Monday, August 24, 2009

The Underdog Story !

Its the story India is all about. Its the story we all love. You just need to know how to present it to the let world come out and take notice . We've had better movies talking about it. And what am I referring to?? There are just too many names to it..

And the movies..Salaam Bombay was one, Barah Aana. Countless films, actually. Just that nobody was interested. They came as quietly as they went away. And heaps of dust just kept settling on the tapes. It took a Danny Boyle to shoot a Slumdog Millionaire in our country, take it to the Oscars and sweep all the awards for us to realize. Had Slumdog been made in India by an Indian, would the movie had got the acclaim, the pedestal to which it has now reached? Would we have still preached it?? Or would the tape have been lying in some shady distributor's office, just beacause nobody else thought the film would get them anything (money,name) ? By the way, Indian directors had grown up a long time back. Only that our award ceremonies didn't. They still made sure that the previews of masala movies were all that you would see when this beautiful heeled anchor would walk in and announce the nominees for the best film..funny haan..And the good ol' flick would be sidelined to the beginning of the show in some critics category ( Its the middle and the end of an awards ceremony in Bollywood that is supposed to be the most-looked-forward-for segment) or even better..put somewhere near the technical awards.

So what's in an underdog story that we all love so much?

Now recently, I hadn't been too crazy about this season of the Indian Premier League. Why?

  1. It wasn't being held in India so the excitement was always going to be missing.
  2. The matches somehow seemed boring this time.
So it took an RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore) vs DC (Deccan Chargers) IPL final to make me realize that this is something that I want to watch. For the sheer rebeliousness of the two teams to fight it out till the end. To be able to show the door to past champions, to stand out and be noticed.

And people loved it. Suddenly IPL2 was a success. After 58 matches and 37 days of hardcore cricket ( that ended up getting boring ) , we expected the final encounter to be OK, but it was special. The explosive Deccan Chargers and the fighter Royal Challengers played a match which was very close to a thriller and gave an entertaining end to the tournament. Chasing a low total, RCB had the edge. But then DC, backed by some unexpected performances, came out of nowhere to win the coveted title. And it made us realize that everyone still wants that slice of the Underdog story!

Is it inherently rooted in us to back the underdog? Or is it that we just vie for a little change? Why do we get bored so often? Is it our fixation for always wanting something different that makes us want a change in order? Lets say, we always wanted somebody to come up and beat Australia. Remove them from their position as no. 1. And somebody did do it. I was glued to watching the epic Wimbeldon final in 2008 between Nadal and Federer.
And how was he able to do it?

1) Greater hunger
2) Going for something rather than defending it.

So are these the only qualities that make an underdog break the domination of an incumbent or is there the X-factor too?

Probably. And I would say that be "Circumstances".
It was an ageing Kumble's last chance to prove himself. There were questions being raised on the efficacy of one of India's greatest bowlers. And he answered them wonderfully. He got his team together and played the knock of his life. Money can buy Peterson, but not a legend like Kumble. I am sure Vijay Mallaya would be thinking the same after his performance although his side lost the match. Kumble has really proved that cricket has hardly produced fighters like him. Yet he never got his due and the IPL 2 final was another example.
But then again the efforts of Gilchrist cannot be ignored, it was Gilly who single-handedly took his side to the IPL finals with his experienced strategies. This ageing Australian legend kept himself cool even under nail-biting moments and led his side to raise the trophy.

For both of them, it hasn't been easy at all. Their journey from the bottom of the chart last year to being in the finals this year has been truly deserving and remarkable. And that is why I loved them. And most of you loved them. For... the 'underdogs' rose to the occasion.

Al Pacino sums this up nicely when he tells a losing football team during half-time in the movie 'Any Given Sunday', "In any given fight, its the guy who is willing to die who is gonna win that inch". And life is all about those six inches in front of our face.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

"Karna" & Holi

It gets so hot and humid in Delhi this time of the year that you want to be in a tub of cold water the whole time. And that got me back to remembering the one festival that we up here truly enjoy. Holi ! Wow..being thrown into puddles of water..and those lovely ghujiyas.!! Ahha !

So approximately 5 months later I let my mind wander.

Now every year this happens.The night before any festival I feel like being awake. Its probably because I want to see the dawn of the festival day. Feel how different it is from the rest. While I am usually the person who goes to bed the earliest in my house of 4, the eve of a festival usually begets very typical emotions in me. So once I decide that I am not going to bed, I get my personal theater ready for a show or snuggle up in the bunk for a nice read.

This year a friend of mine had lent me his MI1 and MI2 DVDs a few days before Holi and I hadn't had the time to see them. So I readied my watching space by making myself a glass of icy-cold Roohafza, four nicely toasted sandwiches, the computer and its accessories, and sat down to spend the night. Now both the MIs were a very nice watch considering Tom Cruise's amazing style, the stunts and the action. Why the hell hadnt I watched them before ?? I happened to have missed out on some really good films because I was never a theater regular and we didn't have a computer till very late in my life. Add this to the fact that my surroundings didnot even boast of a decent video library at the time and till this date cannot boast of one.

