Monday, September 04, 2017

cUt!​ ​cUt!​ ​bAn!​ ​bAn!

On​ ​what​ ​it​ ​means​ ​and how it feels to​ ​be a creative​ ​artist in a Democracy, ​and​ ​to​ ​be​ ​censored​...

By​ ​Murali​ ​Gopy

“The​ ​Illiterates​ ​of​ ​the​ ​21st​ ​Century​ ​will​ ​not​ ​be​ ​those​ ​who​ ​cannot​ ​read​ ​and​ ​write,​ ​but those​ ​who​ ​cannot​ ​learn,​ ​unlearn​ ​and​ ​relearn.”​ ​said​ ​Alvin​ ​Toffler.​ ​While​ ​speaking​ ​about the​ ​illiterates​ ​of​ ​the​ ​21st​ ​century,​ ​one​ ​surely​ ​needs​ ​to​ ​paste​ ​a​ ​disclaimer​ ​before​ ​one goes​ ​into​ ​the​ ​perilous​ ​process​ ​of​ ​opening​ ​one’s​ ​heart,​ ​to​ ​the​ ​keyboard.​ ​So​ ​here​ ​it​ ​goes: “All​ ​characters​ ​and​ ​panels,​ ​depicted​ ​in​ ​this​ ​article​ ​are​ ​fictitious,​ ​and​ ​any​ ​resemblance​ ​to any​ ​demon​ ​or​ ​man,​ ​living​ ​or​ ​dead,​ ​is​ ​purely​ ​coincidental.”

It​ ​is​ ​the​ ​early​ ​hours​ ​of​ ​another​ ​ominous Friday,​ ​the​ ​25th​ ​of​ ​August,​ ​2017,​ ​as​ ​I​ ​key​ ​this​ ​in.​ ​Ten days​ ​have​ ​gone​ ​past,​ ​since​ ​India​ ​celebrated​ ​71​ ​years​ ​of​ ​her​ ​Independence,​ ​from​ ​the British,​ ​who,​ ​in​ ​the​ ​words​ ​of​ ​one​ ​of​ ​our​ ​most​ ​eloquent​ ​votaries​ ​of​ ​what​ ​I​ ​would​ ​call designer​ ​patriotism,​ ​left​ ​this​ ​land​ ​after​ ​gifting​ ​her​ ​“an​ ​era​ ​of​ ​darkness”.​ ​The​ ​darkest​ ​hour, my​ ​tricolour​ ​man,​ ​is​ ​now!​ ​And​ ​so,​ ​is​ ​the​ ​“finest​ ​hour”.

I’m​ ​unable​ ​to​ ​sleep.​ ​Unable​ ​to​ ​know​ ​from​ ​where​ ​I​ ​should​ ​start. But​ ​start,​ ​I​ ​must.​ ​Sleep,​ ​I​ ​ought​ ​to. My​ ​frustration,​ ​in​ ​my​ ​modest​ ​capacity​ ​as​ ​a​ ​writer,​ ​stems​ ​from​ ​the​ ​fact​ ​that​ ​I​ ​actually​ ​miss the​ ​British,​ ​because​ ​they​ ​gave​ ​us​ ​the​ ​silly​ ​solace​ ​(just​ ​about​ ​enough​ ​to​ ​battle​ ​this insistent​ ​insomnia)​ ​that​ ​we​ ​were​ ​actually​ ​fighting​ ​a​ ​foreign​ ​force,​ ​who​ ​were​ ​conveniently held​ ​responsible​ ​by​ ​us​ ​for​ ​all​ ​the​ ​ills​ ​that​ ​we​ ​saw​ ​here. They​ ​are​ ​gone. We​ ​remain. With​ ​no​ ​excuse​ ​left. And​ ​with​ ​no​ ​other​ ​way​ ​than​ ​to​ ​tackle​ ​ourselves.

It​ ​is​ ​almost​ ​like​ ​a​ ​zombie​ ​siege,​ ​now.​ ​We​ ​cannot​ ​even​ ​wink,​ ​for​ ​it’s​ ​our​ ​own​ ​legions,​ ​who have​ ​turned​ ​into​ ​white-walkers​ ​(thanks​ ​to​ ​GoT),​ ​braying​ ​for​ ​our​ ​red.​ ​The​ ​Indians​ ​of today​ ​sleep​ ​and​ ​wake​ ​up​ ​with​ ​the​ ​enemy​ ​within.​ ​The​ ​battle​ ​now​ ​is​ ​with​ ​one’s​ ​own​ ​alter ego,​ ​which​ ​makes​ ​love​ ​with​ ​a​ ​borrowed​ ​sex​ ​toy​ ​of​ ​liberal​ ​thought,​ ​comes​ ​on​ ​to​ ​the pseudo​ ​intellectual​ ​beds​ ​of​ ​unapologetically​ ​colonial​ ​bedrooms,​ ​and​ ​yet​ ​squeaks, squeals​ ​and​ ​moans,​ ​in​ ​absolute​ ​carnal​ ​bliss,​ ​about​ ​the​ ​Independence​ ​that​ ​we supposedly​ ​fetched​ ​up​ ​to​ ​our​ ​own​ ​throats,​ ​on​ ​that​ ​midnight​ ​of​ ​71​ ​years​ ​ago!

Are​ ​we​ ​Independent?​ ​Yes!

Are​ ​we​ ​free?​ ​No!

We​ ​are​ ​just​ ​glorified​ ​victims​ ​of​ ​sustained​ ​propaganda,​ ​that​ ​we​ ​are​ ​full-y​ ​free. Are​ ​we​ ​pint-free,​ ​then?​ ​No,​ ​again! We​ ​are​ ​just​ ​about​ ​quarter-free,​ ​and​ ​that​ ​too​ ​is​ ​a​ ​stingily​ ​scheduled​ ​quota​ ​served​ ​to​ ​us by​ ​every​ ​incoming​ ​Government,​ ​as​ ​a​ ​consolation​ ​prize​ ​dressed​ ​up​ ​as​ ​an​ ​award.

Every​ ​real​ ​citizen​ ​of​ ​this​ ​land,​ ​who​ ​I​ ​know​ ​of,​ ​holds​ ​a​ ​serious​ ​grouse​ ​in​ ​his​ ​or​ ​her heart—​ ​​ ​a​ ​cancerous​ ​complaint,​ ​which​ ​rots​ ​as​ ​deeply​ ​as​ ​it​ ​spreads​ ​widely​ ​into​ ​his​ ​and her​ ​being.​ ​It​ ​hurts​ ​him​ ​and​ ​her​ ​deeply,​ ​retires​ ​him​ ​and​ ​her​ ​prematurely,​ ​and​ ​finally,​ ​kills both​ ​with​ ​a​ ​deftly​ ​patronising​ ​sucker​ ​punch.​ ​Since​ ​I’m​ ​not​ ​Mahatma​ ​enough​ ​to​ ​identify entirely​ ​with​ ​these​ ​comrades​ ​of​ ​mine,​ ​let​ ​alone​ ​voice​ ​their​ ​concern,​ ​let​ ​me​ ​just​ ​push​ ​the keys​ ​to​ ​give​ ​at​ ​least​ ​a​ ​meek​ ​draft​ ​to​ ​my​ ​own​ ​turbulence,​ ​from​ ​where​ ​I​ ​stand.

And​ ​I​ ​warn​ ​you,​ ​seekers​ ​of​ ​Entertainment,​ ​that​ ​this​ ​would​ ​be​ ​a​ ​very,​ ​very​ ​boring​ ​read​ ​as it​ ​comes​ ​directly​ ​from​ ​a​ ​mind​ ​made​ ​dull​ ​by​ ​a​ ​cloud​ ​of​ ​hopelessness​ ​that​ ​stretches beyond​ ​immediate​ ​horizons. Before​ ​getting​ ​drawn​ ​into​ ​Cinema,​ ​which​ ​I​ ​once​ ​considered​ ​an​ ​effective​ ​placebo​ ​to​ ​the now​ ​platinum​ ​jubilee​ ​socio-political​ ​migraine​ ​that​ ​throbs​ ​and​ ​rages​ ​on​ ​at​ ​the​ ​temples​ ​of this​ ​land..,​ ​I​ ​was​ ​a​ ​journalist. By​ ​saying​ ​that,​ ​I​ ​just​ ​meant​ ​that​ ​I​ ​was​ ​into​ ​a​ ​business​ ​mostly​ ​and​ ​covertly​ ​controlled​ ​by vested​ ​interests​ ​but​ ​camouflaged​ ​by​ ​royal​ ​words​ ​such​ ​as​ ​“courage”,​ ​“accuracy”​ ​and “accountability”.​ ​Those​ ​were​ ​the​ ​days​ ​when​ ​we​ ​all​ ​told​ ​ourselves,​ ​with​ ​every​ ​rising​ ​sun, that​ ​in​ ​our​ ​hands​ ​was​ ​the​ ​beacon​ ​of​ ​truth..,​ ​only​ ​to​ ​douse​ ​the​ ​smoking​ ​stick​ ​of disappointment,​ ​with​ ​every​ ​setting​ ​sun,​ ​in​ ​the​ ​seas​ ​of​ ​community​ ​liquor​ ​that​ ​flowed​ ​in the​ ​self-assured,​ ​smug​ ​dungeons​ ​of​ ​fraternity​ ​clubs.

