Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hum Aapke Hain Kaun????

Hum Aapke hain kaun (HAHK) released in 1994, was a trendsetter in many ways. After a decade of violent and senseless movies with Dharam Paaji taking revenge of his family’s murder or MithunDa reaching the crime scene of a rape – he always reached before the rape if victim was his heroine and after the rape if it was his sister. Songs like Sarkaay leo khatiya jaada lage or main sharma ke rah jaati hoon jab kisi ka murga bole or kal saiyyan ne aise bowling kari ek over bhi main jhel paayi nahi or khada hai khada hai khada hai, dar pet ere aashiq khada hai had become a norm.

Video Cassette industry was prospering which had turned the term houseful into a rarity. After all, if you and 30 others can watch 3 movies in 100 rupees, why would anyone pay 10 rupees plus inconvenience of going to cinema hall to watch a single movie? There was no sophistication of multiplexes in those days.

In such a backdrop filled with violence and vulgarity, we heard about HAHK – a movie promising to be full of Indian values and culture. Suraj Barjatya promised – you can watch it with your entire family. In the name of violence, we heard there is just one slap. In the name of sex appeal, we heard there was Salman Khan dancing in his vest and trousers. Everyone had his opinion based on the hype surrounding the movie. I thought – “Damn, not even a Dhak Dhak song.” My mother said “Finally we will see a clean movie”. My father, who worked for HMV in those days, said “Songs are good. Music is super hit. Audio cassettes are selling real fast. Video cassettes might sell faster”

But he was wrong. HAHK’s video cassettes were not released. This surprised everyone – “How could this happen? Video cassettes form part of our constitutional rights”. In addition to this, movie tickets were raised from 15 rs to 35 rs for balcony and 10 rs to 25 rs for family. We thought – “May be Suraj Barjatya is really possessive about his movie. He doesn’t want any one else to see it”. But it was a totally different but intelligent marketing strategy and worked out wonderfully well.

In the era of PVN Rao, liberalization took shape which made urbanization more visible and glorified. Barjatya, being a visionary, visualized the future perfectly. HAHK was urbanized Nadiya Ke Paar(NKP). If NKP was set up in some village in eastern UP, HAHK was set up in a typical Barjatya city in India which has everything – from sea to desert, from snowy mountains to lush green planes. You name it and this city has it. It’s often called Sundergadh.

HAHK was all about Indian values and culture to an extent that it may be a carbon copy of video recording of your marriage. HAHK was a happy movie to an extent that if happydent was sponsoring it, you might have turned into half-blind by the time movie ended. It was a multi-starrer to such an extent that by the time all the characters were introduced, cinema hall staff was selling chai-samosa during intermission. It was a complete musical to such an extent that cumulative length of all the songs was more than an hour. Here, HAHK had set another trend. Few songs were added later in the movie to bring people to watch it again. It was done earlier also but strategy was to include additional songs/scenes in the prints released in cinema halls which were not there in video cassettes. HAHK did it a bit differently. However, I have never got to see those additional songs in HAHK although I saw it twice in cinema hall.

Only scene which can be counted as being close to vulgar was when Salman Khan catapults Madhuri’s butts with a flower. Every time he did it, entire hall did “ha-aaaa” in unison. And they didn’t do it to copy. It came straight from heart.

Only scene which came close to the definition of being erotic was when Salaman Khan lifts Madhuri Dixit and puts her on a pool table. Few years later, the same scene was copied in American Pie-1 in its climax. To make it look like original, American Pie’s makers just showed the pool table. Hopes of all those who made their contribution towards the salary of the painter who painted the board “Housefull” died as soon as Salman and Madhuri were separated because Renuka Sahane was to be taken to the hospital. “Couldn’t she hold on for a few minutes more” were the typical comments.

Renuka Sahane, who sometimes gave an impression in the movie that half her face was made of her teeth, smiled so much in the movie that she had to go for a jaw surgery after HAHK was complete. She didn’t get to speak a single dialogue in the movie. Not even the most coveted one for her “Main tumhare bacche ki maa banne wali hoon”. Her doctor did it for her.

