Author Archives: Hriday Ranjan

Picture showing a group of hybrid, super-efficient zombies who pass off as the Indian team today.

Why do all Indian cricketers look like each other?

Nostalgia, is a tricky monster.

Nostalgia makes people romanticise the trivial and the unpleasant. People glorify the agony of waiting a month for a telephone connection and LPG cylinder. Processing and accepting those emotions as some hogwash cathartic, life-coming-full-circle bullshit.

Cricket isn’t exempt from the vile clutches of nostalgia either.

I have met erstwhile fans who glorify the tension of watching the Indian cricket team in the 90s. Celebrate the anxiety of watching the Indian team totter and stutter their way to rare victories. ‘Glorious uncertainties’ – that term that Sunil Gavaskar dished out when we snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory in Bahubalean fashion. When S. Ramesh T. struggled to string together the winning runs while his partners strolled in and out of the pitch like drunk baaraatis. Most fans tend to romanticise these days of uncertainty, bracketing them unnecessarily under the umbrella of ‘nostalgia’.

I am not one of them. Give me ‘predictably good’ over ‘glorious uncertainty’ any day. Perhaps my brain had a premonition about my weak heart’s incapability to deal with these days for too long!

Cricket today is not just competing with Amul Surabhi and Chitrahaar. It’s competing with Netflix and Facebook and Tinder and Zomato. You don’t just have to win, you have to win while blowing my mind, or I’ll switch off. I’ll switch channels and devices and playlists and crawl far, far away from you.

I am happy with the state of the Indian cricket team today. I love the fact that after 80 years of international cricket, India is now feared and respected as a worthy adversary, like the Australian team we grew up watching. That we are counted among the top; that to beat us, you have to be top-shelf, surpass our strengths and exploit our weaknesses.

That you can’t beat India just because Sachin got out and the rest of the team has the batting skills of woodcutters. Not because chasing a big score in a final was ‘always going to be a difficult ask’. Not because, like my neighbour would say, ‘Today is Friday, Muslims will always win’.

To beat the Indian team of today, you have to be bloody good, play out of your skin. Elevate your standards to meet those of our many gods.

It’s a wonderful feeling. I am thrilled with with the state Indian cricket is in today. None of that nostalgia-vostalgia for me, thank you very much!

*

However, I would like to lodge a minor complaint.

It is human nature after all, to lodge such minor complaints from time to time. Jackie Shroff essayed the role of the legendary Ram in Teri Meherbaniyan, but is only remembered for the Bidu caricature. Bob Dylan lodged complaints against the times he lived in using cutting letters and biting phrases. Chenghis Khan complained about the size of his kingdom and went about redefining the meaning of ‘Father’s Day’ for most of Asia. The British complained about the lack of spices in their salads, and I’m sitting here thousands of miles away writing articles with clickbait headlines. It is human nature to complain.

My complaint is the headline of this article. The words you saw on your Facebook feed and decided to give a chance because you saw potential – much like the selectors did with Amay Khurasia years ago –

‘WHY DO ALL INDIAN CRICKETERS LOOK THE SAME?’

The Indian cricket today is a clone army of supremely fit, spiky-haired, tattoo-sporting, muscled athletes. Their beards are all perfectly trimmed and shaped, their hair spiked to perfection, vague tattoos on their left arms – everybody looks like everybody else.

How did a nation with as much diversity as ours, all those races and ethnicities, the chutney of languages and foods and dialects – how did our entire team morph into one another?

Kohli looks like Rahul who looks like Jadeja looks like Rahane looks like Dhawan looks like Pandya looks like Rohit Sharma. Even Ashwin, who till a few years back resembled the topper who eats three tiffin compartments of curd rice in the last bench, has morphed into the army. Suresh Raina, who looks like his father owns a sweet shop on MG Road, has also gone for the beard-spike look. Dhoni, who was once a long-haired Samson who sported a paunch but ran like Minotaur, has also bought into the scheme.

Picture showing a group of hybrid, super-efficient zombies who pass off as the Indian team today.

Picture showing a group of hybrid, super-efficient zombies who pass off as the Indian team today.

Don’t get me wrong! It’s great that the Indian team is faster, stronger, sharper. But at a narrative level, it is devoid of personalities. The Indian team I grew up with was a motley crew of distinctly different personalities. Like a pirate ship with cast-away crew from different lands. You could be watching the match on a grainy 7’ x 8’ black and white television in a paan shop, but you knew who was who. You could recognise them by their gait, their posture, their throws from the boundary, their hobble across the 22 yards.

They were uncle cricketers – who could vanish into any Indian crowd. They could be members of a summer picnic of SBI employees, or a Ganesh procession.

Group of Indian men waiting for traffic police to give permission for their Ganesh to start from the colony (PC: Cricinfo)

Group of Indian men waiting for traffic police to give permission for their Ganesh to start from the colony (PC: Cricinfo)

There were the paunchy, middle-aged men – Manoj Prabhakar, Saba Karim, Ashish Kapoor – whose moustaches and mullets served as tributes to the likes of Suneil Shetty and Sudesh Berry.

Then we had the Decent Gentlemen’s Club of South Indian bowlers – Srinath, Prasad and Kumble. Tall, gangly engineers who worked hard because they had to withdraw their PPF account before Diwali.

Anil Kumble, who with spectacles and moustache, slayed opposition tailenders like they were calculus problems. Srinath, who would come running in from the 30 yard circle, apologise to the batsman for hitting him on the head, and run back to his bowling mark sweating like a marathon runner. Or Prasad, who had the legs of a giraffe and the hands of a sloth. Who woke up early, wore a digital watch, bowled his 10 overs and retired to bed early (unless you were a certain Ameer Sohail).

