Quiz Blog resurrectionThe quiz blog has been cruelly neglected, with no posts in July and almost none in August. I have resolved to rectify the situation a little by showering my attention on it for a while. Patrons of Interrobang, kindly turn your eye to the recent updates which contain some results, notes and cribs. More coming up shortly.
Aug 30, 2004
Aug 29, 2004
Sholay: large and mightyFinally saw Sholay on the big screen. Have seldom been so thoroughly entertained at a film screening, despite anticipating almost every bit of dialogue. Should we be sad that no other Indian film comes close to this in terms of critical & commercial success?
The trivia-mongering mind was rewarded even at this nth viewing. 3 notes:
* Confirmed Mushtaq Mohammad as being the only actor to appear twice in the film (as the train driver & as the Parsi at the beginning of "Yeh Dosti" (the sequence prior to that obviously being cut)).
* Had never noted the reference to "The Great Dictator" which appears when Asrani stands quiveringly with the globe and spills it at the news of the tunnel & the pistol. Easily reminiscent of Adenoid Hynkel in the Chaplin film.
* Astonished to note that contrary to popular notion, Samba (MacMohan) has another line apart from "puure pachaas hazaar"! This occurs when 4 of the dacoits, Samba included, are playing cards when Ahmed (Sachin) is riding to leave for Jabalpur and appears below them. Samba tells the next player to play.
The Editing was really great, and as usual the dialogues sparkled. Even in this age when we are used to the Bollywood versions of UP, Bihari & Bambaiyya ones, the dialects in Sholay continue to be unfamiliar and hence fresh. Salim/Javed display a range from chaste Urdu to Hindustani to Bhopali (assuming that is what he speaks) to the one used by the dacoits.
Aug 23, 2004
First past the Wikipedia postMy first ever Wikipedia contribution is this item on R.K.Laxman. Have always wanted to contribute to this wonderful collaborative effort, but didn't know where to begin. Until I found that RKL wasn't listed on the 'pedia.
Exhortations to all (especially to those who use it regularly) to contribute too. If you don't know what wikis are and what the Wikipedia project is, then visit this link for newcomers.
Aug 16, 2004
Yeh sab kyaa chucker hai? a.k.a The chucker-view"Degree of Flex. Straightening of arms. Joints in elbows. Braces..."
"Stop it, stop it!". I woke up with a yell. Sweat poured all around me and even had little tributaries with names. I had dozed off during ESPN's Cricket Show where Murali tossed his deliveries in an attempt to show he didn't chuck. But I had lost all my sleep. It brought back those memories which I had hoped to cast away for ever. It was true: I have a past. I used to chuck!
Now that I have said it, the tale must be told. Judge me not by the jerk in my arm (or for the matter, by the jerk that I am), is all I can ask of you. 'Twas over 12 years ago. Caps went on heads, shops reported an increase in rubber balls. Window panes and band-aids were in demand as well. Summer vacations had arrived. Madras was full of young kids out on bails.
Cricket was now a full occupant of the gully in our little neighbourhood. Till then we were content to play half-pitch cricket and throwing down spinners. But now it was time to go the full distance and face a bowler off a run-up. Till then I had never endeavoured to do any bowling (not because it was my bat due to which I would always bat from #1 to #11). So I tried. To my surprise, I was quick. But so were the murmurings. Folks from home watched me one day and lacking the political correctness of my friends, shouted: "You are throwing the ball!".
Of course, I didn't! I didn't know until that point what "chucking" was when it came to bowling. Whatever it was, the tone in which that announcement was made didn't sound good, so I definitely knew I didn't. People were too polite to tell me I was wrong.
But I could not bend the rules, like I did my arm, all the time. I had to face the facts - like a fellow language speaker in a few years time, I was liable to be "called". That is names like "chucker" or "baseball picture" (Is Field of Dreams about chucking?). I had to go in for corrective action. I found that I could not comprehend the concept of bowling off-spinners (even today) without straightening the arm. So I turned to legspin. I found it impossible to throw the ball from the back of my hand. No one in their right minds turned to legspin, so I was a little bit of a rarity. I had absolutely no control over my flight, all I cared was that I didn't throw! Someone dubbed me as "Kumble". I didn't like him then and plus I didn't have glasses, you see? I couldn't be "Warne" as he was a non-entity then and would be soon thrashed by Shastri(!!) in a Test. Plus I didn't have blond hair and the only meaning of "mate" in my vocab was that of vice-captain on a ship, preferably a pirate one.
