Wednesday, December 30, 2009

3 Cheers for 3 idiots

Following up the Munnabhai series on one hand and also doing justice to something like Chetan Bhagat's 'Five point Someone' on the other must have made Rajkumar Hirani evolve his 'Aal izz Well' philosophy! And it worked, just like 'Jaadu Ki Jappi' and Gandhigiri. Rajkumar Hirani, the man who resurrected Gandhi for the theatre-goers is back with a rehash of Chetan Bhagat's 'Five point Someone' and with his honesty intact. Chetan Bhagat would be proud of this take on his novel. But did he actually get the credit? I am not sure I saw his name in the opening credits!!

The novel's critical take on Indian education system and its lush portrayal of the joe de vivre spirit of the 3 friends the system takes it toll on is the perfect canvas for Hirani, who excelled the art of hammering in messages through comedy. So here he is taking the essence of the novel, especially its humor and adding the Bollywood masala and deducting the matter-of-fact tone of the novel. While the Five point graders in the novel go thru unbelievable lows to salvage something in the end and pass out, this 3 hour Aamir starrer is designed as triumph of the underdogs, as is the filmi wont. The humor is multiplied many times over.

To start with, The IIT background is shifted to some prestigious private college so as to not arouse a scandal by commenting on its education system. The Ryan character becomes Rancho, borrows Rajesh's girlfriend here as he is playing 'hero' here, again because of which he ends up a top-of-the-line scientist, not some research assistant. Ditto with other 2 friends who in the novel just manage to scrape through into software careers (man, are we so cheap!!). Here in the movie, they are made for better things. One even follows his heart to become a wildlife photographer. The novel didn't have the lofty ideals of follow-ur-heart thing and it just was a coming of age story of 3 folks, even as it enlightens the Hitleresque HoD of Mech Engg. While the HoD thread continues to be the emotional core here, the movie includes more sub-plots in its canvas to add more masala. Rancho is more altruistic here than Ryan was, there is also some drama thrown in for his background which helps the flashback narrative. And here we have a Chatur Ramalingam's character who is fully-blown out from the mugger Venkat in the novel (to elevate the 'success' of Rancho towards the end). So much blown up, he stinks all time! His on-stage Hindi performance is outrageously funny (Why do the southies suit so well for the studious characters is something to ponder! Remember the bespectacled medico Nagarajan in Munnabhai).

Aamir suits the central character to the T. In fact the project wouldn't have been possible without his dynamism. 3 idiots is the first serious take on Indian education system and that very fact keeps it in good stead to become a huge blockbuster. Madhavan and Sharman do well too. Boman Irani seems to be a resident evil in all Hirani's ventures and with a very good reason. He makes it very easy for us to loath him with his menacing. The first half of the movie just flies by in all wit. The second half slows a bit and even the dialogue at some places look laboured but the joyous mood of the movie so overwhelms that these technicalities don't matter much except to rank 3 idiots a few steps below the finesse of the Munnabhai series. But then, maybe, we don't always need Hirani's best to keep the viewers agog and the box office on fire. Hirani would have feared matching his early successes and must have said 'Aal izz Well' to keep himself going! And it works big time in all its honesty. 3 cheers to 3 idiots :)

Friday, December 25, 2009

AVATAR (IMAX 3-D): Redefining Cinematic Experience

"The last time I came out of a movie feeling that way it was the first time I saw Star Wars. The most evocative and amazing science-fiction movie since Star Wars." - Steven Spielberg about Avatar
In all its verdant 3D splendour, James Cameron's Eco-fable Avatar left me spellbound like nothing before. This
jaw-dropping visual spectacle, which shows the full potential of the 3D medium, ushers us into a whole new age of film making. Would this turn out a crush and not real love, only time and the next 3D adventures would tell! But for now, the riot of colors and the 3D alternate reality on screen with all those painstakingly done details simply overwhelms us so much we would be ready to redefine cinema as a sensory experience rather than a story-telling craft for those 160 odd magical moments. That's how hard Cameron's imagination pushed the envelope.

Many a time, we feel technology mindlessly dominates the stories and characters so much so that the human element would be crushed beneath it.
In fact, we have come to believe that good special effects are those which are hard to notice. Avatar is the case where the technology is right in-the-face in form of 12-foot tall, golden-eyed, gazelle-like blue indigenous people and other never seen before fauna on lush extraterrestrial moon called Pandora. And it engrosses and connects with us so well we don't feel we need to connect with the story. Heck, I didn't even care if there was one. At least till I left the IMAX 3D theatre. Avatar redefined cinematic experience for me.

