Clear and present dangers of social media overreach

Last week, it was a post on the popular social media platform of #Facebook that flared communal
tensions in the eastern Indian state of #WestBengal. The post made by a #ClassTwelve student from the majority community had hundreds of people of the other community spilling on to the streets. Before one knew it, a mob of supposedly thousands of angry rioters damaged public property, burnt shops and fearing that the situation could turn ugly the government decided to call in #ParamilitaryForces. While the government in Bengal accused the opposition (read the #BJP) of stoking communal tensions and creating a situation that could lead to violence vocal critics of the government have in turn pointed fingers at the apparent appeasement of the minority community which has emboldened some mischievous elements. While that is a matter for debate and discussion what is worrying happens to be the way in which the virtual world is being used increasingly to create trouble in the real one.

Last week was also significant for social networking giant Facebook as it hit the magical #TwoBillion mark as far as #MonthlyUsers worldwide go. Now this comes a good thirteen years after it first came on the scene but more critically just five years after it reached one billion users. Clearly this is a #Behemoth that is growing exponentially with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. And it is not just the entrepreneurs and business community that realises the potential of this platform. Enough trouble makers are clued in to social media and these are trying times. It was only last year that the government in #Israel brought in legislative steps in order to keep a check on those who use social media for inciting violence. In fact, a delegation from Facebook visited the country where both sides discussed ways in which those acting against the law of the land could be thwarted.

The trouble is basic. Though the internet has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade lawmakers in countries of various parts of the world have not been able to match up this speed. #Cyberlaws were hazy back then and strangely enough continue to be so even to this day. For example if the perpetrators of a crime are away in a foreign land while the crime takes place elsewhere it makes catching up with them difficult and punishing them almost impossible. In the last few years #SeriousCrimes linked to social media have gone up quite drastically. Sample this. In the #UK alone statistics from the police reveal to us that there is a serious crime (murder, blackmail, crimes against women & children) reported by social media users every 45 minutes or so. Now those are worrying numbers, for sure. So what is the way out or should one say forward? What are the checks and balances that need to be put in place?

The need of the hour is to act swiftly and decisively against wrong doers but at the same time governments in these places must be careful not to use this as a pretext to curb the freedom to express free and fair opinions. And surely not to use this settle scores with those critical of the government by getting vindicative. So striking the right balance is key. Social media has the potential for making the world a better place. For every stakeholder, be it the business people, the end user customer and the casual internet surfer too. As long as it continues to be safe, reliable and trustworthy. It is important that people who use the internet use it responsibly and if they do not action has to be taken and appropriately. Be it the real world or the online one, some rules are meant to be.

Jab Harry Met Sejal – Music Review

INTRO

The coming together of two of the biggest #RomanticIcons of our times, that is of director #ImtiazAli and superstar #ShahRukhKhan to make a romantic film is surely cause for celebration. While #KingKhan has made this genre all his own with a number of blockbusters to his name, Imtiaz Ali has shown that subjects dealing with quirky romance are his forte. If the initial teasers & promos, that have been received very well by the fans, are anything to go by we are in for a fun ride.

Imtiaz Ali’s films have always had glorious music from #JabweMet to #LoveAajKal, #Rockstar, #Cocktail & #Highway the soundtrack of these films have won favor with the discerning and the masses alike. Jab Harry Met Sejal (JHMS) also reunites Imtiaz Ali with music director #Pritam(who has hit a purple patch of late) after three films on the trot with A.R.Rehman. So to say that expectations are huge would not be exaggerating. Does JHMS meet these gargantuan expectations? Read on.

1. RADHA: JHMS also brings back the winning combo of ace wordsmith (read lyrics writer) #IrshadKamil who has been a regular feature of possibly all Imtiaz Ali films and seems to understand the quirky nature of his films only too well. Which is quite clearly evident in the song #Radha. Though one must confess that at first hearing one felt that the song was a little underwhelming it does grow on you after a couple of hearings. And yes the way the song is picturised on the lead couple does help too. The alaap at the very start by that mellifluous yet very underused talent #ShahidMallya sets the tone for the entire song. With the character of #Sejal aka Anushka being that of a vivacious girl #SunidhiChauhan fits the bill to a T. Even as one is writing this the song has attained chartbuster status.

