Friday, 27 April, 2007

What do you call that thing chameleons do with their eyes?

Ah… morning everyone. It has been a while since I’ve put stuff other than peripheral decoration on my blog. I guess it has a lot to do with the fact that I had things on my mind; things like examinations, and how to look like I’m studying without actually doing so. My parents didn’t fall for it, and they never do; but there’s no harm trying. Filling in application forms, only one form actually, has also taken away another major chunk of my time; and filling this form involved 100 word essays and plenty of soul searching to find out how best I can sound earnest, sincere and totally focussed on life; which is not something that comes naturally to me. But all that is done, and until the next form filling deadline closes in, I shall try to do what every self respecting blogger does upon finishing college, which is to take a look back with one eye, a look ahead with another, and end up looking like a chameleon or some other reptile with eye muscles independent of each other; I’ll need to ask some of my aspiring biologist friends for the scientific term for it.

Three years of college, three times 365 days, minus all those holidays and suchlike (no, there wasn’t a leap year in that period) – it all went past a little too quick for me to make any sense of it. That clichéd sentence (thank you, Microsoft Word, for having put that curvy diagonal thing on top of the e for me) ‘It seems like yesterday when we were all standing around near those stairs (the three steps and the patio-like thing with a ramp below our department building upon which we have sat so often and got shouted at for doing so by those computer science faculty chaps even more often) for the first time, saying weird things like ‘I’m Karthik; but you can call me KK’’ (how does one do a quoted sentence inside another quoted sentence?) rings very true. We’ve had to cope with not being first year chaps anymore, then second year chaps; and now we are no longer students of the visual communication department of DG Vaishnav College, Arumbakkam, Chennai (I’m not too sure what the pin code is, so we’ll have to do without that). Being part of that place was, for the most part, a period in our lives full of laughter, swearing at each other in a friendly manner, watching tons of movies and playing, at various points in time, football, table tennis, hand tennis and that bizarre ball game ‘puncture’ in the studio; and cricket matches all over the place. All of this has taught us lessons our textbooks would never have been able to teach us, for the simple reason that we never had any. We have travelled; climbed reasonably high peaks on top of caves, trekked uphill and downhill; we have eaten copious amounts of anjeer kulfi, and danced around like crazed maniacs at the Kailash Kher concert in Pune. We played some more cricket, some more football. We have shot some decent films, some lousy documentaries and some awesome ads and had a thoroughly great time doing all that.

There won’t be too much more, if any, of all that anymore. I do not want to sound like I’m about to cry or get all emotional and aloof for two days, because that sort of thing happening doesn’t appear very likely; especially since we are still in the ‘Let’s go play footie on the beach!!! Turn up for cricky tomorrow morning, bum!!! Let’s watch 300 in the afternoon!!!' phase right now. There’ll be a couple of months of that, and then we’ll end up doing something with our lives, and then the inevitable thing will happen – a smooth transition into the next phase of life. It happened to me after school. I missed the place, but DG Vaishnav College, Arumbakkam, seemed like a coolish place as well.

Sunday, 8 April, 2007

That 50s and 60s show

Ishaaron ishaaron mein dil lene waale… Youtube has loads of old Hindi song videos!!! Wonderful!!! Until now, I had been having amazing aural experiences every day, and now I’m having awesome visual experiences as well!!! Old songs have something that nothing made post-1969 has; I can’t really define it though. Take the above song, as an example. It’s got Shammi Kapoor in his more rotund, double chinned, technicolour avatar wearing saffron and moving around in strange patterns around trees jutting his neck at Sharmila Tagore’s face whenever there’s a two shot of them. Shammi Kapoor looked great in his black and white films like Tumsa Nahin Dekha, but not in Kashmir ki Kali, certainly not in this song. Sharmila Tagore… well, I’m not her biggest fan. But what happens when the above scene is played out with the song in the background? I suddenly want to jut my neck out at Sharmila Tagore, or whoever else is standing there, between tree number 37 and me, and I wouldn’t mind the saffron costume either, although I may shrink away from myself in horror once the song is done.

But while it plays, I will become part of it, and the gloriously silly world of romantic Hindi film (I shall not call it Bollywood) duets.

What makes the era of the 50s and 60s so great?

I guess that era was a freak of nature and the law of averages, when there was great talent in abundance, with geniosical music directors, geniosical (I love that word) lyricists and geniosically geniosical singers coming together in an explosion of beautiful, sweet (dare I say, geniosical?) music; the likes of which hasn’t been heard since, and never will be heard again.

Lording over this kingdom with a smile and a voice to melt hearts with terminally blocked arteries was Mohammad Rafi. It saddens me to think he’s not been posthumously given a Bharat Ratna, because that’s what he was, a jewel in India’s crown. There has been enough written about his songs, his career, the unfortunate period during which Lata Mangeshkar refused to sing duets with him, due to what now appears a silly dispute about royalty payments. Listening to all that glorious music makes me think the world then was filled with peace and harmony, with birds, trees and saffron costumed heroes frolicking in foggy (dry ice vapour, I guess) Kashmir. But that, I guess, wasn’t the case. Guru Dutt died under mysterious circumstances, suicide or an accidental overdose of sleeping pills taken to relieve depression. His wife Geeta Dutt, the voice behind the most wonderful lighthearted songs she’d glide effortlessly through – she died of cirrhosis of the liver, grief and ethanol contributing in equal measure.

Meena Kumari died from precisely the same thing; one would feel that was in tune with the tragic roles she did, but Geeta Dutt – inexplicable.

