Saturday, 29 September 2007

Those Were the Days

Today I'm taking you down a wonderful journey all of you have experienced at some point in time or are soon going to experience: college!

The very mention of the word evokes countless unforgettable memories in my mind- perhaps it does in yours as well. I was in G.N. Khalsa College in Bombay between 1996 and 2001 and I can say without qualification, that those five years were by far the greatest of my life.

My most vivid recollection from that golden age goes back to my very first day in college- that's also by far the most embarrasing experience from those five years. It was the Maths lecture and our professor Mr. K.R. Singh was taking the roll-call. I said "present" when my number was called. The dialogue that followed went like this:

K.R. Singh: Who's that? Stand up! (I stood up)

K.R. Singh: Aainda se tum 'yes sir' kahoge (from now on, you'll say 'yes sir')

Me: Yes sir.

K.R. Singh: Say 'yes sir' 5 times.

I can't help but laugh, recalling all that at this distance in time, but you can imagine my embarassment back then. Imagine the plight of a shy, unsure-of-himself 15-year old, being made to look like a fool in front of the class the very first day of college- and that too in front of all the girls! For a teenager, girls are the biggest attraction and there's no greater humiliation for a young man at that age, than to be embarassed in the presence of members of the opposite sex, isn't it?

Then came the familiarity, the formation of groups, hanging out with friends after college, going for movies, the endless banter- and there always used to be one guy in the group who was usually at the wrond end of it and of course: talking about cricket, movies and girls... well you know what I'm talking about! How wonderful those days were: all you needed to do was go to college, come back home and study and appear for examinations twice a year. There wasn't a responsibility, not a care in the world... just pure, uninhibited fun!

Then came graduation. One fine day, you were out of college. You suddenly had to think of getting a job, building a career, you had a boss to listen to and his demands were infinitely different: no lectures, which would get over after 50 minutes, there was much more at stake and suddenly the tension of submissions looked almost laughable. Life was no longer carefree like it once was. You had a lot less time for yourself, your folks back home... everything changed and perhaps somewhere in the midst of it all, you altogether forgot your old carefree and uninhibited self. Life was never the same again.

And yet, the memories of those golden years remain with you forever. College life in metropolitan India today is of course, a far cry from what it was in my time. We didn't have shopping malls, multiplexes, CCDs/Baristas in our days; life was a lot different back then- and I'm talking of less than a decade ago! Back then, CDs were the in thing and buying those computer magazines with which you got a free CD was in vogue- those CDs had a lot of computer games of course! The best form of entertainment was going to play pool with friends (bowling alleys were still a new thing) or going out to watch a movie. Most theatres weren't air-conditioned and you'd get a ticket for as low as 30 rupees, the seats would be old and uncomfortable...remember those days?

I'm sure a lot of kids today would wonder how one could have had fun with all that- musty old single-screen theatre halls, the old-fashioned restaurants that are considered passé today, no mobile phones, no Orkut... how on earth could all that have been fun?

And yet, would anyone who didn't live through those believe that kids today have much more fun than he/she did? The answer is an emphatic no, isn't it? It was not the place, but the company you enjoyed, isn't it? Come to think of it, it was the togetherness that you really enjoyed, isn't it? It was after all, not the atmosphere, not the air-conditioning, not the luxury that you enjoyed, but the joy of being out with your friends and every generation has had that joy.

To every generation, his time seems the best. In reality, every generation has experienced and will experience the same fun, the same joy. Its just that your experiences take a different form, all else is just the same. If the best form of entertainment in my father's time was listening to cricket commentary on radio or watching a movie in a theatre or reading a book, it was watching movies on a VCD or watching cricket on T.V or going to an entertainment park in my time. Today it would be hanging out with friends in a CCD/Barista outlet, or going to a shopping mall or watching a movie in a multiplex. In the end, the true joy is in doing all that with your group!

When you look at it, every generation is relevant in its own time.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Music, Cricket and India

Two significant and not unconnected events occured within a short space of 24 hours: the Indian Idol finals on Sunday, 23rd September and the World T20 World Cup on Monday, 24th September 2007.

So what's so significant about it? And how were the two connected at all? On the face of it, they were completely unrelated events with no connection whatsoever. But there runs a common strand uniting the two.