2. BEECH BEECH MEIN: In the last few years #Disco numbers that pay a tribute to the swinging 70s and the boisterous 80s have made their way into Hindi films. The first one possibly in this genre was the peppy It’s The Time To Disco from Karan Johar’s #KalHoNaaHo. We recently heard #TeriMeri composed by #VishalShekhar for the Hrithik Roshan starrer #BangBang and it became a big hit too. A personal favorite though is by the same composers for the dud #GoriTerePyaarMein. The song was the pulsating #Dhat Teri Ki which still makes one want to stand up and dance.

Beech Beech Mein brings together the duo of #ArijitSingh (this man never ceases to surprise with his incredible range) and the powerhouse voice of #ShalmaliKholgade in a song that is a slow burner. It is more tap-your-feet-gently kind of music than stand up and dance. But once it settles into a groove, the beats are indeed infectious. This one will only grow in the coming days.

3. SAFAR: The best track in the entire album is this velvety dulcet rendered by, who else Arijit Singh!Setting a mild tempo right from the outset here is a song that portrays what the film is all about, in a nutsell. So to speak. The journey (#Safar) of this free spirited guide along with a sassy traveller is very well explained in this song. The song also has evocative lyrics that will make you treasure this song. And put it on the playlist whenever you are on a road trip. Mesmerising.

4. RADHA(remix): One does not quite understand the compulsions behind adding a remix version to the Radha song. Because it does not really add anything new to the listening experience. Could have been avoided.

VERDICT

Jab Harry Met Sejal is very good while it lasts. How one wishes that the film had a song or two more to add to the listener’s delight. But to be fair to the director his script perhaps does not merit a need for more songs. Of what is on offer here there is a lot to like. And enjoy. Recommended

RATINGS: 3.5/5

MOM – Move over Mother India, Mom is in town

Beware the fury of a patient man – John Dryden

INTRO

It is a sign of how bad things are when film after hard hitting film dealing with heinous crimes
against women are all set in the national capital of #Delhi. From No One Killed Jessica (good) to
#Talvar (very good) and last year’s #Pink (excellent) each was a scathing comment on the appalling state of affairs. Where the rich and powerful often collude with the law makers to deny justice to the hapless victims. Now debutant director #RaviUdyawar decides to base his revenge saga #Mom in the same city. Is it not time the authorities in charge woke up and smelt the stench?

STORY

Life is not easy for Devki(Sridevi) a teacher by profession who is trying to fix a strained relationship with her teenage step daughter Arya (Sajal Ali) So much so that Arya calls her ‘madam’ even at home. But things take a turn for the worse when Arya is brutally violated by four uncouth boys and dumped in the sewage. The grief stricken parents seek justice from the courts but due to insufficient evidence the miscreants go scot free. Devki joins hands with a sympathetic local detective DK (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) to exact revenge. Taking down all the four deviants. One by one.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

A few weeks ago we saw the release of #RaveenaTandon starrer #Matr that came and went without a
whimper. Like Matr, Maa also takes inspiration from the 2012 South Korean film #Don’tCryMommy. But Telugu film writer Kona Venkat & Girish Kohli clearly are talented writers and the brilliant first half is indicative of this. One particular line that Sridevi says “Agar aap ko bure aur bahut bure me chunna hota to kise chunte?” stays with you. It defines not just the film but even perhaps the times that we live in today. The second half that goes into the familiar territory of revenge is a little underwhelming. And seems at least 15 minutes longer than it should have been. Plus the climax is a messy affair. In the end it is the strong performances from the cast that salvage the film.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

Mom is technically top notch. Special mention must be made of the DOP #AnayGoswami (Mumbai Cutting, Kai Po Che, No One Killed Jessica) with the composition of the brutal gang rape scene deserving kudos. The scene is hard hitting without having to resort to cheap, exploitative shots. AR Rehman’s music in the film is shockingly pedestrian but he more than makes up for it with his marvelous background score. #MonishaBaldawa the editor (of #Neerja fame) slips up especially in the latter portions but for which this could have been a more taut film.