They say it was the first manifestation of the kinks in my mental armour. I went back one day to medium-pace bowling, but I was done in by then, my modified action no good, though I once picked up a hat-trick partly consisting of the two worst players in my building in Bombay. A career in dodgy-ball may have been more suited to me.
Now with MM's crusade to exonerate himself comes this idea of "flex". If this had come about many years ago, who knows, it might have saved my all-rounder status. Now the only "flex" in my life is likely to be a Gujarati describing constituents of snow. As for braces, I spent a great deal of time bowling with a brace on. I also spent a lot of time tightening it at my dentist's.
Vernon Goodstuff LittleI usually don't hit it off with the critically acclaimed ones. The works of the Nobel laureate, the canon of the Sahitya Akademi recipient, the Booker Prize winner - I've been wary of these. These tend to be complex, referential, multi-threaded and usually end in a confused ball of yarn.
But occasionally, I stray into that side. Going by the sheer effect of namedropping, induced by hearing it in an answer for 10 points, for flavour of the month is usually a popular choice for Q. No. 19. I had heard of the curiously pseudonym-ed DBC Pierre (DBC: Dirty But Clean) and seen clips of him winning the Booker for the similarly curious title Vernon God Little - all this recall helping me pick it off a shelf in the local library. Looking at the back cover for some more illumination, I was surprised to see it set in Texas which struck me as the last place for a Commonwealth literature award winner to be based in (there may be others too, but I'm ignorant).
The story is completely through the mind of Vernon Gregory Little (the middle "G" is a merely a placeholder for a range of moods from Genius to Gucci to Godzilla). He goes from being suspected of aiding a high school massacre to being arrested as the perpetrator of every crime from Martirio to Mexico (sometimes simultanous crimes in two different places) to inspiring a reality show that helps people vote off prisoners on death row so that they can be executed.
No wonder the book is subtitled "A 21st Century Comedy in the Face of Death". The comedy is also undeniably black. Pitch black in fact. That's why given that some reviewers (off the back cover) compare it to "Huck Finn on six packs" and "Catcher in the Rye", I had to find my own analogy. I chose the film "American Beauty". Some of us like to take a superior view and look down at the Americans, tap our foreheads Obelix-style and say "These Americans must be crazy". We'll sit and watch their self-deprecating reality shows, their comedy monologues and their "America's Most" illustrations of behaviour that makes us aghast. While all the time someone is planning a desi version.
Vernon God Little has a preponderance of slang, as seems inevitable when a kid of 15 is narrating his version of events. He is a little too aware of things, at times. However, this lets him refer to pop culture in ways few would in a "critically acclaimed" novel. Most importantly, it has a tidy ending and a subtle twist that will strike you if you've paid attention among the stream-of-consciousness. If you happen to pick the book on the basis of this post and find yourself losing interest in the middle, I'd coax you to finish it. You will see then.
You know you're a driver in Pune......when, given a choice between overtaking from the right and the left, *you* choose the left.
...when you have developed the skill of skiing in a slalom without visiting a snow slope
...when you see a vegetable cart crossing in the middle of traffic, causing vehicles to brake sharply, itself coming to a halt in the centre and being rewarded in this zany endeavour by a lady pedestrian who bizarrely starts to pick vegetables asking: "yeh kaise diya?", surrounded by cars and bikes.
Aug 12, 2004
K!HGN... & DNJAKKyun! Ho Gaya Naa... - Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy
Lakshya continues to remain their top work in recent times. Still.
"Baat Samjhaa Karo": Is the 80s type ambience intentional? Evokes hardcore AB film music of the era. Keep expecting "Jahaa.n Teri Ye Nazar Hai" to pop out. Somehow reminds me of some song I can't put a name to. "Dhiil De" from HDDCS? Maybe not. Apart from all that deja vu, not very special.
