Wednesday, June 24, 2015

An open letter to Prime Minister!!!

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,
We all know the astounding mandate your party got in last general elections. We know how majority of those who voted  in those elections wanted you as prime minister of the country. We know how hard you are working to meet the promises you made during your high profile election campaign – bringing Acche Din was what summed it all up.
I, for the record, am also one of your supporters. Not a bhakt, to clarify, but a supporter. There is a difference between the two. Bhakt supports everything you say or do. A supporter doesn’t do bhakti. His support is conditional. In case this stint of yours as prime minister doesn’t turn out to be as well as it should be, you are likely to lose lot many supporters than Bhakts. Please do note that I used “as well as it should be” and not “as expected” because expectations from you Mr Prime Minister, are sky high. I doubt if you can really blame others for that.
I am afraid that in me, you are quite close to losing a supporter. Please allow me to tell you why.
Before that, let me tell you who I am. I am a middle age middle class citizen of this country. I pay my taxes or rather I am made to do so. I am inclined to make this world a better place and to do that, I keep trying on Facebook. I am easily outraged against any kind of injustice and immediately do my bit to rectify things by tweeting about them. For everything wrong, I hope someday some messiah will come and change the world for the good. See, I am perfect recipe for your kitchen.
So whatever you do, you must think about me before doing it. I wish you had been taking care of this fact.
For example, take this Yoga thing. I agree with all the positives of Yoga, the branding it needs, the jazz it deserves and rest of the razzmatazz with it. All that is fine. But have you ever noticed that most middle aged middle class men are married – not just to their wives but also to their ever growing bulging tummies, laziness and couches on which they sit like potatoes. Have you ever thought what a highly advertised campaign like this does to them? 
Please allow me to tell you what it does. 
It lets their wives know that they are sharing their husbands the co-wives I just mentioned - bulging tummies, laziness and the couches. What you’ve done is handed something in the hands of all those wives – you’ve handed them a mission. A mission to make their husbands shed their laziness and do Surya Namaskara every morning. That Mr Prime Minister, a mission in the hands of wives, is more dangerous weapon than cell phone in the hands of Shane Warne, microphone in the hands of Rakhi Sawant or license to remake an old classic in the hands of Sajid Khan. What may irk all these middle aged middle class men who happen to be husbands as well that you yourself don’t have to face the music they face because you Mr. Prime Minister, do no stay with your wife. You enjoy complete freedom. Whereas they, they just don’t.
No. It doesn’t end there. I would go to where it all started. It started by Mann ki Baat. I understand the objective behind this initiative. Or I think I do. I see this as more like monthly status report by a prime minister given to people of his country. That’s something unique especially when people of this country haven been habituated of listening to the prime minister only twice in a year – 15th August and 26th of January. I get that. But couldn’t you have chosen a different name. Mann Ki Baat? Really?
Imagine the plight of a husband who religiously listens to your Mann Ki Baat every month. Now imagine their wives asking them “Honey, how does my nail paint look?”
Husband responds, “They look good” without looking at them. He is too engrossed in listening to your Mann Ki Baat.
Wife angrily responds, “You haven’t even looked at them. What is that you are watching on TV”
“Give me sometime please. I am listening to Prime Minister’s Mann Ki Baat”.
Mann ki Baat? You have all the time to listen to everyone’s Mann Ki Baat. Only person’s Mann Ki Baat that puts you immediately to sleep is me. You are never interested in my Mann Ki Baat”
Dear Mr Prime Minister, since you’ve not been staying with your better half, you would have no idea of the consequences when a wife talks to you like that, when she taunts you that you aren’t interested in her Mann Ki Baat. You have no clue of the storms that come in such situations - they have capacity to eradicate salaries of months. Hence my humble question to you is – couldn’t you have named it a bit differently? Couldn’t you have named it what it is – PM’s status report or Pradhan Mantri ke Kaarnaame or since it is a monthly status report informing us about how dutiful you are, Pradhan Mantri ka Masik Dharma?
There is more to come. But before that, let me complement you first. You are always neatly dressed and admired all across the world for your dressing sense. So much so that we have a Modi Kurta in the market. I wish I had dressing sense like you have. I really wish. But sometimes, you do go overboard. Yes. I am talking about that suit which had your name written all over it. How could you do it? How? Didn’t you, for once, think of how it can impact the middle aged middle class men who happen to be husbands as well?
What if a wife demands, “Darling, why don’t you wear a suit like our PM did”
“Which one?” husband may wonder
“The one on which he had his name written all over it”
“Ah, that one. Sorry. In my book, that qualifies as narcissism. How can someone wear a suit with his own name written all over it?”
