Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Movies Roundup 2015

Did you know new year resolutions come true? Shocking, isn't it? After last year's 38% out of the 100 movies resolution, I had toned down the goal to 50 in 2015. This being the year when our first child was born even 50 seemed like a stretch till something unexpected happened. We installed a treadmill and a TV in front of it. Talk about killing two birds with one stone. Very excited to have watched 53 movies (106% to target) with 26 of them actually current releases. What did take a hit was the number of theater visits, down to five through the year, three before the baby (ironically, Baby being the last) and two while the baby was vacationing with her mother. The silver lining of the gruelling 24 hour flights to India is the vast selection of new releases, so caught up on eight during a round trip, and also picked up some original DVDs (sorry Pirate Bay, it was me, not you) during the trip. Being foolish and brave again and taking up the 2016 target back to 100. You can read more about the #100moviepact here

Quality wise this has been a pretty good year, significantly up from 2014 and that too in spite of a stricter rating scale. Just like in 20092010201120122013, & 2014 I made a quick note of my initial thoughts and a rating on 10, purely on how much I enjoyed the movies. As always, very keen to hear your thoughts and exchange some notes. Welcome 2016 and let the show go on!

Starting with the popular stats first, only for movies released the same year.

Year     # Seen    Hindi:English:Bangla   Top Rating  Avg. Rating
2007     32               22:10:0                           9.0             5.78
2008     30               23:7:0                             8.5             6.35
2009     24               18:6:0                             9.0             6.85
2010     25               16:9:0                             8.5             6.62
2011     22               15:6:1                             8.5             6.77
2012     28               12:11:5                           9.0             7.33
2013     28               14:14:0                           9.0             7.12
2014     16               10:6:0                             9.0             6.16 
2015     26               20:6:0                             9.0             6.55

20 Bollywood releases in a year for the first time since 2008, boom, baby! As we have a fair number of Bollywood movies to choose from, but only 6 English, we shall do a Top 5 Bollywood and a Top 3 Hollywood selection here. Criterion being the movie must have released in 2015 or I watched it in a theater in 2015 (the latter is important as otherwise some December movies fall through the cracks between the years). The full list of all 53 movies with ratings will be available below, as well as the tweet reviews of all current movies.

We will go the Miss Universe way, starting from the lower ranks up to the top. Only if there are any Colombian movies involved, please assume it's in the list due to an error. All pictures are courtsey IMDb.

English Movies

3. The Imitation Game
The Imitation Game - A brilliant man (Turing) portrayed by another genius (Cumberbatch). You know the story, yet root for the characters. 8.5/10.

2. Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)
Birdman - Broadway extravaganza. Keaton's masterpiece with rock solid support from Stone & Norton. Dark comedy bordering on eccentric. 8.5/10

1. Inside Out
Inside Out - Imagination and creativity going where imagination and creativity come from. Spectacular and heart warming. 8.5/10

Bollywood Movies

5. Drishyam
Drishyam - A reverse whoddunit that makes you root for the perpetrators, pleasant surprise - script & story are king but acting avg. 8/10

4. Talvar
Talvar - Raises valid questions, makes you seethe with rage at the way the case has been handled so far. Irrfan & Neeraj effortless. 8/10.

3. Piku
Piku - The overtly detailed, testy, yet endearing old man, every Bengali family has this Dadu, played with elan by Big B. Deepika wins over the masses and classes. Irrfan, just brilliant as always. 8.5/10

2. Dum Laga Ke Haisha
 Dum Laga Ke Haisha - that unexpected annual low key movie that wins everyone over. Bhumi is the Queen of 2015. 8.5/10.

1. Masaan
Masaan - Movie of the year. Incredible handling of two sensitive stories. Superb acting by the ensemble cast. Watch out for @ghaywan. 9/10

Disclaimer: Among the notable movies of the year that could have made the cut I haven't watched Titli, Tamasha, and Manjhi The Mountainman.

Bridge of Spies - Outstanding work by Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, ably led by Speilberg. Chilling, honest, and edge of the seat stuff. 8/10.

The Grand Budapest Hotel - grabs your attention from get go, and doesn't let it slip. Comedy, drama & suspense play well together. 8/10

Bajrangi Bhaijan - old message of harmony delivered via a vehicle with all access pass to each heart string. Always fall for these. 7.5/10

Jurassic World - The 22 year wait was worth it. Finally a deserving successor to the movie that introduced Hollywood to many of us. 7.5/10

Bajirao Mastani - Literally epic. Sensory delight. Songs distracting. DP, PC, & RS give their best. Climax disappointing. 7.5/10

Ankhon Dekhi -Rajat Kapoor scoops out a squiggly lump of lower middle class India and its curious characters. Sanjay Mishra brilliant! 7.5/10

NH10 - Powerful performance by Anushka, with a storyline that's almost believable if you take one big leap of faith. Violence overkill. 7/10

Tanu Weds Manu Returns- the crazy, zany parts worked quite well and Kangana, get ready for the award speeches. Poor climax and message. 7/10

Baby - Another taut Neeraj Pandey thriller with India's collective fantasy played out in an Argo-inspired climax. Rasheed Naz scary! 7/10.