One viewing may be hopelessly inadequate fo
r us to take in all of Avatar in its 3D glory. The lush flora complete with filtered sunlight in middle of wild forests to the most imaginatively created wildlife to the floating mountains all scenes one after the other look like paintings of Van Gough. Cameron showed everything that can be imagined can now be realised on screen without making anything look like gimmickry. How much of this groundbreaking experience is due to skilled color composition and how much due to real hardware developments - like in camera would determine what this new generation 3D cinema would throw up. But for now, Avatar shows the future of 3D action movies. When the Na'vis speaks and the subtitles float in a wonderful 3D layer, we realise 3D is no more about some odd thrill but that it is as real as it can get. The range of subtle emotions Na’vi warrioress Neytiri's character displays and our emotions it elicits speaks volumes of how real the 3D and VFX technologies elevated the experience into.

Once I descended from the highs back at home, the more I think, the more I get to realize that Cameron indeed got away with a simplistic bland story - corporate greed destroying mother earth, and cliches political - "we will fight terror with terror", “When people are sitting on stuff you want, you make them your enemy” (an allegory to Iraq and Afghanistan and the premise for the wars there) and business - “One thing stockholders hate worse than bad press, is a bad quarterly statement”. But then with something around $500 mn at stake, Cameron must have felt it safe to stick with his tried and tested simple storyline method. As is his wont, he comes out with all guns blazing in the climax to steady Avatar as the next big popcorn blockbuster. A dream of 12 years, ironically, would have a predictable climax, albeit an all-enveloping visual experience. This is precisely what stops us from calling this a masterpiece. But then making one may not be Cameron's priority as is his ambition to be re crown himself the king of the world. He may well be re crowned next year, Avatar may well sweep the Oscars in all technical departments. Till then, we can all give him a collective WOW.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rocket Singh doesn't quite hit the target!

Shimit Amin's Rocket Singh is an ambitious venture content-wise and that is in itself commendable. On the lines of Munnabhai series, it tries to unravel the humane angle, this in the murkiness of the cut-throat businesses like Munnabhai did in the medical profession and like its sequel did in the context of day-to-day life.

The Movie has all honesty and heart, an endearing protagonist, real characters. We relate to the Rocket Singh who, with rose-tinted glasses, comes to the big bad dog-eat-dog world straight from college. He gets insulted, abused by the roughshods to mend himself as one of them - corrupt, street-smart liers. Rocket does not relent and insists on having his way -business with a human touch!

While Rocket Singh gets our sympathy for his ordeals, the movie looses our sympathy when it starts dragging for too long over the nitty-gritties of computer selling/servicing business. The dialogues too are found wanting for such a powerful theme and most importantly the entertainment quotient, which is the reason for the tremendous success of Munnabhai series, is low. So we do get to yawn now and then. From someone like Jaideep Sahni and Shmit Amin who dished out 'Ab Tak Chappan' and 'Chak De', we could have expected something a tad better in script and screenplay. The plot has the holes. We wonder how would a business honcho who is in a service-centric business for so long does not know buying a brand without the brains and service behind it would mean nothing! Rocket Singh's character graph does not quite peak from an underdog to that of a victor. While Ranbir does quite well, his characterization is flawed and that that is why this despite being such a morality tale, he does not quite elicit an elation when the end credits roll. YashRaj's Rocket Singh with all its good intentions does not hit the target.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

TELANGANA II: Statehood at midnight

“The process of forming the state of Telangana will be initiated. An appropriate resolution will be moved in the Assembly.” “We are concerned about Rao’s health. We request him to withdraw his fast immediately. We also appeal to all concerned, especially students, to withdraw their agitation and help restore normalcy” - Chidambaram

OU, my Alma mater is brimming with pride. For, it provided the rigorous democratic voices that stomped the streets and formed a deadly cocktail with KCR's righteous challenge of fast-unto-death. The cocktail had to be detoxified before it boiled over today at the massive rally towards the assembly. Chidambaram, the boss of home affairs did just that. He announced the initiation of the process to create Telangana. For someone who is hell-bent to extend the rule of state deep inside the Maoist bastions of dandakaranya, to appeal to the students especially means an acknowledgement of the purposeful agitation they spearheaded. Just for once, everyone felt the country is still alive to democratic voices. Its invigorating to see a 5 decade just struggle achieve its rightful end in a 10 day spontaneous outburst of restrained righteous anger. For a country that is a starved of civil movements, this is a tonic, coming as it is to fruition on the Human Rights Day.