“No. I am not asking you to do that. That was so crappy. Really, how can some do it? I know you are too modest for that. That’s why I love”
“I want you to wear a suit with my name written looking all over it”
“What? Why?”
“Darling, don’t you love me?”
No. There wouldn’t be any pressure from wives on husbands to wear suits with husband’s name on them? It could be a bit different. Wives may demand that husbands wear a suit with wives’ name written all over it? And if, my Prime Minister, are wondering about the rest of the conversation - it normally ends with husbands wearing suits with their wives' names written all over them. 
No. I am not joking. You wouldn’t know but in married life, such thinsg are possible. Yes they are.
So my dear Prime Minister. This is my humble request to you. Next time you launch a new program for the betterment of the nation, please do think about us – we are middle aged middle class men who happened to be married. Life isn’t easy for us anyways. Please don’t make it more difficult.
Thanking you,
Your supporter.

PS: I am a Modi fan. This piece in written in expectation that people will find some sense in my humor and my understanding of section 66A of IT act is not horribly misplaced. In case you have a problem, letting me know via comments section would not be a bad idea. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The baton is being passed!!!

I am the best cricket analyst around. No, I am not joking. I am. You may call me an arrogant narcissist but that will not change what I think. I am the best cricket analyst you will ever find.
Eleven years back a friend placed a bet on how many runs did Curtley Ambrose scored in an ODI against India in Perth in 1991-92. I not only told him how many did Ambrose score, I also told him how many balls he played, how many boundaries did he hit against which bowler, who was the highest scorer and who took how many wickets. Once I told a friend at what score did Ganguly got out in second innings of Eden 2001 and what India’s score was by the end of day three, he asked back if all day I do nothing but memorize cricket scores. Once in an interview, an interviewer tried to check my confidence about Tendulkar’s score in 1992 world cup match against New Zealand by saying, “He scored 88 and not 84”, I replied back saying “He scored 84 of 107 balls. Its cricket. I know what I know and I know what I don’t know”
The ego, as you can see, is quite high. I am never, I repeat, never wrong when I claim to be right.
I have failed only twice. Once it was when I answered about the date on which Yuvraj Singh hit six sixes in Durban – I answered 17th September whereas it was 19th September. Second time I failed when I put myself to Albert Einstein’s level of understanding test.
Einstein said - “If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself.”
Oh boy. Explaining things to a six year old is tough. Very tough. During every day of any test match, when my six year old asks me, “Who won?” I have hard time explaining that a test match is supposed to last five days and you may or may not get a winner at the end of it. It is not easy to explain to him that in a test match, each team can get a chance to bat twice, one after the other although one team can bat twice successively. Things get tougher when it comes to explaining the rules. Leg before wickets means batsman putting his legs between bat & wickets to avoid getting out. But people have been given out when their shoulders kept the ball from hitting the stumps. If the ball is going to hit the stumps and you block it from outside the line of off stump, you shouldn’t be given out. But not when you are not offering a stroke. How to define if someone is offering a stroke or not is not well defined. But yes, if the ball has pitched outside leg stump, you can do all you want. Now try explaining it to a six year old.
It is tough explaining to him that although a test match lasts five days, days apart from five is a critical word here. Test matches are played during daytime. ODIs are played under the lights. And there is a limit on number of overs bowled in ODIs – you don’t start playing in the morning and play till mid-night. Play starts from afternoon in day night matches. And no, CSK doesn’t play in world cup.
Damn. I failed the Einstein test.
Okay. All those arrogant words in the first paragraph – I was joking. I am not as good as I have written. After all, I failed in the Einstein test.
But then, some failures make you notice something else. Failing to answer some questions make you happy that at least, questioner is inquisitive enough. You feel happy that a six year old is getting interested in the game you’ve always followed so passionately.
When wife asks “Oh ho. He has also started getting crazy about cricket. Does it run in your family or what”, you feel like answering with the biggest grin ever and thumping your chest like a gorilla, “Yes. This is third generation. I am happy.”
But then, all you do is put a mild smile on your face and shrug like Munaf Patel. After all, wives are wives. They aren’t to be messed with.
You feel happy that now cricket wouldn’t be limited to TV and internet and phones and facbook and the likes. Cricket will be played. Someone in the house will do it.
You play with him. In the gallery. In that tiny little space. Shoes kept a foot apart make the stumps. One tip one hand is out. Wall behind you becomes the boundary line. Window panes start fearing for their lives. That tiny little space becomes your MCG, your Lords, and your Eden. The Gayles, the Dhonis, the Mallingas, the Ashwins make frequent appearances in that tiny little space.  But after every good shot, the six year old asks, “Don’t I play like Virat Kohli?” Virat is his favorite player. If you ask him what would he like to become when he grows up, “I will play cricket like Virat Kohli”
You are taken aback a bit. Or rather, you are taken back - back in time. Or both.