Badlapur - taut story, brilliant Nawaz, but Varun Woody Dhawan did no justice to the protagonist's character. Something new though. 6.5/10

Revolver Rani - quirky, dark humour, edgy, not effortless, meanders in the end, Kangana is good, but not Rani (Queen) level, hatke. 6.5/10.

Dilwale - SRK sleepwalks yet again, Kajol looks gorgeous, bullet riddled storyline, hummable music, Sanjay Mishra aces comedy. 4/10.

Dil Dhadakne Do - Pretentious, wannabe tripe by Zoya Akhtar. Don't feel for any of the characters, not even Aamir Khan the dog. 3/10

Phantom - patriotic fantasy rubbish. Senseless, directionless, mind numbing 2.5 hours. Saif tries in vain, Katrina doesn't add usual. 3/10.

Shamitabh - When creativity meets money and decides to go crazy and take the audience for granted. Leaves you insulted, and AB too. 2.5/10.

Roy - that one time where KRK  doesn't just get it spot on, but provides the no holds barred review this torture deserves. 2/10.

Bang Bang - the last sound you hear before the squelching one of your brain plopping on the ground. Clean, unadulterated tripe. 1/10.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Books & Shows Review

Sometime during the past year I decided not to click on articles with clickbait headlines, you know the ones like 'This man saw a dog on the road. You won't believe what he did next'. Also, I said no to Listicles (25 things that only a 90s kid can relate to). And here I am at the end of the year making my own Top Books, Shows, Movies lists. Ah, well.

I did not end up reading a whole lot of books, but made up in quality what I messed up in quantity. Similarly for TV shows, was more deliberate about what I watched as they take up an immense amount of time, and with binge watching seasons on end it's almost like a commitment to a short term relationship.

Below are my ranking of Books (read in 2015) and TV Shows (watched in 2015).


5. 'r2i Dreams - For here or to go?' By Parth Pandya, Ramya Sethuraman, and Subhashini Srinivasan
r2i = Return to India. The debut novel of 3 authors, this one struck a chord close to home given the oft discussed topic among expatriate Indians, how long or if ever? Disclosure, one of the authors, Parth, is a good friend of mine, but that has little to do with this rating as you will find out if you are in the NRI boat and read this book. Expect much more from him in the years ahead. 

4. 'Written By Salim-Javed' By Diptakirti Chaudhuri
The third book in three years on Bollywood and its doyens by Diptakirti Chaudhuri (another friend!). He was the author of my favourite book of 2014 as well - Bollybook. This one is a biographical look at the greatest storytellers of Mumbai's tinseltown - Salim & Javed. You can find the more detailed review here.

3. Sultan of Delhi - Part 1 Ascension By Arnab Ray
This is a special one as it's not launched yet. Had the privilege of reading the draft of this epic drama, set in Delhi and Kolkata over many decades. May seem like a trend by now as this is also by a dear friend - Arnab Ray better known as Greatbong, but this list has been based on nothing but merit. Arnab has authored some of the recent bestsellers in India in the humour, horror and drama genres, and having read all of his books and blog posts (yes, all 10 years+) I don't want to raise the expectations for this one too much, but let's just say it will be one of the best books to come out in India next year. The canvas is vast and Arnab has matured tremendously as a writer to tackle various socio-political subjects as well as relationships and dialogue. Look out for this one.

2. KP: An Autobiography By Kevin Pietersen

I love masala Bollywood and I love cricket. When the two meet, like in the IPL, you can just sit back and enjoy the fireworks. KP has been more open and explicit in this book, presumably read by thousands if not millions, than most of us are in our heads. If you are looking for cricket gossip, and the workings of a genius cricket mind, pick this up.

1. Norwegian Wood By Haruki Murakami
I understand I am a decade or so late on this Murakami bandwagon, but what a writer. It doesn't matter the story is that of a much younger man in a very different country and culture, you identify with the characters in a strangely familiar way. A coming of age novel by the master. He will definitely be on my To Read list in 2016.


5. Hand of God (Season 1 )

Amazon's original series about a father and judge whose son is in a coma due to an attack and how he falls for religion, or what goes by religion, in his moment of weakness and lets it overpower and control his life completely.

