So it’s been bad news of late for men in positions of power. For those who believe their position confers them with carte blanche privileges for despicable actions.
An editor who thought he was god and also god’s gift to women, then tried to be jury and judge for his own crime, has ended up in the unfamiliar environs of a prison cell – where he will hopefully remain for a long, long time.
A senior Supreme Court judge apparently tried to woo an intern his granddaughter’s age with wine – nothing wrong with that, except that she thought he called her to his hotel room to discuss legal briefs, but got indecently propositioned instead. Things are beginning to get uncomfortable for him, and the long arm of his profession has started catching up with his mis-deeds.
A prime ministerial candidate given to hubris, displayed touching concern by deploying the might of the state’s ATS mechanism to tail a woman without her consent or knowledge. His party, and more sadly, prominent women supporters, defended this as a father’s inalienable right to snoop on his adult child. What next…. bring in the army to enforce the khaps’ death sentences on young couples in love?
For women in this part of the world, its bad news to just go about their day to day lives.
But the old order changeth. And the young are showing us the way.
The Tehelka reporter wrote : “Had I chosen silence in this instance, I would not have been able to face either myself or the feminist movement that is forged and renewed afresh by generations of strong women.”
To her, the law intern, and all other courageous women out there who are breaking down patriarchal hierarchies - RESPECT.
As I write this, there are reports of record voter turnouts in the Delhi elections, following similar patterns in other recent state elections. And here’s what makes this trend even more cheer-worthy – a significant increase in the sex ratio of voters over the years.
Women in India are making their voice heard.
Taking control of their lives, defining the world they want to live in.
The times, they are a-changin’.
Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside ragin’.
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.
– Bob Dylan, 1964
India’s victory last week in the Champions Trophy 2013 brought back memories of another title 28 years ago. No, not the World Cup – that was 30 years ago. This was the win in the World Championship of Cricket (WCC) which was held in Australia in 1985 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the State of Victoria. For an Indian fan, there are some striking similarities in the two tournaments. Both the CT13 & the WCC 85 featured the top teams of the world pitted against each other (though the WCC had only 7 teams competing, as against 8 in the CT, since South Africa wasn’t part of world cricket in 1985). India entered both tournaments as winners of the World ODI title held 2 years earlier. Like in the CT 2013, India won 5 matches on the trot to lift the WCC trophy in ’85. Then too, India fielded an unchanged side almost all through, until Roger Binny fell ill before the final against Pakistan, and Chetan Sharma had to take his place.
For those of my generation, the WCC triumph will always be symbolized by images of Ravi Shastri winning his Audi as player of the tournament and the entire Indian team somehow managing to pile on the car and taking it for a spin around the MCG. The WCC was also the first time we started getting live cricket coverage from Channel 9 in Australia. Coloured clothing, out of the world images, classy commentary.. and of course, bikini-clad girls among the spectators… for someone brought up on DD and AIR drabness, this was like getting access to paradise. Sigh.
For my money, that WCC winning team was the best limited overs side that India ever put out on a cricket field. After the victory in Australia, they won the Rothmans cup in Sharjah a few weeks later, which featured wins over Pakistan ( a rampaging Imran Khan, with figures of 6 wickets for 14 runs, shot out India for 125, but they fought back and surreally bowled out Pak for 87), and Australia in the final.
The first obvious comparision is with the ’83 heroes. Though the core nucleus of the team from 1983 remained, the emergence of exciting new talent like Azharuddin and L Sivaramakrishnan in the ’84-85 season added considerable meat to the batting and bowling in the ’85 squad. These guys were of far better calibre than bit-players like Kirti Azad, Yashpal Sharma, Balwinder Sandhu – gallant contributors all in the World Cup win, but of limited cricketing ability. The boisterous Sadanand Viswanath brought additional dash to the batting over Syed Kirmani. The batting order was also re-jigged – Gavaskar moved into the middle-order, leading to a very successful opening combination – the solidity of Shastri and the dashing boldness of Srikkanth. Skill-wise, this outfit was definitely a notch or two above the ’83 one.
