Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Monday blues on Tuesday afternoon

The Times of India reports (Sunday 26th August) that the Marwari Sabha felicitated Arvind Singh Mewar, the ancestor of Maharana Pratap. Longevity!

A search for Victoria Falls on Google Earth produces Victoria Falls, Georgia, USA. You thought the Middle Kingdom was a fantastic conceit?

And listening to the Moody Blues’ When the tide comes in while driving to office, on a cloudy morning with the breeze feathering the waters, is NOT a good idea. Puts paid to work. (Especially when I view this video and reminisce on a walk along that same route some years ago. Lousy version, though.)


Saturday, August 18, 2007


God save the USA.

Doesn't seem anybody else should bother.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The lack of cojones

Growing up, the term ‘innings defeat’ became familiar the wrong way. With India losing. By the time India’s team started winning, in the 80s, ‘follow-on and innings defeat’ were what we hankered for. To make up for all the times Sunil Gavaskar had to stand among the ruins, to make up for all the times an India captain would lose with grace. Oh, we wanted it so bad – for INDIA to not only WIN, but to grind the opposition into the dust.

Rahul Dravid is one of the greatest batsmen to play for India. I’d go so far as to say he is one of the best batsmen ever. Definitely one of the most complete, correct and graceful right-handers, straight out of the copy-book. He looks so good with that full follow-through, I can sit and watch him play defensive strokes for hours. And a fighter. No bravado, very under-stated but one of the gutsiest and toughest men to stand in the middle of a cricket field with the India crest on his helmet. This is the one man we’d all want to be at the wicket if our lives depended on it. True Grit. Possibly India’s best batsman since 1998. Rahul Dravid, The Wall.

Rahul Dravid, the schizo. Because he’s not only a batsman, but also the captain of India. And not just any captain. One of the most limp-wristed, gutless, back-pedalling cricket captains to have ever led any country. With England 319 runs behind and almost six full sessions of play remaining, Mr. R. Dravid chose to NOT enforce the follow-on. With the cloud cover aiding swing, with the pitch still bouncy, he decided that India need to bat England out of the match. This from the man who before the first day’s play dusted off that old chestnut ‘Bat once, bat big’.

When I started writing this, India were 10 for 2. Now they are 11 for 3, with Sachin Tendulkar comprehensively bowled by Jamie Anderson off an inside edge.

Take it from the top, now.

Making England follow-on would have rubbed their noses in it. As Ravi Shastri said between the innings, it would have made a point. England’s batsmen would have been under pressure to bat long, make runs. Pressure brings mistakes. Mind-games? No thank you, Mr. Dravid would rather consult an actuary about his insurance policies. What do we have to lose?

What we have to lose, Mr. Rahul where-are-your-balls-when-we-need-them Dravid, is the match. Item, the cloud cover now would help swing. It IS helping swing, except that our bowlers aren’t getting any. Our batsmen are facing it.

Item, we lose time. India, batting now, have that margin of uncertainty as to what score will be big enough. With your no-risks policy, Mr. Dravid, our team has to bat that extra session, add those 50 extra runs, before they can declare. IF they’re not bowled out in a heap, which suddenly seems a possibility. Thus reducing the time that England have to survive through, giving our bowlers less time to knock them over.

Item, the other team gets a target to aim for. Once they know what the final Indian score is, they can always pace their innings. It’s no longer about survival. Hell, the way things are going now, they might even have a chance of winning it. If they do, Mr. Dravid, I hope you go on the Queen’s next Birthday Honours List. It would be the least they could do for the man who single-handedly revived the English cricket team.

Item, we lose the high, we lose the mental edge. Have you heard of the killer instinct, Mr. Dravid? Do you know what it is to be ruthless? Ask a man named Steve Waugh. Hell, ask Ravi Shastri, he’s the closest we have to an Aussie mind. What did Ravi say, Mr. D? ‘If you’ve got your man under water, hold him there. Why give him a chance to breathe?’ (Incidentally, Ian Chappell says the same.) What you’ve done, Mr. D, is bring him up and give him the kiss of life. What next, an oxygen cylinder? Balanced on your head while YOU stand underwater?

