The bowling Line up to beat all bowling line ups

If Malinga gets fit,then the bowling line up of Sri Lanka will consist of:
1) A left arm bowler who inspite of bowling the ball at 120 kmph gets the job done somehow.
2) A right arm bowler who manages to bowl the ball from round the wicket inspite of running in over the wicket.
3) The epitome of "freak" bowling, a right arm wrist spinner who is classified as an off spinner.
4) A right arm bowler about whose bowling style people are still confused about. A person who has shown everyone the potential of the middle finger in cricket. (In fact one would not be surprised if one hears the abuse "show 'em the Mendis").

With this quartet in action at the same time, best of luck to all opposing teams who like to do their homework before facing their opponents. You are in for some long nights.

Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Naa - It's different.

Finally caught up with the latest offering of Aamir Khan, actually the first where he just produces and does not even show up with a guest appearance. My thoughts on the film:

Normally after watching any film, one spends a few hours thinking about it. These thoughts can range from awe to praise to disdain to absolute disgust. Taxi Driver drove me crazy for one full week and The Departed made me appreciate the work of cops good or bad. Thinking about Black was fun - for two days I was actually raving about it. Then on the third day, I started figuring out the absolute manipulation of one's emotion that was going on. From day 5 onwards I was one of the film's staunchest critics. Rang De Basanti was easy in contrast.... I did not like the film's message and the opinion has not changed (the film is very well made though). With respect to JTYJN, it has been 12 hours since I have watched the film and I am still thinking about whether it is a good film or a great film. For many, a good film is enough. However this is differant. We are talking about a film which has behind it such great forces as Aamir Khan, AR Rehman and Abbas Tyrewaala (note the A's).
The film's story need not be talked much about. The story is simple - boy and girl are friends, boy and girl do not know they are in love, boy and girl hook up with other girl and boy, boy and girl realize they love each other, break ups occur and boy and girl finally hook up. What is not simple is the treatment. First it is told in a "storytelling" format. The format though old is effective and the reaction of the story listener sets the mood up a little. The leading pair's characters are interestingly etched with Imran striving to become the next Mahatma and Genelia being the exact opposite. The in depth characterization is normal and is a featured in most films just because they are on the damn screen most of the time. However here as a bonus we get a set of quirky and interesting supporting characters who are very well defined and seem to have a strong backstory. We have Ratna Pathak Shah as the hero's mother who in my opinion is the best "hero's mother" ever seen in Hindi film. We have Naseeruddin Shah as her dead husband's spirit who irritates her from the confines of his photo (Abbas misses a trick somewhat by not garlanding the photo though but never mind) and is very keen on seeing his son show some violent tendencies which will make the Rathore family proud of him. We have Paresh Rawal  as the Inspector having a problem with Ratna Pathak Shah who as a social activist is hellbent on getting him suspended. We then have the two stetson hat wearing horse riding pubhopping duo played really surprisingly well by Arbaaz and Sohail Khan. They are very funny and their relevance to the plot kinda surprises you in the finale. The friends of the leading pair are pretty average characters though the Gujarati Jignesh is a little too stereotypical. Imran's temporary GF is a beautifully etched character with some really good touches. Genelia's temp BF is the stereotype jock character. The surprise of the pack is Prateik Babbar's character. It is so well written that one can actually make a film on him as a sequel to this film which is a real possibility considering the film's success. 
This set of characters is definitely the film's trump card. Normally side character scenes are obligatory with their use being just to move the story forward. Here the scenes with them are actually worth watching by themselves and make watching the film more enjoyable. The film's screenplay could have been tighter and the film drags a little in the second half before the climax. The climax has been criticized by a few of my friends as being filmy. Hello, but it is a film. The climax worked for me because it is well, very filmy and fun. The song placing is a little strange with all the fun songs getting over before the serious stuff in the second half starts. 
Regarding the performances, Imran Khan is very good and understated. This film is not a launch vehicle for him per se. A launch vehicle in Hindi films normally involves the hero making a flashy entrance strutting his stuff for the first half an hour and showing his "acting skill" for the remaining part while hogging the screen unneccessarily all the time. Here he is there only when required. His voice though is very similar to Hritik Roshan (Hrithik's ego must be on an all time high though with his lookalike and voicealike being lauched the same day). Genelia is lovely - both lookwise and actingwise. She has a great quality of expressing emotions through her eyes just like dare I say, a certain Ms. Nene. Jayant Kriplani and Anuradha Patel are good as Genelia's parents. Kitu Gidwani and Rajat Kapoor were very good and potrayed their mutual animosity perfectly in the couple of scenes they were in. Seeing Kitu Gidwani and Jayant Kriplani made me suddenly very nostalgic about the old DD days. Hope to see them often. Imran's girlfriend (forgot her name) is very good and does justice to her character. The freinds are also quite good and natural. 
Ratna Pathak Shah is awesome as the social activist who wants her son to be the embodiment of non violence. The way she puts emphasis on the word "mard" while yelling at her husband's spirit makes you lugh out loud. Such a great actor. Why the hell is she not given good roles. Naseeruddin Shah as the happily violent spirit caught in a picture complements his real life wife really well. A great performance from this acting powerhouse is a given. However one could see that he was having a ball. I have not seen him this cool since Tridev. And his jig during the climax is well worth the ticket price. Arbaaz and Sohail Khan are as said earlier surprisingly good. Prateik Babbar is a revelation as the misfit loner. The eyes speak a lot. So it should conidering he inherits his genes from the great Smita Patil and the not - so - great- but- good Raj Babbar. He should work a little on his voice though.
Direction by Abbas Tyrewala is good for a first timer. He has his limitations with the pacing of some of the scenes being a little problematic. But as a story writer he excels. 
All in all the film is definitely worth a watch. However the characters will make you buy a DVD just so that you can watch their scenes.