A couple of games into CT ’13, I tweeted that this current Indian team reminded me of that WCC ’85 Indian side. (luckily, I didn’t end up jinxing anything with that tweet, like it has happened umpteen times before). And minutes after Ashwin bowled that final ball and Dhoni uncharacteristically jumped around with whoops of joy, I tweeted again, and this time I pronounced judgement. “5 on the trot to win WCC ’85. 5 wins on the trot in CT ’13. This team is better than that one. Best ever Indian limited overs side, IMO”.
I guess some of that judgment was influenced by the elation and thrill of watching India clinch a nerve-wracking cliff-hanger. So, with the sobering light of reason three days later, I ask myself, is this team really better than the ’85 one?
Lets stack up the batting line-ups first. The aggression of the Dhawan/Rohit opening combination easily bests Srikkanth-Shastri. Then the middle-order – Kohli (who will probably end up as one of the best ever in ODIs), a resurgent-Dinesh Karthik, Raina, Dhoni, all of whom found their calling primarily as limited over specialists first, must find favour over a line-up of Azharuddin, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohinder Amarnath and Sunny G (he of the infamous 36 not out in 60 overs).
The bowling is more evenly matched. Bhuvaneswar Kumar with his swing and control is the 2013 version of Roger Binny in ’85. Kapil is in a league of his own, and Madan Lal was an able ally in the pace department. Umesh Yadav & Ishant fall a bit short in comparision. But 2 top-class tweakers in Ashwin & Sir Jadeja score over Shastri’s left-arm spin, Siva’s guile mixed with a leg-spinner’s profligate tendencies and the gentle medium pace of Amarnath (the joke those days was that Jimmy’s bowling run-up was faster than his bowling speed).
The defining feature of that side however, was the plethora of all-rounders they had. Kapil as one of the best ever in the history of the game, Shastri & Amarnath bringing solidity at the top of the line-up along with their bowling, Binny & Madan Lal as competent bowling all-rounders. That team almost did not have any tail. Before Ravindra Jadeja became his go-to man, MS Dhoni often expressed his fond wish of finding an all-rounder who would bring that all important balance to his side. The team of ’85 had an embarassment of riches in this department and was a huge factor in making that team what it was.
Fielding wise, it’s a no contest. Only Azhar and Kapil from that team will come anywhere near the likes of Kohli or Raina. The rest were mostly in the Ishant Sharma category. But I feel that this is a bit of an unfair comparision – fielding in those days was not the key strategic asset in a team’s arsenal the way it is now.
Overall, it’s a close call. A much stronger batting in this modern India team, the allrounder advantage for the senior generation. What I think tilts the balance in favour of the current team is MS Dhoni. Not just for his batting and wicket-keeping – again, he will go down as one of the greats in ODI history, Sadanand Viswananth doesn’t even merit a comparision – but for his captaincy, the culture and vision that he brings to this side. Clearly, this 2013 CT winning squad is HIS team. As the senior most leader of the squad, he would want to mould and nurture this bunch to even greater glory.
And, for me, that is what will lay this debate to rest. If this team manages an encore in 2015, then any lingering doubts about this being India’s best ever ODI team can be safely discarded. But even if they miss the pinnacle of glory in 2015, I would rate this team very high on the pecking order.
PS: I have intentionally not brought the 2011 WC winning squad into the consideration set. While the amount of pressure that team soaked up on the way to their victory was immense, I think that playing in home conditions was a key factor in that win. That attack, and that batting line-up, would have been found sorely wanting if the WC had been played in another continent. And all those oldies were a big liability while fielding (think 20 runs every game). On sheer cricketing ability, they don’t measure up.
