Friday, June 18, 2010

"Being sensible isn't always the best thing..."

I was so happy to find this piece on the Guardian site yesterday. An interview with Socrates, another one of those flawed greats Brazil specialises in breeding.
How cool is it to find a retired footballer writing a novel on the forthcoming World Cup, believing that 'everyone falls in love with someone when they come to Brazil' and saying that a sensible, coherent team is not always the best thing.
I hope they make him the coach for next year. Him or Zico!

In keeping with season and demands that I post daily (!) during the World Cup, I thought I will go about listing down my favourite films on football made in India. Now, my knowledge 'on football' and 'India' are both limited but since when have I let that stop me?

Bengali cinema has had some nice films and sequences on football. For example, The Original Heartthrob Uttam Kumar dribbled past a dozen Brits barefoot, fouled the villain and headed in a brilliant goal in Saptapadi (one of the most iconic Bengali films, also starring Suchitra Sen).
In one of her first roles, Jaya Bhaduri played the spunky tomboy in Dhanyi Meye, who engineered a victory in a prestigious football match between feuding families and helped end the animosity.
In another hilarious film - Mohan Baganer Meye (literally, A Girl from Mohan Bagan) - Utpal Dutt went hunting a bride for his son, who supported the same team (Mohan Bagan) as he did. Except that the son was already in love with an East Bengal supporter and the prospective brides from Mohan Bagan were either horrible singers, terrible looking, maniacal giglers or all three. The bride-hunting and the subsequent marriage pretending that the girlfriend was a Mohan Bagan supporter were laugh-out-loud funny but somehow the importance of finding a bride basis her football allegiance is a concept lost outside Bengal.
There was a spiritual sequel - East Bengaler Chheley (A Boy from East Bengal) - as well but that was not as popular as the first film.

Anil Kapoor is the Lionel Messi of Bollywood. In two films, he has had extended dalliances with the Beautiful Game.
Saheb had football as a central premise, where Anil Kapoor was the good-for-nothing-else footballer getting persecuted by the world led by his father (played by the ever-brilliant Utpal Dutt). But in the end, he saved the day - like any self-respecting Hindi film hero - by selling his kidney and funding his sister's wedding. He also got a job from the kidney's recipient, married Amrita Singh and lived happily ever after. In the original Bengali version, Tapas Paul played the title role and did a good job, despite the obvious disconnect between Paul's podginess and his football playing. The Bengali version did not have the cult Bappi Lahiri song ("Yaar bina chen kaha re..") and Bengali cinema is poorer for that.
In a Mashaal sequence, Anil was a goal-keeper who played football with the legendary Pele. No yaar, I am joking. It was Dilip Kumar, as the upright do-gooder, who dribbled past many people and scored a goal with a thundering shot that zipped past Anil who was left sprawling on the ground. This - and many other sequences - helped the duo become friends in the film and eventually a team.

De Dana Da Goal could have been the Bollywood football movie but all reports indicate otherwise. A rag-tag South-Asian team climbing up the league tables in an English (not Premier) League to save their clubhouse with the prize money could have been a rousing, jingoistic film. Add to that a not-so-partiotic-to-begin-with Indian, played by the dishy John Abraham and very-sexy-to-begin-with physiotherapist, played by the dishier Bipasha Basu - you could have had a cracker of a sports film. But some how, the film did not click.

Sikandar - a nice, underrated film set in strife-torn Kashmir - also had football as a backdrop where Parzan Dastoor (having given up counting stars) was shown as a budding footballer, who stumbles upon a pistol. This film did not do too well but I found the whole politicking scenario in Kashmiri very well-depicted. Oh - the football? There was more of it on the posters than the film!

Apart from the reasonably long backdrops, several films have had snatches of football that are more of a novelty value than a plot point.
In a film called Indrajit, Amitabh Bachchan played a retired police inspector who sang songs to his daughter (Neelam) about the importance of physical fitness and even played a quick game of football with her, while singing the aforementioned song. Calcutta, which has a proprietary feeling towards the game, cheered dutifully as Amitabh dribbled & dabbled.
In Golmaal, Pele a.k.a Black Pearl came repeatedly in the course of job interviews to check which candidates were workaholics and which ones were football freaks, given to bunking office to watch matches.

Shit - I can hear people saying - he went and wasted our time with Bollywood? And that too, football in Bollywood? What crap! And that too, he forgot so many!
The sensible thing to do during World Cup season would be to write about Rob Green's flailing arms and Dunga's flaring nostrils. But then, read what Socrates had said.
On the same note, what a beautiful philosophical name for a footballer! David Beckham sounds like a bloody accountant. 
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