31 Dec 2014

K-dramas and new crushes

Last month, my sister asked me to try out a 'K-Drama'. I missed the K-Pop era while I was busy poring over marketing texts in college, so I wasn't inclined to take her up on her suggestion. She insisted that I would love it just like Anime. I gave her a derisive snort, being a big fan of Japanese anime and manga, I didn't see how that was going to be possible.

Her suggestion was '1st Shop of Coffee Prince' or Coffee Prince for short. It is a 2007 drama about gender reversal confusion - a tomboy girl is mistaken for a boy and how she continues pretending to keep her employment in the ensuing mess. The plot was strangely interesting, certainly one I've never come across and apparently quite common in the Korean, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese drama circuits - something to do with the not-quite-endowed women there (I can't imagine that happening here; Ekta Kapoor takes pains to make her leading ladies look like bride of Chucky dolls with three inches of makeup).

If you've seen popular Japanese anime such as Inu Yasha, Cardcaptor Sakura, Naruto, Magic Users Club, etc. on YouTube, you'd see English Dubbed versions for all of them. Production houses have gone to great lengths to capture the international market by hiring voice-over artistes in various languages. The K-dramas have English Subtitles - a huge bummer because you miss out on the expressions of the actors in your hurry to read what they're saying. I stubbornly haven't seen some amazing anime series because they are subbed.

One of the best parts about K-dramas is that they don't have a multi-season arc or deviating story-lines with a 300 episode mess. They're an hour-long and have anywhere from 16-25 episodes max spread over 3 months with weekly runs of the show. It is a neat idea because it allows for great story-telling, wrapped up in a tidy little bow. Barring sit-coms, I think all dramas could try this format. I braved the subs and sat through the entire drama of Coffee Prince and found myself liking it just a little bit more in each episode. At the end, I was laughing and crying with it, signs I've gotten hooked and at the last episode, I was itching for more. I googled top 10 K-dramas and found names like You who came from the stars, Boys over flowers and Playful kiss among others. The names were all weird-sounding (no doubt they sound better in Korean), so I picked out the highest-rated one - Boys over Flowers, an adaptation from a Japanese manga of the same name. It has since been made in Japanese, Thai and Korean dramas, all garnering high ratings and viewership. Mid-way through the series, I found it dragging and kiddish, so I skipped to the end and got even more irritated. How is this the highest rated drama?! I gave up watching K-dramas after BOF for a while.

My roommate saw me watching BOF and a couple of weeks later gave me five new series, gushing over how girls in schools and colleges watch K-dramas and swooned over them and widely-loved BOF was her first drama, yadda yadda. I was still curious enough to see if anything else might be as good as Coffee Prince, so I took them all and started with City Hunter just because the name didn't sound nauseating. I fell in love again - this time with the lead actor, Lee Min Ho (pause for collective sighs). The action-drama was fun to watch, not unlike several Hindi movies which revolve around vigilante justice and corrupt politicians. Lee Min Ho was the icing on the very yummy cake I was devouring, playing the part to perfection as the wronged vigilante who falls in love. Now, LMH was the lead in Boys over flowers - an oversight on my part because of the exaggerated curls and difference in facial features. He made up for it in City Hunter with his brooding style, startled cuteness and sudden glimpses of vulnerability.

I haven't had a celebrity crush in a while...not since Siddharth in Rang De Basanti and that was eons ago. Barring the classic hotties Clooney and Will Smith, I'm not the one to go googly-eyed over anyone, so I've been immune to the string of people that have come and gone in the last decade.

LMH captured my fancy like no one else has. Since City Hunter, I've watched Personal Taste, Faith and Heirs, not to mention innumerable YT videos of his ads, public appearances, interviews and fan videos despite not knowing a word of Korean, each making me fall more in love with this adorable actor. I've picked up a fair amount of Hangul phrases along the way though, much to my friends annoyance who have to listen to me attempting to speak Korean. He shot to fame with Boys over flowers and has become one of the most-loved stars in South Korea with fans all over south-east Asia. He acts, sings, dances and has the cutest smile I've seen in a while - all reasons to gush and get off my ass to write a blogpost after months!

Watch these series if you want to try something new. Most definitely for this tall, lanky oppa who I'm severely crushing on.

  

Photo Creds - Lee Min Ho Korean fan site 

31 Aug 2014

Experiential Buying - Univercell Sync in the city

After a (very) long time, I made my way to a blogger event in the city. This time it was at a re-vamped Univercell Sync at Nungambakkam, inviting bloggers to visit and experience the store. Chennai heat seemed to be graciously absent, clouds covering the usual blinding afternoons. The store was right on the main road, making it easy for direction-blind people like me.

The Store at Nungambakkam High Road, Chennai

Now, I don't get shrieky over the latest gadgets, most of my devices were bought with the phrase 'user-friendly' in mind, so I didn't walk into the store with any expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to see the layout of the store - devoid of rows and rows of mobile phones, tablets and music systems. Instead, it was completely experiential; designed keeping in mind the most common 'asks' of a user and the devices & accessories to support them, in zones: Point and Shoot for the camera crazies, Music for the music maniacs and Work and Play for the Type A workaholics. There's also a Junior Sync space where kids can fiddle around safely with the devices that parents say NO to! 

Soumya Menon, VP Brand & Strategy took us around the entire store, the effort of creating the techsperience plain in the way she explained every little detail of the new format. The staff are well trained in helping the customers in getting the right device and accessory for their needs. They answered all my inquisitive questions about the speakers for my phone (I've been wanting speakers for my Nexus 4 and tried different speakers to check out their bass quality and generally amping up the volume, good fun). 

What I really liked were these nifty little checklists that novices can mentally tick before going in for a potentially expensive buy. 

 

The thing that set them apart and that lit a ray of hope in clumsy folks like me who drop their phones 10 times a day, was their value added services for their buyers.

Total Care, an accidental insurance cover and hardware replacement for mishaps, drops, fires and practically anything at all. It is 60% of the total charges for the first 6 months and 40% after that. Pretty useful, wish I'd known this before breaking my screen this month :( 

SyncSquad go to customer homes post purchase and set up their devices, pair it with other appliances and accessories - basically being your tech support gurus, if you're the kind that needs help finding the Bluetooth icon on your phone. 

This sure beat spending a lot of time sifting through online stores for the right device to buy, although, I'd keep an eye on the variety of the models that are available. The stores are live in five cities in the country - Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad and Chennai. If you're the kind that likes to 'experience' before buying anything, this is a good place to do just that. 

Meeting up with other city bloggers, some with very popular blogs in the region, felt good in a way writing hasn't in so long. Think I'll do this more often!