Monday, April 20, 2009

Sachin Tendulkar

I am a fan; never bordered on the fanatic though. Quite frankly, as a boy I took to Azhar the first time I saw him play. I used to mime him ditto on the field, with the collar up and all that. I even used to field in the covers. During my stint as the captain for my society's cricket team, I used to take notes on Azhar's field set-ups and bowling changes and later try to analyze when he made bowling changes. Why he would not have a midwicket fielder for Kumble. And why he would keep changing the field. How he would not talk to his team much. How he would be non-chalant when a field change would work - as if he knew it had to! I was a fan, I think for the first time in my life.

Then came 1996. Theworld cup. Till then, Sachin was like the army. Azhar was the general. Come '96 and Sachin became THE MAN. I fear going into relentless, directionless rant if I start of with the world cup series. I had always liked him. Ever since he walked in with that wire-like frame in 1989. I still remember the smirk on Wasim's face as he measured his run-up. And that bouncer, my heart had skipped a beat. I had liked him that instant. I wanted to be wearing whites and walk into the ground one day. It seemed that if Sachin could, I could too. Then that innings against NZ - the first time he opened the innings in a ODI. He blasted 82 off some 48 deliveries. He had the NZ bowlers scratching their head as the ball soared over all parts of the boundary - Danny Morrison and Chris Pringle wondering what the hell just happened. Believe me - there was a Viv Richards and then a Kris Srikanth - batsmen who were known to belt the bowlers 'fearlessly'. But those who remember this innings, will know what I mean when I say Sachin had redefined fearlessness. Top notch shots. The straight defensive shot that he plays so subtly that you would think the ball would drop dead right there and you could see Pringles jaw drop as the ball sped past him, the stumps, the umpire and between the fielders at mid-on and mid-off. The next ball, pitched short by a well built Pringle to sort of intimidate the little guy. Our guy - all of 5'4" (with shoes on) dances down the track - yes, to a short pitched delivery, brings down the heaviest bat in business with arguably the shortest arms in business too and pulls the ball over mid-wicket (Oh! Yes! He had that sort of time) for a six. And yet, the best scene was that of Pringle wondering what just happened.

Phew. And I better not go into 1998. Sharjah and the history it holds. It was dinner time. I am a slow eater. And that night, I redefined slow eating as one man in the middle wast was redifining human abilities. I need not tell what happened in Sharjah. I now had a God. Someone who can be seen. Someone who can save India. Who can pull us out of trouble - no matter what. A god who exists.

There was this time where many used to say he wasn't the best. He wasn't a match winner. He wasn't in form. He had changed. And what not. Yet, when they were told to look at the numbers for the past 6 months or so - they could see an ODI average of over 40 with a strike rate of over 80. And a test average of over 50 with a strike rate near 60! When people used to criticize or doubt or question Sachin, a smile used to find its way to my lips. The sort of smile Buddha must have sported when people asked him if there were God. There have been innumerable number of blog posts and e-mail forwards I would have received, read and felt good about. Got one today too - from my brother. I have never really shared e-mail forwards in a blog post. But today, I have no clue why, I want to share this...

To all you guys out there, a partial compilation of comments given by random cricketers and other known personalities on Sachin Tendulkar ...

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Hashim Amla - "Nothing bad can happen to us if we're on a plane in India with Sachin Tendulkar on it."

Yaseer Hameed - "Sometimes you get so engrossed in watching batsmen like Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar that you lose focus on your job."

Andrew Symonds - "To Sachin, the man we all want to be" (On an Aussie t-shirt he autographed specially for Sachin)

BBC - Beneath the helmet, under that unruly curly hair, inside the cranium, there is something we don't know, something beyond scientific measure. Something that allows him to soar, to roam a territory of sport that, forget us, even those who are gifted enough to play alongside him cannot even fathom. When he goes out to bat, people switch on their TV sets and switch off their lives "

But the finest compliment must be that bookmakers would not fix the odds - or a game - until Tendulkar was out

Wasim Akram - "Tuzhe pata hai tune kiska catch chhoda hai?" To Abdul Razzaq when the latter dropped Sachin's catch.

Brian Charles Lara - Sachin is a genius. I'm a mere mortal.