"Slept in Andhra, Woke up in Telangana". Thus went an SMS doing the rounds today. This is more true in case of Chandrababu who seem to be startled to wake up in a state, he thought, would exist forever, only in parties' manifestos. Ever since he trucked up with TRS in elections earlier this year, he maintained his party is all for Telangana but he also took pains at times to explain that TDP itself as a party would not participate in any movement to campaign for the new state. That is a stand which clearly exposed whether the alliance was for votes or to address the genuine concerns of Telangana. He thought he made sure he would get the TRS vote-bank even while absolving himself from any responsibility to keep the issue alive, leave aside sustaining or taking the movement forward. Showing his credibility, he didn't budge from his stand and did nothing for the cause. So much so that he and his party sat like mute spectators watching the Govt's 11 day emergency-type rule to suppress KCR's fast and the student agitation. It was almost as if Chandrababu announced with his indifferent attitude that Telangana is not just a different state but a foreign country! So for anyone to expect him to accept Telangana as a reality is a bit too much. Now he says he only supported starting consultations on the issue, not the creation of the state itself. The fact that his party in an all-party meeting with the CM reaffirmed support for the Telangana resolution, whenever it is placed in the house, as recently as on 07 December makes a national laughing stock out of Chandrababu. This duplicity on his part stands in contrast to the clear-cut agenda the students agitated with. And it is this incompatible outlook towards issues and resolutions that is now making Andhra and Telangana break apart, with absolutely no effort made to talk away the discrimination concerns. It is this dubious attitude on the part of Andhra political leadership that confined, one after the other all agreements and accords made to do justice to Telangana, to the dustbin. While for 11 days the students struggled and KCR fasted forces in all parties that have reservations against the new state maintained a deafening silence on Telangana trusting their lobbying to succeed over the democratic campus/street/hospital agitation and suicides. In fact, for 2 days TRS insisted on discussing the Telangana issue in the assembly while both the Congress and TDP avoided it and made it a low priority issue to be discussed later in day. While the advocates of Telangana insisted on discussion, the TDP and the Congress did everything to silence them and when the parties woke up in Telangana, they all whined in unison that they were not consulted!

The opposition for Telangana is spearheaded by the plutocrats who built business empires worth thousands of crores leveraging their power in this vast state. For them to succumb to the new state would mean the risk of dishonouring commitments to made businesses to barter away Govt land, resources and lucrative contracts in lieu of investments made in their own companies. Even while the whole mining mafia is unravelling, Telangana serves as a double whammy. To see the many big ticket industrialist MPs trying even today to gain favour with her highness in Delhi just vindicates that it is the interests of these plutocrats that were and are stopping Telangana in its tracks. Its natural all these forces across party lines trust in the same lobbying which in the first place merged by force Telangana into this state in 1956. But this time, the uprising has been so severe no lobbying worked its way into Race Course Road thanks to the reckless use of force by the state. The disproportionate use of force without leaving any scope for dialogue left only 2 options as possible results in the end - Yes or No for the new state. The National security adviser was supposed to have told our state MPs that he has reports of an apolitical 'civil uprising' in Telangana and that it is worrying Delhi. Hence the use of force has been counterproductive for the plutocrats. Left with no middle ground, the creation of Telangana has been fast-tracked last midnight. The plutocrats lost the plot. KCR rose from the phoenix, albeit looking over his shoulders, the students behind him.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

TELANGANA I: People's Movement and the Plutocracy: The Gathering Storm

56 years after Jawaharlal Nehru shot down the proposal to merge Telangana and Andhra into one state as a “tint of expansionist imperialism” planned by the coterie with power and pelf in the then Andhra state, Telangana now finds entangled in the same capitalist games Nehru feared. As KCR's fast-unto-death enters its 8th day today and all associations worth their name in Telangana lent their support and quite visibly so, the men in power and in opposition maintain a deafening silence. The apolitical movement led by students and supported by government employees, lawyers, teachers, journalists, artistes, peasants and others as disparate as barbers and washermen gained unheard of support across castes, religions and much to its credit stayed peaceful unlike the previous agitation in 1969. Formulations ranging from the extreme left to the extreme right of the political spectrum are supporting the demand for a separate state. But nothing seems to move the political parties despite such an overwhelming advocacy for the new state. It is almost as if the much boasted democracy does not even exist. If the numbers are so overwhelmingly in favour of Telangana then why is that the parties don't jump on to the bandwagon and spearhead the movement politically? Why is that political parties and political leaders are failing to protect the interests of the people whom they claim to represent even when the people concerned are openly threatening to close their political careers? Therein lies all that is wrong not just with Telangana's backwardness but with Indian democracy.

