IPL : Boon or Curse for the Indian Cricket ?

In 1977, an Australian businessman, Kerry Packer when not given the telecast rights of the Cricket matches by the Australian Cricket Board to his TV channel, waged a war against the Cricket establishment by starting his own World Cricket Series and signed dozens of high profile Cricketers for it by offering whooping amounts to them. The purists mocked that series as Packer Circus but that Circus changed the face of the game forever. The series ended with Packer having the last laugh but it revolutionized the game to an extent that earlier could not have been imagined.

Three decades later, Subhash Chandra, the chairman of the Zee Television Group, decided to follow suit in the Indian context and started Indian Cricket League (ICL). This league lasted two seasons and ended without getting even half of the success of the Packer Circus three decades back. However just like the Packer Circus, the ICL also brought about a revolutionary change in the Indian Cricket. The Board for Control of Cricket in India (BCCI) being financially very strong, did not bow before Mr. Subhash Chandra but it decided to counter the ICL with its own Indian Premier League (IPL), a 20-20 Cricket tournament which has successfully completed fourteen seasons since its outset in 2008 and is now ready to enter into the fifteenth one.

Cricket is perhaps the only game of its kind in which despite the basic rules and structure of the game remaining the same, the form and the style of the matches being played alongwith the public interest in them changes a lot in the three different formats in vogue today. There was a time when only the test matches (and first class matches) having two innings for each team and lasting for many days (sometimes for even more than five days) were played. The seventies saw the advent of the limited overs Cricket in which one thing was ensured that the match, if fully played, could not end in a draw like the format of the test (and the first class) matches. Since the people involved were habitual of playing (and watching) long innings then, such one innings matches were started with the no. of overs being 60 per innings which after more than one and a half decades only, could be reduced to 50 overs per innings. Since the no. of balls available for playing was less, new styles of stroke-making were invented to score runs quickly and the governing body also introduced some new rules to facilitate it because it had become clear that this new smaller format had gained more popularity than the erstwhile traditional format.

In the new millennium, the duration of the match was further shortened by reducing the no. of overs per innings to just twenty. This was developed in a new format called the 20-20 format, keeping the 50-50 format separate from it. Quite naturally, the less no. of balls to play, the more the stroke-making of the batsmen to score runs and hence the more the excitement for the public. Therefore, this mini format became even more popular than the 50 overs matches giving rise first to the ICL and then as its reaction, to the IPL. Now the ICL has had its life and does not exist but the IPL does exist with the official backing, support and ownership of the BCCI and since it’s pouring so much money in the coffers of the BCCI, it’s bound to continue for years and years. Now what’s the problem ?

The problem is that being the BCCI’s own tournament, most of the Indian Cricketers are always ready and available to partake in the IPL plus a no. of foreign players also making themselves available for it because of the heavy sums being paid to them by the teams who sign them (or buy them in the auction taking place every season), the focus on the traditional Cricket is less. Since the objective of the IPL is to make more and more and more money only, it’s been blended with the cine-world and cheerleaders (young girls) have also been introduced to entertain the public further. So where’s  Cricket ? The original game in which the skills of batting and bowling were truly tested ?

I agree with the purists who consider the IPL (in fact, the 20-20 format itself) as just an entertainment show to make money and not the true sport. Yes, lured by money, there are a lot many Cricketers, discarding the real game and opting for this shorter format only. I was startled to know when Chris Gayle of the West Indies had openly asserted that he was more interested in playing 20-20 matches (including the IPL) and not the test matches (for his national team) because Gayle is one of those four rare Cricketers who have two triple hundreds to their credit in test Cricket. But the fact was evident. He did not bother to play test and 50-50 overs matches for his national team for many years but was always available to play in the IPL. Ditto for Andrew Symonds whose international career virtually finished due to his neglecting the international matches. And how lethal it can be to neglect the traditional game which you can play for your nation is to be understood from this fact that Symonds’ career in IPL also ended very shortly thereafter.

Now the batsmen do not show any patience to stay on the wicket and the bowlers do not show any zeal to take crucial wickets. The focus of the batsmen is on scoring runs this way or that way and through the clumsiest of shots without caring for the correct technique. I compare it (the readers may disagree) to the making of the money by hook or by crook, not giving a damn for the ethics. The bowlers are also interested in giving less no. of runs and therefore, now their target is delivering a dot ball instead of getting the batsman out. Plus the boundaries have been narrowed and lifeless wickets are prepared to make it completely a batsman’s game with the bowler being reduced to a means to a supporting role only. And that’s the reason behind several great Cricketers’ failing to leave their mark in the IPL. Is it a healthy sign for the game ? No. ! The budding Cricketers are learning to play the shorter format so that they can partake in the IPL and neglecting the development of the basics of the game in them. The way one cannot try his hand on the light music properly without knowing the basics of the classical music, the same way a batsman or a bowler cannot achieve long lasting success in the shorter format without strengthening his knowledge of the basics which is possible only by playing in the longer format over a period of time. Finally, it’s a dream of every player to represent his country at the international level and for that he has to learn to stay on the wicket for some hours while batting and deliver long spells while bowling. That’s not possible just by playing in the IPL.

However, IPL is a boon too when looked from a different perspective. The sportspersons are also human-beings and they also need money to spend a quality life or at least meet the basic needs of themselves and their dependents. Indian Cricketers especially who have risen to the level of international Cricket, have been fortunate from this viewpoint when compared with the Indian players associated with the other sports (with the sole exception of Tennis). All the same, a few decades back, they also used to earn fame only and not money. Even the members of the Indian Cricket team which had stunned the sports world by winning the Prudential World Cup Cricket tournament in 1983, did not get much money thereafter. The span of active sport life is a bound to be a limited one. By his late thirties, a sportsman has to hang his boots. But life is still there. And the need for money will be there till the life is. Hence he has to make sufficient money during the his playing years only so that even after his retirement from the active game, he has money to live his life and is not forced to face any hardships due to dearth of money. We hear and read the painful stories of the sportspersons selling their medals won for the nation because of poverty. Who wants to undergo that state ? Nobody. Hence if the IPL provides money, it’s good for a person’s present and future and his mental health as well. With peace at his mind (not bothered by the monetary issues), he can do better on the field.

Now for the game. The IPL has given India some international players who have shown their class to the world. The past few test and ODI series played by India has highlighted this fact that now the much needed balance in the Indian playing eleven has arrived through Ravindra Jadeja. Very few people may be remembering that Ravindra Jadeja is a product of the very first IPL season when he had played for the Rajasthan Royals and caught everybody’s attention by his all-round skills. The 2010 season provided another durable Cricketer to the Indian Cricket team who has been playing for India for almost a decade and is likely to play for many more years for the nation – Ravichandra Ashwin whose talent came to fore through his playing for the Chennai Super Kings. These players are now proven match-winners for India. We can have more such players in the times to come. Hence the assumption that the IPL is killing the genuine Cricket, may finally prove to be a myth.