PERFORMANCES

The biggest strength of Mom is the cast. The Pakistan duo of #AdnanSiddiqui (underplaying wonderfully in the role of Devki’s husband) or #SajalAli as the rape victim who stands her own in every scene with Sridevi are both excellent. Abhimanyu Singh playing the chief tormentor does what is expected of him but frankly, after Anurag Kashyap’s #Gulaal his career has imploded. Akshay Khanna playing a cop who is chasing Sridevi & Nawaz is so good that one wishes there was more of him. The parking lot scene is testament to the pedigree this man possesses. #NawazuddinSiddiqui as DK is virtually unrecognizable in his hideous getup but is in his element here. Like #Badlapur, #BajrangiBhaijaan and #Raees he is able to get into the skin of his character with such alacrity that he makes the length of the role irrelevant. And like in the aforementioned films he almost overshadows Sridevi who has a clearly author backed role. Like the scene in the art gallery that brings the house down.

Sridevi appearing on the big screen five years after the very well received #EnglishVinglish is in sublime form here. In a career spanning five decades (Mom is her 300th film) you would think that she has done it all. Far from. There are enough times you have gooseflesh just looking at the mere twitch of her nose and pursing of the lips. Such is the power of her performance. When one saw #KamalHassan breaking down on seeing his son’s dead body in the cult #Nayakan one thought nobody could ever touch that. Wait till you watch Sridevi break down in the hospital after seeing her daughter lying battered in bed. That one scene alone is worth the price of your movie ticket (and the diet Coke & popcorn) With Mom, Sridevi again proves that a great performance can lift a flawed film.

DIRECTION

After English Vinglish, Sridevi works with another debutant who is also coincidentally an ad film maker The multi talented Ravi Udyawar makes a sparkling debut with Mom. Here he chooses a tough subject that he handles with great finesse and sensitivity. If only the second half was as good as the first, Mom could have been a classic. But having said that Udyawar shows enough promise and delivers a film that works for most parts. A welcome addition, for sure.

VERDICT

Revenge films are surefire hits. The audience loves an underdog who fights and wins. As long as it is well made and Mom is just that. Though it is let down by an iffy script and cliche ridden second half, there is a lot that audiences will love in the film. This is no PINK but nevertheless riding on the back of winsome performances, Mom is sure to be a big hit.

It is time to hang up your boots, MSD

It was the 49th over of the Indian batting, the period of play referred to as slog overs in cricketing lingo. After what was a quiet previous over, Dhoni dispatched England pacer #JamesAnderson’s indipping yorker ball over his head on the leg side for a huge six. The year was 2006 and the shot was the soon-to-become-legendary #HelicopterShot. Many batsmen had attempted it before (including a certain Sachin Tendulkar)but none with such devastating effect. The sight of Dhoni bringing his (high back lift) bat down with great speed to hit the ball while his body swivelled in a direction opposite to that of the shot was something else. The icing was the #365Degree rotation of the bat. Over the last decade MSD has made this shot all his own, a trademark of sorts. And in the process he has built a reputation as one of the best #Finishers that the limited overs game has ever seen.

Of all batsmen who have figured in at least 20 successful run chases in ODI cricket history Dhoni sits right at the top with a #Bradmanesque average of 105. He reads the game better than anyone, is always busy at the crease with his running between wickets and he has all the big shots. Who can forget his masterful 91 in a World Cup winning cause in 2011 while chasing what was a stiff target? Sadly none of this was in evidence at the beginning of the week in #Antigua. Where India’s famed batting lineup messed up what should have been a routine chase of a paltry West Indian score of 190 runs. As Dhoni laboured his way to a half century off more than a 100 balls it seemed evident that he was not half the batsman that he once was. After all he has amassed close to 10,000 runs in his career at a strike rate of 89. Is it time for Dhoni to gracefully step aside and let young talent take his place?