Even​ ​then,​ ​the​ ​little​ ​solace​ ​that​ ​I​ ​always​ ​served​ ​myself​ ​with,​ ​as​ ​“touchings",​ ​was​ ​that there​ ​was​ ​a​ ​destination,​ ​called​ ​Art,​ ​which​ ​I​ ​naively​ ​thought​ ​of,​ ​to​ ​have​ ​survived​ ​here​ ​like a​ ​lucky​ ​boat,​ ​braving​ ​this​ ​devious​ ​and​ ​deceptive​ ​sea​ ​of​ ​make​ ​believe​ ​democracy,​ ​with the​ ​great​ ​flag​ ​of​ ​creative​ ​freedom​ ​tied​ ​firmly​ ​to​ ​its​ ​shaky​ ​yet​ ​steely​ ​mast. This​ ​night,​ ​as​ ​I​ ​lie​ ​floating​ ​in​ ​the​ ​art​ ​and​ ​business​ ​of​ ​Cinema,​ ​I​ ​realise​ ​in​ ​misery..,​ ​that​ ​I was​ ​mistaken. Is​ ​Art​ ​free?​ ​No!​ ​It​ ​too​ ​is​ ​not! ‘Not​ ​Only’​ ​is​ ​it​ ​not​ ​free,​ ​it​ ​is​ ​also...​ ​a​ ​‘But​ ​Also’! A​ ​huge​ ​one​ ​at​ ​that! And​ ​how​ ​very​ ​sadly​ ​so!

Right​ ​from​ ​the​ ​time​ ​I​ ​started​ ​moving​ ​my​ ​pen​ ​for​ ​movies,​ ​I​ ​realised​ ​one​ ​thing.​ ​That​ ​even as​ ​the​ ​artist​ ​gives​ ​his​ ​‘rooh’​ ​into​ ​this​ ​moving​ ​sculpture​ ​called​ ​cinema,​ ​the​ ​system​ ​starts warming​ ​up​ ​its​ ​muscles​ ​to​ ​hop​ ​in​ ​and​ ​prefix​ ​an​ ​“F”​ ​to​ ​his​ ​ART.

The​ ​moment​ ​a​ ​film​ ​is​ ​ready​ ​to​ ​emerge,​ ​after​ ​gifting​ ​a​ ​kind​ ​of​ ​pain​ ​to​ ​its​ ​parent​ ​that​ ​is akin​ ​to​ ​Labour​ ​(or​ ​even​ ​more​ ​scream-worthy​ ​than​ ​that),​ ​its​ ​nemesis​ ​has​ ​already​ ​arrived at​ ​the​ ​vaginal​ ​door:​ ​a​ ​psychotic​ ​midwife,​ ​waiting​ ​to​ ​pounce​ ​at​ ​the​ ​newborn,​ ​eager​ ​to maim​ ​it​ ​into​ ​an​ ​invalid,​ ​and​ ​sadistically​ ​curious​ ​to​ ​know​ ​and​ ​see​ ​how​ ​the​ ​mother​ ​cries and​ ​how​ ​the​ ​father​ ​flounders​ ​at​ ​this!

Yes,​ ​I​ ​am​ ​referring​ ​to​ ​the​ ​Censor​ ​Board,​ ​that​ ​great​ ​and​ ​official​ ​grand​ ​dad​ ​of​ ​all​ ​moral policemen​ ​of​ ​this​ ​country, The​ ​‘deliverer’​ ​of​ ​the​ ​‘right’​ ​path. The​ ​State-sponsored​ ​bully. An​ ​autocratic​ ​jury,​ ​manned​ ​mostly​ ​by​ ​Toffler's​ ​illiterates​ ​and​ ​defaultly​ ​by​ ​blind supporters​ ​of​ ​the​ ​ruling​ ​class.

Here​ ​you​ ​are,​ ​in​ ​a​ ​self-patting​ ​democracy,​ ​subjecting​ ​a​ ​work​ ​of​ ​art,​ ​moreover,​ ​a​ ​work​ ​of creative​ ​expression,​ ​to​ ​the​ ​mercy​ ​of​ ​a​ ​few​ ​politically​ ​air-dropped​ ​people,​ ​who,​ ​in​ ​the name​ ​of​ ​safeguarding​ ​“propriety",​ ​end​ ​up​ ​becoming​ ​under-cover​ ​mercenaries​ ​to​ ​every incumbent​ ​government.

They​ ​unabashedly​ ​act​ ​on​ ​the​ ​non-printed​ ​diktats​ ​of​ ​the​ ​very​ ​ruling​ ​system,​ ​with​ ​which true​ ​Art​ ​has​ ​always​ ​waged​ ​its​ ​basic​ ​war​ ​with.

These​ ​masters​ ​of​ ​morality​ ​are​ ​elected​ ​with​ ​no​ ​transparent​ ​procedure.​ ​And​ ​they​ ​work​ ​to a​ ​totally​ ​repressive,​ ​outdated​ ​and​ ​prudish​ ​instruction​ ​sheet,​ ​which​ ​has​ ​been​ ​handed over​ ​to​ ​them​ ​by​ ​their​ ​predecessors,​ ​generation​ ​to​ ​generation.​ ​They​ ​judge​ ​films​ ​on​ ​the nerve​ ​and​ ​naivety​ ​of​ ​their​ ​own​ ​whim​ ​and​ ​illiteracy​ ​(Toffler's),​ ​with​ ​no​ ​panel​ ​or​ ​advocate other​ ​than​ ​the​ ​disgruntled​ ​filmmaker​ ​to​ ​stand​ ​up​ ​and​ ​speak​ ​for​ ​the​ ​film.​ ​Personal prejudice​ ​is​ ​given​ ​prime​ ​weightage.​ ​Artistic​ ​priorities​ ​are​ ​never​ ​given​ ​any.​ ​A​ ​one-sided verdict​ ​is​ ​passed,​ ​punishments​ ​meted​ ​out​ ​and​ ​sentences​ ​carried​ ​out​ ​at​ ​‘gunpoint’,​ ​in​ ​a style​ ​that​ ​would​ ​put​ ​even​ ​Joseph​ ​Stalin​ ​to​ ​shame!​ ​Tell​ ​me,​ ​are​ ​we​ ​free?

Great​ ​conspiring​ ​and​ ​mole​ ​work​ ​allegedly​ ​happen,​ ​in​ ​the​ ​dark​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Censor​ ​screenings. And​ ​since​ ​moviemaking​ ​is​ ​a​ ​business​ ​that​ ​runs​ ​on​ ​deadlines,​ ​with​ ​big​ ​money​ ​spent​ ​on the​ ​production,​ ​it​ ​becomes​ ​a​ ​silicon-soft​ ​target​ ​for​ ​the​ ​bullies.​ ​Every​ ​artist​ ​is​ ​made​ ​to nod​ ​like​ ​domesticated​ ​puppies,​ ​in​ ​front​ ​of​ ​the​ ​CB​ ​hawks,​ ​to​ ​get​ ​his​ ​or​ ​her​ ​movie​ ​out without​ ​random​ ​cuts,​ ​cruel​ ​bruises​ ​and​ ​brutal​ ​beheadings.​ ​A​ ​free​ ​and​ ​total​ ​emergence almost​ ​never​ ​happens,​ ​unless​ ​you​ ​have​ ​made​ ​a​ ​lame,​ ​pointless​ ​comedy,​ ​replete​ ​with masked​ ​innuendos!

Pains​ ​are​ ​taken,​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Board,​ ​to​ ​hurt​ ​any​ ​important​ ​film,​ ​deliberately.​ ​It​ ​is​ ​an​ ​easy job​ ​for​ ​them​ ​since​ ​misreading​ ​its​ ​content​ ​and​ ​missing​ ​its​ ​point​ ​come​ ​naturally​ ​to​ ​them. And​ ​of​ ​course,​ ​they​ ​are​ ​seemingly​ ​selected​ ​on​ ​the​ ​basis​ ​of​ ​their​ ​talent​ ​to​ ​patronise! Appalling,​ ​to​ ​say​ ​the​ ​least,​ ​is​ ​the​ ​average​ ​lack​ ​of​ ​creative​ ​education​ ​and​ ​a​ ​true knowledge​ ​of​ ​history​ ​and​ ​culture​ ​that​ ​is​ ​on​ ​display​ ​on​ ​the​ ​Censor​ ​Boards​ ​across​ ​the nation.​ ​There​ ​are​ ​exceptions​ ​though,​ ​but​ ​what​ ​use​ ​is​ ​a​ ​lovely​ ​rose​ ​of,​ ​if​ ​it​ ​adorns​ ​the inner​ ​wall​ ​of​ ​a​ ​septic​ ​tank!? Things​ ​at​ ​a​ ​Censor​ ​screening​ ​are,​ ​in​ ​no​ ​way,​ ​different​ ​from​ ​how​ ​a​ ​Caligula​ ​or​ ​a Mussolini​ ​or​ ​a​ ​Hitler​ ​would​ ​have​ ​treated​ ​creativity​ ​in​ ​their​ ​hey​ ​day;​ ​the​ ​only​ ​difference being​ ​the​ ​absence​ ​of​ ​capital​ ​punishment.​ ​But​ ​then,​ ​my​ ​dear​ ​friends,​ ​you​ ​don’t​ ​have​ ​to kill​ ​a​ ​real​ ​artist​ ​physically.​ ​You​ ​only​ ​have​ ​to​ ​kill​ ​his​ ​art,​ ​to​ ​see​ ​him​ ​dead.​ ​And​ ​that​ ​is precisely​ ​what​ ​such​ ​boards​ ​are​ ​aiming​ ​at​ ​and​ ​accomplishing​ ​almost​ ​fully.

