Thursday, July 26, 2007

Have you ever seen the rain?

My worst fear is monotony. And with mediocrity being a humble accomplice, monotony easily strengthens its grip on my life. Having made this discovery some time during my graduation, i've always tried to explore newer realms of activity. Though my explorations have never yielded anything of significance, it has surely affected my interests. If I may say so, my interests over the years have "compounded", yet they remain "simple". Which brings me to my latest interest-Photography. Its been something of a lifesaver; it floats my boat in seas of ennui. When my temper slips from its moorings, it is lead back to where it rightly belongs by my latest interest.
Monday seemed like an acronym for monotony unlimited on the 23rd. And then there was a respite. The dark clouds "flashed" a silver lining...and then it rained! It was a blessing. For some reason I still cannot fathom, it stimulated my imagination and took me out of my narrow,humdrum self. I could'nt resist capturing the moment.
On a lighter note, I've come to realise that the rain patterns in a city often reflect the attitudes of its people. At least in the three places that i've lived in namely Bombay, Hyderabad and Manipal(not really a city!), the rains behaved very much like the residents of the respective areas. The rains in bombay work overtime like the quintessential mumbaikar, oblivious of the surroundings,come rain or storm(metaphorically speaking). Its counterpart in Hyderabad is extremely lethargic and laid-back. Extermely inconsiderate of the people who depend on it. One often gets the impression its about to rain, but the overcast conditions flatter to decieve. Its eventually a whole lot of wind. And when it begins to rain, it goes through a characteristic Hyderabadi "light lele mama!" ph(r)ase and lo! There is light! The sun in all its splendor.The rains in manipal however, like the students who reside in the university town require a deadline to function. It is hardly seen during the year and it piles up all its torrents for the examination months of May-June.
Using this analogy, i'd like to extend my observational induction to the city i'm likely to move to next - Delhi. I imagine the rains in Delhi behave like the babu's who bring life in its entirety to a standstill, and who need to be bribed periodically with prayers.Ah! Now I know what Jim Morrison meant when he said "Petition the lord with prayer".He was probably suggesting how one could overcome a shortage of rainfall in Delhi.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Harry Today gone tomorrow?

1.7 Lakh copies sold in India yesterday. My kid sister is a proud owner of one of those copies. I must admit I was one of the victims of the pre-sales hype and had to see this for myself. And the experience was so overwhelming, that I'm still at a loss for words.
So i'll make it easier both for the reader and myself. Uploading these pics will save me an effort of furnishing some six thousand words at least. Check it out...

Duh! and you thought booking the tickets for the latest harry potter movie was any easier?

we've come a long way baby!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

English side bottoms up?

Much has been said about India's tour of England. I've always wondered if we've been victims of the in-house TVCs of the channels who've won the telecast rights or the TOI hype preceeding every tour the Indian cricket team embarks upon.So how good in this team, and how well are they equipped to stand up to the english onslaught on home turf?

This Indian team like most teams that have travelled to the sacrosant home of Cricket is as good as it gets on paper. But are they only so good on paper? Have they struck the right balance between experience and youth? Experience of english conditions is imperative for a side thats looking to achieve its first series win in england since 1986. I've followed cricket since 1991 and during this period, the men in blue have travelled twice to England(excluding the '99 Wc and the '04 ICC trophy). The observations I've made are on the basis of these tours.

In 1996 I remember Azar leading the team under the most controversial of circumstances.The team selection seemed to defy logic and common sense.Besides "Nepotism" seemed to be the operative word. The press cried hoarse about 5 karnataka lads who had been picked by the the selection committee led by G.Vishwanath. The three bowlers in Kumble, Srinath and Prasad were easily the best bowlers then. But also in the squad were a few rookies, Dravid and Joshi(of karnataka), Paras Mhambrey, Vikram Rathore and Saurav Ganguly. Also the spin department was heavily loaded with Kumble,Raju,Hirwani and Joshi, while the three seamers Srinath,Prasad and Mhambrey, with the latter two making their debuts,were all new to english conditions.Also the ones who missed out on the team did have their share of supporters- Manoj Prabhakar, Vinod Kambli and Salil Ankola.It looked like India had lost the series even before their flight departed the Indian shores.

