The Legacy of Sachin Tendulkar

Yes. Sachin is retiring. Once and for all. The day that millions of children and youth all over India dreaded has arrived. I too belong to the generation of Indian kids who grew up worshipping him and ended up sinking into a depression whenever he got out. Some of us still do that. But things changed for me after the 2003 world cup loss. Nowadays I seldom keep track of the matches India plays. I limit myself to occasional moments of checking scores online when I know a match is on. And after the advent of IPL, I even became an active dissenter of the way things were heading. But in spite of all that, seeing Sachin go, does tug at my heart a bit.

——

Looking back at Sachin’s career, it wouldn’t be wrong to say that he has had his share of criticisms. Right from the early ‘90s when the whole team was criticised for depending too much on Sachin, to the days of his chequered captaincy record, to the days when people began criticising him for his knocks that stood in stark contrast to the team’s performance, to the days of his wavering performance when vociferous calls for his retirement peaked, he has seen it all, one could say.

But then, who is free from criticism? We live in a nation that criticised and still criticises the Mahatma. After all, we as well as they are all humans. But one truth will remain undisputed. Sachin leaves behind a legacy that will remain rooted in millions of hearts. It is a legacy that will stand the test of time; A legacy that you cannot ignore; A legacy that changed the way a generation lived and breathed.

According to me, that is the ultimate purpose that has been served. End of story. Such luminaries come and go in almost all walks of life. I voiced the above opinion when Steve Jobs died as well. Of course, he too had his share of criticisms. But these are the people who redefined their field and inspired millions. Without their contributions, a piece of our lives and our worlds would go missing. A generation of inspired individuals would be lost in the dark. The present and future generations cannot help but stand on their shoulders to look beyond. That kind of legacy is what the world has seen in its past, sees in its present and will see in its future. That is something special and beyond criticism.

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Let’s not downplay the IPL scandal, Please!

Okay. Let me get straight to the point. I am beginning to see a lot of posts on social networks downplaying the IPL spot-fixing scandal that go like “there are many other pressing issues in the country, why so serious about this”, “politicians go scot-free while players are caught” etc., And honestly, I feel that this is a disturbing trend. Why? Because, I am afraid that this downplaying will dilute the issue and make it just another issue in the country.

There are 2 ways to argue this case. The first goes like this: Betting is a crime, regulate/ban IPL etc., etc.,. The second: let’s legalise betting and eliminate these problems etc., etc.,. I am not going to pass my judgement on which is the better solution of the two. I am only saying that we should take the issue seriously, face it and take a stand one way or the other.

Let’s not downplay the issue or resign ourselves to accept it as it is. Spot-fixing and betting are illegal, they go against the spirit of the game (as understood now) and thousands of fans are feeling cheated today as more facts and allegations keep surfacing. So there is absolutely no justification to downplay the issue.  I am even forced to think whether the above downplaying statements are consolations that we are telling ourselves. It is perfectly fine to love cricket. But let us not let that love blind us from reality. If we want a betting-free, fixing-free game, lets go for it. If we want to open up the game to betting, lets do it. I really feel we should not adopt various versions of ‘that’s the way it is’ or ‘lets accept it and move on’ attitude here too.

It happens only in India!

Two recent interesting happenings in the Indian law and order scenario made me write this post. One, the much celebrated ‘diplomatic victory’ over the return of the Italian marines. Two, the widespread clamour for Sanjay Dutt’s pardon.

Case 1: The return of the Italian marines

Let me put this straight- I do not understand the reason for celebrating this as a ‘diplomatic victory’. Let me place the timeline of events that are nothing but facts before you. I fail to see one good reason how this drama could be associated with the word ‘victory’.

1. The Italian government went back on it’s promise that it will send back the two marines who were sent off by India so that they could vote in Italy’s elections (They could have voted through the Italian embassy in India or through postal ballot- why did India let them leave?- that is a different story).
2. Italy coolly said the marines will not return to India, much to India’s chagrin.
3. The Supreme court of India reacted swiftly and issued stern warnings to the Italian ambassador.
4. Italy agreed to send back the marines after India gave some “assurances”.

It is the final “assurances” part that needs to be examined carefully. It can be put in plain words as follows:

> The Indian government has assured that the marines will not be handed the death penalty.
Questions: How can the government decide? Is it not the court’s call? Is this conveniently forgotten?

> The marines will not sit in jail during the trial- they will be accommodated at the Italian embassy in Delhi and their trial will also be fast-tracked.
Questions: 109 Indian prisoners are languishing in Italian jails, news reports say. The Indian government has no clue to the background on these cases. Why? Because the Italian government doesn’t share such details. How stark can the contrast get? India has to hand out assurances and fast-track the trial of 2 Italians in India. Italy doesn’t share information or respond to queries about 109 Indians in Italy.

