Sunday, June 19, 2011

Fire in Babylon: Movie Review

In a cricketing world where batsmen are as protected from head to toe-nail as Samurai warriors with Katina Blades (read cricket bats), the West Indians no longer remain a force they used to be for a little over two decades from the 70s. And it’s a cruel 157 Km/h beamer of an irony hurled at bowlers today, West Indian or otherwise, that the best of their ilk were responsible for the movement that protected the batsman, which has led to fast bowlers becoming an endangered species. This documentary called Fire in Babylon is made to inspire the kind of people who are up against preponderance today – Fast Bowlers, Faster Bowlers and Batsmen who look a bit like healthy cross of Romesh Powar and Fred Flinstone.

Much like Indian Cricket teams till the late 1990s, the Men from the Caribbean were known to be entertaining visitors, who lost games but won hearts for their stylish attitude towards the game. Barring a handful legends whose names now grace the cricketing stands and trophies around the world, the rest were supposedly as competitive as cows grazing on fields of hemp. But one fine day, when they couldn’t take Caucasian taunts anymore, these very cows turned into raging bulls that were desperate for action on the field(mating season or otherwise). Fire in Babylon begins at that precipice of transition in the minds of Caribbean Cricketers. Never again, would they only play and not compete, said captain courageous Clive Lloyd.

The journey begins with Lloyd choosing his men wisely and encouraging them to make a statement on the field with their talent. As a result, the batsmen scored more runs, bowlers took more wickets, fielders took sharper catches, and Jamaican fans scored more pot. It’s really a simple story of pretty boys becoming poster boys of brute force. But where Fire in Babylon really scores is in its re-narration of Ugly Duckling into one that inspires movie audiences to do a Mexican wave.

Underlying their cricketing achievements, was a lot that happened off the field in their respective island nations – political strife, with casual racism, the legacy of colonial exploitation, and a burning desire to be acknowledged as an equal. It was cricket that united several nations under the West Indies flag. It was no longer the pride of playing for your country alone, but it was the pride of representing a significant population of mankind.

Switching between archival footage and present day interviews with the stars of the 70s-80s including Clive Lloyd, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Viv Richards, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Collin Croft and Michael Holding, the film takes you through a fascinating journey that weaves socio-political and sporting elements into a narrative that's compelling even for those who don’t know their Sidebottoms from their elbows.

This movie helps you get a global perspective in a cricketing context. It opens your eyes to double standards that had emerged when the West Indian Bowlers ruled cricket with intimidating pace. It also helps you understand what really motivates a champion side to go far beyond what is expected of them. Fire in Babylon is a story of controlled rage with a healthy dose of Reggae. And above anything else, it’s a grand tribute to one of the greatest and the most dignified cricket teams ever to grace the field. Which is what makes it a spectacular viewing for any cricketing fan worth his Cricinfo addiction.

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