4. Homeland (Seasons 1-4)

Had heard about this thriller on Showtime for years now, and finally during a month of free Showtime access binge watched all four seasons in a few weeks (Season 5 is coming to an end now). Taut and gripping with some glaring plotholes, an above average show made particularly exciting in the last few episodes of season four. Some of the most goosebump raising scenes seen on TV.

3. The Man In The High Castle (Season 1)
A historical fantasy based on the novel by Phillip K Dick. It imagines a post WW2 scenario where the German and Japanese had won and the US is now divided into two regions controlled by them. Was a slow first few episodes and then upped the tempo rapidly. Can't wait for Season 2. Another Amazon Prime Original.

2. Jessica Jones (Season 1)
A superhero with the least superhero powers is the protagonist, and a female protagonist at that. A supervillain with some real powers. Extraordinary performances by the leads and sharp editing makes this otherwise middle of the road Marvel novel stand out. Krysten Ritter is here to stay, look out for her in Season 2 and beyond. A Netflix original. 

1. Narcos (Season 1)
I have always had a keen interest in South America, perhaps because it seemed so distant and different growing up in India, and also because of their disproportionate prowess in world football (soccer). Andres Escobar's shooting post the 1994 World Cup made a big impact on me and always wanted to know more about Colombia. This curiosity was magnified manifold after the brilliant ESPN 30 for 30 show on the 2 Escobars. If 30 for 30 was 10/10 this show on the dreaded Pablo Escobar is 12/10. Finished the season in 2 sittings. Won't take more than a day to finish Season 2 once it is out.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2016 Resolutions - Want To Join?

As Dec-31 turns to Jan-1, nothing really changes. The night remains just as cold, or warm, depending on the hemisphere. However, to those obsessed with numbers and statistics, almost everything is reset. I certainly belong to that group. 

For the past few years I have tried to marry this love for numbers with some other things dear to me - movies, books, blogs, and a few things far from dear to me, but apparently important - miles walked (I can't don't run) and pounds shed (actually pounds gained is also mathematically interesting). In 2016 I am setting myself some stretch goals in each of these categories, and have managed to get a few like minded friends who are joining me in this gamified experience. If any of these things interest you, and especially the thrill of racing against time and others and collecting copious amounts of personal data, drop me a line.

My friend, and favourite Bollywood author, Diptakirti, proposed the #100MoviesPact, inspired by the #100SareesPact which might have popped up in your social media timelines in 2015. I jumped at it, but having watched 56 movies in 2015 I am well aware that it is a stretch goal. You can set your own finer rules for this, mine are simple - watch 100 unique movies in 2016 (Jan-1-2016 To Dec-31-2016). You can watch them anywhere. These can be movies you have watched in the past (prior to 2016), but you can't count a movie two or more times if you watch it multiple times in the same year. Year of release, language, duration, quality, especially quality, no bar. As usual I will also give a rating on a scale of 10. Shows don't count. Documentaries, I won't count, feel free to if you want.

Read 24 books. Simple. I have been using the Goodreads Annual Challenge to keep track of my progress, and also see how my friends are doing and what they are reading. Have picked up a few books based on their recommendations and suggestions from Goodreads. FWIW, I managed to reach only 10 with a target of 20 in 2015.

Blog Posts
Write 53 blog posts, or once a week. Will explain why 53 and not 52 at the end of this post. Used to fancy myself as a writer long back, haven't been able to put finger on keyboard for a long time. This is the one I am least certain about and will be the most laborious. This is the one I am looking forward to the most. For the record the last few years have been 2013 (12), 2014 (9), 2015 (10, including this one).

Now comes the hard part. If you know me even in passing you know fitness and I aren't made for each other. However, a 2014 purchase - the Fitbit - changed things somewhat, mostly because of the granular data in terms of steps, miles, flights of stairs etc. and forced fitness into my daily routine somewhat. This was accentuated by the very competitive challenges with friends from all over. I am ending this year at 1,630 miles/2,623 Kilometres (this includes all movement, not just those on the treadmill or where I go for a walk specifically for the purpose of a walk). I am stretching my 2016 goal by ~10% to 1,800 miles or 2,900 kilometres. I hardly walk on weekends, so this comes to ~6.5 miles or 10.4 Kms per weekday. I have a TV in front of the treadmill, and so am hoping to combine the movies and miles goals somewhat.

Losing The Pounds
I have been told any self respecting new year resolution can't exist without this one. This one will depend entirely on the Miles goal. The target is losing 15 pounds/7 kilos through the year. Let's not talk much about this.

I will be tracking and sharing my progress every week on this Google spreadsheet

Why 53?
Because I am looking at a Sunday-Saturday week, and Dec-31-2016 is a Saturday we have 53 Saturdays, and thus 53 weeks. So Week 1 for me will be Dec-27-15 - Jan-2-16 (for the movies count I will only record movies that I watch from Jan-1-2016). By the way, we have 5 Saturdays in January, April, July, October, and December) this year.