However, it is not to be forgotten that the players who are graduating themselves from playing for a IPL franchise to playing for the nation, are working hard on their game and not neglecting the basics. Jadeja and Ashwin bowl only four overs in an IPL match but they have mastered the art of effectively bowling more than 30 overs per innings in a test match. Virat Kohli plays attacking game in his IPL matches to score quick runs but he has learnt to stay on the wicket and set his eyes to play much longer innings in the international matches. Hence the player himself has to decide his goal. If he cherishes the dream to play for his country, then just playing in the IPL won’t help. Longer format whether it’s a 50 overs match or a test match, is an altogether different ball game which demands hard work, practice, patience and a will to adapt his style according to the demand of the format concerned. As the format changes, the player’s style is also to be molded accordingly. This is an skill to be developed by the player himself.

Besides, the IPL or say the 20-20 format of the game has set higher standards for fielding and catching. The players cannot afford to be lax on the field because every run saved is equal to a run scored. And giving a life to the batsman by dropping his catch may cost the fielding team the entire match. Hence the players have to be more fit, active and vigilant. This advantage of the IPL passes on to the international matches being played by the same players. 

The IPL is there in India to stay for the decades to come (despite the fact that it has suffered the ignominy of betting and match-fixing too) and there shouldn’t be a surprise if the International Cricket Council (ICC) creates a window for it in the international Cricket calendar in the near future. Hence I don’t think there’s any use cursing something which cannot be done away with. It’s just like the Indian democracy which may be flawed but we have to learn to live with it because we cannot abolish the system. And if we want to change or improve the system, we have to be in it and not out of it. The same principle applies to the IPL as well. 

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Fragrance of love in the fragrance of tuberose

Firstly, I express my gratitude towards esteemed reviewer and author Sajit Nair who inspired and reminded me to write a review of this beautiful movie which is as fragrant as the flowers of tuberose use to be. In fact, I had to write a review of Rajnigandha (1974) directed by Basu Chatterjee because of my love for literature as this movie is based upon a highly acclaimed Hindi story written by a renowned Hindi litterateur (Mrs.) Mannu Bhandari.925602763sRajnigandha (tuberose) is a celluloid adaptation of the Hindi story – Yahi Sach Hai (this only is true) written by the lady author Mannu Bhandari who is a big name in the world of Hindi literature. This story had received accolades from all the literary circles. Basu Chatterjee who always made low budget movies on the life and emotions of middle class people, adapted it for the movie without any distortion in the basic plot and presented the original story as it is on the screen with utmost honesty. This (right) approach of the director got supported by the intelligent and perfect casting for the principal characters. The good story, coupled with the brilliant performances from all the three main artists and the highly admirable musical score, makes a good watch for the lovers of emotional dramas. The director has nowhere digressed from the original story and presented it ditto on the screen.

The narrative of Yahi Sach Hai revolves around Deepa who loves Nisheeth while living in Calcutta but he breaks up with her without explaining anything to her. Heart-broken Deepa moves to Kanpur and comes in contact with Sanjay. In no time, love blossoms between the two. However when she visits Calcutta for a job interview, she meets Nisheeth again and the fire of her first love is rekindled in her heart. She starts feeling that her love for Sanjay was just an attempt to give solace to her broken heart and her first love only is the true love. But her dilemma continues whether she should opt for Sanjay or Nisheeth whose feelings can only be derived by her through his gestures, not expressed properly. However the ending scene of the story (and the movie) brings a twist in the tale with the realisation coming upon Deepa that the heart of a woman (like her) is too weak to take tough decisions.downloadIn the movie, the locations have been changed from Calcutta to Delhi and Kanpur to Bombay and the name of the character Nisheeth has been changed to Naveen (perhaps because Nisheeth is an uncommon name). Rest there is hardly any change. While the good story was the director’s advantage on one hand, its thinness was the disadvantage on the other because, after all, an interesting movie of a duration of two hours or more was to be presented to the Hindi movie audience. Hence here lay the challenge for him and the litmus test of his ability to keep the viewers tied to the screen throughout. And I admit that Basu Chatterjee passed this test with distinction. He has directed many bad movies too but Rajnigandha is definitely one of his best works.925602763-1228147-1The name of the movie is fittingly Rajnigandha because the hero Sanjay is habitual of bringing the gift of tuberose flowers (Rajnigandha) for Deepa who loves these flowers. And the fragrance of love spreading in a woman’s heart is no less than the enchanting fragrance of tuberose.The story (and the movie) tries to peep into a woman’s heart and explores an answer to a question – Can a woman love two men at the same time ? The answer from the viewpoint of the storyteller (who is a woman) is – Yes. It may happen when one of the two men is her first love. The first love always remains in a woman’s heart because of the fragrant memories it carries. However love is not just an emotion. It’s a need for every human-being (from my viewpoint – every creature) which should be met. Hence, it’s just not practical to spend the remaining part of one’s life with a broken heart and memories of a bygone love affair. The lovelorn Deepa finds solace in the arms of the outspoken Sanjay whereas the bygone love of introvert and silent Nisheeth (or Naveen) is very difficult for her to discard from her heart . Yet, in the end, when she is almost tired of the wait for Nisheeth’s letter, all of a sudden Sanjay breaks into her room with her favourite tuberoses and her craving need for love overpowers her abstract emotion. Then she feels that this love-drenched moment only is true, rest everything is (and was) false.MV5BNjdmMmM2MWItMTFkNy00ZTIzLTg0MTMtOTUxODdhODY2ZGY2XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDUzOTQ5MjY@._V1_UY268_CR6,0,182,268_AL_Personally (though I am a man), I feel Deepa comes across the truth in the end because we live (and relive) in memorable moments of life. A moment of victory, a moment of love, a moment of satisfaction or a moment of bliss overpowers an uneventful and repetitive routine of a lifetime. Hence the golden moments are not to be let gone or wasted. They are to be lived to the full. And the bliss gained in a few moments is better than a treasure of stale memories and false, unfulfilled expectations.Rajnigandha-1974-150x150The emotional story has been told nicely on the screen and there is no boredom. All the three lead actors – Vidya Sinha as Deepa, Amol Palekar as the extrovert Sanjay and Dinesh Thakur as the introvert Naveen have delivered admirable performances. I specially mention Dinesh Thakur who has been one of the most talented actors of his time but given a raw deal by Bollywood because he has acted in just a handful of movies. The supporting cast has also done well.Technically the movie is simple and simplicity itself was the pre-requisite of this emotional story of middle-class people. Hence acceptable. Music is a very big plus point of the movie. It contains only two songs, written by Yogesh and composed by Salil Chowdhury but they can very easily be counted among 100 best songs from Bollywood music – 1. Rajnigandha Phool Tumhaare Mehken Yun Hi Jeevan Mein, Yun Hi Mehke Preet Piya Ki Mere Anuraagi Mann Mein (sung by Lata), 2. Kai Baar Yun Bhi Dekha Hai, Ye Jo Mann Ki Seema Rekha Hai, Mann Todne Lagta Hai (sung by Mukesh). The lyrics have a high poetic quality and the music composition of both of them is just excellent.All in all, Rajnigandha is a very good emotional watch. However, with my recommendation for the movie, I also advise those who can read Hindi and are fond of good literature, to read the story – Yahi Sach Hai which is a gem from the treasure of Hindi literature.