Censoring​ ​Art​ ​is​ ​a​ ​completely​ ​unacceptable​ ​process​ ​in​ ​a​ ​democracy.​ ​But​ ​it​ ​is​ ​futile​ ​to say​ ​such​ ​a​ ​thing​ ​in​ ​a​ ​country​ ​where​ ​even​ ​basic​ ​points​ ​of​ ​decent​ ​existence,​ ​let​ ​alone civilisation,​ ​are​ ​yet​ ​to​ ​be​ ​driven​ ​home.​ ​Where​ ​patriarchy​ ​is​ ​mistaken​ ​for​ ​culture,​ ​morality is​ ​mistaken​ ​for​ ​correctness,​ ​arrogance​ ​is​ ​mistaken​ ​for​ ​uprightness​ ​and​ ​brashness​ ​is mistaken​ ​for​ ​strength..,​ ​it​ ​is​ ​only​ ​natural​ ​for​ ​dangerous​ ​foolishness​ ​to​ ​rule​ ​over​ ​the subtle​ ​and​ ​the​ ​sublime. Scissors,​ ​I​ ​tell​ ​you,​ ​have​ ​never​ ​ever​ ​in​ ​history​ ​been​ ​used​ ​as​ ​a​ ​weapon​ ​of​ ​mass destruction,​ ​as​ ​it​ ​is​ ​being​ ​used​ ​now​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Indian​ ​Censor​ ​Board!

In​ ​a​ ​film​ ​on​ ​Gandhi,​ ​they​ ​will​ ​ask​ ​you​ ​to​ ​keep​ ​Godse​ ​but​ ​avoid​ ​the​ ​gunshot​ ​and​ ​blood!

In​ ​the​ ​story​ ​of​ ​Christ,​ ​Magdalene​ ​cannot​ ​be​ ​pelted​ ​stones​ ​at,​ ​and​ ​Jesus​ ​cannot​ ​be crucified!

Siddhartha's​ ​palatial​ ​excesses​ ​cannot​ ​be​ ​shown;​ ​only​ ​Buddha​ ​will​ ​be​ ​allowed​ ​to​ ​speak!

Of​ ​Krishna,​ ​you’d​ ​see​ ​only​ ​the​ ​flute;​ ​Raasa​ ​and​ ​Leela​ ​would​ ​be​ ​chopped​ ​off​ ​at​ ​the​ ​neck!

Parasurama​ ​will​ ​be​ ​forced​ ​to​ ​sign​ ​a​ ​peace​ ​agreement​ ​with​ ​Kartavirya​ ​Arjuna!

Moses​ ​can​ ​have​ ​his​ ​staff,​ ​but​ ​cannot​ ​make​ ​the​ ​Dead​ ​Sea​ ​part!

No​ ​man​ ​will​ ​abuse​ ​another,​ ​other​ ​than​ ​through​ ​a​ ​beep! No​ ​woman​ ​will​ ​be​ ​harmed! No​ ​animal​ ​or​ ​bird​ ​shall​ ​be​ ​hurt! No​ ​chopping​ ​of​ ​meat​ ​would​ ​be​ ​shown! No​ ​stab!​ ​No​ ​blood! Praising​ ​the​ ​incumbent​ ​government​ ​will​ ​be​ ​allowed! Criticisms​ ​of​ ​the​ ​same,​ ​would​ ​be​ ​A-xed! No​ ​vigilante​ ​can​ ​act! No,​ ​no​ ​love​ ​either!. No​ ​kiss​ ​for​ ​today’s​ ​kids,​ ​for​ ​they​ ​would​ ​become​ ​morally​ ​astray! Not​ ​even​ ​“intercourse”,​ ​for​ ​today’s​ ​kids​ ​are​ ​all​ ​immaculately​ ​conceived!! We​ ​still​ ​are​ ​discussing​ ​fiction​ ​here,​ ​mind​ ​you.

And​ ​what​ ​about​ ​the​ ​adults? Well,​ ​the​ ​humanoids​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Censor​ ​Board​ ​will​ ​decide​ ​how​ ​adult​ ​is​ ​an​ ​adult,​ ​in​ ​this unfortunate​ ​country!!! If​ ​the​ ​creator​ ​decides​ ​to​ ​stand​ ​his/her​ ​ground,​ ​the​ ​danger​ ​is​ ​the​ ​award​ ​of​ ​the​ ​famed​ ​“A” certificate;​ ​there​ ​is​ ​a​ ​business​ ​angle​ ​to​ ​this.​ ​If​ ​your​ ​film​ ​is​ ​restricted​ ​to​ ​adults,​ ​the business​ ​would​ ​be​ ​cut​ ​down​ ​by​ ​a​ ​staggering​ ​60​ ​per​ ​cent​ ​at​ ​the​ ​marquee.​ ​And​ ​no television​ ​channel​ ​would​ ​take​ ​it​ ​in​ ​either.​ ​This​ ​is​ ​precisely​ ​the​ ​point​ ​where​ ​our filmmakers​ ​are​ ​forced​ ​to​ ​kneel​ ​to​ ​tyranny.​ ​The​ ​market​ ​pressure​ ​would​ ​be​ ​so​ ​great​ ​that they​ ​would​ ​have​ ​to​ ​nod​ ​to​ ​all​ ​the​ ​cuts,​ ​beeps​ ​and​ ​chops​ ​whatsoever.

Even​ ​a​ ​bold,​ ​brave​ ​film​ ​can​ ​be​ ​disarmed,​ ​castrated,​ ​ostracised,​ ​banned​ ​and​ ​even beheaded,​ ​this​ ​way.​ ​And​ ​no​ ​one,​ ​except​ ​the​ ​victim,​ ​would​ ​come​ ​to​ ​know​ ​of​ ​this injustice. But,​ ​of​ ​course,​ ​there​ ​are​ ​exceptions.​ ​Affluence​ ​does​ ​count,​ ​says​ ​Mr.​ ​Reportedly:​ ​"And​ ​if one​ ​is​ ​affluent​ ​enough,​ ​one​ ​may​ ​climb​ ​the​ ​wall,​ ​have​ ​the​ ​way,​ ​and​ ​the​ ​route​ ​map​ ​too!" And​ ​thus,​ ​you​ ​watch​ ​films​ ​where​ ​the​ ​super​ ​hero​ ​hunts​ ​and​ ​kills,​ ​within​ ​his​ ​radius,​ ​almost all​ ​the​ ​animals​ ​of​ ​a​ ​particular​ ​cat​ ​family​ ​(which​ ​is​ ​​ ​considered​ ​the​ ​National​ ​Animal​ ​and tops​ ​the​ ​endangered​ ​species​ ​list​ ​of​ ​almost​ ​all​ ​Wildlife​ ​organisations​ ​around​ ​the​ ​world), and​ ​still​ ​gets​ ​away​ ​with​ ​a​ ​‘U’​ ​certificate!​ ​Poaching​ ​is​ ​Universal,​ ​eh? So,​ ​the​ ​point​ ​here​ ​is​ ​that​ ​even​ ​in​ ​unfairness,​ ​there​ ​is​ ​indiscipline!

Let​ ​us​ ​remind​ ​ourselves,​ ​here,​ ​for​ ​at​ ​least​ ​once,​ ​that​ ​fiction​ ​is​ ​a​ ​major​ ​tool​ ​of self-hypnosis​ ​for​ ​a​ ​society.

Fiction​ ​is​ ​the​ ​only​ ​manna​ ​for​ ​social​ ​rejuvenation.

It​ ​is​ ​a​ ​major​ ​off-line​ ​vent​ ​to​ ​all​ ​tendencies​ ​human.

It​ ​is​ ​the​ ​only​ ​mirror​ ​a​ ​grieving​ ​society​ ​has​ ​to​ ​show​ ​itself​ ​and​ ​to​ ​the​ ​rest​ ​of​ ​the​ ​world​ ​as​ ​to what​ ​exactly​ ​is​ ​transpiring​ ​within.

It​ ​is​ ​a​ ​foreteller.

It​ ​is​ ​a​ ​warning​ ​light.

That​ ​fiction​ ​must​ ​be​ ​let​ ​free​ ​of​ ​all​ ​regulations,​ ​is​ ​only​ ​a​ ​basic​ ​social​ ​health​ ​lesson. But,​ ​unfortunately,​ ​we​ ​still​ ​live​ ​in​ ​a​ ​land,​ ​where​ ​basic​ ​lessons​ ​are​ ​taught​ ​after​ ​the complex​ ​ones​ ​are,​ ​and​ ​not​ ​the​ ​other​ ​way​ ​around.

It’s​ ​here​ ​that​ ​the​ ​fulcrum​ ​point​ ​of​ ​this​ ​note​ ​of​ ​desperation​ ​needs​ ​to​ ​be​ ​stressed​ ​upon. Since​ ​Art​ ​in​ ​general​ ​and​ ​Cinema​ ​in​ ​particular​ ​involves​ ​and​ ​invokes​ ​the​ ​anciently formulated​ ​yet​ ​precious​ ​Article​ ​19​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Indian​ ​Constitution,​ ​it​ ​is​ ​imperative​ ​that​ ​a regulatory​ ​body,​ ​if​ ​at​ ​all​ ​it​ ​is​ ​compulsory,​ ​must​ ​at​ ​least​ ​be​ ​appointed​ ​by​ ​the​ ​Judiciary​ ​and not​ ​the​ ​Government,​ ​after​ ​taking​ ​into​ ​extensive​ ​consideration​ ​the​ ​ability​ ​of​ ​each​ ​member to​ ​rise​ ​beyond​ ​the​ ​dictations​ ​of​ ​politics​ ​and​ ​prejudice,​ ​and​ ​stay​ ​true​ ​to​ ​the​ ​cause​ ​of​ ​free artistic​ ​expression.​ ​And,​ ​of​ ​course,​ ​their​ ​duty​ ​must​ ​only​ ​be​ ​to​ ​issue​ ​an​ ​age-bar certification​ ​and​ ​not​ ​to​ ​cut​ ​and​ ​ban!