So, if any of this sounds interesting to you, even if the target numbers are different, let me know. Also, feel free to use the Resolution Tracker template.

Wish you all achieve whatever you set out to in 2016.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Review Of 'Written By Salim-Javed'

This is Diptakirti's 4th book in 5 years, and 3rd on Bollywood (the first, and only non-Bollywood book was on cricket). His previous two Bollywood outings, Kitnay Aadmi Thay and Bollybook were out and out Bollywood masala trivia blockbusters. That is, Satyajit Ray level of research and Karan Johar style of easy entertainment. I have been a fan for a while now and also a friend, so there goes the disclaimer.

Slightly young to have missed the magic of these four words - 'Written by Salim-Javed' on the big screen, but old enough to get excited when they showed up during the Doordarshan movies on Friday and Saturday evenings, this book is as much dipped in nostalgia for our generation as gulab jamuns in sugar syrup. However, in spite of being fairly versed with the might of the duo on Bollywood during the 70s and early 80s, WBSJ is an eye opener in terms of how these two young men changed the entire profession of script writing and story in Bollywood by making it mainstream, glamorous, and most importantly respectable and well paying. The chutzpah displayed by them from their early struggling days is straight out of a Salim-Javed movie (trivia and quizzes at the end of the post). WBSJ is divided into five neat Parts: 1. Flashback (background till where S & J start the partnership), 2. The Partnership (basically the book itself, a deep dive into each movie they wrote together), 3. Split Wide Open (as the name suggests, the split), 4. Themes and Messages ( like an extended Guidebook for (2)) and 5. Impact & Legacy (self explanatory).

If there's one thing you can expect from a Salim-Javed script, it is drama. The equivalent in a Diptakirti book is painstaking research. As you cherish every nugget of Bollywood gold dust thrown at you, you feel like giving the author a hug for the hours he must have spent at elevated attention levels noting down tidbits for us. It is also quite obvious that the author is a fan, and the strain of reverence is explicit throughout, sometimes slightly embarrassingly like calling Javed Akhtar's daughter's 'Dil Dhadakne Do' a commercially and critically acclaimed venture. This is a man paying homage to two men who provided him with the object of his obsession - Bollywood in the 1970s and 1980s. He also conducted some first hand interviews with the protagonists of the book, but primarily relied extensively on old issues of trade magazines and other like minded contemporaries (e.g. Sriram Raghavan, film director) who associated themselves with the world of movies. These publications and individuals (film critic Sukanya Verma making regular appearances) come back again and again through the pages.

The book is really Parts (1) and (2), and through some fresh anecdotes, some of the most well known Bollywood stories, and simple yet clear language Diptakirti takes us through a journey of all S-J's 19 unforgettable movies. The chapters include a brief recap to refresh the memory or to aid you to follow along in case you missed one or two of these (you really shouldn't though!). Sholay, Deewar, Zanjeer, Trishul, Don, Shaan, and Shakti make the most appearances. It helps that the author, like the subject of the book, is an unabashed fan of Big B, and S-J and Big B wouldn't be what they are without each other.

Now for the 'critical' part of the review. If this was a movie I think he's made a 3.5 hours biopic which could have been easily wrapped up in 2 hours flat. The entire chapter (4) felt like the author took a hammer and was ensuring that nothing from Part (2) left our heads, ever. Too many lines were repeated almost verbatim, also some of the recaps. It felt like how many scriptwriters treat their audiences - babies that need to be fed with a large spoon, lest things fall off! The other bone I have to pick with Diptakirti is that while the previous two books were an edge of your seat thriller in a fact based, trivia filled way, this could have been a more leisurely, relaxed read. However, his style remained almost the same in both, more journalistic and narrative, and very little flair. Which would be fine for most authors writing non-fiction, but I have read his blogs for many years now and he can definitely add much more to the stories than telling the facts, absolutey mind-blowing ones, in a linear, almost dry approach. It is disappointing that S-J refused to share any real information about the split, which obviously will be a big reason for many to read the book, but can't fault the author for that.

While the family shops...
In spite of the previous paragraph I am certain I will be going back to this book every now and then as I do to KAT and Bollybook. Some smaller things that stand out are, a separate section for all the translated dialogues, rather than next to the italicized ones in Hindi, as that could be very distracting. Attention to detail throughout. Sticking to the premise of Salim-Javed for the majority of the book, and not spending too much time on the rest of their and their families careers. This would have been very tempting to do as they split almost 30 years back and Javed Akhtar in particular has attained as much, if not more, success as a lyricist as the pair did during their heydays as Salim-Javed.