This old review has been posted again as a tribute to eminent Hindi litterateur Mannu Bhandari who left for her heavenly abode yesterday (15.11.2021).

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Wife’s address

Around a decade back, I was struggling to get passports for myself and my family members because of several procedural hurdles in the path. Proof of address was one of them. Though Aadhar Cards had been issued but they were not considered a valid document for proof of address those days.

Since we belong to Rajasthan and due to my changing the job a number of times over in my career, we didn’t have voter cards for our then place of residence (Hyderabad). Anyway, I was able to provide my proof of residence because of the landline telephone bill (of BSNL) and my salary account in the State Bank of Hyderabad. However arranging the address proofs of my wife and mother became a big problem for me. The shocking thing was that my address proof was not accepted as the address proof of even my wife. I was astonished to find that in a country like India where the marital bond is considered so sacred, husband’s address proof is not accepted as the address proof of his wife living with him. When I asked the bank (State Bank) to make my salary account in the bank as a joint account with my wife being the joint accountholder, the bank official also asked for the proof of residence of my wife, independent of my address proof. Else, he asked me to furnish a copy of our marriage certificate which I couldn’t because our marriage had taken place through the religious customs and it was not a civil marriage. I had been told that even affidavits were also not accepted as the address proof. Finally, with the help of the travel agent working for my employer organization (B.H.E.L.), I approached the passport office with the form and whatever documents I could arrange. There also, the examining and enquiring officials asked for the proof of our marriage. We couldn’t do anything in this regard except showing them our children

With the mediation of that agent (and his liaison with the concerned passport office official), we got our passports in the end (a sigh of relief for me). The policeman who had come to our house for ‘verification’ also was not ready to do his duty without taking a bribe.

Now our family has got scattered because of my transfer to Visakhapatnam and my family’s shifting to Pune. Once again this address proof problem has propped up before us as my daughter who has grown-up and my son who has to apply for his PAN card and driving license shortly, need address proofs. My mother is no more now but the passports of myself, my wife and both of my children will need renewal next year. Now Aadhar Card is accepted as a valid address proof. But to update address in that one needs another address proof. For opening a bank account or getting address updated in the bank records, one needs an address proof. Driving license is a valid address proof but to get the address updated in the same, one needs another address proof. I can arrange my address proof and I have applied for updation of my address in my Aadhar Card but what about the other members of my family. One BSNL landline telephone can be obtained for one member’s address proof (that too is no easy job when another govt. recognized address proof is not available) but again the other members will be without separate address proof. The authorized Aadhar Card agent in Pune told me that the address proof of the head of the family is not acceptable for the other members of that family. Everybody has to arrange separate proof for himself / herself. Then how can my wife provide a proof of her residence ? Should husband’s proof of residence not be considered as the proof of residence of an Indian wife ? And how can my children provide separate proofs of their residence independent of my proof of residence ?

I am really confused and not able to find a way-out of this problem. In India, several rules and regulations are made without giving a thought to the problems of the straight citizens. That’s how the menace of corruption goes unchecked because even to get the right things done, you have to route your work through the channel of bribe.

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Aye Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal . . .

This old review is posted again as a tribute to the Tragedy King of the Indian screen – Dilip Kumar who left for his heavenly abode today.

In my review of Maut Ki Aahat (a Hindi novel), I have opined that consuming liquor to forget one’s grief is futile as liquor consumption may make a happy person happier but it can by no means mitigate the grief of an aggrieved person. On the contrary, the feeling of grief intensifies in the intoxicated condition. By drinking, a person does not get any relief from his grief but he makes those also aggrieved who are, in one way or the other, associated with him. By quitting drinking only, can the drinker think logically about and take some prudent step to solve the practical problems of his life. That’s the message of Daag (1952).indexDaag (scar) tells the story of Shankar (Dilip Kumar) who makes earthen toys and idols and sells them to earn a living for himself and his aged widow mother (Lalita Pawar). Shankar loves Paaro (Nimmi) who is the (step) sister of Laala Jagat Naarayan (Kanhaiyalaal). And Paaro loves Shankar even more than he loves her. Laala Jagat Naarayan has a grown up daughter too named as Pushpa (Usha Kiran). The aunt (Bua in Hindi) and the niece belonging to the same age-group, behave like close friends. Pushpa falls in love with a teacher Shyam Sunder (Jawahar Kaul) who has been appointed to tutor her and Paaro. Now Usha’s marriage with Shyam Sunder is fixed quite smoothly by her father but as far as the marriage of Paaro with Shankar is concerned, it’s almost next to impossible because of an acute problem with Shankar.daag-1952jpgAnd this problem is his addiction to drinking liquor. Paaro belongs to a well-off family whereas Shankar earn barely enough to make both ends meet for himself and his mother. But even a major part of that earning goes in Shankar’s expenditure on liquor. He does not listen to anybody, may it be his mother or his sweetheart Paaro or his close friend and genuine well-wisher Ragunaath (Laxman Rao) who wants him to quit drinking despite himself only running the liquor shop. He loses a lot including his mother and the love of Paaro whose marriage is fixed by her brother to someone else. The movie ends on a happy note when Shankar finally gets rid of his liquor addiction and gets the love of his life in the form of Paaro.daag-2Once my ex-boss Mr. S. Alaguvel had told me in my own interest –  ‘Mathur, image is very important. It’s even more important than who you actually are and what you actually do’. Sometimes a person may be very good, capable, virtuous and possessing a heart of gold but develops a bad image of him in the eyes of the world. That bad image sticks to him like a monkey on his back and does not leave him despite all his pluses and his sincere efforts to get rid of it. Hence to survive and prosper in this world and to lead a normal and peaceful life, one has to be image-conscious because we can’t afford to live alone, ultimately we have to be a member of the society and a part of the milieu. The protagonist of this story, i.e., Shankar could learn it after losing a lot as well as suffering a lot. The bad habit of drinking became a scar (Daag) on his name uglifying his personality. That’s why the movie has been titled as Daag.daag-1952-925704795-435994-1Despite selecting a good theme, writer-director Amiya Chakravarty could not prepare a good screenplay for the movie and finally it turned out to be just an average flick which the audience can endure mainly because of the great musical score consisting of some immortal songs. The complete script is lacklustre and the narrative moves in a wayward fashion without any direction and coherence of events. The movie defies logic time and again throughout its duration and the filmmaker could not create any sympathy in the audience for the suffering  hero.daagThe major part of the narrative is gloomy but for the purpose of giving relief to the audience, the completely superfluous love story of Shyam Sunder and Pushpa has been inserted alongwith a couple of songs. It has given some relief and amusement to the audience but it has nothing to do with the main story of Shankar, his mother and his sweetheart Paaro. The character of Pushpa itself is not at all required in the main story. The episode of Laala Jagat Naarayan’s unexpectedly getting inherited wealth is also quite amusing though it also serves no purpose for the story except creating a status difference between the hero and the heroine which has no relevance to their love.daag-1Still if the movie is able to pull the audience alongwith it, then it is because of the songs composed by Shankar Jaikishan with the help of the lyrics of Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri. This movie was made in the heyday of Talat Mahmood who was the uncrowned king of sad songs then. The album consists of three great sad songs of Talat Mahmood – 1. Hum Dard Ke Maaron Ka Itna Hi Fasaana Hai, 2. Koi Nahin Mera Is Duniya Mein, Aashiyaan Barbaad Hai, 3. Aye Mere Dil Kahin Aur Chal (which comes many times in the movie, once in the voice of Lata Mangeshkar too). Among other songs, Lata’s classic sad song – Kaahe Ko Der Lagaai Re, Aaye Na Ab Tak Baalma is also in the movie. The other songs (all in Lata’s voice) – Preet Ye Kaisi Bol Ri Duniya, Jab Se Nain Laage, Dekho Aaya Ye Kaisa Zamaana etc. are also good.

