Vantage point

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Let's take a deep breath..

There's nothing new about everyone and their uncle in the Indian media crowing about the Indian team being the "best in the world" after any major triumph from our cricket team. It happened after we drew with Australia in 2004 and then beat Pakistan in Pakistan. It happened after the T20 World Cup in 2007. And it has been happening after India beat Australia 2-0.

But what baffles me is that a lot of foreign journalists also seem to be buying into the hype. Suddenly it has become fashionable to call India the best test team in the world at the moment. Everyone, including foreign journalists has been calling 2008 a remarkably successful year for the Indian team. So it's time for a reality check.

Hopefully, South Africa's series win after triumph in the MCG test will shift the spotlight to them. But even otherwise.... India...currently the best team in the world? Please! Where is the record to back it up? Granted we have been playing pretty decent cricket recently. And we steamrolled the Aussies, walloped them in a one-sided contest, and then prevailed over England. But what about the time before that?

Before that, we were comprehensively trounced by two men - Muralitharan and Mendis, in Sri Lanka. Heck, if not for a dazzling double century by Virender Sehwag, we might have been whitewashed. The Sri Lankan batsmen handled our bowlers with relative ease, and our ultra-established and all-time-great middle order had no answers to the puzzles a young spinner threw our way. We were outplayed in all departments on the subcontinent itself.

And before that, what happened when South Africa came to India? They were supposed to roll over and play dead. Instead, they drew the Chennai test, thrashed us in Ahmedabad, and if not for the typical dustbowl in Kanpur, might have won the series. Steyn took 15 wickets at an average of 20, a Mcgrath-esque achievement, and even the other two pacers outperformed the Indian pacers. Their batsmen outperformed ours.

So please. Let's all take a deep breath. And agree that India is a pretty good test side. Maybe one of the top 3 or 4 sides in the world. But the best? Pshaw!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Film Review: Ghajini

First of all, I am not going to compare this movie to Memento. Expecting any movie to live up to those standards is unrealistic. Plus, the whole short-term-memory-loss was not what made Memento special. Even that chick flick Fifty First Dates had that angle. Memento is amazing for other reasons which can probably be best enumerated in another post. So back to Ghajini.

The biggest sore point for me at the end of the movie was that the whole memory loss bit was almost peripheral to the plot, if not irrelevant. Seems almost like a publicity gimmick. Take it away and the basic story of the film stays the same. And the basic story is one that has been rehashed a million times in Bollywood - rich nice boy falls in love with virtuous poor girl, and just as they are headed into a blissful life, a bad guy intervenes, does evil things (and maybe kills girl). Bad guy is punished and revenge is taken. The end. Yawn!

Nothing wrong with rehashing old formulas. It can still be done cleverly and cutely to produce a watchable and enjoyable film. Case in point - Jab We Met. But here, even the execution of the hackneyed formula is unconvincing. Maybe it is the fault of the script, screenplay, performances, or all of the above, but there is no chemistry, spark or romance between the leading couple. They seem like platonic friends..... or even siblings. Why does Kalpana love Sanjay/Sachin? And why does Sanjay love Kalpana.... I can understand him wanting to nominate her to succeed Mother Teresa, but love? Bleh. The whole movie can be re-written with his sister being the one who is murdered, and the import would remain the same.

Then there is Aamir's performance. Even by his standards, which I think are over-hyped and overrated, this performance is barely average. Just does not convincingly convey the learn-forget-struggle-relearn routine that someone with that affliction might. In the post-trauma scenes, he just does angry, more angry and some times baffled. Suneil Shetty or Sunny Deol have done that enough times in the past for us to know it is not tough. He might as well have yelled "Balwantrai ke kutton" a few times. Pre-trauma, he is his usual impish chocolate-boy lover self seen right from Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak to Fanaa. No nuance, no layers, nothing new. As someone who has trouble losing weight, I give him full credit for working hard for his ripped body and 8-pack abs. But that's about it. To all those who are saying Aamir is the saving grace in Ghajini, I say (with a tilted head) really???