Few years ago, not so long ago, you had your own MCG, Lords and Edne. The Azhars, the Akrams, the Injemams made frequent appearances in that tiny little space. But after every good shot, you asked, “Don’t I play like Sachin Tendulkar?” Sachin was your favorite player. When you were asked what you would like to become when you grow up, “Sachin Tendulkar” was your answer. You just traverse back in time. But then, you are also taken aback at how time has just flew past by.
You keep throwing balls at the six year old and realize how simple this game is. Even a six year old can play all those famed shots - the drives, the flicks, the pulls.
 This is all about how human body responds. The drives, the flicks, the pulls – they are all reactions against the action caused by the cricket ball. These are just names given to how your body moves in a particular situation. When a ball is pitched outside off, it is instinctive reaction to take one step towards the ball, extend your arms and hit it. Nothing special about it. Anyone would play it like this. Barring MSD. He would play the same shot with both feet in the air. But then, he is MSD.
When it’s his turn to bowl, you keep telling him to roll his arm over, “Roll your arm over, don’t bend the elbow”. He tries. Sometimes he succeeds. Mostly he fails.
He asks who he looks like when he is bowling. You respond, “Virat Kohli” – part truth, part fiction. But those six year old eyes just lit up, smile broadens and he bowls the next ball double quick and asks for confirmation, “This is how Virat Kohli bowls, right?”
See, Virat Kohli is back again. Like Tendulkar was.  In batting. In bowling. Even in fielding, sometimes.
You somehow persuade him to let you go. The game ends. Not before he asks again, “When will I play exactly like Virat Kohli?”
You respond back trying to calm him down, “You are too young. You will play better than him when you grow up”
“How old I am”
“Not six. Six and a half” he retorts back with extra stress on “and a half”
You smile and come back home and tell him, “If you want to become like Virat, you must eat well”
He immediately demands for a glass of milk.
Ah, you realize it is repetition of past. This is exactly how Tendulkar made you do things which you often avoided to do. This is exactly how it used to happen.
It is just that names have changed. Curly haired teenaged named Tendulkar is a thing of past now. Tattooed Virat Kohli is fast becoming the craze. Like it must have happened few years back. When Gavaskar became thing of past and Tendulkar was the future.  The baton was passed then. The baton is being passed now.
While your previous generation and you dreamt of becoming Sachin, you and your next generation would dream of six year old becoming Virat.
But they are all just means to carry something bigger – dreams.
Dreams of childhood. Dreams of parenthood.   
Generations have changed. Years have gone by. Roles have reversed.  
Dreams, they are still the same. The names just pass on the batons.

Monday, March 30, 2015

World Cup 2015 - A Memorable Journey, A Sad End

A day after the Valentine’s Day, sometime around noon, Mohammad Shami’s bouncer to Younis Khan looked menacing. Younis Khan tried fending it awkwardly. But the ball was too good for him.
Younis Khan  - caught Dhoni bowled Mohammed Shami  6 
India’s world cup had started.
I woke up at 6:30 AM today and switch on the TV only to realize that it was over. A four month long tour with last one and half month as world cup was over. Now no more cricket in the early morning. For a cricket fan, nothing can be more refreshing than getting a dose of channel nine’s broadcast early in the morning. That’s why I have always loved Australian tours. They don’t make you wait for what you want most – watching cricket. All you need to do is get up and it would be on TV – lush green outfields, wonderful camera work, voice of Mark Nicholas and quite often a contest between bat & ball.
And then, cricket in Australia is never boring. Grounds are big. Pitches have bounce. Commentators are good although they are fast becoming DJs.
There is always some amount of chirping going on. You can always feel the unease. You can always feel the thrill. You are almost always on the edge.
I will always remember 1983 for its memoirs. That’s how most of us know about that world cup. Reading about Kapil’s 175. Yashpal’s 89. Kapil & Sandeep Patil running back to pavilion after winning the Semi Final. Sandhu’s in swinger. Viv’s assault. Kapil’s catch. Holding’s LBW. Kapil lifting the cup.
For 28 years, we were served with these scenes so many times that it had become boring. Absolutely boring.
1987 was about Sidhu’s sixes, Kapil’s sweep and Australia’s resurgence under the reign of Bob Simpson & Allen Border.
1992 could have been the best world cup – channel 9, colored clothing, best format, Jonty Rhodes. Alas, we were too incompetent. It was the worst world cup I had seen. Or so I thought.
