Friday, December 29, 2006

Yaeeeesh....kasam meter down ki!

If some corner of your heart still beats for Mithun and deep inside you BELIEVE that DISCO stands for Dance, Item, Singer, Chorus, O se Orchestra then look no further and go here.

Awesome reviews of cult(i) classics and an ode to Indi grindhouse cinema (whatever that means!). I am sure Harry Knolwes agrees.

Monday, December 18, 2006

England's Golden Boys

I am finally very, very relieved to see England lose the Perth test rather emphatically and the Ashes trophy go back to into the Aussie fold. There is a certain annoying quality about your average English cricket fan, cricket writer and cricket commentator that makes you take a dim view of life. A report card of the Ashes and the hype that surrounds English cricket in general.

1. The Ashes Series 2005
Not, and I repeat, not the greatest series ever played, even on DVD.

2. Andrew "Freddie" Flintoff
He is the "immense" one. Amongst all the allrounders in the world today currently nursing an ankle injury he is easily the standout star. He is big, he is Northern, he is inpirational, and currently he does not have the foggiest. After helping England regain the Ashes with some memorable performances in 2005 he helped Australia win it back in a breathtaking manner in 2006. But Freddie Flintoff is considered beyond reproach in the English team. He averages 32 with the bat and 31 with the ball. Allrounder - yes, Greatest - no.

3. Andrew Strauss
The one with the smug expression. Would have made a slightly better captain than Freddie for the Ashes. As a batsman too he is only slightly overrated.

4. Kevin Peterson
KP is the man of the moment. Aggressive, often puts foot into mouth, scores lots of runs, and has already written an autobiography after his first year in international cricket. Lots of shock value, weird hairdo, a problematic sleeve. Still scores runs though.

5. Steve Harmison,
Tall, bouncy, fast, often homesick and extremely overrated. Bowls super balls and absolute shockers with a straight face. Consistently performs below par (not sure what the par for his course is though) and is often clueless in the face of adversity. Has the goodwill of selectors, fans and journalists. He too has a problematic sleeve.

6. Michael Vaughan
The world's best, most respected and good looking non-playing English captain. He will go down in folklore as the man who got the Ashes back. It is widely believed that he has been granted diplomatic immunity. Superb batsman whenever he finds form, he has an amazing custom designed knee that he can program to fail at critical junctures. Spends most of his time in rehab and providing material for journalists and mathematicians to mull on the probability of his return into the England side for the Ashes in 2017.

7. Simon Jones,
The "greatest" bowler of reverse swing using legal means and pure skill. After the skullduggery precipitated by people like Waqar, Wasim and Co, Jones comes as a breath of fresh air. He can swing it late and at good pace and that too without the use of bottle caps. This is primarily because pakis have a ten year patent on the caps. But all this takes a lot out of him. He is destined to play only three meaningful series without injury in a career spanning 14 years. He has already played two.

8. Ashley Giles,
As fine an example of mediocrity and media hype as you can ever wish to spot this side of the atlantic. He has been very seldom known to get it right, but still continues to be Fletcher's ultimate utility cricketer. Fletcher once said that if Giles were Zimbabwean he would easily walk into any of their international elevens after the year 2004 with no questions asked.

9. English Cricket Writers
A supremely gifted lot which practises its art in publications of some repute. Their favorite two letter phrase is "greatest ever" when it comes to describing anything related to the Ashes. For them International cricket with teams from the subcontinent is an exercise against their better natures for purposes of making a pot of money. England can suck at One Day cricket, get creamed by Sri Lanka in their own backyard, and lose everything else on offer as long as they retain the ashes and they get to use words like "immense" and "greatest ever". Unfortunately for them the ashes dream is over. But the buggers are still going to call it the "greatest ever" loss and an "immense" disappointment.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lowering the bar

I like to think of myself as a sophisticated individual.....On a scale of 1 to 10, I would probably rate self 1.1 on looks, 3.5 on general awareness, 2 on achievement, 3 on the ability to speak in english and an over the top 4 on holding strong opinions on things that matter.....These scores would probably place me somewhere in the top 0.1 percentile of the country's elite thinkers.

Like everybody else I too dream of a state that is rid of corruption, of poverty, of beggary and crime, of terrorism and fear and above all of bad roads...I also of course dream of obtaining outrageously large salary hikes, a penthouse apartment in
Bandra and batting at number 3 for India...The only problem with these dreams is that of their attention span...

