Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The World Cup Countdown... The Best Posts

So, collected over the last 18 days of cyber-dribbling, I have put together the best posts / articles on football in general and the WC in specific. The intent was to get to ten posts but my interest waned dramatically after the Selecao exit! Sigh...
They are in no particular order and have been numbered only for my own convenience.

Caveat: Would be particularly appealing to 30+ Bengali males. Mad Momma and The Pope would do well to avoid!

1. Dipanjan Chattopdhyay's post on the death of Indian football. He has managed to mix personal anecodotes with history, with just the right amount of dramatic license.

2. Udayan Chakrabarti's (long overdue) post on World Cup memories... 1982 onwards. He claims to be a Brazil fan but his sympathetic attitude towards Italy is very suspicious! But his elephantine memory is quite unparalleled.

3. Greatbong a.k.a Arnab Ray mixes all his vices (Bongdom, movies, dark humour) in this post on India's quest for a World Cup berth. Specially recommended for the photos used!
3a. Scroll down the same page to the comment about Bengalis at the World Cup... will make it a separate entry the moment I locate the source... for the time being, it is an anonymous entry!

4. In a minute-by-minute coverage of the Brazil-Ghana match, Paul Doyle (of the Guardian) is sometimes partisan, sometimes funny, sometimes incisive - and mostly all three! Great fun... even his Ronaldo jibes!

5. Jorge Valdano a.k.a The Man Who Was Closest to El Diego in 1986 writes about his memories of Falklands War II with amazing clarity. And is disarmingly modest. (BTW, it was the 20th Anniversary of that miracle.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Gulzar Redux... Ijaazat onwards

This rejoinder is in response to a friend’s request that the earlier Gulzar piece made too long a leap from Ijaazat to Buty Aur Bubli. And also, in deference to Mad Momma who is currently heading the Association of World Cup Widows!
So here goes…

Gulzar’s last twenty years seem to throw up a whole lot of modern idiom in his work, his versatility bowing to the changing speech patterns. Not compromising on the poetry but still managing to put in a friendly nod to the Gen Next!

While lesser mortals still grappled with archaic notions of boy-chasing-girl, Gulzar exemplified the persistence of the lover through “Sara din raste mein khali rickshey sa, peechhe peechhe ghoomta hain…

He brought in Hinglish through the voice of Vimmi Saluja of Pankhi Nagar when she screamed out loud “Chand ka teeka matthey lagake / Raat din taaron mein jeena veena easy nahin”… and while at it, don’t miss the Punjabi trait of saying roti-shoti, kukkar-shukkar, jeena-veena!

Aks had a ‘remix’ of the traditional Ramleela ditty… in which Seeta asked Hanuman to e-mail Ram since Ravana had cut off all the phone lines! (I recall a letter to the ‘Readers Don’t Digest’ column in Filmfare pompously pointing out that there was no phone-email during the Ramayana times… sigh!)

But this new trend in his poetry has had no impact on his string of mixing metaphors and providing refreshingly new points of reference.

* Shaam ki khidki se, chori chori nange paon, chaand aayegaSaathiya
The moon makes a quiet entry, tip-toeing through the window left open by the evening.

* Udaasi ki haldi hatake tamanna ki laali pakne to doKhubsoorat
Let the jaundice of grief be replaced by a scarlet desire.

* Itna lamba kash lo yaaro, dum nikal jaaye / zindagi sulgao yaaro, gam nikal jaaye / Dil phnooko aur itna phnooko, dard nikal jaayeHu Tu Tu
Take such a long puff that your breath gets taken away. Burn your life down to smoke out the grief.

* Sannate ki sij pe soye yeh saap si sarakti raat, yeh kaali zehrili raatAks
Asleep in a burrow of silence is the slithering night, a black venomous night.

In 1993, he also penned lyrics for Maya Memsaab, which did not do anything for either Deepa Sahi or Shahrukh Khan's careers but had enough delicacies to elevate the music. The most obvious one being the title song which was a lovely play on the word Maya... Ek haseen nigah ka dil pe saaya hain / Jadu hain, junoon hain, kaisi maya hain. A bewitching vision has eclipsed my heart... A magic, obsession or illusion?

However, my personal favourite of this period is also one of the most popular non-film songs ever, one that has remained in everyday memory & lingo despite never being part of any album… the title song of Jungle Book!
Jungle jungle baat chali hai pata chala hai
Chaddi pahan ke phool khila hai phool khila hai..
Ek parinda hua sharminda, tha wo nangaa
Isse pahle ande ke andar tha wo changaa
Soch raha hai baahar aakhir kyun nikala hai
Arre chaddi pahan ke phool khila hai phool khila hai..

