Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Footie Roundup Post!

I've missed blogging. I've missed blogging (make that rambling on and on and on...) about footie even more. So here goes.

With more than a quarter of the season gone, the English Premier League table looks very different from the past few seasons. The most sensational story of the season has definitely been Manchester Citeh who are still riding on highs they havent seen in their recent past (their last moment of glory was in 1981 when they were, erm, FA Cup finalists). Sven Goran Eriksson and the dosh from the ex-PM of Thailand seem to be doing miracles for the club. Sven is clearly showing why he was a much better England manager than Steve McLaren can ever hope to be. Many of the players he has brought in were near-unknowns (even those Championship Manager fans didnt know about Elano, i'd bet!) but their quality has been undeniable. I always felt that Sven's being hounded out of the England job by the tabloids was disgraceful and that his achievements with the England team were phenomenal. But the English media seem to believe they should be winning every tournament they participate in, and thats never going to happen. It would be a minor miracle if Steve McLaren can take his team into the Euro Championship now, after their defeat in Russia. I mean come on, McClown replacing Sven! Ridiculous!

Both Manchester United and Chelsea had a much more shaky start to their seasons than usual. That great showman of a manager, Jose Mourinho, the Special One, found out that no one in the Chelsea setup is untouchable. Avram Grant and Henk Ten Cate seem to be proving themselves to be the right combination for that club. Sir Alex on the other hand, is reaping the rewards of his excellent bunch of attacking players. Nani, Hargreaves and Tevez, all are paying off their high transfer values on the field. Arsenal has also been brilliant this season with Cesc Fabregas coming very close to being the best player in the premiership, taking that mantle over from his ex-captain Thierry Henry. Van Persie, Hleb, Walcott, Toure have all been doing brilliantly, and Arsenal's version of kid-ology has them ruling the premiership table at the quarter-season mark.

Blackburn and Portsmouth have also gone off to great starts to their seasons. Though neither is potentially a top four club this season, they are definitely making progress in the right direction. With Roque Santa Cruz, Blackburn has bought a brilliant attacking player. Pompey on they other hand have made excellent purchases in John Utaka and Benjani. Both clubs have also kept their main players from the previous seasons.

Tottenham have definitely been the big losers so far this season. Martin Jol has lost his job on the basis of a string of poor results, but his work over the past seasons has been commendable. There is no doubt that Juande Ramos has a very good team at his disposal. Its upto him how he uses them. He made his reputation with Sevilla by getting the best out of a talented team without (arguably) having stars in his squad. If anything, he has made Freddie Kanoute more of a star than he ever was while playing in England. Dani Alves's star has also risen under Ramos' tutelage. Unfortunately for Ramos, every new manager is expected to bring in his own players, regardless of what is available. With a strike force consisting of Robbie Keane, Dimitar Berbatov, Darren Bent and Jermaine Defoe; supported in midfield by the talented and pacy Aaron Lennon, Teemu Tainio, Steed Malbranque and Didier Zokora; and defenders like Ledley King, Gareth Bale, Kaboul etc. Well, its a pretty decent team - but Ramos will need to make decisions and he will probably spend some more of the Spurs kitty, if only to prove he has a mind all his own.

Liverpool's season had started like it hasnt over the past five or six seasons. They were expected to hit the ground running and with the additions of Torres, Voronin, Babel and Benayoun and adding the resurgent Jermaine Pennant to the mix, Liverpool did do much better in the early part of the season this time around. But Rafa Benitez's rotation policy has yet again hit a snag and has come under much criticism from fans and 'experts'. Sometimes Rafa is a bit too fixed on rotating his team. And ignoring Peter Crouch is something a lot of people have done before and the tall one has always come back strongly. He has been given too few chances this season, according to me. There have been too many Kuyt+Voronin combos already and it would probably be much better to have the gangly Crouch in there to break the monotony. Also, Benayoun has been ignored a bit too often I feel.

Anywayz, theres a long way to go this season, and it may turn out to be even more exciting than the last one. This time there promises to be battles for positions all over the table instead of only for the top 2 or 3 places. Any slip-ups from one of the top four, even a string of 2 or 3 poor results can easily come back to haunt them.

Johnny Gaddar

Lovers of good crime thrillers in India, rejoice! Here comes Johnny Gaddar with a thrill-a-minute ride without resorting to histrionics and melodrama. Or to Bunty-Babli style histerical repentance for all the fun you just had!

