Monthly Archives: January 2013

My Own Armstrong Moment

If Oprah were my school teacher, I would be terrified of her.

She seems like the kind of teacher who would first coax you, “Dont worry, you can tell me anything”. And then, screw your happiness after you have confessed to her.

Last week, Lance Armstrong confessed at the Holy Grail of Television – Oprah’s couch. Admitting that everything that was being spoken of him was in fact true, Armstrong went on to admit that he had lied, cheated, and bullied people to have his way.

I have never really followed the guy’s career, but I remember thinking of him as an asshole when I saw an interview a few years back. A journalist had questioned him about the allegations, and he had gone on to lambast the journo for no reason. Also, his Nike ads, titled “I’m on my bike. What are you on?” smacked of arrogance.

I never bought any of his armbands. Wearing a pink or yellow band never fascinated me, no matter what the significance was.

So I stood on the sidelines and watched the incident take place, not once feeling a thing – neither vindication, nor disappointment.

For you see, I had had my Armstrong moment long back.

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Those of you who belong to the current generation would never have seen Mohammad Azharuddin bat.

It would be difficult to describe how the man batted.

You know how Sunil Gavaskar often says about good batsmen, that they make batting look very easy? Azhar, a tall, lanky middle order batsman, made batting seem like the toughest thing to do.

If you saw him take a ball outside off stump and steer towards the mid-on boundary with a flick of the wrist, you would wonder how on earth could someone do that? An art that Laxman later took to dizzying heights, Azhar was the ‘Yo! Maan’ of the team – the cool cucumber who smiled, pulled off the most bizzare slip catches, and drove balls like he could do it in his sleep.

It wasn’t the grace of Dravid, nor the brute force of a Gayle. In fact, it didn’t look graceful all the time. Sometimes, it looked like his footwork had gone all wrong, sometimes it looked like he had mistimed it. But you had to listen to the ‘clockkk‘ sound – that heavenly sound of leather striking willow, and you knew the ball would race into the boundary in no time.

He wasn’t an artist, or a magician. If anything, he was the evil Maths teacher who would conjure up difficult formulae in front of you. Just because he could. And as I sat in front of the screen, I wondered how on earth could someone do that. Batting must be complex, indeed.

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My family never encouraged me to follow or play cricket. For them, anything that digressed from the path of salvation was unnecessary. Cricket (among novels, films, and comics) often came in my way of salvation, and was hence never encouraged.

I knew a stationary shop guy, who had a small black and white TV, with ‘Star Connection’. I sneaked into his shop to watch the first real match of my life. It was the summer of ’96, and India was playing Pakistan in Sharjah. India had a solid beginning and looked set to cross 300 for the first time in ODIs, when in walked Azharuddin, his white helmet and lazy swagger in tow.

The next few minutes were a flurry. Fours and sixers confounded the Pakistani bowlers, and Azhar scored 28 off 10 balls. From that day on, there were no two ways about it – Azhar was my favourite cricketer.

Cricket does strange things to us. It brings out the best in us, uniting a nation like glue. But at other times, it brings out the worst in us. A simple game turns us into brute, irrational beasts. It makes us strike below the belt, where it hurts the most.

My school taught me to love and respect all religions. I never really understood the magnitude of the statement, but believed it anyway. When I would watch matches at home, disgruntled viewers would repeatedly say things like, “Saala Musalmaan hai. Apna wicket deke aayega”, or “Pathaan hai, what do you expect on a Friday?”.

Those statements infuriated me. But since I wasn’t watching the matches at my home, I simply shut up, praying that he performs. And when he would perform, I was elated. I felt a vindication, a personal victory for me, and my beliefs.

Of course, it wasn’t only romantic reasons I had for being his fan. Azhar was the captain of the Indian cricket team, and held all the major records in ODI cricket – most matches, most runs, most catches, (and the dubious distinction of) most run outs too.

Which meant that if you were playing Cricket Cards and got Azhar’s card, you were guaranteed a win. When people asked me who my favourite cricket was, “Azhar”, I blurted out, without thinking.

Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar and Mohammed Azharuddin all of India

Those were the days!

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The year 2000 was full of stories of the Y2K bug. This ominous bug that would wipe out all the computers of the world when the new millennium began. None of that actually happened, of course, but the year remained one of the most heartbreaking years of my life.

The match fixing scandal broke out, and Azhar was named among the guilty. I never believed it at first, but the evidence was mounting, and Azhar was among the accused.

Of course, I gave a rat’s ass about the other cricketers named – Jadeja, Prabhakar, Mongia, and Kapil.

I never watched Kapil play so I had no real connection with him. I hated Mongia ever since I had read an interview where he said, “But I hate to dive for wides.” Jadeja was a bits and pieces cricketer, who scored more in ads and films than on an actual cricket field. And Prabhakar!

He was the country’s leading fast bowler in the Wills World Cup, and started bowling Off Spin when Jayasurya took after him. I never really cared about those guys. But Azhar!