Picture showing Indian men having a house party when their wives are away.

Picture showing Indian men having a house party when their wives are away.

There was Sunil Joshi, whose moustache was more glorious than his bowling average. Sanjay Manjrekar with his aadarsh-baalak white helmet. Robin Singh, who looked like an honest (and hence) harassed SBI employee – hard-working, sweating, his receding hairline a reflection of his worries. There was Sidhu with the 5 Ks of Sikhism, and one ‘G’ – Grin. Sachin with his curly mop of hair. Venkatpathy Raju and Vinod Kambli, who looked like boys who hung out with the seniors in the colony. Nayan Mongia, who looked like the guy who dropped out of school after 10th and was now doing a vocational course in Industrial Technology Institute.

Schoolboys clicking a picture with their class-teacher on a picnic. PC: Reddit.

Schoolboys clicking a picture with their class-teacher on a picnic. PC: Reddit.

There were the cricketers from Mumbai, their young shoulders drooping with the burden of legacy – Pravin Amre, Sairaj Bahutule, and Sameer Dighe. There were the south Indian batsmen – Sujith Somasunder, Vijay Bharadwaj and S. Ramesh – hardworking and honest (except when Ramesh faked an injury certificate and got booted out of the team!).

And then there was Ramesh Powar, who famously declared in an interview that he was ‘fat, but fit’. Who with his portly paunch and his gold chains and coloured sunglasses looked more capable of hypnotizing batsmen than bamboozling them. Who was probably given two Test matches to play because selectors placed bets on his ability to stand for five days!!  

Then there was the boss man – shoulders hunched, latching onto the ball like it was a golden snitch, flipping the ball with his shoe and catching it – all swag and coolness – Mohammad Swaggeruddin. The man who had his collar up all the time, like the World Cup semi final was just another ‘bet-match’ between Charminar and Begumpet.

You just didn’t follow cricketers, you aped their mannerisms. I tried to flick the ball up like Azharuddin all through my childhood and only learnt to do it at age 30. Ajay Jadeja’s ‘throw the ball quickly and smile’ trick was never possible because I suck as a fielder, and smiling after a misfield makes me look like a lunatic. Laxman’s tapping on the pitch was followed by millions of kids in India.

*

You can’t do that with today’s team. KL Rahul has Virat’s beard and Dhawan has his tattoos, and they’re all fit and springy and quick and efficient. Their beards are all cropped to perfection and their tattoos are all dark-green mumbo-jumbo, and they all field well and rattle opposition batsmen.

I can’t tell one from the other. Even when I watch cricket on pimple-revealing HD clarity, I have to put my bottle of beer aside, and wait for the replay to curse the rare misfield. I have nobody to ape anymore, falling back upon Mohd. Swaggeruddin’s ball-flick, and Venkatesh Prasad’s sublime fielding skills.

It’s only a minor complaint, I know. But I’m only human, saar.

Like Sadagopan Ramesh.

***

Nightmare

Dreams of Terror

I have a strange association with dreams.

Since my childhood, I have had dreams that are horrific, and keep returning to me like somebody’s cruel idea of a recurring deposit. When I read my diaries dating back to 1997, one common feature I find in them is warped dreams that blur the line between wet dreams and nightmares.

Most of my dreams play out like Vikram Bhatt movies. They begin with a lot of sex and action, and slowly descend into chaos and terror. Like the protagonists of Bhatt’s movies, I can’t get out of the situation because I had invested myself emotionally, mentally, and physically in the first half. Unfortunately, dreams do not have intermissions where you can take your Coke and get the fuck out of the hall!

The other thing about my dreams is that I die in them, and then continue to see things like a ghost. Like an online multiplayer shooter game where once you’re dead, you can still see what’s going on with the rest of the game. Sometimes, when the danger is too much, I am able to shake myself off and wake up in the middle. But there are a few dreams I can’t wake up from, ones I like to call ‘unshakable dreams’.

In the last few years, I have two consistent unshakable dreams.

NIGHTMARE NO.1 : I meet an ex of mine, one to whom I’d proudly said ‘You’ll never get a guy like me’ in a moment of madness; one who’s probably the greatest woman I’ll ever be with. She meets me when I am 50 years old. She hasn’t aged a day, still looking heart-stoppingly beautiful, her eyes carrying the spark that took my breath away years ago.

I, on the other hand, have become a fat, sad, unpublished author, sitting amidst flying papers and old beer cans, tears of shame and regret flowing down my face. I try to explain, to talk to her – but mangled gibberish comes out of my mouth. She looks into my eyes, waiting for a response, and then walks out of the room. I struggle to get up, call out her name, and wake up in a sweat.

NIGHTMARE NO.2 : I am standing in front of a Roman Colosseum, dilapidated and destroyed. It must have once been beautiful, but its jagged edges now look like the skeleton of a dinosaur. In the middle of the Colosseum, there’s black water hissing and raging.

There are countless men standing on the edge of the structure, and there isn’t enough space. People are jostling, and pushing, and shoving – and I see them fall into the black waters, dissolving into nothingness, their screams of agony echoing through the building like a gigantic migraine.

Outside the building, there are masked men dressed in black, hacking away at everybody in sight. There are two options – get hacked to death, or jump to your death. Either way, all that remains of you is a haunting echo of pain.

*

I don’t know if it’s the dreams, but I’ve become a little paranoid these days.

Every time I visit a crowded place, I make sure to stay near the exit doors. If it’s a mall, I am calculating my moves in case there’s an attack. While booking flight tickets, I choose the ones near the Emergency exit; same with movie tickets too!

Last night, I had another of these nightmares.