Final rating: 4/5 (caveat: You MUST be a Bollywood fan to even pick this up)

Top 10 Trivia:

1. Salim Khan's father was in the police, and while growing up he heard stories of various criminals. Many of the more interesting ones stuck. There was a particularly cruel story about a legendary dacoit who cut off the ears and noses of all the policemen he caught. What was his name?

2. Salim was quite the writer in college, and earned a name for himself by writing love letters for his less articulate friends. Two of his close friends _____ Singh Rao Kalevar and ______ Singh were later immortalized by him. Fill in the blanks.

3. When Javed Akhtar was born, his father - Poet Jan Nisar Akhtar - a member of the Communist Party, went to the hospital with some friends. Instead of the tradition of reading the Azaan in the newborn's ears, what book, that he was carrying with him, did he read from?

4. Javed Akhtar during his struggling days would stay in a storeroom at Kamlistan, Amrohi's studio, and one night found three Filmfare Award trophies in a cabinet. He recalls holding the trophies reverently every night and pretending that he was receiving the award himself, rehearsing speeches even. Which legendary actress' trophies were these?

5. One of Javed Akhtar's drinking buddies offered to share a flat with him but Javed turned him down as he was not sure he would be able to pay the monthly rent. S-J later went on write some memorable roles for him, particularly one where he was pitted against Amitabh Bachchan. Who?

6. In Shakti, as well as the lesser known Akhri Daao (starring Jeetendra), the hero displays exemplary confidence during a job interview by replying to the same question - 'aap is kaam ko nahin jaante' - with the same words - what?

7. In a 1977 movie, Maha Badmash, a mysterious kingpin remained hidden in the shadows and instructed his minions in a booming voice. What was the name of this villain, later immortalized by S-J in a different movie?

8. In Yaadon Ki Baraat, a painter sees the killer Shakaal (Ajit) fleeing from the scene of the murder. He is seen wearing short kurtas and dark framed spectacles. This is much like a real-life legend of Bollywood, and the painter's name was also the same as this wordsmith. Who/what?

9. In which movie did they put their foot down against Amitabh Bachchan changing costumes throughout the second half as they said it would take away from the continuity and the thrill of the long scene?

10. What was Javed Akhtar's first outing as the script and story writer, after a long hiatus, in 2003 for his ex-wife Honey Irani's directorial debut?

Answers to Trivia:
1. Gabbar Singh
2. Jai and Virender
3. Communist Manifesto
4. Meena Kumari
5. Shatrughan Sinha (Kala Pathar)
6. 'Aur aap hume nahin jante'
7. Mogambo
8. Gulzar
9. Don
10. Armaan

Buy Now:

In India: Physical (Amazon, Flipkart), Kindle (Amazon)
In USA: Unavailable as of Nov-20-2015

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Hindustanis And Bangalis

A friend, from Mumbai, recently commented that the great Indian Hindi divide to him was always North India V South India and was surprised when he came across a mild-anti Hindi jibe from a Bangali.

The Bangali-Hindi relationship is what Facebook should use as the "Learn More" mouseover on their 'It's Complicated' status.

Growing up in Asansol, a small (by Indian standards) industrial city on the West Bengal-Bihar/Jharkhand border, the Hindi-Bangali divide was clear. Rather the Bangali-Hindustani divide. Yes, you read that right, we Bangalis are not Hindustanis. In broad strokes we Bangalis had culture, the Hindustanis had money. We couldn't live without fish and meat, they couldn't stand them. And I don't say this with a sense of superiority because both parties accepted and approved the social structure. The Hindustanis would think of us as 'padhe likhe hai, lekin becharon ke paas paisa nahi hai' (Those guys are well educated, but poor people don't have much money). And we would publicly feign a lack of interest in their wealth, as coveting wealth is looked down upon in the bhodro (polite) Bangali society, and privately aspire to be like them one day. At the same time, publicly we'd say some politically correct stuff about their eco-friendly humane eating habits and come home and say "Ei veg kheye kheye betara borolok hoe gelo. Tobe jai bol, shara jibon veg kheye Ambani hobar theke amader oi moddhobitto machh-bhat jibon onek bhalo" (These bloody folks make all their money by saving on fish and meat. And say what you will, it's better to be enjoy the middle class life with fish and meat than be an Ambani and remain a vegetarian for life).