In the Karan Johar helmed short in Bombay Talkies, there is a scene where Randeep Hooda’s character Dev finds the unabashedly gay Avinash unexpectedly knocking at his door one evening. Avinash knows that Dev’s wife is not at home, and asks him, “want to come out”? We know by now that he is attracted to Dev – who is married to Avinash’s attractive colleague from work (a ravishing Rani Mukherjee) – and the dialogue is a play on Avinash’s fond hope that Dev will, you know, “come out”. A corny line – there are other ones too (gale mein mangalsutra, man mein kamasutra) - and so reminiscent of many such one-liners in Johar’s grating TV show, but I’m nit-picking here. Johar’s effort in Bombay Talkies rises well above expectations. He manages to hold his own against the other three luminaries of new wave Hindi cinema.
I liked little touches in the screenplay, like when it’s the turn of Dev, slowly awakening to his repressed sexual orientation, to land up at Avinash’s tiny hovel. Just as a thought blurb went inside my head <how the hell did he know where Avinash lived.. but hey, this is a KJO movie, details don’t matter, do they>, Dev says, “office se tumhara address mila”. A passionate lip lock then ensues between two adult men on a mainstream Hindi cinema screen. Breaking new ground, and done well.
The thing I didn’t get in Johar’s film, is the connection to 100 years of Hindi cinema, which all the four miniatures in Bombay Talkies are supposed to be a celebration of. A brief reference to Madan Mohan, Dev’s extensive collection of old Hindi film songs? Too weak a link. So here’s a theory: Johar’s film opens with a small girl begging for alms in what looks like the Dadar station over-bridge, singing the evergreen classic, Ajeeb Dastan hai yeh. Ajeeb dastan = strange story. Strange = Queer. A story of a love triangle with a gay twist – was this about Karan Johar riffing on Hindi cinema’s age old love triangle theme, with his own personal stamp?
Dibankar Banerjee continues to impress as a filmmaker who intimately understands the medium of cinema and is imbued with a fine sensibility that permeates every frame. Working on an adaptation of Satyajit Ray’s Patol Babu Filmstar, Banerjee’s craft deftly weaves in references to serious issues like the collapse of Bombay’s Lower Parel mills and its impact on thousands of laid off workers and their families, the bizarre craze for emu farming which took root in parts of southern and western India a few years ago (the opening sequence where the marathi bais in the chawl crack vulgar jokes, with the emu hopping around in the corridor, is such a delight), the demise of the nautanki form of folk theatre, all inside a heart-warming 30 minute short about a father who accidentally stumbles on a day of fame as a movie extra and as a result, redeems himself in front of his daughter.
And with a talent like Nawazuddin Siddiqui as his star, what results is magic on screen. Plus that cameo from Sadashiv Amrapukar. Uff. Go see, if you haven’t already.
Zoya Akhtar turns the spotlight on how the allure of movie stars gives rise to so many celluloid dreams amongst our teeming masses. A young boy gets besotted with Katrina Kaif when he sees her gyrate to Sheila ki Jawani on TV. He starts worshipping her poster and wearing his sister’s clothes whilst obsessively mimicking her dance moves. In contrast, his father wants him to “be a man” and focus on sports like football, even fending off his daughter’s beseeching pleas to pay for her outstation history trip at school, to cough up the football fees.
Training her lens on this fairly “normal” family, Akhtar insightfully zooms in on deep rooted gender biases that exist even among our educated middle class. In her trademark understated style, she allows the audience a nuanced view on the husband-wide relationship dynamics, the bonding between brother-sister, all of which add a solid emotional connection with the story. The casting is pitch perfect too.
Thankfully, Akhtar steers clear of any attempt to try and tie up all the ends. She does not offer any comment on the possibility of the protagonist’s alternate sexuality, justify why a child performs a very raunchy item number, or any hint on how the anticipated hostile reaction from the father would be resolved. For a short, any of these would have added unnecessary clutter to the story. The rousing climax with a freeze frame of the boy deliriously happy to have found his calling, is a gratifying end to a well made film.