The answer lies in understanding how our 'democracy' works now. The present situation in AP makes us believe that somehow the CM and his ilk believe the agitation will subside as days go by and then all those agitators' votes can be bought by money thrown in by all those big businessmen who get to benefit with the status-quo - the undivided state. After all, that is the confidence our political elite got over the years in absence of any meaningful people's movement. Welcome to our Plutocracy. Irrespective of the party in power, this is how our beloved democracy works now. Masquerading as a democracy, the plutocracy thrives with a 21 gun salute.

The history of Telangana's negligence is testimony to the fact that power and pelf overrules all agreements, safeguards, even those provided by the supreme court. The plutocrats in AP have grown from strength to strength playing mostly playing the caste politics. They have acquired a vice-like grip on administration machinery, government policy and the media. The same is continuing now. Just look at the media coverage of the mass moment in AP. NDTV's Hyderabad correspondent literally makes fun of the agitating students as if they are some uneducated thugs. He makes absolutely no mention of the cause of the agitation. And of course there is no debate on how the government broke all laws during and after the arrest of KCR. Same with how the police baton-charged the students when they are in a peaceful rally. Times of India does the same. It laughs at KCR, the agitators, calls them all hooligans. Among the vernacular media, it is to be noted that the two major media houses EENADU and SAKSHI continues to ignore the movement, when they are not showing it in bad light. This is not a surprise considering the stakes these media house' owners have in the present political setup which would be disrupted in case Telangana becomes a reality. Most of the national media like NDTV, IBN seems to have taken the ruling party's membership! Their coverage on any event/issue reflects what is whetted by the madam's aides in Delhi's Race course road, if not their correspondents' own narrow-minded views.The media example is but one aspect of the present opposition to the movement. The more important part is that the YSR regime spawned a whole political and administrative system closely linked with Mafia. A mafia that operates on the realty business in and around Greater Hyderabad and which made a successful business out of the huge 'welfare' and 'development' programmes in irrigation and health. The MLAs, MPs presently representing AP, including Telangana, are but products of this system. The money spent in the last election in AP is estimated to be the highest in the country, thanks to this Mafia's sponsorship. So how would we expect these representatives to break the tentacles of money-driven politics and reflect people's aspirations? That explains why not all the MPs, MLAs representing Telangana are forthcoming about what they are doing to attain statehood despite their parties' manifestos supporting the creation of Telangana.

While all stakeholders who get to loose with a separate state are already united across party lines, the forces for the new state are grouping together right from grassroots level. The spark that ignited this voluntary mobilisation is the governments' atrocious actions against KCR and the students. What KCR could not do in his lifetime has been achieved by the brutal use of force by the rulers. It triggered unprecedented solidarity among the Telangana advocates. Despite the fact that the matter determines the destiny of 35 million people, the CM and Chandrababu Naidu planned their Delhi visit during KCR's planned fast and stayed put there for few days. They must have hoped KCR issue would be settled by the time they return. But it is not to be. Even after they returned, they are feigning indifference and are avoiding even media and public appearances. These two who are otherwise at each others throats on every other issue have adapted a common approach towards the Telangana movement. Not just them, Loksatta Jayaprakash Narayan indeed was a shock when he compared Telangana demand with that of Ayodhya Ramjanmabhoomi issue! JP who incessantly talks about rights of citizens maybe considers Telanganites to be second-class citizens and so he sees no issue in the continuous diversion of Telangana's resources and open discrimination of government policies against Telangana. The fact that all possible alternatives for the statehood have already been experimented with in the shape of The Gentlemen’s Agreement, The All Party Accord, The Eight Point Formula, The Five Point Formula, The Six Point Formula etc and that they all failed does not even merit a discussion for JP. JP 'the objective and the intellectual' has been a revelation. So much for his fight to empower the common man.

It is clear Telangana and its people continue to be low on the priority list in the existing setup. Whether the building up civilian movement for Telangana would sustain itself and challenge the might of the political setup is to be seen. If this indeed upturns the plutocracy, it would be a milestone not just for Telangana but for the spirit of democracy in this country and goes a long way in inspiring other grassroots movements that are fighting the reckless destruction caused by the plutocrats in the Indian state. Nehru, in whichever world he is, would find solace. If this movement is suppressed as per the plans of the plutocrats in Congress and TDP, I would hate to imagine what it would mean for the fabric of democracy in general and the self-respect of Telanganites in particular. Though I have a lingering feeling this would not be another Irom Sharmila case.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

ARYA2 is smart and great fun!