One of the trickiest decisions for any cricketer to make is regarding #Retirement. Hang around too long and tongues start wagging. And fans can be quite unforgiving in this matter even disregarding past achievements. Like how they did with India’s finest all rounder, #KapilDev who was accused of prolonging his career just for the sake of records. Let us discount the fact that Dhoni still runs the fastest between wickets, is the best bet behind them and surely has the sharpest brain in the game. The trouble is the ability to hit big shots at will. Something which Dhoni seems unable to do as regularly as the team would like him to. Remember the previous World Cup where in the semis against the #Aussies Dhoni simply failed to get going? And chasing a huge score of 300 plus, he came a cropper with a run-a-ball 65 before running out. Or the recent #ChampionsTrophy final(in which India got thrashed by arch rivals #Pakistan) where Dhoni seemed all at sea.

To be fair to #MSD he has won everything that there is. Both the ODI and T-20 World Cups and if you add the Champions Trophy (2013) to that it makes him the first captain to win all the three premier #ICC tournaments. He guided his club team #ChennaiSuperKings to #IPL glory twice. No other Indian captain in history has more wins in ODI and T-20 matches. Heck he even had a biopic made on him making him the first cricketer to have this privilege before even retiring. Perhaps it is the motivation that is lacking. The question before the Indian think tank is simple – should MSD be part of the team for #WC2019? The answer, one suspects is far from.

Sridevi – Fifty glorious years in cinema

In a nationwide #Poll conducted by a leading TV news channel a couple of years ago, Sridevi was voted #India’sGreatestActress in 100 years beating other powerhouse performers like #Nutan, Nargis, Meena Kumari, Waheeda Rehman and #HemaMalini. For one her career has spanned five decades which in itself is astonishing for a male dominated industry where the heroines have a very short career span and the day an actress gets married in real life it is goodbye to films. In Sridevi’s case neither marriage & children nor a long hiatus from films (of 15 years, no less) made any difference to her army of fans. Her comeback film in 2012, #EnglishVinglish wowed audiences and critics alike making us all realise what we had missed when she was away. Now after five years she is back with a new film MOM which incidentally happens to be her #300th film (which must be a record in itself) Here is a look at five of her most memorable performances:

SADMA: (Moondram Pirai in Tamil) Sridevi has acted in 23 films with actor #KamalHassan and none more memorable than this #BaluMahendra classic. The lilting melodies composed by the maestro #Illayaraja are the proverbial icing on the cake and remain popular to this day. The gutwrenching climax of the film is considered as one of the most memorable scenes in Indian cinema. Inspired supposedly by the tragic real life suicide of Mahendra’s wife (actress #Shoba who died at 17) the film with strong performances, stunning camerawork and a psychosexual theme was vintage Balu. And as the child woman Bhagyalakshmi who is afflicted by #RetrogradeAmnesia Sridevi was surreal. So much so that the image of a child-woman stuck with her throughout her career in Hindi films. Though completely over the top for most part of the film, Sridevi was very believable. Therein lay the genius of the actress.

CHAALBAAZ: It was totally by accident that Sridevi ventured into Hindi films with #Himmatwala. Which is just as well. Otherwise one facet of her acting would have perhaps remained hidden from us all. Her extraordinary comedic abilities. And no film brought this out better than this quirky tale of identical twins separated at birth. Two immensely successful films, Dilip Kumar’s Ram aur Shyam (based on a novel by #AlexanderDumas) and Hema Malini’s Seeta aur Geeta inspired #Chaalbaaz, which in that sense had nothing new to offer. It was Sridevi and her brilliant portrayal that made this a truly memorable film so much so that the leading men of the film #Rajnikant & #SunnyDeol were reduced to playing supporting actors. The spectacular success of Chaalbaaz made the industry anoint Sridevi as the female ‘Amitabh Bachchan’ of Hindi cinema. Not surprisingly Sri and the #BigB have no memorable films together.