The premise of Anurag Kashyap’s story – a small towner coming to Bombay to try and get an audience with Amitabh Bachchan to satisfy his ailing father’s wish – seems to be, depending on your POV, a banal storyline or one with all sorts of possibilities. A couple of friends that I spoke to about Bombay Talkies were of the former view, and felt a bit let down that Kashyap didn’t come up with something more “edgy”. I hugely enjoyed this one though. Of all the four shorts, I thought that Kashyap’s film embodies the manic obsession that Bombay’s Bollywood engenders among its fans (especially from the hinterland), the best. Growing up in in Bombay, relatives/friends who visited used to ask about “Amitabh’s house”. Whenever we passed by Juhu, I saw fans outside Bachchan’s bungalow in Juhu hoping catch a glimpse of Hindi cinema’s greatest star. Kashyap captures this facet of hero worship beautifully.
He taps into his Gangs of Wasseypur ensemble to unearth another dynamite performer in Vineet Kumar Singh, who essays the role of a son on a mission with aplomb. One gets the sense that the maverick auteur is indulging himself and having a lot of fun with this film – naming Singh’s character as Vijay, the name Bachchan had for his most memorable screen roles, Vijay’s raconteuring to his fellow travellers in the train before tragedy strikes – there is an element here of the bit actor Singh evolving into a performer within the character of Vijay that he plays - I felt like there are layers to what appears as a simple storyline. Amit Trivedi’s music score lives up his high standards as usual. The twist in the story at the end, though a bit predictable, leaves us smiling at this bitter-sweet tale.
I found it hard to pick a favourite out of the four films. Each has its own voice, and a unique perspective of looking at the way movies have touched our lives over the years. Among the best to come out of Bollywood this year, Bombay Talkies is an experiment that works. One jarring note though - the garish parade of Bollywood stars dancing awkwardly, smiling to the cameras in the self-congratulatory song at the end.. should have cut this part out entirely. Almost leaves a sour after-taste to what is an otherwise engaging couple of hours of good cinema.
The IPL leaves me cold. This has been the case long before l’affaire bookie hit the headlines. In fact, I hold a relatively more positive view on the whole betting thing than all the cynicism I hear all around me. I actually do think that most of the players are actually trying to do their best, it’s only a few idiots who succumb to the lure and end up risking their future.
No, the reason I’ve largely been indifferent to the IPL is not so much to do with the cash and the corruption, but more about what it throws up as cricketing lore.
Cricket, for me, has always been about a rich tapestry of fondly recalled narratives. Among my earliest memories of following the sport is India’s tour of Australia in the winter of ’81. That basically meant waking up in the wee hours of morning to hold a largish rectangular box, called the radio in those days, close to my ear, and hear voices over a crackling SW frequency describe proceedings. I remember the peerless Greg Chappell’s (adjective refers to the world’s best batsman then, not India coach later) double century in the 1st test paving the way for a thumping Aussie innings victory. India then fought back with a draw at Adelaide in the 2nd, with Sandeep Patil (the Sehwag of those days) and his magnificent 174, a glorious knock made even more special because of what had happened in the previous match – Patil was hit on the head courtesy a vicious lifter from Lenny Pascoe, and had to retire hurt.. no helmets those days, you see.
MCG was the decider, a match which we almost forfeited when Sunny Gavaskar staged his famous walk-out after being adjudged LBW to Lillee. Better sense prevailed and the match resumed, but by late afternoon on the 4th day, all seemed lost when Australia was set a paltry 143 to win in the 4th innings, for a 2-0 series win. And with 3 of the 4 Indian bowlers being injured, the outcome seemed a mere formality. But Dilip Doshi bowled valiantly, Ghavri snared Chappell for a duck, and the heroic Kapil Dev, practically limping on one leg, got 5 wickets on a crumbling pitch to bowl the Aussies out for 83 and tie the series.