Arya is back with a bang. The new Arya is not as sure-footed as the street-smart Arya who was wooing his girl 5 years ago. He in Arya2 has shades of gray, is confused at times to choose between his 'best friend' and his love. But he still is quick-witted thinking brilliantly on his feet and continues to spring surprises with his eccentric unconditional love and friendship. And of course it is still Allu Arjun, obviously. Arjun displays an elan with the role which makes it impossible for us to imagine someone else in his shoes for Arya. Add to that his jazzy fluid dance movements that evokes utter awe. His energy lightens up the screen and brings to life a brilliant script from Sukumar.

Sukumar does not disappoint like he did with Jagadam and now lives up to the promise he made with Arya in 2004. He moulds the hero's obsessive and juvenile character very well and makes the whole plot engaging with a remarkable scripting effort. The dialogues are sharp. The picturization of songs is thoughtful and beautiful. The only glitch looked to be the lack of an emotional build-up to the love the Hero develops for his girl. However, the quick pacing of the movie does not leave us any time to wonder, Instead, we are thrown headlong into the sequences involving Brahmanandam which are rip-roaring. Devisri Prasad's music which is very hummable and which goes very well with the gregarious mood of the movie and amazing dance moves of Allu Arjun.

The production is excellent and all visuals display certain finesse, thanks to the DI and Visual Effects. Arya2 is unadulterated entertainment orchestrated well by Allu Arjun, Sukumar and Devisri Prasad. It's been quite a while since I had this much fun watching a Telugu movie on the big screen.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

KURBAAN: A refreshing watch

*ing : Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Vivek Oberoi
Music : Salim-Suleiman:
Dialogues: Anurag Kashyap, Niranjan Iyengar
Direction: Rensil D' Silva
Qurbaan becomes Kurbaan because it is Karan Johar's production and as we all know he has a thing for K. And maybe he will get more superstitious now that Rensil D'Silva makes a good debut with Kurbaan. Kurbaan is treated well and if you liked Fanaa, you will like this too. Despite the loaded backdrop of Islamic terrorism, D'Silva does not fall for the familiar traps - of justifying (like some of the recent harebrained Bollywood movies) or judging the terrorist acts. Kurbaan is no treatise on post 9/11 terror. It instead is matter-of-fact about how things are post 9/11. Terrorists in here are calculating, suave and driven. And more importantly not much rabble- rousing dialogue of type allah hu akbar is made to convey the point. Kurbaan is about how a terror camp operates from a New York basement and how one in the camp looses his way in the journey of Jihad to instead Kurbaan his life for his ladylove and his unborn child. In one scene, the protagonist after cold-bloodedly killing one comes home and lays beside his pregnant wife and starts lovingly feel the unborn through her tummy. He, the Jihadi, in the end Kurbaans his life not for some one's death but for his own unborn child's life.

The first half is gripping with thoughtful dialogues by Anurag Kashyap and Niranjan Iyengar. The screenplay is taut and paces the movie treating it like a thriller. Saif, Kareena, Dia Mirza and Vivek Oberoi are well cast and they do very well. It is only in the second half that despite the obvious grind towards the climax, nothing new, like a twist or some developments in characters, spices up the proceedings and for a 2 hour 40 min movie, this matters. The main loss here is for Saif's character and so the whole point of the movie gets diluted a bit. Saif's character should have been explored a little more towards the end to show his vulnerability, predicament. Instead, the movie here masquerades as an action thriller which it is not. The writer D'Silva should have also implied that this terror camp has some other centres of support apart from the NY basement. Otherwise, it is tough to sell the audience that this basement camp blew up a plane full of high-profile US and UN delegations and yet continued to operate from the same base evading the CIAs and FBIs. And in 2nd half, thrown in are more and more amateur American extras playing FBI and cops. Inadvertently, the b-grade cops make some scenes comical. But yes, they are much better American cops than those we have seen earlier in Indian movies!

