May 28, 2012

IPL-5: The Best Ever?

I believed right from the beginning that IPL-5 would be a roaring success. I had my reasons to think that way, and I am glad that as an ardent cricket lover, my belief in the game has been further boosted by some outstanding displays of batting, bowling and fielding in the last 2 months or so. Eventually, it was consistency and tenacity of the Knight Riders that prevailed over luck and resoluteness of the Chennai Super Kings.

The credit for KKR win mainly goes to Gautam Gambhir who made the right noises throughout the IPL. I loved the way he spoke after every defeat or victory. There was a sense of purpose and a flat honesty in the way he talked, hinting a lot about the kind of character Gautam is. He led from the front, scoring a bulk of runs for his team, and also marshaled his troops brilliantly on the field. He had an ace up his sleeve in the form of Sunil Narine, who remained a mystery bowler throughout the tournament barring the finals. Credit also must be given to young Indian talent of the KKR who got themselves counted every time the situation demanded. From Bisla's whirlwind knock in the finals to Rajat Bhatia'a wily slow medium pace, KKR had some pretty good local talent at their disposal. The franchise owners and the players would be hugely delighted as well as relieved to have finally won the title for the city of Kolkata, which is extremely passionate about sports. And this must be a personal victory of sorts for Shah Rukh Khan, who got in all kinds of trouble in lead up to this big title. To be honest, despite being an ardent SRK fan I too at times got agitated by what I believed was 'extreme involvement' of the actor with the team and the games it played. I always believed that sheer weight and aura of his personality hindered KKR's chances of playing freely and up to their true potential. Khan was always there, in the stands, out there in the field, for every single match. I wondered is it that necessary for a team owner to watch each and every game!

Two reasons that perhaps explain Khan's enthusiasm are- one, he himself has been a sportsperson, and could not help getting involved in the game, and second reason can be the immense passion and energy he brings to everything that he does. But all things said and done, his brawl at the MCA and smoking scandal at Jaipur were surely avoidable incidents. Coming back to cricket, you got to give due credit and respect to CSK for coming so close yet again. Yes, I am a proclaimed CSK hater but the team definitely has the meat to rise up on big occasions. They have had plenty of good fortune coming their way but luck alone can not bring a team this far. But the CSK need to watch out for complacency and arrogance seeping in their ranks. Personally, I did not like Bravo's theatrics every time he took a catch or got a wicket. Ashwin and Vijay also go overboard in their celebrations, and all of this did have a role in eventual denial of what could have a hattrick of titles for Chennai.

My heart goes out to teams like Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab who played out of their skins to keep this IPL alive and kicking till the very last match of the league stage. RCB's ouster before the play-offs makes me wonder what will this team do once Gayle is out of form or not available for playing! Two years in a row Gayle has been absolutely devastating in his impact, scoring bucket full of runs, but still the RCB has not managed to win the title. This tells us a lot about the team's over-dependency on Gayle and the management really needs to do something about it.

As for Delhi, they were deservedly dumped by CSK in the eliminator! This is a team that has come cropper in crunch games again and again, despite creating havoc in the league stages. Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, were the second most lucky team in the competition after CSK. I think they did not deserve to be in the play-offs, with the kind of patchy performance they put up, specially in the first half of the tournament. But MI would be happy with the eventual results, although they seriously need to find a more 'captain like captain' next season!

And my heart aches every time I think of the torrid time Pune had in this IPL! Despite starting off their campaign pretty well, IPL's newest franchise struggled badly towards the business end of the tournament, losing 8 games in a row! I fail to understand the exact reasons behind this debacle. But a probable answer could be that bigger and better teams like CSK, KKR and MI peak towards the end of the IPL while the underdogs like PWI and RR struggle as the business end approaches. Deccan Chargers were never in contention for the play off berth, but did well by extinguishing the chances of at least two hopeful sides (RR, RCB)!

These two months have been fascinating for every cricket fan! I was specially in awe of some of the fielding heroics near the boundary rope by the likes of Rahane, Botha, Steve Smith and a few others! Add to it the innovation in batting by the likes of de'Villiers and the guile in spin bowling brought on by Sunil Narine, and IPL-5 has contributed immensely to the game of cricket. This edition was easily the most fiercely contested with 7 out of 9 teams in the race for a play-off berth till the last stage of the league matches. Naysayers may sulk and call it all 'fixed' or may brood over that molestation case or SRK brawl, but at the end of the day IPL has yet again proved to be cricket's beloved million dollar baby!

