Apr 23, 2012

At 39, Ganguly Kicks the Clock!

'Turn Back the Clock'- read the giant screen at the Feroz Shah Kotla when Sourav Ganguly hit his trademark six over long off in the PWI Vs DD match a day ago. Perhaps the man controlling the giant screen operations vented out the emotions of millions of cricket lovers across India, who wish to see Sourav shine and stamp his authority. Save Sachin Tendulkar, and Sourav Ganguly is the only Indian cricketer (retired or playing) who receives a rousing welcome from the crowd anywhere he goes to play in India. Whether it is his animated captaincy on the ground, a desperate fielding effort or a lethargic pull over the in-field, the crowd goes gaga over Dada, forgetting its team loyalties. Some fools, disguising themselves in the garb of 'experts', often confuse Ganguly to be a 'regional' icon, someone who owes most of his popularity to Bengal and Eastern India. This prejudice was on display in a KXIP Vs PWI match, where the broadcasting channel ran a small little poll, asking viewers to vote for whom they consider to be a better captain- Ganguly or Gilly? When 67% of the voters voted in favor of Ganguly, one such fool cum expert shamelessly said that votes must be hailing from a 'certain region of India'. But now, after his Man of the Match winning effort in Delhi, the same experts use phrases like- 'Its so good to see him perform like this!', 'Respect is the word that comes to my mind when I see Dada perform like this.' and 'Once a Champion always a champion!' These bunch of idiots must quickly realize that Sourav Ganguly is a national icon, who has touched the nerves of millions of Indians over the years. He is the epitome of aggression, tenacity and relentlessness. Someone who has proven his detractors wrong again and again, and scripted fairytales of various hues for the folklore of cricket.

So what has changed overnight? Has Ganguly suddenly become a player of old times, when the ball would merely kiss his willow and race towards the boundary like a falling comet, when his gentle medium pacers would irritate and frustrate worthy batsmen from across the world? No, not exactly. These experts are nothing but aged maniacs who thrive on a potent mix of opportunism and astrology. At the start of a game or a tournament, they indulge in confident blabbering about which team has got the best chances and which team has absolutely no hope. When these predictions fall flat on the ground, they quickly shift their focus to the opportune moment and praise the unlikely hero or the underdogs.

But Indian cricket lovers, fans of Sourav Ganguly and even his staunchest of critics realize that the performance at Kotla was not just out of the blue. Yes, Sourav is now well past his prime, the silken cover drives have dried up, him dancing down the pitch against a left arm spinner is no more a guarantee for DLF maximum, but still the man refuses to get bogged down. Age catches up with every living object and Sourav is no different. And let's also remember that he is not as 'supremely gifted' as say a Sachin Tendulkar. His abilities and batting skills may have corroded, but the fire and desire to succeed at the highest level remains firmly intact. It is this tenacity and resoluteness of Ganguly's character that Indian cricket lovers are well aware of. Hence, Kotla heroics came as no surprise for those who have know and followed Sourav over the years. Yes, it was a sort of 'relief' for his die-hard fans, me included, but all of them knew that it was coming, sooner or later.

Ganguly is a special player because he has always risen from the ashes, he has stared in the face of adversity every time the going gets tough. He never says never, wins half of the battle through his mind. You would have seen this happening every time he walked out to bat in IPL-5. It is evident that he is struggling to get runs, but no one can take away the credit from him for trying relentlessly. He is ready to pull, even though it was never his strength, he is sweeping like never before and is also not afraid of playing the Dil-scoop! Against Daredevils, he took the ball in his hands when all his bowlers failed to stop rampaging duo of Sehwag and KP. That's Ganguly's hallmark, he is never shy when it comes to facing the heat or leading from the front. Once he was into that magical spell of 2-27 from 4 overs, his on-field captaincy improved by leaps and bounds. Ganguly, the tiger was back, weaving a web of discomfort and doubt around the Delhi batsmen. Not to mention that camera-frenzy moment when he sprinted across the dimensions of Kotla to celebrated the fall of Kevin Pietersen. That jubilation, fist clenched and raised up in the air and hair going all over the place, will go down in the history of IPL as one of the most defining moments.