Playing at home, we were favorites in 1996. Lot of hype was built around our preparations. Well, that all fall flat when we missed a simple run out in our opening match against Kenya. In the first match itself we were exposed. Everyone knew we had only one weapon – Sachin Tendulkar. He slipped in Semi Final. Rest as they say, is history. Whatever followed that night is forgettable. But we still remember Kambli’s tears. Yes we do.
While team was strong on paper in 1999, I never got the feel if we had a Team. It was a bunch of individuals showing their skills on the ground. Result was expected.
We had a really strong team in 2003. Batting line up boasted of people who are counted as one of the greatest of the game. Bowling was no less. We fielded well. The team was strong. Unfortunately, we met a team in the final which was one of the greatest in the history of the game.
2007 never happened.
I will always thank the victory of 2011 for relieving me of watching highlights of/reading about 1983. We were good. Even if the format was more challenging, we would’ve won. Playing at home was our advantage. If I will remember 1983 for previous generation’s world cup, 2011 gave me my world cup. Oh that six by MSD – the ending was perfect from a man who so boringly talks about the process.
Not many had given a chance to Team India before 2015 started. We crashed out in Semi Final. Barring Times Now, I am not sure if many would be complaining about the end result. Oh yes, we didn’t win the cup but end result as top four isn’t bad either.
To me, beauty of 2015 was not the end result. Such was the format that reaching QF was never a doubt for a team which was ranked in top three before the tournament started. Team would’ve needed to play horribly bad to not make it to last eight and I knew my team’s name wasn’t England. After that, trophy was just three lucky nights away. We got lucky on our first such night. Alas, that’s where it all ended.
To me, I will always remember 2015 not for the end result but for the journey. The bowling which looked laughable took 70 wickets in 7 matches. Shami almost always provided early wickets. Umesh Yadav was our X factor. Mohit provided control in middle overs. Ashwin became an off spinner.
Fielding was the best I have ever seen. With an off side packed with Raina, Dhawan, Rohit, Jadeja, Virat, Rahane often meant that grounded shots were going to fetch nothing. MSD was diving to take catches meant that slip catchers could cover more area than they normally did. Ashwin could be hidden in the field. Well, this all was expected. Unexpected was Mohit Sharma becoming a run out expert. Unexpected was Umesh Yadav running out David Millar. Unexpected was India’s fast bowlers diving for catches. It all happened. The intensity in the field was heartening to see. We wanted to win. Yes we did.  
Batting was good. Dhawan scored a 100. Kohli scored a 100. Raina scored a 100. MSD got back his finishing touches. Rahane showed he can attack. Oh yes, even Rohit scored a 100.  
MSD’s captaincy was brilliant. He kept the slips, regular and not just his favorite leg-slip, on even during the middle overs. Seeing Umesh Yadav’s penchant to bowl leg stump line, he gave him a field packed on that side of the ground. Use of short stuff was perfect. Ashwin was used as a wicket-taking option. There was plan for most batsmen – bowl short to Amla, bowl short to Younis Khan, keep cramping Gayle, suffocate Ireland with spin, let ABdV take a chance against Mohit Sharma’a arm.  
MSD was aggressive. His captaincy was unorthodox. Sometimes it was so unorthodox that it became inexplicable. Try giving me a reason for keeping that man right behind himself? Unless he was hinting BCCI that it’s time we start preparing a backup keeper, I don’t find any other reason for that field placement.
We were always expected to win against Pak and we won. We weren’t expected to win against SA and we thrashed them. Rest were no match for us.
And then, it all fell apart. It all fell apart an opposition which exposed our weakness which wasn’t exposed till now. We played with six batsmen who couldn’t bowl. We played with five bowlers who couldn’t bat. We didn’t have batsmen who could scare the opposition. We didn’t have bowlers who could take wickets at will. Team relied on clinical performances. Team played like a precision of a surgeon – finding the weakness, injecting the anesthesia, using the scalpel and operating the patient. But then, sometimes you need a butcher to counter a monster – someone who doesn’t have a weak spot, someone who doesn’t let you inject the anesthesia, someone who breathes fire. That’s when it all fell apart. We failed to act as butchers.
In 2011, we had X factor of Sehwag as batsman who often set the tone at the start. Remember his cameos? We had X factor of Yuvraj as all-rounder who won matches both with bat and ball. You cannot forget him, can you? We had X factor of Zaheer as a bowler and he provided wickets every time he was called upon to bowl. Alas, all three had fallen apart well by the time we reached 2015. Dhawan was no Sehwag. But Sehwag in 2015 wouldn’t have been better than Dhawan. Jadeja of 2015 wasn’t even a shadow of Yuvraj of 2011. But Yuvraj after 2011 did worse than Jadeja in the same period. Zaheer in 2011 had 11 years of international experience. Shami came after 2011.