Hoping for a bigger and better 2013!

May 25, 2012

India Needs A President Who Speaks Like Obama

Who is the President of India? I am sure you know this. What role does the President play in Indian democracy? Yes, this is the tricky question. If you go by what a certain Satan Bhagat says, 'President is nothing but a 'freeloader-in-chief'. And a third world country like India can not afford to have a titular head of state.' Really?

Our President is neither all powerful as his American counterpart nor is he/she as politically volatile as the one in our immediate neighborhood. But one must not underestimate the president's role to be mere titular and ceremonial. Indian president is the guardian of the constitution, head of the armed forces and decision maker of the key governmental and non-governmental procedures. From taking a call on amnesty to convicts sentenced to death to using all his/her political and practical wisdom during mad days of government formation, a president is like that eldest member of the family who is responsible for maintaining order in the house. The President carries a lot of diplomatic baggage on his/her shoulders, visiting and receiving foreign heads of states and cementing out those crucial bilateral deals.

Rashtrapati Bhawan Will Have a New Occupant in July

But significance of the President of India goes beyond what is prescribed in the constitution. In these times of omnipresent corruption, prevalent gloom and a sense of defeat, India needs a President who is willing to give the healing touch. A President with stature and profound wisdom can actually help India resurrect its growth story and revive that missing 'feel good factor' amongst the masses. How? Imagine we had a 'pro-active' incumbent President and what joy would he or she have brought by giving a emphatic address to Indians on key issues like say Lokpal Bill. Furthermore, what if the President would have passed a snide remark on the recent petrol price hike by merely stating that he/she is planning to cut down on travel within the country! These small 'gestures' and symbolic statements/ pronouncements would mean a lot to Indians at large. The President does not need to take on the government in power head on to prove that he/she is the 'people's president'. In fact, an Indian President is not empowered enough to take on the might of the central government, but certainly should be brave enough to cause embarrassment, wherever and whenever required.

We have enough netas and babus who follow protocols, and know how to play around the rules to pull their own ends. India needs a President who is willing to come out of that cocoon called Rashtrapati Bhawan. Presidential tenure should not be perceived as a dream retirement plan but rather as a wonderful opportunity to serve the nation, in the truest sense of the word. We know the President is Head of Indian State only in theoretical sense. No one expects the President to literally 'rule' us, but yes His Highness/ Her Highness can definitely try and rule our hearts. Trust me, nothing will hurt an incapable government more than a bold and dutiful President who is ready to ask a few questions every now and then. Could not a President simply summon the Petroleum Minister and ask for an explanation for the Petrol Price Hike? Obviously, the government may or may not agree to what President says or suggests, but at least the country would know that there exists a constitutional authority which is somewhat concerned about nation's plight. 

Sadly, we rarely had such a President. After the Holy Trinity of Rajendra Prasad, Radhakrishnan and Zakir Hussain, only Kalam has managed to touch the nerves of the Indian public. Its high time we had a President who is ready break a few protocols, willing to walk the extra mile and genuinely involved in the matters affecting this country. We need a President who knows how to 'talk' to masses, knows to use those big words and does not need to refer to any written speech on Republic Day. Power of oration is the cornerstone of politics and democracy and India's highest public office certainly deserves to have it.

This reminds me of Barack Obama. In his much-anticipated tenure, he has done little more than giving inspirational fiery speeches to Americans, some of them even moving many to tears. We can not even imagine such an animated incident in India. Yes, the time is ripe to have a President who at least indulges in 'lip-service' to the nation. Time we had a President who revived 'hope' in our hearts and 'inspired' us to collectively work towards bright 'future' of the nation, much on the lines of an Obama.

We need a talking President. A President who speaks likes Obama. There needs to be some balance in the house. Plenty of dumb dolls are already around. (Pun Intended)

(As for Satan Bhagat, he is also a dumb doll, albeit with a difference. He is dumb enough to speak too much, way beyond his intellectual level and way below the levels of the author he claims to impersonate.)

May 9, 2012

Satyamev Jayate: Will Truth Triumph?

I do not want to play the Devil's Advocate. Not at all. I also do not wish to extinguish the 'rays of hope' that have emerged in several peoples' eyes after watching Aamir Khan's much hyped television debut 'Satyamev Jayate'. Hereby, I just intend to debate, discuss and examine the actual prospects of Satyamev Jayate, as a 'path-breaking talk show', and the kinds of challenges it faces in coming weeks.