From a purely management standpoint, I believe that all aspirations of the intellectual elite in India can be categorised into the standard compartments of Strategic, Tactical and Operational. The stratgic aims are often utopian dreams of being a key player in nation building, helping India become a superpower, striking corruption at the root, a hero for the masses and similar blahs...At a tactical level the aspirations are limited to becoming CEO of the company one works for, hoping to fire the boss someday, getting to follow one's passion (rockstar, serial killer, painter, choreographer, day trader etc), becoming an entrepreneur.....
The third level which is the operational is the most important as most of us spend entire lives caught in its fangs. Here the concerns are very real like the next onsite opportunity, the holy trinity of the increment, the bonus and the variable
component, EMIs, tax and ironically its benefits, Sachin Tendulkar's form, Air fares, honeymoon destinations, and above all the frustration at not being able to move onto the tactical and strategic dimensions.

Such, I guess, is life. One means well but there is nothing one can do.

Digressing here a bit, I have often wondered about people who actually burn effigies of other people. And this phenomenon seems to be on the rise lately. People have been doing it to the Pope, delhi traders burnt an effigy of "sealing (sic)" apparently, George Bush is a firm favorite in the middle east, Baba Ramdev went through it recently. My point is..who does something like that? ...I mean how does the whole thing happen.

Imagine this guy who sort of wakes up in the morning and starts doing his daily stuff. He takes a shower, sips into his tea, turns on the telly and sees something he does not like.

"Bugger this, for a frickin' lark", he says to himself, "this calls for an effigy does'nt it".

He calls a couple of his friends and says "Dude, wassup. Did you catch that thing on television? Disgusting man! lets do an effigy before we get to work. I have some wood stilts from last weeks carpentary job, you get some cloth and we'll buy some kerosene on the way" And dont forget to phone in a couple of TV channels man. And get your camera willya, mine is not fully charged"

I mean how jobless can one get!! Its quite funny though watching these lads on television having a ball in the middle of the road. Shouting, screaming, swearing and burning in front of the camera and the police and getting away with it..Every
schoolboy's fantasy come true...Half the teenagers in the country today would love to do something like this frankly...And for all they care it could be an effigy of the planet Pluto for pretending...

Ditto for stone throwing...I would'nt have minded throwing a few stones in my time frankly...'cause some of "them" buggers really deserved it!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Indian Cricket's lesser talents

The generally held opinion amongst the cognoscenti in India is that Anil Kumble is the fastest leg spinner in its illustrious history. This opinion is a myth. The fastest leg spinner was infact Venkatesh Prasad whose stock delivery was the leg spinner bowled using his fingers and a longish runup. Some people called it a slow leg cutter, but they were wrong as usual. Venkatesh Prasad's change of pace delivery was the faster one that he sent down at approximately 115kmph. If we look at the
the effort/pace ratio for the figure that was V Prasad, it emerges as the highest ever in international cricket, though only marginally above that of one Abey Kuruvilla.

The 90s saw the arrival of brash young cricketers from Karnataka which coincided with the meteoric rise of Bangalore as India's silicon valley. And they were a bit like their software counterparts who were fresh out of college, brash, had the social grace of duckweed, could write code in Java, knew PL/SQl like the back of their hands and were put on mission critical onsite projects the day they joined.

Bursting onto the international scene were David Johson, Dodda Ganesh, Sujit Somsundar, and Venkatesh Prasad. Lanky, unathletic, uninspiring cricketers who would have gone onto achieve greater heights only if they had a spot of talent.

David Johsnon was renowned for consistent bowling in the corridor of absurdity. Little wonder that his first test wicket was Australia's Michale Slater aka Slasher. Dodda Ganesh looked menacing and was particularly adept at bowling balls that did
nothing off the pitch or though the air. He also had the knack of bowling a beatifully disguised no ball which would go for four byes. A wasted talent indeed.

But the most striking of these cricketers was Sujith Somsundar aka "Somu mere laal" as a friend of mine used to call him. Once facing Alan Donald in a one day international, he was so overcome with dread that he sidestepped all deliveries by
moving far away from the leg stump. He was not merely giving himself room to play a shot, he gave himself a 2BHK apartment and that too to avoid a shot.