> This is tops: It is expected that even if the Italians are sentenced, they might serve the sentence in Italy itself because India and Italy have a prisoner exchange treaty.
Questions: What about the Indians in Italian jails mentioned above? And as I write this post, the Italian minister for foreign affairs has resigned due to intense criticism over the Italian government’s decision to return the marines. And before sending the marines back, a powerful committee chaired by the Italian Prime Minister himself held talks with the marines for close to four hours. Can we expect such events to happen in India? I wonder what their term in Italian jails will be like if they are convicted.

Now where is the victory??

Case 2: Pardon for Sanjay Dutt

Once again the facts:
1. Sanjay Dutt has been sentenced for 5 years in prison for possession of arms acquired from terrorist acquaintances.
2. He has served 18 months in jail already.
3. He has undergone a lot of ‘turmoil’ in 20 years.
4. Politicians, MPs and other eminent personalities are making vociferous appeals for his pardon.

While I agree to some extent that there could be some merit to the argument that 20 years of turmoil warrants some mercy, what saddens me is the fact that such arguments come to light only if a high-profile person is involved and worse, we fail to see the larger picture. Numerous such faceless Indians have undergone turmoils worse than this. Why cannot we find the same voice for them? Is this scenario not proof enough for allegations that our system is elitist? Even amidst this clamour, I did not find a voice that projected the ’20 years turmoil’ issue as a case for judicial reforms. I would have been happy if there had been some constructive movement pushing for judicial reforms in terms of quick and speedy justice, utilising the attention that this case has garnered. That would have been something positive.

On a final note, I simply could not resist smiling at some of the arguments that were put forth in favour of the pardon. “Sanjay Dutt is married and has kids”, “Sanjay Dutt was young when he committed this crime”. “Sanjay Dutt has extolled Gandhi through his Munnabhai movies and so has to be granted pardon”. Seriously? I have another suggestion. The Italian marines, while they are staying in India could try their luck with some Bollywood movies (No villain roles- that might be counterproductive). May be they could become stars in a few years and we could consider granting them pardon.

Vishwaroopam- A review, not really…

Finally I got around to watching Viswaroopam a couple of days back. I am not a movie expert or a critical analyst taking deep dives into hidden meanings and references in movies. I am not going to try that here either. I am only going to put down my thoughts on the movie here- what worked for me and what didn’t.

** SPOILER ALERT**

**Key character and plot points are touched upon- So don’t read further if you have not watched the movie and wish not to know those details**

Let me start from the basics! Kamal Haasan’s movie titles are always synonymous with word play. He does it again here.

Vishwanath + Niroopama ===> blending and mixing===> Vishwa+Roopam= Vishwaroopam.

Duh! I had a feeling that even the characters kept uttering Niroopama with a “oo” instead of “u”, as in Nirupama! But Kamal doesn’t stop there. In the first scene, Niroopama tells us that ‘everyone’ calls here husband ‘Viz’, seemingly, a short form for Vishwanath. But we later learn that his real name is Wisam and his colleagues call him ‘Viz’- from Wisam. Wise!

Next, I want touch upon the Tamil being spoken! No I am not going to pose the usual complaint of ‘How can terrorists speak Tamil??’. I am perfectly fine with it. They have decided to make all the characters speak Tamil and back it up with some explanations. 75% of the problem is over. But what is the trouble in making that Tamil sound proper?? Right from the psychologist to the dance student and then to the terrorists, I was unable to comprehend the words, solely because the pronunciation and clarity were outright poor!!

Let me next jump on to the cast. Pooja Kumar does a pretty decent job according to me. But I seriously thought Andrea had a good and solid role- but all she does is dish out some smart-sounding dialogues to different people in different scenarios. Disappointment! Next up, I don’t know why, but, Jaideep Ahlawat with a beard always looks like Manoj Bajpai to me. It happened in Gangs of Wasseypur and now again in Vishwaroopam (I will feel better if some of you have also felt the same way). The cast seemed to do a good job overall, in my opinion.

In terms of sensitive issues, in spite of the controversies that clouded it, the film sticks to certain basic rules. Kamal HAS TO BE the good Muslim guy. To make things even more clearer, he has to pray in the climax and another character has to say: He is praying for you, God is one, etc., etc., It looked very very cliched to me, but that’s the way things work may be.

Apart from these aspects, I observed that there is the usual Tam-Brahm characterization for humour that we find in almost all Kamal movies. To quote from the top of my head, Madhan Bob in Devar Magan, Madhavan in Nala Damayanthi, Yugi Sethu in Panchathanthiram, Krishnaveni in Dasavatharam. Specifically concerning this movie, Baradwaj Rangan’s first 2 paragraphs sum up the core issue very well.

