Thoughts On Another Birthday

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Bhagyasree’s “Qaid Mein Hain Bulbul.” Sunil Gavaskar curled up like an armadillo defending against Wayne Daniel. Imran Khan sending Michael Veletta’s stumps walking. Vinod Kambli crying in Kolkata. Zico missing that kick. A man in front of a blackboard and a long wooden stick explaining election results on DD. News of Indira Gandhi’s assassination stopping the commentary of an India-Pakistan match. Cheering for VP Singh as the Congress gets drubbed. Mandal and feeling betrayed by the same man we had once cheered for. Hawa Hawa. Oye Oye. The taste of Re 1 chumchum. All of these feel just as fresh and as vivid as if they happened yesterday. But if you ask me about things that happened in the last few years—all the movies, matches, events become a jumbled mess of color and noise and I have to pause, hem and haw, trying to unravel the tangled web of what passes for my short-term memory.

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Oh The Humanity !

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If this year hasnt been depressing enough with corruption in every branch of the government, the final pin-prick on the boil is the news that Karan Johar is going to re-make Agneepath. I get it. Since mainstream Bollywood has evidently run out of ideas, they have now taken to recycling old hits. Now I didn’t so much mind when they took “Jab Jab Phool Khile” and made it into the equally mushy Raja Hindustani but, especially after what happened to Sholay, can we please keep classics like “Agneepath” out of the clutches of today’s mainstream directors? Especially a movie like Agneepath, a testosterone-driven celluloid epic for real men (the kind who kept their chest-hair un-shaved and didn’t do their eyebrows in a beauty parlor) from directors like Karan Johar? Forgive me for being paranoid, but I am just afraid that his re-imagination of Agneepath will be the cinematic equivalent of taking an AK47,  painting it pink and inserting a red rose in its muzzle.

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The Case of Dr. Sen

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From Javed Akthar’s  Twitter feed: “Dr Binayak Sen’s life imprisonment reminds us that standing by the poor and the helpless is an unforgivable crime in our society”. This sentiment is repeated in different ways in the general chatter about the Binayak Sen verdict—he is an awarded doctor with a sterling record of public service and what a terrible country India is when such a man be punished when corrupt officials who siphoned off crores walk free? Unfortunately all of this is emotional hot-air used by activists, with a definite agenda, to provoke an emotional response rather than a cerebral one. Even the LET’s parent organization does extensive social work in Pakistan and Kashmir as part of their outreach activities and, for that matter, so do Naxals themselves—-as a matter of fact, C. Vanaja’s extremely sympathetic dispatches on the developmental work done by Naxals were themselves awarded by the Prime Minister of India as part of the RN Goenka sponsored  “Uncovering India Invisible”. Hence using Dr. Sen’s record of altruism is neither here nor there and should have no bearing on whether he is a criminal or not except proving that unlike champagne liberal hypocrites of the Azmi and the Roy type, this man has the conviction to walk the talk. Which is admirable no doubt. Also just because corrupt officials go unpunished should not excuse Dr. Sen, should he be guilty, as two wrongs we all know just make two wrongs and not one right.

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IPL 4 Snippets I

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One of the many things that fascinate me about the IPL, in addition to Arun Lal’s rapier wit, Ravi Shastri’s landing strip on head  and the copious amounts of misti doi lathered everywhere, is the process of the entire process of the  player auctions. Unlike the international game where you are either blessed or cursed by the talent that is born within your shores, here franchises can buy talent and build up their teams, with things being made fair by the fact that they can all spend the same amount of money and can only play four non-Indian players. Choosing the squad then becomes a fascinating optimization problem, one where player value (their performance potential at their buying price) and squad balance become critical determinants in the success of the franchise.

Ideally the whole auction should take place with no minimum price with players being valuated solely on their perceived potential. Just like stocks. However the BCCI, in its infinite wisdom, has base price bands for the players which they formally announced a few days ago, putting yet another needless level of control over what should be a free-market exercise.

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King Kongress

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If you are the caretaker of the store and the owner finds that inventory has been pilfered and the cash register emptied, there are two options open to you. Fall at the feet of the maalik begging forgiveness or rip one’s kurta and accuse the owner of having tried to force himself on you.

The Congress has gone for the last option. At a time when the government presides over the kind of corruption that actually makes one feel sorry for the guys who made small change during Bofors, the Congress have trained their guns on the BJP for their support of the “Bling Bling Rappah”, showing that those those who stay in glass houses can throw stones if only there is no one outside who can throw the stone back. And the BJP for long has been exactly that—–a toothless, leaderless entity, a political Nirupa Roy who sits at the steps of the temple waiting for God to come down and restore her eyesight.

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Greatbong's Person Of The Year 2010

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And the nominees are:

Dolly Bindra: “Kisiko anda milta hain, kisiko anda naheen milta hain, isne do aande khaayein isne ek aande khayen”,  says a contestant on Big Boss IV capturing perfectly the curse of the human condition, torn between the base instincts of hunger, lust and the desire for eggs, the last mentioned being an appropriate metaphor for them both. And if there is anyone who perfectly captures Big Boss and reality shows in general, it has to be Dolly Bindra, Sushmita Sen’s true ideal for “woman of substance”.

For long, Big Boss has experimented with the tried-and-tested formula of sidey starlets and wannabe models/actors and their fake romances but this time they alighted on the perfect guest, who crystallizes perfectly Big Boss’s  biggest viewership demographic—large, aggressive foul-mouthed aunties with a penchant for hyper-drama. Whether it be reacting to Asmit Patel’s  fake “ubercool” “Talk to the hand” with a gusty “Talk to your hand kya, hand aapne **** main daal”  and “finger daalna [Asmit’s MMS partner’s] *** main jaake” or her writhing on the ground,  claiming to having been possessed by a ghost (perhaps a person inside her trying to get out) Ms. Bindra has been incomparable, setting the bar high, way way high for people to follow in successive iterations of Big Boss.

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Of Truth And Leaks

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Much has been written about Julian Assange and about Wikileaks these last few weeks. Mainstream American political figures have called for him to be put to death on charges of treason. The full force of American economic, political and technological power has been brought to bear down upon one man, in a brutally ferocious manner of the kind not seen in recent memory. Assange has been condemned by influential voices in the US public space as an anti-American anarchist who has launched an unremitting war against the entire US system, using ironically infrastructure that they created (The Internet after all having originated from a DARPA project), setting into motion a bloodless but perhaps equally damaging 9/11. At the same time, he has also been made into a hero, beatified for using the greatest weapon of mass destruction otherwise known as the truth to bring to its knees the world’s greatest power, a power that invites revulsion and fascination in equal measure from the rest of the world—with the fervor of anti-Americanism being matched only by the desire to emigrate to it given half a chance.

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