One hears very little from the people still alive from that era about their contemporaries; Asha Bhosle, who must have had a great time recording ‘ishaaron ishaaron’ with Rafi in OP Nayyar’s studio is still going strong, and has moved seamlessly through the generations. But one would think there could have been a little more credit given to the generation of people who moulded her, people like OP Nayyar, for whom she sang her best songs. There’s a little too much hype around RD Burman, and he was not a tenth as good as his old man. Naushad got spoken about only when Mughal-e-Azam was re-released in colour; and when he died.

But a part of me is thankful for all that, because the masterpieces of that era have generally remained untainted by remixing, which has been mostly focussed on the later, RD Burman dominated era. But I got a shock the other day, when I was in Giordano (getting myself a bag courtesy a gift voucher I won for second place in dumb C) in Ispahani centre, where I heard a remix of that wonderful Geeta Dutt song, Tadbeer se bigdi hui. A couple of songs from CID and Aar Paar have also met a similar fate.

One hopes that there’s a wave, no, a tsunami of nostalgia on the horizon; to bring back some of the glory of that wonderful, sadly bygone age. If not, there’s always youtube…

Monday, 2 April, 2007

Sachin Tendulkar

Sachin Tendulkar. I have no clue what emotions the name inspires among fifteen year olds today. Most of them would’ve been too young to watch his greatest years as they unfolded, and some of them would have started watching cricket seriously only during the last three or four years, during which period he has been a shadow of his former self. A few fifteen year old Indian boys may be wondering what all the fuss is about looking at how the media has reacted to what Ian Chappell has written in an article.

To people in their twenties, including those such as me who refuse to believe that they are no longer eighteen or nineteen, and that most of the Bangladesh team is younger than them; Sachin Tendulkar has been one constant presence in their lives, and someone who was supposed to be forever young. Sachin in my first year of serious watching, 1996, at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge, was someone who would punch the ball through the covers while standing as tall as his diminutive frame would allow him to, right on his toes. In 1998, in the Chennai test against Australia, he’d slog sweep Warne mercilessly in a masterful third innings 155, and rock right back, his back foot dangerously close to disturbing the wicket, whenever Warne pitched marginally short and pull him devastatingly. The footwork, the precision, the calculated assault on a great bowler at the peak of his powers – it left everyone astounded. At the time, he was 25. He was in his tenth year as a test cricketer, and I was too young when he made centuries at Old Trafford, the SCG and the WACA as an eighteen year old. All of this made him a legend long before my generation even got round to imitating him on the streets.

He was then, before Rahul Dravid came of age, surrounded by decent batsmen not blessed with great techniques, and Mohammad Azharuddin would play one glorious knock now and then. He therefore ended up as a tragic hero in so many abject displays by Indian batsmen, most notably in Chennai, again, against Pakistan in 1999, when he steered India to within 16 runs of the target with a glorious 136 on a turner against Saqlain at his absolute peak, only to find the tailenders collapsing, like his back did midway through his innings. The Chepauk crowd showed its appreciation of a great test match by giving the Pakistan players a standing ovation as they did a victory lap, something that makes the hair stand up whenever I think of it, a great moment for sport.

He was blamed for not finishing it off, and this has been an albatross round his neck throughout his career.

The emergence of Dravid, Laxman, Sehwag and Ganguly as batsmen who could be counted upon to score runs under most circumstances should logically have lifted a great burden off Tendulkar’s shoulders, and made him bat with much greater freedom, and flamboyance. This, I suspect, would have happened had it not been for the endless injury problems that have plagued him. His back, shoulder, elbow and toe have collectively curtailed the natural flow of his game, and the feet no longer waltz into position, and the bat no longer flows through the arc it used to describe in executing the drive back past the bowler, probably the one stroke which stands out as what can be called his trademark; his feet skipping one step forward after the ball has been dispatched with a mere jab of a perfectly vertical bat.

What has stood out most in all my years of watching him bat, is the ease with which he handles every kind of bowling, making it look like he’s in no trouble whatsoever, until the ball he gets out. I have seen many perfect innings of fourteen and thirty eight from him, where every ball had met the middle of his bat, other than the ones he’d left alone.

Even when he’s not scoring quickly he makes it look like he knows what he’s doing, until he gets out and makes people wonder why he’d been padding away ball after ball from novice left arm spinners on a flat track.

This sort of thing has been happening a lot more frequently these days, and the consistency that marked him out as a special batsman is no longer there.

Does this mean that he should retire? Maybe from one day cricket alone, which there is too much of, and where he has little left to achieve?

Who can say? Certainly I don’t want to watch an Indian team line up without Sachin, although I realise he is much closer to the end of his career than its middle, and that he may not ever be the same again. Do we want to remember him for all those dismissals off the inside edge, going down on his knees to suggest the ball kept low?

I don’t know, and I would leave it to him (as if my opinion matters to him!) to decide what he’s going to do with his cricketing life. Maybe one last shot at captaincy? I don’t see why not; he’s usually brimming with ideas (as can be seen in his bowling, which probably merits another essay), has matured a lot since his first two terms, and it may offer him what he needs most at this moment, a challenge.

Whatever happens, I will always remember the glee on his face that greets some poor batsman’s downfall after he’s done him with a wrong ‘un, the helmet in one raised arm and the MRF in another after yet another hundred; and his inimitable voice as he gives another man of the match interview will play in my mind saying how ‘the ball was coming on to the bat nicely’.