Feb 28, 2011

The Incredible Game!

If receiving a few lathi hits on your bum could be auspicious enough to produce a game of such killing intensity, then I am sure the cricket fans of Bangalore won't mind much. The fiasco over ticket distribution prior to the match aside, the last night encounter between the self-proclaimed favorites India and my dark horses England was truly magical. It seemed so well-scripted (from heaven, no fixing angle please!), that it would have easily won a few awards for best story or screenplay!

The match was a classic example of fine batsmanship and great resolve. And here, I would rate Andrew Strauss ahead of the Master himself. To score 158 runs while chasing 339 against a side that is ranked next only to Australia in ODI table, is commendable. Strauss is not a terrific one-day cricketer, we all know that. But the way he geared his innings against a hapless Indian attack was truly remarkable. The English captain looks very fluent and in-form, and can easily be a thorn in flesh for other opponents in future.

Sachin Tendulkar, that old-young Batting Institution, did it again for India. But his effort was largely overshadowed by a spirited strauss and the eventual result of the match itself. A tie, in a sense, was a very suitable result for the match, as none of the side deserved to lose or let's say both the sides deserved to lose equally! England threw it away from a position of great strength, while India should have won by scoring these many runs at first place.

Now, both England and India find themselves in strikingly similar positions. Their batsmen are making merry while their bowlers are looking clueless. This tie is surely going to bring smiles to the faces of South Africans, who would now fancy their chances of topping the table in Group B, and face a possible encounter with lowly New Zealand in the Quarterfinals.

Also, this 'Incredible Game' settled quite a few myths. Sample these:
  • The World Cup 2011 is not going to be a lackluster affair as it was in 2007. There were a few mis-matches to begin with, but the cup is gaining steam, without doubt!
  • The ODI format is not perishing away, till, there are teams and matches like these. ODI is in good health, naysayers!
  • India are certainly not the Overwhelming or Firm Favorites, as media has made us believe in last fortnight or so. We have a very good chance, better than what we had in last edition. But, remember, this is the most 'open' world cup in cricketing history, with at least 6 teams having fair chances of lifting the trophy in Mumbai. Australia can NEVER be ruled out. Pakistan is resurgent and looking dangerous as a unit. England is inspired and has fighting ability. Sri Lanka can be devastating on their day. South Africa are favorites till they commit suicide.
I have a gut feeling that the last night proceedings at the Chinnaswamy stadium gave us an indication of how things will unfold in this world cup. It carried a message for Indians, gave hope to other teams. The eventual point sharing just might have sealed the fate of both the teams in the world cup.

There is a long week ahead for cricket lovers as minnows are slated to lock horns on most weekdays. We will have to wait for the weekend to get our dose of some real 'classic encounters'. I wonder why ICC only believes in Weekend Dhamaka!

P.S. : The writer is still in awe of the last night cliffhanger!

Feb 24, 2011

Bring the World Cup On! (RSA Vs WI)

Now the 'real' World Cup Begins, as West Indies, the Once-Upon-A-Time Lions of the Game take on the perennial underachievers, the South Africans. After days of mediocre games featuring hapless Kenya and Canada, the real show might just have begun. The minnow community had something to cheer about when the Netherlands almost caused an upset against England. Full marks to the Dutch side for showing great temperament and resolve! Even Zimbabwe did reasonably well against the mighty Aussies. (I still rate them mighty!)

As far as today's match is concerned, we have already seen some lusty blows from 'Lara's clone' Darren Bravo. However, the windies might just have lost the plot as wickets kept falling at regular interval. The much-talked about 'Spin Sensation' Imran Tahir' has made an impressive debut by picking up 4 wickets already!

And yes, Pollard is scalped by fiery Dale Steyn on the very first ball. West Indies tottering at 213 for 9 with almost 5 overs to go. South Africans are grinning ear-to-ear!

Feb 21, 2011

7 Commandments to Lift the Trophy

Its been three days, since one-day cricket's biggest extravaganza started in the subcontinent. We have rubbed our gray cells and tried to figure out which team has the brightest chance to lift the ICC World Cup. However, the euphoria for World Cup, after the opening ceremony, has suddenly evaporated. Mainly because some minnows have been brushed aside very brutally by Test-playing nations in what can be best described as 'mis-matches'. New Zealand, a team that was struggling to win a single game off late, shrugged off the Kenyan Challenge in mere 8 overs, after winding up them for a paltry 69. Sri Lanka, the perennial minnow-bashers, had the better of Canada and Australia defeated Zimbabwe, overcoming some initial resistance. Somewhere between these woefully boring matches, I decided to list out the '7 Commandments' (on the lines of 7 Murders by Susannna) that a team must follow to lift the trophy in Mumbai.