"Pyaar Mei.n Sau Uljhane": More Shankar. S-E-L need to explore more choices beyond S, Shaan, Alka & Udit. Tempo changes are interesting. Violins, accordions(?) and tinkling percussion are good embellishments. Conversational song evokes "Strawberry Kanne" (not insinuating any inspiration). Harmony is good. Song is too long though. Nice closing.
"Bas Main Hoon": Robust. A little repetitive. Electronic riffs are vintage S-E-L. Also reminiscent of some remix of some song. Worth listening to. One interlude will remind you of Madonna's "Beautiful Stranger" (fancy me spotting that!)
"Dheere Dheere": Very routine romantic song. Skipped.
"No No": Hindi Disco|Rap. Heavy electronic mix. Not so special.
"Aao Naa": Highlight of the album. Not the entire song though. Fabulous sargam at the beginning - Sadhana Sargam (appropriately!) & Shankar Mahadevan. That part is worth extensive listening. MDs: more work for Sadhana Sargam please. Her mukhaDaa is excellent. More sargam. Then falls prey to the Anu Malik syndrome (in which the rest of the song is ordinary compared the beginning of the song). Especially the introduction of Udit. Rewind to the sargam. Keep listening. (Good synth interludes too.)
Dil Ne Jise Apna Kahaa - A.R.Rahman
Listened (as a true biased fan) to only the ARR parts of the album (three songs, if media reports are to be believed)). Enough of these chuT-PuT offerings. More reason to wait for Swades, 1857-The Rising, Netaji and the seemingly camouflaged Water/River Moon.
"Jaane Tamanna": Kamal Khan. Somehow sounds like Sonu Nigam. Most of it sounds like a pop album piece. I don't know why. Perhaps because of the orchestration. Sadhana Sargam is fine, but with not much to do. Is Kamal Khan just a gimmicky singer? Is that a sax or a trumpet? Synth (Piano?) piece in the middle is the saving grace.
"Zindagi Hai Dua": Trumpets. Actually lots of different instrumental pieces. Reminiscent of Tehzeeb. Or is it just because of Madhushree? Some Arabic strings. Simple beats. The male voices on repeated hearings grow on one and even seem melodious. Again, average overall, but better than "Jaane Tamanna".
"Dil Ne Jise Apna Kahaa": Aah! Slow, melodious number. Sujata Trivedi's voice seems suited to such a track. Those who thought Rahman can only do fast-paced, rhythm-based songs, listen to this one. Nice subdued flute. Synth cords add a lot. Typical flute-violin combo. Uncluttered soundscape. Hmm... Kamal Khan. Does the relative-heavy Atull Agnihoutri-Salman-Khan mix get to ARR? Synth|Piano interlude is decent. Kamal Khan sounds like Suresh Wadkar! This section is a little drawn out. Overall: Redeeming.
Aug 10, 2004
Aug 8, 2004
More notes on a cloudy dayCrossword, the bookstore, opened yet another store in Pune, this time in Aundh. Had been to check the place out. It's pretty small compared to the other major outlets, but seemed quite serviceable. I found the layout pretty decent, one long aisle really, compared to the JM Road one which always seems a little cluttered. Or was it just the lack of a sizeable crowd? When I entered, there were hardly any, but I as left, there were quite a lot of people inside. I guess inevitably, it will seem a little dense soon.
Crossword is a good place to check out current tastes in books, movies and music because it doesn't have the reputation of being the store where you can find even a non-bestseller book which you are looking for. Atleast not in my experience. For people from other cities, I must make it clear that Crosswords unfortunately is our only "big" store - there are many other single location stores that are decent, but suffer from being a little inaccessible compared to Crosswords. Add to that the fact that these do not seem to have the financial clout to arrange frequent "discount" sales and other promotionals. Harish raved about Landmark in Bangalore, so hopefully someday we'll see some competition from Odyssey and Landmark here - more choice.
All this talk always is reminiscent of You've Got Mail! - we even have a couple of children's bookshops in the same locality. Some of the employees and some of the service at Crossword can be compared to the Fox Bookstore too. Not sure though that a Joe Fox and a Kathleen Kelly are lurking anywhere near Parihar Chowk.
