One of the most disagreeable things about tennis is how it constructs shallow, lazy and frankly terrible narratives around its leading exponents. The worst of these employ the trope of polar opposites. McEnroe and Borg were fire and ice, Sampras and Agassi was server versus returner, and, in recent years, Federer and Nadal has been seen as artist against automaton.
It’s a bunch of garbage, really, not least for the insinuation that identifying a player as one opposite excludes the possibility of ever being the other. Listen to the shrillest voices in that conversation, and you’d be convinced that McEnroe threw tantrums every time he played or that Agassi never served an ace in his life.
It is an essentialization that arguably does a greater disservice to Rafael Nadal than any other tennis player in history, for it suggests a game entirely devoid of aesthetics or natural talent. He’s painted as gritty and competitive and tough, and not nearly enough as cerebral and diverse and endlessly resourceful.
The truth is that, without a lights out weapon to generate winners with, it has been intuitive for his game to take on whatever shape his opponent’s weaknesses require it to. Equally, without a selling point around which to fashion a default Plan A, his defeats can’t just be explained away by a serve that didn’t work or a forehand that fell apart on a given day. With his athleticism corroded in recent years by injuries, even his pressuring style has faltered on faster surfaces. His recent defeats haven’t just felt like had-a-bad-day defeats – they’ve felt like attacks on his entire tennis belief system.
Nadal’s top seeding in the US Open this year was met with derision. There were at least half a dozen players with better hardcourt games than him, and his early exits at Montréal and Cincinnati made it hard to imagine he’d make it through seven matches without running into an ace machine or a big forehand he wouldn’t be able to chase down.
But when play opened in New York two Mondays ago, something was wrong. The courts weren’t playing as fast as they were elsewhere, and nobody could figure out why. The four guys who’d made the Cincinnati semis just a week before were gone by the first Saturday, and of the twelve men to have won hardcourt singles titles on the tour all year, only two saw the second week.
In theory, slower courts favoured Nadal. But the bloodbath in the first week also represented a classically Nadal challenge – with the other top seeds falling, the information he had on the rest of the field shrunk. To another player, this would mean little, but Nadal hates inconsistent opponents, risky tennis, shorter points. In fact, over the last three and a half years, his win record up and down the tour against guys outside the top 20 is such that, facing them in a hypothetical non-clay Grand Slam, the average of his performances would see him exit that tournament in the fourth round. And eventually, the courts would speed up, and these guys with big weapons would blow him away.
With all this doubt swirling around him, Nadal went back to what he knew – taking time, downloading information, studying tendencies and finding weaknesses.
Nowhere was that more obvious than against Del Potro in the semis. Having given up the first set, Nadal computed that, instead of targeting an assigned weakness, unpredictability was key, and he pursued it relentlessly. What is the opponent not expecting? How well can he think on the run? Is the correction risky? A thousand tiny decisions went by in a blur. It didn’t even feel like tennis – it felt like high-calibre problem solving under intense time pressure, which just happened to involve a racquet and a tennis ball.
From the start of the second set, it took Nadal a hundred minutes to win three sets. It had taken him the same time to figure out Dolgopolov in the fourth round, and in the quarters, with mild annoyance and minimal regret, Nadal had bludgeoned Rublev 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in ninety-six minutes.
For the first hour and a half, yesterday’s final against Anderson meandered along in the plodding pattern of two players playing not to lose. Nadal won the first set but it was unconvincing. But, as Anderson struggled on serve, he found a couple of easy putaways to lead 4-2 in the second set.
Then, all of a sudden, it was happening again. Nadal was climbing all over second serves. He was dispatching his second and third shots into unreachable areas. He was using the threat that he could chase down anything to compel his opponent into playing bad shots. He was winning free points on his own serve more efficiently than he has at any point in the last seven years. It took him twelve minutes to win the set from there.
The third set against a fast-fading Anderson started with a break of serve, and a hold to fifteen. At 3-1, Anderson won five straight points and got a look at a couple of Nadal’s second serves. The second of these was in Anderson’s hitting arc but the ball kicked up, forcing him to mistime the return. The ball hobbled halfway up to Nadal’s side of the court. Nadal read it, glided forward, and sent one of those ridiculous whipping forehands wailing up the line. Anderson, no more than two feet from his last shot, scrambled to hack the return back. By the time he looked up, Nadal was already at the net to put away a forehand volley into the opposite side of the court. He threw a look back to the other side of the net as if to say, alright buddy, party’s over. Moments later, Nadal had won his seventh game in the last ten. The whole sequence took a little over thirty-eight minutes.
For years, Nadal had compensated for his weaknesses on faster surfaces by turning matches ugly. For years, his wins were Nadal by attrition over five sets or Nadal by strangulation in four. This tournament, though, none more so than the final, has been a showcase for a style that, for so long, seemed beyond him on faster surfaces – this was Nadal by knockout in three sets.
The sentiment that lingered after the final didn’t emanate from Nadal but from Anderson.
“I know we’re the same age,” he said, “but I feel like I’ve been watching you my whole life.”
It was powerful and evocative but a little incomplete. Nadal’s run in New York over this year offered not just a reminder of his constancy but of his evolution – a whirl of adjustments, variety, anticipation, and geometry, with bursts of explosiveness and intelligence to burn. It’s as if the one fundamental incongruity about Nadal’s game – the description of his tennis with adjectives that aren’t intrinsic to the beauty of the sport – had, at long last, been reconciled.
Rafael Nadal played beautiful tennis last week, polar opposites be damned. He is finally, indelibly part-automaton, part-artist.
Between the last post and now, we have been continuing with lessons, lectures (Intro to Carnatic Music, Nigerian Economy, Gender and Caste, Bollywood, Gita for Westerners and Leadership in the Gita) and sight-seeing to the bird garden, the zoo, and more in Kerala where we spent the last weekend at a resort by the beach. Our long bus rides were daily summed up with all the windows completely open and various albums playing on a bluetooth speaker. I have to say, I think it’s an aesthetic to feel the wind chiseling your face with your eyes closed and Tame Impala’s album “Currents” in the background. Another is dancing away from the waves as if you are one with them.