If​ ​not,​ ​we​ ​would​ ​be​ ​consciously​ ​ordering​ ​the​ ​euthanasia​ ​of​ ​all​ ​things​ ​reflective​ ​of​ ​the times​ ​we​ ​live​ ​in. While​ ​Cinema​ ​is​ ​thus​ ​chloroform-ed​ ​into​ ​silence,​ ​life​ ​takes​ ​its​ ​toll​ ​uncensored. Elsewhere,​ ​my​ ​friends,​ ​out​ ​in​ ​the​ ​real,​ ​people​ ​are​ ​lynched​ ​by​ ​the​ ​minute,​ ​women​ ​are raped​ ​by​ ​the​ ​second,​ ​corruption​ ​is​ ​ruling​ ​by​ ​the​ ​daylight,​ ​children​ ​are​ ​feeding​ ​on​ ​infinite and​ ​unbridled​ ​sources​ ​of​ ​extreme​ ​porn​ ​and​ ​violence​ ​online,​ ​television​ ​channels​ ​are gorging​ ​on​ ​literally​ ​everything​ ​below​ ​the​ ​belt,​ ​social​ ​inequality​ ​is​ ​scaling​ ​up​ ​dangerously and​ ​jingoism​ ​is​ ​rising​ ​to​ ​alarming​ ​levels.

Art​ ​is​ ​just​ ​the​ ​shadow​ ​cast​ ​on​ ​the​ ​screens​ ​of​ ​time,​ ​when​ ​the​ ​light​ ​of​ ​truth​ ​falls​ ​on​ ​what​ ​is happening​ ​around.​ ​And​ ​here​ ​we​ ​are,​ ​chasing​ ​the​ ​shadow​ ​and​ ​letting​ ​the​ ​beast​ ​be!​ ​The truth​ ​is​ ​if​ ​we​ ​cannot​ ​contain​ ​life,​ ​which​ ​we​ ​certainly​ ​cannot,​ ​we​ ​cannot​ ​and​ ​must​ ​not​ ​try to​ ​contain​ ​Art​ ​as​ ​well.

As​ ​of​ ​now,​ ​the​ ​screen​ ​remains​ ​so​ ​clean...​ ​that​ ​it​ ​is​ ​not​ ​even​ ​the​ ​weak​ ​placebo​ ​that​ ​it once​ ​seemed​ ​to​ ​be,​ ​thanks​ ​to​ ​you,​ ​exalted​ ​ones​ ​of​ ​the​ ​Censor​ ​Board. You​ ​have​ ​succeeded​ ​in​ ​making​ ​Indian​ ​Cinema​ ​a​ ​living​ ​vegetable.

Till​ ​this​ ​twisted​ ​equation​ ​gets​ ​corrected​ ​for​ ​good,​ ​may​ ​you​ ​continue​ ​to​ ​render​ ​all newborns​ ​invalid!

May​ ​you​ ​relish​ ​your​ ​maiming​ ​act.

And​ ​may​ ​you​ ​make​ ​“the​ ​United​ ​States​ ​(of​ ​India)...​ ​great​ ​again”. 

Monday, December 05, 2011

Dev, Guru, Death and Anand

Here’s to an uncommon friendship Dev Anand had with Guru Dutt, who bid sayonara 47 years before Dev did.

By Murali Gopy

Glory be to that laundry man at Prabhat studios. It was he who mixed up the delivery packets and ended up dropping Dev Anand’s shirt at Guru Dutt’s door. Guru did wear that shirt for a day, but he returned it to its owner, when he accidentally met Dev on the studio floors. Even if Guru Dutt and Dev Anand had not crossed paths and met each other—one wearing the other’s shirt—it would not have been possible for Guru to be in Dev’s shirt forever. For Dev Anand’s wardrobe was all about garbs of positivity and optimism. And Guru Dutt wouldn’t have had any of it.

When Guru offered to return Dev’s shirt, Dev (the god of smiles that he was) offered his friendship in return. The newfound pals then agreed upon a mutual star-making program, which laid down the terms of launching each other in the event of either one of them making it to a commanding position in the industry: if Guru Dutt were to turn filmmaker, he would make Dev his hero, and if Dev were to produce a film then he would let Guru direct it!

That Dev Anand honoured his side of the deal and that Guru Dutt reciprocated it the way he deemed fit, is not the theme of the hour. This is about two friends, who walked life in diametrically opposite directions and yet respected each other for what they were. The story of Dev Anand and Guru Dutt is the story of, well.., living and dying respectively.

Dev Anand died on Dec 4, 2011, aged 88. His friend signed off at that historically jinxed age of 39, in 1964. When they lived, they both drank from the same cup of fame. Dev seemed to enjoy his drink and Guru seemed to flounder.

For Dev, life was a tune that had to be whistled rather than crooned. For Guru, it was all about facing the music. Dev puffed up his hair, tied a bandana loosely around his neck and looked at the sun with a sunny grin. Guru was sad, with twitched eyebrows, worry lines and with a cloudy smile. As the emotional charts of life unfolded before these two great men, they responded in shockingly dissimilar fashion. It was a sweet challenge for Dev and a potion of bitterness for Guru.
The titles of their major movies point to the particular mindsets of these two friends. While Guru was ‘Pyaasa’ (thirsty) and while he mourned this world of “Kaagaz Ke Phool” (Paper flowers), Dev Anand was a ‘Prem Pujari’.

While Guru Dutt lamented the darkness that lurked behind the hypocritical facades of an outwardly independent India, Dev Anand chose to inspire a young and independent generation to walk with swagger and in style. While Guru Dutt played defeated men on screen, Dev became the epitome of unapologetic romance.

Yet, these two men believed that there was something common between them. And that was perhaps the iron conviction on which their respective attitudes were founded. Was it the different lessons of life these two imbibed from the different situations they came across, that made them? Or was it, as the masters say, the litmus of two lives getting baptized in an infinite sea of Karma?

“He was my only true friend in the industry. He should not have made depressing pictures,” said Dev, about Guru Dutt. What Guru had to say about Dev, is lost in the junkyard of history.

When Guru Dutt lip-synched to Mohammed Rafi’s “Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai”, one evidently saw the hatred and pity the man had for the cruel and cunning world that he had to live with. But when Dev Anand sang “Teri Duniya mein jeene se behether hai ke mar jaayen”, he made it obvious that he just wanted to tease the world rather than shun it. The quintessential Guru Dutt movie had the world taking advantage of a spotlessly pure-hearted protagonist (often played by Guru himself). Dev Anand looked upon the same scheme of things with the eye of a ‘Guide’. While Guru Dutt was concerned mostly about the footprints that he would leave, Dev Anand just walked the pathways of life with gay abandon.

To the formulaic observer, Dev Anand seemed to enjoy both himself and being himself. He was thus counted among the great narcissists of Indian cinema. Guru Dutt was deified as the self-destroying Van Goghian, who couldn’t survive the fangs of romantic possessiveness, alcoholism and manic depression. How far are we from the truth? The discerning eye would detect the pathos in both their lives. Smile was Dev Anand’s weapon. Guru Dutt seemed to brood intensely and without intent.

His critics often panned Dev for his stereotyped mannerisms, the most famous one being that incessant nod, especially while on songs. The nod was just an extension of Dev Anand’s attitude towards the world. It was his way of asking “Oh, is that what you have got for me? Come, bring it on.” Optimism was Dev Anand’s currency.
Both Dev Anand and Guru Dutt had their heartbreaks. If it was Suraiyya for Dev, it was Waheeda Rahman for Guru Dutt. The books say that while Dev survived his with a sigh, Guru Dutt succumbed to it and went into a masochistic trip.

“What is there in life, friend? There are only two things - success and failure. There is nothing in between," is a famous quote attributed to Guru Dutt. Had Guru asked this question to Dev Anand, the reply would have been this: “Gham aur khushi mein farq na mehsoos ho jahaan, main dil ko us makaam pe laata chala gaya”.
“See, I wanted to be a director, I became one. Wanted to be an actor, I became one. Wanted to make good pictures, I have done that too. Have money, have everything. But I have nothing left," Guru Dutt used to say. Dev would have sung, “Jo mil gaya usi ko muqaddar samajh liya, jo kho gaya main usko bhulata chala gaya...”

On October 10, 1964, Guru Dutt was found dead on his bed at his Peddar Road apartment. The report was that he had succeeded in his third attempt to end his life. On December 3, 2011, Dev Anand died in a London hospital, following a massive cardiac arrest. It was his final and only unsuccessful attempt to stay alive.

Most of “Dev Saab’s mourners” say he loved to live life on his own terms. Guru was continuously at war with his situations, and died on his own terms, a martyr of extreme individualism. To his many admirers, Guru Dutt lived his life the way only he can. He showed the world what great heights one can achieve with one’s art. His films live to tell the tale. Dev Anand, on the other hand, looked at living as the only art worth pursuing. For him, films were just an excuse to be wonderfully alive.

The friends are now both gone. But the songs they leave us speak of two ways to address life. Guru Dutt was the sad one. Dev Anand was the bright one. One weaved a ‘Jaal’ around him. The other won the ‘Baazi’.

Together, they gave the screen a stunning painting in Black and White.

Source: MSN India

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The SRK who did not want to be one!

To mourn Shammi Kapoor would be to neutralise the very essence of the man that he was.

By Murali Gopy

Had Shamsher Raj Kapoor opted to be known by his real name, he would have been the original SRK of Indian Cinema. True to his style, he preferred to rubberise nomenclature and chose to be known as Shammi Kapoor. At a time when mainstream Bollywood was suffering from stiff-neck narratives, Shammi jumped in and gave us a boneless chilly romantic, whose kinesthetic antics redrafted the concept of Hero.

Shammi Kapoor never aspired to become an intense actor. He did not want his shelves to be a slum of statuettes. He did not overload his bank lockers with award citations. He behaved like a moonstruck student ever-ready to tease his overzealous class teacher. He dusted the screen and rephrased stardom with a pink chalk. He defied parochial norms and dictations.

The second son of the patriarchal Prithviraj Kapoor—an anatomical replica of his dad—chose to tread a path diagonally opposite the one his dad walked. If Prithviraj was the personification of Authority, Shammi became the epitome of Defiance. And he did not break doors and bash up villains to prove that he was a rebel. He just gyrated the way a man never did, till that day!