LAMHE/MR INDIA: Apart from Kamal Hassan and Jeetendra Sridevi has done most films opposite actor Anil Kapoor in her career. While on the one hand #Lamhe was intense, bold and ahead of it’s time, #MrIndia was boisterous and fun. If Sridevi’s #Morni song in Lamhe was an instant hit the sensuous ‘Kaate nahin’ in Mr India proved that a saree could also blow one’s mind. Though Lamhe was a commercial failure it is undoubtedly one of the best films of his glorious career. Though actor Anil Kapoor had an author backed role in the title role of Mr India Sridevi stole the thunder right under his nose. Be it the casino scene (where Sridevi pays tribute to #CharlieChaplin in her inimitable way) the parody sequence involving the lead actors with a bunch of kids or even the ‘Hawa Hawai’ song Sridevi simply nailed it. Thirty years later a sequel to Mr India is in the pipeline. Audiences can’t wait.

ENGLISH VINGLISH: Her last film, #Judaai though moderately successful was no masterpiece. By any stretch of the imagination. Worse it had released a decade and a half ago and in an industry where out of sight is out of mind this long a hiatus was almost a cardinal sin. To top it all the film starred relative newcomers including the director #GauriShinde whose first film it was. So to say that the odds were stacked against Sridevi with English Vinglish was to simply state the obvious. But come release day and all the doubting Thomases were forced to eat humble pie. Carrying the entire film on her able shoulders Sridevi proved that time away from the silver screen had only helped her hone her craft. No squeaky voice, no child-woman like or any over the top theatrics. If anything she underplayed her role magnificently. The piece de resistance was her tribute to #MichaelJackson’s famous crotch grabbing step.

A weak opposition is the greatest threat to Democracy

Last November a #24Hour #NewsChannel that has been known to be vocal in it’s criticism of the present government was taken off air (#Ban was the actual word used) for a whole day. It was unprecedented having never happened in the #PostIndependence #India. The reason given was that some broadcasts by the channel in question had endangered national security. Amidst widespread condemnation of this ill conceived move, the channel approached the #ApexCourt of the country to get this inexplicable ban lifted. Now at the start of this week the top investigative agency of the country raided the residence of the folks behind the same news channel and quite expectedly large sections of the Indian media expressed their outrage. At what they felt was a blatant attempt to curb the freedom of the press. Now we all know the value that free and fearless media has, especially in a thriving democracy. But truth be told this is something that was waiting to happen. Just that opportunity presented itself to the right wingers only now.

So what has changed since #2014? That was when the #GrandOldParty of India (the #Congress) was voted out in favour of what has been known as a party of hardliners. In these three years since PM Modi came to power though there have been sporadic incidents of violence against the minorities and those from the marginalised sections of society, by and large the focus has been on development. Or at least that has been the image that this government has tried to create. But in the last month equations have changed drastically. That is, after the elections in the largest state of the country, #UttarPradesh. The way in which the BJP was able to decimate all it’s opponents in that election has two huge implications. One, the ruling party is looking quite invincible so much so that a reelection in less than two years time seems almost inevitable. And two, the opposition has been cut down to size. And how!

Contrary to popular belief that an authoritarian government can cause terrible harm to a healthy democracy it is actually the lack of credible opposition in the #Parliament and outside it that is a bigger threat. Look around and you will realise that the #BJP has benefited immensely from the fact that the principle opposition party, that is Congress, seems in such a disarray. Bereft of a leader with the pedigree and/or charisma to take on a popular Prime Minister like #NarendraModi, the Congress has simply been incapable of pinning down the ruling party. Be it on important policy decisions or even on alleged attempts to subvert democracy by targeting individuals, organisation or the media Congress simply does not seem to have the stomach for it. The Communists have become virtually irrelevant with the exception of a state or two. And regional parties like the #SP, JD(U), #TMC and #AAP who have been extremely critical of this government have simply been unable to make much headway nationally.

In the last few weeks we have seen how the ruling regime has stepped on the gas when it comes to
controversial albeit trivial issues like that of #AnimalSlaughter while conveniently side stepping on more critical ones like that of #Unemployment. Law and order in the largest state of the country has taken a backseat. The #RuralEconomy of the country is in tatters, #Farmers all over are finding it impossible to make a living and independent voices of dissent are being throttled. But who will take up cudgels for them is the million rupee question. With the pillars of democracy like the #Judiciary and the media becoming increasingly weakened, there is no better time than now for the opposition to unite. Not just for the sake of democracy but also for the future of this country and it’s citizens. #WeThePeople.