Technically, this black and white movie is so-so. The milieu is rural and simple. Sometimes the narrative confuses a bit. That speaks of poor writing and editing.

Tragedy King Dilip Kumar has done well in the lead role but surely it is not one of his best performances. Nimmi and Usha Kiran too have done well as the leading ladies. Lalita Pawar is perfect as the hero’s mother. The supporting cast including Kanhaiyalaal is also well in place.

Daag may not be liked by today’s generation who may find it difficult to sit through this movie. However I recommend it with my rating of 2.5 stars to those who are fond of watching old black and white Hindi movies containing good music and ample dose of sentiments. The huge fan following of the legendary singer Talat Mahmood and the legendary actor Dilip Kumar will also like it.

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Mujhko Apne Gale Laga Lo Aye Mere Hamrahi

In my reviews of old Bollywood movies like Dooj Ka Chand (1964), Duniya (1968), Aya Sawan Jhoom Ke (1969) etc.; I have underscored this fact related to the Hindi movies made during the sixties that the script-writers used to insert a suspense element (with or without a courtroom drama) in the final part of the screenplay for the story which was based on romance or social drama. This act of them added spice to the narrative flowing on the screen before the audience and enhanced the entertainment value of the movie. Sometimes, that suspense was an intriguing one and it was pretty difficult to guess the culprit (the murderer as in almost all such cases, the twist in the tale came due to happening of some murder only) and sometimes, it was quite an easy one and the audience could guess the identity of the real culprit very easily (which had to be somebody other than the hero or the heroine). The movies mentioned by me in the beginning line of this review fall into the first category whereas Hamrahi (1963) falls into the second one, i.e., it’s anybody’s guess as to who might be the murderer. Nonetheless, it’s a pretty good movie whose premise is not that murder but the emotional bond between the lead pair which took a long time (a sizable part of the movie) in developing.

Hamrahi (fellow-traveller) is the story of Shekhar (Rajendra Kumar) who is the son of the much respected public prosecutor Dharamdaas (Nazir Hussain) but being a playboy by nature, instead of doing any meaningful work, he keeps on philandering with many girls. Now our casanova hero stumbles upon two entirely different girls. One is a gold-digger – Hemlata (Shashikala) who considers herself as very clever and quite proficient in befooling men. The other one is a school teacher – Shaarada (Jamuna) who comes from a modest family but maintains and is proud of her high moral character. Shekhar, as usual, ditches Hemlata (after spending some good time with her) and despite her well thought-out and well executed machination, Hemlata is not able to stick to him. The way, a sensible traveller settles for a passenger train after missing a mail train, she catches Hanuman (Rajendra Nath) after losing Shekhar.

Shekhar, on the other hand, is smitten by the charms of Shaarada and genuinely falls in love with that simple girl. It does not prove to be difficult for him to get married to Shaarada who is motherless and lives with his father (Agha) and step-mother (Indira) and after losing her school teacher’s job due to her name having been associated with that of Shekhar, has few options left with her. However just like Shekhar’s father, she has also developed a very bad image of Shekhar in her heart and she does not mince words in conveying it to him on their first conjugal night itself. Shekhar, who has by now a change of heart and wants to win Shaarada’s love, shows better sense and does not force himself upon her as her husband. They continue to live under one roof without behaving with each other like a couple but don’t allow this fact to be known to the other members of that joint family consisting of Shekhar’s mother (Lalita Pawar), his elder brother Mahesh (Mehmood), Mahesh’s wife Shanti (Shubha Khote) and the children.

Days and months pass. Shekhar is not able to win Shaarada’s heart due to one reason or another and Shaarada keeps on loathing him. The emotional tension between them keeps on intensifying. However, finally the day arrives when Shaarada realizes that Shekhar has really mended his ways and truly loves her. Now with the evaporation of the tension and misunderstanding between the two, our hero and heroine have become a couple in the true sense and are about to start a happy life hereafter but the twist in the tale comes with the murder of Hemlata for which Shekhar is booked and tried in the court. Who will fight for Shekhar since his father himself is the public prosecutor and firmly believes that he only is the guilty ?

The murder, its investigation and the ensuing courtroom drama has been given very less footage in the movie which is the correct thing as the audience can very well guess (correctly) as to who is the murderer of Hemlata. The obvious suspect only turns out to be the murderer. The script-writer and the director could have handled this part of the movie in a better way and made it a little longer and more interesting. Perhaps they thought (like myself) that the other, major, part of the story only is really important and this twist serves merely as a tool to generate a (small) unhappy phase in the narrative before it is carried to its desired happy ending.

There is a very well-known and popular Hindi maxim – Subah Ka Bhoola Shaam Ko Ghar Aa Jaaye To Use Bhoola Nahin Kehte (if someone loses his way in the morning but is able to reach his home in the evening, he is not to be termed as a strayed one). I could not find any proper equivalent for it in English but in simple words, it means that if an errant person has mended or shows inclination to mend his ways, he should not be treated too harshly and should be given a chance in this regard because it is never too late to make amends. This is the message which the movie tries to convey to the audience. The undertrial hero asserts the same thing in the court too, asking the society, the court and his father – Can an aberrant not mend his ways and become a better person ? I appreciate this thought but in a patriarchal society, this liberty could be given to the males only. Women were supposed to forgive their husbands for their earlier sins once they were back on the right path. They were not supposed to expect the same kind of consideration for themselves if they happened to be in a similar position.