Also, an interesting point to note here is an increasing use of onomatopoeia in his antaras.
* Chhaiyya chhaiyya – Dil Se
* Chhalka chhalka – Saathiya
* Chhai chhapa chhai – Hu Tu Tu
* Chappa chappa charkha chaley – Maachis
* Dhadak Dhadak dhuan udaye re – Bunty Aur Bubli
What about this? Or am I reading too much into four/five songs that came to mind simultaneously?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The Truth in Advertising Hoardings

I was whispering it under my breath, murmuring it in football addas and desperately praying for it. I was not saying it on my blog, only quietly tucking it away in comments on other people's blogs.
I was hell-bent on making the advertising hoarding come true...
Then Japan scored in the 34th minute. My crossed fingers looked in imminent danger of being permanently crippled.

Then the cross from Cicinho. And the Phenomenon burst into life. A nod of the head... and it was his 13th goal of the World Cup.

Suddenly, the Samba came alive.
Ronaldinho's ponytail was jauntier. Kaka looked handsomer. And even Roberto Carlos seemed to be growing some hair!

Juninho Peramwhatsisname joined in the party. Gilberto sneaked in one more.
And just when we thought it was all over, Ronaldo got a pass facing the opposite direction of the goal. He turned around faster than any other 90-kilo man in the world possibly could... and gave Ghana a lot to think about!

The best move of the day however did not result in any goals. It was a jazzy one-two between Ronaldinho and Ronaldo, which was ultimately shot wide. But the smiles the two exchanged after that dazzle underlined the magic.

Ghana. Spain. Portugal. Argetina.
Pay attention to the Nike hoarding that I was praying about.
There is the famous bald pate from the back. The Number 9 in green on a gold background. The 7 letters of his name just above it.
And on top, there is one line... DON'T WRITE MY HISTORY JUST YET.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The Twens of June

June 22, 1986
This is the day a Hand of God helped Diego Maradona.
This is also the day El Diego atoned for that help by scoring the most breath-taking goal in World Cup history.
And thereby, took over Pele’s crown. (Thus spake Valdano!)

June 20, 1996
This is a day after Navjyot Singh Sidhu boarded a flight from England.
This is also the day a quota candidate from Calcutta and a dour defensive batsman from Bangalore made their debuts at Lord’s.
Their 131 and 95 meant that the batting God of India had become a triumvirate.

Every ten years, this time of the year becomes conducive to the birth of stars.
Today, there is a football match starring Brazil. There is a cricket match starring India.
And I am waiting with bated breath for the sighting of the star that is going to rule our lives for the next decade…

Saturday, June 17, 2006

In the Name of the Father... Part II


Bengali names are among the most maligned topics on the Blogosphere (read this, for example!)... coming very close to the top-position holders viz. George W. Bush and food in engineering college hostels!
Hence, the entire act of naming a Bengali kid is so fraught with calamities that it veers between comedy and melodrama much too rapidly for the involved parties to have stable blood pressure. In any case, since at least one of the involved parties is holding the unnamed tyke within herself, there are - at least - a few dimensions more than what can be handled by human beings not featured in any of the X Men movies.

Firstly and lastly, Bengalis are suckers for tradition and symmetry. The first one is aptly demonstrated by Buddha-babu's glorious return to power. The second one needs some effort to prove...

So, all (okay, most!) Bengali siblings have rhyming prefixes or suffixes.
For example, my childhood football buddies included Arunabha & Arunasish and Subhojit & Bikramjit. (That these wonderfully rhyme-named scions of Bong-dom were nicknamed Goltu, Natu, Bishu and Bikki respectively is a completely different matter!).
Cricket trivia: India's most successful cricket captain has a brother called Snehasish. And their pet-names are Raj & Maharaj!

I have stopped counting the number of friends I have whose entire dynasties are named with the same letter of the alphabet.
When did I stop counting? When I was about four... and I realised that the ascending line of my dynasty went something like Diptakirti, Debapriya, Durgesh, Dwarakanath ad Divinium!

Which brings us to the original problem of finding a suitable name for the ten-fingered tadpole, scheduled to make an appearance in mid-September.
Attentive readers (and/or Mensa members) would recall that the basic premise is a name starting with D.
Well, my wife's blog nickname is The Pope and her blog is titled "I told you so...". Hence, she usually does not even question assumptions, she just rejects them!

I enter into gentle persuasion with her to convince her on the virtues of following family traditions. Considering that my entire family are iconoclastic mavericks, this is not an easy task.
Also, my own name comes up in the annual list of Top 100 Tongue Twisters without fail. So, the stereotype "D Names are unpronounceable" is rather difficult to break.