Coming to the language piece, which sparked this discussion. All Bangalis from an early age are reminded of this "2nd sweetest language in the world" title that we had been bestowed upon by some unquestionable authority (right after French, because what's a good story without specifics?) This was the pre-Internet era equivalent of 'forwards' that was passed from one generation to the next. Now we must have a Facebook photo doing the rounds of Rabindranath accepting this award from a white person. So, with this absolute certainty of enjoying a linguistic superiority over all other Indian languages, we tried to speak Hindi, the national language (consolation prize, as it was still far from the sweetest). These efforts always included a sense of condescension, which for some reason wasn't the case when speaking English (another language we crushed in that legendary language awards show). With English we would practice our pronunciations and vet them with the English medium convent-educated types. Our faces would turn beet red if someone ever pointed out a slight issue in the way we delivered a word. Hindi was a different ball game. We almost elevated its stature by speaking in it. To give it an even higher pedestal in life we adopted the poor Hindustani's language, and processed it such the final product was just a mild variation of Bangla. While this has been lampooned by Bollywood for decades, the bhodrolok sees no humour there. As a friend's mother was once bargaining with a vegetable vendor in Delhi, in chaste Bangla. The poor Hindustani was at his wit's end but continuing his part of the bargain till they agreed on some price. When the friend asked her mother why did she think he, a North Indian uneducated vendor, would understand her nuanced Bangali arguments about the fair price of cauliflowers, she replied in a matter of fact way "Takar kotha shobai bujhte parta hai" (everyone figures out everything in terms of money). Trivia: In Bengal we refer to money as 'Taka' which by the way is the official currency of Bangladesh, India's is Rupees or Rupiya as the Hindustanis refer to it.

If you try to corner us about our lack of Hindi skills we will tell you that some of our boys, like Bimal and Abhash have created greater art in Hindi (their second or third language) than any native speaker will ever come close to emulating. So 'tumhara yeh Hindi bok bok bandh karo, aur sab Bangla seekh lo jaldi jaldi, World's #1 language hoga hum, dekh lena.' (So stop your nonstop Hindi chatter and quickly learn Bangla. It's about to become the world's #1 language. Mark my words).

Friday, October 02, 2015

Playing Quiz Up with Suhel

[This is a guest post by my good friend Abhishek Paul, who posted here a few times back in 2006

Well, I had written on this blog many years ago, and it actually feels nice to come back here and write, what I told Suhel would be a little "Roast" of him. Many readers of this blog would know Suhel through different ways. I got to know him during our time in college together, at St. Xavier's Kolkata. I will not be amiss in saying that he has always come across as a "stud",albeit a nerdy, geeky,  knowledgeable one. And given his legendary prowess as a Quizzer and a Quiz Master, a picture of his idol as a Quiz Master seems quite apt to describe my impression of him :)

We have stayed in touch over the years "leveraging" many distinct forms of social media to do so. And this year, with the World Cup as the reason, Suhel created a WhatsApp group of his friends that has now morphed to resemble something like this.
Ocean's, oops Suhel's Eleven
There are no prizes for guessing who's Danny Ocean here. Often the contents of this group make Danny & Rusty (MM) look at their screens like this !
What are they even saying !
A few days ago, Quiz Up, the now world famous quizzing app came into discussion and since then Mr. "Enthu Cutlet" Suhel started a quizzing tournament which has now become the sole focus of this group. I could not help myself from trying to visualise how Suhel looks - as he goes on conducting (& playing ) this quiz tournament with great elan.

(All gifs & stuff, below are from the movie, Starter for 10, starring among others - that other brilliant brainy stud - Benedict Cumberbatch as Suhel ).

So here's Suhel - all excited at the start of the quiz - introducing concepts and rulestumblr_no7otkWdL91u57c32o6_500.gif (500×281)

And now, with that done, Suhel kicks things off
tumblr_inline_moqeb6m1481qz4rgp.gif (500×281)

Quite frequently, peculiar situations come up, like a tie for example. Suhel, expertly makes convincing rules on the fly and then explains them those rules and regulations Like a Boss. (Or Like N Srinivasan if you may :D ) 

tumblr_mnslmg0bQQ1ss6e5ao3_500.gif (500×249)
[This is an aside, but some of us in the group have suggested, that Suhel might have got into trouble with the bad boys in school given his utter (though charming) "nerdy" bossiness. Well, if Suhel did gets into a fight - it would be like this ]

Coming back, as happens with a group of Indians, we rarely do things on time - in fact some of us are quite proud of taking our own, sweet time. And that leaves a bloodied and bruised Suhel - screaming and pleading at folks to get on with things - giving ultimatums - like this. 

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We really don't know how these Quiz Wars will end, here's hoping SRK, I mean Sherlock, I mean Suhel keeps up his spirit and his enthusiasm for the things he loves. He gets people together like no else I know.

This ended up being more a Toast, than a Roast - but I think that's all right :).

Cheers !

