Thursday, September 24, 2009

Humour Sans Uniform

Vinay Kanchan is a true maverick. His refreshing work "The Madness starts at 9" is an hilarious take on the glorified circus run by advertising agencies but the arresting analogies can be easily extended to just about any industry that employs people.

Employing the lethal weapon of humour, Kanchan cuts an enduring slice of pathos in his narrative - how the word "creative" is abused in umpteen forms and modes, how the workplace is a grand orcheastration of motives, how hierarchies come with unwrit rules of conduct and camaraderie and how most troubles brew - thanks to how and when you said it, not what and how you did it...

In less than 200 pages, Kanchan brings you the choicest trouble beans brewing in the agency farm as its diverse species - owners, bosses, creative, planning & media heads, client servicing folks, freshers and trainees - get involved in disparate interactions - focus-group discusssions, media reviews, interviews and appraisals.

Also starring are members of the value chain like headhunters, and above all clients - the real patrons of the jamboree.

Obviously, Kanchan has seen it happening all around him but what's exemplary is the quality of his detachment in sharing deep insights that never sound prescriptive - and yet command universal appeal.

The humour is superlative throughout, save for the din of repitition that the mythical character "Chai La" and his over-rhymed sermons cause towards the end. Also, the author's obsession with word play is distracting at times...(with quips like "Let's not anda-estimate him" linked to a breakfast of scrambled eggs)

The author's note reads "I embark upon trying to give every poor new sod entering this hostile world a bit of hope and an unnecessary amount of perspective" The tiny hope and huge perspective are both more valuable than the tons of garbage that get rolled out every year in the name of management thought.

Page after page, Kanchan keeps us in spilts but lurking in the laughter is a tear or two of self-springing realization. It's indeed sad that modern-day organizations are on a redefining spree of a different kind - making flexibilty more and more rigid, turning creativity into a mythical concept and carving autonomy in a feudal mould.

In a recent newspaper column, the author observes:

"There are quite a few organizations where the term "creative" is associated with the output of the advertising agency.In these bleak economic times, this is an extremely dangerous assumption"

Couldn't have been put better.

That Kanchan is an independant creative thinking trainer spells great news for an industry drugged to inaction by an intimidating army of mollycoddled "consultants" and their "best-in-class" sermons of "holistic thinking" and "value-added service"