What the self goal by PM May means for Brexit

If you thought that you had seen it all after the dramatic resignation of #DavidCameron (who of course had vehemently opposed the move) last year following a reversal in the nationwide #Referendum on Brexit, think again. In snap polls dubbed as the ‘Brexit Elections’ called for by the newly appointed Prime Minister #TheresaMay the ruling #ConservativeParty suffered terrible losses. So much so that the beleaguered Labour Party has been given a new lease of life and more worryingly the Conservatives are no longer a majority in the #Parliament left with 318 out of 650 total seats. That is a climbdown of 12 vital seats and it is no wonder then that the move is being dubbed as a self goal. In this melee the #LabourParty has made a neat gain of 29 seats riding on the back of their charismatic albeit controversial leader #JeremyCorbyn. Experts are still divided on what impact the General election results will have on the whole #Brexit affair but on one thing they will all agree. This ruling party is completely out of sync with the aspirations of the average British citizen.

#12 years after the #SecondWorldWar ended a group of European countries established what was the European Union in it’s earliest avatar. The premise was simple enough – countries doing trade together were less likely to go to war with each other. Interestingly #Britain was not even part of this original group and it entered into the fray only in the 1970s. In subsequent years Britain and the Union fought on everything ranging from immigration policies to #EU regulations and beef exports to even chocolates (the British had to fight a sustained battle to be allowed to sell home made chocolates in the rest of Europe) and suffice it to say that it was an uneasy relationship that has seen many more downs than ups. The first indication that the United Kingdom might actually exit the EU came as early as the 80s when #MargaretThatcher was the PM. She was however able to save the day by renegotiating many terms with the EU yet undeniably the first seeds had been sown.

The birth of the United Kingdom Independence Party (#UKIP) around the same time was no mere coincidence. In the #2014 European elections, UKIP won 27% of the votes setting the tone for things to follow. The then PM David Cameron under increasing pressure from people within his party and outside announced that if the #Tories won in 2015 there would be a referendum at the end of 2017. Cameron was in favor of negotiating terms and staying in the EU but clearly he could not gauge public sentiment. As global terrorism, economic slowdown and immigration woes all hit Europe together #Nationalism has taken centre stage. So it was expected that calling for a snap election promising a #HardBrexit would do the trick or at least Mrs May thought it would. Instead what UK is staring at is a hung Parliament for which the reasons are not difficult to see. The Conservatives never really mentioned how those in power hoped to tide over what is likely to be a messy divorce. After all exiting the world’s largest free trade bloc cannot be done on a whim.

As things stand today UK needs a leader with forcefulness of purpose, vision and foresight to guide them through what is a tricky phase and it seems quite clear that Theresa May is not that person. As Mrs May tries to cobble support and stay put as PM, how things will pan out with regards to Brexit remains unclear as of now. And somehow one feels this one has a twist or two still to come.One thing is certain though. Expect more fireworks.

Anand Kumar – The humble visionary behind Super 30

 Meet Arbaaz Alam. His father ekes out a living selling eggs on the roadside in the Bihar Sharief locality of Nalanda district. Then there is Aditya Anand, son of Gautam Pandey who works as a labourer at some factory. Or even Kundan Kumar. His father Manoj Kumar Verma has a roadside clothshop. And let us not forget Abhishek Kumar whose father is a priest. How about the twins, Sumit Raj and Subham Raj whose father runs a small hardware shop? Each of the kids at the #RamanujanSchoolOfMathematics comes from an economically backward class and have got awe inspiring tales to recount. It is only through sheer grit, determination and hard work that all these #Super30 candidates have been able to crack the #IIT-JEE. And without a doubt they all owe it to Anand Kumar, a Maths teacher from the state of #Bihar who started this pathbreaking educational program in the year 2002.

