The Problem with Virat Kohli’s Chest-Thumping Patriotism that was His “Leave India” Comment

To understand the level of ignorance Virat Kohli showed when he told an Indian fan to “leave India,” apparently for liking Australian and English players more, you have to listen to the request of India’s football team captain Sunil Chethri. The popularity of football is nowhere close to cricket in India, so one could put Chethri’s down to a case of pragmatism over emotions. However, in being pragmatic, he chose a different path to what Kohli, a national team captain and a beacon of Indian sports at the international level, chose.

Scroll to those portions where Sunil talks about European football. He agrees that Indian football is not at the same level as European football. However, he is also brave in asking fans to come over to the stadium and watch India play football albeit to abuse. That is in stark contrast to Kohli’s chest-thumping patriotism, this whole idea that to be Indian, one should love all Indian things. If not, going by Kohli’s version, then dispel the notion that you are even an Indian. You are as good to this country as the British were all those years ago. At the surface of it, Kohli’s plea echoes the Quit India movement, which involved full withdrawal from foreign products to use only Indian. It also rhymed with one of his wife’s films – Sui Dhaaga: Made in India. However, there was and should not be nothing about it that inspires even 1 percent Indian in any of us to take up the sport.

If you are to buy this theory of his, then I must not be typing this in a Motorola (once American) phone to post it on Twitter (an American social networking platform) or even rather be working for a local company for producing content for mostly US clients.

But that is at the surface of it. To understand why Kohli said what he said, one would have to rewind the clock to last year February, to when he said he cannot be friends with Australians anymore. In the comment that irked him, the fan mentions he prefers English and Australians to Kohli’s overrated “these Indians”. It then irked him to the point that he must retort to the comment, a decision I am sure he would not look back at with regret. It would have been fine if he replied in anger, but to reply like he did was to be negligent towards being an Indian sports ambassador at the international level. More than shaming us, he ignored that the world would be watching us. And, to tell the world we are X times better than all of you is to give in to Trump’s governance: fasicst selfgratification.

P. S. “Athidi Devo Bhava” is India’s tourism slogan of sort. Going by Kohli’s version, it hardly translates to “Be my guest”.

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Expertly Choreographed Action Thriller!

With its Hans Zimmer-esque theme music, fast-paced narrative, stylized choreography and a fine turn by Vishnu Vishal, Raatchasan is a suspense thriller that thrills. Not all of it works, though. It is a serial killer story and a loyal cop’s committed chase of the killer.

The film begins, oddly one must say, with Arun (Vishnu Vishal). He wants to make a serial killer movie, collects newspaper clippings to write scripts, but when all doors are shut he becomes a Sub Inspector. With the help of his police brother in law (Ramdoss), Arun becomes SI.

Soon, girls go missing and found somewhere mortally tortured. Arun must think out of the ordinary and deal with an egotistical female superior at each turn to solve the mysteries.

At first, Arun’s filmmaking ambition seemed more of a slog to get him in uniform. I mean, why not cut to the chase? Although, one has to appreciate the bit where the script book he throws into the ocean comes back to him when it ebbs. This recurring nature is reflected in his real life job of solving serial killings, too.

Like most serial killer films, Raatchasan works best till the identity of the killer is revealed. The motif of the killer is rather hare-brained, so the events leading up to the climax thrives mostly on action. The loose ends in the plot does not stand against scrutiny. How come Vishnu Vishal’s Inspector Arun take so long to guess the identity of the killer when everything is in plain sight for someone of his intelligence? However, you ignore that and some other minor flaws, this appears as a ride that enthralls.

It takes skill to edit, direct and compose movies like this. At one point, the killer goes after a young girl with a small hammer. And, in another scene, it threatens to slit the throat of a girl.

P. V. Sankar’s camera captures the diabolical images that make us feel freaked out. Everything from the killer’s interior full of dolls to that imaginatively shot action climax where the killer uses magic to trick the hero, there is a lot to admire. Mohamaad Ghibran’s theme is the ticking clock that brings urgency to the proceedings. When the theme, stunts and performances are in sync, you would not even blink an eye!

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Alpha Transcends the Boundaries of Language with Arresting Visuals!