Saturday, July 18, 2015

All Time India-Pakistan Test XI

We have a hyperactive WhatsApp group preoccupied with lists. Lists of any sort, Top 5 Bollywood directors, Indian Prime Ministers, Female Playback Singers, you name it, we have listed it. It was a matter of time before we reached the wet dream of every cricket lover in the sub-continent - India-Pakistan Test XI. Even as a Sri Lankan supporter of Murali-esque proportions, I have to agree the glamour and enigma of an India-Pak XI is hard to beat in the world of cricket.

Before you could say Warnakulasuriya Patabendige Ushantha Joseph Chaminda Vaas all 10 of us had our 11s ready, and to a large extent they were mirror images of each other, with the difference of a Saqlain here and a Laxman there. I decided to take my favourite route, keeping all emotions, and nuances out of the debate and diving into the depths of that work of beauty, ESPNCricinfo Statsguru, to let the raw numbers speak for themselves. I know this approach is fraught with Swiss cheese sized holes, but at least it's one where there can be no debate over the facts, even though the process can be questioned.

I decided that my team will have the following composition:

2 openers
3 middle order batsmen
1 all rounder (min. 100 Test wickets)
1 wicketkeeper
2 seamers and
2 spinners

Again, you may question the strategy, but the numbers are there for all to see.

Also, due to the huge difference in tracks and quality of performance of players playing in the sub-continent conditions (India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Banglades, and UAE) and the rest of the world I decided to create 2 Test XIs. Sub-Continent and Overseas.

8 players made it to both sides without any questions asked. Among the remaining 6 I feel there was one real surprise. So, without further ado, here's the India-Pakistan all time XI.

Both teams:

Openers: Virender Sehwag and Sunil Gavaskar

Middle Order: Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar

Wicketkeeper: Mahendra Singh Dhoni

All Rounder: Imran Khan

Seamer: Wasim Akram

Spinner: Anil Kumble

Sub-Continent ONLY

Middle Order: Younis Khan

Seamer: Kapil Dev

Spinner: Harbhajan Singh

Overseas ONLY

Middle Order: VVS Laxman

Seamer: Waqar Younis

Spinner: Bishen Singh Bedi (this was the big surprise for me)

The notable omissions were: Javed Miandad, Inzamum Ul Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Sourav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan,

Go ahead, share your all time XIs in the comments.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

55 Word Story

[Highly inspired by Diptakirti & Parth's 55 word stories]

The retired colonel was missing the action the army provided. So he decided to share moments of his past life with the Indian TV audience of the 80s. During auditions, a plain, short guy with a beak-nose appeared. 
“What do you want to do?” asked the colonel. 
“Become a superstar”, replied Taj Mohammad Khan’s son.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

How They Ended Up Here

Every few years I get this urge to find out what legacy am I leaving behind through this blog? Whose curiosity does Google fulfill by leading them to this online corner store? And the Internet rarely disappoints. 
Image via

Back in 2010 I held my nose and dove into the crevices of Google Analytics to find the answers to the questions above. What searches landed people on my blog? Here's what I found then. Yes, my blog was that bar where people came when "one of my clients said i am fat and ugly". Also for some innocent questions like "effects of loitering at cyber cafe".

Wanted to see if I have been providing able support to similar seekers of truth over the years, and so this evening I conducted the same exercise after five years. What keywords are leading people to my blog now? Was not surprised to see that the majority came from android, app download, johari window, and cricket related queries. Not surprising given the flavour of the majority of my content. Then came the the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. Here's to the hungry, and the foolish.

1. "kurkure dharosh bhaja" [Translation from Bangla "crispy okra/ladiesfinger fritters"]

As a self respecting pot-bellied Bengali I take it as a matter of pride that my little online diary has been providing life's answers to those craving eternal bliss.

2. "" (from a mobile browser)

If one keyword search embodies the story of the new India, this is it. In saftware we trust.

3. "sourav ganguly ki hindi me onki bate wo kisi insaan the"

I will assume that this person got carried away midway through her search and shared her deepest thoughts with the Internet.

4. "mouth full of cum at work"

Having worked at only two companies I really had no clue about what goes on in other offices.

5. "when arijit singh 23 year old where he did work"

Not sure who Arijit Singh is, but now I absolutely need to know about his early stage career choices.

6. "who is suhel banerjee"

Have to admit this was an ego boost. Someone out there wants to know all about me. What do I have for breakfast? Which is my favourite IPL team? What do I stand for? What's my online banking password?

7. "why srk absent from filmfare 2015"

This is a little ironic because I have wondered about this question a few times this year, and apparently I am one of those who has the answer to this. Wah Google!

8. "www suhel sex"

While I am flattered, I have a nagging feeling it's about that other Suhel who lives in TV studios.