Ganguly is a classic example of triumph of strong willpower over diminishing abilities. At this age, he could have easily chosen commentary over cricket or administrative power over passion, but he continues to astonish the cricketing world with his undying passion. His legs may have become slower, but his mind is still ticking, way better than some of the so-called young guns. And until Ganguly's mind continues to a kick a few butts and race against the natural progression of clock and time, expect him to be a potent force, both as a leader and a player. He does not promise to win the IPL for the Warriors, he does not promise or even remotely intend to match Gayle's batting heroics, but he also does not plan to bow down without a fierce fight.

P.S.- The Sourav Fairytale is Yet to Reach its Conclusion.

Apr 22, 2012

Vicky Donor is a 'fantastic sperm'

The first quarter of 2012 has been fantastic for the Hindi film Industry. We have witnessed small but significant films like Kahaani and Paan Singh Tomar make their mark at the box office, and there have been a couple of massive blockbusters in form of Agneepath and Houseful 2. Amidst all the hue and cry about that coveted 100 crore club and star power, the audiences have consistently rewarded smaller films that come up with novel and interesting stories. Director Shoojit Sircar's 'Vicky Donor' is another such small film albeit with a big heart.

Vicky Donor's biggest plus point is a unique and 'never been touched before' kind of subject. The issue of sperm donation is still a taboo in Indian society and the masses at large have little knowledge about the same. Shoojit Sircar's film successfully deals with this sensitive subject in a very humorous as well as educative manner. So at the end of the film, you not only come out with your funny bone tickled, but also with your mind illuminated.

The story of the film revolves around the protagonist Vicky Arora (Ayushmann Khurana), who is a quintessential young Delhi boy. Yet to find a suitable job for himself, he lives life as it comes. The Arora family comprises Vicky's Punjabi mother Dolly (Dolly Ahluwalia) and grandmother (Kamlesh Gill). While the former often nags Vicky about job and life in general, the later always backs the young boy. On the other hand there is Dr. Chaddha (Annu Kapoor), a fertility expert, who is frantically looking for a sperm donor for his rich clientele and addresses human beings as 'sperms', like 'confused sperm, complicated sperm'. His eyes are set on Vicky, in whom he sees the perfect 'Arya Putra', an excellent reservoir of finest quality sperm. Ashima Roy (Yami Gautam) is Vicky's love interest, who discovers her beloved's 'Donor' realty quite late.

There is plenty of quirky Punjabi humor throughout the film, specially the first half. Some scenes, like one where Vicky's mother and grandmother bond over late night drink, are madly comical. Dialogues are top notch with granny cracking you up with outstanding one-liners. The film takes a different turn post interval with less emphasis on humor and more mileage being given to the core 'issue'. There are subtle subplots of complex and beautiful human emotions and relationships, like the bond between Vicky and his mother, his mother and grandmother, Vicky and Ashima and not to forget Vicky and Dr. Chaddha. Here, I would ike to mention a solitary scene from the film where Vicky comes back to his home late at night to find his mother sleeping in his room. The hardly 3-minute sequence beautifully depicts the mother-son love, and stands out as the emotional high point of the film.

Ayushmann Khurana as Vicky comes across as a complete natural. He gets into the skin of Punjabi boy character and charms you all the way through with his impeccable comic timing. Not to mention, he looks dashing on-screen, justifying in every sense the title of 'Arya Putra' being bestowed upon him. Annu Kapoor as Dr. Chadha is terrific. He is funny, maniacal and a total Dilli da doctor. Seeing his remarkable performance, you tend to wonder why dont we see him more often on the celluloid. Yami Gautam as Ashima looks yummy and charming! She beautifully underplays her character, letting the surrounding Punjabi folk take the center stage. Apart from these three main leads, Vicky Donor boasts of an enviable support cast that delivers a cracking performance. Dolly Ahluwalia as Vicky's mother is sufficiently over the top and reasonably gentle. The showstopper, however, is the veteran Kamlesh Gill playing Vicky's granny, who makes you laugh more than any other cast of the film.  

Director Shoojit Sircar (and scriptwriter Juhi Chaturvedi) deserve applause for conceiving and executing a subject oriented film. Debutante producer John Abraham also deserves some brownie points for backing a project like this and walking an untrodden path. The film also boasts of soulful music with 'Paani Da Rang' being the pick of the lot.However, editing leaves a little to be desired with a scope for 15-20 minutes trimming of film's length. Also, film loses pace in middle portions when humor seems to be making room for few emotions.  