All things said and done, Hamrahi is a fairly good movie which entertains throughout its duration without any yawning moment for the audience. It starts off well, moves on nicely and reaches its denouement properly. Despite using stereotypes for many characters, the story does not seem to be out of place at any point though the track of gold-digger Hemlata and her husband Hanuman which attaches their landlord Gopi Nath (O.P. Ralhan) also later on is not a convincing one and mostly over the top.

The comedy side track of Agha, his wife Indira and his father-in-law Dhumal is entertaining but I praise the director for linking it to the murder and its investigation also. In fact, the comedy side track is pleasant only when it is not totally independent from the main plot but interwoven with it. The same cannot be said for the comedy presented by Mehmood and his wife Shubha Khote but their chemistry was always admirable and they entertain the audience very well.

Rajendra Kumar was not fit for the role of a playboy but he was natural like always in the role of a sincere lover in later reels. Jamuna could not completely hide her South Indian accent while speaking in Hindi but her looks and acting, both are pretty admirable. Shashikala is over the top as it was the demand of her role but her performance is flawless. It’s always a pleasure for me to see Lalita Pawar in a positive role. Others are routine. However Mehmood has startled by his impressive performance in the ending reels while playing the defense lawyer for his younger brother Shekhar (in real life, he was younger to Rajendra Kumar) and proved that he was not just a comedian, his talent was versatile. While seeing him and Rajendra Kumar in those courtroom scenes, I could not help recalling Kanoon (1960) in which Rajendra Kumar played the efficient and impressive defense lawyer and Mehmood played the playboy who generated laughs for the audience in the tense courtroom drama.

Certain scenes of the movie appear to be predecessors for similar scenes in later movies. The scene in which Shekhar has to face more than one girl at the same time and then has to hide both of them (from his uncle who approaches him all of a sudden) reminisces similar scene(s) in Boeing Boeing (1965) and Hanuman’s pretending to go out of the town but staying in the city only by renting a hotel room in order to spy on his wife reminisces of Sunil Dutt’s doing the same in Hamraaz (1967).

Technically this black and white movie is okay. Dialogues, art direction, cinematography, background score etc. are satisfactory. In addition to the dialogue of Shekhar in the courtroom (mentioned supra), the dialogue of Shaarada to the principal of her school while submitting her resignation from service is also praiseworthy when she underscores the significance of her character.

Shankar Jaikishan have done an excellent job in composing the music of Hamrahi using the beautiful lyrics of Shailendra and Hasrat Jaipuri. My personal favourite from the album of Hamrahi is Mohammed Rafi’s Ye Aansoo Mere Dil Ki Zubaan Hain. However Lata Mangeshkar’s  classic solo – Mann Re Tu Hi Bata Kya Gaaoon, Lata-Rafi duet – Karke Jiska Intezaar and above all, the title track by Mubarak Begum and Rafi – Mujhko Apne Gale Laga Lo Aye Mere Hamrahi have also been heart-conquerors for the music lovers for the past six decades. Other songs Wo Din Yaad Karo, Wo Chale Jhatak Ke Daaman, Main Albela and Dil Tu Bhi Gaa are also melodious and ear-soothing.

Summing up, director T. Prakasa Rao has done a fair job in directing Hamrahi which is a decent movie for sure. The lovers of golden oldies will definitely like it.

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Not Baazigar SRK, it’s Shikari Govinda

In 1993, the self-proclaimed Alfred Hitchcock(s) of Bollywood, i.e., director-duo Abbas Mustan presented young romantic hero – Shah Rukh Khan who was till then considered a newcomer only, in a very bold role which was not just some anti-hero kinda but something thitherto unseen and unheard in Bollywood. Why ? Because the hero was no different from any conventional villain, killing innocents to save his own skin and to achieve his goal (important personally for himself only). Bollywood had earlier seen anti-heroes but they were moral and conscientious. Despite being outlaws (or doing illegal things), they were definitely not so amoral as was the ‘Baazigar’ presented by Abbas-Mustan.

Baazigar (1993) which was an adaption of Ira Levin’s novel A Kiss Before Dying was a huge box office hit and Shah Rukh Khan’s courage to do such a role in the beginning years of his career as a hero was well appreciated. He also won the Filmfare Best Actor award for this role.

Years passed. One day, renowned film director N. Chandra who had directed quality movies like Ankush (1986), Pratighaat (1987) and Tezaab (1988) in the past; decided to make a movie on the lines of Baazigar and teamed up with popular hero Govinda for this purpose. Govinda who had started his career as a romantic hero, had become immensely popular for his comic timing during the nineties and delivered many hit comedies by then. Well, he decided to take a dive into the proposed risky project and accepted the risky role of the same kind of amoral hero (who is no better than a villain) as played by SRK in Baazigar. The result was Shikari (2000).

Shikari (hunter) begins with our (anti)hero’s daredevil escape from jail after which he disguises himself as a middle-aged ugly man and travels from India to South Africa by ship (on a fake passport, of course). In South Africa, he presents himself as a business tycoon Mahendra Prataap Singh (whereas actually he is Om Shrivastav) and becomes the rival of Virendra Singh Rawal (Nirmal Pandey) in the business of spices. On one stormy rainy night, he kills Virendra after revealing his true identity to him. He visits Virendra’s home later on when his post-death rites are being performed in his real self and introduces himself to Virendra’s mother (Sushma Seth), his widow Suman (Tabu) and his unmarried sister Rajeshwari (Karishma Kapoor) as his friend from India. Like Baazigar SRK, our Shikari Govinda also commits two more murders (of innocents) to hide his original crime. Since he is an absconding prisoner, the concerned cop (Kiran Kumar) is on his trail. Besides, Rajeshwari starts her quest for her brother’s murderer on one hand and falls in love with that very person on the other. She doesn’t know that her widow sister-in-law Suman knows everything about the background of this murder (and also the murderer). Everything gets clarified and the narrative (which now appears to be moving without any direction) is closed in a Baazigar like tragic climax.

First let’s talk about the pluses of the movie. It’s technically very good and the beginning 15-20 minutes including the introductory scene of Karishma Kapoor are simply awesome. I had seen this movie with my wife in the Chitralaya cinema of Boisar (Maharashtra) when it was released as I was serving at Tarapur Atomic Power Station those days which is situated at that place. It was a pleasure to see the thrills on the big screen (involving human-beings as well as a wild beast). Govinda’s changing his face with the help of the pieces of a mask may not be reliable but the fact is, his face got entirely changed by the same and even the audience might be finding it difficult to identify Govinda in that disguise. The scene involving the first (and the main) murder is also sensational.