Go back to Sunday evening, with Prashant Tamang and Amit Paul's destinies in the balance. Here was Prashant, a young cop from Darjeeling who was unknown, nothing in this wide world, in a country of over a billion people barely 6 months ago. With him was Amit Paul from Shillong, a place seldom remembered, from Meghalay, a state the very existence of which is almost forgotten by the rest of India. Both these young men were from the North East- a part of the country that has never fully integrated itself with India and about which the rest of India knows but little. These two young men brought their parts into the collective consciousness of India. Between them, they managed in a few months, what the Government of India failed to do in 60 years.

The following evening, India win the first ever T20 world cup. The winning catch was taken by a young man from Kerala, off the bowling of a player from Haryana and watching anxiously was their captain from Jharkand. Three men from completely different states who would perhaps not even understand the other's native tongue. These three men were proudly representing India.

But Dhoni and Prashant are somewhat similar: both from humble backgrounds, both from Eastern India and both from places very little known. Darjeeling is in the North-East, virtually seperated from the rest of India, where seperatist sentiment isn't wholly unknown. Jharkand, from where Dhoni hails, is one of the newest states in India, carved out of Bihar- a shockingly backward state remembered almost always for the wrong reasons (I can testify to the appaling condition of Bihar, having been there myself). Until Dhoni came along, Jharkand was known perhaps, as the state which has Jamshedpur in it.

And therein lies the similarity: both these young men have achieved extraordinary success, both are from little known places, hundreds of miles away from the bustle of metropolitan cities like Bombay, Madras, Delhi, Calcutta, Bangalore or Hyderabad. Both of them have brought their native places into the radar. Most importantly, they have come to the national stage and shown that even people from provincial cities can match or even outdo their counterparts from the bigger metros, given the right opportunities. Prashant and Mahi will both inspire countless young men and women in provincial India to believe in themselves, to aim higher, to dream bigger than their predecessors a generation ago.

I am from Bombay myself, exactly the same age as Dhoni. I know how little people in bigger places know about life in provincial India. I have myself been to several cities across India and I know how different things are, out in the smaller towns. And yet, I have also seen how attitudes are changing out there. There is talk about economic boom, globalisation, etc even in those provincial cities.

Personally, I believe that as far as India is concerned the metropolitan cities have played out their historic role. Its the smaller cities that have to come forward and contribute to the boom if India's spectacular growth is to be sustained over a longer period. That is where the significance of people like Amit Paul, Prashant Tamang and Mahendra Singh Dhoni comes into the picture. They are the people who will inspire a new generation of young Indians to believe in themselves, to take India forward. Those two events reflect the India of today and will inspire the emergence of the India of tomorrow.

This, my friends, was not just about music or cricket or entertainment.

This was a celebration of new India.

Congratulations India

What a performance! What a game!! A world cup final- an India v Pakistan final, last over, India 1 wicket away from victory, Pakistan one blow away from victory. Could even the greatest script writer have conjured up not just those countless twists and turns, but that incredible finish? As likely as not!

Leave aside the outcome for now, and cast your memory back to a strikingly similar finish 21 years ago. It's friday and it's Sharjah. Pakistan need 3 runs to win the finals, India need 1 wicket. The bowler: Chetan Sharma from Haryana. Sharma comes running in and at the last moment (by his own confession) changes his mind and decides to bowl a yorker. The ball turns out a full-toss. Come back to the present: 4 balls left, 6 runs to win, Pakistan one blow away from victory, India one wicket. The bowler: another Sharma from Haryana- this time Joginder Sharma. Misbah ul Haq comes down the wicket to hit the ball straight (as Shoaib Malik later admitted) and changes his shot at the last moment.

The results are identical, but equally contrasting.

But that was not the only crucial moment that India grabbed, even if it be the one that will be remembered for an age to come. There were countless moments in the World Cup that India grabbed: moments when the game could have shifted the other way.

Go back another 10 days, and we have a similar scenario: Pakistan need 1 run off the final ball to win the game against India. The batsman? Who else, but Misbah Ul Haq, who had brought Pakistan back from the dead! Haq gets run out and its a tie! India grab the bowl out and in the process, become the first ever team to win a cricket match 3-0!

Zoom another week ahead: India v South Africa, with the hosts looking assured of a place in the finals. India needing to win it outright to qualify for the finals. South African captain Smith flashes hard and Dinesh Kartik at second slip (yes indeed: second slip in a T20 game!) pulls off a blinder. Within an hour, India are into the semi finals; South Africa are out of the world cup yet again.

The next day, India v Australia- the Semi Finals, no less. Australia are cruising along at 156-3 after 16.3 overs. 21 balls, 33 runs required; easy target for Australia. Suddenly, B-A-N-G go Symond's stumps. 3 overs 30 runs to go: Harbhajan Singh produces an incredible over. Barely 15 minutes later, India have knocked Australia out of the world cup; its an India-Pakistan final!!

