Monday, November 24, 2008

Add Another to the Third World List

In between all the chatter that the Aussie cricketers keep indulging in, both on and off the field, Hayden's comment about Australia's poor over rates being due to 'third world conditions' in India was most hilarious and decidedly WTF.

Now, I'm one of those guys who have lots of respect for Aussie cricketers. When an Aussie makes a statement I tend to believe it unless proved otherwise. Especially since they take it very personally if you doubt their honesty and integrity. That leads me to one question: Now that Aussies have been fined again for low over rates, this time in a test match in Australia against New Zealand, does Hayden still stand by his theory? There are only 2 ways about it - either Hayden accepts that his theory was wrong or he believes that Australia is a third world country.

From what I've seen of the arrogant, stubborn members of the current Australian team, I have a feeling they'd call their country a third world country before admitting they were wrong.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Vaaranam Aayiram - A Review

I will remember this movie for a long time - particularly the scene where the character Surya (played by Surya) breaks down while talking to his parents after [spoiler alert!!] his girlfriend Meghna (Sameera Reddy) dies. He tells his father, 'We made love, daddy' while sobbing inconsolably. I have a feeling the director meant this line to convey the pain and anguish of the hero. But I was left wondering - So?

The feeling you get while watching this movie is that Gautham Menon is one confused director. He wants to make an action movie, a drug junkie drama, a mushy love story, a lovey-dovey family movie, a retro movie and a Dasavatharam-like movie. Unable to choose among these options, he puts it all together in a single movie and ends up achieving nothing. Note to the director: Some things don't mix, like curd rice and fish curry. But you can always have curd rice for lunch and fish curry for dinner and everyone can have a nice satisfied burp at the end.

The movie is supposed to be about the bond between a father and son (both played by Surya). However it totally fails to connect at that level. The director's idea of depicting the father-son bond is to show them crying every 5 minutes and having them say 'I love you, daddy' or 'I love you, kiddo' every time they take a breath. If I had a dollar each time Surya said 'daddy', I'd have had enough money to bail out Wall Street and General Motors. On second thoughts, I'd have made that much money even if I got only a rupee for each time, in spite of the declining exchange rates. By the end of the movie all the main characters have said 'I love you, Surya' so many times that you half expect the rescued lady journalist to look deeply into his eyes and say, 'I think I have fallen in love with you, Surya'. But I'm jumping the gun. We'll come to all that in due course.

To be fair, the movie isn't all bad. There's Sameera Reddy. She was the one of the few reasons I could sit through the movie. She looks fresh and beautiful and does a decent job with the acting. It's a pity that the director killed her character off just before the interval. He could have kept her on for a few songs more - even as a ghost or something (it would have fit in with the director's strategy of including every possible genre). But while she's there as an MS student at Berkeley, the movie goes along in a comprehensible manner (if you choose to ignore the question of how a jobless Surya manages to get a visa to go to US).

But after she's gone, the director completely loses the plot. A desolate Surya comes back from US and immediately starts crying more and takes to drugs. I wouldn't blame him. I mean, he has sex with Sameera Reddy and upon returning to India finds out that the next girl he's supposed to fall in love with is Priya (Divya Spandana) - a huge fall in quality, if you ask me. The family's way of dealing with the drug problem is to lock him up in his room for two days and then send him packing to Kashmir, of all the places. Surya, on the banks of the Dal Lake, miraculously loses all craving for drugs and goes off to Delhi to fight kidnapping and child prostitution rackets. Phew! As if that wasn't enough, he then decides to join the Indian Army. And as per the stringent requirements of the Indian Army for new recruits, he builds six-pack abs which he goes around showing off for the rest of the movie (Om Shanti Om, anyone?). The quality of the abs is so good that he immediately gets promoted to the rank of Major. It is around this time that he leads a mission to rescue the journalist who, surprisingly, doesn't say those 3 dreaded words. And I'm eternally thankful to the director for sparing me that torture.

The music is the only highlight of the movie (apart from Sameera, of course). Some good songs by Harris Jayaraj really helps one sit through the movie. For once, you'll be thankful for a liberal peppering of songs which do not contribute to the story in any way.