Yes, you had a good day yesterday. You called the changes, put men in the right positions. You have a brain, even a cricketing brain, no doubt about that. I don’t agree that it was inspired captaincy yesterday – for example, Tendulkar should have bowled earlier, bowled more – but it was good captaincy. Where you lose out, Mr. Dravid, is on leadership. Captaincy isn’t about strategy alone. It’s about heart. That jingle they play with your team colours, have you ever seen it? ‘Mind and body, heart and soul’. You have all that as a batsman, Mr. Dravid, even though you’re going through a bad patch now. As a batsman, you’re a stud. As a captain, you lack half of that. You lack the fire. As a captain, Mr. Rahul Dravid, you’re a wuss.

This was the chance you had to win big, Mr. Dravid. This was your chance to ride into the sunset with that big overseas win on your saddle-bow. You blew it. England may or may not win. A draw would be welcome to both teams now. That’s your contribution. Follow-on and innings defeat? Not against you, Mr. D. From a position where India were running hot, teeth bared, muscles itching, you have brought them back to being journeymen. When Kumble got Monty, we thought there could only be two results – India winning, or a draw. In true sporting spirit, you’ve opened the door for an England win. Bully for you.

Do us a favour, Mr. Dravid. When this is over, get some testosterone injections. And oh, a left brain implant might be a good idea too.


Update: I may have been just a little unfair. Apparently Zaheer Khan had a thigh strain. Not much sense bowling again when the spearhead is blunted. Drat. Nothing rankles like a wasted rant!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Weirdos again

There IS something about Delhi. Full-on Weirdo Watch. Like the guy who sits in the lobby of my hotel, next to the elevators. I see him sitting there at least once on every visit. And always, ALWAYS, dictating into a Nokia Communicator. This last time, I realised he had THREE of the damn phones – one in his hand and two on the table next to his open laptop. Except that he looks more like a deadbeat than a tycoon. Overwashed T-shirt, rumpled slacks, a salt-and-pepper stubble. Not a designer stubble either, just a scruffy one. But then there are those phones.

Or the old gent at the airport (Delhi airport again) in his white cotton suit. Which is OK in summer, kind of old-world charm. My grandfather had a white suit. Only this gent wore a RED tie with it. THIS LOUD. Weirdoso grandoso was the fact that inside the collar and the tie, he wore a red silk band. Embroidered zari kind of thingy, a little like a cravat but much narrower. And on his feet, white Reebok basketball shoes. Ye gods.

The fat Bong on the flight wasn’t exactly weird, just gross. I can commiserate with obesity, but to get as fat as this guy you just have to be a greedy slob. I know, it could be a glandular disorder, it could be depression. But at the end of the day he’s still a greedy pig who can’t keep food out of his mouth.

And he stank. And his clothes rucked up obscenely. And he kept turning round to talk to the guy in the seat behind him. And he had bad breath and huffed like a grampus. I pitied the guy next to him – Fat Slob was in the aisle seat, I (not-SO-fat slob?) was by the window and the guy in the middle had the worst deal.

The weird part was that, when they served the meal, Fat Slob drew a polythene pack out of his pocket and carefully emptied the food into that. For why?!

Friday, August 10, 2007


After lunch today, I sat in front of my computer and sniggered for 15 mins. Then I laughed for half an hour.

Then I sat and cried because I can't make up my mind whether I'd rather be Chuck Norris or Vin Diesel.

(Blogger has been warned that if either of them logs on, that 'What is a Blog' widget will be roundhouse kicked into the NASA parking lot. The one that orbits Pluto.)

Thursday, August 09, 2007


"Take it away, I ordered a double cheeseburger and fries!"

Was Titian ever in the American Mid-West?
(Enlightened via Bill Bryson)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Double Bill

I appreciate the written word more than the visual medium of cinema, so it's nice when a film is structured like a novel. It's even nicer when the film in question is much better than one expected. I may have liked it all the more in comparison with the director's previous attempt, so you are free to discount my praise hereafter.

Anjan Dutta directed Burrah Din (or Bada Din, though that spelling is not advisable in Calcutta) 9 years ago. It sucked. So I expected The Bong Connection to be another patchy mélange. Surprise. This is a well-scripted, neatly structured, thoroughly enjoyable film with excellent performances from an ensemble cast.