However, despite these minor flaws, the movie does not cease to engage till the end. The background score, photography and acting is excellent. After some sensible writing for Rang De Basanti and Maniratnam's forthcoming Ravan, Rensil D' Silva makes the big transition into direction. He is the reason for me watching and I am not disappointed. And I hope so would you be.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sachin: The Zeitgeist

His life seems to be a stillness in a frantic world... [When he goes out to bat], it is beyond chaos - it is a frantic appeal by a nation to one man. The people see him as a God...- Mathew Hayden, on Sachin Tendulkar

The paeans seem just natural. Sachin, the 16 forever kid, completes his 20 years in international cricket and the accolades are pouring. A few generations of inspired young Indians who now grew up along with him call him their idol. Ask anyone who grew up in 90s abt what inspired them then. Pat comes the answer "Sachin". Simply put, Sachin was the only thing international in India for any teen in 90s. He was the hero in the rapidly changing times when India opened culturally and business-wise to the world. He triggered the self-belief that we can take on the world and be the best. Sachin 'crossed-over' and became the world sports icon in the 90s while our other sports and games teams struggled. And despite all hype our Bollywood never made the much talked abt crossover till now. When everything Indian stayed safe in a cocoon, it was cherubic Sachin gifted with the willow who opened up the world for the young generation. The curly-haired youth knew just passion and no fear and so in gay abandon played the ball ruthlessly attacking the most feared bowling attacks. He was the zeitgeist - the spirit of our times. 2 Decades after his debut, miraculously, the boyhood innocence continues, the passion continues, he regales us as if he didn't age, as if he is impervious to this world and its weathers. And that's the cherry on the cake - that those grew up idolising him, including the likes of Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal and Virender Sehwag, still get to live the joy today everytime he goes in to bat. We are blessed.

Heard abt what a genius Sachin is from Lara and other greats. Heard and seen all technicalities of still head, ball-eye coordination and body balance from Gavaskar. But these still don't explain 20 years of relentless excellence at the top in international cricket. Any other cricketer in teens under such media and public scrutiny would have simply died down in the heat of popping flashbulbs. Countless 'geniuses' had a meteoric rise and had an equally meteoric fall. Sachin's own buddy Kambli is an example of what often goes wrong. Sachin but stayed up there, fixated with the one thing he cared about - cricket. As I write this, I see a flash attributed to Viv Richards, the master marauder. If asked to pick between Lara and Sachin, he would pick up Sachin because the latter is more consistent. Now that's what it is all about - Sachin is abt longevity, Lara abt blinding flashes of brilliance now and then. Its as if Sachin's schoolboy innocence permanently took over him shutting out worldly distractions while he grew up. Is that why there is still that boyish charm and earnestness in him, a father of two kids? Its as if he retires to another planet after every game only to come back later for another game! So clean is he, away from hype and controversies. In a cricket mad country of a billion, how else could one cope up with the relentless praises, criticisms, gossips for 2 decades and yet pile the tons?

I am not even talking abt his fitness, the innumerous surgeries he went thru, the horrible tennis elbow which forced him to reinvent his game. He had enough on the physical front but i think its how he coped mentally that bought him to this pedestal of being a sacrosanct legend. Sachin is more abt the mind than abt the body. "If you're unlucky, you'll get injured, even if you're the fittest guy in the world," he says. "What I don't want to lose is the desire to get back in action and the hunger to go out there and perform." He also emphasizes how the mind is above techniques and stuff when he says "Your technique cannot go wrong overnight, It's just the thought process." It is this gifted passion that seems to continue to entertain us after 20 years. For all those wonder if the mountains of runs he already piled up leave any hunger and motivation left in him, he says "It's not about achievement, So long as I love playing the game, so long as I enjoy the sound of bat hitting ball, I'm going to do it. I don't have to force myself - it just happens." It is that passion and desire that keeps Sachin youthful despite every passing April 24. And at the same time, he is earnest about whats records mean. "People do remember landmarks," "You want to be remembered 50 years down the line, like people remember Don Bradman and Garry Sobers now. The word 'landmark' itself sort of compels people to remember you." No hang ups for him. He just is true to himself.
While his passion for the game could be the one reason for his longevity, it is his almost natural way of taking fame lightly that gave him firm feet and made him impervious to distractions. When asked if all media scrutiny weighs him down, he said “This is the way I've known my life from the age of 14. I'm comfortable with it.”. He also said "I remember I was asked a question in Sydney after I got the double-hundred. 'Were you reading the newspapers because the media was after you?' And I said I never read any. 'What about tomorrow?' they asked. I said that I don't need a newspaper to make me believe that I've got a double-hundred. Whether there are highs or lows, I try to maintain a certain balance." Now that explains why Sachin didnt go mad for all the media coverage he gets! His level-headedness is visible when he says "Let me give you a small example. Earlier when I used to hit the ball in the air and get out, people used to say, 'Why can't you play all along the ground? It's simple. You don't need to hit the ball in the air.' Now, when I play all along the ground, people say: 'Why don't you hit the ball in the air nowadays?' Basically, people are not satisfied with what one does. You've got to figure out what's the best thing to do for your team and as an individual - try and go ahead with what your instincts tell you." While the nauseating spineless criticism, especially when India loses, does not go well with his fans, Sachin says that the public perception doesn't bother him. "Eventually, people don't score runs for me; I do that," he says matter-of-factly. "Basically, I have to feel good about myself and find a way out. People have been good to me by calling me up and suggesting a couple of things. But you have to figure out what suits you best and go ahead with that. I've had the help of a lot of senior cricketers, and my brother at home." One can't help wondering the home he grew up in to gain this kind of balance in outlook right in his teens. A Marathi writer-poet father as a role model could have injected this intellectual honesty and grace. His father was supposed to be so amicable that he wont let anyone, whether a postman or plumber who visits his home, leave without a cup of chai. Sachin could have as well got his well-rounded character from his father. For someone who never attended college, travelling around the world, coping the conditions and adapting for the climes, getting along with fellow players, crowds and the media, while maintaining the freshness in his game is amazing. And this is while, parallelly, he studied his +2, fell in love, married, had kids and captained the team. To survive this frenzy he must have had amazing clarity of thought and unwavering attention to his game.