India did lose the series 0-1. But the team did have their moments to cheer about. Firstly, Sachin Tendulkar, the 23 year old deputy played with a responsibility that defied his age in years. In what remains one of the best innings he's ever played, desipte the fact that it was one to a losing cause, his 122 in Edgbaston is one of the best "How to bat" guides for all budding batsmen. Srinath and Prasad established themselves as a potent opening pair of fast bowlers. Dravid's and Ganguly's exploits on debut along with Sachins 177 in Trentbridge prompted Tony Greig to say "1973 was probably one of the worst years for english cricket. It was the year Sachin,Saurav and Rahul were born."

Under Captain Courageous Mr Ganguly, the men in blue had a more memorable outing in 2002. Having just won the Natwest Trophy, the team sported positive vibes that probably concealed problems that were similar to what their counterparts in 1996 faced like a largely inexperienced bowling attack and make shift openers.The story lines were somewhat similar.The three bastions of the Indian middle order formed a fort on the foundation of which the team put up huge scores on the board. Also Shewag and Bangar, although make shift openers, did enjoy considerable success and the highly motivated Anil Kumble was desperate to make amends for the forgettable 1996 tour. It showed on the 1-1 scoreline.

That brings us to the present team. It still has Sachin, Rahul, Saurav and Anil in their ranks and it still depends on these four who are experiencing the autumn of their respective careers. Much will depend on how these four lead the rest. Wasim Jaffer and Dinesh Karthik play a very crucial role of the openers. And Jaffer has always been guilty of playing away from the body. That would make him very vulnerable to falling for the bait that Hoggard and co present him. Dhoni is going thro a lean patch, both as a keeper and as a batsman. In England, the flaws in a keepers technique are easily exposed and Akmal and Ramadhin will surely bear testimony to that fact.One can expect Dhoni to be subjected to some pressure.

The conditions are going to suit the seamers,but a young fast bowler on his first english tour has often been troubled by the slope in the wicket at Lords. While bowling up the hill can easily wear you down, bowling downhill on the contrary can affect your accuracy. Here's where the bowling coach has a big role to play along with the captain. He needs to identify specific roles for every bowler based on their strengths.And the most experienced pro, Anil Kumble will be expected to use his repertoire very judiciously on pitches that offer little assistance to his brand of spin bowling.

The English team is currently enjoying a high under Michael Vaughan. Injuries to Harmison, Jones and Flintoff notwithstanding, the English side will still have an edge over the visitors. Indian batsmen will still find Hoggard and Sidebottom quite a handful. I expect England to win the series 1-0 or 2-1, if weather permits a result in every game.

This now brings me to the best Indian XI ever to play in England. To mark the 75th anniversary of Indian Cricket, a panel of experts did come out with their list. I'll reserve my criticism of their choice for another entry. Here's my list:
Sunil Gavaskar
Vinoo Mankad
Rahul Dravid
Sachin Tendulkar
Saurav Ganguly(captain)
Dilip Vengsarkar
Farook Engineer(wk)
Kapil Dev
B S Chandrashekar
Javagal Srinath
Md Nissar
12th man: Ekanath Solkar
reserves: Chetan Sharma, Anil Kumble and Md Azharuddin.

If a reader finds that the selection has been unfair, let me remind you this based on performances in England.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

All roads lead to "Roma": Movie Review

Federico Fellini's Roma is an autobiographical tribute to Rome, Italy, featuring a narration by Fellini himself and a mixture of real-life footage and fictional set pieces. What sets this movie apart is the fact that it lacks plot. In fact it is an autobiography of a proud Roman, but hardly a story of one individual. The movie starts with Fellini’s first impressions of the city as a student. The nostalgia is clearly evident in the scene when an instructor leads a group of students on an excursion. On the banks of River Rubicon is a revision of Caesar’s “Alea iacta est” before the wards follow their instructor and cross the river enroute Rome. Probably the sequence is reminiscent of Fellini’s childhood.

