Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Open Letter

Dear Rajni

What ails thee O Super Star?! Here we are, millions of fans, dying in anticipation for every release of yours, albeit rarer than the blooming of the saugandhika, and you seem to find immense pleasure in hurting us time and time again. Ok, I am getting carried away and being a bit unfair. It’s only your last two films that have let us down…and how! Aren’t you clever enough to realize the folly from that one misfire and rectify it? You mention a note of thanks to your close friend Kamal Haasan right at the start of the movie, but didn’t he warn you about the precipice you seem intent on taking a dive off.

I can see that you have your own grouse against us. “The public is at fault..” is probably your line of defence. During the late 70s and the early 80s, there wasn’t a doubt in anyone’s mind as to who was doing the better roles, who donned the various roles and enacted with sheer ease, and who was the much-needed breath of fresh air from the then mediocrity of Kamal’s performances. It was you – Rajnikanth! But soon after that, Kamal decided to show us his true self and I do concede that it was hard for you to compete against an actor who should go down as the best actor in not just India, but the world as well.

So you changed tracks, and decided to concentrate on tapping your charisma, style, and incredible screen presence. And did the people love it or what!!!! They lapped it up readily. And why not? Here was the emergence of the one and only Super Star of Indian tinsel-town. This, fortunately or unfortunately, led to you being typecast, and thus evolved a certain formula for your movies.

Baasha, Padayappa will go down the annals of cinema as movies that just rode on your style, and style alone. Things were looking so good and …bham!…came Baba. Even a die-hard fan of yours like me could see the movie just twice. And that was surely NOT to see those theological and philosophical anecdotes.

And just when I was hoping that Chandramukhi would put Baba as just a bad dream…tsk tsk! I do not come to your movies looking for a story. I do not come to your movies looking for realism. I watch them for that “something special” that you seem to exude. When you went “Naan orudharavai sonna, adhu noorudharavai sonnamaadhri”, the theatre would just erupt! The same was the case with “En vazhi thani vazhi…”, and now what do I take away from Chandramukhi? The “Don’t worry! Saravanan will appear” or some such. No!

I am sure the Malayalam original Manichitrathaazha was a great movie with National award winning performances by the artistes. But it is not a movie with which I would associate your name. Why did you have to go and get your movie a story! And a story which is actually very good and confusing!

Agreed that Jyothika did a great job and a scary one as well! You just waltzed through the movie with utter ease. But so was I. I was just eased through the movie, sadly. There wasn’t anything to get my adrenaline on a high (apart from Jyothika’s final transformation into the dancer – hats off to her!). What was the need for all the double entendres with Vadivelu and co! For crying out loud, this is a Rajni movie. Were you hypnotized during those shots? :(

The only reason I can think of is that you have taken the public criticism of your style and gimmicks to heart, and decided to reform. But who the heck cares about those jerks! The ones who ridicule your stunts such as the “shoe-flying-out-hitting-bad-guy-and-coming-back-to-the-feet” are the same people who will begin slavering and bend over their backs in order to lap up a “man-in-black-coat-evading-bullets” stunt from an English movie and then right after that will make a 50-50 biscuit ad ridiculing you. Maybe for such people, it is not the stunt that matters, but the colour of the skin that is performing the stunt that matters.

Whatever the case, I hope you don’t give a damn as to what the supposed “classes” think and please please give us another Padayappa!

Still hoping earnestly,
Die-hard Rajni Fan

Saturday, April 23, 2005

What is about Rahman and patriotism!!!
Ever since the song “Tamizha Tamizha” from Roja, he has continued to overwhelm me with his incredible patriotic songs. The latest case in point being the tracks from his latest album – Bose: The Forgotten Hero. When he goes Azaadiiii in the opening track, I get the worst case of goosebumps. This what separates the God from other mortals – his songs have an incredible capacity to make my hair stand on end.

Roll back a few months and you had him crooning “Yeh Jo Des Hai Tera” in Swades. This definitely ranks among his topmost songs right along with “Vellai Pookkal” from Kannathil Muthamittaal – a song beseeching for peace in this war-stricken world. And before that it was his “Maa Tujhe Salaam” from Vande Mataram that held the nation in awe.

Now from one obsession of mine to another – albeit a slightly new one. Having finished the first volume of Ramesh Menon’s Mahabharata and almost halfway through the war in the second, I can say with absolute assurance that this is indeed the best book I have read in my entire life. The highly intricate and convoluted plot, incredible characterization, and a brilliant language are the core components of any good book. It’s another matter that a lot of authors with no plot, no characterization, no story still hit it big in this world. The Mahabharata has all this to an almost perfect level. Apart from Stephen King, Ramesh Menon (or Veda Vyasa as you choose to see it) is the only author who has managed to bring a tear to my face by his heart-rending account of the characters’ lives.

All that this book has done is whetted my appetite to read an even more detailed version. Apparently there is a 12 volume translation by Kisari Mohan Ganguli of the Mahabharata. The war alone is covered in 1200 pages!!! Now that is a piece of art I would like to get my hands on. Anyone who has any clue as to where I can buy/borrow/steal it, please tell me.