Lot of villains were given character roles like Mohnish Behl, Anupam Kher, Ajit Bacchani. And they all hid their villainy perfectly apart from Alok Nath. Every time he looked at Reema Lagoo, mother of his daughter in law in the movie, his expressions were not different from Raj Babbar when he saw Padmini Kolhapuri in Insaaf ka Taraju. If I say tuffy, the dog in the movie, acted the best in the movie, it would be a stale joke. But what can I do? His acting was really the best in the movie.

Movie was such a big hit that Barjatya decided to carry on with the entire cast, with some more starry additions, in Hum Saath Saath Hain (HSSH), another trend setter in multiple ways. Unlike HAHK where introduction of characters was stretched till intermission, HSSH’s introduction was more planned. Barjatya simply put a song to introduce all the characters which went on till last 45 minutes of the movie. Anyhow, HSSH bombed at box office, at least as compared to HAHK. But any movie can look like that when compared with HAHK. However, with HAHK and HSSH Barjatya, realized his forte – marriage. So he made Vivaah. He continued his effort to showcase marriage in his next venture – Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi. May be he will name his next venture as Saare Vivaah Aise Hi Hote Hain.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Debut-ants!!!


India’s defeat in Nagpur had an event which occurred probably after a gap of 3 Olympics and one Ashes. We had two middle order batsmen making their debut in a single match after Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid did so in 1996. While selection of Badrinath was considered to be well earned, Saha can easily find his name in the list of most controversial selections in Indian team. Here are a few of those which I can remember.
Noel David – When news of Noel David replacing injured Sreenath came out, Noel David was surprised to see the coincidence– India had a pace bowler hidden somewhere with his name who was to replace Sreenath during India’s tour to Windies. This might have been the first time in history of cricket that a pace bowler and an off spinner shared the same name, state and face also. But it was not to be. Noel David was shocked to see that he himself was Sreenath’s replacement. It was realized later that his off spin did not replace Sreenath’s medium pace bowling but he was drafted in as an acrobatic fielder to replace Sreenath’s brand of fielding. Some say he was sent because selectors saw his photograph and misunderstood him for David Johnson, another medium pacer, and sent his profile to the press. Incidentally selectors were given negatives of the photographs to select. Some say he was selected so that he could teach Venketesh Prasad, another off spinner in the side, how to bowl a little faster. Some say he was never selected. He was going to North America, where he is settled these days, but due to bad weather his flight landed in South America. As soon as he got down from the flight, he was directed by Indian embassy to team India as it was in desperate need of anyone who had good enough shoulder to roll his arm over. He did reasonably well in the opportunities given to him but was soon deserted. Anyhow, he remains the strangest selection ever. If Anil Sharma had chosen AK Hangal to play the lead role in Gadar – Ek Prem Katha, may be it had been more credible selection.
Sameer Dighe During 90s when India was playing Pakistan in an exhibition match somewhere in Middle East, commentator Henry Blofeld kept jumping up and down every time Sachin hit a six. He did it 7 or 8 times only to realize the batsman who was hitting all these sixes was not Sachin but it was Sameer Dighe. Sachin had got out earlier and Blofeld had explained his dismissal on air – “That is out. Another ordinary shot. But that is what you expect from a tail ender”. He apologised soon “Actually Mr. Dighe and Mr. Tendulkar look quite same so I got confused”. Few years later, during India’s tour to Australia when only Sachin looked like a batsman capable enough to put bat to ball, selectors drafted in Sameer Dighe and thought – may be he can do a Henry Blofeld to Australians too.
Dighe, while writing his retirement speech, got his selection call, googled to find out how many other cricketers in India played in the name of Sameer Dighe, checked with BCCI if he was selected as a player or as a liaison officer to the team but couldn’t believe he had actually made it to the team till he made his debut. In one of the matches, having been sent as a pinch hitter, he scored 3 off 30 odd balls. However, his claim to fame came in 2001 when he scored crucial 20 runs to win the series decider in Chennai against Australia. However, his claim was short-lived and lost to the likes of Patels and Ratras.
Sourav Ganguly – For a period of four years I kept reading Azharuddin’s stand in Cricket Samrat, my cricinfo in 90s, - “We need an all rounder in the side. Bengal has an all rounder named Ganguly but he is not good enough to play for India” There were rumours that Azhar had some personal grudges against players of Bengal. I found it difficult to believe as the ground which gave Azharuddin his first and second life line was located in Kolkata. However another player form Bengal, Subroto Banerjee who did reasonably against Australia in 1991-92 also never played for India.
So when Ganguly was selected for India’s tour to England in 1996, under the same captain, rumours were that it was done to kill above mentioned rumours. But his selection was hugely controversial. It was alleged that he made it to Indian team because of his family’s links with top bosses in BCCI. One of the big mouths said, I read it somewhere, - “Selectors took his trials in nets. Even at the nets, he was badly beaten till 5th ball of the over and got out on 6th. The bowler was just medium pace”. But Ganguly went to England. Sunil Gavaskar made a very logical comment – “If some one has been selected to play, no point bashing him now. It will only kill his confidence. Let’s support him now”. Ganguly made his debut in Lords and rest is history.
Wriddhiman Saha – The latest episode is very much fresh. Some say it was Dhoni’s attempt to kill one of his competitors. Some say SRK had a role in his selection so that he could sell the tickets of MNIK to South Africans. As expected, he was dropped after the first test and he can very well announce his retirement from international cricket now as he may never get another chance.
Standard Disclaimer applies.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Miracle!!!