I was at my school, nearly everybody I know chasing each other in the dormitory that seemed to have magically expanded to fit everybody. Everything’s hunky dory, when I notice a young girl – about 5 years of age – her blond curly hair making her look like Shirley Temple. She is running among the crowd when, suddenly, she opens a window, ties a rope around her waist and fastens it to the window bar, and leaps out.

Nobody but me notices this, and panic begins to flow through my veins. All around me, people are laughing and chasing each other, but I know something rotten is looming ahead.

I run to the bathrooms, look for a ventilator and plan my escape route. I’ll have to climb up the bathroom wall, and make a Bahubalean leap to the ventilator, and then climb out.

I stand near the bathroom, wondering if it is all a dream. Why didn’t anybody else see the girl? Why does everybody else seem happily oblivious?? And then, I hear it.

Screams of agony, crashing in like waves. Everybody I know, running away from the doors, as masked men in black spray bullets into flesh. I see the faces – friends, relatives, teachers, kind strangers who lent me cigarettes years ago – running in my direction, their faces full of horror.

Without a thought, I leap on top of the bathroom door, take in a deep breath and jump towards the ventilator. The pane shatters, and I feel the pain in my flesh. I quickly grab the ladder, balance myself on it, and climb down as quickly as my shaky legs permit me to. Just as I land, the bamboo ladder wilts, and cracks.

I look up, and there are people screaming out to me. Their eyes bloodshot, their faces convulsing with terror and hatred. More and more people line up at the window, till they are only a bloody mash of flesh and blood.

Instead of arranging for a ladder, I run away.

*

I woke up sweating, and looked for my phone.

There was a missed call from a friend I’m supposed to meet. We were to meet at Inorbit Mall, but fuck that!

I call him and suggest we meet at a bar nearby. Any bar, doesn’t matter. But not a mall.

Jio Filmfare South Awards

Writing for the Filmfare Awards

Alright, let me clarify.

I wrote the script for Filmfare Awards South 2017. Not the one where Shah Rukh Khan makes fun of the rest of the industry. Nope.

This is the Filmfare South Awards, where all the four industries are brought together – a gigantic jaagran where 58 awards are given in one night. In the span of the one show, you could watch Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham thrice, complete with the Mera Naam Mukesh Hai campaign and the Vicco Vajradanti advertisements.

The Filmfare South Awards are also different because stars south of the Vindhyas are very touchy about themselves. Take for example the Telugu film industry, where the biggest stars are not followed because of their acting skills, but their CASTE (I know! It’s fuck-all). There are reports every year of fans of one actor clashing with fans of another actor. Just last year, there was a report where a fan of Pavan Kalyan was fatally stabbed by a fan of Junior NTR for a fight during …hold your breath… an organ donation drive!

Half of my jokes got self-censored when I read up on this.

*

The brief from Filmfare was simple. The Awards had been a bland affair so far, and this year they were looking to make it lively and fun, which is why they wanted someone from a stand-up background to script it.

I went through last year’s script and found that it had been hosted by the same couple for the last five years. The script for last year was so interesting, I went to sleep and dreamt of having cervical cancer! So clearly, I had my work cut out.

The hosts for this year’s awards were Vijay Devarakonda, a rank outsider who shot to stardom with Pellichoopulu (coincidentally the only Telugu film I’ve reviewed), and Allu Sirish – younger brother of Allu Arjun, whose films can be found dubbed on Zee Cinema as Main Hoon Lucky the Racer, Veerta the Power, Bunny the Hero, and Natraj the Pencil. 

Surprisingly, the two hosts agreed to make fun of themselves. I was confident that Vijay would be fine with the jokes since we both studied in the same school, and he had also agreed to come for one of the stand up shows I directed, completely around offence humour.

But when Allu Sirish agreed to the jokes, which were mostly about nepotism and the lack of talent among star-kids, I thanked my stars and quickly went on to draft the rest of the script.

The show in itself is a nightmare to write for, as there are about 58 awards in all the four South languages (No, C++ is not a South Indian language, fuck off!). I am not really connected to the movies intellectually or emotionally, and it helped me have an outsider’s point of view to the proceedings. I was told not to make fun of senior actors or popular stars, which meant I could only write jokes about the hosts, which didn’t seem too bad after reading the news about fans stabbing each other!

Finally, we had a reasonably funny script, two hosts who were willing to take a joke on themselves, a video that would be played at the live event, and a couple of gags that would make people wake up from their slumber and hopefully laugh.

*

Since I am not too attached intellectually or emotionally to films and their stars, I didn’t have too much work to do backstage. Apart from announcing the beginning of the show, and making sure I didn’t screw up the words ‘Please rise for the National Anthem’ in English and Telugu, I had no real work to do.

The format of the show is rather treacherous, and after a point me and Sai Santhosh (my writing buddy) nearly zoned out. It was just a haze of one actor after the other getting up on stage and thanking the Almighty, their director, their parents, their children, their neighbours, the weather, the North Pole.

That was until I noticed Rahman!

If you’ve read my blog, you’d know I am not a fan of Rahman, I am a devotee. I realised this might be the closest I’ll ever get to the man, and the moment I noticed his chair empty, I ran to the washrooms, just in case he wanted to sa re ga ma pee.

Unfortunately, Rahman was nowhere to be seen. What I got instead was a Malayalam singer looking around with his Filmfare award. Our eyes met awkwardly and I congratulated him on the award. He immediately handed me his award to hold while he went to pee!

*

It was 1 AM by the time the show ended, and the two of us went back home.

It had been a fun week, hanging out with all these famous stars like I was one among them. But one cannot fight one’s true destiny. It was time to return to writing articles on the 10 Benefits of Mosquito Repellents.

One day, I'll be there for Best Story. Till then, for writing silly jokes for the hosts, I guess.

A post shared by Hriday Ranjan (@heartranjan) on

quitting weed

Going a fortnight without smoking weed

It’s been a week since I quit weed.