Suddenly after this is an artistic impression of Rome in the 30’s. After we are introduced to the city, we witness the director's early years, arriving in Rome in 1931 during the time of Mussolini. The 18 year old moves into a tenement building and then embarks on a wild journey as he is inducted into the carnivalesque culture of Italian street life. To accentuate the effect of this breathtaking sequence are the elements of projected light and layered yet amplified sound. The road side eatery is well lit and vibrancy of the ambience is exemplified by the colourful dishes that are being served. The background score is a babel of shouting voices, of customers satisfied or otherwise, of couples fighting, of children playing Football and celebrating a goal, of mothers grumbling and toddlers crying, of waiters shouting out the menu to fresh customers, of tramps who sing and dance to entertain and earn their meal; all this sandwiched between Nino Rota's wonderful music and sharp witty sarcastic dialogues like “ Who’s that? Lellos daughter?” “ Whose do you think, the priests?” “ In Rome, we say no matter what we eat, it all turns to shit”.

The movie however is inconsistent with chronology. The charms of the past are ever present, but often the audience is teleported 40 odd years into the future where a film crew is making a movie on Rome. Throughout the movie there’s never a clear distinction between the past and the present. It is possibly to showcase certain aspects of the culture which do not change with time. The overlapping of the past and the present and the continuation of one within the realms of the other is best shown in this sequence where the film crew is on a site seeing trip inside the newly built sub way tracks. Inside the tunnels, labyrinthine catacombs lead to an ancient roman house, buried several kilometers below the present day Rome. What is unveiled is a spectacular sight. We are shown a glimpse of the past in the cave which is laden with frescoes and statues. But this scene is brief as we see that on being exposed to the atmosphere, these artifacts reveal a thick layer of dust and physical decay, which gives us an idea of a number of centuries that these pieces have endured.

Fellini also employs a style that shifts between the narrative and the documentative, fantastical fiction interwoven with farcical facts. There is this scene when the present day world bows to natures fury. The traffic is stranded because of heavy rain and there is chaos everywhere but in the backdrop,braving the storm bravely is the colloseum. The director’s dexterity is well advertised with his handling of prostitution. The brothels are portrayed the way they ought to be, as one of the ills of society, but the portrayal as such is incredibly chaste. The movie aptly ends with a motorcycle rally at night. The shots of impressive buildings at night with the motorcycles’ vrooming noises in the background is artistic, to say the least.

To sum up, Roma is a love story, where a man professes his love for the city he’s a part of. It’s a tribute to Rome by one of her most famous sons. Your first viewing will invariably result in an infatuation, both for the city and the movie. It is surreal but not very distant from reality. But to enjoy this movie, a viewer should be willing to give it some time. After all, Rome was not built in a day. Nor was Fellini’s masterpiece.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Back to the Future: India's 20-20 team selection.

With the probables list out, the selectors' message is clear. The modus operandi is to let the cubs become lions. Also it helped that the three big guns namely Sachin, Rahul and saurav decided to let this event and therefore this form of cricket pass. Given the schedule that the men in blue are to endure, it would augur well for a few more names to voluntarily step down. What with the english tour, Aussies and Pakistan touring India before India go down under to try and regain the Gavaskar-Border trophy. If my memory serves me faithfully, the Proteas tour India sometime in March. There are a few bowlers who are very vulnerable to injuries like Zaheer, Patel and Sreeshant. Also there are a few cricketers who are just not suited for this form of the game like VVS ,Powar and Jaffer. There are others who may find the most abbreviated form compatible to their brand of cricket like Dinesh Mongia and Suresh Raina but i feel these cricketers have been guilty for not capitalising on the opportunities given to them.
so here's my 15 for the 20-20 world championships:
Yuvraj Singh(captain)
Virender Sehwag(VC)
Mohammad Kaif
MS Dhoni
Dinesh Karthik
Irfan Pathan
Yusuf Pathan
Manoj Tiwary
Ajit Agarkar
Ishant Sharma
Cheteshwar Pujara
Harbhajan Singh
Robin Uthappa
Rohit Sharma
R P Singh

Now Piyush chawla does merit a place in this team, but then I somehow feel he's too young and still needs some time to work on the nuances of leg spin. Expectations are really high and the 18 year old looks like he is made of sterner stuff. But he does need to be protected from 20-20. It may prove to be a blunder if he's taken for a few runs as it inevitably is in a 20-20 game, and if it affects his psyche as an attacking bowler. We've seen Bhajji going thro those phases but he's overcome those phases because he's a more experienced pro. And this tournament may just give him and other discards like Pathan and Kaif a shot in the arm.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

I have a dream...