We had the best possible eleven. Problem was, that best possible eleven wasn’t good enough against Australia.
That’s where it all fell apart. In the semifinal.
We couldn’t find an answer to Steve Smith all summer. We didn’t in the semifinal either.
We couldn’t stop tail-enders from playing cameos.
We didn’t know how to bat if we lost wickets early against a quality bowling attack.
We didn’t know how to not lose wickets in a heap against a quality attack.
In short, we couldn’t find out a way to beat Australia. That’s where it all fell apart.
Now the morning schedule will have to be changed a bit. I can sleep late. No more Star Cricket early in the morning. A bit of news and then I can go back to watching music channels. People at home will be relaxed. My ferocity to own the TV remote would drop down drastically. The terrorizing aggressive dare-you-touch-the-remote cricket fan will give way to a docile okay-you-watch-I-will-go-take-a-nap common man. There will be withdrawal symptoms but they can be cured with the dose of IPL – something much less in intensity of international cricket but good enough to ensure my blood doesn’t run out of its regular dose of cricket. There will be another time for the world cup. And that another time will keep me occupied in the evenings – England it will be.
There will be new players in every team. Lot of new captains. Lot of new strategies. A new kind of cricket.
Oh yes, there may not be someone named MSD.
Throw from mid-wicket was perfect. Maxwell had one stump to aim at and aim he did. MSD was run out. That was surprising. Well, it was more surprising to see MSD not even trying to make his ground. Maybe he had given up. Maybe he knew India’s campaign had ended. Maybe he knew it was way beyond his reach by then.
Well, I didn’t. I still had hopes till he was batting.
But with his wicket, world cup 2015 ended for me as well.
MS Dhoni - run out (Maxwell)               65 
Final on 29th was just a formality and for academic interest.
(Image courtesy Mid-day)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Dear Sydney!!!

Dear Sydney,
Let me start with a song.
 The winner takes it all
 The loser standing small
 Beside the victory
 That's her destiny
Oh the song from ABBA. Nothing captures the brutal reality of life in a more apt way. And in a cruel way. Nothing captures the truth better.
Sydney Cricket Ground. And truth is what we shall all face tomorrow. In SCG. Sydney Cricket Ground. That circular part of your body located at Moore Park Road.
SCG has always been one of my favorite grounds. No, no. I had never personally visited the ground till 2014. But I always liked it. The sound of it. Not sure when did it start.
Maybe it was in 1992 series when the only test we competed was played in Sydney. I had read before that match that it turns there hence should suit India in case they play a spinner. We played four pacers. On final day, Manoj Prabhakar was doing something he did as his last appearance for India – he bowled off spin. Tendulkar took a wicket. Ravi Shastri took four. Australia drew the test. They won other four.
Maybe it was VVS’ 167 which won my heart. On that forgettable tour of 1999-200, VVS’ 167 was the only positive one could take out.
After that, VVS changed as a batsman.
He played in Eden. Year was 2001. After 2001, everything changed in cricket for us.
God showed the world something it had never seen in 2004 on SCG. He showed us how to make a double hundred. A double hundred without playing a single cover drive. Not a single cover drive. None. Zilch. Nada.
Even a loss in Sydney 2008 turned things for us. We spanked Australian ego of considering Indians a pushover on fast bouncy pitches. Perth was victory. Sydney was inspiration.
Oh yes, we won first final of CB series in Sydney. Sachin got a 100. More than that, he was still there when MSD scored the winning runs. MSD must have been disappointed. Winning stroke was a four. Not a six.
Dear Sydney. You have always provided me reasons to like you. They all are in SCG – that circular part of your body on Moore Park Road.
Then there is that most beautiful view of sun setting behind the pavilion. That’s one of the best views for a cricket fan. My only regret during my visit to SCG in 2014 was that I couldn’t see the sun setting behind the pavilion. I couldn’t have seen it that day. Not only because there aren’t any visits for tourists in the evening but also the clouds. But come 2015 and I would like to see something. I would like to see Sydney do what it has always done. I would like SCG to give me one more reason to like it.
Just think of it. We landed in Australia with one of the weakest teams ever. Earlier teams have always had better bowlers – a Kapil, a Kumble, a Harbhajan, a Zaheer.
Who did we have this time? I don’t even remember.
Yet we competed and competed well. We did lot better than 1999. If we had bit more luck, we might have done as well as 2004 or surely better than 2008. I am not even naming 1992 or 2012. For me, those series didn’t happen. No, they didn’t.