Of course, describing everything in such detail might be boring so I want to focus on our visits to the Swami Viveka Tribal Center for Learning, the Viveka School of Excellence and hospital in Sargur. Our day began with 6 am yoga as usual, breakfast of probably idlis or dosas and a 2 hour bus ride to the first school. The school had hostels for the tribal kids and the teachers. I was amazed that people have so much drive for service to commit to living in this rural school with the children.
We interacted with people who were in teacher training and were introduced to them as musicians, and they asked us to sing a song. We sang “This Land is My Land” which I think is not the greatest song from America, but it is super American. The teacher trainees sang a song for us in return, and Steve (our professor) sang Bagyada Lakshmi Baramma. They didn’t really have that many questions for us, but they did ask what our names are, and how technology and education are different in the US.
Our response was that people here are taught so many different languages. They knew Kannada, English and Hindi. In the US, people really only know one language and maybe two.
Next, we saw the library which had collections that anyone at the school could read. They had English and Kannada selections, my favorite being “The Natural History of Stupidity.” Two first graders were inquisitively waving hello to us as we left to meet the young children in the classrooms.
The first classroom we visited had children that were around a pre-first grade age, and they were arranging the English alphabet in block letters on the ground. The next class were 6 or 7 year olds. They were busily writing in notebooks but as they saw us they immediately stopped. We mingled with them and some were extremely shy, but others had a myriad of questions like what our names are, how old we are, and where we came from. I sat with a group of four boys and took pictures of them, and when I showed them the pictures the smile on their faces were irreplaceable.
The next classroom was outside, because sometimes tribal children are so used to being outside they cannot focus in an indoor classroom setting. The class we visited outside was a Hindi class. First, they sang a song for us: “Hamko Manke Shakti Dena.”
They were then allowed to come talk to any of us. I think the ones who came to me were really confused as to why I didn’t speak Kannada, because I look Indian. However, they were extremely expressive and quite naughty. Allie and Sarah sang songs and danced with them, and I took pictures of them. Every time I looked up more kids were adding to the frame. They asked me about my parents, and brothers and sisters and kept asking for more pictures. I think to me, children are the embodiment of Krishna because they are so pure, but mischievous. They each are beautiful characters with different personalities. It was so easy to become attached to these kids that leaving them was actually difficult. As we walked away from the outdoor classroom campus waved outside the windows until we were gone. It is important to note that these children would not have another form of education if the Swami Viveka Tribal school did not exist.
The next stop was the Ayurveda clinic. The clinic had a yoga room, massage room, and lab. They make all of the medicines using natural ingredients that are grown on the campus. Apparently the government pulled support from the movement, so that the state would take more responsibility, but I am unsure if that is working. The movement, it seems, only has the best intentions and now the least financial support.
We ate at the canteen and the food was the most flavorful food I have ever tasted. Before eating we were allowed to purchase Ayurvedic medicines like Kashaya tea powder (good for colds), oils for hair and pain and other powders for other uses, and after eating we left for the Viveka School of Excellence in Sargor which was a 1st – 10th and Pre-University school. It was Wednesday so the students were allowed to wear what they wanted and not their uniforms. As a result, there were jeweled anarkalis and vivid dupattas adorning outfits. The school had a chemistry, biology, physics, and computer lab in addition to yoga room and library. We played in the “Science Exploratory Park” which was the most intense learning playground I have ever seen. Every structure had a description relating to science, and questions to think about while using it. There were over 30 structures to play with. Honestly, if I had gone to school there I would have learned so much by doing and questioning. I would also never not want to go to school.
The kids were let out of school by some middle-school looking boys banging on drums and blowing horns. They all lined up for some announcements, and then the Indian national anthem played, and they were dismissed by the horn and drum duo. Piles of little ones stuffed into autos and belted bye to us as they sped away and we made our way to the hospital– a short visit. We saw their community-based radio which raises awareness about health and social issues, and saw the different wards and labs.
I can’t help but wonder if everything is too good to be true? But then I think about the issue between equity and equality. These students are being catered to so that they can still fit into their rural backgrounds, but also get an education. They are being taught to how they can understand.
Our professor here told us that when he sees his class roster before a term begins, he imagines everyone as lotuses that will collectively grow together. Fittingly, the day I wrote this was Guru Poornima, which only makes me more thankful for the exceptional and dedicated teachers I have had. Seeing this passion in the Swami Vivekananda movement is not only inspiring, but refreshing to know that there are movements which are so good-hearted in the world.
More from this author:
The India Journals of a Dancer
Why the World Should Keep Dancing
We are a group of ten students, who are doing an India immersion program between the University of Michigan and the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement in Mysore to learn music, dance and yoga. The students on this trip, are all from the University of Michigan, and there is one Professor from the UM School of Music, Theater and Dance. As per the immersion program, the students can study an instrument, voice, or dance, and all will practice yoga.
Here is a page from my India journal:
Throughout this trip I am realizing I will never fully fit into one culture. I was able to pass with the 40 rupee ticket (for Indians) instead of the 100 rupee ticket (for foreigners) at the Mysore Palace– probably my biggest achievement yet.
However, I came here with the intent to dance, and to become a mindful person.
The usual schedule of our day is: yoga at 6 am, breakfast at 7:30, lessons, lunch, more lessons, and then group activities until dinner or after dinner. My lessons, and the mridangam lessons are after lunch meaning we have a whole morning free for “journal-ing and meditation.”
Ideally that is what we should be doing, but such a slowed-down period is something many of us are not used to. In the states, we are often overbooked with things to do. People in our group have a variety of majors: jazz piano with ecology, violin performance with communications, performing arts technology, cognitive science, screen arts and cultures, art and design, swirled with a percussion major. Everyone has brought a different view of life with them but also a constantly aroused mentality.
This group of 10 tops off with a Professor, who has been coming to India for over 30 years, and converted to Hinduism from an extremely religious background.
We have been in Mysore for a week now and are all beginning to open ourselves up to each other.
Our group dynamic comprises of playfulness and support. Gus has come up with a “hashtag wall,” in which we say hashtags ironically. The most popular are #chutney for the steaming idlis and crispy dosas made by the hostel, and #ahimsa, said after swatting away bulging mosquitoes. There is also a running joke that Rebecca needs to get married on this trip because she is the old age of 23. Being in a new country and culture also makes way for vulnerability, but our group has been upbeat about nourishing each other with support.
I am amazed at everyone’s personality. We are all such different people but we are able to connect over deep thoughts. Mysore coffee in the morning or mangoes at lunch beckon questions like “are the body and mind one, or separate?”