On a blue-ish Monday morning, when you reach office with sleepy eyes, last thing you expect is to hear India reeling on a dead pitch. But the case was very much the same this morning. Every time something like this happens, especially in India where losing was out of question when I was growing, two kinds of fans start fighting inside me.
Real fan who believes we can win from any position and even if we do not, he realizes we are not good enough side to be invincible. Second one is a pseudo fan who supports the team only when it’s winning else he takes a vow – no more cricket-following from today. But ever since that March 2001 in Eden Garden, real fan has always had an edge over the pseudo one. Not that we have always come back from a losing position, we have rarely done so, but there always has been a hope since that evening of March 2001. In some remote corner of my heart, I have always had a hope that some miracle, not always cloudy, is going to turn it around for us. Tonight is no different.


This is how I remember that match.
We had lost the first match in Mumbai when Australia was 99/5 chasing our 200-250 score in first innings. Hayden and Gilchrist murdered our bowling and we continued the tradition of 90s – only SRT scored and we took solace in his innings.
Australia won the toss in Kolkata and decided to bat. Going into the last session of the day, they were in very strong position with 3 wickets down for 230 odd runs whereas I was getting ready to go back to the hostel. My train was scheduled to depart at 6:00PM and I had to start from home before 4:30 PM.
Harbhajan Singh, who had been playing as a support bowler to Kumble till now, had become India’s main spinner in Kumble’s absence. My youngest uncle, who had come to see me off, made a comment –
“Sardar’s run up is strange. He jumps like a bird before bowling. He should rather concentrate on bowling“
Sardar jumped again and Australia hopped.
Many a times. Thrice in a succession too.
They were 8 down before I boarded my train and even score of 300 was looking difficult.
So when I heard a score of 445 next day, I thought India was 44 for 5. May be considering our batting form, it would have been more believable. But we played unbelievable cricket in that match.
Anyways, next phase was believable. India was 8 down on second day and match and didn’t look like crossing the day 3.
Dinner discussions were quite action packed. Studious ones were busy discussing the syllabus, course material and the exams. They asked the score, made faces and rushed back to their rooms. I could never talk to them. Rest were busy discussing how SRT never plays when needed or he is a no match to McGrath or how Ganguly should be dumped in Hubli river or why Sanjay Manjraker went though a plastic surgery and was playing under the mask of Rahul Dravid or why should we play cricket at all. If Indian team was there, I bet they would have jumped into Ganges after hearing the most creative expletives used for them.
Three of us, yours truly and two of my batch-mates, did take part in bashing of the team. And we were very active in it. Like others, we also felt that we had done our bit after bashing session of three hours. We decided never to follow the game again. After all we had all spoiled some exams because of cricket.
Around mid night we three happen to meet again.