More than three decades later, I can still remember the numbers – 174, 83, 143 – without looking up the score books. There are many, many more such similar themes over the years – marveling at the marauding Caribbean pace quatrets, but celebrating the bunch of no-hopers who stormed the world in ’83; the ’86 Madras tied test– a dehydrated Dean Jones puking on the pitch on the way to a 200+ score, India bravely taking up Border’s challenge of a last day chase of 348 ; 1990 in England – India 9 wickets down & 24 runs short of following-on when Kapil Dev deposits Eddie Hemmings into the stands for 4 consecutive sixes to avoid the follow-on; Perth ’92 – when an 18 year old boy with curly hair and a squeaky voice served notice to the world about his talent with a scintillating 114 on a fast & bouncy track, defiantly standing up to the Aussie bowlers as more accomplished men fell around him; the Desert Storm of ’98; the decade of the 2000s when Indian cricket found its voice again after the shame of match fixing – who can ever forget Kolkata 2001 and that epic series against Waugh’s invincibles, the gutsy Ganguly decision to bat first at Leeds ‘02, all those Dravid-inspired overseas wins; the many heartbreaks too – Graham Gooch sweeping us out in the semis at Wankhede in ’87, Barbados ’97, Sydney ‘08. I could keep going.
Then as I look at six years of IPL, what do I reminisce about? Probably the fairy tale of Rajasthan Royals in the 1st edition, but nothing else, really. A blur of images - some frenzied action on the field (does anyone remember anything of Brendon McCullum’s breathtaking 158 in the inaugural IPL game, an astounding innings on any metric of cricketing skill? ) , cheerleaders, cacophonic commentary, commercial excesses. What’s the bloody narrative for a cricket fan?
Ram Guha (or was it Mukul Kesavan?) once compared the 3 formats of cricket – he said (and I paraphrase), the pleasure of a Test Match was akin to drinking scotch, ODIs was like having IMFL and T20, like country arrack. Taking a cue from that one, here’s my version for the IPL. For me, great cricket – riveting test series, ODIs which have context – is like a leisurely afternoon of languorous love making – unhurried, ebbs and flows, laughter, charming conversation….an afternoon that you fondly remember for a long, long time. IPL is like a series of consecutive one-night stands, where after the first couple of ones, you could probably replace any one tryst with another, I guess.
The best afternoon of cricket that I have ever seen (unfortunately was not at the ground, but was lucky enough to have seen every moment on live television) was this one – Sachin vs Steyn, Newlands 2011 . A legend with his powers slightly on the wane, versus another legend-in the-making at the peak of his ability – two cricketing gods giving it their all.. a classic for the ages, was an utter privilege to watch. Against an afternoon like that, one-night stands don’t even come in the reckoning, do they?
Indeed, (with due apologies to CLR James) What do they of cricket know, who only IPL know?
Would’ve begun today
The journey to our rendezvous
Walking alone, smiling at strangers
Cold nights. Hot chai.
Dawn breaking, streaks of gold
A day to die for.
To have seen you
Woefully inadequate, my imagination
Oh, you beauty.
Awake or asleep
For weeks, you ruled my dreams
Alas, was not to be.
Distraught, I blame
This Universe conspiring against me
Ces’t la vie.
Other times, unsure
Insomnia, I toss and I turn
A question lingers.
Heaven and earth
Were pretty much where they were.
Did I want you badly enough?
Dolphins have been on my mind of of late. I got a nice new screensaver recently, a dolphin themed one – basically a set of breathtakingly beautiful pictures of dolphins in the ocean, against a backdrop of spectacular sunsets, blue sunny skies, etc.
And its also got these very quirky sound notifications. A new email to your inbox is heralded with splashing water, the kind of sound a dolphin would make as its dives back in after a graceful jump out of the water. The first time this happened, I was quite spooked.. it was late in the evening, and I was filing expense reports, right after I had downloaded the dolphin theme. I have a pair of really good Altec Lansing external speakers in my office, the volume on my laptop was at max, and I suddenly hear this Whoosh sound.. of water splashing all around, like in a 3D movie… made me jump out of my chair. There are also other sound alerts, like a dolphin whistle whenever you get pop-ups for forgetting a check box in an online form, or a printer error, etc.