Going back to the movie, I found the transformation scene quite exhilarating. May be most of you expected it- but I didn’t- at least not immediately. After the quick fire sequence where he bashes up everyone- i thought- “Oh no, wait wait, what happened exactly? I want to rewind this and watch!”. And the movie came forth and did it for me- though I heard a lot of viewers thought it was lame to include an action replay scene. After this scene, the movie was mostly along expected lines- only the desire to know the intricacies of how things come about and fall in place were holding my interest.

But in spite of all these ups and downs, the overall execution, the music, the realism, the freshness and the new benchmarks that Kamal brings through his movies make it stand apart once again from all other movies being made. He is the master of that art, undoubtedly. Vishwaroopam is not a terrific and mind-blowing movie. But it is definitely a worth watching one that will be remembered, quoted and recalled for various reasons by movie goers and critics in times to come- the way Kamal Haasan’s movies always are.

Teach for Tamilnadu!

I have not traveled a lot. Till last month, I used to dish out the following line to put things in perspective whenever the topic of travelling came up: “Boss, know what, I have traveled only to the 4 southern states of India- Tamilnadu- my home state, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka!”. For a person from Tamilnadu, ‘all izz well’ as long as he/she travels within these 4 states- because Tamil will be your faithful companion and will help you sail through situations without much ado. The trouble starts when he/she has to step outside the comfort-zone of these four states. And this month, I had to precisely do that.

If Tamil and English were the two legs that you used to walk around Tamilnadu with ease, you realise outside Tamilnadu that the roles of both legs are donned by Hindi. And your English is only as good as a walking stick. Yes, as good as a walking stick to someone who doesn’t have legs. So much for all the English, Tamil and a dose of French that you studied in school! I thank my stars for the little bit of Hindi I learnt outside school, which gave me the confidence to face this trip. And even with that little bit, I found it difficult to wriggle out of quite a lot of situations. I cannot imagine the plight of someone who doesn’t know even a little bit of Hindi and has been/will be in my shoes.

The very beauty of this situation is that it is not something that dawns upon us all of a sudden when we step out of Tamilnadu. We all know very well that this is the harsh reality. But, we are just not equipped to face it. And that makes the truth even more harsher and frightening, doesn’t it?

A lot of people belonging to the last two or three generations in Tamilnadu have suffered due to their lack of exposure to Hindi- either by choice or by force. And the situation is only becoming worse.

So parents/future parents of Tamilnadu! Listen up! Your children are invariably going to grow up in a scenario where they are going to speak, write and read in Tamil and English only. Inside Tamilnadu, your kids or even you will never see the need to utter a single note of Hindi. But sooner or later, things will change. And the nice little bubble that we live in with Tamil and English is going to be pricked mercilessly. So, for heaven’s sake, put your kid in an environment where they will learn to speak, read and write Hindi- in that order! It could be outside school or inside school- but ensure it is done somehow. They can learn French or German later. Teach them to fish first. They can learn to appreciate coral reefs later.

Many a time we realise that old customs and arguments hold no water when scenarios change. The battles that Tamilnadu fought against Hindi is long gone. Shunning Hindi in today’s circumstances is like flashing your sword and breaking your own ladders. And continuing to do so will only widen the gap and put Tamilnadu and Tamilians at a huge disadvantage in the long run. Let’s get real. Lets look beyond political and cultural sensitivities. Even if we feel Tamil will be threatened because of Hindi education, the wise path forward will be to promote Tamil and not shun Hindi. If you feel your ship is going to get beaten up by the waves, strengthen your ship- don’t blame the waves and sit in the shore.

Lets start learning and teaching Hindi. If you still find it difficult to come to terms with what I am saying, just take a vacation for a week and travel outside the four southern states. All the Best!

Kadal- Music review and some associated thoughts

This is my second consecutive post about Kadal and A.R.Rahman. I was hesitant to write on the same topic again, but since I write only when I feel very inspired to write about something, I convinced myself that it doesn’t really matter.

I have listened to all the tracks from Kadal multiple times over the last few days and feel I have done enough absorption and digestion required of ARR’s music, to come out with my thoughts without being premature. What follows is a collection of my personal opinions and thoughts on each of the tracks.

1. Chithirai Nela:

ARR comes up with his trademark melody here that is likable once you listen to it a couple of times. Vairamuthu and Vijay Yesudas have done a neat job with the lyrics and vocals. To nitpick, there are places where Tamil aficionados like me would wish the pronunciation could have been better, but these are very minute details that can be overlooked. Overall a neatly packaged song that’s endearing and lovable.

