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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Rahul's Last Stand

While people unaware of the title's significance should not mistake this as Dravid's 'perhaps' final stand in the company of a quick scoring Ganguly in India's second innings at The Oval, others who are aware of the undertone reference to Gen James Custer's Last Stand must realise there is an inversion of application involved here. The historical Custer took a stand against the Indians and wiped them out in an American version of Jallianwallah Bagh. Rahul the Indian (East, though) took his brave stand to wipe out the Whites (represented by English) in the recently concluded Test Series, thus bridging a relative history apparent only to crazies like me! Another metaphorical post-colonial piece of sorts! But, let's to cricket...

A lot of hue and cry - as the cliche goes - went into the making of an Indian second innings declaration at The Oval recently during the 3rd n-Power Pataudi Trophy India-England Test Series. Dravid was severally accused uniformly about an erroneous declaration tactic: it came late; later than it must have been; in the first place, he must have had the English to follow-on; an act of cowardice, etc etc.

Chandu Borde - the naam ka waste Manager cum Coach of sorts - was quick to the cover up at the press conference at the end of day 4, where England went back to the Pavilion and to nightly hibernation at 56 for no loss of wicket, secure in the feeling, at the worst, they can't lose this series. The English perhaps believe in the dictum of saving the battle even if the war is lost. Ah! that English sense of Honour and Pyrrhic victory!! Anyway, Mr. Borde quickly refuted the criticisms and allegations and accusation levelled at Dravid's decision saying the team was only ensuring that absolute no-loss situation first before anything else.

I wondered for a moment! If the same decision had been taken by a Mark Taylor or Mike Atherton or Nasser Hussain or even Ricky Ponting, how the Western media and pundits of the game would have applied plaudits that defy all logic and common sense in the name of sportsmanship and in accordance of bravery in the confines of the laws and the spirit of the game once played by the several Sirs Play a Lots of English and Aussie shores. Bah! Humbug! Nonsense and Crap! If Taylor does it, it is sporting declaration. If Dravid does it, unanimous cudgelling. The shrinking hypocrisy of it. But what else to expect, it is an Englishman's game!

The point is this. Even the fecking Indian press, especially the Indian television news channels that shamelessly have been tirelessly working proudly as foreign channel tie-ups, were bent on blackening Dravid and squeezing every bit of public sentiment and hysteria to defame Dravid, not in the interests of the game they seek to preserve through the several well-intended (or so we must believe) debates and big fights they initiate in special 1 hour slots everytime India takes a bashing. (It is another matter that if India does not get a bashing elsewhere, they will concoct one). Actually, it was a very brilliant tactical work by Rahul Dravid. The backdrop is this: no-one has successfully chased large scores at The Oval; the fifth day is infamous for its spin assistance, according to the pundits as well as the retro-statisticians of the game. And there was the risk that England, after the realisation that if they applied themselves a bit more (and some timely assistance and bursary from the umpires), they can emulate India's first essay big score, thus bat for two full days and save the test. Now, looking at how they played and almost scored 400 runs without losing out wickets much, they could have, had Dravid taken the chance to impose follow-on. What if they had scored 600 playing out a whole lot and Panesar & Anderson came back (with assistance from umpires of course) to bundle India out in the second innings. We have crumbled before. The chances of India crumbling on the 5th day to the swing and life of Anderson and Tremlett as well as spin of Panesar must have come into Rahul Dravid and the other think-tanks' calculation. And thus, it is a very wise decision to let India bat inspite of the temptation of imposing follow-on to attempt an innings win... or a 100+ target chase in the fourth innings. Also, with Zaheer nursing a leg-strain and Sreesanth not being able to find his rhythm, it was the best decision a captain would have taken. So stop taking about it, whiners and whingers of Indian cricket.

It was an absolutely wise Last Stand the Indian took against the Whites and ensured an Indian victory.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Anatomy of Murder and the Killing Fields

Hola... here goes the unedited version of my Citizen Report to The Grossly Commercial Company's recent international premiere of Timeri Murari's two plays at the Metro Plus The Hindu Theatre Festival 2007:
These are days when anything indigenous is exciting. I do not know whether it is a little low-esteem thing on the part of Indians. We go gaga when someone goes celeb internationally from India. Be it Paes, Sania, Narain Karthikeyan... be it embracing a newly discovered Sunita Williams... Glad to say, I don't get excited about it, because I think we Indians are no different from others if we put our attitude on our sleeve and work. But on the night of 7th August 2007, at the Metro Plus Hindu Theatre Festival, I WAS really excited for once. The reason... above all the brand building exercise of tall and hackeneyed names of luminary theatre personalities adorning the stage and groups that have become more the "got to be there" to add to the tradition and box-office assurance, there was something genuine to celebrate.

The Fest had its First. A Chennai playwright premiered at a Chennai Theatre Festival... aptly so in the Chennai Chapter. I think, the Chennai Chapter is a good idea. For those people grousing about Chennai Chapter in a condescending way, I guess over the last three years, the quality dished out from visitors has left often times a lot to be desired and it is to the credit of Chennai groups, they have acquitted much better. And last night The Grossly Commercial Theatre Company's international premiere of our own Timeri Murari's double bill on the anatomy of murder and killing and assassins' minds was something Chennai ought to be proud of.

The first play on the attempt to assassinate Salman Rushdie by two naive villagers desperate to make the big bucks was a very poignant and telling statement on the lure of the filthy lucre. It is many things at many layers. These two bumpkins are no different at one level from the agrarian exodus to the cities to get better living. At another level it is a study of a contaminated human mind that is very Faustian in the hands of the lady who is their Mephisto, luring them to sell their souls to a cause they don't even comprehend or believe in . But in the end it is a very BoBo-GoGo Becketian predicament, having waited for their own Godot, as they realise the futility of it all. The idea was beautiful. Mr. Murari had chosen his concept well. The only problem about the script was... like so many of Indian scripts, in the execution the shadow falls. The amount of platitudes and cliched expressions creeping in in those moments when the playwright starts getting into the psychological and philosophical territories detracted from the theatrical illusion we were getting mesmerised into. The moments of theorising were agonising to say the least. Could have probably avoided. But knowing it is a first performance script and not yet published, there still is time to rework to make it a finer piece of theatre to have emerged from Chennai yet.

The second play... well, was nothing to write home about in terms of scripting. But the narrative flow was neater and the dialogues were very Fugardian. It really reminded me of the two convicts in The Island by Athol Fugard. Except these are an old assassin and a young and proud killer. Ishwar was simply fantastic, to put it mildly. "The Killing Time" was and will remain an example of what the power of theatre is! If you put two right actors who are capable of bringing out a good chemistry and pit their pride and acting talents against each other... it is a director's coup and it is to the credit of director Deesh Mariwala that this play worked from page to stage. His minimal style of theatre making complemented an evening that would have been spoilt with sets and sound for distraction. Again, as regards the script, though it was taut in its narrative structure and inventive in its cyclical style, I must say I left the hall wondering like several others whom I heard discussing, was it the acting that won the day for the playwright? In any case, last night Chennai Theatre was the winner and richer for that experience. If this is the sign of things to come, forget the Ghosts of Christmas Past and let's look forward to the other two plays in the Chennai Chapter that has already shown a remarkable departure from the pitiful spate of comedies where wannabes hang about to be seen. Here is a Chapter that is Theatre with a T, despite its many teething shortcomings, that I hope gets sorted as it grows!