Since, this movie is resting mainly on Govinda’s shoulders only, he had to perform very very well in the immensely challenging role which was in stark contradiction to his popular image those days. And he has not disappointed. Though he did not win any award for his terrific performance in this role, it’s really worth an award. His cruel looks when committing murders are simply hateful. But on the other hand, in the scene of his visiting the murder victim’s household for condolence purpose, he has displayed his versatile acting skills which are simply adorable. That particular scene (with Govinda’s dialogues in that) is very well written and that’s why very impressive. Other actors are so-so. However (Late) Nirmal Pandey has delivered a praiseworthy performance. 

The cinematographer has captured the beauty of Cape Town (South Africa) very well. Other technical aspects including the action and chase sequences are also okay. Editing is flawed but for that the script is to be held as culprit.

Musical score prepared by Aadesh Shrivastava is no match for the chartbusters prepared by Anu Malik for Baazigar. Only one song Bahut Khoobsurat Ghazal Likh Raha Hoon stands out in terms of both lyrics and composition (and also Kumar Sanu’s rendition).

The main trouble of Shikari lies with its script which is confused and is not able to explain many things properly in the end. Being a copycat is also no easy job as copying also requires some skill (Naqal mein bhi aqal ki zaroorat hoti hai). N. Chandra tried to copy Baazigar but despite the best efforts of his principal artiste in the pivotal character, this Shikari of his fell flat on its face.

Shikari is interesting only in its first half. The post-interval session is a complete letdown. However, for diehard Govinda fans, it may prove to be a big treat as their favourite hero took  risk to play a negative role in his heyday and excelled in that.

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Revisiting the era of Hrishi Da and Basu Da

During the seventies and early eighties, amidst several action-dominated flicks, the Hindi cinema intermittently presented low budget, neat and clean and simple movies too which provided light and rib-tickling entertainment and could be watched by a whole family together. Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee were flag-bearers of this kind of cinema which had developed its own audience and that’s why such movies were though not blockbusters, able to recover that cost and minimum profit. It was that stream of the mainstream Indian cinema which had an identity of its own. Anand, Piya Ka Ghar, Baawarchi, Chhoti Si Baat, Chupke Chupke, Khatta Meetha, Golmaal, Baaton Baaton Mein, Khoobsurat, Naram Garam, Hamaari Bahu Alka, Kisi Se Na Kehna, Rang Birangi, Jhoothi etc. were amidst the simple yet high quality movies served by these two directors, containing a bit of lovely romance and healthy laughs for the Indian families.

Times change. Just like in the life of any individual or the society at large, phases come and go in cinema too. These stalwarts grew old and stopped directing movies and with that the phase of healthy, clean, low-budget comedies also waned. In 2010, the success of an excellent comedy – Atithi Tum Kab Jaaoge provided a feeling that the bygone era of Hrishi Da and Basu Da could be back. There is an audience to welcome such movies if well-made. And then in 2012, a newcomer director, Mandeep Singh came up with a movie – Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya which though does not live up to the standard of Atithi Tum Kab Jaaoge, yet it’s a decent movie which can be termed as a romance enveloped in comedy.

Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya (fallen in love with you) is a Punjabi title chosen for a Hindi movie being the words of a song of this movie. It is a movie which starts as a pure comedy and later focuses on romance. Autorickshaw driver, Viren (Ritesh) is in very low spirits when the owner of the autorickshaw, Bhatti (Tinu Anand) sells it and alongwith that the savings of Viren that he had hidden in that autorickshaw are also gone. He suspects that Bhatti had usurped his money before giving away the autorickshaw. Being meek by nature, he reaches Bhatti’s house in an intoxicated state to fight with him and get his money back. The engagement ceremony of Bhatti’s daughter, Mini (Genelia) is taking place at that hour who sees a golden opportunity in this event to run away from an unwanted marriage. She runs away from there with Viren, showing to the eye-witnesses as if Viren has kidnapped her. To the world, Viren is the kidnapper and Mini is the kidnapped but the reality is vice versa. Now starts the adventurous journey of this duo which is destined to become a couple in due course of time and during this journey, they arrange ample laughing and tickling moments for the audience watching them on the screen.

Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya renders much more entertainment in the first half than in its second half when the story lands up in Viren’s own family. Since Viren and Mini get more screen time together in the first half, they are able to entertain the audience better with the skilfully penned script. The second half is less entertaining with family life, relationships and ethical issues intervening. Still the sequence of kidnapping of a foreigner in this half is quite hilarious. The climax is typically Bollywoodish with the expected reunion of the kidnapper and the kidnapped (it’s difficult to decide now who’s who) who have become lovers in their hearts.

Despite satisfactorily written comic script and good direction, I will not term Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya as some great comedy movie. The item song of Veena Malik has been unnecessarily forced in the second half which mars the simplicity and decency of the movie. Besides, the writer could not think of many amusing incidents for the later half and sentimental twists have been inserted to move the narrative and fill the time duration before the climax arrives. However, the movie does not bore. The dialogues are also in sync with the script. Though the movie is sans any vulgarity, the director could still have done better and kept it thoroughly ‘vegetarian’.

The movie has some ethics-linked discussion too. Though I feel from the talks of the hero’s father (Om Puri) and sister (Chitrashee Rawat) that we, the Indians, have mastered the art of justifying all our wrongdoings through decorative but hollow logics, still when it’s said that the sister steals because she wanted to become a magician but could not become and now vents out her frustration by demonstrating this art of the hand (Haath Ki Safaai), the argument has some merit. Many talented youths resort to the wrong path because they do not get a right path to channelize their talent and energy. And the father’s speech to his son in the pre-climax scene, defining a coward and inspiring the son to shed his cowardice and shoulder responsibility is just superb.

This movie does not boast of foreign locations, costly sets and costumes and a high production value but the simplicity in the life of an autorickshaw-driver in Delhi is heart-winning and the greenery in the fields of Haryana is eye-soothing. The art-director and the cinematographer have done their parts well. Other technical aspects are also in order.

Music is another plus point of this movie. The melodious songs composed by Sachin-Jigar containing the beautiful lyrics penned by Mayur Puri and Priya Panchal are like oasis in the desert of today’s Indian cinema where it is fast becoming difficult to differentiate between music and noise. Songs like Main Waari Jaawaan, Tu Mohabbat Hai, Jeene De and Main Pee Pa Pee Pa Ho Gaya are ear soothing, eye soothing and heart soothing at the same time. Only the item song picturized on Veena Malik is not in line with the mood of the movie and should have been dispensed with.

Ritesh and Genelia have tied the sacred knot in their real life and hence their reel life chemistry has got positively affected by their real life love. Both have done exceedingly well. Where normalcy is required, they are normal and where over-the-top performances are required, they again fit the bill. All others have supported them perfectly.

Summing up, Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya may not be some great or unforgettable movie but it’s like a gust of fresh air in the suffocated environment of formula-based and big-budget Bollywood movies containing more style and less substance. If you are fond of watching the golden oldies (of rom-com genre) of Hrishi Da and Basu Da, this movie is the right choice for you.

