It has been an extremely overwhelming, joyful two days. Can't quite describe the entire feeling you know. Rahman is God to me. Given a chance I'd keep his photo in the poojai room. More on the craze about Rahman and music later on another post.

Just want to thank Rahman again and again for this awesome experience. Thank you ARR!