The one guy who I rooted for. The guy who had become symbolic of my beliefs, of the secularism I prided my country on having. The pure joy of batting. It all came crumbling down.

My family was quick to pounce on the situation. They went on for hours about how they always knew that these cricketers played for money. Sportstar and Cricket Talk were banned from the house, and the television was packed up.

My tryst with Azhar had ended.

I would move on to Sachin Tendulkar. A more wholesome, author-backed hero. Flawless, humble, and prolific, Sachin would then go on to accumulate runs like a mad man – the most runs ever scored in the history of cricket. It has been a memorable journey. But I miss being an Azhar fan. The unpredictability, and the vindication.

It wasn’t the same. Ever again.

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So as I watched Lance Armstrong sit on the couch and talk to Oprah about how he cheated, and how he lied, I wasn’t moved at all.

I heard him apologise to cancer patients and his sponsors.

But his biggest apology should go to the little kid. The one who stays awake at night, puts up a poster in his room, and pastes newspaper cut-outs in a scrap book.

It’s that little kid you need to apologise to.

You broke his heart, you smug asshole, and he is going to be shattered for a long time.

Review: Matru ki Bijli ka Khoon Khaula

When an Indian filmmaker stamps his authority over a film, he is often accused of being ‘indulgent’. It happened with Kashyap in ‘No Smoking‘, Bhansali in ‘Sawariya‘, and will probably be said of Vishal Bharadwaj’s Matru ki Bijli ka Mandola.

This term has always baffled me. I mean, these little indulgences, those quirks, are what define the filmmaker. Otherwise, we would have similar filmmakers making similar films, all through the year. How bad can an indulgence be?

Now, coming to Vishal Bharadwaj.

Among my favourite filmmakers in the world, and perhaps the only true auteur in our country today. Starting as a music director (Satya, Maachis, and the ‘Chaddi pehen ke phool khila hai’ song from Jungle Book), the man moved on to films where he writes the story, screenplay, dialogues, gives the music, sings the songs, produces, and directs the films.

His body of work has a clear graph. He started off with children’s cinema (Makdee, Blue Umbrella), to Shakespearean tragedies (Maqbool and Omkara) to the Tarantinoesquq Kaminey. His latest film resembles Saat Khoon Maaf (where the first hints of a distinct style were seen).

Matru ki… is a film in a fictional village which is more or less owned by Pankaj Kapur. A stern, greedy bastard in the day, but a concerned, friendly drunkard in the night. He plans to transform the village into another Gurgaon, and getting his daughter married to the Chief Minister’s son is his gateway.

matru ki bijli

I won’t reveal anymore of the story for the sake of those who want to watch the film. But here’s what I will say.

The film is not easy to digest. The dialect is not smooth on the ears, the narrative strolls around aimlessly, picking itself up suddenly, and then taking a break along the turns, helping itself to a few pegs, much like the protagonist of the film. The story is an antithesis to Kaminey, if you think about it. Kaminey had a zillion characters, and if you went for a loo break, you would have missed a key plot point, thanks to an Usain Bolt like screenplay.

Here, Bharadwaj lets his story graze in an open field. He lets it sit in the sun, chew some grass, and ruminate. And that is where you as the viewer, begin to shift in your seats.

There are samples of the quintessential Bharadwaj, with dialogues like ‘Tere ghar pe Mao-Lenin nahi hai kya?” or the tribute to Emir Kasturica, in the form of a brass band that’s named ‘Kasturi ka band’. For a movie geek, there are such gems of brilliance that stick out in the middle of the otherwise earthy lump.

If there is something I badly missed, it’s Bharadwaj’s music, coupled with Gulzar’s lyrics. Each of his earlier films had soul-stirring music, but his latest offering offers nothing more than a few strains here and there.

And here is where my question troubles me. Where does a filmmaker draw the line?

Where does the filmmaker stop being the maker of a product meant for mass consumption, and let the real Vishal Bharadwaj creep into his creation?

And as a consumer of the product, where do I draw the line? Do I look for what pleases me, or take a compassionate view of what the man is trying? Do I go by actions, or intentions? I do not have the answers.

Finally, it all depends on whether you are a Bharadwaj fan or not. If you are the kind who demands a bang for every buck you spend at the movies, you will be disappointed.

But for the man who gave me so much, I can surely overlook this as a stepping stone, a learning curve. Years later, the film will probably be looked at as one of his in-transition works.

And I as a viewer, would willingly participate in it. I love the guy!

Are You A Rapist? You should Visit India

Are you a rapist? Have you been spending your life travelling, raping man, woman, and child?

You should visit India.

For you see, even though we keep blaming the West, we have a rich history of rape, assault, and blaming the victim.

In the Ramayan, Ravan kidnaps Sita, who’s Rama’s wife. Sita spends 14 years pining for Ram, and then after winning the war, Rama suspects her of having slept with Ravan. Later, when they are back in his kingdom, he overhears a washerman abusing his wife, and kicks Sita out of the kingdom, and into the forest. Years later, when Sita gives birth to Rama’s twins, he suspects if the kids were really his. Sita, unable to bear the humiliation, ends her life.