Even though we lost the test series by a margin of 2-0, there was lot less shame in it than earlier losses. We made people appreciate our performance. Friends in Australia tell me that people loved the way we played. It was all in papers. Last month when I was in a pub in Melbourne, I bumped into a stranger. The moment I told me where I was from, he was going all gaga about how good Kohli is. He asked me if I was there for the world cup. I replied with a sad face that I would be going back next week. He asked me who I think would win the world cup. There was just one answer he could have got for me. “Mate, Kohli is your man if you are going to do it” was his parting reply.
Okay, we were nonexistent in the ODI tri series. I wish the tri series itself was nonexistent.
Come the world cup. 2015. The #WontGiveItBack propaganda. The Mauka Mauka hype. The everything.
Lot of people had given up hope. Lot of them were wondering if it would be like 2007. I was wondering if there was a world cup in 2007.
But I knew, like last time, it wouldn’t take lot to change perceptions. Such is the format that 3 lucky nights can turn you from a hopeless side to a world champion. In my mind, there was never any doubt of not making it past the league round. Challenges were always going to appear after that. But yes, our performance in league stages was going to tell a lot of things. It was going to build, well, momentum.
It started. And as it did, we were there.
We were there doing everything we could and we should.
We were there winning.
Pakistan was never going to have any chance against us. Never.
I had no doubt that we would lose to South Africa. After all, they had all the artillery – the best fast bowler in the world, and opened who scores 100 faster than Virat, Faf, a 360 degree batsman, Philander, Morkel, fielding and above all, aura. I forgot they lacked one quality. One quality they’ve always lacked. One quality which always makes them lose when they mustn’t. Calmness.
After victory over South Africa, we weren’t going to lose. Bangladesh in Quarter Final was just a mere formality.
And we have done well. This team is weaker than the one we had in 2003. There is no God, God of off side, the name who named God of off side as God of off side in the batting line up. Our bowlers were laughable till this tournament started.
This team is weaker than 2011. We played at home in 2011. And we had Yuvraj. Oh yes, the unplayable Zaheer. And yes, the God.
This team was weak to start with. Openers weren’t settled. Middle order was too reliant on one man. Best finisher hadn’t finished a game in 2 years. Spinners were competing with the medium pacers for pace. Medium pacers didn’t have pace. This team was weak.
But as an eternal optimist, I had hope.
Just before the world cup started, I had written a piece in hope. Hope that more sounded like a wish. The wish has come true till now. All wishes have come true till now. And unlike most wish lists we have, this wish list isn’t endless. This will end. This will end soon.
Dear Sydney, it will end in two steps.
First of that step would be tomorrow.
To all the matches we have lost to Australia this summer, to all the sadness of losing, to all the sledges, to all the rubbing in the salt, to all the everything else, I sincerely request you to be nice on one last occasion. I request you to be nice to us tomorrow. I know you have a friend called truth who is always desperate to bite. Please ask him to spare the color blue.
Dear Sydney, give me more reason to like you. Let that reason emanate from that circular part of your body located at Moore Park Road. Let than reason emanate from SCG.
As the lyrics of that song say
The Gods may throw a dice
 Their minds as cold as ice
 And someone way down here
 Loses someone dear
Please make sure that loser isn’t me. Please.
A Fan.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Reviewing MSG: The Messenger

They don’t make them like that anymore. The movies. The likes of movies they made in late 80s and early 90s – things were quite black & white. There were heroes to bash up villains and romance heroines. There were heroines to romance with heroes and bath under waterfalls. There were hero’s sisters for reasons well known. There were comedians. There were villains.
These days, there is no clarity. Everyone is a bit of everything. Unless off course you are Abhishek Bacchan. In that case, you are Amitabh Bacchan’s son. Irrespective of anything.
Hence whenever such a movie which is a reminiscence of movies in that era is about to be released, expectations go up. My expectations.
Because at this age which is called midlife, I am sick of all those grey colored movies where there is no clear cut hero or a villain, where Vidya Balan is said to be hero of her movies and Tiger Shroff plays hero/heroine opposite/ alongside Kriti Sanon.    
I am sick of grey color. The “you may be making half of the money your friends are making but look at the brighter side, you do not have much to do at work as well” or “I know your grey hair make you look older than what you are but at least you still have some left on your head” or “You cannot get everything in life, be happy what you have” phenomena.
I would rather have black & white of youth. I would rather have a hero who is all good and a villain who is all bad. Grey is sickeningly real. Movies should be all about a fantasy world.