So what was it that this Indian team did better than most predecessors? Perhaps the simplest answer is: grab the decisive moments. It would be fair to say that Dhoni was remarkably pro-active- something few Indians captains have ever been. How many times have we seen Indian captains allow games to drift, waiting for something to happen?

Granted that Dhoni had his share of luck and that all his moves came off spectacularly and that it may not always work the way it did in these two weeks, granted that he may not always win all the crucial tosses as he did here, but it was something more than just luck. Go back to the league game against Pakistan, when the outcome was to be decided by a bowl out and remember who Dhoni picked to bowl? Harbhajan Singh, Robin Uttappa and Virendra Sehwag (no longer remember who the other bowlers were). Whom did Pakistan pick on the other hand? Mohammed Asif, Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi (once again not sure who the others were).

And so Dhoni gave it to two part-timers, while Shoaib Malik didn't. But the logic was simple: slower bowlers were more likely to hit the target than quicker bowlers, for whom the ball not only swung, but who would be bowling off a shorter run-up which was bound to disturb their rhythm: simple logic... or was it? One week later, against South Africa, R.P. Singh snaps up Gibbs and what does Dhoni do? Bring in a second slip! Could you imagine a second slip in a T20 game? Two balls later, Smith edges the ball and Kartik at second slip pulls off a stunner. Come back again to the finals: 5 overs gone, restrictions off but Dhoni decides to retain an extra player in the ring to stop the easy singles. India slow down Pakistan and in the end, the match is won by a measly 5 runs.

And so 3 different games and three different moves by Dhoni, all three of them highly unconventional. How many Indian captains can you remember, who dared to be unconventional? How many Indian captains would have told his players "just enjoy yourself, don't worry about the result"? No one who watched the T20 World Cup could deny that the cricket India played was high-octane, thrilling, tantalising... you could go on looking for adjectives. It was simple, uninhibited cricket by a young team, led by a captain who understood that the best way of playing is to enjoy what you're doing, that cricket after all's said and done, is only a game. And let's not forget that Dhoni is also that player, whose under construction house in Ranchi was demolished by angry fans barely 6 months ago.

And yet, 6 months later, India's first round exit at the World Cup is long forgotten. 11 young men, who between them averaged under 24 years of age brought home the World Cup! The contrast between that team of 6 months ago and this team are easily discernable. Whereas that was a team of careworn veterans who looked inhibited by expectations, aspirations and their own reputations, this was a team of youngsters who grew up post-liberalisation, a young team that worried little about expectations or reputations and importantly, believed that nothing was beyond them.

This was a reflection of new India, of 2000s India.

And yes, to conclude, let me point out one astonishing coincidence. The last time India won a World Cup, back in 1983 (when most members in the current team weren't even born) Australia's first game was against Zimbabwe, which produced a shock upset.


Wednesday, 1 August 2007

India's Progress as a Cricketing Nation

On Tuesday, 31st July 2007, India recorded a historic victory at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. It was the first time India was winning at that venue and only India's fifth test victory in that country. Among those present was the team manager Chandu Borde, who was a member of the touring team in 1959 that was cleaned up 0-5.

Looking at India's record, anyone would agree that our performance overseas has been dismal and there really is little for us to be proud of. Consider this: India has never won a series in Australia, only won 2 series (both 1-0) in the West Indies, 2 in England (1-0 in 1971 and 2-0 in 1986), never won a series in South Africa after 4 tours to date, won only 1 series in Pakistan, 1 in Sri Lanka and 1 in New Zealand- which was way back in 1967-68, when my father was not yet out of school.

And yet, in spite of that, there was little attention given to India's historic victory at Trent Bridge. When you consider that it was only the fifth victory in 15 tours dating back to 1932 (when India played her first test match), the achievement has indeed been momentous. Granted that the news was largely obscured by the Sanjay Dutt affair coinciding on the same day, it would perhaps be reasonable to say that public reaction (or rather the lack thereof) says someting about the distance Indian cricket has traveled between the turn of the century and now- strangely mirroring India's progress as a country.

