Monday, August 31, 2009

Force India

Tonight I saw an incredible game of football – it was a cup final. The away team in red and the home team in blue were playing an open, entertaining brand of joga bonito that left me breathless. Even though after normal time and first half of extra time, the game was scoreless, the match was exciting with end-to-end goalmouth action entertaining the packed house. The home team scored with a wickedly curving free kick that in at the bottom of the near post with about five minutes of the second half of extra time left – I was absolutely ecstatic! Even let out a couple of seetees. My team had scored and the cup was ours. In the dying seconds of the match, the away team equalized with a flying header that stunned the crowd. The match headed to penalties… heart stopping stuff, indeed. (On a more serious note, my colleague told me his harrowing time last night when his grandfather actually suffered a cardiac arrest while watching the match - The poor old man had couldn’t bear the excitement and had a heart attack for real. Here’s wishing him a speedy recovery! Talk about the glorious unpredictability of sport not being for those with weak hearts!)

For those of you who think that I am describing a Champions League game between Machester United and Chelsea, think again. Nope I haven’t deserted the United cause – that is blasphemous to even imagine! The game I am talking about was last night’s Nehru Cup final between India (in blue) and Syria (in red). An what a match it was! Definitely the best I have seen in Indian football in recent times.
Goalkeeper Subrata Paul emerged hero as India beat Syria 5-4 via sudden death in the final to win the five-nation Nehru Cup football tournament at the Ambedkar stadium in Delhi. The capacity crowd in the stadium could not have asked for a better show of football with a nail-biting finish!

The teams were locked goalless at full-time and 1-1 after 120 minutes of entertainment with both teams having given their all. The 22-year-old goalie brought off three fine saves, including one in sudden-death, to help the hosts retain the title. Paul has been an enigma in club football for his team Mohun Bagan but seems to give his best every time he puts on the India jersey.

Renedy Singh put India ahead in the eight minute of the second period of extra-time curling home a free-kick from 35 yards, before Ali Dyab darted in from nowhere to head home the equalizer from a Raja Rafe pin-point cross for the Syrians, just seconds from the final whistle.

Climax Lawrence, Sunil Chhetri, Steven Dias, Anwar and Surkumar Singh were successful from the spot for India while Renedy Singh's sent the goalkeeper the wrong only to see his kick ricochet off the upright. India looked set to win again as they led going into the last penalty kick. Subrata Paul was in his elements – each time the Syrians stepped up to the spot, his mindgames began – and they worked too when he saved two attempts on the trot. But the Syrian captain and goalkeeper scored (this time Paul didn’t resort to any mindgames – perhaps out of mutual respect for his opposite number), Mehrajuddin Wadoo’s kick was saved and Syria equalised with their next spot kick thus taking the match into sudden death. Subrata Paul saved the second kick in sudden death to ensure an Indian win.

The match had its fair share of drama on the touchline too – the Syrian coach behaved like Jose Mourinho of his Chelsea days, complaining relentlessly each time the referee made a call against Syria. A member of the Syrian support staff was red-carded and sent off – ala Arsene Wenger (tsk tsk – when will the Gunners ever set a good example!).

Sunil Chetri perhaps had the best chance to score in regulation time when he beat his marker to make a fine run into the box only to shoot marginally wide! The Indian skipper Baichung Bhutia also had a great match and came in for “special treatment” from the Syrians, especially late into the match – one of these incidents got India the free kick in the first place from which Renedy did a David Beckham to nearly win it for India. Baichung was named the man of the tournament for his efforts – just desserts for the man who just played his 100th match for India and has served the nation with such distinction. (His 100th match must have been scripted in heaven – he scored, India won to get into the Nehru Cup finals and he won the man of the match award!) Maybe now AIFF and the clubs involved will have some shame and reinstate him to his rightful place – as a leader on the football pitch…

Truth be told – there were plenty of “agricultural” shots on display too – but that is to be expected given the FIFA rankings of both teams. But all in all, it was India’s night. The victory gave India coach Bob Houghton a hat-trick of titles, having earlier guided the team to the last Nehru Cup crown in 2007 (coincidentally beating Syria on that instance too) and AFC Cup Challenge in 2008. Maybe things will turn around for Indian football after all.