Coming to India without really knowing much about the culture or atmosphere is a large jump from the US, and I feel very thankful and refreshed because everyone has been so accepting of insightful about the culture and Hinduism, too. Our curriculum is set up so, that, we be introspective as well. Yesterday, we visited Chamundi Hills, a church, and passed through the Meena Bazaar which was in preparation with Ramadan items. Seeing the three together in the same city is proof that people, if they believe in humanity, can live side by side in peace. It is saddening to know that there is still discrimination not just in India but also back home. Here, everyone is still Indian no matter what faith they follow. And at home, people are still American no matter what ethnicity they are.
Lessons are difficult and bring out frustration in new ways because of such a vulnerable environment. Having learned Bharatanatyam for around 15 years, I think I have an easier time because I have skipped that learning curve period. However, I came here to achieve a deeper understanding of Bharatanatyam and what it means to be a well-rounded dancer. My guru introduced me to others as a foreigner, but “Indian-based.” She runs classes similar to home, beginning with adavus. But she makes every student perform the dances by themselves in front of the others alone, and the other students sing the pieces and put the talam. She has been describing all the aspects of a complete dancer to me, and we are going through basics of theory together.
I am barely sufficient in half of these, but I am committed to becoming proficient in all, and that satisfies my passion requirement.
India has an openness that is elusive in the states. The idea that we are all one with the universe and we are part of our environment can be seen simply in an auditorium. Every concert we have been to has kept the doors open to the streets, so the car horns are part of the music itself. People ambling in and out of a the veena performance in the temple we went to, carried on with their prayers without even acknowledging the sitting audience. Cows sit in the middle of the road and monkeys are unafraid to steal our food. It is that oneness that can really change our mindsets about the way we live and how our actions will affect something– anything.
Looking at the week forward, many of us are ready to dive into whatever comes next despite any difficulties in our lessons and our lives. We are ready to engage in conversation about spiritualness that are stimulated by our environment, and are ready to modify our minds.
Elliot: [solemnly] Stay…
E.T.: [puts his finger to his glowing heart] Ouch.
Elliot: [mimics the same action, tearfully] Ouch.
E.T.: [E.T. and Elliot embrace each other, then E.T. puts his glowing finger to Elliot’s forehead] I’ll… be… right… here.
Elliot: [tearfully] … bye.
I have been told that June 11 is the 35th anniversary of the release of E.T. I have been waiting for E.T. for quite some time. To phone home. My daughter is not Elliot, but she is as close as it can get. E.T. could have made another friend.
It’s the early ‘50s. A father dabbles incompetently with his camera… His son sits crying in the corner. The boy has just watched Disney’s Dumbo on the tube… Yet, he continues to watch… He sees the Night on the Bare Mountain sequence from Disney’s Fantasia. At night, he would shiver under the blankets trying to free himself from the monsters of his own imagination. They were everywhere, under the closet, between the quilts…everywhere. His relationship with them was eerie, they crept out of discreet creaks in the walls and spoke to him. He would freeze at the sight of trees, the clouds, the dark. He liked being scared. He found it stimulating. What can you say about a boy who considered his actual date of birth less significant than his birth year, 1947, when the phrase “flying saucer” first came into existence? A boy for whom science fiction was fact, and its depiction, a reality. A boy for whom life wasn’t a duel – it was a film…
He was a boy who never grew up. A man, who had never been robbed. A man, who had never seen a fight, or ever fought. A man, who had never seen a corpse. A man, who had never eaten Italian food, until he came to New York… A man who jumped off a Universal Studios tour bus on a whim, and ended up going down in history.
The back lots of Universal were not only vital inspiration for a guy in the throes of a dream, they also became his first abode, when he stumbled upon a decrepit janitor’s closet, and set up shop in its premises. The guy who had never made it to film school, and studied English instead, was perched on the precipice of his fantasies.
The world of “35 millimeter” for Steven Spielberg began with the unglamorous “8 mm”. His first recorded film depicted a three-and-a-half minute stagecoach robbery, and was shot on a shoestring sum of ten dollars. He was only 12. The possibilities were endless. He chose to exercise them. One year later, he made a 40 minute offering entitled “Escape to Nowhere,” and at 16, ventured into territory most comfortable to him, filming a 140 minute epic on UFOs. The film was obviously destined to make cinematic history years later, as Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Meanwhile, Spielberg found himself thrown off the sets of Alfred Hitchcock’s Torn Curtain, and rusting in his makeshift studio, until his first big break came when Denis Hoffman gave him the opportunity to make a 20 minute short film. The project, titled Amblin’, attracted attention at the Atlanta Film Festival, and went on to give its name to Spielberg’s entertainment company.
“Before I go off and direct a movie, I always look at 4 films. They tend to be: Seven Samurai, Lawrence of Arabia, It’s A Wonderful Life, and The Searchers.”
Spielberg’s cinematic success was not only due to his pictorial perception and intensive analytical ability, but also due to his sheer drive. For instance, during the filming of Rod Serling’s Night Gallery starring Joan Crawford, the neglected Spielberg asked writer friends Barry Levinson and William Link to keep him company on the sets. Levinson talks of Spielberg’s rendition of their script, Murder By The Book, “Our script was awful, but Steve’s work was dazzling, electrifying. He took all sorts of chances. He’d do a five page scene in one take, choreographing the people and the camera.”
It was only a natural succession to filming episodes for productions like “The Psychiatrist”, and “The Young Sherlock Holmes.” The 1971 feature film, Duel, based on a Richard Matheson story, was filmed in a hurricane period of 16 days. His next film, Something Evil, provoked cult appreciation when it was released in America in 1972. The New Yorker called it “one of the most phenomenal debut films in the history of movies.”
In 1974 came the Goldie Hawn starrer, The Sugarland Express, based on a real-life incident that occurred in Texas in 1969. By now, Spielberg had firmly planted his roots in direction, and the character of his earlier Duel and Something Evil were evident in the film. Scriptwriters Matthew Robbins and Hal Barwood would later be immortalized as the two missing spacemen at the end of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Unfortunately, the film turned out to be unsuccessful, and this was put down to bad ad campaigning. Producer Richard D. Zanuck said, “We couldn’t get any one visual idea that would express what the picture was.”