Anand Kumar knew all there was to know about poverty. His father was a clerk in the postal department who could not afford private schooling for his children. But Kumar was no ordinary kid. It was while studying in a Hindi medium government school that he developed a keen interest in #Mathematics and after graduating he secured an admission in the prestigious #CambridgeUniversity. But the untimely death of his father and the financial condition of his family put paid to his dreams. He would study vigorously during the day and go around with his mother every evening selling papad (or Papadum as some call it) to make ends meet. It was around this time that Kumar started a small institute titled The Ramanujan School of Mathematics with just two students but within two to three years this number rose to about 500. The turning point came in the year 2000 when a student approached Kumar seeking coaching for the IIT-JEE but being poor could not afford to pay Kumar. Thus was born the idea for #Super30.

In the year 2002, The Ramanujan School of Mathematics started competitive tests for students hailing from economically weaker sections of the society and the best of them, thirty to be exact, were enrolled in the Super 30 program. As part of this Super 30 program, for one year Kumar provides free food & lodging for these students while coaching them (even providing all relevant study material) to crack the IIT-JEE. It is said that Kumar’s mother herself cooks food for these students while his brother manages the day-to-day affairs. In the last 15 years close to 400 (396 to be exact) of 450 students who enrolled for the Super 30 have cracked the IIT-JEE which is a success ratio of about 88%. What makes this achievement special is that the IIT-JEE admits only 8000 students out of about six million odd who apply every year and it is known as one of the toughest entrance examinations in the world.

As word about Super 30 spread far and wide, Kumar has been bestowed with accolades and awards. The man who could not afford a foreign education due to his humble background has been invited by reputed universities like #MIT and #Harvard to speak about his pioneering efforts in the field of education. Government organisations and private institutions from all over the world have offered to provide Kumar with financial assistance but he has politely declined. Nor does he accept any donations for his noble endeavour. To this day it is by running evening classes in Patna that his team raises the funds needed for Super 30. Speaking to the press after his Super 30 had yet again miraculously scored a 100% thisyear, Kumar felt this was the opportune moment to take his Super 30 to other parts of the country.

More power to you, Mr Kumar. May your tribe grow.

Is DRS a game changer or a necessary evil?

In the year #1945 the US dropped nuclear bombs on the Japanese cities of #Hiroshima and #Nagasaki. The effects were disastrous in both places with thousands of civilians killed and many other injured but for many who defended this controversial move it was a #NecessaryEvil. For it was done for greater good, the end of the #WorldWar. Sure enough within 10 days of the Nagasaki bombing Japan surrendered signalling the end of War. Point being that sometimes tough decisions have to be taken while looking at the larger picture, cliched as that sounds. And change is something that is inevitable as time passes by. Talking of change, it is something that the game of cricket has been averse to and the connoisseurs have often scoffed at attempts to usher in modern technology. When #ODI cricket first made it’s appearance thanks to visionary media mogul, #KerryPacker the purists were dismissive calling it #PyjamaCricket. Now we all know who is having the last laugh on that one.

Likewise when the #ThirdUmpire was first brought into the fray (in the #1990s) not many were pleased least of all the onfield umpires many of whom felt that the role of such an officiating authority must be as minimal as possible. Not surprisingly, controversy broke out when the DRS also known as #UDRS (short for Umpire Decision Review System) was proposed to be introduced in the longer version of the game that is Test match cricket. The DRS gave players the opportunity to get umpiring decisions(that they deemed to be wrong) to be reviewed. Those supporting DRS talked of umpiring errors that had quite inadvertently changed the course of a match and argue that when there is technology available why not make use of it? It was first tried in #2008, in a Test series between two sides from the subcontinent India and #SriLanka. Though most #Cricket boards agreed to start using DRS technology, India strongly opposed DRS.

The fact that India opposed DRS was worrisome for the game what with the Indian board being one of the most cash rich cricket boards of the world and the team itself drawing huge crowds wherever they went. India’s contention was that DRS was ineffective if it only relied upon #BallTracking (they felt the one field umpires had a better view) and it needed to incorporate others like the #HawkEye, #HotSpot & #Snickometer into the mix for decision making to be more accurate. Both the above mentioned are handy tools in determining where the ball hit the batsman, the bat or the pads. And if it was both then which was first. And with the rule being that both teams had to agree for DRS to be used in a series India’s refusal to use it was a matter of worry for the ICC (the world body of cricket) There are those who question the need for having a limit on the number of reviews per innings and/or match. And some who argue that DRS further diminishes the role of onfield umpires.