Soon the software bubble burst and by extension these hard working cricketers were laid off. India continued to lose more mathces than it won. It lost most matches playing insipid, uninspiring, spineless cricket and the ones it managed to win it
played mesmeric, youthful awe-inspiring cricket. There was no middle path.

Selections were made based on a need basis. Apparently Atul Bedade was chosen specifically to hit sixes. After the Sharjah tounament he was dropped inspite of hitting a splendid 40 odd in the final. The reason - he did not hit enough sixes. Salil Ankola, Vivek Razdan, Raju Kulkarni, Gyanendra Pandey et al - they came, they saw and they whimpered.

As a cricket fan it was a frustrating period because on one hand there was Sachin Tendulkar being sublime and almost everyone else being subliminal. On other occasions even SRT flattered to deceive. You could predict a result in those days even before the first ball was bowled. Probably match fixing had something to do with it as well.

Nikhil Chopra, Ajay Sharma, Rajesh Chauhan, Gagan Khoda, Praveen Amre (scored a centry on debut too), the karnataka brigade, WV Raman....All men who made Indian cricket outrageously unattractive, inconsistent and cliched.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Mumbai's "esprit de Corpse"

The city of Mumbai, if you look at it carefully enough is a bit of a gigantic farce. The fleapit formerly known as Bombay has
variously been called the land of opportunity, the city that never sleeps, land of stars and bollywood, and several other bugerall things. But no one seems to state the screamingly obvious point that its nothing but an oversized dump-yard.

Ask anyone what they like about this place. Most of the time the reply would be - "I like its spirit".

Yeah right! I have a theory about this place. I think the life force that drives the people of this city to put up with ant-colony like
local trains, rude taxi/rickshaw/bus drivers, bad roads, badder traffic jams, floods, rains, mindnumbing property rates,bloodsucking brokers, occasional communal riot, slums et al is peer pressure. Everyone has a look on their face that says -
"When I am not bothered then what t f is your problem". So one says to oneself, "Ok, I guess I am just being a plain jerk here. I mean look at these people around me. They seem to rather enjoying running round this huge reeking pile of garbage in
the middle of the road to catch a train bursting at the seams." Once they reach the station they will go through the much practiced push, shove, jostle, swear routine to get into the train and once in, they will try to solve a sudoku puzzle. These
guys do this everyday and aren't bothered the least bit so, again, what t.f is your problem."

And don't even get me started on the slums. The civic administration talks of a slum free mumbai. Frankly that would mean destroying 50% of the city. If to
that you add an illegal construction free mumbai it would probably take that statistic upto 70%. So if one were to get rid of all that, then Mumbai would probably be just another small town the size of a Patna, only infinitely more hep with only three categories of people. The uberrich celebrity gang, the reasonably plush middle class and gujratis. That's because everyone else lives in the slums.
Everyday people die crossing railway signals, falling out of trains, in muggings, of hunger, disease and accidents, but still no worries mate! I mean this is Mumbai after all. These things happen all the time here. So if it isn't you, then all is well. Lets make a quick buck somewhere then.

And then there are the festivals. Some people actually seem to think that the public festivals in Mumbai are cool. I mean who dances on the street and blocks traffic just to please the Gods? How many people you know actually do that. All those buggers
look exactly the same, with faces colored, a fashion street outfit comprising the ubiquitous jean pant and the T-shirt, drunk and dancing to mindnumbingly monotonous rhythmic percussion. Unemployed, angsty youth just getting some leeway to let off
some steam and aggression. That's alright I guess.

Official statistics say that almost 50% of the population does not have access to proper sanitation facilities i.e a frickin' toilet. So by extension people defecating on the streets is a common sight. Nobody minds them. You just ignore them.
Another highly overrated by-product of the mumbai fast life is the vada pav. Its actually a masala bonda inna breadish bun. Its cheap, can be eaten on the move, doesn't taste too good, but its not too bad either. People who don't eat a lot of Vada Pav entertain the romantic notion that Mumbai lives on Vada pav. That is not true. No one can actually live off the muck.