India's successful defense of Nehru cup 2009 has to go down as her best moment in footballing history, in the past quarter of a century. For the last significant achievement, one would need to rewind as early as the bronze medal performance in the 1970 Asiad. By all parameters, this triumph would come better off than the LG cup win in Vietnam 2002 or the Nehru cup win in Delhi, 2007.

I admire the way Subrata Paul has managed to stay focused after coming fire following the death of Brazilian striker Cristiano Junior. Junior – RIP. Paul has been assailed by a section of the Indian football fraternity including some top players after television replays seemed to show that he had hit Junior after the Brazilian had scored the second goal for his club Dempo Sports Club during the Federation Cup final on December 5, 2003. Paul was just nineteen at the time. The cause of death of Junior had been identified as cardiac arrest as later clarified by the erstwhile Bangalore police commissioner S. Mariswamy. Dempo also complained that facilities on the ground were inadequate, and moreover, Junior was transported to the Hosmat Hospital instead of Mallya Hospital, which was right next to the Kanteerava Stadium where the match was being played, thus losing valuable time. He was declared dead on arrival at Hosmat Hospital. All I can say is AIFF wakeup!! (To be fair to then, the month long training camp in Barcelona before the tournament was a good start…) Invest in Indian football – learn something from my employers and the TFA. Open more suchacademies. Encourage youngsters to take up the game – cash in on the interest levels generated by the European Leagues now fanatically followed in India as proved by the crowds at games that showed that more people from a larger cross section of the nation are following the game. Improve the quality of the I-League. And please get rid of all the politicians from the administration of the game!

Naysayers and critics can continue to whine that we beat a low ranked team of a nation which is perhaps one tenth our size. I’ll take the victory – after all we bear a country around 55 slots higher in the ranking ladder. Maybe Indian football is finally on its way to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe, just maybe, one day we can compete with the best in the world. I hope that happens in my lifetime – what more could a Bong ask for?!

To sum up things, I was pleasantly shocked with the quality of entertainment and drama the match produced. The last time I can remember that I watched an Indian team play with such rapt attention was when East Bengal won their Asian Medal a few years ago. And all I can say is, more of the same please. Move over Team India – here comes Force India.

Agle Gaane To Copy Karne Ke Liye * Dabanye

Part of my project work involves conducting a Customer Service study. Today I Called up this one customer on his number as per our records and after a couple of rings, a lady picked up and said the customer was in the bathroom and I could speak to her - she asked for my name - I said I was calling from TMFL upon which she suggested that "we should speak alone" - needless to say, I hung up in a hurry feeling quite worried!! I reported this to my boss immediately and he looked at me quite unbelievingly... later on in the evening, he called me to his desk and told me he heard the same lady say the same thing when he called up another customer - it was just a caller tune - incredible.

From Himesh singing (now that’s an oxymoron) his nasal Jhalak Dikla Ja to Nana Patekar’s crazed laughter – chances are if you are calling someone in India on his mobile phone, you will hear any imaginable sound… Sadly, the tring tring is passé. And trust me, no one misses that retro normalcy more than me... Imagine having to make about 50 calls a day in the course of conducting a customer feedback survey and hearing sounds with the genres ranging from Kishore Kumar’s sublime Pal Pal Dil Ke Pas to Akon’s catchy Smack That or even worse – Mithunda’s bizzare dialogue (“Marbo eikhane laash porbe shoshaney” – loosely translated – “If I hit you here, your corpse will land in the crematorium” – this classic is actually from his superhit blockbuster called MLA Fatakeshto)!!! Today, I can empathize with the hundreds of outbound tellecallers and phone marketers who make calls to customers to earn a living – I can only imagine the trauma they face day and day out. Especially if someone sets the caller tune described in para one!