Then, to make matters worse - when she grudgingly accepts the basic premise and picks up the Penguin Book of Hindi Names, a slew of Duryodhana, Duhsashan, Dhritarashtra leap out at her. She screams, runs away and seeks refuge in Arjun, Rahul and Dhruv (hey, that's a D!).
(Note for future buyers of the book: It lists ALL Hindu names, not necessarily the ones you would want for your children. And considering, the entire Kaurava clan was D-ed, the probability of hitting one of the 100 siblings in the 17 pages of D is alarmingly high!)

Gradually, we arrive at broad clauses of the treaty:
1. K.I.S.S.
This is my wife's Theory of Competitive Examinations. This propounds that with the increasing degree of reservations, an upper-caste kid needs all the time it can get in a competitive exam and that means it needs to face as less time as possible in writing his own name!
Since I am convinced that's how Manas Das overtook me in JEE, I have to accept this meekly.

2. The name has to be unique. Or, at least close to it.
This is derived from my Kid-in-a-Playground Theory of Naming Children... which is to name children such that one scream of the name in a crowded area can isolate the desired brat uniquely.
The entire Yash Chopra pantheon of Raj-Rahul-Prem-Akaash gets eliminated by this.
And is suitably amenable to Theory 1 because there is no way on earth you shout Tridibendranarayan in one breath without needing asthma medication!

3. And of course, the name has to start with D.
This has been a rather difficult clause to incorporate as the entire African World Cup contingent has decided to arrive with names like Didier Drogba, Dindane and Dekalanga! Over and above the arguments presented above.

At the end of the confabulations (Wonder what it means? Sounds confusing, though!) we have not come any closer to zeroing on a name than we were thirty earlier. Only, more confused!

At the end of it, I think we will just pay Manhattan credit cards a royalty and use the name Dinku!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

1:20 a.m, 14th June 2006

The above date stamp is a mix of two nostalgic strains... one, it was the typical start of Prof. Shonku's diaries and two, it is the start of yet another Brazilian World Cup campaign!

After an excrutiatingly bad France-Switzerland match, the first flashes of redemption came when Ronaldinho did a couple of pirouettes (and a back-heel!) in a maze of a half-dozen Croatian defenders. Then, there were 8 Brazilians in a wave of attack and Cafu (of all people, the defender!) took what the commentators called a palm-stinging shot!
And then... Kaka ambled around the penalty box, wondered to whether to play like the Europeans and pass the ball to an unmarked Ronaldo, decided against it and scored the first goal of Hexa himself!

All the World Cups in my memory have had an abiding figure in the Brazilian campaign... not necessarily the highest scorer but generally the Big Man around Town!
1982 - Zico
1986 - Socrates
1990 - Umm... nobody!
1994 - Romario
1998 - Ronaldo
2002 - Ronaldinho
2006 - Will it be Kaka?

Anyways, as the half-time comes to an end, let me quickly add one more nostalgic strain in the Pensieve!
A team picture of 1982 Melchester F.C. team featuring the fantastic Roy Race! All Anandamela readers would jump up on recognising Rovers-er Roy - the long running B&W comic on the fortunes of an English (Premier?) League team.
I am quite thrilled myself to meet them after a very long time... the hot-headed Duncan, defender Blackie, goalkeeper Charlie, overseas player Paco and the others!
More on them later...

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Deewaar: The 72nd Viewing

Hindi cinema dialogue - especially by the heroes - has always made conscious attempts to be in the realm of memorability. By being bombastic.

A lot of Salim Javed's brilliant lines for Amitabh himself are in this orbit. Kaala Patthar, for example. In one memorable scene, Amitabh compares the coal mines to a giant python which swallows human beings and spits them out after sucking out their life-blood. Delivered in AB's characteristically passionate style, it develops an almost eerie resonance.
Most of his films have had some orchestrated scenes, which AB addresses the camera in his baritone - bringing in crowds, hysteria and imititations.

Watching Deewaar for the innumerableth time, I realised that this simple funda - of giving the most memorable lines to the leading man - has been turned on its head. In fact, most of Amitabh's lines are disarmingly simple. It is the style and the situation which turned these everyday lines into catch-phrases for a generation.

On the other hand, the entire supporting cast had adrenaline-pumping, chest-thumping, goose-bumping lines. Be it Shashi Kapoor's acceptance speech in the opening scene, Satyen Kappu's fiery speech at the factory gate, Nirupa Roy's pre-interval exhortation to her wayward son - all of them had lines which heroes would die for!

Vijay Verma, however, became an icon of the troubled Indian youth of the 70's by saying what all of them wanted to say...

No unemployed young man in the country had the guts to refuse a salary just because the lala threw it in front of him. Vijay Verma calmly stood in front of a fat bundle of 100-rupee notes and told the biggest smuggler in the country ki "main aaj bhi phneke hue paise nahin uthata..."