While much has been said about his achievements, not much has been told abt his work ethic. After all, Bradman was supposed to have practiced batting 5 hours everyday. There is an anecdote from Sachin's boyhood, when after travelling all night for a game and reaching the destination at 3am, he got an hour's sleep. Then he wakes up his coach and asks whether they could proceed to the ground because our little master wasn't happy with his game! He still maintains that meticulous streak now after 2 decades. He is the first to arrive in the nets and the last to leave. Sachin's commitment in the game is seen not just when he bats but also when he fields and bowls. That shows how devoted he is for the game. The game, he says, begins much earlier for him in his mind, much before it kicks off in the field. In fact, Javagal Srinath opined once that Sachin's captaincy's drawback was that Sachin expected others to be as dedicated to the game as he himself is. Sachin didn't find it and it disappointed him. Sachin seems to have accepted that and moved on, away from captaincy.
It is clear what maketh this man. Unwavering passion for the game, level-headed personality, work ethic and undivided attention he gave cricket ever since he was a schoolkid are what made him a 'genius'. For all of us who grew up with him, his genius is part of our own collective consciousness. The national anthem may give him goose pimples, but I get them when I see him. Its not just about cricket or his game. It is about how he made a generation to dare to dream and achieve. It is not just about what we all become when he bats but about what we all became inspired by his feats. We owe him. Long live Sachin, forever the 16 year old.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Sachin's Hyderabad heartbreak and about what ails his haters!

"I have seen god, he bats at no.4 for India" - Mathew Hayden

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

India me aap PrimeMinister ko ek Baar Katghare me khada kar sakte hain..Par Sachin Tendulkar par Ungli nahi utha Sakte.. " - Navjot Singh Sidhu on TV

"Sachin cannot cheat. He is to cricket what (Mahatma) Gandhiji was to politics. It's clear discrimination. " - NKP Salve, former Union Minister when Sachin was accused of ball tampering

"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" - Glen McGrath

"Nothing bad can happen to us if we're on a plane in India with Sachin Tendulkar on it." - Hashim Amla, the South African batsman, reassures himself as he boards a flight.

"To Sachin, the man we all want to be" - Andrew Symonds wrote on an Aussie t-shirt he autographed specially for Sachin.

“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." - BBC on Sachin

"We did not lose to a team called India...we lost to a man called Sachin." - Mark Taylor, during the test match in Chennai (1997)

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

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

"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!! "- Peter Roebuck (Aussie sportswriter)

Sachin, the phenomenon is beyond expression or words for me. It has hence been difficult to blog about him and so I never did. After a real long time, I was engrossed in a cricket match yesterday. Did someone say 50 over cricket is dead? Would a 20-20 for all its hype ever produce this kind of epic? I wondered for few minutes if it is 2009 or 1999? 3 days after Ricky ponting said "We've kept Sachin in check so far. His scoring rate hasn't been too extravagant'', Sachin, the batman shrugged off the mentor-anchor role he has assumed lately and went on to be the marauder he was, clobbering 9 4s and 4 massive 6s. Sadly, India as a team too resembled that of the 90s. While Sachin mounted a great challenge, almost all else run away from the field. So, if Australia's batting line-up threw up scores of 112, 93, 45, 57, 31 with all scores above 100% strike-rate,Team India petered off with 175,59,38,23. If in Chennai in 1998-99, Sachin left the last three wickets 17 to get; yesterday he left them 19 off 17 when he fell for deceptive change of pace. Like it happened then, his weak-hearted teammates blew it up once again. One batsman doesn't know when to run, the other doesn't know how to run and of course the captain is boorish enough not to acknowledge Sachin's extraordinary innings in the awards ceremony.While Ponting marvelled Sachin "hit almost every ball in the middle of the bat" and that it is "one of the great one-day innings that I've seen", all our Dhoni said, as if suffering from constipation, was that the innings was "a pleasure" to watch. We are still in the 90s dude - the Azhar days, nothing really changed! Not even Sachin's critics who I rather dub as 'I hate Sachin' brigade. I knew they would come once India lost yesterday night. And true to it, I see the same brigade in the papers and Internet today. Despite worldwide recognition for undiluted talent, work ethic and sincerity (sample at the top of this post), this brigade persists. This post is an attempt to understand this brigade.

