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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tribute to an Unknown Soldier - Meher Baba

For most people, the name Meher Baba would conjure up images and write-ups about the Saint Meher Baba. I am certain, not so for those of my generation and before - for whom the domestic cricket meant a lot more than Test matches featuring visiting foreign teams. For me specifically, the Ranji Trophy matches as well as the Gopalan Trophy matches of the 70s hold a lot more fondness than any other form of cricket. These and the Buchi-Babus were the ones I grew up watching. And the days I hung tirelessly around Southern Railways Institute ground watching Abdul Jabbar and the Binny Ground watching Venkataraghavan bowl. Of course, the special day when my uncle came and took permission to take me out of school early so that I get to watch Sunil Gavaskar play for Mafatlal at Loyola College Grounds. Memories... memories... memories!
I remember playing my road cricket one evening in the mid-70s. I was fielding closer to the batsman, on the road. In front of me, unfurled was the Test Match Brochure I had procured while watching the India-England series that featured the feared English pace attack of Arnold, Old and Co. The page that unfurled in front of me was that of the profile of Eknath Solkar. That was how mad I was at cricket then as a little scrawny boy in the 70s. For me then, as to millions today, cricketing heroes did much more than gods in temples. Eknath Solkar was my fielding icon and Ramnath Parkar & Gundappa "Vishy" Vishwanath batting gods. Legions were my fight with friends about who's better Sunil or Vishy! Can you take it any better when I say, 14 out of 18 centuries by Vishy paved India's wins?
This post is dedicated to one such great dashing favourite of mine... who sadly, recently passed away at a not so old age of only 58, succumbing to cancer.

MEHER BABA - who played for Andhra chiefly, at a time when Andhra was like Tripura today in India's cricket map; who I incidentally had the opportunity to watch as a 9-going-10 year old boy at Salem, playing against Tamil Nadu that featured greats like Venkataraghavan, Michael Dalvi, V. Siva, V.V. Kumar (he of the legend that goes that Kumar refused to take guard in a match featuring Dennis Lillee on his run-up to bowl. I don't know how true that was considering Kumar played Test in '61 while Lillee started first class cricket in mid-60s! But this is a nostalgic bitchbyte from memory lane discussion), Satwendar Singh and T E Sreenivasan. The reason I remember this match is not just because of Meher Baba. He did nothing much in this match, although he was known for his exciting and intrepid approach to batting. It was because Venkat came two down, if my memory serves right, before T.E ! But I was too young to fathom the importance of all those then. One more thing I remember is it was a really "gone to the wire" matches which was won by 1 run or 3 runs. Who won? I forget!!! Back to Meher Baba! He played prominently for Andhra, very briefly for Hyderabad and was a regular feature for almost a decade for South Zone against both other zonal teams as well as visiting foreign teams in those days when visiting teams played a lot more practice matches with domestic teams to get themselves acclimatised than like now!
In my cricketing memory, Meher Baba would always be remembered for his dashing and fearless left-handed batting much more to be identified always with either Tamilnadu or Sri Lankan cricketers (has there been any county or nation that has produced so many left-handed dashers compared to these two, I really wonder. Of course, New Zealand comes close in the south-paw department, but not quite there!). I have not much seen him play, but read a lot about and heard commentaries of - at times when the golden voices of Suresh Saraiya (who is still commentating, even now during the on-going Down Under series) and Anand Setelvad dominated the radio and radio was our staple diet and main source of live cricket! I visited cricinfo to get some stats about Meher Baba and this is the link, if you want to get there:

People who have watched Baba in action please fill me in. Or anything about 70s Ranji Cricket! May his soul RIP!

Digging into my favourites....