I know, I know.

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Before you express displeasure or disapproval, kindly allow me to explain. There are a few reasons for my decision. I have listed them down below:

  1. I was in bed with a lady recently, and my performance reminded myself of Devang Gandhi in Australia in 1999. I have been swimming recently, and am reasonably fit, so it must have been all the smoking. Also, isn’t it funny? Smoking before sex makes you bad at it, and yet we light up a cigarette once we are done?

But wait, the reasons aren’t as shallow as lasting longer in bed.

  1.    I have been getting high EVERY SINGLE DAY for the last decade. Every single day, without any exceptions. It made me realise that my idea of reality could be distorted. My entire day revolved around scoring weed, rolling joints, smoking weed. I had positioned myself as some sort of a Baba for my friends, and I realised I was living up to my own image without bothering to question it.
  1.   I have been rather infatuated with a beautiful young woman, and would like to sort my shit out for a while so I don’t have to run away from another relationship again.

Alright, the reasons DO sound shallow, not that I think about it.

*

Be that as it may, the last fortnight has been quite pleasant.

I have a habit of hyping things up, so I had to give myself a few days before typing away a blogpost on the topic. These are the major effects I found in myself since I quit smoking pot.

  1. There’s just so much time!

 

My days usually began with me looking for the rolling paper and roach, to roll myself a beautiful morning joint. After which, I spend my time pouring over the joys of the Holy Trinity – Reddit, Facebook and X-art.

Since I quit pot, there’s so much time on my hands, I do not know what to do with it all. I sometimes treat myself like a British officers in the Raj. I step out for a morning walk, have myself a cup of tea and ponder about the meaning of life!

  1.   The ability to plan my day out

I am not big on planning. I have never planned anything in life, except probably when I used to work in an STD booth during my +2, and I made sure I finished all my work before the Friday night movie on DD1.

These days, I bring out my pen (Luxor V7 Hi-Tecpoint, in case you’re curious!) and my notebook (Classmate, cheap 25 Rs.) and chalk out my plan for the day. Of course, I am unable to finish all the items on my to-do list, but it’s better than not having a to-do list at all.

  1.   Withdrawal symptoms? I have Deposit symptoms

I was told that I’d feel a number of symptoms of quitting weed after such extended periods of usage. On the contrary, I feel perfectly fine. I wake up early and do not have to wait for my asshole stand-up comedian friends to get free so I can roll them a joint. Forget withdrawal symptoms, I am showing deposit symptoms!

  1.   Calming of ‘em nerves

I used to live under the impression that smoking weed calms me down. I used to smoke joints before I went up on stage, before I started writing, and before going to bed. Since I’ve gone cold turkey (quit cigarettes too!), I feel calmer before going up on stage.

Instead of the 15 minutes I used to smoke 3 cigarettes before going up, I now calmly run through my content. If anything, I feel a sense of tranquility, a sense of surety.

 

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I don’t mean to preach at all.

I don’t believe marijuana is harmful (except the damage to the lungs, of course), and don’t mean to stop you from smoking up. In fact, I still roll joints for all my friends because of the sense of power and abstinence it gives me. Please feel free to smoke up as much weed as you want.

However, if you decide to quit, remember it’s not that difficult. Marijuana has a number of magical properties, but perhaps the most magical of them all is the complete lack of dependency on the substance itself.

So if you’re looking to quit, please do so by all means.

(Issued in public interest. If you have any issues with quitting weed/cigarettes/your job, feel free to write to Hriday at writetohriday@gmail.com! :D)

***

(Featured Image courtesy: wikihow.com)

To be in love with a ‘committed’ woman

At 31, I have nearly given up on love and companionship.

While love is determined on dreamy foundations in your early 20s, as you get to your late 20s, it is about pragmatism and practicality. I have the discipline of a drunk sloth, and do not aim to ever have a job or get married.

At 31, friends do not try to link you up with their friends. Tinder is too shallow for my tastes, and going to meet somebody is too deep for me. My game is not really that of looks – you need to speak to me for a few days before even considering meeting me. Most people have that ONE bad relationship in their lives, all of my 9 relationships were disasters. And I don’t even mean flings, I mean proper relationships.

(Wow, I sound depressing!)

I spent the last one year sleeping around, but how long can a man keep doing that? Flings are great when the night is long and sinful. But once the sun has risen and you have to discuss realities like ‘How do I get back home?’ or ‘When will he be back?’, I feel terribly cheap.

And so my life was hurtling along, when I met this woman.

And thus, the saga began all over again.

*

Call me soppy, but most of my relationships begin when I dream about the person (I know, I know!).  

In my dreams, I am super confident about myself, a healthy mix of Dev Anand and Shammi Kapoor who can serenade and sweep off nimble feet. All the women I have dated have been stunning, and I look like the actor Harish having a bad hair day. Which means I require high levels of confidence before taking my stance.

And just when I had given up on myself, I came across this woman.

There is a distinct pattern to all the woman I had the chance to spend time with. For some reason, they all love dogs, Harry Potter and marijuana.

Talking to a woman you like for the first time is like doing acid. You pop the tab and wait for it to take effect. You smile and you grin and forget that you’re a monster deep within. The world around you opens up in beautiful, vivid colours. Your broken, jagged soul fits into the horizon like a jigsaw puzzle.

Only problem though, she has a boyfriend!

*

When I meet a woman I like who’s committed, there are two paths to take. One, a completely physical, wanton ‘Wham, bam, Bol Bam’. The second, I avoid them completely.

That was the plan. The plan was to forget her and move on, try to be a better person.

But I cannot stop thinking about her. I keep checking out the timezone she is in, wondering what she might be doing at this moment. I keep checking to see if she is online, keep fighting off those dark, evil thoughts that knock on the outside of my brain.