As we soak in all the front-foot pulls, straight drives, cover drives, late glances, paddle sweeps and the subsequent laurels from the Aussies, it amazes me on how after 20 long years, 435 one-dayers we still want Sachin the opener to run his ass off and finish the game for us in the 50th over while the other 10 will continue to 'learn' basics of running between wickets, holding on to straight catches and wicket-keeping playing international cricket. Some even whine that he 'chokes'!! Coming in to open, scoring the highest by any batsman against

Australia, (in fact his ninth ODI hundred against them, the most by any player against a single team) and getting dismissed only in 48th over with a meagre 19 runs to score is still 'choking' for the "I hate Sachin" brigade. I have seen many of this brigade over the years and while it puzzled me earlier in the golden 90s as to why someone would criticize Sachin, the sole performer, now it is more entertaining as I seem to get why this happens. All accusations of this brigade make for good laughs. More than Sachin or his game, these accusations reveal more about the guys who fling them. Some psychology here.

Somehow many from this brigade can not comprehend Sachin, his perfection, lack of controversies or weaknesses, a near perfect personal life. They simply hate his machine-like consistency and frustrate over the absence of chinks in his armour. He is too good to be so perfect so they suppose something must be sinister. Maybe they dare try comparing their own lives with his! So all they try doing is knitpick and in the process give us outrageous fun with their bizarre and preposterous takes on the little master. Here comes one. One of my friends once thundered Laxman was the better batsman than Sachin, I was all ears to know the technicality I missed. He reasoned that Sachin didn't have a 281 type innings! I was enlightened, not about anything but my friend. Some others argued for the piggyback rungetter Dravid. That was atrocious. Did Sachin ever show so much promise in wearing down his own teammates with some abysmal strike-rate or lack of initiative? Dravid is, of course, in a league of good test batsmen but never did he show the dynamism to attack and win irrespective of his statistics. That Sachin's contribution to Indian cricket's victories is unrivalled is a fact unfathomable to these. Some others creatively talk about how Sachin scores for himself and not for the team. I never quite understood this. Were not those countless 100s he scored considered in team scores? Yet another from the brigade charges, now this is the cherry on the ball, that Sachin fixes and makes money loosing. Now if they care to know how much he made by a 'winning' career over 2 decades, they would know money would no more be an incentive for him! So much for the ignorance of our 'seasoned' commentators from this brigade. Some others try to fudge the statistics to prove something about scores and averages. They conviniently overlook the invaluable initiative Sachin takes and the confidence and the fighting spirit he inspires in the ranks while playing. Even if it were a 20 or 30 runs sachin-style, look at the morale shift it produces for the team. That is precisely why Team India feels bogged down when they lose his wicket.

These harebrained criticisms are but natural offshoots from half-literate Indians who neither understand sporting spirit nor Cricket in its enterity. I doubt if most of them ever held a bat to a ball. How else could they be so mean towards someone who toils all through the match only to loose by an agonizing few inches. A real sports fan would understand his heartbreak, his pain in Hyderabad, the one of the many he faced in his career. I sincerely hope the folks in this brigade open their eyes, get real, not for Sachin's sake but for their own sake. Sachin is anyway a legend, and whether they like it or not, their kids and grand kids will read it that way in their school texts a few years from now. Instead these 'critics' should open their eyes for all beauty and earnestness around instead of wallowing in endless cynicism about everything and everyone seemingly perfect. They should accept their own frailties and appreciate Sachin's character, courage and conviction. Let them be reassured that it is perfectly okay to be imperfect. That is how they can start enjoying their own lives and spare us from their bizarre fun. Amen.

Photograph: Dibyangshu Sarkar/AFP/Getty Images