Let me take you a decade back in time, to India's tour of South Africa in 1996-97. Remember the humiliation at Durban? India were blown out for 100 and 66, losing by 328 runs, a test match in which the highest score was just 259. More humiliation followed in the next test, when South Africa gave us a 282 run pounding. Two years later came even greater humiliation: on 10th October 1998, India lost to Zimbabwe chasing a modest 235 for victory on a pitch that had no horrors. The reaction to the flogging in South Africa had been nothing if not knee-jerk, but the defeat to Zimbabwe hardly produced any reaction. Partly it was due to the fact that the test match in Zimbabwe was not telecast in India, but defeat overseas had come to be accepted as inevitable by then, if not earlier.

Its a well known fact that India won just a solitary test match abroad between 1986 and 2001, that one victory being in Sri Lanka, which was at that time a new test-playing nation- little better than what Bangladesh is today. I can still remember India's countless defeats abroad in the 90s when I grew up. We lost 0-1 to England in 1996 at a time when England put on field perhaps the weakest team she has ever produced. I've already alluded to the humiliation in South Africa, then there was a 0-1 defeat in the Carribean (admittedly due to a mine field at Barbados), 0-1 in New Zealand in 1998-99 and of course, somewhere inbetween, a defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe- most of them by embarassing margins.

Before I go further, let me give you India's scores in those defeats (margin of defeat in parenthesis):

Edgbaston (1996): 214 & 219

Durban (1996-97): 100 & 66 (328 runs)

Cape Town (1996-97): 359 & 144 (282 runs)

Barbados (1996-97): 319 & 81 (38 Runs)

Harare (1998): 280 & 173 (61 runs)

Wellington (1998-99): 208 & 356 (4 wickets)

Then came the crowning glory (if one may call it that) came at the end of the century, with a whitewash in Australia, where India lost by margins of 285 runs, 180 runs and an innings and 141 runs. I remember how little we believed in the prospects of our team when we set foot abroad. In fact, we took it for granted, whenever India went abroad, that our team would be hammered out of sight. And yet, when you look at those scores, you would hardly imagine that the batting line up in most of those test matches boasted of Tendulkar, Azharuddin, Ganguly and Dravid.

And as if like light to dark, India lost not a series at home between 1987 and 2000- almost the same period when she won not a test match abroad against a quality opposition. Throughout the 90s, India spun opposition after opposition to defeat (including the all-conquering Australians) at home, almost all of them on sub-standard dust bowls where our spinners thrived and pitches which would usually be lifeless in the first half, on which our batsmen could outscore any opposition. India was unbeatable at home: not even Steve Waugh could breach the final frontier. But the scenario changed completely the moment our team set foot abroad. The batsmen's techniques were invariably exposed and the unhelpful conditions rendered our spinners impotent.

And so between our first test in 1932 to the turn of the century, India won just 13 test matches abroad in 68 years. Amazingly, we have won 16 test matches abroad between 2000 and now- 16 games in 7 years. Admittedly, 7 of them were in Bangladesh or Zimbabwe, but remove those victories, there still remain 9 victories against quality oppositions. A victory overseas has become so common today, that it arouses but little excitement. I remember the anger in India some months earlier, when we lost 1-2 to South Africa. Consider this: we won a test match there and that series went down to the final session. Contrast that with the hammerings 10 winters earlier, it seems like a vastly improved performance. And yet, fans were angry at India's defeat. That, if nothing else, shows how far Indian cricket has progressed.

And much of the credit for that should go to one man: Saurav Ganguly. That tough-as-nails man became the one-day captain immediately after a hammering down-under and India's first test-series defeat at home in 1999-00 (not surprisingly, on pitches that gave both sides equal opportunities). He became the test captain a few months later, just weeks after the match-fixing scandal broke out. At a time when morale was rock-bottom and public credibility was tottering, he led India to the finals of the Champions Trophy, beating Australia and South Africa in the process. Then came his greatest achievement: a 2-1 victory at home against Steve Waugh's Australia with a second-string attack. Greater achievements have followed, but that back-from-the-dead triumph against Australia must surely rank as Ganguly's greatest achievement.

And today, India is expected to win every series we play. It was Ganguly who made us believe that we could win abroad, that we could compete with anyone anywhere. The results are there for everyone to see. True, Indian cricket still has a long way to go, but it has started on the journey to greatness. Perhaps all that might have never happened but for one man: Saurav Ganguly. But that's another topic which we'll come to sometime in the future.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

India Today (2007)

Just the other day, I was sitting in Cafe Coffee Day with a friend of mine. While discussing about our respective future plans, she was talking about going to the U.S.A. Asked why she wanted to go, she replied that it was largely at the prodding of her brother and had no specific reason for wanting to go there. In fact, she told me, she would prefer remaining in India. In many ways, this friend of mine (who's 6 years younger than me by the way) symbolises the new India.