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    cheerful cheerful

Rafa + Fedex

It has been 3 days since the men's singles final of Wimbledon. Till now I had not written about the match for a reason. When you like something a lot and you write about it immediately you tend to go overboard in praise. When South Africa chased 434, my first reaction was "Greatest cricket match ever". After two days, it turned to "great batting on a flat track". Same happens if something makes you angry. After the Sydney Test, I compared Ponting with Bill Clinton. After a month, I could see that he was desperate to break Waugh's test win record and actually empathized with him.

Hence I waited some time to post my view on this particular tennis match. My views about it at around 2 AM on Monday was, “The greatest sporting spectacle ever witnessed by me”, “Best example of how to play a game” and so on. Now even at 11.30 P.M. on Wednesday the view has not changed.

It started well enough. Some good long rallies, excellent shots, perfect placement, etc. Something you expect when the two best players of this decade meet in a Grand Slam final. Nadal broke Federer's second service game. First set to Nadal. Nadal has got momentum. He had beaten Federer black and blue in the French Open. Federer may be under a little pressure as he is aiming to surpass Borg's winning streak at Wimbledon. However he is Federer, this is Wimbledon and his serves are virtually zinging the grass court, something which does not happen on clay. See, Federer breaks in the second set. A four set victory for Federer is assumed but wait!! Nadal breaks! Twice!! Two sets for Nadal. Federer getting even more tense. It is at this moment that this match went one level up for me. If the second set had gone to Federer, Nadal would have found it really hard to come back. Also Federer's serve was getting deadlier as each game passed.

The third and fourth sets was when both got really desperate. Desperate in a good way that is. Federer was desperate to get back in the game. Nadal was desperate to close out the match knowing fully well Federer's ability to pull back. And in desperation the tennis quality reached awesome proportions. So awesome that my cricket loving father and reality TV loving mother actually stopped bickering over which channel to watch (Star Cricket or  Zee/Star Plus/Sony) and put on Star Sports where the epic match was being telecast. The shots played were so precise that the quote “there was some chalk flying” was repeated every second point (I am exaggerating, it must have been said every third point). Ashok Amritraj, the voice of Star Sports when tennis is on was so amazed by the play that most of the times he was just laughing with amazement. Alan Wilkins, the jack of all sports commentator was oohing and aahing all the time. However I became convinced that this was a once in a lifetime display when Mcenroe was shown on TV. Here was a man who played one of the greatest finals right here against Borg. And he looked stunned. To bring that expression out of a man who played some great tennis requires a stupendous performance. And he later officially declared the match as "This is the greatest match I've ever seen"

Federer took the third and the fourth via tie breaker. The serve was helping him and his superiority in tie breaks helped him. So did Nadal's nerves. A five set vistory for Federer was assumed. However no tie breaks in the fifth set. 

The fifth set started. The two must have been exhausted. At least now the intensity will come down. However the occasion demanded extra effort. For Federer this would have been his sixth straight Wimbledon. For Nadal this would have been his first Wimbledon and he would have become the first after that Borg (yes, him again!) to win both the French Open and the Wimbledon the same year. The extra effort was well justified and was made as well. It helped that there was a rain break in between the fifth set with the score being 2-2 and deuce. How appropriate for it to rain when it was even stevens. The heavens must have thought it unfair to have a rain break when one had some kind of advantage. Both resumed play refreshed. The shots were still perfect, the rallies long and hard fought. Did I forget to mention the quality of the rallies? How foolish of me. Normally a rally consists of a few good shots and one definite winning shot. Here the rallies consisted of many potential winners which were converted into just good shots by these two heavenly creatures. The angle of some shots was outrageous. Federer's backhand and Nadal's forehand were constantly doing battle carving out one outrageous angle after another with chalk flying everywhere.