I was quite tempted to pick up a biography of Rahul Dravid but didn't as I wonder if it's a premature concept - I seem to prefer bios after the career is complete. I'm sure that RD will pen an autobiography some day, so maybe I'll wait for that. There were quite a few other temptations and sadly I yielded to none. Noted for future use, the prices of the complete Tintin set (7 volumes of 3 each), CDs of Casablanca, Limited Manuski, and a copy of Mrutyunjay (Tho' I'm still not sure I have the capacity to read a full length Marathi book).
Am still to be convinced about the need for Twenty/20 cricket elsewhere in the world, but in England it makes some sense. It is entertaining most of the times, with the need for some whacky batting and sharp fielding which is helping get some of the English crowds back in. In India, well, I'm still not sure why we don't have a round the year day/night national ODI competition. I don't think Twenty/20 is the answer here. One more note to ESPN/Star - despite the need to spice up things, Sky TV don't seem to have added unnecessary elements in the broadcast.
Aug 3, 2004
Choker BaahuBalisIt's time for me to come up a verbose and rambling Indian-cricket post-series post. As always, it is to help organise my own thoughts, so please humour me and interject when you see inconsistencies
First it was rusty, now it is chokers. To see the influence of the media in everyday life, you just have to pay attention to these words. Suddenly everyone starts to use them. They're on our lips and in the newsprint. So I thought it would be instructive to try and understand what the word "choker" really meant.
My OED does not define the word in a sporting context, so let me try and explain what it means to me. I have always held the word "choking" to express the condition wherein a team or a player who is in a good position to win a match inexplicably loses it, mainly because a state of mental panic and loss of equilibrium. This does not cover those cases wherein he/the team is *outplayed*. I may be indulging in some semantic pedantry here, but I don't see how else choking can be outlined. I have the following examples for this definition:
* Jana Novotna contriving to lose to Steffi Graf in the Wimbledon Final (I have forgotten the year - Anand or Harish, please fill in for me - was it 1993?)
* South Africa's famous Tied match in the '99 World Cup semis with Australia
* Some of the England football matches in major championships
* India's 2nd innings vs Pakistan in the 1999 Chennai Test
You may have experienced signs of "choking" personally as well, I certainly have - blowing it in tests and interviews inspite of knowing the answers.
By this token, was Sunday's defeat by Sri Lanka a result of "choking"? I for one don't think so. India were clearly outplayed in several aspects. More on that later. If you pay attention to media coverage (which ends up influencing the way we think and opine on this matter), it is very India-centric. It is "India who choked" or "India who were outstanding" or "India must be wary Vaas and Murali" or "India played loose cricket" all the time. On very few occasions do commentators and opinion makers focus on the other teams (except maybe when Australia are involved) and how what those teams do impact the way the Indians play. Perhaps that wasn't quite clear. What I'm trying to say is that the thrust of the coverage provides the active voice to the Indians and the passive voice to the opposition. I am not suggesting that this is limited only to the Indian media (or India-associated media, for foreign commentators have learned many easy ways to ingratiate themselves with Indian viewers) - if you follow the Sky coverage of the English team, the dronings of Bob Willis & Co. are equally similar. (The Aussies as well, though of late, Mark Taylor & Ian Healy seem to be taking a more pluralistic stance than Lawry and Greig - IMHO.)
This kind of focus is understandable, given the hungry nature of the audience. But this coverage builds the underlying assumption that each time the Indian team is superior to the opposition and they themselves decide whether they win or lose. So when we win, we did so because we were inherently better and had to win to prove our potential. But when we lose, we must have choked or played really below our potential - the opposition couldn't have won it on their own, we must have gifted it to them somehow. This feeling has crept in our minds and is here to stay. This is so very reminiscent of the English football fans at times - "It is the world that wrongs us all the time".
Not to say that we don't have a good team for again facts would disprove any attempts to radically swing to the other extreme. However, thinking of the team as the #2 in the world is also not borne out by facts. I personally had thought that we ought to have been #3 or #4 in ODIs, at any rate higher than #5, but I think #5 is a good indication of where we are at the moment.
Let me pause here to note that I think the ODI ratings would be more meaningful if as an exercise, we were to have separate ratings for different conditions as they make such a big difference. The following is a crude exercise based only on limited intuition rather than fact and considers only the 8 nations of Aus, NZ, Eng, SL, Ind, Pak SA and WI being relevant. Also, this is on current form.