Some argue that DRS goes against one of the basic tenets of cricket, that the benefit of doubt in any tight decision must go to the batsman. But fact is cricket, as it is played right now is
already batsman friendly so one rule that helps bowlers cannot be all that bad. Fortunately in the last decade since DRS first came into the game technology has grown astonishingly and DRS in it’s revamped avatar is getting a large number of decisions spot on. Additionally using DRS in real time has only helped the administrators of the game understand shortcomings in the system. So that it is tweaked accordingly. As of 2017 the DRS is still a work in progress, albeit making good progress. So much so that umpires having an off day can get caught on camera. Ask former Sri Lankan offie and umpire #KumaraDharmasena.

Pullela Gopichand – The man with the Midas Touch

The year was #1997. Arguably India’s finest shuttler #PrakashPadukone was on a rampage against the #BAI (Badminton Association of India) and in a rebellion that was backed by all the players formed the #IBC (Indian Badminton Confederation) The reason being that those at the helm of affairs seemed to treating it like their own personal fiefdom. It was also alleged that there was widespread corruption and nepotism in the sport. Players were not being given world class practice facilities and denied the international exposure that was essential in producing world beaters. And with the dismal results in top international tournaments over the last decade and more, the writing was on the wall. #Badminton, in the country was down in the dumps. So when Pullela Gopichand won the #AllEnglandOpen (considered the #OscarAwards of badminton) in #2001 it was completely unexpected. More so because Gopi had undergone three surgeries on his left knee in recent years which is perhaps why he lost quite tamely in the pre quarter finals of the #SydneyOlympics an year earlier. But clearly Gopi had other ideas.

Today almost two decades later, his proteges #HSPrannoy and #SrikanthKidambi have both entered the last 4 stage of the prestigious #IndonesianOpen. This is while the girls coached by him, #SainaNehwal and PV Sindhu (both had surprising early exits in the same tourney) have both gone to win Olympic medals for the country – a cherished dream which Gopi failed to achieve during his own playing career. It has been a long and arduous journey for the champion shuttler ever since he hung up his boots in the year #2003. Looking at the terrible situation that the sport was in, he decided to take up coaching and was soon named the #ChiefCoach of the Indian team. But this move did not go down well with many. After all he was self taught. As a result many senior players refused to train under him. Also Gopi realised while coaching the wards that there was one big drawback which was hampering the growth of Indian players. A world class facility.

Gopi felt he had to take things into his own hands i.e., start an #Academy of his own. But it was
easier said than done and he ran into difficulties in raising the funds necessary. Many corporates felt that badminton was simply not a sport that could attract eyeballs. And lest we forget ours is a #Cricket obsessed country. After five years of struggle, Gopi decided to put it all on the line by mortgaging his family home which finally helped him get the funds needed to start the Gopichand Academy in his native city of #Hyderabad. The year was #2008. Naysayers calling it a self destructive move were forced to shut up and take notice when a 16 year old Saina Nehwal who he had been coaching since 2004 started winning tournaments everywhere. Saina rose to become the first ever Indian world no 1 and her proudest moment came with the bronze medal at the #LondonOlympics in 2012. Life had come a full circle for Gopi.Pullela Gopichand

But the success did not come without it’s fair share of controversies. Critics point out that he seemed inept at achieving the same kind of success with the doubles players. To make matter worse, top doubles player #JwalaGutta openly accused Gopichand of being biased towards singles players (read Saina) In 2014 his star protege Saina split up with Gopi because she felt his training was not ‘upto the mark’. But even before the dust around the controversy could settle down a new name had emerged from the Gopichand stable – Sindhu. In the next couple of years, Sindhu rose rapidly through the ranks and did one better than Saina by winning a silver in last year’s Olympics. Now with the men from his Academy making waves internationally, Gopi has proven it yet again. That he is the man with the Midas touch.