Thursday, 29 July 2010

Sachin Tendulkar & the eroding game of Cricket...

Cricket is an unequal contest. It has always, before the start of any match, in any format, favoured batting to a large degree. More so now, with flat placid pitches been made, boundaries shortened, and the fielding restrictions applied in one-day games (a format losing in popularity, many say) and the Twenty 20 format.

Much of Cricket's beauty lies in its leisurely pace and the individual capabilities of the players. For as much is Cricket a team game, so is it individual in its three departments - batting, bowling and fielding. A Sehwag blitz can steal a match away from the opposition, some atrocious, cheeky work from Dilshan can upset calculations. But the same can't be said about bowlers anymore. Batsmen thump the ball, bowlers send unreachable bouncers, the ball so often reaches the boundary so easily and so often gets hit out of the ground. But where are the bowlers that teams were wary of, fielders that effect those crucial run outs, take those catches? Where are the epic oscillating contests where at a moment 15 men (the fielding team,  the two batsmen and the field umpires) are deep in battle, each holding on to their fortress? The celebration? Such contests, such moments, have become rare.

Test Cricket, of all Cricket formats, has the potential to be an extended enthralling contest. It is when two teams are engaged in an intangible tug-of-war that it is enlivened. Now I am not yet talking about the audience. What are we, the indirect paymasters, filling the stadium seats, drooling before the TV, catching the updates on the Internet and the cell phone? Even our interest is no longer relentless, several other things now distract the modern viewer. Distract, not hold.

Amidst the changing face of the game, that is still played by a dozen teams if not more, and half-a-dozen quality teams out of them, stands Sachin Tendulkar, one of the game's last artists perhaps. Talented raw clay during that debut against Pakistan in 1989, and 21 years later still constructing, sculpting his art, Sachin is still going, with some deep passion (what exactly - we do not know) that drives him. Unbeatable on 201 on the fourth day of the second test match against the Sri Lankans at the time of writing, one blog post is not sufficient to convey his impact. Let us say, Sachin has made his own path in the wilderness, and is yet to diverge from it. There is no one active player who matches him today for sheer talent and beauty of his shots. Who plays the straight drive like that or the cover drive bisecting the ground fielders, always the sense of perfection coming through? We are waiting for them - the Wasim Akrams, Courtney Walshs, the Arivinda De Silvas, Shane Warnes of the modern cricketing world, meanwhile Sachin Tendulkar can play out his extended swan song. 

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Udaipur: At Maharana Pratap Smarak (July 2,2010)

The statue at Maharana Pratap Smarak

so in pure
hollywood fashion
at the battle 
of Haldighati (1576),
Chetak is said to
have leaped 
with Rana Pratap,
across the
impossible length
of two cliffs
and thus
fatally injured
died a hero 
400-odd years later, 
the arabian steed
has a statue with the Rana
still urging him on to battle,
Chetak all set to go

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Movie Review: INCEPTION: Mind Adventure...

Director Christopher Nolan has so often delved in to human psychology, the mind and its strange ways of working, as seen in his remarkable non-linear narration of Memento (2000), or the disturbing portrayal of the Joker in the Batman sequel, The Dark Knight (2008). In Inception, a science fiction cum crime genre film, he explores the world of dreams and comes up with mind-boggling, seat-grabbing stuff that keeps us thinking even hours after one exits the cinema hall.

Cobb (DiCaprio) leads a team of 'extractors' - professionals who steal information from other people within shared dreams. Then there is the seemingly impossible 'Inception', where you plant an idea in the subject's mind. An electronic control device that connects the extractors and the source, and a state of sedation makes this possible. More to it: if you die in a dream, you return to consciousness. More: In 'dream time' an hour is actually five minutes in 'real time'. There is more to it that the film will reveal.

The main plot: A businessman wants to stop a corporate rival's inevitable monopoly by performing Inception. The rival is terminally ill, nearing death, and has an young heir. The plan is to plant an idea in the heir's mind such that he breaks down his father's empire. Cobb, having experienced the disastrous results of an inception, hesitates. It is on the promise that he will be able to pass through immigration to finally reunite with his children that draws him to agree. He arranges a team for the operation, while fighting his own demons - his dead wife who keeps reappearing as his subconscious and putting the whole operation in to additional risk. Things are in place, the plan is initiated, but things go awry...