Unfortunately I missed the game where Nadal broke for the final time. However I was able to watch the final game. Almost five hours of play had already been clocked. And here are these two playing as if this were the first game. It finally ended and Nadal fell on his back no doubt exhausted. Federer had his head in his hands. Then they both came up to shake hands. The camaraderie they showed in that moment made the match even more perfect. This is how you play. You play as hard as you can, use all your skills and tricks to get the edge but in the end you give your opponent the respect he deserves.

It was a great match and a great advertisement of tennis. And the lights went out minutes after it ended. Someone up there seems to have been watching and did not want it get interrupted.



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    high high

Mahabali Khali - Pro Wrestling boom in India?

As the IPL is raging on and grabbing eyeballs all around India, one more "sport entertainment" related happening is generating buzz and creating a lot of interest, interest which is as equal to the one created by cricketers and cheerleaders. That happening is the visit of the Great Khali aka Dalip Singh to India.

For people not following pro wrestling and/or Hindi news channels, the Great Khali is a pro wrestler working for the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) group wherein he performs for their RAW, Smackdown and ECW programmes. Pro wrestling for the uninitiated is differant from amateur wrestling in that pro wrestling involves more money, louder gimmicks and less stringent rules. However the biggest differance is that pro wrestling bouts are fixed with the main intention being staging a good fight and entertaining rather than winning. Pro wrestling also involves a lot of gimmicks, storylines and feuds between wrestlers which are all aimed at entertaining the crowd.

However pro wrestling also involves actual fighting as in the wrestlers actually hit each other. There are hardcore no holds barred matches wherein a wrestler can be hit by baseball bats, chairs, ladders, tables, dustbins, steel stairs, etc. Blood is spilt in the wrestling ring. In fact wrestlers often cut themselves up using blades to "sell" an injury caused by an opponents' attack to "put them over" i.e. to make them look good. Wrestlers take dangerous "bumps" i.e. they let themselves be picked up and thrown in the ring or outside it. There was one legendary steel cage match wherein one wrestler was thrown from top of a 15 feet steel cage on the announcers' table (the victim incidentally wrote a fantastic autobiography which was on the New York Bestsellers' list!!).

Matches are actually planned prior to being executed by the wrestlers. Main onus is on making sure that the bumps do not hurt too much. Which is why inspite of some dangerous moves, the wrestlers appear ok most of the time after the match. What they do requires immense training. Still accidents happen and careers are shortened.

Pro wrestling in India has a history. Matches used to be conducted in fairs and carnivals. Dara Singh the famous wrestler cum film actor actually was a pro wrestler who was rated as one of the best in his eras. However pro wrestling did not catch up here due to uncertain reasons. Till now there have been a handful of wrestlers of Indian origin who have been active in pro wrestling. They include Tiger Jeet Singh who was quite a rage in Japan in the 60s and 70s and Sonjay Dutt who is wrestling in TNA (Total Non Stop Action) which is one significant competitor to the WWE in the pro wrestling business in America.

The Geart Khali is a differant phenomenon altogether. He seems to have caught the imagination of quite a few Indians. Sonjay Dutt was hyped and advertised by Star Sports which telecasts TNA in India. He does enjoy popularity among the urban kids especially when he had visited India. However Khali has gone mainstream. The Hindi News channels have virtually gone ballistic over him and his exploits are reported and commented on every day. He is given titles like "Mahabali Khali", his image superimposed over a tiger and he is touted as the Indian challenger to the videshi monopoly over wrestling. The Hindi News channel strictly follow "kayfabe" (i.e. potraying the storylines and feuds happening in the ring as real and unstaged) either because they are instructed to or because they are dumb enough not to get the fact that it is all staged. Anyways, Khali's popularity is making WWE go mainstream in India. WWE is getting mentioned on news websites, Khali's photos plastered on hoardings and thousands are lining up to just see him. Not bad for a guy whose wrestling abilities are limited. In fact Khali in the ring leads to chants of "you can't wrestle" in the crowd and you have to agree with them.

However Khali is proving to be a big ticket draw in India and Asia. WWE is not ignoring this. Hence the Khali visit to India. WWE may even schedule a tour to India based on the response Khali gets. And by the evidence of his popularity here it may happen sooner rather than later.
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    calm calm

Indian Middle Class and Food crisis.

So now apart from stealing jobs from poor Americans (Ignoring the fact that the poor guys are overpaid and overfed), India is the cause of the current food crisis as well.

Now we know why the USA is now gunning for a reasonably well fed Iran while it ignored/tolerated the famine infested anarchy in Somalia, Rwanda, etc. It is not about oil, it is about controlling food prices!!
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    amused amused

Quota row - SC gives ok to Quota.