But all said and done, you need special sperms (read people) to make a film like Vicky Donor. It is a brave, humorous and educative film that does not get preachy even for a second. Humor here is mostly subtle sans all the possible awkwardness, given the kind of topic in hand.  

Watch Vicky Donor to get rid of a few stereotypes and have a sperm count of laughs! (read a million laughs)

Rating- ***1/2 (Very Good)

P.S. - By now you know that title of the review intended to say- 'Vicky Donor is a fantastic film.'

Apr 13, 2012


I can see a bit of future
And sip a cup of tea
Low waves and high tides
In that deep blue sea

Glimpses of the world above
And abundance of the earth
They look so perfect and plenty
There is no denial no dearth

I can see myself in mirror
For as long as I want
Shy away in admiration
Or impenitently flaunt

At times I lose my way
Sans all the verve and zeal
Decrepit but turns null and void
Cometh the touch of heal

Like a striking maiden
With a mask on her face
Like moon in a rainy night
And the clouds as its lace

They are epitome of life
Full of splendor and grace
For I can kill and get killed
If that may be the case

My heart resides within
Those starry streaks of hope
Call me a sinner or little insane
But your eyes are my Bioscope

Apr 6, 2012

Never Write Sourav Ganguly Off

When Pune Warriors take on the Mumbai Indians today, it will be a battle of David and Goliath. Not many would back the depleted Pune side led by Sourav Ganguly to upset the mighty Mumbai Indians, who spanked the reigning IPL champions Chennai Super Kings by 8 wickets in this season's opening game. There also seems to be a lot of negativity and lack of buzz surrounding the Pune Warriors. And there are some valid reasons for it. The Sahara franchise has been in the news this year for all the wrong reasons, almost not playing this season of the IPL. In 2011, they finished second last after flattering to deceive in first couple of matches. So, why have expectations from a side that has not done well to its reputation? Not really. Because, one man in that team has it in him to change the fortunes of his side drastically.

In a pre-tournament analysis of all the sides, I heard Sanjay Manjrekar saying that handing over the reigns of PWI to Sourav Ganguly 'makes no cricketing logic.' I wonder why he and other cynical experts love to loathe Ganguly. Same things were said when Ganguly was included in the side for South African tour of 2006. When he was dropped from the side earlier, these cynics rejoiced. But Sourav shut their mouths up by making a mother of all comebacks in 2006, and going on to play on the top of his game for the next 2 years. Why the likes of Manjrekar find no fault in a 41-year old Gilchrist leading the Kings XI Punjab. IPL is the only form of cricket that Gilchrist plays every year, not even bothering to participate in his country's domestic T20 bash. Yet, he remains the holy cow while Ganguly emerges as the favorite scapegoat.

Sourav has been training hard for four months now, playing in the domestic circuit, and in the process leading Bengal to its maiden Vijay Hazare trophy win. He is a born leader, who can walk into a side solely on his superlative captaincy skills. His batting, still, is better than many of those who are being paid millions of dollars in the IPL. There is no reason why Sourav Ganguly can not do to Pune, what Warne did to Rajasthan. In fact, he has a much better side at his disposal with the likes of Tamim Iqbal, Clarke, Jesse Ryder, Marlon Samuels, Robin Utthappa, Luke Wright and Rahul Sharma in the ranks.

But its not the team which makes Ganguly a formidable force. It's he himself, the never ending fairytale, which makes 'Dada' rise like a phoenix every time he is written off completely. He is very excited about this year's IPL and has been given a free hand by the team owners. At the ripe age of 39, he still has the same self-belief, aggression and passion for the game. Let's get it right- Sourav ganguly has nothing to prove anymore. He could have easily sat in the commentary box, sharing a few laughs with Shashtri or that stupid man Manjrekar. It is only the passion for the game of cricket, which is still driving Sourav Ganguly. Albeit on a high, he retired a bit pre-maturely in 2008. IPL gives him a chance to give back to the game and to the people who still have faith in him.

I am not expecting the moon from Sourav Ganguly and Pune Warriors this year. But rest assured, it will not be a meek surrender either. Sourav will play hard, play for his pride and inspire some good performances from the youngsters. He may not be the same batsman anymore, but he remains the same motivational leader, a fierce competitor and a dedicated student of the game. Cynics have come and gone while Sourav has quietly scripted some most unimaginative successes in his glorious cricketing career. And perhaps it is this never say never attitude, which makes Sourav Ganguly an ageless wonder.

