Dont equate booty with brilliance

Written by Mahesh Bhatt | Updated: Jun 6 2006, 05:30am hrs
Wealth is based on insights. A nations growth turns on one key factor, which is, its openness to new ideas and its ability to mobilise and harness the creative energies of its people. Regardless of industry or profession, our future value will come from our capacity to create, originate and innovate... said a senior World Bank official to me recently.

Corporations have always regarded creativity as a major driving force in their success. However, most corporations tend to confuse creativity with productivity. It is time that they realise that great advances in the creative field have always come from ideas, and ideas do not fall from the sky or grow on the trees. They flower in the hearts of the people. Its people who write great screenplays on which a multi-billion dollar film is based. It is people in whose hearts great musical scores are born, which, in turn, kick-starts the fortunes of a dying music industry.

It was not the state-of-the-art technology and acoustics which the industry paid fortunes for, but a Nadeem-Shravan in the nineties, and now Himmesh Reshammiya, who has become the life support system of the music industry. The history of Hollywood was rewritten by a group of young filmmakers like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, who brought dazzling new concepts and ideas into the film domain. Hollywood icon Robert Redford says it all with these words: Do you think the world was created by an accountant No! The universe was created by the combustion of a creative explosion. Fire and chaos started everything. Then order came on top of that.

Today, when I look around, I find that in this Age of Ideas, the creative spirit has somehow gotten buried beneath the ferocity of artificial financial engineering. I find that in our frenzy to produce the illusion of growth, too many companies have started relying on acquisitions, aggressive accounting practi-ces, and financial revenue-boosting techniques, rather than innovation of genuinely new markets, products, and services. The other sad characteristic of these times is that in this so-called technological age, we have become a nation that is investing more in technology than in our people. When will begin to see that gadgets and structures are not enough for a firms success. Its high time that managements began to focus on what their creative work force think instead of what the management does.

Firms rely on acquisitions, aggressive accounting practices and technology
When they should look at innovating genuine markets, products & services
Its high time we begin investing in the creative capacity of our people
The paradox of our times is that we are fast becoming a world, which is rich in technology but bereft of ideas. Today, we make celebrities of the rich and equate their booty with brilliance, when their success has more to do with cunning and pure marketing.

The real predicament facing the world and particularly the global entertainment industry is a threatening shortage of creative talent. Even the US, which has been the Goliath of the global economy, is struggling to maintain its global supremacy since terrorism made it shut its doors to the flow of creative talent, which for years, has contributed to make it a land of opportunity and innovation.

Do you know that in the United States, scientists, entertainers, architects, lawyers, financiers and others, who make their livelihood creatively, outnumber traditional blue-collar workers Though this creative class makes up just 30% of the US workforce, it earns nearly half of the nations wages and gives America its creative clout.

We have a lesson to learn from the United States. Its high time that our government and the private sector began investing generously in our creative people and developed an infrastructure to educate, inform and inspire them on an on going basis. Im glad that in our world, film makers like Subhash Ghai and Anupam Kher have taken the lead to create film and acting schools. There are also welcome signs that the Film and Television Institute of India is making that brave attempt to play the role it was originally fashioned to play. Their effort to invest in screenwriters and give them centrestage deserves to be applauded. But these are isolated attempts that are too few for a nation of one billion people.

What leaders need to do is to create a great sense of urgency and inject that into their people and into their systems. But that will only happen if the leaders themselves begin to recognise that there is a gap between the ground reality and their claims and expectations. The problem is that most of us become the victims of our own hype, and mistake our aspirations to be our reality.

To take an example, the products that Bollywood manufactures are far below global standards. Every year, our stars and starlets go to the Cannes film festival to hob-nob with the mighty players from the rest of the world. But the truth is none of our movies even qualify for competition. Getting bigger does not mean getting better. Our creative wells are running dry. Cynics say that our innovators are dead. But I do believe that the creative spirit is still very much alive and kicking within us. It is the imperative and moral responsibility of our leaders to uncover, restore, and revitalise the nations imaginative resources and make it erupt.

Our businessmen need to realise that creativity is not a tangible asset like gold or silver, which can be hoarded or fought over, or even bought and sold. The creativity of the human race is like liberty, which can be used for the common good. It is the essential perfume of life that belongs to everyone. It just needs to be nourished, renewed and maintained, or else it will wither and die.

The writer is a Mumbai-based film maker