In the wake of Sugarland’s failure began the preparations for what was destined to become one of the biggest box office grossers of all time. The filming of Jaws, co-written by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, began on the day that Spielberg was informed that The Sugarland Express was a disaster. Consequently, he had second thoughts about doing the film, as the shark-and-human-menace scene was similar to the truck driver scene in Duel. He almost didn’t make Jaws, because he was worried about being called a “shark-and-truck driver.” Taking the plunge despite these doubts, Spielberg set about the 52 day filming operation, that eventually ended up taking triple the time. The mechanical model of the shark, nicknamed Bruce, was a 24 foot long polyurethane structure weighing a ton and a half. This only added to the problems, sinking on its first introduction to water, and exploding at the next. It was also found to be significantly cross-eyed. The film portrayed the terror of the residents of a small town called Amity, and smashed the box office clean.
In fact, Spielberg was so confident that he would receive an Oscar nomination for Best Director for Jaws, that he invited a camera crew to film his reaction to the nominations, “Jaws is about to be nominated in 11 categories, you’re about to see a sweep of the nominations, we’re very confident.”
When proved wrong, however, he said, “Oh, I didn’t get it! I wasn’t nominated! I got beat out by Fellini. For my record, I am outraged that I wasn’t nominated for Best Director for Jaws. This is commercial backlash. When a film makes a lot of money, people resent it. Everybody loves a winner. But nobody loves a WINNER.”
The 1977 film Close Encounters of The Third Kind was destined to be a hit from the word go. With financial backing from Columbia, along with Spielberg’s own state of monetary well-being, the Paul Schrader-scripted original was slashed in the last forty minutes by Spielberg, into a storyboard that he referred to as “all phantasmagoria.” The majority of the filming was done at a deserted aircraft hangar in Mobile, Alabama in great secrecy. In the role of Roy Neary was actor Richard Dreyfuss, whose ability Spielberg was familiar with from the earlier Jaws. The film also has the bizarre claim-to-fame of casting noted French director Francois Truffaut as the scientist Lacombe. Spielberg says, “I wanted a man-child, ingenuous and wise, a father figure with this very wide-eyed young outlook on life. I didn’t want the stoic with the white hair and pipe.” For the role of the UFOs were cast 50 six-year old girls. Speaking about the tone of the movie, Spielberg said, “The movie is very gentle. I wanted it to feel like an embrace.”
Spielberg’s next big venture never attained the popularity or credit it deserved. The film, 1941, written by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis, was inspired by three real life historical events, namely, the sighting of a Japanese submarine off the coast of Santa Barbara in 1942, the following “Great Los Angeles Air Raid”, and the 1943 fights between sailors and unlisted civilians. It was originally intended to be directed by John Milius, but when he went on to land the direction deal of Big Wednesday, Spielberg assumed the role of director. For Spielberg, it was an opportunity to work with Toshiro Mifune, who played Commander Mitamura. Spielberg was acquainted with Mifune’s roles in the classic Akira Kurosawa Samurai films. George Lucas had this to say about the failure of the $26.5 million production, “Steve’s direction was brilliant. The idea was terrible.” In Spielberg’s words, “The film does cater to the lowest moral character in all of us, without licking the sewer. It’s just a tongue’s reach away from good sewer humor, but falls short of classic comedy.”
Big ideas always start with small dreams. Raiders Of The Lost Ark was a living manifesto to the statement, as its conception began when Steven Spielberg and George Lucas were on vacation in Maui in 1977, making a sandcastle. While Spielberg preferred to shoot a James Bond style movie, George Lucas opted to pay a tribute to Saturday matinee serials. The two concepts merged, ultimately resulting in the creation of Indiana Jones, a character named after Lucas’ wife’s pet dog. The Indiana Jones was played by Harrison Ford, after Tom Selleck declined the role, landing the former one of the biggest roles of his lifetime. The film borrowed scenes from other movies to prevent budget over-runs. For instance, the shots from inside the submarine were taken from Wolfgang Petersen’s Das Boot. Also, footage from the 1972 film Lost Horizon was used for the shot of the plane flying over the Himalayas. In addition to the scores of miniatures created for the film, Spielberg used 4,500 snakes to create the burial ground of the Ark of the Covenant. Raiders was created by combining the aforementioned legend of the lost Ark of the Covenant with Adolf Hitler’s passion for the occult.
“If a person can tell me the idea in about 25 words or less, it’s going to make a pretty good movie. I like ideas, especially movie ideas, that you can hold in your hand.”
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, released in 1984, was a sort of prequel to Raiders, with its ad campaign reading, “The Hero Is Back”. Yet, it never achieved the same level of success.
The 1982 classic E.T. was inspired by a project called “After School”, which was an experiment on what kids between 8 and 14 years of age did after school hours. Another project, an idea for a science fiction movie, titled Night Skies, was combined with the first, and soon, a guy called Carlo Rambaldi was entrusted with the goal of creating “ET”, which was supposed to be an alien human hybrid character. The character was supposedly got by morphing the facial characteristics of Carl Sandburg, Albert Einstein, and Ernest Hemingway. The film, as with all of Spielberg’s feature films, boasted a John Williams soundtrack.
Spielberg referred to this prized project as “a song of joy from a peerless popular artist who can sing it as though he believes every note. Only a heart of stone could not find it irresistible.”
The year 1985 afforded Spielberg the opportunity of producing the film The Color Purple, based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, composed of a set of letters spanning thirty years. When Spielberg approached Walker, her advice was that “the final cast must seem like they have stepped straight from the book.” For a director totally unfamiliar with the customs of a Negro Community in the South, it was another case of touch-and-go. Music producer Quincy Jones was the one who finally convinced Spielberg to make it, after Spielberg declared that a black person should direct the film, by replying “You didn’t have to come from Mars to do E.T., did you?” The film is famous in more ways than one, for it marked the cinematic debut of Oprah Winfrey. It also racked up its fair share of controversy, being criticized as racist for depicting African men as savage. Subsequently, when 3 of the nominated actresses for Best Actress lost out, the Academy was accused of racial discrimination against the film by the National Association of Colored People. Incidentally, the film’s 11 Oscar nominations did not include one for Best Director.
Spielberg’s visionary creative force is only substantiated further, in each of his subsequent films. For the Jewish lad whose rudimentary influences were the likes of Bambi and Dumbo, it has been a long journey.