2. Adiye:

Just one word- experiment. Rahman dishes out a pure western style song that is so new and fresh to the ears of Tamil listeners. The song seems to have struck a chord with the youth and Rahman has successfully taken Tamil film music to new levels once again. Karky’s lyrics and Sid Sriram’s voice also fit in perfectly for a song of this genre.

3. Moongil Thottam:

A really well done melody. Though the music is not anything out of the world, Abhay Jodhpurkar and Harini take the song  to really great heights with their beautiful vocals. I guess I have not heard anything sung by Abhay Jodhpurkar before, but I am really impressed by his voice and flawless pronunciation (especially because of his name, which doesn’t sound Tamil!). Vairamuthu’s lyrics is at its best here too.

4 and 5. Elay Keechan and Nenjukulle:

I am going to talk about both these songs in the same breath for two reasons. First, they are both folk based. Second, because I have a grouse against Rahman here. Both songs are brilliantly done- no doubts. The music is great and the vocals are enjoyable. But I have a strong feeling that something is amiss in both these songs- I really miss the rustic touch that singers usually lend to songs of this genre. Both Rahman and Shaktisree have done a commendable job with these songs, but I cannot stop yearning for those good old days of Rahman’s folk songs where male vocals by Shahul Hameed and female vocals by Swarnalatha gave those songs the magical touch. However, in both these songs, the vocals come across as a tad too refined despite their brilliance. That aspect apart, Karky and Vairamuthu have done a great job with their lyrics here too.

7. Magudi (I will come to the 6th one later):

A fast and peppy number on the lines of Yaakkai Thiri. Dinesh Kanagaratnam, Chinmayi and Tanvi Shah deliver in this yet another foot-tapping number from Rahman’s stable.

6. Anbin Vaasale:

An unexpected devotional song in the midst of all the others, I did not have high expectations for this one when I listened to it the first time. But as the song progressed, something told me that the orchestration and the choir portions were something special. After listening to the song a couple of times and trying to catch the lyrics, I slowly began to appreciate the intensity of the song. Though I felt that the music makes it hard to catch the lyrics at some points, the entire song and execution was so magnificent that it overwhelmed me. Once I caught hold of the lyrics, I fell totally in love with the song. We have heard similar compositions from Rahman before, but the passionate rendering by Haricharan along with the Chennai Chorale group and the beautiful lyrics by Karky takes this song to whole new levels. The lyrics blend wonderfully with the mood of the song- hats off to Karky for his amazing work! I really liked the usage of the word “உள்ளத்தாக்கு” (valley of mind!).

If you see my previous post, you will notice that I have cited the co-writer of this movie in saying that though Nenjukulle is a very special song, there is another song in the movie that stands above Nenjukkulle. My hunch is that, it could very well be ‘Anbin Vaasale’. It is definitely my pick of the album.

A music layman thinks aloud about A.R.Rahman’s music — a follow-up after listening to Nenjukulle from Kadal.

As the title (which unintentionally doubles up as a disclaimer too) says, I am a layman when it comes to music. I belong to that majority class of people who:

  1. do not dare to sing aloud even in their bathroom.
  2. do nothing but press random keys or pull random strings when someone leaves them alone with a musical instrument.
  3. need google’s help to differentiate between Ursa minor and C-minor.
But I also belong to another majority.
The class of people who appreciate and love A.R.Rahman’s music.

Yesterday, this video went sort of viral on my facebook feed. Different people, different pages, all of them were posting this left and right. And when I saw that it was a song from the in-progress, Mani Ratnam-ARR combo movie Kadal, I knew it was something click-worthy. And it was more than just click-worthy. Because it made me hum the tune again, and again, and again; It sent me into a mental tizzy where I kept thinking about the magic behind ARR’s music; And finally, it made lazy-me decide to write something about all this. What follows is a summary of that thought process.

According to me, A.R.Rahman’s songs fall into 3 exclusive categories.
  1.  The most widely discussed type we all know about- the songs that slowly and steadily grow on you.
  2.  The type of songs which you know are by ARR, but you never relate them to the magic of ARR.
  3.  The type of songs that are good, instantly likable, but do not stop with that- they build upon that initial appeal and get you really addicted.
The song under discussion, according to me, is one of those really special Category 3 songs. Because, I listened to it the first time- I liked it. I listened to it a second time- I liked it a lot. I listened to it a third time- I knew it was a very special song. The kind that you can add to the list of ARR’s best songs.

From what I hear, a lot of people are feeling the same about this song. And what’s more, we have reason to believe that there is another song in Kadal which is even better.

We can only wait!