If I were to look at the movie objectively, I'd have to say that it has something for everyone. A ravishing beauty for guys like me, rippling six-pack abs for girls who like such rippling six-pack possessing hunks, tearjerker scenes for the sentimental types, romance (3 of them!) for people so inclined and action for those whose movie experience is incomplete without exploding helicopter gunships and rocket launchers. However, a movie is not judged objectively. It is judged as a whole, by the effect it has on the viewer. In this case, the sum was lesser than the least of all the parts. And it makes me wonder if Kaaka Kaaka was nothing more than a fluke.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Laying to Rest the Ghosts of Dada

Sourav Ganguly will no longer step on to a cricket field donning the whites of a player of the Indian cricket team. Flowery tributes have been written and even his most fervent critics have given their spleen a rest and applauded his lasting contributions to Indian cricket. This is not an attempt to pay tribute, nor is it a fault-finding mission. This is an attempt to reconcile and put to rest the conflicting and enigmatic feelings that Ganguly evoked in me over the 12 years that he played active test cricket.

To be sure, I'm no fan of Ganguly. Never been, in fact. Even as he was making a majestic hundred on debut and showing the Englishmen gaps in the offside that they never knew existed , I sensed something amiss. As a 12 year old unaware of the controversy surrounding his selection at that point, I could only go by his cricket in forming that judgement and the feeling I had then hasn't changed appreciably in the last 12 years. During these years, Ganguly did what no other Test captain had done for India - redeem a side hovering around the brink, rebuild it with fresh talent and give it a killer spirit that has remained with it ever since. He also went about amassing runs in the most beautiful ways possible - caressing the ball through the covers and using nimble feet to step down the track against spinners and hitting handsome sixes over long-on.

All along, I used to wonder how a player who I had a bad feeling about could be so successful. Having yourself proved wrong is painful at the best of times. During the worst of times it got so bad that I almost wanted him to fail when he stepped out on to the field. It could have been the fact that Ganguly was no great athlete; or his awkward prod at balls that bounced to waist height; or his tardy fielding and running between wickets. Yes, it should be these reasons, for I greatly admire cricketers who are good all-round sportsmen - Tendulkar, Symonds, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma and I have an instant distrust of cricketers who don't show such abilities. I fear now that I equated athleticism and skill alone with cricketing success.

Maybe the fact that I didn't like Ganguly owes itself to the fact that he proved my presumptions wrong every single time. I used to think that his poor technique and over-reliance on the off-side for scoring runs would make him a disaster as a batsman in the long run. But he went on to make many thousand runs and formed a legendary partnership with Tendulkar at the top of the ODI batting line-up. Somehow, bowlers never 'figured him out' the way I thought they would. Was Ganguly too smart to be figured out that way? I used to think that his attitude and personality would not make him suitable for captaincy. He went on to break every captaincy record in Indian cricket. Could it be true that the very thing I didn't like about his personality was what enabled him to become a good captain? I used to think what I construed as his arrogance would inhibit the youngsters in the team. I couldn't have been more wrong on that front.

My dad used to tell me that he could never understand what I had against Ganguly. "Look at the way he's playing now. I can't believe you can hate a guy who plays like this," he used to say. I used to respond by cyincally saying that this would be his only good innings for another 20-30 innings. Many a times the batsman obliged, giving me more fuel for dislike.

Ganguly may not have been a great batsmen and he many not have lived up to my standards of what a good cricketer should be. But now, it doesn't matter. He's done with his game and his complete works are in front of us, to revere or hate. For every person like me who didn't like him, there are two more people who will vouch for his greatness. I've based my judgement on hunches and inferences which have been proved wrong many times. The near-unanimous opinion now is that he has left a legacy which India will do well to follow. No cricketer could ask for more.

Sourav Ganguly left Test cricket a happy man. I'm happy that things have transpired in such a manner. My observations were right, but my inferences were wrong. Looking back now, I'm glad that my predictions about Ganguly never came true fully. All of us go through our lives hoping that what we do will make a postive contribution to something big. From where Indian cricket was in 1996 to where it has now reached, Ganguly definitely has had a part to play in the progress. Ultimately, in the balance sheet of life, that's all that matters.