Shammi Kapoor made his signature entry on screen 10 years after India became independent. His elder brother Raj had already taken to playing the super-innocent tramp, singing patriotically charged songs of universal brotherhood. Dev Anand was busy puffing up his hair. Dilip Kumar was loitering around with the Devdas baton, handed over to him by KL Saigal. Guru Dutt was lamenting the frailty of free India. Shammi Kapoor came, saw and broke into a song that represented the feelings of a Presley-smitten nation. “Ayyayya karoon main kya, soooku, soooku”!!! The song was for all those whose hearts had gone ‘Soooku Soooku’, in a new India full of contradictions. A rock star was born!

Shammi Kapoor never had a solid plan for stardom. He was not concerned about getting heavier at the hip. He was not sulking over his abdominal flab, that lovable One-pack. He showcased his double chin with gay abandon. He did not inhibit himself with formulaic expressions while giving a close shot. And he obviously loved his drink. Shammi Kapoor never acted for the camera and within its frames. The cinematographer was supposed to follow him and catch him deliver his stuff.

It is futile to discuss the life and career of Shammi Kapoor, because he treated both with scant care. And when he wanted to direct a movie, he waged war with the authority there: the Censor Board. Apparently, his idea of ‘Manoranjan’ was not theirs.

They say Shammi Kapoor was one of the first celebrities to take to internet. Naturally. He had always wanted to make reality a virtual entity. He had also reportedly played a role in setting up internet organisations such as Ethical Hackers Association. Naturally. He wanted to hack commandments and hack them in an ethical fashion.

Shammi Kapoor, in almost all his films, successfully whisked his viewers away from the stark realities surrounding them. He took them to a world where only Elvis Presley, Jerry Lewis and Julie Andrews had gone before.

To the historian, Shammi Kapoor is now a dead man. It would however be a dishonorable exercise to recall and report the way he logged out. The doctor’s logbook says he was “aged 79” and that he had “renal failure”. Well, we, Shammi Kapoor fans, just don’t want to cram the white board with all those creepy, mortuary stuff. Here we are, dusting the screen. Here we are, scribbling his name with a pink chalk.

Shammi Kapoor may have died, but none of us will observe “five minutes of silence” for this marvelous man. So, here we are, throwing our jackets to the wind, pointing to the skies and yelling “Yaaaaahoooooo…”!

Source: Murali Gopy/Entertainment Editor/MSN India/India Syndicate

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Liz Taylor: Requiem for a Queen

By Murali Gopy

I was 10 when I saw ‘Cleopatra’. It was one of the first movies I saw at home. Television was so new a contraption to me that I used to go and scout the corner of the screen to check whether someone had been left out of the frame. While watching ‘Cleopatra’, I remember doing this many times; I thought the ridiculously diminutive box was vainly trying to reproduce an immortal movie, which was drawn on as big a canvas as the cinemascope! I realize now that I did this search in the fervent hope of seeing more of Elizabeth Taylor. I was hooked by her beauty, enamored by her grace. And I swear I was 10.

Liz Taylor, who was then 50 years old, became my first official crush. A heartbreaking fixation that was to last… and… last!

Liz gave Cleopatra what only genius actors impart to the characters they play: she lent the Egyptian queen the splendid complexities of her mind and the embers of her soul. When Liz played Cleo, the Queen broke free of the chains of history and fiction. She rose above Edward Gibbon’s version of her; she flew over the Shakespearean texts; she flipped aside the shooting scripts of Jospeh L Mankiewicz. Cleopatra Philopator and Elizabeth Taylor merged with each other and became irrevocably one!

Even as Elizabeth Taylor changed Cleopatra, Cleopatra claimed Taylor too! It would not be an exaggeration to say that Liz’s life after this spectacular movie resembled the legendary queen’s. Liz picked and abandoned lovers at will. She married seven men eight times! Though she married eight men, she loved only one, and she married him twice! Society did not make Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor made her society.
Liz was the queen of all she surveyed. She liked to command the world and the world obliged her in absolute adulation. She was a mighty seductress. She seemed to look at Man-kind with a seductive smile, enigmatic eye and maternal authority. In front of her, men became boys and boys became men.

Icons of machismo flitted around her like tykes, but the honour of holding her hand went to the peculiar ones. Michael Todd was perhaps her Julius Caesar, but Richard Burton was definitely her Mark Antony. She made friends with Michael Jackson, for she loved the boy in him.

Life waged many battles with Liz, and she braved each one of them with a Cleopatra-n heart. “Too much has happened in my life for me not to be fatalistic,” she once said. Yet, no asp could ever dare to be near Elizabeth Taylor, for she wore fatalism as armour and not as an ornament.

As I write this, Elizabeth Taylor is dead and gone. And I feel I have still not outlived the crush. “Did she really have to die?” the 10-year-old me asks the 38-year old me. I am reminded of the concluding scene of ‘Cleopatra’:

The roman asks Cleopatra’s servant: “Was this well done of your lady?”
And the servant replies: “Extremely well… as befitting the last of so many noble rulers!”
Elizabeth Taylor, you are the ultimate charmer. Accept my rose wreath.

source: MSN India/India Syndicate

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Class of 1983!

by Murali Gopy

June 24, 2008

Dad said, "Let there be Television". And there were grains! The most watched programme, in those days, was the one that starred these pre-telecast granules. The howling color-gradation barcode was the next in popularity. And the third place on the TRP charts went to the "Rukawat ke liye Khed hai (Sorry for the interruption)" slide!
The Doordarshan buff's evening started with a poorly made Signature film that boasted of the most depressing tune on earth! On the terrace stood a towering antenna that almost flirted with the clouds.
Into this black-and-white world descended the Prudential Cup Final of 1983.
Vada Paav was the dish of the day; platefuls were served with amazing regularity by a dutiful mom. Cousins, all 11 of them, had arrived for the event. And Joel Garner lumbered in to deliver the cherry to Sunil Gavaskar, who seemed to mourn his scorecard for the series – it looked like the figures on a back bencher's progress report: 19, 4, 0, 11 and 25! Srikkanth snorted nervously, at the other end.
The most respected one in the drawing room, that night, was my uncle, who was accorded a special seat on the sofa in acceptance of his cricketing acumen and for owning an imported Slazenger willow. He gave us a brief lecture on "Why we should hate Sunil Gavaskar?" and wrapped it up with a "Hail Richards". He predicted Sunny would score just 2. And Lo! Gavaskar played into the scheme. He shuffled across to an Andy Roberts out-swinger, misread it, extended a hesitant bat, and sent it right into Jeffrey Dujon's gloves. The ordeal had begun!
Obviously, no one in the crowd expected India to win that day. All we prayed for was an honourable exit. The crackers had all gone up in the air, three days back, when India had beaten the English. Only Mom believed that India would lift the Cup. I invoked the 'Deewar' dialogue: "West Indies ke paas Richards hai, Llyod hai, Marshall hai, Roberts hai… Kya hai humare paas?" Mom said: "Hamare paas Kapil hai!"
The well-oiled Windies juggernaut started moving, and heads began rolling one after the other. Amarnath trudged in and connected a massive hook off Marshall. The angry Barbadian took revenge by trapping Srikkanth plumb in front of the wicket. Yashpal Sharma took his customary 'gilli-danda' stance and smacked one right through point; Amarnath opened his gates to a Michael Holding in-cutter that set the off-stump on a gymnastic floor-routine; Sandeep Patil seemed to walk in with a match plan, but couldn't do much.
When Yashpal fell prey to the deceptively effeminate Larry Gomes, there was dead calm, followed by a roar. The room erupted in applause, as the Hero of Tunbridge Wells walked in.
Kapil Dev immediately put himself to the task of inventing cricket shots. He jumped down the pitch and cross-batted Gomes for a huge six, following it up with an awkward swipe that went for a four. He, then, tried to loft Gomes over mid-on, and paid the fine for being overambitious.
Indians were bundled out for a paltry 183, and it was unanimously decided that the television set should be rested for the lunch break. The elder one among the kids went to the terrace to “strengthen” the antenna against a possible granule invasion. Dad smoked up five Gold Flake sticks, and nodded in agreement to my uncle's observation: "Now, they will show us what batting is all about!" Patriots—the cousins and I—fumed at the treacherous snub.
Deep within, we knew that 183 would be chickenfeed before the Caribbean cannon, but to accept it was heresy! Mom was no ally, and she was too cricket-illiterate to be pessimistic.
The second half opened to a stunner. Balwinder Singh Sandhu hurled an inswinger with the fervent hope of getting knocked away to the extra cover fence; instead, he saw Gordon Greenidge raise his bat in respect and let the ball brush off the bails. God had started padding up for the Indians.

The applause in the room was deafening. But Uncle Slazenger smirked and rolled his eyes in derision. His solitary clap, even after we had stopped celebrating the wicket, was not in appreciation of Sandhu's feat but in anticipation of his hero. We watched with bated breath as Master Blaster the First walked in. The Richards swagger was enough to make us desperate. His gum chewing was the kinesthetic equivalent of "Who are these morons out here?"
The score skyrocketed to 35 for 1, in no time. Kapil's rabbit-grin was gone. Madanlal and Binny looked flustered. Sandhu was happy that his opening quota was over. Gavaskar squatted nonchalantly at the slips.