The scary part is, industry experts believe there’s more to come… sample this: “Mobile value added services in India poise to witness significant growth in future. Operators have shifted focus towards providing these services in a market which has observed falling ARPU’s. Over the years the average revenue per unit (ARPU) accruing to operators has been falling, shifting emphasis to alternative means of revenue generation. As average revenue per user decrease from voice drops, and voice becomes commoditized, operators are increasingly looking at data as an additional revenue stream. The end users have also embraced VAS and it contributes between 5-10% of the revenues of different operators. Thus Mobile VAS has become an important element in the growth of mobile telephony in India. The Mobile VAS industry in India was estimated at Rs. 2850 crore at the end of 2006 and was estimated to grow at 60% to touch Rs. 4560 crores at the end of 2007 – furthermore the industry forecasted 39% growth annually from 2007-11. Revised IAMAI & IMRB reports in 2008 suggested that Mobile Value Added Services (MVAS) are to grow 70% YOY to Rs.16520 Crore by 2010.

“Caller tunes” is the most widely used Mobile VAS used by subscribers in India. Figures suggest that over 25% of India’s 140 million mobile subscribers bought caller ring-back tones and ringtones and this is growing at 25% a month!

Caller tunes are basically music pieces (well, at least they started out as music – today they have evolved and mutated into much weirder “sounds”) which are played to a caller (that’s me) when he is calling another mobile phone user (that’s the customer for his service feedback). This tune is set by the user who is receiving the call according to his taste and choice (bhai, after all we live in a democracy – but trust me freedom of choice has never been more abused)

Mobile phones today have moved beyond their fundamental role of communications and have graduated to become an extension of the persona of the user. We are witnessing an era when users buy mobile phones not just to be in touch, but to express themselves, their attitude, feelings and interests. And this is the major reason for widespread popularity of caller tunes - they allow the users to express themselves offering unmatched personalization and customization ( just like choosing the ring tone which users set on their mobile phone and we are forced to hear when watching a movie or enjoying a quiet dinner date!) Essentially, they have become “fashion” (note: not style) statements with their only real purpose being to show off to caller. (The only silver lining is that I have now acquired the uncanny knack of predicting whether I will get a favourable response from the customer based on his taste and choice of ringtone!) And the operators are quick to grab this opportunity by offering an additional service also allows users to copy tunes from others and set as their own. (Lord have mercy!)

Remember the sadhu with the cellphone picture that we all used extensively in our class presentations to show how far along the cellphone industry has come in India? Now perhaps if you call the sadhu’s phone, you would probably hear a bhajan! Maybe I should get a caller tune too… any suggestions?!

3.Mobile Value Added Services in India | A Report by IAMAI & eTechnology Group@IMRB | December 2006

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Football Movies

I love football - those who know me, know that I swear by Manchester United. And I love watching movies. Thus it is no surprise that I scour the net to find "football movies"... here's the list of the top 11 (well this is a list about football isn't it?) movies I have seen:

1. Bend it like Beckham
My all time favourite! This one showed how popular Beckham was (and still is) - he didn't feature in the movie but even his name in the title gave it a massive push. To be honest, I initially watched it because I was curious about the Beckham connection...
Click on the picture to see movie trailer

Plot: "A comedy about bending the rules to reach your goal, Bend It Like Beckham explores the world of women's football, from kick-abouts in the park to freekicks in the Final. Set in Hounslow, West London and Hamburg, the film follows two 18 year olds with their hearts set on a future in professional soccer. Heart-stopping talent doesn't seem to be enough when your parents want you to hang up your football boots, find a nice boyfriend and learn to cook the perfect chapatti"

2. Goal!
Click on the picture to see movie trailer

Plot: "Like millions of kids around the world, Santiago harbors the dream of being a professional footballer. However, living in the Barrios section of Los Angeles, he thinks it is only that--a dream. Until one day an extraordinary turn of events has him trying out for Premiership club Newcastle United"

3. Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal
The 2007 John Abhraham - Bipasha Basu - Arshad Warsi flick was the one of best sports movie I have seen coming out of Bollywood (in the league of Chak De! for sure) - it is a contemporary fictional story of the South Asian community in UK through the dynamic prism of professional football. All the actors are very believable in roles as footballers - quite an achievement for Bollywood.
Click on the picture to see movie trailer

Decades back, another football movie Saheb starring Anil Kapoor (incidentally it was a remake of a Bengali movie of the same name starring Tapas Pal) was quite good too.