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Second rate tales of the second sex

On 7th July 1999, Siya Dulari, a lower caste woman was burnt alive (after a supposed gang-rape) in Bhawanipur, a small village in Uttar Pradesh (Kanpur Dehaat). As per the statement issued by the police, she was abducted and held captive for a week before the heart-wrenching treatment rendered to her by the accused people of upper caste. The guilt of Siya Dulari was that her teenager son had eloped with a teenager girl belonging to an upper caste in their neighbourhood. Her husband, fearing for such a backlash from the side of the upper castes, had already run away to save his life, leaving her alone. Till date, it is not known whether the perpetrators of this ghastly murder got the punishment they deserved or not. But this end of that poor woman remained in news for a long time and then was forgotten like all stale news.

This incident which was nothing but an illustration of the caste divide in (Northern) India where the lower caste ones are time and again reminded to stay in their place through such acts (in which the females of the downtrodden communities are the main sufferers), instigated filmmaker Raj Kumar Santoshi to make a movie covering this crime and highlight the plight of not only the lower caste women but the womenfolk in general in the Indian society as a whole. The result came in the form of Hindi movie – Lajja (2001).

Lajja (shame) is a cluster of female-oriented tales in which Vaidehi (Manisha Koirala) is the connecting link. She runs away from a troubled marriage involving a cruel and abusive NRI husband (Jackie Shroff). Finding that she has no place in her parental home also, she being pregnant, runs for her life and the life of her unborn child as the clutches of her husband are following her and in this journey, comes across troubled women like her, viz. Maithili (Mahima Chaudhary), Jaanaki (Madhuri Dixit) and Raam Dulari (Rekha), each one of them facing different issues with the common thread being the suffering due to being a female. In this men’s world where they are the predators preying on those women who are conscious of their right and dignity and pronounce it too, these women come across some golden-hearted men too, viz. a thief (Anil Kapoor) and a bandit (Ajay Devgan). The final episode of the movie is the tale of Raam Dulari (modeled on the tragedy of the real life Siya Dulari).

Raj Kumar Santoshi has considered the mythological Sita as the quintessential and eternal example of a suffering woman in a patriarchal social set-up. That’s why he has named the suffering women of his story as Vaidehi, Maithili, Jaanaki and Raam Dulari (all being synonyms of Sita). Only Maithili succeeds in emerging as triumphant (after a lot of drama) as she discards her dowry-based wedding. Vaidehi also gets a happy end to her woes when her abusive and chauvinistic husband has a change of heart and both of them return to the beginning point of this story (to live happily ever after). Jaanaki and Raam Dulari are not that lucky.

Personally, I found the episode involving Jaanaki being the strongest and the most impactful in which she twists the Raamayan scene being performed on the stage (herself playing Sita) and instead of giving Agni Pariksha, asks Ram to give Agni Pariksha to prove his ‘purity’. However for the climax of the movie and (also the denouement of Raj Kumar Santoshi’s narrative), the extremely tragic episode of Raam Dulari (which only had laid the foundation for making of this movie) only fits the bill.

Technically, the movie is quite good. Art direction, cinematography, choreography and action; all are up to the mark. It’s excessively long but definitely it’s not the fault of the editor. Music of Anu Malik and Illaiyaraaja (composed one song and prepared the background score) is good with the lyrics being meaningful and apt for the story. Acting wise speaking, none of the actors (including very young Sharman Joshi as Raam Dulari’s son and debutante Aarti Chhabria as his upper caste girlfriend) has disappointed. All (including those playing the baddies) have played their parts well. Ajay Devgan appears to be miscast as a deadly bandit because he looks too slender to be that. However he has made up for that by his good acting.

The trouble of Lajja lies with its script and direction. Had Raj Kumar Santoshi made an independent movie solely on the real life tragedy of Siya Dulari, it would have been better (for him as well as the audience). But by packing too many women-centric social issues in his script, he has made it cumbersome. The movie has become too long to be endured by the spectators and thus its entertainment value and inspirational (or social awakening) value, both have got diluted. That’s why the movie impresses in patches only. Jackie Shroff’s wearing designer suits throughout the narrative (while chasing his runaway wife) is ridiculous. The baddies (and many events involving them) are totally filmy. And Ajay Devgan as the Desi Robin Hood is also totally unreal and out of place in the movie.

And the most filmy thing is the denouement in which Vaidehi delivers a long (and melodramatic) speech on women-suffering and women-lib (after gatecrashing the felicitation ceremony of Raam Dulari’s perpetrator) and then the result comes in the form of mob justice. A crowd of women thrashes the baddies by footwear and then they are eliminated. That may be enough for our socially awake filmmaker but is that enough to uproot the centuries old male-bias against the second sex in a majority of human-societies ? The movie was released in 2001 but even after two decades, have we seen any improvement in the situation ? No ! We have been seeing deterioration instead since then. Crimes against women have been and are on the rise only. Utterly simplified filmy solutions to grave social problems are an insult not only to the themes chosen for such movies but also to the intellect of the audience.

Summing up, Raj Kumar Santoshi has presented second rate tales of the second sex in Lajja which itself is a shame (Lajja). He could not make a box office grosser despite using all the tried and tested formulas. Nor could he do justice to the noble theme of the movie. Nevertheless, this movie is not a trash and should be watched to sensitize ourselves to the heart-piercing sufferings of our womenfolk.

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A mystery in Lonavala

Maut Aaee Dabe Paaon (death came silently) is a murder mystery penned by eminent Hindi mystery writer Surendra Mohan Pathak. The story is set in the Hilly town of Maharasthra – Lonavala.

The murder victim is an aged rich person Vishnu Mohan Adhikari who had married a much younger girl Meera some three years ago. When he had proposed her, she did not deny under the hope of a decent and respectable wedded life and not because she is a gold-digger. However after wedding only, she came across the narrow-mindedness of Adhikari who had married by following his philosophy which was ‘wife is cheaper than maid’. Having no choice, she has been continuing with her married life knowing very well that the young family physician of ailing Adhikari, Dr. Shyam has been harbouring soft-feelings for her in his heart (without any response from her side).

Meera comes to know about the death of her husband when she approaches him with his morning tea. More than his death, the thing that startles her is a paper affixed in his computer-printer (being eccentric, Adhikari had been communicating to everybody in the family in writing for quite some time) and that paper says that she has an affair with Dr. Shyam. Frightened, she removes that paper from the printer and call the other members of the family – Abhishek, the nephew of Adhikari; Nidhi, the niece of Adhikari and Prabhat, her boyfriend who is a flop theatre-personality. Dr. Shyam also arrives and suspecting that the death is not a natural one, calls Dr. Devre, a senior and experienced doctor for examination of the body.