Mark Taylor - "We did not lose to a team called India...we lost to a man called Sachin"

M. L. Jaisimha - "The more I see of him the more confused I'm getting to which is his best knock."

McGrath - "The joy he brings to the millions of his countrymen, the grace with which he handles all the adulation and the expectations and his innate humility - all make for a one-in-a-billion individual,"

Anjali - "I can be hundred per cent sure that Sachin will not play for a minute longer when he is not enjoying himself. He is still so eager to go out there and play. He will play as long as he feels he can play,"

Hayden - "I HAVE SEEN GOD, HE BATS AT NO.4 FOR INDIA"

Kumble - I am fortunate that I've to bowl at him only in the nets!

Que: Who do you think as most important celebrity?
Shahrukh: There was a big party where stars from Bollywood and cricket were invited. Suddenly, there was a big noise, all wanted to see approaching Amitabh Bachhan. Then Sachin entered the hall and Amitabh was leading the queue to get a grab of the GENIUS!!

Navjot Singh Sidhu - India me aap PrimeMinister ko ek Baar Katghare me khada kar sakte hain..Par Sachin Tendulkar par Ungli nahi utha Sakte.. (You could take the PM of India to court - but can't raise a finger on Sachin)

Waqar Younis - He can play that leg glance with a walking stick also

A banner - 'I WILL SEE GOD WHEN I DIE BUT TILL THEN I WILL SEE SACHIN'

Allan Donald - Sachin Tendulkar has often reminded me of a veteran army colonel who has many medals on his chest to show how he has conquered bowlers all over the world

Allan Donald's interview:
I was bowling to Sachin and he hit me for two fours in a row - one through point and the other in between point and gully. That was the last two balls of the over and the over after that we (SA) took a wicket and during the group meeting I told Jonty to be alert and I know a way to pin Sachin. And I delivered the first ball of my next over and it was a fuller length delivery outside off-stump. And I shouted catch. To my astonishment the ball was hit to the cover boundary. Such was the brilliance of Sachin. His reflex time is the best i have ever seen. It’s like 1/20th of a sec. To get his wicket better not prepare. At least you won’t regret if he hits you for boundaries.

Peter Rebouck (Aussie Journalist) - On a train from Shimla to Delhi, there was a halt in one of the stations. The train stopped by for few minutes as usual. Sachin was nearing century, batting on 98. The passengers, railway officials, everyone on the train waited for Sachin to complete the century. This Genius can stop time in India!

NKP Salve (former Union Minister) - "Sachin cannot cheat. He is to cricket what (Mahatma) Gandhiji was to politics"

Andy Flower - There are 2 kind of batsmen in the world. One, Sachin Tendulkar. Two, the rest.

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PS: The text above is a direct copy paste from the e-mail fwd. I have run a quick sanity check - but still, please bear with grammatical, spell errors, if any.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Movie Review: Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na

I have always maintained, 'No story is a bad story'. It is just the way you narrate it. Once simplified, something as seemingly profound as a Fight Club or a Taxi Driver can be made to sound ridiculously silly. On the other hand, there is Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, which try as you may - you can simply not narrate in an interesting way. Yet, when it is put on screen with a bunch of new comers leading the pack, it works. Things which in isolation would seem outdated and downright slapstick, stick together and are pulled off.

That is Abbas Tyrewala's directorial debut for you.

'You want to marry me?', she asks almost in disgust! 'Eew! No!', he exclaims in disbelief that she even thought that way. Just when she shows the slightest hint of relief he blurts out 'Do you want to marry me?' and she now shows the disgust that she earlier restrained. All this while her parents watch them in utter shock & disbelief. And then they start laughing. Sounds cheesy, right? Bland? Cliched, no? That's my point. And in spite of that the movie works. About 15 minutes into the movie I found myself taken to the movie as a child would to cartoons. Why would a child like cartoons? Because it is a place where things which otherwise do not talk, talk and more importantly it is fun. In a very similar way I loved this movie. It opens up in an unassuming way, slowly growing on the viewer. Never, thankfully, never does the movie take itself too seriously. The director knows that the movie is about having fun - and just that. Later in the second half, I was almost praying that, the drama shouldn't go over the top. In some scenes, it does - specially with Genelia and her fiance.