Stop Press!!!
A Bang and Thud, and the screen went to the grains!!! Doordarshan had staged a coup!
A few minutes of mental agony, and the monitor blinked back to Lord's. Uncle Smug looked terrified at what we saw on the screen. It was Kapil Dev, in slow motion, running backwards in chase of a huge loft. Someone was Out.
We longed for a shot of the scoreboard. We waited for the commentator to speak, and finally, he spoke: “Vivian Richards Caught Kapil Dev bowled Madanlal 33!” The repressed crowd of Generation W sprang up and danced around the crestfallen Richards fan. Mom came in with a Vada Paav reinforcement, and the rest of the match was just YUMMM!
India had never before or have never after played the way they did that afternoon in Lord's. The fall of Richards was the "sign" they were looking for. Post the Richards wicket, it was a Windies landslide. Skipper Cool hunched his way back after a tough time at the crease. Gomes and Bacchus looked clueless. Dujon and Marshall looked serious, but then, God had already spoken: "Inner edge is mine!"
Andy Roberts held the willow as if it was a school foe he had just met at the café. We enjoyed the Garner walk, for no one had seen him padded up, till then. Not even in stills! Holding hid his face in the greens of Lord's and we saw "the green bottle fizz". "It's champagne", said my uncle. Enlightenment!
The sling of David did the unthinkable, and Goliath came crumbling down. Never ever have I experienced the kind of elation I had on that humid June night. How we wished we could end it there and put up the slide "And they lived happily ever after"!

A quarter century has gone past, since those unforgettable hours. We sold the TV, five years later. Uncle Smug migrated to Australia, and is now an avid Punter fan. All 11 of my cousins are spread out on the globe like the 11 apostles. Dad is gone.
India survived the Revenge Series to tell the tale of the 1983 wonder. Heroes rose. Heroes fell. And cricket changed garbs from time to time. Generation X took the baton from us, and Y grabbed it halfway on.
To the 2008 fans of Twenty20 and IPL, 1983 might look like Jurassic age, where the white-and-white game was like a tussle involving 20 widowers. Prudential Cup might look like a midget world cup fought for by 8 Test playing nations in absolute idyllic bliss. "What is the big deal?" they would ask.
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind!
Source: India Syndicate

That glorious afternoon of June 25, 1983 at Lord’s

Indian Cinema’s RAIN DRAIN

Chasing the monsoon, B’wood style.

June 11, 2008

It is pouring outside. And the Piscean is excited! The wait is finally over, and the vanguard clouds of the southwest monsoon have started firing grapeshots. Every Indian is bound to fall in love with the invader. The proverbial "Saawan ka mahina" of Bollywood!
The time of the year when Nargis and Raj Kapoor unfold their umbrella and look into each other's eyes with platonic intent! When Rajesh Khanna and Sharmila Tagore run into an abandoned house, make a fire and sing ‘Roop tera Mastana’! When Mithun Chakraborthy runs out and ploughs the earth with his weird dance steps, while Shilpa Shirodkar shakes her hips in torrential frenzy! When Mandakini lies supine with languorous expectancy even as her B-grade hero runs in, 48 frames per second! When the belly buttons of Ramya Krishnan and Simran act as rain water reservoirs! When RGV's goons run through the dingy galis of Andheri in pursuit of their prey! Monsoon means different things to different people.
Far from the waterless pipes of Chennai, in the barren expanses of northern Tamil Nadu stands a beauty queen drenched in what the crew calls “artificial rain”. Twelve hoses, originating from three mobile tankers, are trained on her. The director screams for silence, the audio spool is switched on, the song hops out, and the cam trolley moves in to capture the gyrations. The hose-men synchronize the sequence. The “rain” is even. And a good 28,000 litres of water are showered over the screen siren. The guys who handle the “propeller” are not idling either. They simulate a nice 10-knot crosswind that enables the skirt to rise to the occasion. The hero blows a kiss to his girl; it braves the crosswind and lands on her cheek. The shot is Okayed; the female and male leads take a warm shower, facilitated by the spot boys, before reclining on their respective easy chairs. The male resorts to dryers. The siren is carpet-bombed with antiseptics and anti-allergy sprays. She finally gets into a head-to-toe bath robe, and the smile on the onlookers’ face vanishes. Four such days, and the rain song is canned.
A mile away from this waterworld is a village where the Bhuvans and Gauris (invoke ‘Lagaan’) of India reside, perpetually in need of H2O. In their world, a bucketful of water is a luxury and the monsoon cloud, a devilish mirage. The world where a half-formed drizzle is enough to inspire a “Ghanan Ghanan”.
In Hollywood and elsewhere, filmmakers do not need the rain to tickle Lady Box-office. They use it to a specific cinematic purpose. In ‘Rashomon’, rain is a superhuman presence. It provides a stoic backdrop to guile and intrigue in “The road to Perdition”. In ‘Hotel Rwanda’ it adds to the terror indoors. And in ‘Shawshank Redemption’, it is the shower of freedom we see! Only a few mainstream Indian filmmakers, such as Ram Gopal Varma, have got the 'rain syntax’ right. That too, very rarely.
It is not that Indian cinema has totally gone the Caligula way. There still are people who believe in doing things with a definite sense of purpose. The “artificial rain” of a Goutham Ghosh or an Adoor Gopalakrishnan would be different from that of You-name-them. Incidentally, most of our classic filmmakers tend to treat famine and drought instead of the rains. Climactic rains are, however, spotted in such films-- sequences wherein the hose-men are asked to fire their water guns at emaciated bodies!
As of now, Indian mainstream runs the risk of walking into the environmentalist’s jaws. He might hold the industry responsible for wasting water over “ungodly” purposes. The slogan will always be “Save water”. Here, again, it would be the Bhuvans and the Gauris who would be talked to. By none other than our Hero Blowkisswala! He would intrude the TV screen, close a water tap and shrug his shoulders. “Save water, save electricity”, he would preach. The very next day, he would walk out and give 25 retakes of the shot in which the character he plays is expected to react to his mom’s death! (A one-minute shot, it is said, eats 120KW) Some “Save water, save electricity” for you!
Having said this, I must say it is not safe to write this in these times, when Ramadosses lurk in the dark, waiting to pounce on inanities. He might call up a meeting, raise a hammer and ban rain in movies. And the Indian hero will have to look for other options to consummate hidden love. The ban would, however, put an end to unwanted on-screen pregnancies, since rains are looked upon by our scenarists as a great alibi for the hero and his girlfriend to indulge in carnal adventures. And the thundershowers have been vocal witnesses to hundreds of rapes, sometimes assisting voyeuristic audiences by flashing lightning at the appropriate moments. If rain is gentle, then the director is obviously hinting at consensual sex—an adept filmgoer can always tell!!
The World Watch Institute, Washington DC, warns that India would become a “water-strained” nation by 2020. In the darkness of their village cinema, the real Bhuvan and Gauri would clap at the song sequence shot near their village, not realising that they might be driven into an exodus in search of water, 20 years later.
It is not that Bollywood is a Mogambo planning to drain India of its water and going HA HA HA. But it certainly is a Bhikku Mahtre, wasting precious shooting hours on a “Goli Maar Bheje Mein”.

What would be the future coinage for Bollywood’s “Sawan ka Mahina”?
“Brain Drain’? No.
“Rain Drain”, it would be!
Source: India Syndicate
About the author: Murali Gopy is Entertainment Editor for MSN India.

Shame and Sherawat

Musings on Mallika and the Moral Police

May 14, 2008

by Murali Gopy

When I was a kid, I loved power cuts. That was the time of the night when I had the liberty to make faces at my dad. I exercised, with great verve, my super-constitutional right to step on the chair cushions (forbidden), juggle the remote control and the pen torch (life sentence), moonwalk to the prayer room in my slippers (deportation) and hide the candles thereof(punishable by death). When the lights came back, my dad would find me reclining on the easy chair with the chemistry text book spread across my chest and a pen idling in my hands; he never mistook it for the catnap of a nerd. He bought an emergency light without fanfare, hid it, and switched it on while I was on my Act. My embarrassment was my punishment.
I have a reason to recall this. Some fans of “Indian culture” remind me of the arboreal ME of yore. They buy the tickets, squeeze into the hall, and wait for the lights to go off. Then, they devour the sleaze that is thrown at them in the name of entertainment. They whistle at the belly button close-up, clap at the double innuendo, cheer the rapist on rampage and hoot wildly at the hero who comes in time to save the prospective rape victim.
THE END, LIGHTS, and they are back to the streets lecturing on moral science, burning effigies of cultural defaulters and issuing life threats on women who have a great wardrobe to choose from.
Mallika Sherawat does not have a master’s degree in dress sense, but that should not prevent her from sharing the dais with Kamal Haasan, Jackie Chan, Amitabh Bachchan and the most venerable M Karunanidhi. But she was told otherwise. She was actually given a sermon by an enraged political outfit of Tamil Nadu on Indian culture. And ordered to apologize unconditionally “or else face the consequence”.
This is not jotted down in favour of Mallika Sherawat’s couture acumen. In fact, I find it tough to describe her choice of attire. It was the sartorial equivalent of “Don’t look at what I am wearing; think of what I am not”. She walked up as easily and confidently as she had done her pole dance in the movie, ‘Dasavatharam’, the audio launch of which was being staged on the dais.
She forgot something: The lights were on!
The watchmen of Indian culture are terribly peeved at Mallika Sherawat “for making Tamilians cringe and hang their heads in shame, for causing mental agony and hurt to the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu by wearing a revealing mini skirt, for exposing her back and sitting cross-legged in front of the Chief Minister M Karunanidhi”. Mallika did what celebrities of her hue do when faced with similar obstacles. She fled the scene.
Fleeing has been a standard practice with all post-modern artistes who have dedicated themselves to amoral dictums. Richard Gere had had his share of India’s fabled “athithi devo bhava” when he came down for an AIDS awareness campaign, last year. He had, obviously, selected the Fool’s month for the sojourn. After shaking hands with Shilpa Shetty, Gere changed gears to hug her, bend her to an uncomfortable right angle before planting a few smooches. The next thing he remembered is the chat he had with the airhostess on the “next morning flight”.
Shreya Saran, who sang and danced hand-in-hand with Rajnikanth in ‘Sivaji’, ran into trouble for going on stage, skimpily dressed, and addressing the most venerable M Karunanidhi (again) in “unacceptable attire”. The moral police (again) had asked for an unconditional apology and Shreya had promptly bent her knees and pleaded for dear life. Khushboo, with the 25 pending court cases against her for “degrading Tamil womanhood”, reminds me of that famous Sandhya character from ‘Do Aankhen Baarah Haath’—the village lass with the noisy drum trailing her like a blunderbuss saheli.
Where exactly are we standing now?
The average Indian blockbuster has been, for a long time now, a garish mix of bolly-mujrahs and melodrama, with a liberal serving of the crimson liquid. We have no complaints, since the lights are off every time we bump into one. Peeping Toms that we are, we love to watch without being watched. Once the emergency lamp is trained on our Darknesses, we stand to lose face.
For the volatile fan of Hindu culture, who is ready to empty his barrel on the Shreyas. Mallikas, Shilpas and Khushboos of the world, I must quote Octovio Paz: “The Hindu genius is abstract and realistic, sexual and intellectual, pedantic and sublime. It lives between extremes, it embraces the extremes, rooted in the earth and drawn to an invisible beyond.”
All lights off!
About the author: Murali Gopy is Entertainment Editor for MSN India.
The Best of Upper Cut
Khan’s labyrinth

In the league of GLADIATORS

Confessions of an IPL born-again.