Hence when I first watched promos of MSG: The Messenger, I was filled with hope. Finally I was going to get a chance to watch a movie which had the potential to join the ranks of GundaJeene Nahi DoongaDesh DrohiJaani Dushman: Ek Anokhi Kahani  and a few more. Promos looked delicious.
Finally, after some protests, the movie was released. Not everyone in this cruel world understands true art. The protesters must have been such people.
MSG is a story of a man crusading against the evils of this world – drugs being the foremost of them. MSG is the story of a man who is torch bearer of humanity. MSG is the story of a man who, in spite of all his powers, remains humble to the ground. What bigger proof that the fact that he adds insaan to his name, just to make people realize that he isn't (no, I am not going to say bear) God but human like all of us.  
MSG, the movie, is an experience itself.
First, a glimpse of how the movie unfolds.
Movie begins with a song introducing star cast. As soon as it ends, there is another song with protagonist Pitaji /GuruJi played by Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Ji Insan, at the center of it.
We are informed that our great nation had fallen prey to the evils of drugs. Generations were lost.  Pitaji /GuruJi arrived. His preaching resulted in people giving up on drugs, totally.
My expectations are raised a few notches up.
People are shown pulling a huge chariot tied with the ropes. They cannot pull it – such is the weight and size of it.
Pitaji/Guruji is busy doing Yoga somewhere in Himalayas. He watches his pupils failing in pulling the chariots from there. He jumps from there – jumps from snowy mountains to dusty grounds, pulls the chariot all along, starts the Rathyatra and breaks into another song. I am sure LK Advani would love the movie. The movie, with 3 songs in first 10 minutes, seems to be unfolding as if it should be called “MSG: The Messenger The Musical”.
Pitaji/Guruji. He dresses in sleeveless cloths which look like made off camping tents and roams around in cars which look like convertible Nano. He smilingly acts the messiah.
Till now it has been all white.
Enter the black.
Villain in Sydney hires a profession killer to eradicate Pitaji /GuruJi. For some reasons, as the villain and the professional shooter are about to shake hands, their hands are thrown in different directions as if they were same poles of two different magnets.
A local leader is another villain. The professional killer begins his journey.
And he keeps failing.
If tries to take a sniper shot, he fails. Pitaji /GuruJi spots him in the dark shades of two blind gentlemen who had come to Pitaji /GuruJi to get their blindness treated, snatches rifle of his bodyguard standing next to him, takes aim at the finger of sniper’s shooting finger while looking at those dark shades, shoots, smiles and goes on doing his business of being called Pitaji by hot chicks and calling them beta.    
If the killer tries doing a gas attack on him in a huge gathering, Pitaji /GuruJi asks his followers to say their prayers loud enough to take the poisonous gas away.
Villain realizes why he could not shake hands with the killer - it was a signal that he would not be able to kill Pitaji /GuruJi. 
Villain sends a female suicide bomber to kill Pitaji /GuruJi. Pitaji /GuruJi is always surrounded by three super hot chicks who are no less than a bomb themselves. 
Who would be the suicide bomber? Would she be able to kill him? No. I am not going to kill the suspense. Watch it yourself to find out. 
The cat & mouse just goes on.
Finally ends.
Villain dies. Good prevails. So does Pitaji /GuruJi.
Did the movie meet my expectations? I dare say no. MSG: The Messenger has its moments but it falls short of the standards set by the movies in this genre.
Within ten minutes of the movie it proves that Issac Newton & his laws were the biggest myths of physics forced upon the entire world - all three of them. There is nothing called action-reaction. There is nothing called inertia. Gravity, whoever discovered it, doesn't exist. At least for Pitaji /GuruJi. But majority of good about the movie ends just about there.
Within half an hour of the movie you start wondering if this is a movie or a VLCC ad - Pitaji /GuruJi surely looks like someone looking to lose some weight and someone who hasn't lost an iota of hair, from every part of the body visible on screen.
Songs are good. The rap song, Daru Ko Goli Maro is really catchy. So is Love Charger.
Pitaji /GuruJi has done a good job. He has danced well – not better but almost as well as Sunny Deol.
But what the movie lacks most is something, maybe the only thing in lot of cases, you remember movies for – dialogues. There is not one single punchline dialogue in the movie, leave aside a memorable bunch.
Gunda had its bulla moments.
Desh Drohi had KRK delivering unforgettable collection of words like “Jitni nafrat tumhare dil mein hamare liye hai utna hi pyaar tumhare liye hamare dil mein hai”.
Jaani Dushman had this -
Heroine: Tum log kisi ki izzat nahin kartain?