Let me take you back to the late 90s/ turn of century when I was in college. I still remember the obsession for going to the U.S.A for an MS in those days (which to a great extent still persists, I may add), I still remember the number of students, especially engineering students, carrying a GRE or a TOEFL book in their hands all the time. Going to the U.S.A was be all and end all in those days. You only had to hear college students of my generation to catch that mood. Most people seemed to believe that just going abroad (read: crossing the Atlantic) would be the solution to all problems. And you could bet your bottom dollar that those very people would have criticised India at the first available opportunity.

So what has changed between then and now? Is it premature to talk about a new India?

Going back to the conversation with my friend, she was telling me that a lot of old timers fear that the sudden growth in India is not sustainable and in a few years we might be back to square one. I could not help replying that we are now firmly on the path to progress; the developments around us: the shopping malls, multiplexes, 15-20 storey buildings, state-of-the-art offices, massive pay-packets, etc are here to stay. Having held ourselves back for half century under a myraid of draconian laws, we have suddenly broken all shackles and realised what we are truly capable of achieving. But amidst that optimism, let's not overlook the problems that still persist.

My work involves a great deal of travelling; I have been to several cities across India over the last year or so. I have myself seen a village in M.P where there is not even a proper school- its open air, there's no electricity and there isn't even the pretence of a proper road. I've heard of villages in M.P where poverty is so rife that fathers and brothers themselves pimp girls for a living. I have seen incredibly backward places in Bihar where you can see how badly people are crushed by poverty and by the heartless class system that degrades men to abysmal depths. I'm told that the poverty in those parts is so overwhelming, that people kill for a few hundred rupees. I have read that there are 44,000 villages or so in U.P without power, where healthcare facilities are non-existent and mortality rates are comparable to sub-Saharan Africa. And so, I have also seen how bad things are out there.

And yet, I remain optimistic. Why, you might wonder, after seeing all that.

Let me take you still further back to my childhood, back in the late 80s, to the days when there were just 2 T.V channels. I can still remember the excitement of a 7-year old, when Doordarshan started afternoon transmission in `88, the excitement of watching Chitrahar on Wednesdays and Chayageet on Thursdays. Sundays mornings were ours (we kids that is): after Mahabharat, you would have cartoons right upto the afternoon. Had you gone out in those days, you would have seen only Fiats or Ambassadors on the road with the odd Contessa or Standard-2000 and yes, the Maruti-800 was state-of-the-art. Any shop that had an air-conditioner was a supermarket. Watching the latest movies on pirated video tapes was the ultimate in entertainment. Anyone who had a telephone connection was considered well-off.

Then there was 1991. Suddenly, everything started changing. You suddenly had something called cable T.V; there suddenly burst forth a plethora of T.V channels. Suddenly, you had multinationals from all the developed countries queing up to do business in India.You had new brands of automobiles like Opel, Ford, Peugeot, etc which one only heard or dreamt about formerly. Everyone came to have a telephone line and you suddenly had something called a mobile phone turning up in the mid 90s. Having a mobile phone now became the new status symbol. Today, barely a generation later, a mobile phone has become incredibly commonplace. Technology has changed dramatically, economic models have undergone a dramatic transformation. With all these, even mindsets have changed.

I have a colleague called Reena. She's 24 now and expecting to qualify as a Chartered Accountant in another year or two. She once told me that she's one of the few graduates in the family and the only person in her family to have gone beyond graduation. There may be nothing extraordinary in all this and yet, it symbolises how India is changing. The heartening fact is that her family is encouraging her to study further; one generation ago, they might have been pressurising her to get married. That one fact speaks volumes as to how mindsets are changing. And that is not the only thing that's begun to change. Even the demographics of urban India are rapidly changing.

Let me tell you about another colleague of mine called Vivek. He's a native of coastal Maharashtra, hailing from a family of agriculturists. Vivek is the first member of his family to complete graduation- not just in education, but also the graduation from blue-collar worker to white-collar worker. People like Reena and he are what I'd call the first-generation middle class- they belong to the new middle class that has emerged post liberalisation. The last decade and a half has seen thousands like them rise from poverty or near poverty and enter the middle class. These are people who were workers or farmers barely a generation back and still retain connections with their roots.