April 23, 2008.

by Murali Gopy

One sultry afternoon of 1984. I jumped the gate, threw my school bag on the sofa and hopped in to join the august dine room gathering. With its navy blue covering cloth and flannel, our B & W television set looked like a Nainital tourist guide. The crowd of cousins was into the DD coverage of an India-Pakistan cricket Test played out on the leukodermic greens of Feroz Shah Kotla (or was it Wankhede?).
I was walking backwards to the kitchen to get my share of chips when I heard a roar from the dining room; I rushed back and saw the close-up of a man who was least expected to show up: Amitabh Bachchan. The camera had caught him on the VIP balcony. The shaky shot held on. The players waved at him, and he waved back. After a minute’s silence from the commentary box, Ravi Chaturvedi (I think it was him) sprang up with a great sentence that had the whole room in splits: “Screen par abhi aap dekh rahe hain, bharat ka sabse mashhoor adaakar, Amitabh Bachchan.” He made it sound like an Indian equivalent of “Eureka”! We couldn’t see the Bachchan squint through that ‘Trishul’ sunglasses he was wearing.
That was the first time I saw a movie superstar shake hands with cricket, Live!
By the time cinema met cricket again, in Sharjah, the dine room gathering had become an expert panel of cricket commentators. And the 22-inch Onida color TV was implicative of the economic evolution of our family.
Sharjah had this special launch for Bolly bigwigs—a surreally starry platform where Feroz Khans, Anil Kapoors, Anju Mahendrus, Man-D-akinis and Dimple Kapadias sipped cola, shared a giggle and clapped languorously to the occasional pull shot. Door Darshan had hired Henry Blofeld, this time, for special comments on exotic earrings. Cricket had still not fallen in love with Bollywood. It was infatuation.
Twenty years later, I recline on my easy chair, munching pop corns and in war with my daughter who prefers POGO to my CNN-IBN. I am reminded of that popular geological prognosis: Future wars would be fought over water. They would surely be, once the problem of the remote control is solved!
Smugly, I thump buttons and reach a mushy news channel where, to my disbelief, I see the auction of cricketers. I see bidding. I see the rich and the beautiful make their gangs. I see the mighty holding the hammer. I see money. I see greed. I switch channels, and I see batting pads set on fire. I see Shah Rukh Khan scream “Korbo, Lorbo, Jeetbo”. I see Hrithik Roshan dancing with the willow. And Puritan Me is thrown into a blue mood. I search for precedents, naturally, in Hollywood annals. I see only inspirations. I spot Jack Nickolson, Leonardo Di Caprio, Denzel Washington and Ice Cube (Laker fans all) enjoying the dunk-in-cheek. I come across Madonna begging for the sweaty Tee of Roberto Baggio. I imagine Elvis shaking hands with Pele. But from where did Bollywood get this idea of buying cricket to be one with it? Finally, I get a hint from the mischievous glint on Preity Zinta’s eye. I decide to brush up my Gibbon.
Fade in. Rome!
Indian Premier League’s ancestor seems to be the Gladiatorial games of Roman yore. Gibbon says Julius Caesar owned “so many gladiators that the Senate, fearing the cold-blooded application of such a private army, passed a law limiting private citizens to owning not more than 640 gladiators”.
Shah Rukh says “I love winning, whether it is IPL matches, or film or a game of carom with my kids, or the entire world. I believe my victory is God’s assurance that I worked hard”. Julius Caesar gives SRK a befitting rejoinder from his Roman bath: “Men freely believe that which they desire”.
IPL’s similarity with gladiatorial games seems not to end at the auction table.
“The Games,” says the historian, “were according to a precise plan. The organiser (read Lalit Modi) on behalf of the emperor (read BCCI) meticulously planned the combinations of animals and gladiator types in such a way as to catch the basic instincts of the viewer. Gladiators were displayed publicly (the promos) to huge crowds a few days before the event. Pamphlets containing gladiatorial details were distributed to one and all (the glossy press releases). Banquets were held before the games and even gladiators with criminal background (doping) were invited”.
This is my chance to participate in a reenactment, albeit weak, of past gore. I decide to take a peek. I choose the Eden Garden tussle for the first look.
I see the arena. I see the kings. I see the powerful. I see the slaves. I see the cheerleaders. I congratulate the boy with the placard: “I am here to watch the girls dancing.” I relish it.
The crowd goes berserk. The floodlights light up the stadium better than even the sun. An envious Nature employs her favourite weapon- fate- to ensure a power failure, but that too does not douse the euphoria. Brendon McCullam tears apart the classic stroke book and launches one rocket after another. Memories of the archaic white-n-white game are sent packing with the wind. SRK sings from the front and India’s first family provides the chorus.
My jaw drops!
My eyes bulge. I am morphed into a Caesarian Roman!
I emerge from the game, a born-again. The puritan in me has been beheaded. My blood lust has been consummated. The jingoistic nerve has been tickled.
I scan the newspapers and come across this Mangalorean travel agent, Oswald Saldanah, who has been declared IPL’s first martyr. He had betted on Vijay Mallya’s gladiators in their fight against Shah Rukh Khan’s. He lost, and ended his life. I feel sad but then, gladiators don’t cry. Nor do their fans!
It is a fine morning. I enjoy the tea and wish to see more of such fare, where boundaries vanish and the thin line that separates innovation from outrageousness gets hopelessly blurred.
I have only one grouse: They could have been more creative with the team names. Royal Challengers, Super Kings, Deccan Chargers, Knight Riders, Rajasthan Royals….!
Does not sound like Rome at all.
About the author: Murali Gopy is the Entertainment Editor for MSN India

Khan’s labyrinth

Here is a lowdown on how Shah Rukh Khan psyches all of us!

April 16, 2008

New Year eve, 2000. A nervous looking Shah Rukh Khan is hugged and received by Amitabh Bachchan into a ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ episode. Shah Rukh tries hard to break the patriarchal Bachchan rhythm. In vain.
He tries a few jokes that get lost in icy silence. The audience claps when Bachchan claps. Bachchan laughs and the audience giggles. Shah Rukh finds it hard to untie the Gordian Knot. He bids his minutes. Big B proceeds to welcome SRK’s companion for the show, Karan Johar.
“Karan aur main go back a long time…” Bachchan says; the voice modulation is Shakespearian. “Karan ko main ne tab se dekha hai jab se woh itne chchote se the…” he lowers his lambe haath to the bottom buckle of the hot seat to convey the height… Shah Rukh pounces at the opportunity and fires a salvo: “Sir, aap ke height se sab itne hi dikhte hain”. The hall erupts. Bachchan laughs… And the famous Khan dimples emerge from hiding.
Feat One: He vetoes Bachchan’s authority with his cheekiness.

Feat Two: He gets over the height factor, by addressing it openly.

Feat Three: He makes Bachchan laugh naturally, for once!
Shah Rukh Khan has always survived by following the golden managerial commandment: “Loha garam hai…! Mar do hathoda!” There is not even a single moment in his career where the dude has failed in choosing the right words for the right occasion. He even seems to have the right words for the wrong occasion. Astonishing is the talent to make us feel that even his wrong words “were actually right”.
Here is a star, who is not reluctant to call himself a brand, and to be his own ambassador. If anger was the hallmark of the Bachchan persona, irreverence has been Shah Rukh Khan’s signature attitude. A typical Shah Rukh Khan fan loves his idol because, “SRK is irreverent, arrogant and narcissistic”. Irreverence was once held against Shatrughan Sinha. Arrogance and narcissism had led to Rajesh Khanna’s downfall. Yet, when these three supposedly negative traits unify in one man, it becomes gold. Why or how does Shah Rukh make this happen?
“Whenever I fail as a father or husband, a toy and a diamond always work,” is one of Shah Rukh Khan’s most quoted quotes. This sentence, on first look, is directly humorous. On second glance, it seems to mourn a glaring truth. A cynical eye would see nothing more than the glossiness of a Double-O-Seven one-liner. From another vantage, it reflects the man’s outlook. It is such multi-edged verbal blades that make Shah Rukh Khan Devil’s own charmer.