I guess I’ll get a bit tired of all this soon, but for now, I LIKE. In the sea of mediocrity that is a typical work week, it’s nice to be reminded of frolicking dolphins. Also, one of my all-time favourite quotes ever, is about dolphins:
“Man has always assumed that he was more intelligent than dolphins because he had achieved so much…the wheel, New York, wars and so on…while all the dolphins had ever done was muck about in the water having a good time. But conversely, the dolphins had always believed that they were far more intelligent than man…for precisely the same reason.”
- Douglas Adams, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
We took the boys for Kai Po Che a few days ago, as part of a plan to get them into Hindi movies with the hope of making them slightly more comfortable with the language. V and me grew up speaking Bombay Hindi as our primary language outside home, so it’s probably even more despairing for us to see them hate Hindi so much, which is basically the result of their abject frustration with the subject at school.
They quite liked the movie, though all the conversation over dinner that night was around one question that A1 had – what is the connection between a period and becoming a father? For those who haven’t seen it, reference to the context – the lead female character and her boyfriend are extremely stressed about the PPP syndrome, a.k.a. the post-dandiya pregnancy predicament that many young couples in Gujarat and Bombay deal with, a few weeks after amorous Dusshera revelry. She is then relieved to know that It’s only a case of a delayed menstrual cycle, and texts her paramour with the news.
As far as asking questions goes, we have always followed the credo of ‘anything goes’ with A1/A2, which has led to many interesting evenings triggered by questions like the one above. The thread of conversation that night also led to another question about surrogate mothers – a friend had told them that Christiano Ronaldo has a baby from a surrogate mother, and A2 wanted to know what it meant. So we talked about what it meant, and all the ethical, moral and other aspects that the subject usually throws up. I’m a sucker for long conversations anytime, and thoroughly enjoy evenings like these.
Actually, these last few days at home have been more question-filled than usual. I recently ordered this wonderful book ‘ Big Questions From Little People, Answered By Some Very Big People ’. Put together by Gemma Elwin Harris, it compiles over 100 questions, real ones asked by real children across a range of ages (4-12), and gets experts to answer them. An incredibly diverse set of adults - historians, chefs, neuroscientists, artists, entertainers, sportsmen, astronomers, authors and many more – answer these questions from kids in a language and tone that does not ‘talk down’, and at the same time brilliantly resonates with children.
How do you fall in love?
Three adults have answers to this one, and here’s what author Jeanette Winterson has to say:
You don’t fall in love like you fall in a hole. You fall like falling through space. It’s like you jump off your own private planet to visit someone else’s planet. And when you get there, it all looks different: the flowers, the animals, the colours people wear. It is a big surprise falling in love because you thought you had everything right on your own planet, and that was true, in a way, but them somebody signalled to you across space and the only way you could visit was to take a giant jump. Away you go, falling into someone else’s orbit and after a while you might decide to pull your two planets together and call it home. And you bring your dog. Or your cat. Your goldfish, hamster, collection of stones, all your old socks (The ones you lost, including the holes, are on the new planet you found). And you can bring your friends to visit. And read your favourite stories to each other. And the falling was really the big jump that you had to make to be with someone you don’t want to be without. That’s it.
PS You have to be brave.
Another notable mention – If a cow didn’t fart for a whole year and then did one big fart, would it fly into space? The answer is unfortunately, No. Ray Arons, who tested engines for the Apollo Lunar module, works out that the cow would go only three miles and that’s not enough to reach space.
A1/A2 have been hooked, and it’s been a delight to read for me too. The falling-in-love question led me to tell them about my first crush, when I was about the age they are now. She was a couple of years younger, and we played basketball at the local gymkhana court nearby. I still have this vivid visual memory of a match that we played against a neighbouring club, and I helped with an assist for her to score a beautiful basket. I can still see her face, smiling broadly at me as we ran side-by-side back to our half of the court, and being transported into seventh heaven.
Of course, while I was dripping all this senti-ness & nostalgia, A1/A2 were rolling their eyes heavenwards. SO LAME, came the response, to this lyrical outpouring of my heart. They are still in the Calvin-Susie phase of their lives, and it’s going to be fun when they take that leap to another planet.
PS I hope they are brave.