And Rama is called Purushottam, or the Ideal Man. See what I mean?

You must have also heard of Bollywood. Apart from Bollywood, we have other film industries, stupidly named Kollywood, Tollywood, and Mollywood. The films generally have heroes who stalk women, tease them, and harass them till they succumb to their charms. No, no. The films aren’t flops. They are superhits, we love our films.

Let me now, dear rapist, list out the many ways in which we as a country shall ensure that you have a pleasant, rape-filled stay in our country.

Politicians: We are the largest democracy in the world. Quite naturally, there should be quite a few rapists in the Parliament. There are 369 MPs/MLAs who have criminal cases against them, and I am only talking about crimes against women.

Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the most famous family in India, has been accused of rape. Narendra Modi, whom many herald as India’s only hope, has been banned from the UK and US for orchestrating an extravaganza of loot, murder, and rape.

Also, the politicians will generally take your side, accusing women of not being appropriately dressed, or inciting the incidents by dressing vulgarly.

Legal System: India also has a unique legal system. Cases take years to get heard, if at all. Also, our lawyers are generally quite open minded and liberal. Like the lawyer in the recent gangrape case, who said that the girl was raped because she wasn’t respectable.

Also, the most famous lawyer in the country has been in the news for fighting cases of criminals – Sanjay Dutt, Haji Mastaan, and Manu Sharma. Manu Sharma shot a waitress because she didn’t serve him a drink, and the lawyer fought the case on the lines that the waitress was of questionable character, and the place was actually a ‘bordello’.

Of course, the man is held as an inspiration by thousands of law students, who claim he only does it to extend the boundaries of the legal system.

Police and Army: They say ‘Long is the arm of law’. In India, the long arm of law is used majorly to slip into the pants and masturbate.

Most police officials think women ask for it by dressing up in skimpy clothes and having a boyfriend. And surely, if a girl sleeps with one, she will be ok with sleeping with others, right? Bingo!

Complaints are rarely registered, and if they are, the victim has to undergo a medical test where a male doctor inserts two fingers into her vagina to check if she has in fact been raped.

The army is a different case altogether. India has the sixth largest army in the world, and the army does a formidable job in raping. In fact, if you have a fetish for Mongolian looks, you should go to the North East states in India.

Here, there has been a law since 1986 called the AFSPA, which restricts three or more people from sitting together and having a discussion. Here, the army can search any house without a warrant, frisk you, or shoot you if deemed fit. The army has also got a history of raping women in these states.

Why doesn’t anybody raise this issue? Come on, man! It’s the North East states. Who gives a fuck?

So as you can see, the country, its social structure, the administration and jurisdiction is perfect for you, the rapist.

Apart from this, the country also provides other recreational options for rape, if you belong to a niche group.

Fetish Rape: If you are among the kinds that has a special thing for perverse pleasure, look no further than India.

Here, we rape minors, pregnant women, grandmothers, children, infants, and even dogs! Yes, dogs.

Also, there are orphanages where kids are raped, and where foreigners are allowed to touch and feel young children. Physically handicapped girls, mentally challenged girls, housewives, foreigners – there is no discrimination in our country at all.

Also, the Cow is considered holy in our country, being called Go Mata. Quite naturally, sometimes, cows are also raped, poor things!

RAPE IN TRANSIT:

If you are a busy man without much time on your hands, and like raping on the go, India again has a plethora of options for you.

BUSES: Rapes in buses are common. Apart from the famous gangrape case, there have been other cases as well. For eg, in Pipili a girl was gangraped in a bus in front of other passengers. When one of the girls testified in court, she was gangraped as well. Ironically, ‘bus’ in Hindi means ‘enough!’, but of course, we Indians can never have enough!

TRAINS: The Indian Railways was set up by the Britishers and is among the largest network of trains in the world.

Scenic locations, long journeys, lack of security measures, and delayed schedules provide the perfect opportunity for you to rape a few women while on a long journey. To avoid hassles, you may consider throwing the victim out of the moving train. There will be a hue and cry the next day, but like the rest of the country, you would have moved on.

FLIGHTS: Now, I cannot guarantee you can rape someone on a flight, but you can definitely molest a few women.

Flights are still a luxury in our country, so you will not find much diversity to choose from on a flight. The delays in flights will be a hurdle in planning a rape. Also, the air hostesses on Air India and Indian Airlines are middle aged women who dress up in sarees. And as anyone in India will tell you, dressing up in a saree is the best way to avoid rape.

May be that’s why they say Air Travel is the safest mode of travel??

So there, my rapist brothers from across the world, where else in the world will you find such facilities? Where else will you find that that the entire system bends over backwards so that you can feel the rush of thrusting your penis into an unwilling vagina?

Where else can you feel like a real man, thrust your hard cock into her, and feel her warm blood flow down your loins, with the security that you can walk free?

Why do you think it’s called Incredible India?