No person ever - however competent - had the guts to reply back when the boss asked, "Tum sochte ho ki tum yeh kaam akele kar sakte ho?"
Only Vijay Verma replied, "Nahin, main jaanta hoon ki main yeh kaam akele kar sakta hoon."

When his boss warned that the entire police and underworld would be after him that night, he corrected him with a rueful smile... "Mere peechhe to sirf meri kismat hogi, Davar saab"

Net net, something unprecedented happened on the Indian screen. To quote Vijay Verma, "Jo pachchees saal mein nahin hua, woh ab hoga... Agle hafte ek aur coolie mawaalion ko paise dene se inkaar karne wala hain."
Its that simple!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

22 hours, 43 minutes to go...

Don’t go by the clock in the title… The World Cup really kicks off at midnight of 13th June, as the Samba magicians start their campaign against Croatia.

I watched Da Vinci Code yesterday (at a 11:50 show – which ended at 02:45!) and hitting Fanaa tomorrow (for a 10:30 show), to get my body-clock into the late night mode! Given that 5 of Brazil’s 7 matches are past the witching hour, I need all the practice I can get!

Brazil’s largest support base – Calcutta, for those infatuated with Beckham – is all geared up for the big event… with doctor’s certificates advising a month’s bed rest, train tickets to send those pesky kids and the wife off, projectors hooked onto to TVs instead of laptops et al!

I still remember vividly the last World Cup, when due to some unforgivably bad planning, I was due to take a flight back from Bagdogra to Calcutta on the day Brazil was supposed to take the Empire! I was scheduled to land in Calcutta 15 minutes before the kick-off. Hence, plans were made to watch the match in the airport coffee shop. Lest that becomes too full, I had also procured a Jet Airways Gold card (I was a lowly Blue then!) so that I can take position in their lounge! Somehow, I thought Gold cards would have precedence in the lounge seating!
Anyways, when I landed up at the Bagdogra airport, I realized – to my complete delight – that the flight had been delayed till about 2 hours AFTER the scheduled end of the match.
No reason was given.
None was asked for – as all the passengers scrambled back to their homes, hotels, coffee shops, lounges and own personal heavens – and when we eventually boarded the flight with glowingly fresh memories of the The Free-Kick, it was only natural that we were welcomed on board by Capt. Mukherjee and his crew!

P.S. For the lines I wrote on that flight, scroll down an inch!

P.P.S. For a completely amazing site on the Beautiful Game, check out what Nike has to offer!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

3 days, 6 hours, 31 minutes to go...

Written c. 2002 on a flight back to Calcutta from Bagdogra (I was ASM - Bengal then... what a job to have during the World Cup!)... after the Brazil - England match.
Republished not on popular demand... but on MY OWN!

Some people think football is a career option. In fact, England's robust professional football system encourages young talented people to join in - and have a decent income, life and maybe even fame and fortune. Which is what Beckham (a bricklayer's son) is all about...

Some lunatics, however, think football is an art. That round piece of sewn leather is meant to be caressed, aroused and seduced before it can be ordered to nestle into the back of the net. And that net need not be at the Shizuoka Stadium of Japan... it could well be a tattered piece of cloth tied against two lamp-posts in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Which is what Ronaldinho is all about...

And this is why football hooligans abound in England. For them, it is bread and butter... and their reaction is like retrenched people taking to the streets.
In Brazil, there is seldom anger. Only grief. Some rueful shaking of the head. And a four-year wait for the next dazzle.

England's display today exemplifies this line of thought.They were error-free, efficient and robust. They played in the same way a lawyer prepares his case... meticulously, diligently and in studied anticipation of the opponent's mistake. And they did so brilliantly. Lucio's slight fault at trapping the ball resulted into the Owen goal. Any more lapses would have surely meant more.

Brazil also played in the way they do best.
With a touch of genius.
And more than a touch of madness!
Who else but a maniacal Brazilian striker would have attempted that curler of a free-kick into the goal?
Couldn't he have just passed it to Ronaldo and waited for him to score?
Didn't he bloody realise that if the English goalkeepr had caught it and thrown it back into the game, it could have meant a deadly counter-attack?
No, he didn't do any of that.
He just put it in himself.

His touch of madness gave FIFA a valid reason for this year's Cup.
His touch of brilliance gave a lot of alcoholics the courage to chuck their martinis and get hooked on football instead.
His touch of genius made Jesus' walking on water not so big a deal.
And for a full three minutes after that goal, this football fan had goose pimples all over his body.

Thank you, Ronaldinho.
Nobody will ever copy your hair style like they do Beckham's.
But then, nobody will ever be able to copy your free-kick either.