For Spielberg, the vision lives on.
All else is a far encounter.
“I dream for a living.” – Steven Spielberg
Once in a lifetime you come across something so meaningful and so on-point that you feel you’ve been waiting for this moment all your life. All of a sudden all the dots connect and you realize that all this while every single event in your life was happening just to make sure you walk in this direction and discover this truth that solves all the mysteries of life.
For me that moment happened when one of the greatest Indian twiterrati, Shashi Tharoor, tweeted this great Indian tweet, “Exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations & outright lies being broadcast by an unprincipled showman masquerading as a journalist”.
To discover the ultimate truth, we need to dissect macro into micro.
Let’s start with the, “Unprincipled showman masquerading as a journalist”. This self-proclaimed voice of nation and now of the republic; has been single-handedly responsible for making people be glued to prime time news bulletin as well as swearing off the TV news for good. I’m part of the latter group of people. But, to give the devil its due, he has given the nation a “loud” voice. I was just wondering why these tapes were not released earlier when he was the voice of the nation on another news channel? What was he waiting for? Christmas? Or shall we say, “Republic” day?
One of the pioneers when it comes to Indian politicians on twitter, Shashi Tharoor, has given the nation some of the most iconic twitter moments. Remember, way back in 2009, when he tweeted about travelling in cattle class? The series of tweets when his account was hacked just before the sad demise of his wife Sunanda Pushkar. The sudden, unnatural death of Sunanda Pushkar seemed to have all the ingredients of a whodunit for a common man.
Ultimately it may be exploitation of someone’s personal tragedy for personal gains and TRPs by a showman masquerading as a journalist; or Justice for Sunanda Pushkar. But we need to detach ourselves from this aspect and let the law take care of it.
My focus is this one line, “Exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations & outright lies”. The nation knows how much meaning this one line holds. For me, it’s the answer to every deep question I’ve ever encountered in my life. The answer to every helpless WHY; is this one sentence.
Don’t believe me? Here you go!
Every time your maid told you why she didn’t come to work. Every time you were told drinking tea can make your complexion dark. Every time you opened the cookie tin-box to discover needles and threads inside it. Every time as a kid you asked how babies are born.
Every time HR explained you your Gross and Net Salary. Every time your boss explained you your appraisal.
Every time someone broke up with you. Every time someone cheated on you. Every time you said to someone, “It’s not you, it’s me”.
Every time you opened your lunch box to find dudhi ki sabzi in it. Every time an autowallah shamelessly refused a ride by telling you, “khali nahi hai, bhada hai”. Every time you discover dal makhni and various forms of paneer ki sabzi in the name of, “exotic vegetarian spread”.
Every time you fell for those annual online sales. Every time you thought this SRK movie is going to be a different one.
Every time you explained to your parents why you came home so late last night. Every time you told yourself you’ll go to gym regularly. Every time you told yourself you’ll diet from tomorrow.
I can go on and on. I dare you to pick up any situation and this one sentence will fit in as the explanation.
To borrow from our mythology a la The Great Indian Novel, Krishna said to Arjuna, “Everything is in me but I’m not contained into anything”. Maybe the truth and lie are both part of the same construct but nothing contains the ultimate truth or ultimate lie. Because Whatsapp tells us what all UNESCO has declared on a regular basis. Breaking news on every news channel tells a different truth and thus a different lie about the same story. How is it news if it’s fake? But there is Fake News. There are so many facts out there that it certainly makes a case for, “Stranger than fiction”.
Bottom-line is there are so many truths out there that ultimately everything is a lie. That’s the curse of our times; when allegiances, opinions and verdicts have replaced plain and simple reporting. The pressure of TRPs has taken the edge off the search for truth and only truth and shifted its weight to story-telling.
My dear, respected, esteemed news folks; if no two of you have the same truth to tell then all of you are part of the same lie. As fourth and the strongest pillar of democracy, you owe us the truth. One and only one truth. Till then every news can be fake news. Till then, every story is going to be, “Exasperating farrago of distortions, misrepresentations & outright lies”.
I could start this piece by writing about a young Ashok, Kishore and Anoop Kumar on stage, but I have a feeling that the under 20 actors won’t appreciate that much. Students of the Salaam Bombay Academy of Dance and Theater these 50 boys and girls are out with their first large Bollywood style showcase a theatrical adaption of Satyen Bose’s Chalti Ka Naam Gadi. The story of Brijmohan, Jagmohan and Manmohan – three brothers who run a garage together, the film was one of Bollywood’s largest box office hits, with women and men across the country humming Ik Ladki Bheegi Bhagi Si and Char Rupaiya Barah Aana all day long with Radio Ceylon.
“Bambai ke ek garage mein!”
Poised, and in position.
Adapting such a legend into theater was the real challenge, says director Chittaranjan Tripathi, whose recent Taj Mahal Ka Tender, was a great hit. “Unlike any other play, in this particular play, you won’t find a blackout, so from scene to scene, when you proceed, you actually see it on the screens. This kind of a design has retained that larger than life image of cinema,” he explains one of the special features of the film, where transitions between scenes are shown through bits that the cast and crew filmed, projected onto three screens on stage.
Inbetween family and love – one of the many dances choreographed by Sherpa
When the team began work on the story of three women-hating brothers, they found the plot with all its comic references, and changes of heart (when two of the brothers fall in love); suspended in history. The music especially, in the lush voices of Kishore Kumar and Asha Bhosle needed to be worked upon. “The way our music directors have played with the music,” says Norden Sherpa, the choreographer for the musical, “retains the 50s feel, but is yet modernized. And with that the dance sequences are in the exaggerated way of westerns with jazz, contemporary, acrobatics kind of stuff, (that retains the energy needed for performances today).” Privileged to witness one of the opening dance sequences, I see children of all sizes, in all kinds of costumes effortlessly moving from step to pose, making me marvel at their talent.
Admitted through a selection process into a three year completely free, scholarship, these underprivileged children come from some of the most neglected, prejudiced and impoverished localities of Mumbai. Ranging between ages of 14 to 20, balancing school, work, parents, and other problems they turned up for rehearsals every day, staying till late in the night learning 60 pages worth lines in less than 15 days. Rahul Kale (20), who plays the dreamy, distant middle brother Jagmohan, was suffering from a stone, which produced days of pain. He didn’t think he could do a role as doctors had advised him to complete rest. But passion rose above all. “I originally just wanted to do some production work,” says the actor, who didn’t want to bite a bigger piece than he could manage, “but then the auditions happened. I watched the film, sir asked me to think about the role, think about how my character would talk, live, eat, and yeah, things worked out.”