Dr. Devre advises for postmortem of the body as he feels that Adhikari has died of poisoning. Once it is established, all the family members become suspects in the eyes of the investigating police officer as now it’s a case of murder. Adhikari’s friend-cum-lawyer, Shekhar Saable also gets involved in the proceedings. Meera gets another shock when a private detective, Bhojani who has been after the family members under an assignment from Adhikari, blackmails her on the basis of his findings. Being the prime suspect for the murder, she finds no family member sympathizing with her but Dr. Shyam and advocate Saable appear to be on her siide. Soon, Bhojani also gets murdered in his office making this murder mystery more intricate. Finally, with the help of her silent lover, Shyam; Meera is able to prove her innocence when the real culprit is unmasked.

Maut Aaee Dabe Paaon is a traditional whodunit. Surendra Mohan Pathak has spread the story on the pages of the novel in his trademark style and kept the entertainment value of the book intact till the ending pages. The characters are utterly human with no unnaturalness in anybody’s character. He has explored the complexities of human mind also in his bid to explain the solution of the mystery. The novel is not a lengthy one and the compact narrative keeps the reader glued to the book. The story does not digress anywhere from its main path and moves straight towards its destination, i.e., the denouement.

With his storytelling, the author has allowed the readers to get acquainted with the geography of Lonavala (and to some extent, Khandala). Mr. Pathak has written two novels with the setting being Lonavala – this one and Saazish. Due to reading these novels only, I had developed a desire in my heart to visit Lonavala. And after reading the novel being reviewed in June 1997 and Saazish in January 2000, finally I made my first visit to Lonavala on 13th and 14th May of the year 2000. During that period, I was serving at Tarapur Atomic Power Station in district Thane of Maharashtra. The visit proved to be such a pleasant one for me that thereafter Lonavala became my favourite vacation point.

The minus point of the novel, in my opinion, is that any intelligent reader (who is fond of reading mysteries) can guess the identity of the murderer with a little bit of effort. However, the mystery being a simple one, can be considered a plus point also if looked from a different angle. The language is simple, the dialogues of the characters while talking to one another are praiseworthy and overall speaking, the narrative flows very well.

Published 24 years back in hard copy, this novel was not having a good production quality at that time. Since, it was not republished in hard copy later, it’s difficult to find any copy now for any prospective reader. As of now, it’s not available in e-book form also (a sizable number of Mr. Pathak’s old novels are presently available in e-book form on Amazon Kindle). Hope, it appears in e-book form soon.

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Revisiting Hip Hip Hurray and Chak De India

Yash Raj Films’ Shimit Amin directed movie – Chak De India (2007) can deservingly claim to be the best sports movie made in Bollywood. If we set aside the biopics of the Indian sportspersons released during the past few years, we have got some good and some average sports movies made in Bollywood. The pioneer in this line was Prakash Jha’s debut directorial venture – Hip Hip Hurray (1984).

Watching Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal (2007) renders a feeling to revisit both Chak De India and Hip Hip Hurray though it was released barely three and a half months post the release of Chak De India. As the movie progressed scene by scene, a sense of deja vu enveloped me and I strongly felt that the script-writers (Anurag Kashyap-Rohit Malhotra-Vikramaditya Motwane) must have sought inspiration from both these movies when he were writing the screenplay of Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal. Nevertheless, it is to be admitted that it’s overall a good movie which entertains as well as motivates albeit in a different setting, i.e., Southall, England.

The main character of the story is not a human-being but a Football club named after its location – Southall United Football Club which has been a loser in competitions for decades and whenever it competes in any event, nobody gives it any chance to win. Now the trouble is, the place of the club taken on lease, is to be vacated unless the lessee pays the due amount of three million pounds to the lessor who is planning to build a shopping mall and a theme park at that place. To save their club, their ground and their passion for Football, the club members which are all Asians, get an opportunity in the form of the English Football League whose winner is going to be paid a sum of (exactly) three million pounds as the prize money. Can they avail the opportunity and make the impossible possible ?

Well, we know the answer. After all, it’s a masala Bollywood flick.  But then the end of such movies is bound to be a predictable one. The highly admirable two movies mentioned in the beginning of this review are no exceptions in this regard. Now the thing is, despite the predictable end preceded by an adrenaline rushing climax, if the movie is able to keep the audience glued to the screen with unwavering attention, it’s a success of the filmmaker. Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal achieves this end only partially. Studded with Bollywood clichés, this movie is unduly long with confused characterization of certain principal characters. The writers and the directors have tried to connect certain facts and tie loose ends in the end and they have also raised the issue of racism (anti-Asian bias) prevailing there but despite (and because of) that, the narrative meanders through confusing lanes and make this lengthy movie an exhaustive one for the spectator.

The most confused character is of Sunny Bhasin (John Abraham) who considers himself a British and not an Indian (his parents are Indian) but does not give a damn for the racial bias imposed on him. And his professionalism is based not on professional ethics but money and allied things. Other characters like the captain of the Football team (Arshad Warsi), his sister who happens to be the physiotherapist of his team (Bipasha Basu) and the coach who is an ex-player of this club (Boman Irani) are relatively less confused but confused beyond doubt. It reduces the credibility of the story despite the fact that the writers have incorporated the real life incident of the Munich Plane Crash happened in 1958 in which eight players of the Manchester United Football Club were killed, into the narrative.

Racism is condemnable irrespective of the part of the world where it is practiced. However imposed patriotism for their country of origin also does no good to the immigrants. Patriotism or love for the motherland (of self or the parents) becomes lifeless and artificial once it is worn on the sleeve. And that’s what the writers and the director (Vivek Agnihotri) could not understand. Love for India (or Pakistan or Bangladesh) once shown off unnecessarily by the characters of the story, starts giving the look of something plastic.

The Football matches have been shot well and the art-direction is also up-to-the-mark but the director and the editor could not render the stuff available with them the form of a slick movie. Hence the movie though entertaining, impresses in patches only. Though Football is widely perceived as a violent game, showing the players in a violent mood almost every time is irksome. The romantic track of John-Bipasha is quite unnecessary. Ditto for the item song – Billo Rani. Albeit the music composed by Pritam is good, especially the title track. Background score and dialogues are so-so.

Acting is good and all the principal as well as the supporting actors have done justice to their respective roles though Bipasha Basu’s character hardly matters in the movie. Ditto for her (and Arshad Warsi’s) younger brother’s character. John Abraham has a great screen presence which make up for his limited expressions and acting talent. Boman Irani has done a pretty good job as the coach. His speech to his players before the final match is on the lines of Shah Rukh Khan’s speech to the female Hockey players in Chak De India but it contains a very good message – ultimately moments only matter whether it’s a match or a life and hence they are to be seized to shine and cherish later on, rest is all routine.

Hip Hip Hurray was a Football movie only. If some other quality Football movie that comes to mind, it is Bend It Like Beckham (2002). Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal could not match the quality of these classics. It’s a decent timepass and a one time watch notwithstanding.

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