4. Goal II: Living the Dream
Click on the picture to see movie trailer

Plot: Here after gaining experience with Newcastle United, Santiago Munez gets the break of his life when he's transferred to Real Madrid - it features the Galacticos in person - Beckham, Zidane, Raul & co. - was pretty decent sequel to the original...

Caution!: Don't waste your time with Goal III: Taking on the World... it was an absolute shocker! The lamest football movie I have seen.
Click on the picture to see movie trailer

5. The Damned United
Watched this one last nite after seeing Manchester United beat Aresenal 2-1 at Old Trafford. Was well worth staying up till 2 in the morning for...
Click on the picture to see movie trailer

Plot: "Taking over England's top football club Leeds United, previously successful manager Brian Clough's abrasive approach and his clear dislike of the players' dirty style of play make it certain there is going to be friction. Glimpses of his earlier career help explain both his hostility to previous manager Don Revie and how much he is missing right-hand man Peter Taylor who has loyally stayed with Brighton & Hove Albion."

6. Green Street Hooligans
This one does well to show the ugly side of football.
Click on the picture to see movie trailer

Plot: "Unjustly expelled from Harvard when a stash of cocaine is found in his possession, Matt moves to London to live with his sister and her husband Steve. He is quickly introduced to Steve's chirpy, cock-sure younger brother Pete. Initially, Pete is reluctant to get acquainted with Matt and allow him to tread around the capital city with him because he may be seen by others as an 'outsider', but after a heavy drinking session with him and his mates he quickly changes his opinion of him. On the way back from a football match, Matt is viciously accosted by a gang of Birmingham City thugs, until Pete and his friends step in and save him. It is from here that Matt learns the truth about Pete and his friends- they are football hooligans, operating the GSE (Green Street Elite) 'firm.' Initially afraid of the violence, Matt soon ends up becoming as desensitized to it as his new found friends - but as events roll on, suspicion, shocking revelations and unsettled scores combine to a devastating climax where London's most fierce football rivals - Millwall and West Ham United - are set to go head to head."

7. The Football Factory
Another, more in your face movie, that deals with the advent of hooliganism in football - particularly English football.
Click on the picture to see movie trailer

Plot: "The Football Factory is more than just a study of the English obsession with football violence, its about men looking for armies to join, wars to fight and places to belong. A forgotten culture of Anglo Saxon males fed up with being told they're not good enough and using thier fists as a drug they describe as being more potent than sex and drugs put together. Shot in documentery style with the energy and vibrancy of handheld, The Football Factory is frightingly real yet full of painful humour as the four characters extreme thoughts and actions unfold before us."

8. Mean Machine: Perhaps inspired by "Escape to Victory" but was quite entertaining!
Click on the picture to see movie trailer

Plot: "Disgraced ex-England captain (Danny 'Mean Machine' Meehan) is thrown in jail for assaulting two police officers. Whilst in jail, he doesn't recieve any favours because of his celebrity status in the outside world. He is out numbered and many prisoners constantly barrage him with insults for letting down his country in a crucial World Cup game. He keeps his head down and has the opportunity to forget everything and change the lives of the prisoners. These prisoners have the chance to put one over the evil guards. The prisoners are lead by Danny and the whole of the prison, guards aside, are behind them. Game on..."

9. Escape to Victory: Starring Sylvester Stallone and the biggest football stars of its time including Pele, this was sure worth the watch!
Click on the picture to see movie trailer

Plot: "In World War II, a group of Nazi officers come up with a propaganda event in which an all star Nazi team will play a team composed of Allied Prisoners of War in a Soccer (Football) game. The Prisoners agree, planning on using the game as a means of escape from the camp."

10. Shaolin Soccer
Arguably the funniest and the silliest football movie ever made!
Click on the picture to see movie trailer

Plot: "Shaolin Soccer is a 2001 Hong Kong comedy film co-written and directed by Stephen Chow, who also stars in the film. A former Shaolin monk reunites his five brothers, years after their master's death, to apply their superhuman martial arts skills to play soccer and bring Shaolin kung fu to the masses."