Adesh Janjal (Brijmohan) and Rahul Jale (Jagmohan) in the opening scene wondering where the every energetic Manmohan has gone again!
But passion and talent apart, these adolescents also suffer from common problems like insecurity and lack of confidence. Adesh Janjal who plays Ashok Kumar says that thought he doesn’t relate to Manmohan’s quick-tempered ways, he does understand not getting along with girls. We laugh, and he goes on to tell me that he mostly wants to play villains, “Strong co-actors and villains.” “The grey ones with a backstory, because they need to look hefty with a personality.” He completes, implying a little sadly that he doesn’t think that he has the ‘looks’ that one requires to bag the lead role of the romantic hero.
And, enter Manmohan.. yodeling!
The real star of the play though, is Rajkumar Salve (18), lead actor, who famously refuses to step into Kishore Kumar’s footsteps. With a start to the conversation in which he tells me that flirting is good for the heart, Salve, outlines the challenges of acting out a blooming romance with the 14-year-old Sakshi Suresh, who plays Renu (Madhubala in the original). The love interest of his character Manmohan, Renu drives into the brothers’ garage one day scolding Manmohan for sleeping on the job, and finally driving away without paying him. Manmohan, irked by the woman, decides to claim his money, when he realizes that she’s left her wallet behind. The decision to return the wallet and claim his money from it, takes the brothers on an exciting ride of love, music and fighting the bad guys.
A bright future ahead.
The way Salve talks is passionate, fluent and ever-so confident. A little-too-thin, with sharp cheekbones, I am truly impressed by the way in which he carries himself, the confidence, and alacrity tells of great beginnings. “The challenge was to win her trust,” he continues about the 14-year-old Suresh in what can be only described as an adolescent struggle of heart, outlining a series of incidents between him and his young co-actor that has led to the mistrust in the first place. I listen, amused to his story of how Renu called him ‘bhaiya’, to which he asked her to use his name, since when the pretty-little girl has been ever suspicious, and later cold and distant (The briefest summary of the whole saga, I assure you, ladies and Gents!)
Seated in the dark Rang Sharda Theatre, with actors and production units milling about the place; the lights glint in Salve’s eyes as he describes the whole thing with practiced nonchalance, but under it all I see a slightly hurt ego, and the beginnings of a star, who could be, in a few years giving interviews for Filmfare and Stardust.
Of practice, coordination and loads of passion!
When the academy was first started the founders had only humble beginnings in mind. Now, as I talk to Rajashree Kadam, the Vice President for Skill Development, I sense her heady joy, and her pride at organizing such a tremendous show. People across Mumbai have been appreciating this, she tells me smiling about how talented all her children are.
Describing this talent that the children showcase in a few simple words is not possible. It’s something you have to see for yourselves. With hearts on fire, and sheer determination, these young stars reconstruct the romance and magic of ’58 all over again. Only, this time’s its better.
Chalti ka Naam Gadi shows for one last time today evening at Rang Sharda, Bandra. Log on to www.bookmyshow.com to buy tickets. You’ve hurrah-ed enough for billionaire actors. Now join these little actors’ first step into the world from their humble beginnings.
Disclaimer: All photographs are the property of Satish Malavade of Mumbai Mirror
In a nation where entertainment is dominated by big budget mainstream cinema, lot of good content from other formats get missed. We happened to come across the animated short film, Nokpokliba, by chance and decided it is about time we dig and find similar works that deserve to be watched.
Here is our list of must watch animated short films.
1. Nokpokliba- by Meren Imchen (2005)
The short film is based on a Naga folk tale. It tells the story of Nokpokliba (a Naga mystic), who saves his people from an evil merchant. It won the National Award for Best Animation Film in 2006, for relating a beautiful folk tale from Nagaland in lyrical colours and fluid animation.
2. Hopscotch by Malik Sajad (2011)
Showcased in Verite Film Festival (Kashmir) in 2011, the short animated movie ‘Hopscotch’ by cartoonist Malik Sajad tells the story of divided Kashmir.
3. Fisherwomen and the Tuk Tuk by Suresh Eriyat (2015)
Fisherwoman and TukTuk tells the story of a middle aged fisherwoman whose dream is to own an auto.
This animated short film won the National Award for Best Non-Feature Animation Film in 2015. We have a clip from the short film here:
4. Children of The World (2013)
This is a hand drawn animation film, created by Grade V students at Ecole Mondiale World School. Though it is not the work of a professional animator, we believe it is special and deserves a watch!
5. Wilson Periera by Dhaneesh Jameson (2010)
Wilson Periera is set in a small village in Kerala and is the story of the cemetery keeper and his pets. It is made in three languages; narrated in Malayalam, English and Hindi by Mohanlal, Tom Alter and Naseeruddin Shah respectively.
6. Manpsand (The Perfect Match)- by Dhvani Desai (2007)
Dhvani Desai‘s work Sanjhi is interesting, as the short film uses the style of the artform Sanjhi. The film was screened at the 9th Hamburg Children’s Short Film Festival and it also won a Bronze at the 2008 New York Festival’s Film and Video Awards in the ‘Home Video – Children’s Programmes’ category. This film took over two years to make and there were about 42 artists who worked on it.
* Each of these works have been executed at different points of time, and the quality of work will depend on the technology available in that period of time.
Hope you enjoyed our list. If you think we missed something, do mail us at email@example.com and we will publish it!
If you are here hoping to start a discussion on the 10 Best Hindi Film Songs of All Time, you may want to stop reading, like, now.
Hindi cinema has had so many gems that the biggest and the brightest experts on movies and music would find it tough to create a list of even the 100 best, leave alone the 10 Best Hindi Songs of all time. The expanse is awfully wide, ranging from K L Saigal to Amit Trivedi and everybody else in between. And I sure am not the right person to generate the list. Not because I am not capable, but because it may just be sacrilegious to take one song and leave another considering the number of great songs that we have had. And, also because I am not capable.