OBC Quota upheld by Supreme Court.
While the court does bar the creamy layer, knowing the way admissions are procured using fake caste certificates, we will have undeserving candidates from the creamy layer as well as the upper castes taking up seats which would have served better had they been occupied by a deserving candidate.
All IIMs have hiked their fees to match the levels of private institutions. Were they aware of this judgement before doing the same?
With 49% of the seats taken by lower ranked people, the amount of the best students (falling in the 99-100 percentile range for CAT or the dudes who aced their GD/PIs) going to private institutes like MDI, SP Jain, XlRI, etc. will increase. Also which company is going to visit the IIM campus after day 0 when they know that there will be more bright students in the private institutes compared to the students left over in the IIMs after the cream have been taken away ("cream" here meaning capability wise)?
Borrowing from the pony tail guru, students will have no choice but to "think beyond the IIMs".
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    gloomy gloomy

Azeem o shaan Shahenshah

When Mughal E Azam first released, it generated slow business. Audience reaction was very muted. People thought that the movie was rejected. Same happened with Sholay. The critics were merciless in their panning of the films especially Sholay. Extravagent films without "heart", they said. But then we know what happened. Both ended up being the biggest hits of their era. The audience reaction was muted not because they did not like it. It was because they were overwhelmed with awe. Awe at the splendour, the scale and the vision seen on the big screen.

Maybe we are seing the same with Jodhaa Akbar. Right now critics are being harsh on the film. They are calling it a bloated film with half baked plots and with more attention paid to the sets and costumes. Khalid Moahammed is finding ridiculous reasons to diss it. Nikhat Kazmi cannot be taken seriously after her plagarization controversy. Raja Sen has stated that Ashutosh Gowarikar is not best suited for cinema as an art form which I find a little hard to believe. Gowarikar is best suited for cinema because his vision just cannot be compressed into a TV screen even if it is a 50 inch plasma one.

However if you ask me as an audience member who watched the movie not out of professional obligation or with personal issues (which I think Khalid has for uncertain reasons), I will say this - the movie was freaking awesome. The splendour, the scale, the vision and yes, the acting (Of course Aishwarya Rai was aweful when she was talking).

People have claimed that the film is distorting history. I would ask these people to go read some actual history books. Bairam Khan who is almost deified by our school history books was actually getting out of hand when Akbar forced him into retirement. Akbar was well known for taming wild elephants alone with bare hands. Akbar did actually put Aadam Khan to death by throwing him downstairs head first. In fact there is one variant to the story - Akbar threw him down by himself. The character Maham Anga did exist and did have influence over her foster child Akbar. Ashutosh does well by not including Birbal into the picture as his existance and prominence is a matter of speculation. However Ashutosh does tease by including a young nameless Hindu courtier who accompanies the emperor in his first marketplace walk in disguise, a setting for countless Akber Birbal stories. Sure there are some inaccuracies like the climatic showdown (Akbar was a legendary warrior who was unmatched one on one..but a duel to decide the emporership is plain bad stategy) and the reason for the foster mother being made inconsequential. However there is a thing called creative license and we are talking about a commercial movie, not a History Channel special. However Khalid boy lamenting the absence of any mention of Din E Ilahi is ridiculous. The religon was thought of and practiced in Akber's last years which is much after the span of the movie. About Jodha's existance, the same is justified at the start of the film and is the perfect argument.
There are flaws in the film. The screenplay could have been tighter and some subplots could have been explored further. Then there is Aishwarya Rai whose dialogue delivery is so flat, it drives you to sleep. She does look really beautiful and "mallika - e - hindustan"like but age is catching up with her which means that the only reason for her still having a film career is fast fading out.
The good things about the film are too many to discuss. The music is good which is made greater by the fantastic picturization. The action scenes are great considering that there were real people, not animated characters fighting. People are comparing them unfavourably with those of LOTR and Troy. Unfavourable because the action budget of these films would have financed ten Jodha Akbers. The sets are great. Dialogues are authentic though tough to follow at times. The camerawork is of the highest quality. The full sweep of the battlefield in the opening battle scene reminds you of Lawrence of Arabia. Acting is good which is expected since it is Gowariker'r film. Nikitan Dheer is good as the evil brother in law and has a physique which made Hrithik look scrawny. Mention must be made of the return of Raza Murad and his booming voice to A - list cinema. As Akber Hrithik shows why he is the true successor of Amitabh Bachchan. The screen sizles when he is there. He virtually becomes Akbar. Watch him taming the elephant and you actually feel you are looking at one of the greatest experors and not at an actor.
Finally there is the direction. It must be difficult pulling off such a daunting project with huge stars, heavyduty research and huge expectations. He does it with success. Success because he has made people who really matter go numb with awe.
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    happy happy

Ricky Clinton?

January 26, 1998 - "I did not have sexual relations with that woman"

January 6, 2008 -"There’s no way I grounded that ball."                   

Beware Obama, there is another Clinton in the house. And he did not even need to wag his finger!!
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    amused amused