11. She's The Man
An American College chick-flick that is an adaptation of the Bard's "Twelfth Night, or What You Will" with football (I refuse to call it soccer) being the theme...
Click on the picture to see movie trailer

Plot: "Here's the thing Viola's soccer team at Cornwall got cut so she wanted to join the boys team, but they did not allow. So she thought "If you can't join them, beat them". And so she does, she disguises herself as her twin brother Sebastian, and goes out for the Illyria Boys Soccer Team. But she didn't plan falling in love with her roommate Duke. But the thing is Duke has his eye on Olivia. The thing that makes matters worse Olivia starts to fall for Sebastian who actually is a girl and she/he has a sensitive side. If things couldn't get more problematical the real Sebastian (who is in London working on his music) comes home early. He arrives on campus and has no clue that he was replaced by his twin sister."

The Subs i.e. The ones I am awaiting eagerly to watch!

12. The Dream Team
Ok - so this isn't a movie but the one season that was showed on TV in India on ESPN Star captured my imagination - am waiting to see all the seasons...

Click on the picture to see movie trailer

Plot: "Dream Team is a British television series produced by Hewland International which aired on Sky1 and Sky3 from 1997 to 2007, that chronicled the on-field and off-field affairs of the fictional Harchester United F.C.. Events in the series have proved to be uncannily similar to those surrounding Newcastle United and Queens Park Rangers in recent seasons. The club is based in the fictional town of Harchester (which is said to be close to Tamworth) in the West Midlands. Most fans consider Lynda Block, played by Alison King and Karl Fletcher, played by Terry Kiely to be the two most popular characters."

13. The Game of Their Lives
Plot: "Based on a true story, this film tells the tale of the 1950 US soccer team who, against all odds, beat England 1 - 0 in the city of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Although no US team has ever won a World Cup title, this story is about the family traditions and passions which shaped the lives of the players who made up this team of underdogs."

14. Joyeux Noël- Merry Christmas
Click on the picture to see movie trailer

Plot: "In 1914, World War I, the bloodiest war ever at that time in human history, was well under way. However on Christmas Eve, numerous sections of the Western Front called an informal, and unauthorized, truce where the various front-line soldiers of the conflict peacefully met each other in No Man's Land to share a precious pause in the carnage with a fleeting brotherhood. This film dramatizes one such section as the French, Scottish and German sides partake in the unique event, even though they are aware that their superiors will not tolerate its occurrence."

15. Fever Pitch
Nope not the Drew Barrymore one with the Baseball theme released as the Perfect Catch outside of the states - this is one with Arsenal in the movie - no prizes for guessing why I am putting last on the list! :)
Click on the picture to see movie trailer

Plot: "A romantic comedy about a man, a woman and a football team. Based on Nick Hornby's best selling autobiographical novel, Fever Pitch. English teacher Paul Ashworth (Colin Firth) believes his long standing obsession with Arsenal serves him well. But then he meets Sarah. Their relationship develops in tandem with Arsenal's roller coaster fortunes in the football league, both leading to a nail biting climax."


Any movie you think I have missed? Give me a shout...

(Plots courtesy and posters mainly from

Beautiful Dawn

Digha is the most popular sea resorts for Bongs along with Puri. It's about a 160 Kms from Kolkata and easily accessible by road (especially by the "Rocket" buses that ply or rather fly down the highway without a care for what or who come in their path!) - we headed to Digha in 2007 to celebrate Holi - the festival of colours. My family and I are not too fond of being doused with colour in Holi and prefer to retreat to a safe haven for the festival when we can...

That Holi was truly a celestial festival of colours as you can see from the pictures... getting up at five thirty in the morning was never more worth it!

Maybe James Blunt was alluding to this morning when he sang..
Beautiful dawn - lights up the shore for me.
There is nothing else in the world,
I'd rather wake up and see (with you).
Beautiful dawn - I'm just chasing time again...

Skyscapes - Part 4

All of these were taken in Stradford-upon-Avon, the home of William Shakespeare...
no wonder he is quoted to have said: "My soul is in the sky"...

Skyscapes - Part 3

"Sometimes gentle, sometimes capricious, sometimes awful, never the same for two months together; almost human in its passions, almost spiritual in its tenderness, almost Divine in its infinity."

All theses photos were taken en route to Jaipur from Delhi
from the Volvo Bus I was travelling on...

Skyscapes - Part 2

"The sky is that beautiful old parchment in which the sun
and the moon keep their diary"