Riveting without been too confusing (needs a couple of views for 'complete' comprehension) with its science fiction literature, the film never lets you relax, immersing the audience in a web of imagination and subtle ambiguity. A stimulating experience for the senses, especially the eyes and the mind, (if not the heart), Inception is a must for all cinema lovers. Meanwhile, I have to book a ticket for another show of the film. As soon as my mind stops reeling.

The punch of punches        
A top keeps spinning and spinning and the screen blanks out. 

Friday, 23 July 2010

Day in Udaipur: The Artist's Village

Showcasing the mitigating effects of cow dung...

Still 2nd July, 2010 
Shilpgram is an artificial cultural village located about three kms from Udaipur. It has traditionally built mud houses from Gujarat, Goa, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. We entered one, bending down through its little door and found the interior incredibly cool, the exterior walls caked with cow dung playing a mitigating part along with the straw thatched roof.

Then there were the artists – the Rajasthani folk singers awaiting an audience during the off-season period, their bodies moving to activity as we approached the dais. Then there was the sole magician, seated hunched and disinterested on a sturdy old chair, beside a table adorned with sparkling colours of his paraphernalia. We didn't look like the money-spilling kind, probably. The maker of bead necklaces, showcasing a certificate of making it to The Limca Book of Records. Another fabric maker displayed kurtas, salwars and other Indian attire in refreshing designs, attire which we often refer to as 'traditional'.

Yes, we spent a substantial time of the trip there, and almost on instigation by the artists, ended up buying things we probably would never have otherwise.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Movie Review: UDAAN: Underplayed, real and effective...

Vikramaditya Motwane's directorial debut is a haunting mirror held to the life of a teenager, his angst and the urge to break free. There are no self-created demons for Rohan (Rajat Barmecha,fine debut act), it is his own father that he has to break away from. He does so without any exaggerated drama, quietly, so uncharacteristic in a commercial Hindi film. We like that.

A story pattern that is as subtle, mysterious and revealing as life itself, Udaan (Flight) has a brooding quality, especially in its portrayal of drowsy Jamshedpur's smoke-chugging factories as a setting and Bhairav Singh,(Ronit Roy's a surprise!) the tense, edgy and unkind father.

The characters are all real and ordinary as they come - with their little heroics, frustrations and vulnerability. Rohan's uncle and Bhairav's younger sibling Jimmy (Ram Kapoor, well cast) is supportive, but not courageous enough to support his nephew's cause. Other shades of youth are seen in the bullying, bickering ways of Apu (Anand Tiwari, a natural) and Rohan's three school friends - all varying shades of boys who can still be crybabies or dare to mock an adult. Then there is Arjun (Aayan Boradia, excellent), the six year-old who is a puppet to his father's whim.

Amit Trivedi's music that adds a nice touch to the visuals, although his soundtrack for Dev.D (2009) was much more impressive and uh,epic. Amitabh Bhattacharya's lyrics add verve to the songs that includes Kahani - the song that seems to have a hangover over the other tracks.

Overall, Udaan is a heartbreaking and rejuvenating slice of life. It's 'realness' may nudge formulaic film watchers a bit. But then the film is not meant to be another vegetable in the market. It is an unmissable piece of art and needs to be watched on the big screen.

One quibble
The story-telling sequences in the hospital where doctors and nurses gather to listen Rohan's narration needed more flesh for the audience to be drawn into it.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Movie Review: The Sorcerer's Apprentice: Nicolas Cage deserves better!

Now, The Sorcerer's Apprentice will not disappoint most cinema-going viewers. It is light and happily superficial, without much story foundation to the special-effects and heavy action.

We are not complaining, after all feuding magicians means limitless escapism and VFX galore.Then there is Nicolas Cage, impressive again as a magician, traveling through centuries to find an apprentice (Jay Baruchel, adequately nerdy) who can free him and destroy evil (again) and save the world. Thwarting him is another magician, a friend-turned-foe, played with a wicked relish by Alfred Molina (Dr.Octopus in Spiderman 2). Then there are the mandatory love interests, we see disappointingly little of Monica Bellucci (trapped as she is in a jar for most of the running time), the sweet Terasa Palmer charming in a limited role.

A bit of Harry Potter, a bit of The Lord of the Rings and some originality make up for a entertaining two-hour watch without ever taxing your mind. Director Jon Turteltaub had directed the satisfying National Treasure (Starring Cage again), and here too he adds thrills and some humorous repartee to keeps it all pleasing. Buy your popcorn and even if you blink a lot or take some loo breaks, you won't regret it.