But that's alright. Because there is so much fun packed in the rest of the movie. I went in to the hall to watch this movie only for two reasons; one - Aamir Khan productions. In the sense, I much rather miss a good 'Jab We Met'/ 'Socha Na Tha' once a while than go and blunt my mind watching the hundred others with hunky guys and sweet looking girls. Which brings me to reason number two - neither was the guy hunky, nor the girl too stereotyped. Besides, it had 'Kabhi Kabhi Aditi' and 'Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na' in it. One, an insanely catchy tune while the other one of the finest tributes to Jazz (Let's call the whole thing off). And such good fun.

Abbas's direction is nuanced. In the sense, he has an eye for details. Check out the dance sequences - where Aditi (Genelia) removes her pencil-heeled shoe before she steps on to the dance floor (Pappu can't dance) or where Rotlu (a friend) dances out of sync after Jai (Imran) elbows him in Kabhi Kabhi Aditi. The allusion to Mr. Godot is a tip to a classic play 'Waiting for Mr. Godot' and in fact is Naseeruddin Shah's debut play. I found it neat that the brother has a mouse for his pet and the sister, a cat. And then, there is a cat and mouse game that they play in between them, and right out of a Tom and Jerry episode, they also make up. The one single scene which talks so much about the brother-sister relationship. The way Aditi mouths 'What the F%^k?!' when she sees her brother's room for the first time. When Aditi innocently remarks 'I don't know where and how the last 5 years went by' Ratna Phatak Shah is delightfully funny in retorting with 'On the phone, my child! On the phone.' The poster in Jai's room that screams - 'Deadlines Amuse Me' and that it is the very deadline against which he races in the climax. All these and some more. And it is in these small packages that the movie delivers.

The performances are just about right - well, I did not find Imran brilliant or too natural. But he is likeable. Genelia carries most of the film on her. The support cast either underperforms or overperforms - but that imparts a sense of realism in the movie than actually hamper a scene. Paresh is at ease and Naseeruddin Shah has fun in the little time he has been given. The Khan brothers (Sohail and Arbaaz) have a cameo - quite well woven into the sub-plot. And for once, they do not irritate. Music is simply mind-blowing as you may expect from Rahman - tailored to fit the movie to the tee. Camera and editing are quite unimaginative - but the pace of the movie and freshness that oozes out of the narrative quite covers up for them.

Well, the movie also has one of the 'safest bet' endings of Hindi cinema - Heroine leaving country and hero stops her at the airport - at the last moment, of course. But then the build up to this climax will tell you that it is not a safe-bet move by the director. It is instead a parody, of sorts, in a way a tribute to the Hindi movie climax of yore. While the romance track is the focal point - it is the refreshingly cartoonesque context to Jai and his family which keeps the gear up. Naseeruddin Shah (God, is there a role that could challenge him?) is rib ticklingly funny as the dead father who speaks to his wife Ratna Phatak through his portrait (a la Hum Paanch?). I wouldn't spoil the movie for y'all here - but watch out for the storyline that is built in parallel and how it blends to lead up to the climax.

Friday, April 10, 2009

ScribeFire

This is cool. Now I can post blogs run-time. No more opening new windows and logging in and going to the 'New post' page! Phew! Over and above this, it gives me a 'Preview' option to see just how the entry would look in my blog page. Whoa! Rich.

Blog away to glory. Blogspot and other blogging sites are blocked at office. Let's see how they stop this. Hio ha ha!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Movie Review: Firaaq

'Such movies should not be made when it is peace time!' ~Mom
'How come they release such movies just before the elections?' ~Friend 1
'Pure exploitation. People suffered, yaar and these people want to make money out of it...' ~Friend 2

This is what happens when you do not watch the movie before your environment does. Rare occasions these, where I get so many opinions. All hinting at the same thing - yet another riot movie. So there I was, almost 2 weeks since the movie released and already put off by these comments. The only factor that would tickle my decision making faculties was the fact that it marks Nandita's debut as a director. They finally decided to give a nod ahead.