The greatest achievement of Shah Rukh is that he has successfully posted himself CEO of Brand SRK, which is now a synonym for success and taken with certain religiosity in management schools all over the country and beyond. Marketing Himself has been his core activity, over the years. With this Khan, you never discuss art. You discuss the buck.
Unlike Amitabh Bachchan, his predecessor in superstardom, Shah Rukh Khan has carefully planned his career. Most of his popular manoeuvres were off screen rather than on screen. Amitabh’s career has always been a roller coaster ride; one that took him to the pinnacle of mortal fame, to the abyss of despair, and back. Shah Rukh’s heights pale in comparison, but his consistency with fame is phenomenal. His ability to project his ideas and impart a halo to each one of them is greater still.
Even when Amitabh consciously decides to break ice with his viewer, there is a certain aloofness that hangs around the man, like clouds. Shah Rukh, on the contrary, has surprises flitting around him like butterflies. Amitabh’s enigma was the result of his measured behaviour. Shah Rukh’s charisma results from aggressive auto-suggestion. A right parallel, here, would be the boxing great, Mohammed Ali.
Before almost every bout, Ali would thump his chest and scream aloud: “I am the best! I am the champion!” And he kept the world guessing as to what prompted him to say it. Was it fear? Was it insecurity? Was it confidence? Was it arrogance?
While the world pondered over his brag, Ali drugged his opponents with some terrific sucker punches. His admirers never got to know the real man. They never quite understood his ploy. But they didn’t care. They knew only one thing—they could never take their eyes and ears off him. The stardom, the legend and the myth of Mohammed Ali was born in one litter.
Shah Rukh Khan is not an easy target for the psychoanalyst. He is one of the cleverest public figures of our time. In a way, he reflects the aspirations of post-liberalisation India better than any other icon. He promotes selfishness as a virtue. Ambition, to him, is a talent in itself. Irreverence is projected as a need. Humour, to him, is the right to jab his opponents after the bell. His gab is Generation X’s equivalent to Sermon on the Mount. He is the role model of the lower middle class youngster, who has two bikes and yearns for a car. Last but not the least, Shah Rukh Khan loves to joke on himself, but then, that is it! No one else is allowed the privilege.
Nothing in this world is holy for Shah Rukh Khan.
He will chase even Amitabh Bachchan. He will redo even KBC. He will remake even Don. He would smoke in banned areas. He will censure the health minister for criticising him. He will take bhare-bazaar digs at the Amar Singhs of the world. He will buy cricket teams. He will sell tickets to promote his team. He will make the media eat from his hands, and give them the opposite impression. He will host award nights and venture into “forbidden humour”. He loves to instill fear on the audience. They MUST laugh or else he would assassinate them, with his verbal volleys.
Shah Rukh Khan is the trickiest phenom to have ever happened to Indian cinema.
To see the Khan and his media Reich for what they are, one has to look through 3D goggles. It demands more dimaag than a Paanchvi Pass! The question is: Kya Aap Paanchvi Pass se tez hain?!
And see what I have just done. I have ended up promoting his latest TV show. This is what they call “SRK Magic!”
About the author: Murali Gopy is the Entertainment Editor for MSN India

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Madness called Kishore

He never attended parties. He loved watching horror films. He played with his toy spooks. He made friends with the trees in his garden; he talked to them. And when he was free, he sang. Kishore Kumar Ganguly saw life as a foolish game, wherein rules where made to be broken. "In this avaricious world, every creative person is bound to be lonely. How can you deny me that right?" he asked. Yet, he married four times. He could not read the notations. Nor could he name more than three classical singers without prompting. Yet, he sang as if he was possessed. He complained of his filmmakers "who know nothing". But when Satyajit Ray offered him him a role in his famous comedy, 'Parash Pathar', he literally ran away."I was so scared," he said. He loved to live life in his own way. As with all other great men, it was contradictions that made Kishore Kumar.

When he arrived in Bombay, Kishore Kumar Ganguly had four idols: K.L. Saigal, Marlon Brando, Boris Karloff and Topol of 'Fiddler on the Roof' fame. His greatest wish was to meet the legendary Kundan Lal Saigal. He also wanted to be a singer.He arrived in Bombay as "the younger brother of the great Dadamoni, Asok Kumar". And soon, he found himself doing bit roles as an actor. He hated acting but was too scared to tell his elder brother. Singing was confined to the bathroom, and Kishore hit the silver screen with a new brand of comedy that bordered on insanity. He tried his best to shrug off the actor's robes. He troubled his directors to the ends of the world -- He filled his eyes with romance while on an action routine. He looked into the eyes of his ‘lover’ like a monster on the prowl. The more he tried to escape, the more he was loved. And he became the second biggest draw after Dilip Kumar. He was so busy that Mohammed Rafi was assigned to sing for him in 'Sharaarat'.

The comic roles he played in films such as ‘Half Ticket’, ‘Chalti ka Naam Gaadi’, ‘Padosan’ and ‘Jhumroo’ made him popular but he remained trapped in an image that did not project his real self. This forced him into fimmaking: In films such as ‘Door Gagan ke Chaon Mein’ (1964) and ‘Door ka Rahi’ (1971), Kishore did what he always wanted to do -- sing “sad songs and do serious roles”. Nobody was sure who the real Kishore Kumar was. Not even the man himself. He kept the world guessing. He acted, he sang, he wrote lyrics, he composed tunes, he directed films...As a singer, he began by imitating Saigal. In life, he imitated none.

The Kishore, who we remember today, is only a fragment of the phenomenon he actually was. As was his wish, Kishore is still remembered for his recorded voice than his onscreen pranks. After a long wait of almost three decades, Kishore struck gold as a singer. Rejected by almost all major music directors in the dawn of his career, Kishore found his mentor in S. D. Burman and a lifelong friend in R. D. Burman. He had no guru who could teach him the nuances of music. But when he sang, his voice transformed the song into an emotional entity. Arguably, Kishore was the only Indian playback singer, who acted out his songs. His renditions were earthy, if not ethereal. Constantly bullied by the music critics of his age, Kishore was looked upon as a symbol of irreverence that was considered the hallmark of Hindi movies of the Seventies. But he outlived the critics, and goes on yodelling in the hearts of thousands of admirers the world over.

Kishore Kumar constantly complained about the world he found himself in. “In this crazy world, only the truly sane man appears to be mad,” he said, a few days before his death. He used to keep a skull in the bedroom, with red light emerging from its eyes, just to keep himself posted on “the futility of life”. He braved the emotional disasters in his life with the mind of a clown. The sadness, he invested in his songs. The world called Kishore Kumar “crazy”. He sang innumerable songs that carried his answer to the world. “Rote hue aate hain sab, hansta hua jo jaayega, woh muqaddar ka sikander kehlayega...!"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The lost world of white lilies

Column: Fan Fatigue///Author: Murali Gopy/// Publication: CleanBowled

A requiem to the lazy game Test cricket once was.

It was akin to star gazing, except that the passivity it demanded was a little less romantic.
It lumbered on like a third world sedan. It came to halt like a royal wedding procession. And when it fought with the rain, its worst enemy, it sulked like a steam locomotive stranded “brake-jammed” at some remote Indian wilderness. They called it Test Cricket and relished it, teaspoon by teaspoon.

Creative brains in the gallery had enough time to prepare an elaborate score sheet for the benefit of the long-sighted senior citizen seated next. Wannabe commentators had ample time to discuss the technicality of the cover drive that was executed six overs ago, for a modest three runs. Nerds would bring in their homework or attend to pending office files.

The nouveau-riche ladies, rouged beyond horizontal limits, would clap at the obvious and gift a mischievous glance at the sleepy national TV man perched on a makeshift platform to their right. Underpaid and tired, he wouldn’t take the cue.

The peasant patriarch on the open galleries would bring his grand nephews, a dozen of them, and let the lads handle the boredom while he dozes in the sweet shadow of a past romance.

The well-off lyricist would position himself at the VIP launch near the commentators’ box. He would take off his imported Ray Ban, narrow his eye lids, and exclaim to his bored biologist friend that the ground looked like a green gazelle with white dots on its mane. The biologist would smirk at the ignorant artist but wouldn’t care to correct him regarding the aptness of this wild simile. You win an argument and you lose a friend. You lose a friend and you lose a free lunch, a free lift and a free weekend at the movies.

The existentialist poised at the first class gallery would sigh at this “stupid game”, the futility of which is outdone only by the futility of life itself.

In the middle of the ground would dwell two men in white, tilling the ground with their humble willows, pinning down full toss after full toss in an attempt to stay alive till the end of the world. Bowlers would throw the cherry as if they were giving alms to the poor. The wicket keeper would gather it like some irresponsible trustee treasurer and hand it over, disdainfully, to the ever-crouching man in the first slip.

The ostracized man at Long-On would raise his hand to the head of his ex-tribe—there would be no response.

The ball is now with the Mid-On guy, who would spit at it with certain sadness, wash it and rub it of its sins and give it back to the bowler, who would again run in.
The reincarnation of the delivery.
The cycle of Cricket Karma.

Once in a while would come a scream, a flutter and the agony of the battered stump. It is time for the unfortunate to depart. The Black and White creature on the other end of the “Gazelle’s eye” would raise his fingers to the skies reminding all the “white lilies” of the impermanence of existence. “God is watching your technical imperfections”.

The TV camman, the cranky diabetic that he is, would rush back from his on-time lunch only to find that he had inadvertently tilted the Jurassic equipment towards the most beautiful face in the VIP enclosure. He would blame it on auto suggestion, munch his bread and get back to work. A memo would be issued to him, a month later.

And then, night falls. The ground would erupt into a celebration. Beetles and grasshoppers would emerge from out of darkness and dance to the non-stop drone of the ever-elusive cricket. They search for it but would never find it. “Where is the cricket?” they would ask. The same question asked by the creatures of the day.

The night party would run into the dawn, and the beautiful people would retire to their underworld wishing each other sweet dreams of a happy tomorrow. Of a promised morning of the Twenty 20.

Then, once again, the Men in White would emerge from the green room. It would be Day 2 for them.

We miss you Geoff Boycotts, Chetan Chauhans, Muddassar Nazars, John Wrights, Allan Borders and Siddharth Wettimunys. We miss the Seventies. We miss the Eighties.

Bliss was in that dawn to be in the galleries...
To be a cricketer was very heaven…