“What time does the match start tomorrow?” I asked.
“To hell with it. You still want to watch it?” one of them replied.
“Yeah, who cares?”
“Remember we decided – no more cricket-following from today onwards. To hell with it” one of them said.
We nodded in unison and sat down. There was a silence for 5 minutes.
“Yaar, but is it possible somehow? I mean can it happen” some voice came.
“What? We draw the match.”
“Yes.”
“And how are we going to do it?”
“Miracle. Well you never know in cricket” I said.
“Yes. Let’s watch the first session tomorrow. Let’s see if we can cross 150”
“Shut up”
“See. We have anyhow lost the match. So if we cross 150 tomorrow, I will take it as a victory”
“Well…”
“Come-on. Ok. Let’s see if Laxman can hit 2 boundaries tomorrow or if Sachin can score a 50 in second innings. If he doesn’t, we will stick to our vows.”
All three of us looked at each other and laughed.
“We can’t give up in cricket” was the consensus.
Next morning, we were the first to reach the TV room.
India did cross 150. We were happy. We were winners. At least till now.
“Haha…They are still watching. Idiots like these have turned cricketers into super stars. Go attend classes. Cricket wont take you anywhere, classes might get you your graduation degree” were the comments we got when people started coming back from classes.
We followed on. Same story but with a tinge of rose. SS Das got out hit wicket. This is the best you can do while trying to save a test match. Sachin came and hit two boundaries. If reaching 150 was victory, this was our bonus point. He left soon.
In came Ganguly and out he went. Or did he? He did not. He scored 48 and by stumps we were 254/4 with only 20 behind.
We did not move. If lunch break in the match happened between 11:30 to 12:10, we fed ourselves with breakfast as our lunch time was between 1:00 to 2:00. We took our lunch during tea time. We just didn’t move from our positions.
“Finally we managed to reach Day 4. These idiots will fold up before lunch tomorrow” was the consensus during dinner discussion.
“Can we score 20 more runs and avoid our innings defeat? If we do, this will be the biggest ever victory for us” was what we three were thinking.
We did. Australia went wicket-less in the first session.
“Can we get a lead of 100 runs? If we do, this will be the biggest ever victory for us” was what we three were thinking.
And we kept thinking. Can we take a lead of 150? What about 200? Just 50 more please. 25 more. Please.
By the evening, TV room was full. Everyone who had vowed never to watch cricket again was jumping with every run. We three, who were lying down in the TV room till two hours back, were forced to sit on single butt because of space constraints. Laxman and Dravid had done the unimaginable.
Australia went wicket-less on fourth day.
TV room was full even before the play of 5th day started. Indians kept on batting. Very same voices, who complained Ganguly of being stupidly aggressive when he made some comments about Australian team before the series started, were complaining him of being too defensive because he wasn’t declaring. He did and set a target of 384.
Just before tea, Langer hit two huge sixes and people started complaining – “Ganguly is so stupidly aggressive. What if they score 250 odd runs in the last session? We should have just batted for draw”
Something happened in the last session to Australia. As if they were tired of winning and wanted to lose for a change, they folded up worse then Indians used to do in 90s. Legendry SK Bansal raised his finger every time there was an appeal even if the only guy who appealed was the gatekeeper in the stadium.
We won. Miracle had happened. TV room, after 200 guys jumped up and down for almost 10 minutes straight, was so full of dust that visibility there was worse than it would have ever been on any of the winter mornings in Delhi.
I still took a day to digest that win. But ever since that day, whenever I see an evening like this when next day, may be even next session, seems to be bringing certain defeat and I bump into pseudo fans – I tell them how I hoped for a miracle and got one.
But tomorrow we don’t have either of Laxman or Dravid. But don’t forget that in 2001, Laxman was nothing but an innings of 167 in a lost cause and Dravid was a painfully slow batsman who always surrendered to quality Australian bowling especially Shane Warne. Everything changed after that match.
For tomorrow we have SRT, few new comers and Dhoni. But who knows what will happen after tomorrow. After all “miracle” and “impossible” have different spellings. May be the result will still be what looks to be most probable. But I will still hope. What if there is another miracle in store.