To be in love with a woman who is committed to someone else feels like injustice. Like pain somewhere deep within that cannot be diagnosed. Like running for miles like a maniac, and discovering you’re on a treadmill.

I long for a time when we were all early men and women. When society hadn’t drawn up these lines and divisions. When the only ‘commitment’ humans had was to hunt for the deer that evening.

Of course, I could put an end to all this misery. I could ask her if she wanted to be with me, and she might probably agree. Might. But I have zero confidence in my own abilities. In my morals and ethics. What if I go back to being the lazy sloth that I am? What if I cheat on her too?

Do I have the right to uproot her from her magical life and bring her into mine, full of monsters and demons?

And so I sit here in my shallow pit and wallow in self-pity.

For being in love with a committed woman, is worse than being in love at all.

***

Sachin A Billion Dreams

‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams’ is two and a half hours of Tendulkar Porn!

As I stepped out to buy overpriced Coke and oversalted popcorn during the interval, I overheard a father explaining to his son—”It’s not a movie, beta. It is a documentary.”

I could empathise with the kid. Sachin: A Billion Dreams is a film that works only if you were born before 1995. The film has no hero, no antagonist, no songs or dances. In fact, the film sits more comfortably in the domain of documentaries than cinema.

If Sachin is God, his life is a mythological epic.

*

The story is known to all, told and retold, written and rewritten, over and over. His childhood stories are similar to Krishna’s exploits in Vrindavan. When he looked at the skies, scoring a century after his father’s death, Indians wouldn’t be shocked if flowers came falling from the sky, reminiscent of Bheeshma’s terrible oath.

Sachin fulfils every single criterion of being an Indian adarsh baalak. Fair-skinned, immensely talented, honed by the right people, had the world eating out of his hands. But most importantly, Sachin is humble and soft-spoken. We Indians love humility and soft-spokenness—we’d prefer Harishchandra over Howard Hughes, Ratan Tata over Warren Beatty. In Sachin, kids saw what they wanted to become, and parents saw what they wanted their kids to become.

The thought often rankles me—would India have loved Sachin as much if he was flashy and proud? I doubt it. They’d wait for him to fail, and tear into him—”Told you! His success got to his head!” they’d say! But Sachin remained humble, and joined our long list of gods.

When every single detail of a man’s life is known, how do you make a film? You hire a foreigner to do it! When Indians make films on Indian cricketers, they’re either too fawning (Dhoni: The Untold Story), or mind-numbingly dumb (Azhar).

Director James Erskine uses Sachin and his wife as narrators, using home videos and wedding clips to create a personal bond. There are clips where he’s playing with his daughter, teaching her the umpire’s signals for boundary, sixer and out! This is a portrait of a man who knows nothing but cricket, being worshipped by a nation that follows nothing but cricket.

*

But if you’re a cricket buff, you begin to notice the details. Take for example the Sachin of 1994-1997, when there’s swagger in his stagger—he wears Suniel Shetty glasses, a thick gold chain, and a superstar gait. The swagger quickly vanishes when he’s made the captain, and he’s the obedient adarsh baalak once more!

Like Sachin himself, India grew into a generation which likes to date before getting married. Where the wife calls him by his name, instead of silly words like “woh” and “unhein.” Like the India of today, we find out that Sachin goes through depression too.

Within an hour, you begin to feel like a part of the dressing room. You begin to feel for players like Dravid, who put in hours of blood, sweat and tears. For Shane Warne, who has graciously contributed to the legend of Sachin, in spite of being no less of a genius.

*

The masterstroke though, was getting AR Rahman to create the background score. They’re not too dissimilar, Sachin and Rahman. Short, stocky, curly-haired, immensely talented, humble to a fault. Rahman’s background score is like a Rahman background score—rousing, thumping, an army of emotions charging forward. A Rahman soundtrack can make mating anteaters look graceful, so imagine the effect it has on childhood nostalgia.

By the end, as Sachin stands on a beach in shades and shorts, it feels like a trip to the planetarium. To a museum of innocence, where ugly relics of match-fixing and controversies are locked up in the attic.

*

How much you enjoy Sachin: A Billion Dreams depends on when you were born. If it was before 1995, you can’t stop looking at the man who personified the nation you grew up in. If you were born after 1995, you begin to wonder about this strange obsession with this man!

The film is a heady cocktail of two of our obsessions—cinema and cricket. Now, if only Sachin would go back to the Rajya Sabha…

***

This post first appeared on Huffington Post.

#SeriousQuestion: Do you know anybody in publishing?

Hi, reader!! 🙂

I know we haven’t spoken on a personal level, but I wanted to thank you for subscribing to my blog and reading it. Thank you for commenting, and sending me lovely mails of appreciation. On days when I’m sad or depressed, I open those mails and smile.

When I started this blog in 2007, it was to impress a woman. She wasn’t on Orkut, and there was no way to get through to her. Somewhere along the line, she noticed, we got talking, got into three years of a blissful relationship, and drifted apart. However, the blog has remained, a vestigial arm of a collegial relationship.

Thank you for reading my ramblings for more than a decade!!

*

Why am I being so nice?

I need a little help. I have been writing books since 2014. Every year in January, I drop acid and decide to write a book. I spend the next 11 months living in a dream, discussing my book, writing it out. And then one month of rejection by most publishing houses!

Over and over, every year, for the last three years. It is a painful experience, like having a miscarriage year after year. My ego wouldn’t let me approach anybody for favours, and my temperament would lead me to the nearest bar to drown my worries.

This year though, I’ve decided not to take that path.