The baddie: Aree agar sabki izzat karangey to lootaingey Kiski …..ha ha ha
All MSG: The Messenger has is Pitaji /GuruJi dancing, singing, smiling along with his dark long hair – head, beard, mustache, cheeks, armpit, biceps, thighs.
MSG: The Messenger lacks badly in this department, the dialogues. 
Each of such movie predicts a bit about future which is about to unfold.
Gunda was about a coolie who is often found at airports. It was symbolic of India’s middle class dreaming big. That happened in next decade. Prosperity trickled down through modernization to rising disposable income of middle class. Soon, low cost airlines were new AC three tier in trains. Railway platforms were taken over by airports.
Desh Drohi was a symbol of middle class man’s anger against religion/region based politics in the country. AAP happened.
Jaani Dushman dignified the tech boom which was about to happen in coming years. Don’t take their copying of scenes of Terminator series in wrong way. See it as inspiration of boom in mobile industry.
Where does this fit in all this?
I know someone who has a beard being given God’s status by a lot. But I wouldn't go down that lane.
Mitron, I don’t want to politicize the issue. 

PS: NOM. It's just a movie review. Pun etc is intended. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

India V South Africa - Mauka, the preview

There are few things in life whose importance is made to realize by telling you repeatedly that they exists. Ah, wives do that beautifully. Don’t they? You know what I mean.
But in these two holy months of February 2015 and March 2015 – when the greatest sporting carnival of cricketing world takes place, I wouldn't be talking anything else on Fultoo Bakar than cricket.
While I clearly remember how many matches we had won against Pakistan in world cups, their scores, their locations, their MOMs and almost everything about those matches, unless a friend reminded me I hadn’t noticed we have never beaten SA in a world cup.
But then, when have we beaten SA. Not very often.
Even when we won our first series against them by a victory margin of 2-1, it could well have been 2-1 in their favor had one of their fielders not missed hitting the stumps direct. But for Sachin Tendulkar’s master class undoing the threat of Alan Donald’s merciless super fast bowling, we had no chance of winning the first match in Calcutta. Oh yes, it was Calcutta back then. While we won next match convincingly, we lost the last match in Delhi’s Nehru stadium comprehensively.
1992 world cup match against SA was a mere formality for us – we were already out of the tournament. SA needed to win to go past first stage. It was a crucial match for them. They easily chased down 180 in this rain curtailed 30 over match. They weren't familiar to THE term back then. It was later years when they learned and taught the world about this word – choking.
We did win a few ODIs here and there against them. But the biggest victory came against them in a match where SA showed glimpses of future. Chasing 195 against India, they succumbed to Tendulkar’s innocuous looking bowling in last over when they needed 6 to win and could score just 3 – hero cup.
Come 1999 world cup and the defeated us in a league match. But they choked perfectly later in the tournament.
Their supremacy over us continued.
Come T20 world cup in 2007 and they showed what they were really capable of. We needed to win against them to qualify for next round. They needed to lose respectably to move ahead. We did it. They did it too. Choked their way out of the tournament.
They defeated us in 2011 world cup in a league match. They choked later.
2015 has arrived. We are in same group. This would be our 4th attempt to win against them in a world cup game. If past trends are anything to go by, SA would be happier to lose to us. Victory against India in a league game has ended up in a perfect choke later in the tournament. Not playing India in before knock out stages hasn’t yielded a different result either. So for SA, losing to India on coming Sunday maybe their best shot.
What about us? Can we win? I tried thinking from different angles and couldn't find a single one from which we can sneak out a victory. Maybe our best chance would be to not get their openers out. Because even a thought of ABDV and Millar batting against our bowling gives jitters. Or if we can somehow make them believe that this is a knock out match and if they lose, they shall be send to India and made to watch 4 back to back shows of MSG: The Messenger dubbed in Zulu. Pressure of avoiding watching the movie would do the trick. 
Otherwise, I don’t think we even stand a chance.
More than that, after the victory against mediocre Pakistanis, it wouldn't be a bad idea to face a crushing defeat bringing our feet down to the ground. 
News is that Dale Steyn is down with flu. That should make abundance of talent we have quite happy. Maybe Steyn can be sledged like this
Rohit  - You aren't playing? What happened? Scared of me?
Steyn – Scared of you? Really? I have flu, mate. Do you understand what it means? Do you understand English?
Rohit – Flu? Come to India and I will show you.
Although South African bowling is not close to their best without Steyn, I am afraid his absence isn’t going to make much of a difference. Not unless if we can somehow convince him to put on the mask of Umesh Yadav and bowl for us. But then, someone else will start bowling like Umesh.

Umesh, the Ajit Agarkar of this generation, is irreplaceable and incorrigible.