Albert Hughes’s imaginative film Alpha, set in the Ice Age, tells the tale of a young boy named Kepa, who gets stranded in a land far away from home, and a dog whom he befriends. Every second of this visually breathtaking film gives no inklinks of what is otherwise a standard yet powerfully acted survival drama. I have not seen a primitive tale, as visually inventive as Alpha this or any other year. It is a tale as old as time and traces, in the director’s imagination, the early days of man’s relationship with his loyal friend, the canine. Alpha shows movies about man and animals transcends the boundaries of language. It works even in an age where instant gratification is the only norm.

There is plenty to admire here. We get numerous sequences of avalanche and ice storm, and a simply terrific scene where our hero is under an iceberg, struggling to swim out with the Alpha dog helping him out.

Perhaps the only reservation one could make to Albert Hughes’s film is that its set of costumes are a bit strange. All the characters in Alpha wears outfits that looks like being made of animal skin. They look like rain coats – how do they get to make such kind of outfits in a cold, snowy wasteland?

However, the film works as a grand visual achievement. It plays out like an extended, believe-it-if-you-will Nat Geo footage, as outstanding in its conception as in its execution.

The performances are outstanding too, espcialles Kodi Smit-McPhee as Kepa and  Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson as Tau, his father.

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Kaayamkulam Kochunni is Part Real Life and Part Comic Book Film!

One of the many pleasures of Roshan Andrews’s Kaayamkulam Kochunni is the way it shuns exposition in favor of revisionist history and the imaginary. Kaayamkulam Kochunni is based on the titular character, a good guy turn thief, who fights oppression of the lower cast Shudras by the upper Brahmins. This is a man who lived in Kaayamkulam during the British Raj. The story of Kochunni takes place at a time when the poor gets to work hard, while the powers of the land reap the rewards. Our hero is the kind of man who loots the upper cast to help the poor and deprived.

When the movie starts, Kochunni (Nivin Pauly) is facing the gallows for what the so-called law and order deems a crime. However, the narrative jumps to Kochunni’s upbringing. When he is a young boy, he witnesses the Genmis beating up his father for stealing rice. This leaves an aversion in his mind towards the British Raj, something which the older Kochunni would tell his friend Vava (Manikandan Achari).

Roshan Andrews, working on a finely woven script by Bobey and Sanjay, is faithful to the main source material “Aithihyamala”. However, he makes Kochunni a demi-god with superhero-like qualities. In an early scene, we see a simpleton Kochunni diving into a well to save a small kid and coming out with a python wrapped around him. We get the first glimpses of the good in him when he tells people to let the reptile go. He knows the real reptiles are those in the upper caste, causing a divide in society in the name of caste system. The Shudra was not supposed to “be” in the well so why save him is their gripe. To this, Kochunni would give answers with his knife.

We would wait for a second hero-worship scene, which would build on Kochunni’s aura further. He stops a British officer from undressing a Shudra girl. He even falls in love with Janaki, who tells him that he is the only person in life to call her by the name. Priya Anand plays Janaki with sincerity and shares a fine chemistry with Nivin Pauly. However, this is no routine love story as we discover later in the film.

In his journey to fight the oppression, Kochunni makes friends with people with skills, the chief among them Kalari Guru Thangal (Baabu Antony) and his mentor Ithikkara Pakki (a scene-stealing Mohanlal). While his actions make him enemies with Genmis and Keshavan (Sunny Wayne), Kochunni is no vanguard who says “follow me men” and stirs the imagination of a society with chest-thumping patriotism. Instead, following Pakki’s advice, he does to the Genmis what they accuse him of doing – loot. This is the point where Kochunni becomes Kaayamkulam Kochunni for real.

Although Ithikkara Pakki is a nomad who walks in and out of Kochunni’s life like a bounty hunter in a western, Mohanlal in the cameo role is a real hoot. The sheer presence of this man elevates the proceedings and lends an emotional heft to the film. Nivin Pauly, on the other hand, takes time to get the beats of the titular character. At first, I thought he looks far from an impoverished person – the star persona of Nivin Pauly only adds to this image. However, when Kochunni becomes the hero for the lower cast people, Nivin show every bit of the good actor he is. Portraying Kochunni is about being flexible for a role that demands physicality and emotions. Nivin does show that Kochunni is a guy who belongs to the 19th century and pulls off stunts with great body flexibility. That is some achievement in an epic-length film.