I wasn't really intending to do this. But, my daughter set it off. In my previous post I had confessed to going moist-eyed - to put it mildly - after watching Taare Zameen Par. This post has been prompted by hearing that wonderful voice of Shankar Mahadevan in the title song. While the world is going ga-ga over Shaan's Bum Bum Bole, I think the title song takes the cake. So soulful. I guess it has to do with the movie itself. Very soulful. And I have met or spoken to hundreds literally now. Not one has not confessed to unabashedly going "lump-in-the-throat" to "cried-on-every-frame" at some level or other. While I was on that, I mulled over the other "made me moist-eyed" movies. And surprise surprise... some among them were teacher related movies. It has nothing to do with the fact that I am one. But take a look at the list of my favs in that genre: Dead Poets Society must rate on the top of the heap; i.e. until Taare came along! Then the movie of Poitier's based on Brathwaite's apocryphal (to me) novel - To Sir With Love. What a masterpiece creation that novel is! The movie was in my opinion so true to original. Of course, alongside ranks its Bollywood kin Sir featuring Naseeruddin Shah. I remember the day vividly - it was not too often I went for Hindi movies then. But this was one of them. Back in the 80s? I remember seeing it in VeeCumCee Emerald that used to be part of the proud edifice called Safire Complex - never mind the "what later became sleaze joint" popular VeeCumCee (which later virtually became the We Cum, See! joint for quickies and prostitution!) Blue Diamond. There have been several fantastic english movies that have boarded the Blue Diamond bus. But... when you hit the bottom, it gets really bottomer.... Anyway, before I get nostalgic and start contemplating a hubristic eulogy to Safire Complex on which stands weed growth and rubble on Mount Road now, let me cut it off! But...
The following are my education or children related favs: Taare Zameen Par, Dead Poets' Society, To Sir With Love, Sir (surprisingly Kamal's remake "Nammavar" doesn't kick me at all!), the Promethean Pink Floyd video Another Brick in the Wall and lastly but not in that order, Pearl Jam's JEREMY!
Now while we are on movie trip, let me also put down my Top Ten Tamil Comedies. I am not meme-ing anyone on this or anything else. But you can respond with your own Top-10s! Welcome. Here goes:
1) Kaadhalikka Neramillai
2) Ninaivil Nindraval
3) Anbee Vaa
4) Uttaravindri Ulle Vaa
5) Ullaththai Alli Thaa
6) Michael Madana Kamaraajan
7) Singaaravelan
8) Magaraasan & Kaadhalaa Kadhalaa
9) Pancha Thantiram
10) Thenali
I guess I do some kind of compensatory justice to my not including Nammavar in my list earlier. 5 (6) out of 10 (11) in the list you would see are Kamal movies. Well, goes without saying, with his sense of timing and eye for comic nuances, obviously Kamal comedies are off the rack better than anyone else's this side of Sridhar's movies. I am sure, top of 7 out of 10 people's all time tamil comedy list would contain #1 - Kaadalikka Neramillai. Of course there are other movies of yore which are so special for their comic moments - Thiruvilayaadal, Ooty Varai Uravu, several Chandrababu and Nagesh as well as NSK movies, Thillaana Mohanaambal... even the much later Ramarajan's Karagaatakaaran (inspired obviously and modelled on Thillaaana - similar to Sangamam. Three other movies I would like to add to my list, if I had a Top-12 would be Sabaash Meena, Kalyaanam Panniyum Brahmachari & Sabaabathi (bringing up the Baker's Dozen). One may also mention stuff like Aan Paavam and Nethi Adi by Pandiya Rajan and Indru Poi Naalai Vaa by Bhagyaraaj, but they wouldn't somehow get into my Top-10 for reasons I can't explain!
Anyway... so much for Tamil movie nostalgia. I shall stop here. The rest is laughter!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

My last Blog for 2007... or is it already the first for 2008?

It's that time of the night. Very Janus-like. The time I start posting this is still 2007. Perhaps when it loads it is already 2008. In any case... at least am not wasting my night getting drunk or riding on the beach manically shouting "Haffy Nu Yaar" to anonymous passers-by. Writing... typing... data processing... some thoughts. So we are safely in the realm of cerebration rather than celebration. Of course, through my closed windows I could already hear infrequent sounds of wishing crackers and whizzing rockets and swishing chakkars.
I would like to place on record in this my 95th post (if only I had been a bit more active, this could well have been my 100th!), some moments from 2007 I want to retain in my heart and mind. Top of that list has to be:
the wetness in my eyes after watching Taare Zameen Par. I haven't really done that in a while.
Number 2: Some readings that have made me rethink my priorities and the reality:
Andha Yug by Dharamvir Bharati, The Life of Ramanuja, Indira Parthasarathi's Nandankatha. These have in turn driven me to do more reading on these respective topics as well as visionary religious luminaries.
Number 3: My relative inactivity in theatre. I produced and directed just one mainstream play. Am not unhappy at all about it.
Number 4: I have delineated a clear thematic focus to my fledgling novel that had gone into a huge hibernation and the beginnings of which can be still found hanging around here. I have resumed work with DARKEST BEFORE DAWN and hope to finish it in the next two years or before!
Number 5: I absolutely look forward to 2008 with the belief, faith and trust that the rest of the Border-Gavaskar trophy Down Under India-Australia on-going series is going to go India's way if only the Indian team believed in itself as much as I believe in them. Honestly, cricket has been really an electrifying talking point of 2007 as far as India is concerned. And I shall definitely do a post on Indian Cricket 2007 before my 100th post hits the deck.
Wishing you all a Happy Gregorian-reformed-Georgian New Year, given the fact that you and I may not culturally share the same new year! Wish you a Happy 2008 if you accept Gregorian Calendar... Wish you a Happy 53 if you believe the revamped Georgian Calendar. For further confusions, go here...