I had a great deal of expectation from Sriram Raghavan's second movie. His first was the taut revenge drama "Ek Hasina Thi" and he delivers big time. JG is a straight crime thriller where there are no purely good or evil characters. Each of the characters are given screen time to flesh them out and to show them in proud shades of grey.

So we have Dharm paaji playing the leader of the gang of no-gooders without any Godfather airs and without an army of thugs around him. He lives alone and in his twilight years still possesses enough guile and strength to not be bothered by it. His partners in crime include - Prakash (Vinay Pathak) who manages a gambling den for the gang, but has a weakness for the cards himself; Shardul (Zakir Hussain) who is possibly the wealthiest and definitely the flashiest of the gang, runs a night club, and is married to Rimi Sen; Shiva (Daya) provides the muscle and is given responsibility to carry the money for the gang to Bangalore where he needs to close a deal for them; and finally Vikram (Neil Nitin Mukesh) who is the youngest and we find out the sharpest of the gang.

Its Vikram's illicit affair with Rimi Sen which leads him to double crossing the gang for the money. Oh, and also his love for James Hadley Chase novels and old Hindi mystery movies. Relax, spoiler-phobes, this all from the first fifteen minutes of the movie.

The decision once made, the rest of the movie deals with Vikrams plans on cheating the gang out of the money. And of course, with the James Hadley Chase reference, its clear that not all goes according to plan.

The direction is slick and never slackens the pace of the movie. The performances are excellent from the entire cast. The plot twists and turns without becoming too predictable at any time. The dynamics within the gang are shown very realistically and its not hard to believe that this is probably how things are done in the unorganised underworld. And the con-man in this movie is not shown to be so amazingly good as to fool his much more experienced colleagues, there is a good deal of luck involved. But will his luck hold through?

The answering of that question keeps the audience on the edge of the seat. And you couldnt ask for more from a thriller. Heres to many more films by Raghavan, India's answer to Quentin Tarantino, and much fewer from the RGV factory!!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Its been a while. There have been a few starts and stops, beginnings which were ended long before any end was on sight. There has been no lack of comment-worthy news, but due to a combination of several reasons, no comment came forth.

To continue from my previous post, the politics of power seems to have triumphed over good intentions. The nuclear agreement is all but dead. Dr. Manmohan Singh, perhaps the most important leader this country has had post-independence, has had to bow down to the pressures from several sides to accept the fact that the death of the nuclear deal is preferable to the downfall of the government. He has had to face up to the truth that an Indian electorate may not bear in mind his efforts as they go to the voting booths, there is no guarantee that the Congress will be able to come back to power if they call for elections now by defying the Left to pull out their support.

And the fickleness of Indian politicians has never been so blatant. The mischief-mongering Leftists like Karat, Yechury and Bardhan with a supposedly anti-American ideological stance has proved itself to be truly anti-Indian and anti-developmental. Their actions have appeared to be purely sensation-seeking and an attempt to assume a more central role than they are capable of in the national political stage. Their resistance to negotiations shows their closed mindset. They oppose to show they can oppose. As if we needed more proof!

The BJP being the single largest opposition party has also made opportunistic noises with the sole purpose of shaking the foundations of an otherwise stable government. That the economy has boomed under the secular image of the Congress party is not of any consequence to them. That foreign investment is driving growth in every sector of the industry is of no import. We are the opposition, our dharma is to oppose everything the government does. It does not matter one little bit that the discussions on the nuclear deal was started under the BJP government. If it goes through now, the credit will lie with the Congress. It does not matter an iota that it may lead to further growth for the nation, we oppose and oppose and oppose.

Anyway, so much for our political scenario. In other areas, the news has been much better. Dhoni leads India to the Twenty20 WC, it was definitely a tournament worth remembering. What is it about the absence of the big three that seems to spur a young Indian team on?

Vishwanathan Anand becomes the world champion of chess. This man must be brilliant. Its a huge achievement and it couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Sania Mirza breaks into the top 30 ranks in the world. I hope she can hang on and keep doing better. She really has something to prove in the Grand Slams.

The Sensex has been soaring to new heights making me feel like banging my head on my desk for not having invested in the market a few years ago.

There does seem to be a curious drop off in IT jobs recently in Bangalore though. At least, the TOI's Ascent seems to give that impression. There hasn't been a lot going on and the Ascent is getting slimmer every week. Have IT companies completely gone with the likes of monster.com etc?

Well, its nice to be back here indulging my need to rant again. Hopefully I will stick to a more frequent verbal diarrhoea from now on.