Lets get back to my weird habit of being awake. My parents are now used to this unusual behaviour of mine. So they don't really mind the lights those nights.
This year the night passed rather peacefully, without the periodical "so jao karan" coming from a sleepy mummy in the other room. At around 4 AM, I ventured into the verandah to feel the freshness of the morning. The smells that you get at this time of the day are amazing. One is rarely awake to see this time of the day. The air was so fresh that it made the hair in my nose stand on their ends. Arre..!! You don't get to breathe such good air in Delhi anymore. I could still smell the dew and there was that chilly nip which made me shiver. I went back inside. Took out some namkeen from a hidden corner in the kitchen cupboard and waited for the time to pass. What better way to pass time, than remembering the Good ol' days.

When I was younger, shops used to start stacking up colours, balloons and pichkaris weeks before holi. Whenever we used to pass those shops we used to stand there and stare in amazement at the different sizes and shapes of the pichkaris. We wanted to have them all. My neighbour and I used to circle around those shops in our cycles. We used to plan up our moves of sneaking up to the shopkeeper and asking him to show us the BIG pichkari. Some of our colony bhaiyas and didis used to scare us with Pakka rang during those days. We would be so terrorized that we would hide away in the bathrooms and would never get out of our house to play with them. Even dodging balloons was such a challenge that we would be scraed to venture out all alone.

Two-three days before holi, I used to celebrate Chotti Holi 3 or 4 times. Once in my colony, once at my friend's house, then again in my colony. At that age, Chotti Holi , or for that matter even Holi for us used to be a very simple affair. It had to be strictly 'Gubbare'. Nothing else. We were fascinated by them. We would have so much fun filling them up. Some of them would blast midway and wet us, while we would have to throw some of them at our friends just because we didn't know how to tie the knots ( I still don't know how to tie a water balloon knot) . So we would divide stuff between us. There was the expert at tying, the experts at filling and the rest used to stack them up safely in buckets filled with water. Later we would even have one man stationed at the balcony as a lookout for any man, woman or child passing in the street below. At any signal from our lookout we would load ourselves with balloons and stealthily rain terror on the street below, shotuing and yelling at one moment and getting 'gayab' from the scene at the other. When we would go back to filling balloons, we would invariably gorge on the Gujiyas and thandai prepared by a friend's mummy. And samosas also. Those which were humbly bought from the market. At nightfall, we used to sit around and have those long 'maine-uske-sar-pe-3-gubbare-mare' chats. Ahh...Those were the days !

The night before holi used to be dedicated to getting our pichkaris repaired at the cycle shop in our market. We used to get up at 6, oil ourselves properly to escape the wrath of pakka rang sticking onto you forever, and start filling water balloons, mixing 'tesu ke phool' or cut-pieces of bolied beet root into buckets of water to get our arsenal ready for the fight. Then we would all start at 7 o clock, throwing balloons from the verandah at anybody we could see, maybe throw a 2nd one at anybody who would protest. We would leave nobody undrenched. The chowkidaar, the safai karamchaari, the doodhwala. An hour or 2 later, my sister and I would be all prepared to wet my cousins who would come down from the floor above. We would be ready with buckets half-filled with water so that we could wet them when they stepped into sight.
At that time of the year, tap water would feel so cold that you would start shivering at the moment it touched you. So the 'thanda paani nakhras' were such a scene.
And then mummies and papas would come and smear colours on each other's faces and exchange greetings. We were interested in neither. All that would interest me were the sweets lying atop a table in one corner of the verandah.
Then daddys would force my cousins and me to go down into the street and play with the bhaiyas and didis staying in the colony. Sometimes those Bhaiyas used to come up the floor, colour us and take us down. That scene used to preceded by a lot of hiding behind mummies and running around the house screaming like little mad men. :-(
When we would finally go down to the street, this bhaiya with the monster pichkari that could suck up a bucket full of water would wet us so much with the thanda thanda paani, that we would start jumping around.
And I have such a laugh thinking about all that now !

While the days before Holi used to be spent with friends away from home, the day of Holi was generally a family affair spent at home. But in the more recent years things changed. Colony ke bhaiyas and didis got married off. We got older and plain old gulaal didn't interest us anymore. We wanted pakka rang and all the paraphernalia of the 'Gandi Holi'.

So the days before Holi were gone, and they were happily taken over by one day of dirty stuff on the day of Holi itself. So the day was generally spent with friends teaming up at one place and indulge in pakka rang, tearing off clothes, and picking up people and throwing them in keechar, and puddles of dirty water. No balloons, no pichkaris.
Waise bhi Holi is more of a competition now, where the sweet smelling gulaal is passe. You have to have the most 'pakka rang' for people to know that you played Holi in its true spirit. And later the stories, of how many times you bathed to get the colour off you, have to be narrated to every other person to make sure that they know that you played the 'real' Holi and weren't just indulging in some childish stuff. Huh. I still miss the balloon pelting and the pangas with pichkaris that we had earlier.

From the last 2 years we upgraded ourselves to playing holi the traditional way. And we eneded up with a spate of really interesting stories to narrate to our grandchildren.

Thapak ! eooow..that was cruel. Before I could realise what that was, another one hits me straight on my head. And now i realise that it is my 10-year old nieghbour pelting me with balloons. Oh my..It already is morning. I better get ready with my own stuff.

P.S : This one is dedicated to all my friends with whom I have had the wildest and wackiest of time, throwing gubbare and playing Holi.