1. The Initial Attack: A good fast bowling unit is a must. Pundits may shout spin is the key, but for me, the initial attack from the fast bowlers holds the key. India almost paid the price for having a spineless pace attack against the Bangladeshi tigers.

2. Part Timers- Gone are the days of specialists. Bits and pieces cricketers will make significant impact on the game. Part time bowlers can stagnate opposition's run-rate and get in some real quick overs. A very important arsenal to have when you are playing in the subcontinent.

3. The Middle Road- A strong middlle order is crucial on Indian wickets. Big hitters at 4,5,6,7 can change the course of the match towards the end, also they can carry out the rescue act in case of an early batting order collapse.

4. Out of the Box Thinking- The teams need to be flexible in their approach. Wise use of powerplays, shuffling of batting order and choosing right bowling options is of paramount importance.

5. Hold the Nerves- First couple of days have been quite boring but expect the things to get complicated as soon as the big teams start to get involved. The team which holds its nerves in crunch moments, manages the pressure from fanatic crowd and bizzare media, will emerge victorious.

6. Winning key moments: ODI is not slam-bang like T20. It comes across in various phases. The game atleast, gives you 4-5 chances to recover or gain a lead. So, the team, which wins the 'battles within the battle', those crucial junctures of the game, will hold an edge.

7. That One Messiah: History says, one man rises above everyone else and makes a huge difference. Team effort is mandatory but individual brilliance gives you that X-factor! India will hope Sachin does one better than what he did in 2003!

So, these were my 7 commandments for the teams. But can someone tell me, who on earth scheduled these world cup matches. First 3 days have been nothing but brutal onslaught on poor minnows. Not a single game of significance till Thursday. On Friday, the Australia-New Zealand cracker of a match is scheduled at 9.30 in the morning, while latter in the day, during the prime time, two powerhouses of world cricket, Bangladesh and Ireland will lock horns!

What logic! What an eye for detail! Hail ICC!

7 Khoon Maaf: Reviewed and Rated

Women have always excited me. Most of my creative endeavors, somehow, manage to inch towards these exceptionally under-rated God's creation. Hence, I have a liking for film-makers who portray women in different shades. Women are just not about chiffon sarees, item numbers and completing an elaborate frame. They are no less than smoking hot volcanoes, if handled wisely.

Vishal Bhardwaj did the same in Omkara and Maqbool. Kareena, Tabu and Konkona are still remembered in their respective portrayal of feisty women. The director now comes up with 7 Khoon Maaf, which is a rare Hindi film that explores the dark side, sexual psychotism of a woman. This time he chooses Priyanka Chopra to play the role of Susanaa, a woman who married seven men and ended up murdering all of them. Thankfully, the former Miss World comes up with a sparkling performance and is well supported by the ensemble cast.

Based on the legendary Ruskin Bond's short story Susanna's Seven Husbands, the movie revolves around the unique marital life of an Anglo-Indian woman, Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes. The movie has wonderful elements of black comedy, thrill and composite storytelling. The director has succeeded in adapting a story, which otherwise is hard to digest in current times. But one should remember that a story is a story at the end of the day, and rationalism and logic have limited role to play in fiction & fables.

Vishal's triumph lies in the meticulous time-framing throughout the movie. From fall of the Berlin Wall in 1990 to Mumbai Terror attacks in 2008, the director has successfully portrayed time lapse, Susanna's changing husbands and their subsequent demise. The first half is competent with Neil Nitin Mukesh's wonderful portrayal of one-legged, insecure army officer. John Abraham looks okay as the second husband, but his rock-star act is passable.

Irrfan Khan is electric as a barbaric poet & shayar. His act will definitely invite numerous gaalis from the audience, especially women. Aleksandr Dyachenko enacts the role of Sussana's 4th husband and is very effective as a Russian Spy. Naseeruddin Shah is his usual self as Sussana's sixth and oldest husband. However, it is Annu Kapoor, as an ageing, sexually volatile police officer who draws maximum attention. He is in top form and you so wish to see him more regularly on celluloid.

The film has been shot exquisitely. The camera creates required tension and dilemma, wherever required. Costumes and make-up also deserve special mention. Priyanka Chopra's gradual change in looks is quite realistic and leaves considerable impact on storytelling. Nasser's son Vivaan Shah is a fine actor and has a magnificent baritone. You just cant help but appreciate the quality of his voice, once he starts narrating the story. The leading lady oozes confidence with her body language. She becomes more menacing with every gray hair and an added wrinkle on her face.