However, ultimately Kochunni belongs to Bobby and Sanjay and Roshan Andrews. Watch how the director uses two clever and rousing set-pieces that work as references to Baahubali. One is where Kochunni uses a flock of buffalos to transport rice to the village. Second is the climatic showdown, which is where Kaayamkulam Kochunni becomes revisionist in a good way.

The music by Gopi Sundar and the visuals by Binod Pradhan all work. Yet, at Kochunni’s heart is a man’s fight against oppression.

P.S. If we learn anything more about the Pakki character or if the director dwells more time explaining his backstory, it would have added to the length. The character works because of how the makers portray him – like a nomad. Where else would you get this type of vignet? Of course, in a comic book.

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About a Cowboy and His Horse

The first time we see Brady in Chloe Zhao’s heartrending film “The Rider,” he has staples on his head after a fatal accident while riding a horse in a rodeo. The incident, which we get glimpses of as Brady watches it on a tablet, robs him off his rodeo life ambitions. Now, the cowboy is forced to discover lives in the badlands of South Dakota – he has a sister with some form of mental disability, a father with a drinking and gambling lifestyle, and his friend Lane Scott recovering from a brain damage after a bullriding mishap leaves him paralyzed.

The Brady family lives in a travel trailer. When he gets injured, his father is forced to sell off their beloved horse “Gus”. There is no other choice senior Brady tell his junior. We realize from the bonding that this must have hurt him internally.

He finds a part-time job in a convenience store and trains horses for a living. He also buys “Apollo” from a friend to pursue his ambitions. When a job agent asks him about his previous job, he replies horse training is all he lives for and that this is temporary. But a point comes when he must take an important life choice – whether to pursue a rodeo silverware or to take care of his health. The doctors tell him one more head injury and he runs the risk of death.

What drives Chloe Zhao’s film is the coming of age aspect of the story and realism. She uses a complete set of nonprofessionals to tell this small tale with a big, beating heart. Brady, his family and friends are all from the real-life. Seeing him on-screen, it is tough to tell apart Brady the actor and Brady the cowboy. That is how good he is in this film, about what is more important in life – ambitions or life itself. Brady Jandreau looks a younger self of Christian Bale and boy does he act like one.

In between horse training sessions and tending to and teaching motor skills to Lane Scott, somewhere we see a Brady dreaming of becoming a rodeo champion. Zhao and her cinematographer Joshua James Richards captures the meta in poetic frames, yet they keep the essentials rooted in realism. In one scene, Brady is so shattered to kill an injured horse that his father takes the onus of the mercy kill. In another, he tells a friend to “Ride it like it’s gonna be the last horse you’ll ever get on”. No mawkish sentiments here, the sort that drives Stephen Spielberg’s War Horse – “It is My Horse, sir.” Brady does not have to spell it out.

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“Hereditary” A Horrifying Human Experience Turns into a Nightmare

Toni Collette is so effective in Hereditary that I wished she was in a human drama, sans all the Horror genre tropes. As Annie Graham, who is tormented by a troubled past and the demonic presence of the bereaved, Collette is effective in her portrayal of a mother of two children with a sleep walking problem. Her portrayal is one that is filled with remorse, incredulity and anger. These emotions are all key to a supernatural Horror film, and leave it to Collette for giving us a performance that balances them out. She certainly deserves an Oscar nomination – it is the best performance by an actor from what I have seen this year.

The film does not break new grounds in the Horror genre, though. It is derivative, in the sense that a small child is used for a chilling set up and for its overall ambiance of a haunted house chiller. You get all kinds of tropes after a point, including the “just a dream” trope.

The set up of the story is ingenious, though. The first time we see Annie Graham, her mother has passed away. We get the sense that not all things are right from her eulogy – my mother had rituals she says. Soon, things in the Graham family goes all downhill as Annie’s daughter Charlie Graham dies in a car crash. This has a domino effect, as you would expect, on the Graham family. One could sense this from Annie’s reveal, in a support group for the bereaved, that she had strained relationships with his mother. She also reveals that everyone in her family had died due to mental illness.