On Subcontinental wickets:
1. Aus, SL, Pak, Ind (Pak & Ind perhaps a rung lower given current form)
2. SA, NZ
3. WI, Eng
In swinging conditions (i.e. Eng or NZ):
1. Aus, Eng, NZ
2. Ind, Pak, WI, SA
In bouncier/truer wickets (i.e. Aus or SA):
1. Aus, Ind, NZ, SA
2. Pak, SA, WI, SL
Looking at the above, the overall ranking would see:
2. NZ, SA
3. Eng, Ind, Pak, SL (mostly given their subcontinental form)
(There isn't much to separate the 5 teams from the bottom).
Put in proper perspective, SL were always going to be fancied to win at home on those tracks. But people are so surprised and angry that India lost to them. This I attribute to a media fuelled hype in this tournament.
I think this is team is as professional an outfit as we have ever seen. I'm sure like true pros, they will go back and analyse their current shortcomings instead of ascribing their losses to unreasonable and immature causes. Ganguly's postmatch comments clearly show that they are being reasonable about this. To us spectators I offer this: do we display this wild immaturity when we err in our professional lives? One should have thought that years of sports-watching would have taught us to discern somewhat. But we can't even resist simple media manipulation. For instance, today's TOI has a column blasting half the Indian team in words that are pure rants. I have long ceased to expect analysis there amidst all the sponsored columns, but this one was too bad. Bad because the same pages have laudatory homages most other times. I guess it is time we became more professional as spectators as well.
I personally have a tendency (like BVHK) to point out that once again SRT couldn't be given a chance to help win a match. It does seem like extended ill-luck, but then the counter argument will be that if he is dubbed a great player, he must invent his own luck. We must, in analysing these results, try and be more objective and look at it as the team's inability in supporting the player doing the job, be it SRT with the bat or IKP with the ball. Tomorrow it will be someone else being let down. Yes, the fact of number of losses in the finals is present and cannot be wished away. I wanted to learn more about this, but think it prudent not to do so without lookin more closely at the facts.
Specifically w.r.t Asia Cup 2004
I still think the Lankans were favourites throughout and just won by playing better than the other teams. Only having conceded that can we begin to look at our team. I will be happy if this result provokes a rethink on the 7 batsman structure. This plan needs to be more flexible than has been demonstrated so far. IMHO, we don't need to have 7 batsman as we can always claim that if 6 can't, how will 7? This tactic has worked only a couple of times, but since one of them was the Natwest final, we still are influenced by it. Remember that IKP is batting well of late, and I think a regular 'keeper (be it Ratra/Patel) can bat well with the tail, though he may not be a hitter. We also need to show greater reserves for the batsmen.
I didn't understand why Nehra was being sidelined for an out-of-form Zaheer (whose last over antics must not divert from this fact). Perhaps we have to live with the possibility that we will never have all our 5 pacers firing at the same time, and need to make the most of the resources. I don't know if we really have a problem with our bowling, unless of course the media goes overboard with their talents. Discipline with wides and no-balls, and a return to our average fielding form should be enough to bring some control to the leather hunts.
We still have a good team, and methinks, let not our prejudices, unrealistic overoptimism and emotional responses cloud that. We still aren't good enough to play percentage cricket with flair, or to stop resorting to "heroics". We will continue to bob about the higher-middle sections of the rankings. The season has only just begun - Holland, England, Australia, South Africa, Bangladesh and perhaps even Pakistan again beckon.
Aug 2, 2004
JaDe Project - IVMy notings as part of the JaDe Project (What is the JaDe Project?) were victim to the general recessionary slowdown in my sectoral blogging. However, I continue to try and scour fresh specimens for the dossier.
One such JaDe hit me in the face, so I had to take notice. Presenting:
The JaDe representative-catchphrase-in-film-trailer category saw the numerologically mutated Taarzan - the Wonder Car boast of the exceptional line: Yeh ##car## nahi.n, haahaakaar hai!.
Of course, there are those that still contend that the decibel-busting Maa Tujhe Salaam's Tum duudh maa.ngo, hum khiir den.ge/ Kashmir maa.ngo, hum chiir de.nge is still the leader by a margin. But I do think the wunderkind Abbas-Mustan-Dilip Chabbria effort is worth more than a mention.