Priyanka Chopra, certainly, has a penchant for enacting roles with varied shades. Her laughter is evil and she makes you jittery with her sobbing act. This one is definitely her best act till date, a notch above Aitraaz.

Vishal Bhardwaj is a master when it comes to adaptations. In a scene, where Sussana's servants bid last adieu to her Russian Husband, you almost feel that you are reading a novel. His detailing has finesse of a pearl and ability to handle a subject, howsoever complicated it might be, is unmatched. Mind you, 7 Khoon Maaf is a bold film. If you have a problem with abusive language, bare back, smooches and near-vulgar love making scenes, give it a miss.

The film has its share of flaws, no doubt. A bit more of clarity in narrative would have been surely welcome. The film asks you to apply brain, sometimes a bit too much. The music, barring the Darlingg Number, is quite ordinary. Also, the ending is convincing but not comprehensive. As a viewer, you longed for more. Moreover, if you dig deep, the intention behind at least 2 of the total 7 murders is quite unclear.

But, in totality, 7 Khoon Maaf is a visual treat that dances on the crest of sex and death. It is a fine depiction of a woman's unending quest for the right man, and the simultaneous degeneration of her beauty and mind. Watch it for Vishal's iconic attempt and Priyanka's bravura act.



Feb 18, 2011

Lift the Spirit; Don't Bog the Team Down!

So the Subcontinent's Cricket World cup is here. And I must say, the Bangladeshis have done a good job at the opening ceremony. Few glitches here and there are okay as it was for the first time that our un-fancied neighbor was hosting a ceremony of this magnitude. At certain points, it looked like a cultural show, but again, we (the residents of subcontinent) are obsessed with our culture and colors. 'Cricket captains on rickshaw', was a cool and innovative concept!

Now lets assess India's chances at the world cup. Clearly, we are one of the strongest contenders for the title. Also, this world cup happens to be the most 'open' since the one in 1996. The era of Aussie domination is gone; the cricketing world is, now, a more leveled playground. India happens to be just slightly ahead of the rest.

But what bothers me is the immense media pressure that has been built up around the team. For the last 15 days, every single channel has projected one thing in the viewer's mind-This is India's world cup. Lets not forget, to win this cup is not India's divine right. Yes, we have a wonderful chance this time around to do one better than what we did in 2003. But, the victory can't be taken for granted. Lets not make the losing part so difficult and improbable for the team. God forbid, if India looses a couple of games, the same people would stand on the rooftop and shout. Lets be fair to the team and manage our expectations well.

Moreover, I am worried about the great man, Sachin Tendulkar. Yes, he is God and Gods are supposed to take care of themselves. But I am appalled by the idea of 'winning the cup for him'. The moment Team plays to win the cup for him, it will be all over. Yes, this thought of 'winning the cup for him' can play a part when the chips are down or the team needs a push. It can be an inspiration but certainly not the ultimate goal. The great man knows that it is his last chance. Let him do the talk with the bat; don’t run after him with mikes and camera. Don’t make him feel as if he would be 'expelled' from the 'God category', if India does not win the cup!

I wish the team plays well, glory will follow suit.

Feb 17, 2011

Curious Case of Akhsay Kumar

Its tough being Akshay Kumar these days. His fortunes at box office have suddenly nose-dived and he no longer seems to be the force, which he was not so long ago. The alarming rate at which his recent films (Action Replay, Tees Maar Khan, Patiala House) have failed at the box-office has already sent tremors across bewildered producers and directors. I tried to figure out what plagues the otherwise extremely hardworking and supremely talented actor. In fact, he is at crossroads. Sample these:
  • He is accused of being repetitive and irritating to an extent when he does his usual buffoon act. Comedy acted as Sanjivani to revive his dead career. But, now the superstar can't be comic. Come up with something new. (Critics complain!)
  • When he does something more sober and new, he is given a cold shoulder by fans. They simply don’t turn up to watch a 'hatke' Akshay Kumar. Sample Action Replay, Patiala House and Tasveer. Even his Master Chef act on TV was a dud. (By the way, I liked that show.)
  • He does not have a perfect jodi on-screen. Katrina is done and dusted. Priyanka wont work with him anymore. New actresses don’t survive along side him. Sample Trisha! (who is she?)
  • The original Khiladi Kumar has no good Action script in his hand. All he has are a few comic re-makes from Priyan Sir, silly stories of Sirish Kunder and likewise. Action, his strength, eludes him.