My sincere apologies to Martin Luther King Jr., but I have a new dream every night. As a matter of fact, I enjoy a variegated buffet of dreams. For starters, I dream of becoming a movie critic for MAD magazine or a caption writer for Maxims. Moving on to the main course, I dream of finding an artist who is willing to collaborate with yours truly on a graphic novel that I have been working on. Finally the desserts, a few years of pedagogy in the quaint surroundings of a boarding school in the hills, far from the madding crowd. When I feel like it, I offer myself the luxuries of getting inebriated with a toast of vacations; wine tasting all over Europe, skiing in the alps, rafting in the Himalayas, scuba diving in the great barrier reef, an African safari, kayaking in the Amazon, cruising in the Caribbean with a Cuban cigar in one hand and cocktail in another ….
And then suddenly I wake up and wish I could simply invent a pill for the indigestion that is reality…

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Matilda: Dahl at his best.

" It's a funny thing about mothers and fathers. Even when their own child is the most disgusting little blister you could ever imagine, they still think that he or she is wonderful"
I was so mesmerised by the first lines that I could'nt put the book down. What followed was a fascinating adventure of Matilda, easily the most endearing five year old you'll ever find in literature. The story unfolds with the readers being introduced to the Wormwood household who are queer folks.
"Occasionally one comes across parents who show no interest at all in their children, and these of course are far worse than the doting ones". Words that seem to be spoken by one very experienced school teacher. The Wormwoods' indifference towards their five year old daughter turns to plain old underestimation when she starts showing signs of being a precocious child. As an act of defiance, Matilda enrols as a member at the public library, and despite being forbidden and even admonished for reading books, she finds solace in the literary works of Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, Earnest Hemingway and George Orwell to name a few. These books had a profound effect on the child as she is magically teleported to different lands where she meets new people and discovers new cultures.
By the time she is admitted to school, She's quite in a league of her own. But her extraordinary abilities do not get her into the good books of the head mistress, Miss Trunchbull.
"The Trunchbull," as she is known, is a vicious evil monster.She punishes students who give incorrect answers in class or who talk back to her by forcing them to undergo some form of physical torture. The old-school pedagogue, literally and figuratively speaking will go to any extent of intimidation to enforce discipline. Often the head mistress crosses the acceptable line of punishment.
However Matilda finds an ally in Miss Honey, her kind and soft spoken teacher.Dahl successfully adds interesting twists to this simple tale and unveils a supernatural facet of the protagonist towards the end of the story. Though one may find his excesses with his character sketches too difficult to accept, what I admire is the way he addressed some very serious issues like child abuse and domestic violence and its effect on the psyche of a child without ever compromising on humour. Easily one of his best works and most certainly worth its money, this one ought to grace your bookshelves even if you remotely have an affinity for childrens literature.
Having read this book cover to cover, I've decided that if I ever venture out to become a writer, I'll author a childrens book. And it'll be nothing like the works of Mr.CS Lewis or Mr. Tolkein, who with all due respects are great writers. Their works in Matildas opinion have one failing, in that they lack sufficient "funny bits".
So my book will be full of funny limericks like this one,
" An epicure dining at Crewe,
Found a rather large mouse in his stew,
Cried the waiter," Dont shout
And Wave it about
Or the rest will be wanting one too."

Monday, July 2, 2007

Home Improvement

The latest acquisition happens to be a digicam. Been fiddling around with it eversince.Just a couple of shots i clicked from our living room. Do check out all the paintings on the walls. Mom's masterpieces, all of them. Many more to follow.