The film shows how not to deal with someone’s passing away without being instructive. The highlight of Hereditary is Annie’s agitated exchange with his son Peter. Where the two puts the blame on each other for Charlie’s accidental death, Peter’s psychiatrist father and Annie’s spouse Steve Graham watches it helplessly. The performances are brilliant throughout, although Collette is the mirror through which we experience this family become dysfunctional.

On a cinematic level, Hereditary is adsorbing stuff. Director Ari Aster and cinematographer Pawel Pogorzelski brings a foreboding sense of scare for the most part of the film, until the writing fizzles and the onus shifts to tropes that nonetheless aims to fry our nerves. They are ably supported by Colin Stetson’s foreboding saxophone notes in the background. On a visual level, there is a lot to be admired in Hereditary. Take the first scene where the camera zooms in to Annie’s dollhouse and segues into a bedroom, making us question what is real and what is imaginary. This style of filming is used several times throughout Hereditary, some of them more effective than others.

For those like me, who somehow could not still appreciate the tropes in a Horror film, Hereditary falls leagues behind the likes of “The Exorcist” and “The Shining”. Still, for the impressionable or the easily scared, this movie is worth a watch in the dead of night. The ending defies all kinds of sense – it is a nightmarish experience but one that is hard to believe.

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When Holding onto an Opinion Is Inopportune

Michael Holding grabbed the headlines when India beat England at Trent Bridge, the third Test in the five-match Test series. These are the things the former West Indies fast bowler said earlier about three of India’s match winners from Trent Bridge. If you feel that cricket punditry is only a specialist’s job, read these common man’s observations and think again.

Virat Kohli and the Yardstick of Greatness

When Virat Kohli scored that fabulous hundred in Centurion against South Africa in January, Michael Holding said that the Indian captain still has to score runs in England to be considered a great player. He made that observation on account of Kohli’s average when India toured England in 2014 – a paltry 13.50 runs per innings in 5 Tests. Holding’s comment made us question what makes a great player, although it seems to dilute things. If the performance in all conditions is the only yardstick of greatness, then is Ricky Ponting, who had an indiffefent record in India, merely a good player? Already Virat Kohli is the highest run getter in this series, the number one batsman in ICC Test Rankings and whatnot. Now, if he is to play poorly, say, in Zimbabwe, would that mean his greatness is an exaggeration?

A Stat Kapil Dev and Hardik Pandya Shares

Earlier this series, Holding said that Hardik Pandya is not a Test all-rounder yet. While pundits like Ian Chappell say Pandya has talents, Holding has gone on to say that he prefers a specialist batsman or a bowler instead of him. From his words, it would seem Pandya is a bits and pieces cricketer, which he is not by any stretch of the imagination. Apparently, Hardik has something which Holding does not have but Kapil Dev has – a Test hundred and now a five wicket haul. His performance in the Cape Town Test is also a hallmark of his all-round skills. He got a quick fire 93 off 95 balls on a fast bouncy pitch against the best pace attack in the world and three wickets with the ball. Still, these skills could be improved although that is not to say that he should dropped from the team. Even when Pandya got that five-for and Nasser Hussain on commentary asked Holding whether he would like to revisit his remarks on Pandya, the West Indian sounded like he was holding onto his opinion. Sometimes, that is the inopportune thing to do especially if you are a Michael Holding.

Jasprit Bumrah and The Whispering Death

When the India versus South Africa series finished, Holding said he will not play Jasprit Bumrah in England since he feels India’s strike bowler does not swing the bowl both ways. Jasprit got a five wicket haul with the second new ball at Trent Bridge and swung the match in India’s favor. Just as he got his fifth wicket, Bumrah made a silence gesture to someone in the audience. The cricket world feels it was meant for Holding, the Whispering Death. Talk about silencing skeptics, Bumrah knows a thing or two.

Michael Holding earned the nickname “Whispering Death,” since standing umpire could hear him only when he is well into the delivery stride and despite that he causes fear in batsmen. For a fast bowler, Holding had great skill and an unmistakable Test record. However, some of his recent remarks on air has been inopportune. What is amazing is that his comments came just after the player he was questioning performed all right the previous Test.

Now here is one more Michael Holdism, just for the record. While Holding’s remarks does conform to constructive criticism, his timing still leaves a lot to be desired. Of course, not everyone is a Glenn McGrath.

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