As far as Asin is concerned.... it's not that she is shrill or annoying or too-cute-by-half. Maybe the character requires her to be all that. It's just that she seems so assembly-line-ish and commonplace. I can't, for the world of me, imagine why she might succeed in Bollywood as opposed to standard cutesies like Neha, Amrita Rao and suchlike.

The only saving grace of the film is its soundtrack, especially the Guzarish song which I am in love with.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Interesting Dinner at Mahesh

Paras, Maithili, Rupal and I got our table in Mahesh. In a few minutes, some folks came and sat at the table next to us. And when I say "next" to us, those that have been to Bombay restaurants in general and Mahesh in particular will know that tables are placed really close. Paras said "We are lucky to be here today", so I looked over and spotted Naseeruddin Shah seated at the table, barely two feet away from Maithili. The four of us whispered excitedly amongst each other, stole a few glances at him, noticed that his wife Ratna Pathak Shah was also with him, as was a kid who was presumably his son, and two other folks.

Now, anyone who has dined in the Juhu area knows that spotting some Bollywood celebrity in restaurants there is a fairly commonplace occurrence. The norm is to not "disturb" them, and "respect their privacy" and so on. So we did that, despite being huge fans of Naseer. No gushing or fawning. No omigawdyouarethegreatestactoreverrrr!!-ing happened, neither did any sosososorrybutcanipleasegetanautoandphotographnaseersirji-ing take place. We went back to studying the menu, with the occasional quick glances out of the corner of our eye. After a while my eye wandered to the other side of the table which was occupied by what I presumed were two random young people. There was a young woman sitting almost right next to me, whom I did not recognize. And some dude sitting next to her whom I had not noticed. Till then.

I looked at him...stared a bit... he looked by and also stared... and gave a tentative half-smile as if to say 'why is this creep staring at me?' I leaned towards my wife the other way and whispered to her "Is that Aasif Mandvi from The Daily Show?". She looked over, and yelled out "O MI GAWD, ARE YOU AASIF MANDVI!??" Their table suddenly started looking at us, and the wife and I both started gushing and fawning at him. How we are big fans of him, The Daily Show, Jon Stewart.... so on and so forth. He thanked us, smiled, then asked us where we were from, because I am sure it must be pretty rare for him to be recognized in Bombay. All this while, Naseer and his wife seemed to have a clearly amused expression on their faces. I am sure they found it hilarious that a bunch of folks in India kinda ignored Naseer's presence, but went gaga over some random ABCD actor. I later overheard Naseer asking what we were talking about, and the woman with Aasif explaining what The Daily Show is and so on.

We all returned to ordering our meals, and no more conversation happened for a while. In the end when we were leaving, Aasif very nicely called us over, shook our hands, said goodbye-take-care etc. Some more gushing happened again from Rupal and me. I believe I also said rather doltishly "Say hi to Jon for me" (yeah right!). Paras says that Naseer was laughing again.

I think we inadvertently made Aasif Mandvi's day. Being out at a table with Naseeruddin Shah in India, and then being fawned over by a bunch of Indians who ignore Naseer completely? That's gotta boost his ego at least a little. It's not that we wanted to ignore Naseer. He is of course Da Man. But spotting Aasif Mandvi was such an unexpected surprise, that it made the wife and I react like complete nerds.

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Theu Just Don't Get It!!

First Rajdeep Sardesai showed how spectacularly he missed the point. And now it's the turn of Barkha Dutt to rant and self-congratulate cluelessly. But she hits the nail right on the head when she writes -

This is not to say, that we made no mistakes- I am sure we inadvertently made a few- as did every department of government, when faced with a situation that India has never dealt with before.

The government screwed up and so did the media. The media is now rightly going hammer and tongs after the government. But the question is, who will watch the watchmen?

All these news channels need to have ombudsmen if they do not already.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Achut Indeed!

Two years ago when VS Achuthanandan became Chief Minister, I made a flippant post about how Keralites can justifiably say "Our CM is achut!"

A reader wrote in, reminding me of the post and pointing out that Achuthanandan has now given not just Kerala, but the whole world a solid reason to literally and figuratively say it, and with disgust.

Is this Jumaani's Handiwork?

Ajmal Amir Kasab, Ajmal Amin Kasab, Azam Amir Qasab, Ajmal Amin Kamal.................... what the hell?