I’m writing a non-fiction humour book called ‘9999 in 1: Growing up in the 90s’. It’s a rickety time-machine ride back to the 90s, designed as a spoof of an NCERT Text Book. I’m really excited about it, and going to begin pitching it to publishers from the first week of June.

So if you know anybody who works in publishing, please let me know. The Indian publishing industry is a weird, warped industry that is as unstructured as the Indian porn industry, and I usually feel like a fish out of the swimming pool, finding my way in.

So if you know someone, please put in a kind word, and send me their contact. My email is unforgettably generic – writetohriday@gmail.com.

If you ever meet me, I’ll treat you to beer. If you smoke, I’ll roll you two of my finest joints. If you’re a teetotaler, we’ll sit and discuss the meaning of life. And I’ll mention you in the book’s credits.

That’s all. Thank you, and have a glorious day ahead!

– Hriday.

Wallpaper courtesy: WallpaperCave.com. 
Text: You get the idea!

I’ll be in Hufflepuff, thank you very much!

If you were in Hogwarts, which house would you be in?

I have been asked this question since 8th grade, when I first laid my hands on a Harry Potter book. Back then, it seemed like a stupid question. Gryffindor was my window to the world of Hogwarts, it was where all the action happened. Why would anybody choose any other house?

Also, I display a general abhorrence for such leading, pointed questions – Who is your favourite cricketer? Which is your favourite movie? Why the fuck do you want to know, man? And what will you do with this data? And why should I put myself through the ordeal of scanning through all my favourite films to reach an answer – only to be judged by you in the end? Adava Kedavra!!

However, like Lupin in his teaching days, I have toned myself down with age. I understand that humans come with varying levels of intelligence, and it’s not their fault that there’s MSG in Maggi noodles. As we were stubbing out some herb today, my friend asked me the same question after all these years. I did what I do when people ask me this question – I pouted, looked into the distance and nodded wisely.

This was a serious question, and needed serious introspection. But what logical peripheries are we operating within? What timelines are we looking at? Are we talking about present day Hogwarts or during the time of the books? To answer such a question, we first need to set the rules.

I gave it much consideration, and decided I would not want to be in Hogwarts in the present day. What fun would Hogwarts be without Snape and Dumbledore? And McGonagall as Headmistress? Never liked her too much!

So I first went about setting the rules. I first began reading the epics when I was 13, two years older to Neville Longbottom & Co.. So I would have to be in the same era, two years senior to the infamous batch, and present in Hogwarts while the events mentioned in the book happen around me.

In such circumstances, I would choose to be in Hupplepuff, thank you very much! Kindly find my reasons stated below!

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Original wallpaper source: http://hdpicturez.com. Text: Yours Truly

Original wallpaper source: http://hdpicturez.com. Text: Yours Truly

When asked the crucial question, most hipsters reply with ‘Slytherin’. In their heads, this is a wildly imaginative answer, much like their tattoos and cruiser motorcycles. Diffindo!!

On the outside, Slytherin might seem like an adventurous, mysterious side to be in. But can you imagine spending your days and nights amidst those horrible green corridors? And would you want to stay in a house where 11 year olds propagate ideas of bigotry? I am a mixed breed in real life, so it’s quite obvious that I’d be called the ‘M’ word in Slytherin corridors. Living in Slytherin would be like living in India with its caste system, and honestly, who wants to go through that?

Of course, some of you might say that there is more to the house than their cunning nature. That they have produced wizards like Severus and Salazar, that the house signifies resourcefulness, and ambition.

But you have to understand that I’m thinking like a 13 year old here. I do not crave the Mirror of Erised, or the Elder Wand. My motives are driven by da punani!

So no thank you, Slytherin. You’re too slimy for my taste.

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Wallpaper from: wallpapersafari.com. Text: Me, in collaboration with Sorting Hat

Wallpaper from: wallpapersafari.com. Text: Me, in collaboration with Sorting Hat

I have always found Ravenclaws to be too overbearing, and this might be due to a particular ex-girlfriend of mine. She always knew my passwords, and went so far as revealing the climax of Book no. 6 after reading it herself. While I dished out a string of Crutacius curses under my breath, I have forgiven her now!

She was the first person I met from Ravenclaw, and the image has stuck, for better or worse. I find Ravenclaw to be a wannabe Gryffindor, constantly going on about wit, wisdom, intelligence and creativity. It could also be because Cho Chang, the first Ravenclaw I met, was the blandest character in the books.

I was never a fan of Ravenclaw girls – they were too snooty! (Please don’t judge me. This was my thinking as a 13 year old, an age where you don’t arrive at decisions by referring to the latest edition of Malayala Manorama!).  I imagine the Ravenclaw common room to be full of (wannabe) Hermiones, strutting about in their robes, memorising books from cover to cover.

Thanks but no thanks, Ravena. I won’t be choosing any of your house mates. As Molly Weasley puts it so succinctly, ‘Not your daughters, you bitch!’

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Wallpaper Source: TheLadyAvatar - DeviantArt.  Text: Moi

Wallpaper Source: TheLadyAvatar – DeviantArt.
Text: Moi

Much like in Hollywood films where aliens always attack the US of A, Gryffindor is the house where it all happens. This is the house where Harry Insufferable Potter decides to set off on adventures that would seem risky to Peter Pettigrew on absynthe. Where everybody agrees with Harry when he decides it’s perfectly alright for a 12 year old to take on the most powerful dark lord the world has ever seen.

Can you imagine how unsettling it must be to hang out in the Gryffindor common room? You’re finishing up your assignments, and suddenly realise a weird man’s face in the fireplace. Or you’re sleeping (because your parents didn’t take you in for holidays) when suddenly a Death Eater decides to have breakfast with you! Duels, plans, conspiracies – the Gryffindor Common Room knows no chill.