 I think Akhsay has also lost connect with urban India. Why have him when you have SRK or Aamir? He is way too wild, outrageous and Micromax type for Metro Junta. His films, not cool!

Hmph! None of his upcoming films excite me, personally. I adore him. The self-made man that he is. I wish he does not fade in oblivion. I wish he re-discovers himself or a sensible director approaches him

P.S.- R.I.P Patiala House!

Feb 15, 2011

A World of Free Muslims

If world is a film then Islam is one of its pivotal characters with 'gray shades'. Its supporters vouch for the religion while the detractors leave no stone unturned in pin-pointing loopholes. Islam is a poet's (prophet's) beautiful creation that has been subjected to various and numerous interpretations. Today, the religion is perhaps undergoing its sternest test ever. It is tantalizingly poised at a crossroad, where all paths seem to be equally romantic. 

It is in this context that the just-concluded or say just-initiated Egyptian Revolution holds immense significance. It is a known fact that Arab world is the cradle of Islam. Centuries ago, it was in the deserts of the Arab World that this religion of glorious misinterpretations was conceived, born and nurtured. But sadly, today Islam, more or less, has been convicted within the confines of Arabic sands. When I say confined, I surely do not question Islam's geographical expanse. The Arab conquerors spread the light of Islam, far and wide, from Indonesia to Iceland. What I intend to say is that religion has not been able to break free from the shackles of its birthplace. This perhaps explains why Khuda Haafiz has suddenly paved way for Allah Haafiz, in the Indian Subcontinent. Nostalgia is okay, but obsession and fixation is certainly detrimental.

Arab nations, for long, have been ruled. They have rarely been governed. The medieval tactics have never allowed the modern democracy to blossom in the sand. The entire Middle-East (West Asia) and most of North Africa have been under the clutches of monarchy or dictatorial regime of some kind. People's aspirations have not been allowed to rise and shine. The regime has controlled its masses, the media, the resources, the land, almost everything with iron fists. A great and almost insurmountable wall has been created around the Arab World. Egyptians have just managed to inflict a crack in the great wall.

It is not just President Hosni Mubarak, who has been forced to step down, a baggage of stereotypes and suffocation has been shown the door. Its the victory of people, democracy and True Islam, at the core of which lies tolerance, inclusiveness and progress. Most importantly, the uprising is expected to act as a source of inspiration across the world. It is a sign of Muslim awakening, coming of age of an entire generation of young Muslims who seek freedom and are ready to take care of themselves. Clerics do not excite them. They loathe being ruled, they seek governance. 

As most legends and romantic fables would have it, the story started when a vegetable seller set himself on fire in tiny Arab nation called Tunisia. He was not happy with autocratic president and his goons, who took away his livelihood. His sacrifice paved way for the JASMINE REVOLUTION. A first of its kind in Muslim world, at least in recent memory. The flames of revolution reached Egypt, Yemen and Bahrain. It threatens to engulf other Gulf nations, the iconic Monarchy of Saudi Arabia included in the list. Quite satisfactorily, social networking played a very crucial role in the build up. And we thought, Muslims only create groups on facebook to banish India, Israel, US and that Danish cartoonist.

Those historic scenes at Tehrir (Liberation) Square have sent ripples across the world. The US has so far only warmed its own motives. It has promoted dictatorship in Arab nations at the cost of people's freedom. Sustainence of Israel and expoitation of Oil resources seems to be its only twin goals. The hawkish Iran is also perplexed. It fears recurpursions of Egypt might have a bearing on its harsh cleric-based system. People may seek freedom. They may plan a small little revolution of their own.

The formula is also echoing in Kashmir. The might of peaceful protests has energized the liberty-seekers, resurrected the likes of Gandhi and king from nowhere. The catch is to differentiate between legitimate demands and mere rhetoric. Freedom is wanted but not at the cost of order. 

The world, with bated breath, awaits/welcomes/fears A world of Free Muslims.

Feb 10, 2011

What Do I Seek

Waking up everyday
Only to sleep at night
Mind is a rebel
An unfed baby warrior
Not a crowned prince yet a brave knight

I see flames all around
Crimson, Blue and Red
Razor-Sharp Emotions
Creating angles in a circle
Geometry is funny, someone rightly said

Randomness is stable
Pleasure is undefined
Happiness comes in doses
Like globules of a homeopathic medicine
God is not great nor He seems to be Kind

Dreams are great levellers
They give a high to my lows
To Strive is possible
But possibility is like a TV-Remote
I may not reach out even on my toes

I am an ageing guitar
Keeping strings intact before they go meek
Hazy clouds, dusty roads, endless bridge
I travel most of the times and think
What do I seek