Monthly Archives: September 2016

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What I Hope from the Dhoni Biopic

It doesn’t take an Einstein to understand the rush to make a biopic on Dhoni. There’s something about the guy.

If Sachin made cricket India’s No.1 priority, our national obsession, Dhoni took it to the nation’s grassroots. When historians discuss his career in the future, they’ll acknowledge that MS was no ordinary cricketer.

I detest comparisons, but it is hard to resist a comparison between Dhoni and the only star bigger than him – Sachin Tendulkar.

Sachin might be hallowed today, but he had a firm backing right from his school days. By the time he was 14, Sachin had Gavaskar, Vengsarkar and Ravi Shastri around him. Gifting him bats and pads, and passing on decades of valuable experience. Apart from the immense talent and incredible hard work that he put in, Sachin took five steps, and the sixth step was taken for him.

Dhoni grew up in Bihar.

I don’t mean that as condescence, but as a comparison. Cricket in India has always been an urban, upper class sport. I wonder why a country as vast and poor as ours would choose cricket. A sport that requires a lot of investment in time and equipment. It should make more sense for us to obsess over kabaddi, or soccer.

The history of Indian cricket is replete with Maharajahs captaining the country with their coterie of servants. Scroll further down, and you’ll find that most of our stars came from upper middle class families; from urban spaces that allowed for coaches, nets, and infrastructure.

Dhoni grew up in Bihar.

If Sachin represented India’s awakening as an economy in the 90s, Dhoni proved that cricket had trickled down to India’s interiors. It now flowed in the country’s veins.

Sachin grew up in a time when Indian cricket was far from its peak. With players like Devang Gandhi, Sameer Dighe and Sujith Somasundar in the fray, Sachin was a god among mortals. He stood out like a Liberty statue in a Dharavi slum.

Dhoni came into the team as a small town boy amidst demigods. Against all odds, he went on to lead the team and then form his own coterie. A team comprising cricketers from towns and villages. Sons of clerks, shopkeepers, and farmers.

Not only did Dhoni crash the party, he got up on the table, took off his shirt and flung it in the air! MS Dhoni was the biggest star in the team for nearly a decade. He was polite, but not necessarily humble. He came from simple roots, but loved his cars and mansions.

MS Dhoni the persona evolved with his stature. When he came in, he was a youngster who could cart Shoaib Akhtar over the fence in successive deliveries. By the time he leaves, he’ll be a middle-order batsman who bats with tailenders and has finished the most matches for India.

From a merciless marauder who swung his bat like a double-edged axe, to a backfooted middle-order mainstay with a solid defence. From endorsing Mysore Sandal Soap with shoulder length brown hair, to becoming the richest cricketer in the world. Dhoni survived, and Dhoni evolved.

And not once did he let his emotions come in the way. Not once.

Not once has the man lost his temper or expressed dissent (except to journalists, for whom he reserves the coldest contempt!). Surely, a biopic on the man was a goldmine waiting to be explored.

Neeraj Pandey is a dependable filmmaker, and Sushant Singh Rajput an able actor. I’m glad the film doesn’t aim to dig too deep into his cricketing career (like the godforsaken ‘Azhar’).

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But was MS always this guy? Did he always choose to smile at problems? Was he always grounded, or was there a time when he waved a middle finger to his detractors?

How did it feel stepping into a dressing room with Sachin, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman, Kumble and Sehwag? Why did Sachin recommend his name for captain, when he’d only been playing for a year? What did he see in the boy with Tarzan hair?

And why did MS choose to chop his hair off? Was there more to it than the Brylcreem endorsement deal? Why did he announce his retirement from Tests in the middle of a tour? When did the small town boy become the suave face of a hundred brands?

Who really is MS Dhoni? Does he have just one true face? Or does he wear many masks?

These are the answers I seek from MS Dhoni – the biopic.

You already screwed up the biopic on my childhood hero. Please don’t botch this one up!

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How it all crumbles

It is called ‘chasing’ for a reason.

There is a predatory feel to it. You first identify, and then track. You familiarise yourself with their patterns and movements. You wait for the ideal time, and then pounce! Hence the sense of achievement.

The euphoria of success, a congratulatory victory in the air. The pursuit is always the finale, the climax.

They don’t tell you that it’s just the beginning.

What follows is Book – keeping.

Debit what goes out. Credit what comes in.

That day, you said that. Cha-ching!

But I didn’t reply at all. Cha-ching!

See how tolerant I am. Cha-ching cha-ching cha-ching!

We kept account. Like hardworking gnomes at Gringotts. Carefully keeping score, tallying balance sheets, checking for discrepancies and misappropriations.

What follows is strategy and maneuvers. And what maneuvers they were! Jose Mourinho would stop and shake our hands. A careful twist here, an innocuous pulling out of context there. Just the right amount of pressure applied at exactly the right time, leading to volcanic results.

What games they were! Mind games and soul games. Punching harder and lower and harder and lower till it became cathartic pleasure. Checking how low we could go, and then reaching that bitter spot. Only to punch harder and lower the next time.

Some people bring out the best in each other. And some the absolute worst. The most vicious, the most vile. We were the latter.

How strange it is. Just a few months ago two people are absolute strangers. Checking each other out in their beds, on their smartphones. Swiping through information put out there. And then suddenly, it is a splash of water and boiling lava at the same time.

At some point of time in life, we can say a few things about ourselves with utter confidence. We know our bodies – the tweaks, pain and pleasure points. We know our mind,our strengths and weaknesses. If there is one thing I know with absolute certainty, it is that relationships are not my cup of vodka.

In fact, it was a fling I was chasing. But there is no warning when a fling spills over stealthily into a relationship, like a hand reaching out in the dark. There is no notification – ‘You have used up 90% of your fling balance. You will henceforth be charged’.

And as always, we had to walk down the dark lane again. Like dropping acid and watching the stars spin you lay on the grass. Only to wake up the next morning and realise the trip is fading. That the tiles that seemed to swerve seductively last night are regular tiles – off-white, with crumbs of dirt around the edges.

I had tried to remove some of the skeletons in the closet. I ended up taking their place. You’ll probably find me standing reluctantly when you open the closet again.

For how it is love if we don’t claw into the other’s heart and yank out the soul? How is it love if we haven’t changed the other person permanently? Left wounds that will singe for a while and then retire as scars.

For now though, my beloved, we must part. For we aren’t meant to be. We will be memories in each other’s heads. We’ll be monsters waiting in the dark, slashing angrily every time the closet is opened. Only to be shut off again.
And that, my love, is how it crumbles. 

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(Featured image courtesy: http://www.ascendyourlimits.com)