Woman cut veggies on the train to cook when they get back home, people sing bhajans, do the crossword, sit on top of trains, hang on the sides, and even fit in between carriages like spiderman. And they seem to love it. Other who don't do all of this
are quite in awe of them. Also they can talk about these "outliers" with their friends and family. Its an interesting conversation piece in Mumbai, the way people behave on trains.

My problem is that no one seems to have a problem. All mentions of mumbai in TV channels show a vast expanse of the marine drive with fast cars zipping around. But surprisingly no one ever shows the dreaded Times of India signal at Malad, SV Road
in Bandra, Andheri flyover, Chembur, Thakur Village in Kandivali and almost any signal in the suburbs. Kramer once put it rather succintly to Jerry when he said, "The infrastructure Jerry, its crumblin'!!" Only here there was a crumbled
infrastructure to start with.

Life in mumbai during weekdays is a continuous struggle against other people,roads, traffic, elements, stink and garbage. But we all hang on because everyone else is hanging on. No one likes Mumbai. They only say so because others do.

Weekends though are spent sleeping...

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Small Town Humour

Ok picture this...2 dudes hailing from the nethermost regions of eastern UP (gorakhpur, deoria or thereabouts) standing in front of the Hyundai stall at the Auto Expo in Delhi. I dont remember the year. Probably 2001 or 2002 but definitely either of these.

Both chappies wearing elephant bottomed "jean pant", floral shirt and shoes the size of Mt godwin austin. Hyundai had put up a sexy looking double seater open top on a revolving platform. All bright yellow with a mini skirted model in tow, twas looking quite something. The two chaps had been staring at the vehicle for about 5 minutes, giving the car the sort of a stare hitherto reserved for Pushpa, Susma or Kusum back home. Of course one would have thought that the car for them was just a side issue and the object of the stare was the rather pretty looking babe sitting on the bonnet making ingratiatingly cute faces. But I was wrong and how. One of the chaps suddenly came out of his reverie and spake thusly in the vernacular

"Guru, gaadi to gajab banayi hai lekin saala baarish mein phail hai"

No other one liner has given me more joy than the above piece of astute observation. And one could see that the chap was not making a joke. His face reeked of smug satisfaction at having made a very telling point, and the way his partner said "sahi keh rahe ho guru"drove home the point. I think one of the Hyundai bosses heard the comment too because they never launched the car in India.

Small town UP/Bihar is home to some of the most outrageously confident individuals who have an opinion on any dashed subject beneath the sun and probably beyond. Especially the sort mentioned above. And most of the stuff these guys dole out are gems of comic repartee, in fact I would go so far as to say classics of literature. Only no one gets to hear about them. I feel it is my duty to introduce a few of these into the blogsphere. Here are a few samples. And for matters of simplicity we shall assume that the main protagonists in these conversations are called Mrityunjay and Surender.
M - Abey saala dekhe kal kya tum, gajab raaket choda India ne TV par PSLV wala..
S - abey koi badi baat nahin hai...saala do din mein kitaab padh ke hum bhi ek aada chhod sakte hain

M - abey tum hamesha saala train mein WT karte ho (WT - Without ticket)
S - guru, WT ke teen phayede hain..
M - kaun se fayede bey?
S - agar aap WT hain to aana phree, jaana phree aur pakde gaye to khana phree ......

M - guru woh lallan aaj kal hamari colony ki laundiya ko taad raha hai bahut..usko samjha do warna saale ko bistar sahit uthwa lenge...
S - nahin hum trailer de diye hain usko...agar phir harkat patkega to poora 75mm ki picchar dikha denge saale ko...
M - suren suno, aaj ek laundey ko maarne jaana hai shaam ko...5 baje aayenge ka jugad kar liya hai..
S - abey suno, yeh sab kaam saala hum karke chhod chuke hain...aaj kal hum badmasi thoda down kiye hue hain..
M - chalo na yaar..bas samjhana hai aur ek aada kantaap jad dena....hum bole aaye hain ki shaam ko marenge...agar gaye nain to kal school mein bejatti ho jayegi....

and they are eveywhere...lucknow, kanpur, basti, gonda, deoria, eta, etawah, mainpuri, allahbad....all hotbeds of raw humour spoken with complete seriousness....I wish this genre had more takers....

But my favorite vernacular catch phrase painted onto the back of a truck emanates not from UP but cosmopolitan bangalore, on the back of a tamil nadu monster which read - "Wait Machi"