To me, the new middle class is the future of this country. Their numbers are growing year after year. The middle class forms about a third of India's population today and that percentage will keep growing. Market demand, political voting patterns, education, everything will be decided by the middle class in another generation or two. When I see young people from smaller cities, like the contestants of Indian Idol rubbing shoulders with their counterparts from the bigger metros, I feel that the future of the country is in safe hands. The old middle class from the major cities have played out their historical role. Its the new middle class from the smaller cities who will take India forward.

True, problems are still plentiful and in many ways, India still remains a backward and third-world nation. And yet, there's boundless talent and more importantly, a belief among the people. Its this belief in a glorious future, this new-found energy, this enthusiasm that makes me optimistic that India has finally arrived and begun to attain its rightful place in the world.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Indian Cinema Today

I was recently watching a movie called "Bheja Fry". Seeing the movie, I couldn't help reflecting that a movie like that would never have been made even a generation ago. What a contrast movies today are, as compared those in the 90s when I grew up!

To drive home the point, let me come back to the movie I was referring to. Bheja Fry was admittedly a remake of a French movie called "Le Diner de Cons" but looking at the starcast and the format, you know right at the outset that its the kind of movie that would never have been made in the pre-multiplex age. Not a single member of the acting cast has even the slightest pretence to being a "Star". Even more interestingly, there was not a single song in the movie- an unthinkable proposition barely a decade ago. Back in the 90s, the age of "formula cinema" was not yet over.

You knew almost every twist and turn of almost every movie back then: corrupt politicians, corrupt policemen, an idealistic hero whose passion transcended the realms of reason, a showpiece heroine who would suddenly appear whenever the director felt the need to insert a song... it was all the same. One of the enduring legacies of Indian cinema is music. The first ever Indian talkie "Alam Ara" is said to have contained several songs. In fact, talkies back then are said to have had 60 songs on an average, with Indrasabha setting a record with 71 songs!

For the better or the worse, those early, pre-independence movies set the template for film making. All the changes notwithstanding, songs remained an integral part of movies right from the age of Mahatma Gandhi down to Nehru through Indira Gandhi and her successors and down to our own day. Another unfortunate corollary is that the songs frequently overshadow the movie and assume an importance of their own. So much so, that filmmakers concentrated (many of them still do) more on the music than the movie itself.

And yet, Indian cinema has undergone nothing less than a revolution over the last few years. Take the comparison between Chak De (2007) and Lagaan (2001). Lagaan was itself an extraordinary movie in its time and yet, some of the themes in that movie look archaic today: a villain, a jealous rival in love and a few songs, almost all of which had little relevance to the scrips. Move 6 years ahead to Chak De (and anyone who's lived in urban India in these 6 years would know what dramatic changes have occured in that time): no villiain, no meaningless songs, no romantic angle... just a simple story of a coach who guides a talented side to an unprecedented victory.

Lagaan in all probability catered to the requirements of its time: the demands of the average theatre going viewer in that age when going to a theatre was dying out, long long before the advant of multiplexes. The arrival of the multiplex has transformed the face of Indian cinema. Unlike the big budget, multi starrer dramas of the 90s or early 2000s which demanded a share of the role for each star, a simple script, running on a limited (sometimes shoestring) budget, without recognised faces is perfectly acceptable in this day and age. The reason? You have more intellectual, upwardly mobile audiences for such movies- all thanks to the multiplexes.

While sequels and remakes proliferate, we have also had movies like Rang de Basanti, Lage Raho Munnabhai, Chak De, Manorama- Six Feet Under, Bheja Fry, Dor, etc. within the last 24 months. Of this lot, the first three were not only critically acclaimed, all of them were massive hits. For those who claim that critical acclaim does not necessarily make for good business, this one fact should by itself adequately answer any such doubts.

Recently, I read an interview of Javed Akhtar- the very Javed of Salim-Javed who scripted bollywood classics like Sholay, Deewar and Don, in which Javed Saahab said that he once presented a script before a producer, who lauded him on the idea but refused to touch it. The reason? Such a story had never been told in the history of Indian cinema until then! That very Javed Akhtar's son was able to show one of his protagonists falling in love with a woman 15 years older than him in his very first movie- something no director in the 90s could have even dreamt of showing.

That simple difference between the father-son generation gap brings out how far Indian cinema has matured since Amitabh Bachchan's heyday. True, Indian cinema still has a long way to go, but that long journey has finally begun. Just as India is finally beginning to mature after a childhood of over 50 years, so is Indian cinema. Its not an adult yet, but its reached its adolesence. It remains to be seen how soon it makes the transition from adolesence to maturity.