Dutta portrays Bangali quirks and foibles in Houston and in Hati Bagan. His observations, from the standard drunk in the probashi party to the para layabout who’s into ‘contracting’, are acute and often hilarious The story tracks two young Bengalis moving in opposite directions, as one tries to grow anew from family roots in Calcutta and the other learns to fly in foreign skies.This could easily have been a clever little linear docu-drama with no soul. Instead, it tracks their respective arcs as they cross in mid-air and even closes the circle by film's end. Anjan Dutta's script drives the film even better than his direction, with only two weak spots [1] in over two hours.

Not that the direction is weak. There's an interlude when the main characters, half of them in Shantiniketan and the other half in Texas, dance to the rhythm of a remix (yes, but it works!) of Tagore's Pagla hawa. It could have been kitschy, or sunk under the weight of reverence. Instead of which, it rises and soars, lifting the sails of imagination like Tagore's "frenzied wind". Or a chapter from Kerouac. Even Raima Sen looks natural and not her usual precious self. Now THAT is quite an achievement. In fact, Dutta extracts good performances from even the noted non-performers (no names) and some great cameos from Victor Banerjee and Shouvik Kundagrami. The supporting cast are solid and Peeya Mukherjee blazes quality in a comparatively ill-defined role.

Neil Dutta’s music is surprisingly good for a first-timer. Not every track, but the baaul tracks are wonderful. My friend criticized the under-use of Soumitra Chatterjee, now one of the grand old men of Bangla cinema. He appears in two scenes – as a paralytic old man struck silent by a stroke. I, on the contrary, found this the neatest part of the film, the under-stated tribute to Ray and his oeuvre (echoed by the background score). Soumitra was the original Apu, ‘Opoarajito’. As his character dies, Porombroto’s character, also named Apu, returns to his native shores. A closing of the circle and a reaffirmation of faith. A satisfying experience.

[1] Once when Porombroto and Peeya fight in front of his apartment, and again in one of the scenes with Hasan the taxi driver.

The other film I saw recently was Partner. Don’t gasp. I loved it, and not just because of Govinda’s innate timing. This film works on many levels. Much has been written about the chemistry between the film’s lead pair – Salman and Govinda. It’s there and it drives the film, but one of the stars is not on screen.

Sanjay Chhel wrote the script. He has been a favourite ever since the days of Yeh jo hai Zindagi, right through Daud and Yes Boss. If the two leading men sound good on-screen, it’s because of the lines Chhel gives them. Camp, outrageous, but so inane they’re good. I mean, Jahan guru wahan chela, ayee milan ki bela is almost as over-the-top as Owe koi nahin jee, hum toh bus underwear-underwear khel rahe they (from that other Dhawan-Govinda romp, Jodi No. 1).

There’s not much by way of a story or plot, no matter that the basic premise is lifted from Hitch. The intermittent ensemble numbers are faintly irritating. Rajpal Yadav is too loud and wasted in a little digression as Chhota Don. Katrina Kaif is pretty and vapid. Lara Dutta doesn’t have much of a role either except to flesh out, as a single mother, the acknowledgement of changing times. Unlike Katrina, however, she does look like a person and not just a pretty face. I’d do coffee with her any day.

The soul of the film glimmers in the scene where Salman as the ‘love guru’ tries to teach ‘bewaqoof Bhaskar’ to dance. Others have mentioned Govinda jiving to Sarkai le khatiya while Salman tries to do a coolio to Just chill. (This is one of a series of in-jokes, like Salman’s inability to do a film fully clad, that I enjoyed enormously.) The giveaway comes just afterwards. Salman walks out, Govinda starts a crazy hop and Just chill morphs into Cheel cheel chilla ke, from Kishore Kumar’s Half Ticket.

This, I think, is the essence of the film. Kishore Kumar in Half Ticket was a bizarre, unpredictable streak of comic energy. The film had a ridiculous premise that was actually irrelevant except for some sight gags. Like Kalidas’ 1962 romp, David Dhawan doesn’t mess with a good thing. He has a script with some good gags, he has a lead pair who crackle together. He lets them loose, rolls the camera as they freak out, and waits for the good bits to fall in place. And you know what, it works. Full-too time-pass. So what if it isn’t Blow-Out?!

**** ****