If I were in Gryffindor, I’d have punched Harry right in his smug face, challenged Ron to a duel of ‘Whose wand is newer?’, and proposed to Hermione at least twice in a year. I would have whooped Harry’s punk ass, and later paid the price, as the guy is Dumbledore’s pet!

Too much drama, too much risk! As a 13 year old, I do not wish to be brawny and brainy; I want da punaani!

 

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Wallpaper courtesy: WallpaperCave.com.  Text: You get the idea!

Wallpaper courtesy: WallpaperCave.com.
Text: You get the idea!

Hufflepuff is the most chill house there is in the magical world, and even Alastor Moody wouldn’t disagree with me. While Hufflepuff gets the least screen time, even JK Rowling (herself a Gryffindor), agrees that Hufflepuff is the best house there is!

Hufflepuff has no celebrities, no heroes – even the most famous Hufflepuffs are the Harsha Bhogles of the magical worlds – Pomona Sprout and Silvanus Kettleburn. Also, Hufflepuffs are dignified and hard working. Take Cedric Diggory, for example – the guy drove girls wild for five years, then represented Hogwarts in the Triwizard Tournament, died, and came back to play Edward in a mind-numbing series for the rest of the decade.

Hufflepuffs are all-round nice people – no fuss, no starry airs. They are kids acting like kids, not like teenage pop stars throwing tantrums all the time. While the excitement in Gryffindor and Slytherin might seem attractive in the beginning, would you really want to go through the nerve-wrecking experience every single day? I would much prefer the Hufflepuff Common Room, where students choose to blow away their worries. For what’s a little herb when the Dark Lord’s reign is nigh! How much difference will a few blots of acid make, when there are Death Eaters hanging out in the corridors?

Also, Hufflepuff women are my idea of ideal women. Kind, patient, intelligent, and good with rolling joints. The kind who experiment with potions and positions, ogres and orgies. Since I’m no great looker, my game is more of intelligence and wit, and I’d fit into Hufflepuff like a brick in Diagon Alley.

Also remember, I am two years senior to Harry Potter, and given below is an accurate description of my life at Hogwarts:

my years in hogwarts

So I’ll remain at Hufflepuff, thank you very much!

You can have your dragons and phoenixes; I’m happy with my slugs and shrubs. I would like to make the best of my seven years in this place, and stay as far away from the limelight as possible.

You can call me dull, you can mock me, and our Quidditch team is probably shit. But I’ll gladly finish my years in Hufflepuff, get a clerical job in the Ministry of Magic, and enjoy some peace of mind there!

Professor Trelawney tells me the asshole with the scar is coming there in a few years!  

Hindi-Medium-Trailer-1

‘Hindi Medium’ proves Irrfan Khan is Bollywood’s best leading man

It’s a matter of great sadness that Irrfan Khan is not the biggest star in India. Over decades, the man has brought life to his roles, stayed away from embarrassing caricatures, and has been bold enough to call Bollywood out on its bullshit.

It pains me that Irrfan still has to act in smaller budget films, competing with coma-inducing shitfests like Half Girlfriend.

But a few minutes into watching him on screen, I was glad he isn’t a mega superstar.

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Hindi Medium drives home a topic that we are all aware of. English prejudice.

The Britishers took away not only our resources, but also our pride in native languages. This thought pains me for two reasons.

1) As a comic, most English stand-up in India is limited to elite, urban spaces. In most shows, half the jokes are on poor English – we are so comfortable with our privilege that we mock those without it.

2) As someone who grew up in a lower middle class household, English helped me enter social circles that my economic status wouldn’t. It’s a guilt I am guilty of.

I walked into the hall with this baggage, only to have Irrfan Khan blow my mind in the first few minutes. There is a gentle casualness about Irrfan’s acting. Unlike most of our stars, he is not loud, striking, or garish. He does not require the showmanship of a lion or the exhibitionism of a tiger. Irrfan has the lazy elegance of a cheetah. He does not roar, or leap at you through introduction shots. He waits and he purrs, and he traps you and then snarls. Such is his conviction in the role, that he mutters his punchlines, sometimes whispers them – and still has the audience laughing hysterically. What a joy it is to see this man on screen!

Director Saket Chaudhary and writer Zeenath Lakhani give him the best lines, and the field to play his shots. It helps that Irrfan is surrounded by a stellar cast of actors. My perennial crush Tillotama Shome plays an education consultant with such aplomb, Irrfan himself takes a backseat.

Deepak Dobriyal, who appears on the screen to hoots and whistles, walks a tightrope on a role that could so easily slip into caricature. And yet, he steers his role so well, you cheer him on as he takes sharp turns on the bend.

And finally, Pakistani actress Saba Qamar who brings from across the border an unbridled feistiness to her role. She is petty and high-strung and lovely and strong and vulnerable at the same time, and is an absolute joy to watch. It’s a good thing they didn’t cast an Indian actress, for most Indian heroines have stock expressions to scenes.

When they come together, this fantastic ensemble of actors elevate this story into an immensely watchable film, even if the writers let the story run wild.

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If there is any grouse against the film, it is that the director and writer allow the film to meander about like a drunk cow in the second half. The plot points shift without giving the audience any notice, and it is up to the actors to amp up their performance in reaction. This could partly be due to the fact that the film has been earlier made in Bengali and Malayalam, and perhaps the writers were staying true to the original story.

Hindi Medium also left me wondering if the Indian practice of adding an interval in the film is the reason our films are so bad. Imagine the plight of the writers – they have to create an engaging story, only to have a 20 minute break where people buy cola and popcorn, and children run to the toilet, and ads of Vicco Vajradanti play on the screen!