9. "शुरत शे गोरखपुर तक कनफरम शीट अवथ एकशपेरेश" [Translation from Hindi "From Surat To Gorakhpur confimed seat in Avadh Express"]

After a point you just stop refreshing IRCTC and go to the site least likely to help you book your train tickets. I think that's what happened here.

10. "ugly fat bhoomihar girl"

And finally we come to the one that's bothered me the most. Did they find her? Or if it was a self search, did she overcome the complex? Is she alright?

The search is on...

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Minnow's Day Out - World Cup Upsets

In 40 years of World Cup cricket, spanning over 350 games we have had just a dozen odd real upsets. For the purpose of this post an upset has been defined asany nation outside of the Top 8 (Aus, NZ, Ind, SL, Pak, SA, WI, & Eng) beating one of the top 8. The close calls were Zimbabwe's victories over India and South Africa in 1999 as they were in their best form at that time and not sure if they counted as minnows anymore.

Having watched 10 of these 12 games so far I will pick two that stand out for a couple of reasons. The biggest upset in terms of shock value would be rank outsiders, Kenya, playing in their first world cup (not considering East Africa in the late 70s), beating once superpower West Indies in 1996. In terms of the quality of cricket played by the so called minnow I feel the clear winner is Ireland's toppling of England's impressive 325 in the 2011 edition. It remains the only upset with the less fancied team chasing a score of 300+. Will continue to update this list.

All photos are courtsey ESPNCricinfo.

1. 1983 (Jun-9): Zimbabwe 239/6 beat Australia 226/7 by 13 runs [Scorecard]

Zimbabwe celebrate their surprise win over Australia in their first ODI, Australia v Zimbabwe, World Cup, Trent Bridge, June 9, 1983
2. 1992 (Mar-18): Zimbabwe 134/10 beat England 125/10 by 9 runs [Scorecard]

Eddo Brandes gets rid of Graeme Hick, England v Zimbabwe, 1992 World Cup, Albury

3. 1996 (Feb-29): Kenya 166/10 beat West Indies 93/10 by 73 runs [Scorecard]

Wicketkeeper Tariq Iqbal and Aasif Karim celebrate as Brian Lara is caught behind off the bowling of Rajab Ali, Kenya v West Indies, World Cup, Pune, February 29, 1996

4. 1999 (May-19): Zimbabwe 252/9 beat India 249/10 by 3 runs [Scorecard]

Henry Olonga traps Venkatesh Prasad lbw to seal an amazing comeback win by Zimbabwe, India v Zimbabwe, World Cup Group A, Leicester, May 19, 1999

5. 1999 (May-29): Zimbabwe 233/6 beat South Africa 185/10 by 48 runs [Scorecard]

Neil Johnson celebrates a wicket, South Africa v Zimbabwe, World Cup, 26th match, Chelmsford, May 29, 1999

6. 1999 (May-31): Bangaldesh 223/9 beat Pakistan 161/10 by 62 runs [Scorecard]

Bangladeshi supporters swamp the pitch after their heroes beat Pakistan, 29th match: Bangladesh v Pakistan, World Cup, Northampton, May 31, 1999 

7. 2003 (Feb-24): Kenya 210/9 beat Sri Lanka 157/10 by 53 runs [Scorecard]

World Cup, 2003 - Kenya v Sri Lanka at Nairobi, 24th February 2003

8. 2007 (Mar-17): Bangaldesh 192/5 beat India 191/10 by 5 wickets [Scorecard]

Bangladesh celebrate another Indian wicket, Bangladesh v India, Group B, Trinidad, March 17, 2007

9. 2007 (Mar-17): Ireland 133/7 beat Pakistan 132/10 by 3 wickets [Scorecard]

A buoyant Ireland do a victory lap around Sabina Park, Ireland v Pakistan, Group D, Jamaica, March 17, 2007

10. 2007 (Apr-7): Bangaldesh 251/8 beat South Africa 184/10 by 67 runs [Scorecard]

A few Bangladesh players celebrate the victory from the viewing area, Bangladesh vs South Africa, Super Eights, Guyana, April 7, 2007

11. 2011 (Mar-2): Ireland 329/7 beat England 327/8 by 3 wickets [Scorecard]

John Mooney and Trent Johnston are overjoyed, England v Ireland, World Cup 2011, Bangalore, March 2, 2011

12. 2011 (Mar-11): Bangladesh 227/8 beat England 225/10 by 2 wickets [Scorecard]

Bangladesh celebrate their thrilling win against England, Bangladesh v England, Group B, World Cup, Chittagong, March 11, 2011
13. 2015 (Feb-16): Ireland 307/6 beat West Indies 304/7 by 4 wickets [Scorecard]

John Mooney and Niall O'Brien are jubilant after the victory, Ireland v West Indies, World Cup 2015, Group B, Nelson, February 16, 2015