To be honest, the show took me by surprise to an extent. I did not expect Satyamev Jayate to completely stay away from the 'entertainment angle', given the mad race for TRPs in the TV industry. At the end of the hour long show, my heart was filled with different hues of emotions.

The Positives:

  • It is perhaps for the first time that a celebrity of Aamir Khan's stature has taken up social cause in such a big way. Full points to Khan for venturing into a dangerous category, economics wise. We often complain about our stars not associating themselves with social causes, specially in comparison to gigantic humanitarian and social services rendered by celebrities from the West. So, here is an immensely popular Indian film star choosing to debut on TV through a social-theme based programme rather than a usual game show/ reality show affair.
  • Satyamev Jayate has thankfully revived the Sunday morning primetime slot! Remember the good old days when the streets of big cities and small villages presented an absolute deserted look Sunday after Sunday from 9 am or 10 am onwards. Once the slot of some legendary tele-serials like Mahabharat, Chandrakanta, Ramayana and Sri Krishna, the Sunday morning bracket had suddenly gone off the radar of TV producers. Kudos to the makers of Satyamev Jayate for reviving the potentially 'jackpot' slot. If the show manages to hit a chord with the audience, its timing will have a big role to play in it. Also, not to mention that the decision to air the show simultaneously on DD National also seems to be a very prudent and responsible decision. 'Change' can not be expected in the society without reaching out to maximum number of people.

  • Lets face it. Satyamev Jayate is not a whirlwind 'change' that it is being made out to be. Shows with similar concepts have aired before on various channels from DD National to Satellite networks. Some of the examples include Kiran Bedi's show where she delivered 'justice' in public court kind of setting, debating social evils of different kind, numerous tele-serials on issues such as child marriage, female feticide, gender inequality etc. The only change is that never before a prominent celebrity has taken up such causes through a proper TV programme. And yes, perhaps the earlier shows were also not as well dramatized, sprinkled with emotional spices and backed up by sound research. And this much you definitely expect from someone like Aamir Khan.
  • The major challenge that the show faces is from the second episode onwards. Yes, we all were eagerly waiting for Aamir's TV debut, there was tremendous promotion, internet frenzy et all, but what happens from next week? Will the same number of people sit and watch Satyamev Jayate next Sunday, now that they know what the show is all about. There is not an iota of entertainment involved. And this appears to be a weak link for the show in the hindsight. Is the opulent upper class and the restive middle class ready to swallow plenty of bitter truth, along with its rich and healthy brunch, every Sunday morning? The first episode had the novelty factor, the curiosity quotient. I am pretty sure at least some of the viewers who went gaga over the show last Sunday, and flooded internet with praises for Aamir Khan, will not religiously follow the show next week onwards. And I am not saying this because I had a special 'vision' last night. This assumption or rather fear is based on the very fact that we, the middle class Indians, are experts at shrugging off responsibilities. 'Yes, Aamir is the man! Hats off to him for bringing about this change!'. And the story ends there. Where is the follow up? Where is your contribution? Will not you switch to a Govinda potboiler when the goings become very 'preachy' on Satyamev Jayate? This is my genuine fear.
  • Now lets strictly talk about the merits of the show. Satymev Jayate heavily rides on the star power of Aamir and his strong emotional connect with the audience. He does a remarkable job of 'moving' the viewers, sometimes even coming close to 'overdoing' it. As the show progressed, I had a strong feeling of it being a desi version of Oprah Winfrey Show. But, for me, that is not a problem. In fact, full marks to the show's team for going through the rigors of research and it very well shows during the entire length of programme. What worries me about the show, from now on, is its slight 'predictability'. You and I can very well guess what all 'issues' will be taken up by Aamir in the coming weeks. This fact, along with the general apathy towards social issue based talk shows, may just prove to be a hindrance for Satyamev Jayate in coming weeks.
So, Satyamev Jayate's biggest asset as well as undoing is its audience. The initial euphoria and online frenzy will definitely not satisfy Aamir and other brains behind this show. If their idea is to bring a 'change', they will really need to go beyond TRP ratings, holding impromptu press conferences etc. Perhaps writing a letter or meeting Rajasthan CM is the right way forward. Then, if and only if, Satyamev Jayate is able to 'retain' and 'energize' its core middle class target audience, 'truth will triumph'. Or else, we will just have a praiseworthy or rather 'perfect' TV debut for Aamir Khan, his credentials will go sky high (I have no issues with that), his fan base will further swell, but the real 'change' on ground will never happen.