But here I am. Still hitting the imaginary keys of the imaginary typewriter, and feeling adequately writerish, if there ever was such a word. Here’s why. I may not be good enough to pick up the 10 Best Songs, but hey, I sure am bad enough to pick up the 10 Worst Hindi Film Songs of All Time. True story.
When I say bad songs, I don’t quite have songs like Choli ke peechhe kya hai, Sarkaye liyo khatiya jaada lage or Chadh gaya oopar re in my mind. Choli ke peechhe is not exactly high art, but it did serve the purpose of being this raunchy raw number in a situation that required a raunchy raw number, and being judgmental about that would mean being silly. But more importantly, I do not want to take the moral high ground here and castigate racy songs just because they are, well, racy. Also, fyi, the answer is boobs.
I have also let go of the South Indian entries rehashed in Hindi. So Telephone dhun mein hansne waali, Melbourne machhli machalne waali would not find a place in my list despite the lyricist PK Mishra’s greatness staring at us. In fact, my entire list can be made out of the contribution from Robot and Indian, but that would be kind of playing favorites.
Have consciously avoided Hindi film songs in English, because it is grossly unfair to their Hindi counterparts, and these songs really don’t need my certification, in any case. Here’s why.
My heart is beating. Keeps on repeating. I am waiting for you. My love encloses. A plot of roses. And when shall be then. Our next meeting. Cause love you know. That time is fleeting. Time is fleeting. Time is fleeting.
Now picture somebody called Lakshmi singing those lines while being directed by one K S Sethumadhavan. If you still don’t understand where I am coming from, I wanna chiggie wiggie witcha boy.
You would also not find any of those hybrid songs like ILU ILU, Lazy lamhen and Zara zara touch me. They are neither here, nor there. Certainly not here.
Last, I have not taken songs that were meant to be funny intentionally. This would mean no C.A.T cat, cat mane billi or Shaam dhale khidki tale tum seeti bajana chhod do or Main Laila Laila chillaunga kurta phaad ke.
The lyrics and the songs of each era reflect the socio-cultural scenario they have emerged from, deserving their place of honour or dishonour under the sun. I am no expert at judging the creations of others but I certainly am an expert at making these cover-your-ass statements like I just did. So. Here I go. In no particular order.
1. Hato Hato Doctoron Ki Toli Aayi.
If you ever thought Who let the dogs out was the first song to get inspired by the barking dog/s, don’t ever say this to Rajesh Roshan. Everybody from the Roshan clan would laugh uproariously, mock at you and then do wild high fives (Insert Hrithik Roshan high-six joke here) after hearing you. This song talks about a doctoron ki toli, and the incredible acts of this she-dog Tommy. Tommy is the name of a bitch. Yes. Now let me not spoil your fun. Here are the lyrics penned by Indeevar:
Hato hato doctoron ki toli aayi, toli aayi.
Compounder saath mein Tommy laayi, Tommy laayi.
Bow. Bow Wow. Bow. Bow Wow.
Baat jo bigdi hai ban jaayegi.
Saath mein beautiful nurse laayi.
I have not had the chance to see this dog or the song, but it is from the 1991 film Karz Chukana Hai, starring Govinda. Okay. Case closed. Also, the inspiration for this song, if at all, is the Patti Page number How much is that doggie in the window.
2. Ek Rasgulla Kahin Phat Gaya Re.
To be fair, there are too many Govinda songs that can make it to the list and it is very strenuous to decide on the best worst Govinda song/s. He is the one who has mouthed immortal lines like Tujhko mirchi lagi toh main kya karun, Meri pant bhi sexy and Main tujhko bhaga laya hoon tere ghar se, tere baap ke dar se. But this song from the 1990 film Izzatdaar is special because it has been picturized on Madhuri Dixit along with Govinda. The actors are in a state of inebriation a la Jai Jai Shiv Shankar, and this is the high point of their musical conversation:
Sun oh mister. Oh mister.
Sun oh mister. Oh mister.
Mister. Oh mister.
Ek taaza khabar.
Ek rasgulla kahin phat gaya re.
Re baba re.
Phat ke jalebi se lipat gaya re.
I could not figure who has written these lyrics but whoever could imagine an exploding rasgulla tightly hugging a jalebi after getting torn off, I would want to get pregnant with your child.
3. Angoor Ka Dana Hoon. Sui Na Chubha Dena.
That’s a fair ask. Because no self respecting angoor ka daana would want to be pin-pricked by a needle. This is why:
Angoor ka daana hoon. Sui na chubha dena.
Sui jo chubhayi toh ras tapkega.
Jo ras tapkega toh…
Kiss. Miss. Kissmiss.
Kissmiss ban jaaungi.
Roughly translated, this is how the song goes: “I am a grape, a fruiting berry of the deciduous woody vines of the botanical genus described as Vitis”. Ha, fooled you, that’s Wikipedia talking! But seriously, I don’t think the song can be explained. It has to be absorbed somewhere deep down inside. If you cannot understand the lyrics, you don’t understand literature. Go drown. Thank you, Kavita Krishnamurthy. Thank you Sawan Kumar Tak. Kiss. Miss. Kissmiss.
4. Main Toh Preetam Ko Kar Rahi Thi Ta Ta Re.
The year was 1997. The film was Gudgudee. The actor was Pratibha Sinha. Check out the first two lines of the song:
Main toh Preetam ko kar rahi thi ta ta re.
Ki kaale kutte ne mujhe kaata re.
What an agonizing situation to be in, poor girl. Bidding adieu to your loved one and being bitten by a black dog. Naturally, you expect her poignant tale of woes to continue in the next two lines of the song. And continue it does:
Kaale kutte ne mujhe kaata re.
Jab Preetam ko kar rahi thi ta ta re.
So if you missed her heart-rending state of affairs in the earlier take, you certainly would get it now with that tear-jerking play of words. Oh, that bloody dog, the slayer of love. Btw, we had saved the best for the last. The director of this film was Basu Chatterjee. The Basu Chatterjee.
PS: Pratibha Sinha’s other claim to fame is this exceptional song exploring temporal spaces from the movie Military Raaj titled Kabhi hafte mein do hafte mein tu mil ja mujhko raste mein. Also, some people remember her for her tits.