And what a good decision it was. What a movie – I was totally blown away. The movie is much similar in thought and intention as a Mumbai Meri Jaan (or a Parzania even) - to some extent in treatment as well. But, I felt this movie was tighter in narration and notches better in direction. Where a Mumbai Meri Jaan ropes in some amount of commercialism in the form of heavy dialogues and light humor, or a Parzania grips you by showing explicit scenes of rioting, Firaaq revels in subtlety. The plot drives the movie – no story with a start and a finish – is a day; yes, just one day; in the lives of 10-12 people 1 month after the shameful riots in Gujarat. It talks about people in varying age groups from various strata of the society both economically and socially and their ‘day in the life after riots’. Much like Mumbari Meri Jaan - where the director quite nicely portrays the lives of ordinary Mumbaikars after 7/11. Firaaq talks about a young Muslim couple from a lower economic background who have their house burnt, a Hindustani classical singer (lost in his own world refusing to accept the existence of evil) with a loyal helper and a (Hindu) doctor who also forms his only audience, a higher middle class Hindu-Muslim couple, a set of 4 Muslim friends from the botttom social strata, 2 friends - a Hindu girl and a Muslim gir, a Gujju couple and a common friend & of course the little boy through whose eyes we quite start seeing the movie in the latter half.

Where a Mumbai Meri Jaan leaves us with a communally unbiased taste, Firaaq concentrates on the minority group and its suffering, much like Parzania. Time and again the question of ‘Why not cover Hindu’s losses’ is raised; both by the characters in the movie and by our minds in the audience - and Nandita puts a stop to all such questions when one of the character mentions – ‘Yes, our losses – covered by insurance!’ While not all might agree to that statement, I thought the statement in itself is much loaded.

With little or no background score, the onus was on squarely on the director, actors and the cameraman to build tension. All of them do it with ease and élan. Nandita has got her touches in quite a few scenes and certain frames stick to the mind like photographs, long after the movie is over. Not a single riot scene is shown, though the opening sequence is quite bold. Yet, throughout the 2 hours Nandita is able to maintain the tension amongst the audience. The curfew due to a possible riot that evening is shown Рand you find yourself just short of gripping the arm of your chair. The scene where a set of young and inflamed Muslims see the pistol for the first time - they place it on a table and gather around it like little children to marvel at the newfound symbol of power. The childlike glint in each eye is superbly captured. The touch lies not here - but in showing the little kid walking across them in the background as if to contrast the blisfully ignorant child's mind to the power-corrupt minds of the youth. The closing scene where the child go backs to the camp, refusing to take part in a game of marbles and taking his seat near Nasser, each looking once at each other, and then the camera zooms in to the child's face as it begins to accept the new changed life is a beauty. The movie is punctuated with profound and poignant dialogues. There is this wonderfully crafted dialogue where Tisca Chopra says 'Our life is packed in boxes...' which seems like a nod to the famous 'Life is a box of chocolates'. Then there is Nasseruddin Shah exclaiming 'The giver (God) is blind!' And, these dialogues bewarned wouldn't come with crescendo backed music or be preceded with pregnant silences. They would be spilled out in the most obvious manner - like you or I were to be in their shoes.

Where in a screen time of 120 minutes one chooses to fit in an array of powerhouse performers - most established directors would struggle to do justice to each. And this is one area where Nandita decides to let the narrative decide. And what a touch of class this move turns out to be. Barring Nasser, each one of the actors shares near equal screen time and establish their characters effortlessly in less than half a minute. Tamil actor, Nasser – one of the most irrationally underused and wasted actors of all time, is seen in a delightful 2 scene cameo – opening and closing. Performance wise – almost everyone comes up aces. Paresh Rawal, Nasseruddin Shah seem to be doing a daily chore while portraying the respective character – excelling in a delightfully non-chalant way. Sanjay Suri essays a character which, if the budget permitted, would have been bagged by Madhavan. Raghuveer Yadav is brilliant in his little character, as is Dipti Naval as the troubled soul. The young Muslim couple is the only underfit (not a misfit, mind you, they were sincere and in any other assembly would have been stand out - but here they fade) amongst this ensemble of brilliant performers. Due credit to Sreekar Prasad who has edited the movie in as crisp a fashion as seen ever. Not a single moment of wasted screen time. Nandita, in yet another display of amazing maturity makes a brilliant film making decision; she restrains from interlocking the lives of the plot holders leading to a high tension climax, which I thought added much more realism while compromising on the masses. The emotions are under check - and the result is a most objective display of a 'work of fiction - inspired by a thousand true stories!'

Overall – for its many moments and freshness in spite of being a follower to Parzania and MMJ; Firaaq stands on its own. It is not as hard hitting as a Parzania. It doesn't have the national/ mass appeal of a Mumbai Meri Jaan. It has its share of charm - not in conten - but in style.

Into the night we all go
Troubled minds and bags
Life as we know, no longer so

Little faces wake up with a grin
The scar from yesterday fades
A new life begins!