I will not get into prediction business, as far as Pune's fortunes in this IPL is concerned. But I can firmly say that Sourav Ganguly will be the man who will ensure that Pune end this IPL with their heads held high. Trust me when I say this, (and you should certainly not trust someone like Sanjay Manjrekar)- Never Write Sourav Ganguly Off.

Apr 4, 2012

5 Reasons Why IPL-5 Will Be a Success

So, its that time of the year again! India's annual summer cricket and entertainment bonanza is here. IPL-5 faces some real credibility issues with its previous edition being lackluster and uninspiring to say the least. But the last edition's low makes me believe that IPL, this year, can only zoom upwards. Forget about the not-so-good opening ceremony (I liked it anyway), the controversies just ahead of the league and other flip-flops, I have my own reasons to believe (and hopefully make you believe) that IPL-5 should be a success story. Here are the 5 reasons:

1. No World Cup Hangover- Its been exactly an year since we won the Cup of Joy. Since then, lot of water has passed under the dam of Indian cricket. We have taken the law of gravity way too seriously, diving towards the ground very quickly quickly after reaching that peak on April 2, 2011. The cricket fans badly need a reason to rejoice and jump up in excitement. Trouncing in England and Australia has taken the sheen off Indian cricket. IPL could well be that balm which will sooth the nerves of distressed spectators. Last year's IPL suffered heavily because the fans were yet to get out of the World Cup euphoria. They were not able to digest a Sachin taking on Dhoni, days after they together danced with that coveted trophy. There was also the 'fatigue' factor and that natural phenomenon of 'low' after achieving a remarkable high.

2. Icons Will Strike Back- Sachin stepping down from Mumbai Indians' captaincy is the last cog in the wheel. Fans should expect all their 'icon players' to shine in IPL this year and I am not saying it just like that. Sachin is free from the burden of his 100th 100 and stepping down from captaincy will only make him lighter. With speculations rife about whether or not the Little Master is now truly well past his prime, I am sure Sachin would let his batting do the talking. Expect a free, fearless and 'enjoying his game' kind of performance from the great man this season. Same goes with Rahul Dravid, another icon player who will take the IPL plunge just for the sheer love of the game. Sehwag, with abundant negativity surrounding him, will also be keen on proving a few points. Ganguly, that never-ending fairytale of India cricket, is excited like a teenager for the IPL. With the Pune franchise giving him free hand, and an exciting pool of players at his disposal, he and his team are my dark horses for this season. And last but not the least, MS Dhoni will also take up IPL as a nice little spa session. With plenty of criticism coming his way in the last one year, Dhoni would like to unwind and relax by playing a few helicopter shots.

3. Fresh Looking Teams, Better Format- There were too many matches in the last season. IPL-5 looks in better shape with one team less and fewer matches. Also, the fresh trading of players has added an element of novelty to the teams, with their core remaining intact. Although, I believe that it should be the last time when open auctions occurred in IPL. The fans must be allowed to develop that emotional connect with their players and the team because that's the epitome of city-based sports league. Too much of shuffle, chopping and changing is not desired.

4. Lesser Controversies/Negativity- Lalit Modi is out of the picture and his shadows are not that long anymore. The shady Kochi franchise is also out of the league and the financial dirt and mud has also settled down. This year's IPL can only look forward after hitting a roadblock last time around. Barring the Sahara fiasco, IPL this year has managed to keep its slate clean. Somehow I feel that relatively low hype and hysteria would help IPL 'build' its own credibility. If cricketers click (which they will), IPL will be back on track.

5. IPL Remains a Legitimate Sporting Product- At the end of the day, it is all about quality of cricket on display. From a little know Paul Valthaty to an ageless wonder like Warne, IPL has been the garden of floral magnificence of all kind. And with new exciting talents like Tamim Iqbal, veterans like Ganguly and Dravid, and other domestic/international players all set to sizzle, IPL assures you of high quality cricket, if not anything else.

With first two days showcasing top four teams of last year, I expect the IPL-5 to hit the right notes from Day 1. The icing on the cake would be if the underdogs like Pune and Kings XI manage to get a good start this season. IPL must live up to its core promise of being unpredictable and exciting. And a good week or so of exciting cricket will be reason enough for estranged IPL lovers to jump back on to the bandwagon.

I am On. Are you?