5. I One Love Four You Three.
This song has Mithun Chakraborty teaming up with Harish, telling us how professing one’s affection with an ‘I love you’ is passé. Harish, for those not in the know, is the only actor in the country who can pass off both as a South Indian bhelwala and a North Indian bhelwala with equal effortlessness. He also had played the heroine in Karishma Kapoor’s debut film Prem Qaidi. The song is reflective of the societal milieu of the post-liberalization 1990s. And this when I don’t even know what that last sentence meant.
I One. Love Four. You Three.
Bolo one four three. Yaani I love you.
Bolo one four three.
I love you hua purana.
Yeh naya hai zamana.
Nayi nayi baat karo.
Jab bhi mulaqaat karo.
Hoor ho ya pari.
I One. Love Four. You Three.
Bolo one four three. Yaani I love you.
Bolo one four three.
Yes. Indeed. Mithun Chakraborty, Harish, Mohammed Aziz, Udit Narayan, Jatin, Lalit, Arshad Khan, Salim Akhtar… they don’t make them like you anymore, comrades. One Four Three all.
Can’t get enough of these songs? Read the full article here.
If you’ve ever gone to college away from the warm swathes of home – you’ve probably met this peculiar variant of the homo sapien family called the ‘roommate’. Some of these creatures squat around the room all day accompanied by some form of external media: music, films, or sitcoms. Some are permanently outside giving the illusion that your natural habitat is completely un-shared.
Some are compulsively clean, while some leave long traces of hair and other objects with increasing levels of horrendous-ness around the place. I’ve been fortunate to interact with two of these species during my three year term behind college, and heard numerous accounts over tea and coffee from other comrades.
After close and extensive research, the writer has been able to note down some of the most popular of these species and their natural habits.
I. Species: Roomunous Untidynuss
Habitat: Chairs, Bed
Sleeping Hours: Ever changing
Food Habits: Undefined
These species, often the most common, require a certain sense of fullness in their habitat. The concept of tidiness is unknown to them, instead they like spreading an assortment of items in close simulation of a crime scene around their habitat. One would find a wide range of objects from a half-eaten packet of lays, to unwashed underwear, the latest aquatic magazine, phones, batteries, dead ‘roaches and who-knows-what-else splattered around them. The species also specializes in the creation of conical structures made of clothes and other apparel on their beds and chairs. They are famous for deciding to arrange things into order once in every semester: deciding against it immediately after noting the exact extent of disarray.
Plus: Enables one to adjust to almost any circumstance
Minus: Clogged drains, GPS navigation across fabric jungle required
II. Species: Roomunous Bestfrienduss
Habitat: Close to your cardiovascular organ
Sleeping Hours: Varied, usually daylight creatures
Food Habits: Human
NBC did a show on this species. It was called F.R.I.E.N.D.S. These creatures are usually the best of the lot managing to forge intellectual and emotional bonds with one. From roommate-special lunches, cute post-it-s and late-night conversations these creatures really become your go-to people. They always know when you’re upset, and how to make it right. Hiding things from them, becomes rather difficult, and problems do arise when arguments happen. Fuming debates are still peace making methods, but days of cold war can really mess with your equilibrium.
Plus: Can cry to…
Minus: Often may cry because of…
III. Species: Roomunous Motherfuss
Sleeping Hours: 11 pm – 5.30 am
Food Habits: Healthy
Unusually mature, these creatures thrive to run the lives of others. With a certain piety that would put Yudhishthir to shame, they rule everything from one’s eating habits to their bedtime with an iron fist. From demanding all information, to providing infuriatingly correct advice the motherfuss is particularly skilled in the art of cooking, cleaning and bed-making. Coming back and hugging these creatures on unspeakable days, though, can make life seem nicer.
Plus: Love and attention
Minus: Love and attention
IV. Species: Roomunous Wierdnuss
Habitat: Alice’s Wonderland
Sleeping Hours: with the waning and waxing phases of the moon
Food Habits: Data unavailable
This species inspired the recent horror film The Roommate. From watching you sleep, trying you record you change, running through your clothes and food, these species of the common Roommate really tire one out. Often known for sleepwalking, or darker, more psychologically challenged activities these people are best stayed away from. They’re scary, just that.
Plus: Prepares you for life
Minus: May practice black magic
V. Species: Roomunous Amouraous
Habitat: Cupid’s Castle
Sleeping Hours: Perpetually nocturnal
Food Habits: Freshly sliced Pyar with a glaze of Tears
These species are the reason the telecommunications industry survives. You may be returning from college, going to bed or waking p in the morning – these wonders are always on the phone. Crouched by the window sill, they sit positioned with the device in their hands for hours together. These creatures are abnormally happy, excited about everything from sunflowers to herbal toothpaste; but fluctuate often (perhaps with the weather) into crying, raging souls disillusioned with the entire world. Constant entertainment, the author recommends misandrists and members of the Bitter Single’s Club to remain far from these people.
Plus: Extremely happy for most of the time
Minus: extremely unhappy for the remaining time, constant debates on the phone on who should cut the call first
VI. Species: Unrommunous Emptinuss
Habitat: Outside World
Sleeping Hours: 3 am to 11 pm/ whenever you wake them up
Food Habits: Sparse eaters, usually junk food
With numerous dresses and a hair-roller always at hand, this species rules the night life of college. Whether you’re sleeping or awake these thriving creatures are always going to feed and gyrate with other creatures in neighborhood watering holes.
With a constant migratory life, these creatures rarely spend over a couple of hours each day in the room – often only for the luxuries of eu de toilet.
Plus: The illusion of living alone
Minus: You are Alone
VII. Species: Rommunous Intoxicus
Habitat: Too High to Describe
Sleeping Hours: daytime
Food Habits: Liquids/Powder/Smoke
Imagine trying to do an assignment with drunk, gossiping girls removing various layers of apparel while debating the pros and cons of calling ‘him from last night’ back – well that’s an everyday feature with the Intoxicus. Unless of course your creature is into cigarettes in which everything you own will smell of nicotine, and the room shall be perpetually foggy. This species is also known to be liberal with powders and needles and may spend most of their time bumbling to you in a trance. If you yourself are not a patron of these substances, you may find living with this species a little challenging.
Plus: Free substance?
Minus: Trouble with the Law
In the college ecosystem, the roommate plays a very important role as she shares your personal space with you – seeing you for whom you really are, at your lowest, and worst. Truth be told, almost all roommates are wonderful, and this article is just for humor. The author promises that with someone you live – an extended hand shall never bear zero reward.