The writers then have to draw the audience back into the story, and this is where most Indian films falter. People walk out of the theatre mouthing brilliant lines like – ‘First half mast hai. Second half tatti hai’. But they will not let go of popcorn and coca cola for 15 minutes in the film!

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Be that as it may, the actors of Hindi Medium elevate the story with their honest performances. Go watch the film to see Hindi cinema’s finest leading man paint a canvas for you. Watch him play audacious shots, touch risky notes.

Also, watch the film for Saba Qamar’s terrific performance.

But mostly, watch Hindi Medium because as you read this, the film is losing out to Half Girlfriend, a film that stars a privileged ox and a porcelain bimbo.

*****

Sarathi-Baba-wallpaper

The Rise and Fall of Sarathi Baba

I’ll be honest with you.

I have always wanted to be a Baba. I have the long hair, and the ability to talk for hours. I also possess the innate ability to sound profound while discussing the difference between urad daal and masoor daal.

On a deeper level, growing up in an ashram exposed me to the works of a number of spiritual gurus such as Jiddu Krishnamurthy, Osho and UG. I have giggled at some of their teachings, read through some over and over again, and gaped in wonder at the simplicity of some of their preachings.

So the desire to be a Baba was always there.

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The last few years haven’t been great for Babas. There was Nityananda, who raised a symbolic leg in a private chamber with his devotee. There was Asaram Bapu, who has been convicted of raping two teenage girls. There is of course, Sant Ram Rahim Singh Insaan who has decided to inflict cinematic torture on the world through his films. And finally, that dude in Haryana whose guards started shooting at the police when he was wanted on murder charges.

But these might seem like minor hiccups, as the Baba industry is the second oldest profession in the world. It is only a matter of time before Indians latch on to another Baba.

Sarathi Baba knew all of this.

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Sarathi Baba was the first big mover in the Baba market in Odisha. The market had been fragmented by Satya Sai Baba, Asaram Bapu, the new-age secularism of Shirdi Sai Baba, and the Silent Sect of Sisters – the Brahmakumaris.

However, it was a case of local connect. These were all Babas preaching in Hindi/English. There was a need for local flavour, to activate local language settings. The suave, English speaking Babas like Sadhguru or Sri Sri Ravi Shankar do not attract too many people in Odisha.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

And that’s how Sarathi Baba shot into the limelight.

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Sarathi Baba spoke in Odiya, dressed up in yellow clothes, and bellowed from the television set every morning. While Babas are supposed to stay away from worldly pleasures and generally adopt an ascetic waistline, Sarathi Baba looked like he ate four katoris of gajar halwa a day.

When people dug into his past, it was found that Sarathi Baba used to sell paan in his village and gradually transformed into a yogic guiding light of the state. This gave me a lot of hope for a number of reasons.

Sarathi Baba cooler

You may achieve enlightenment later, but right now, you need Symphony Air Cooler.

Apart from spiritual reasons, one of the reasons was that I kinda look like the dude on the left after a chicken biriyani

The picture on the left is me after a Sunday afternoon chicken biriyani.

In a few years, his devotees began to increase. He released MP3 albums in his Phata Mangeshkar voice, his devotees wore lockets and bracelets with his pudgy face on it. Sarathi Baba opened new branches of his ashram in nearly every city in Odisha, with his main attraction being a cement cow that could give milk!

Please watch the video at your own discretion. It shows honey flowing out of Baba’s feet. Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted about its authenticity. 

 

While most Babas like to stay away from familial bonds, Sarathi Baba proclaimed to have a son. This young man (quite literally) threw his weight around, and was partially responsible for the earth slipping from its orbital axis.

Life was sailing smoothly for Sarathi Baba, when like most Babas, he decided to take a break.

The plan was simple, he would come to Hyderabad for a few days with a lady friend, chill out in an unknown land, monetise the benefits of being a Baba with all those tax cuts, and return to his holy land. Except for one crucial point.

ALL WAITERS AND BARTENDERS IN HYDERABAD ARE ODIYA.

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It happened before you could say the word ‘motey’. A curious waiter with a smartphone clicked a few pictures of a portly man who bore a striking resemblance to Odisha’s most famous Baba. In the picture, Baba was seen watching TV in the hotel lobby, ordering beer, and biting off chicken with aplomb.

Sarathi Baba Hyderabad hotel photos

It didn’t take long for the pictures to spread like wildfire. The hotel records were thrown open, and it was found that Sarathi Baba had ordered three Kingfisher Strong beers, and chilly chicken. That Baba was not only spreading his wisdom, but also his sperm. The 22 year old girl who had travelled with Baba immediately told the world (from behind a red handkerchief) that she had been harassed and forced to travel with Sarathi Baba.

When Baba travelled back to Bhubaneswar, he was arrested at the airport. It was a sad end to a colourful yellow career that held a lot of promise. Baba’s son was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate, and as can be seen from this Pulitzer-winning news byte, often engaged in vices like eating mutton pakoda and looking like Ramesh Powar.

 

Sarathi Baba’s ashrams were seized. Odiya people went back to the much safer Baba Ramdev and his Anulom-Vilom. Sarathi Baba got trolled by Odiya people in strange, weird ways.

Sarathi Baba Audio CD

 

 

 

 

 

 

sarathi-baba-cartoon

Caption says: ‘Whatever people say….DHHO!’

Sarathi Baba protest Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi wondering what he did this time!

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While it might seem comic, the story of Sarathi Baba taught me a few important life lessons. 1. If you become a famous Baba, always go to 5 Star hotels. Or to houses of rich devotees. Not Hotel Sunshine in Gachibowli, Hyderabad. 2. Never order three Kingfisher beers. Nothing good can come off that.

Meanwhile, the Baba market in Odisha sees a Sarathi Baba sized hole, waiting for me to fill it.

JAI SARATHI BABA!

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