Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A different ball game

Watching the near-perfect World T20 over the last month, I could not help drawing parallels between my experience of music of different periods and the cricket we have watched through the decades.

The flashing blades, breathtaking fours and sixes, acrobatic catches, and diving, sliding runouts of today can dazzle your eyes, stop your hearts.

Old school as old school can be, you may be a reluctant spectator to start with, but are inexorably drawn by the magic of the twists and turns of the shortest form of the game. 

Once in, there is no way out. You simply must stay up to watch that last over finish, even the post match interviews, so complete has been the power the drama of the show has exercised over you.

Those born in the 21st century or towards the end of the last, do not have much of a basis for comparisons between the past and the present. Could the bowlers of the past, especially spinners, even the great quartet, have survived the onslaught of today's batting powerhouses, with their bludgeoning  bats and innovative shotmaking, they ask. Could they have measured up as fielders, as catchers on the boundary line, as run-stoppers in the ring? 

Were they capable of holding their nerve as death bowlers in the pulsating finishes of T20 cricket?

The questioning is so loud and demanding that you almost succumb to their line of thinking. But then you think of the likes of Garry Sobers, Viv Richards, Brian Lara, Joel Garner, Kapil Dev, Shane Warne, and you remember that the great can adapt to new conditions, new threats, through the application of their genius.

The recent Marathi musical Katyar Kaljat Ghusali is a modern drama with an old theme, just as T20 cricket is a new version of an old game. It is packed with some of the most brilliant songs I have come across in recent times. The music by Shankar-Ehsan-Loy can compare with the best classical or semi-classical music in Indian movies of all time. The purity and range of Shankar Mahadevan's voice, the power of the other voices in the movie, their abundant talent that includes that of national award winner Mahesh Kale, can captivate even a skeptic or musical ignoramus.  To a classical music/old Hindi film music junkie like me, with my healthy respect for the Shankar-Ehsan-Loy trio's ability, it came as no surprise that they produced appropriate background music for the revival of an old Marathi theatre classic, but the overall quality of their original compositions--in addition to some old favourites composed in the distant past by Jitendra Abhisheki--is very high, too.

Listening to the songs from the film on Youtube--I promise I parallelly ordered the audio DVD online--I idly clicked on the video links to their older versions, fully prepared to come across melodramatic theatrics and poor audio and video quality. What I found was mind-blowing. If brilliant acting and wonderful singing in a resonant voice by Chandrakant Limaye was a relatively recent offering of Natyageet, the older rendering by Vasantrao Deshpande set the standard almost impossibly high. Grandson Rahul Deshpande continues to perpetuate the Katyar Kaljat legend.

The Mahadevans and Kales of today are outstanding musicians accompanied by technology that can mask a false note or two in lesser artists; they can cast a spell with their razzmatazz, but know deep down that the old represented by the Deshpandes and Abhishekis is gold. The same is true of a Virat Kohli with his pristine strokeplay: he too knows for all his on-field aggression, that the game is greater than him. If Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle  and Marlon Samuels do not know their illustrious predecessors, then they should. Just as Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar look on approvingly at their successors' explosive talent.

With the onset of the IPL, the action now moves on to an altogether higher pitch, often overloud and hyped up, but a welcome change nonetheless in at least one respect. Sworn rivals will now share locker rooms and dugouts. Snarling could be replaced by bonhomie, at least within if not across teams.

But giants that roamed the earth will be benched by local talent, if not pygmies. Drama queens, some of them bearded, and fashion models dressed to kill will spout cricket wisdom of suspect quality. Superlatives and verbal diarrhoea will flow unchecked. We must suffer the abomination of strategic timeouts while the advertisers persuade us in the worst possible taste.

In a way, the timing of the IPL is unfortunate, at least for those whose appetite for instant cricket has been sated. Its frenetic action may have some, if not many, of the exciting moments of the World T20, but can it equal the enchantment of international competition? 

Can we, the viewing audience, survive the continued invasion of our drawing rooms in the higher temperatures and stickier humidity that must follow?


Balachandran Balu said...

I completely agree with the observation "We must suffer the abomination of strategic timeouts while the advertisers persuade us in the worst possible taste."

Ramnarayan said...

Thanks, Balu.