Well, the weekend is on right now and hoping to spend it as always – with my friends. Mama from Kerala has also made his appearance into Bangalore and it should be a fun time. But then again, with friends, when is it not fun!!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Sachin vs Dravid

True to my word, today’s post shall be on the everlasting battle in sports folders across the nation – Rahul Dravid vs Sachin Tendulkar. Avinash had the best intentions in his mind when he tried to stop me from posting my thoughts on this topic. He has witnessed the fights that I had raised in the Infy Sports folder. Even prior to that, the Gang have been witness to countless arguments that began in 1996. Here is my honest attempt to put to rest all those squabbles and prove that my conclusion is beyond reproach.

“Talent is cheaper than table salt..” is one of my favourite Stephen King quotes. What separates the truly greats from the so-called greats is not talent, nor is it skill, nor is it the oft-misused word – genius. It is the way a person nurtures his talent, uses it effectively to solve the problem at hand. I am not suggesting that greatness has to be measured by a simple ratio of performance to talent. But talent alone wouldn’t and shouldn’t give one an easy entry into the corridors of greatness. And so it is with cricketers as well.

A batsman cannot be judged merely by the number of runs he scores, or a bowler by the number of wickets he gets. Cricket is a team-game, albeit not in the mould of football or basketball or hockey, and it is the manner in which a player responds to the situation that his team is currently in and takes them to a position of victory, or at the very least security, that truly indicates the greatness of a player. The NBA never dishes out a Best Player award at the end of every season. It is always the MVP that is the most presitigious, the trophy more hallowed than any other individual honour. It is given to the player who has been the biggest influential factor in turning his team’s fortunes. The MVP is not given to the player who has scored the most points per game, etc. And so it is with cricketers as well. And more so with batsmen.

Compounding to the parameter of the situation of the game, is the place of battle. Cricket is unique in this respect by the dual problems associated with away games. The crowd support (or lack of) may be a defining factor in most away games in most sports. But in cricket, there is the vagaries of the pitch as well. A great batsman is one who excels in all conditions, be it the swinging conditions of NZ or Zim or the seaming conditions of Aus and WI, and not just the dustbowls of India. It is needless to add that this conquest of varying challenges must contribute to the team’s cause.

Or is it really that needless? Most cricketing judges seem to forget this factor very conveniently when they come to the rescue of Tendulkar. Their common excuse, “How can Sachin help it if the rest don’t rally around?!” holds no water. Batting is more an art of building partnerships rather than accumulating runs. In his illustrious 16 year career, Sachin has racked up around 58 century partnerships. A notable achievement indeed. But when you realise that Dravid has around 51 century partnerships in a career that started 7 years after Sachin’s, 58 seems like a small number. And this partly explains why Dravid has contributed more to the team’s cause than Sachin, despite a career that is almost half as young. And nope, Sachin hasn’t missed too many games since Dravid’s debut – just 5.

Coming to the comparison on their away performances front. Let us first look at their averages in the respective countries:
(figures in bold denote the higher of the two averages)

Overall Career Averages
NZ 41.5064.57
SA 42.4042.11
SL 111.6646.55
WI 47.6963.66

This table highlights the disparity between the 2 batsmen in full glow. There really is no need for me to even explain the implications. But there maybe a few doubters who feel that it is unfair to compare the 2 players as Sachin began his career as a 16 year old, and hence more prone to failings in his early years. The graph below comes to to dispel this very doubt. It shows the averages of the 2 players since Dravid’s debut - 1996-06-20. Now the conditions, opposition, situation are all the exact same for both the players. In fact, Dravid has a handicap of having to quell his initial fears. But I gracefully waive away this handicap. :) With this advantage, one may expect Sachin to come out on tops - but nope! Dravid is still far ahead.

Post-Dravid Averages
NZ 46.7164.57
SA 48.2242.11
SL 116.7546.55
WI 47.6963.66

Now we come to the final lap of the proof. Let us look at the performances of the 2 players with respect to the match results. (post-Dravid’s debut)

Performance wrt Match Result

This table makes the picture clearer. Dravid has played 21 innings that helped his team won and 26 that helped them draw – a total of 47. Sachin, on the other hand, has played 38 innings which have either helped India win or draw. But the number which proves who has been the more valuable and influential player for India is the average when India loses. Sachin is nearly 40 with 15 innings of his that failed to help the team, while Dravid languishes at an average of 29 and just 9 innings. If Dravid bats well, India does well. If he doesn’t, India doesn’t. That is the true indicator of an MVP.

After “genius”, the other most oft-misued word has to be “masterpiece”. Nowadays every good innings is anointed as a masterpiece. But the actual masterpieces are those rare innings like Dravid’s 148 at Leeds, or his 233 at Adelaide, or Laxman’s 281 at Kolkata, or Ganguly’s 144 at Brisbane. Can Sachin lay claim to even one such innings? Hmm..maybe his 136 against Pak in Chennai might havemade the list, but as has been his trend he couldn’t see India through. Compare that to Dravid’s 72 against Aus at Adelaide when he stayed till the end to lead us to an historic triumph. And you have the answer.

There were two reasons for me to post this on my blog.
At the most optimistic and altruistic level, I hope this post has served as an eye-opener for a lot of Sachin fans. ;-)

But at a purely selfish level, this has been a good way to vent my frustration at the public for their ignorance of the greatness of the true performer – The Great Wall of India aka Jammy aka Rahul Sharad Dravid.