Sunday, April 03, 2011

Why I wouldn’t stop supporting the Pakistan cricket team...

Because I’m not a fair-weather fan...

Because the joy of victory is not as sweet, when the defeat doesn’t kill a part of me every single time...

Because the euphoria that rushes through my veins when Wahab’s searing yorker rearranges Yuvraj’s stumps isn’t as manic, when the pain that impales my soul every time Misbah dead-bats a ball isn’t so unrelenting...

But there’s also reason to support the Pakistan team beyond this search for exaggerated euphoria.

After Pakistan’s exit from the world cup in arguably dubious circumstances, the clichéd question “why do we even follow Pakistan cricket” has reared its head once again. I am inclined to agree that the pain probably isn’t worth it; especially when the occasions on which we are disappointed have been a lot more frequent of late; but that doesn’t mean that I will – or for that matter I can – stop supporting the men in green.

I cannot…

Because every time someone dons Pakistan green and descends into a playing ground, he or she – to me – represents Pakistan. It stops to matter if the contest is a lost cause, it stops to figure if the odds are heavily stacked against us, it even stops to be of consequence that the players in green may want to lose themselves… When there’s a bunch of guys in the field wearing shirts bearing “Pakistan”, you’ll find me cheering on that team with all my heart.

It doesn’t matter if our team has spot-fixers, match-throwers and injury-fakers because when they are on the playing field… they are Pakistan; and mind you, they are like the rest of us Pakistanis – sometimes passionate, at other times disloyal… sometimes brilliant, at other times an epitome of stupidity… sometimes inspirational, at other times a cacophony of disarray… Like our flawed cricket team, our country also has its fair share of vices with its perennially flawed leadership, its hopelessly corrupt bureaucrats, its blood-sucking corporations, its mugs, its thieves, its shady police, its dubious army and what not. When this doesn’t stop me from loving Pakistan… from supporting it and from praying for its success; why should the blemishes of our cricket team deter me from according it the same kind of loyalty.

I wouldn’t stop supporting the Pakistan cricket team because when I see people fighting over ethnicities, geographies, languages, political alliances and idols, cricket is the only thing that brings all of us together for the support of the men in green in unison (even if it only lasts as long as the team performs well). And I wouldn't stop supporting the Pakistan cricket team because when nothing gives us even the slightest of hopes; the reverie that our team may win the world cup put me and my compatriots on cloud nine.

Go Pakistan!!!

P.S.: For those of us who think that the team performed as well as it could have and all is hunky dory, the article may seem pointless, but this is for those who have YET AGAIN made a resolution to never watch a Pakistan cricket match ever in their lives.

P.P.S.: I know that the ball that Wahab Riaz bowled to Yuvraj Singh wasn’t exactly a yorker, but who cares…

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

It's just a game.... or is it ???

"What's the score?" inquired an Indian colleague at the office from across the desk.

"Hundred and eighty something for three in thirty overs," I replied, hanging up the telephone that was the source of the information. It was during the last one-day match between India and Pakistan at Delhi in April '05.

Realizing that the Pakistan score was a bit too good, he said," you know what, India must win this match."

"Why?" I asked; a little baffled by the comment.

"Pakistan has already won three," he responded, "now India must square it up with a win so that the extremist Hindus don't get mad and start taking it out on Indian Muslims just because Pakistan won an insignificant cricket match".

"It isn't INSIGNIFICANT, it's an indo-pak match," I thought for a moment. But then, he was right. The significance of the match was nothing compared to even a single human life. Riots had broken out earlier on the outcome of matches and it could happen again.

Pakistan and India might have fought a brace of wars on the battlefield but the scores of battles they fight on cricket pitches every once in a while are thought to be equally important, if not more, by some zealots.

For once, I wanted Pakistan to lose the match but I thank God it didn't happen because even though the Pakistan team obliterated the Indian juggernauts, the fans weren't furious, or at least they didn't vent it out on the Indian Muslims.

Indian team's tour to Pakistan in 2004 was also surrounded by similar speculations. Some critics considered the timing of the series to be the worst possible because the India-Pakistan peace (friendship) process was at a budding stage at that time and they saw the series as a possible threat to the process. But kudos to the Pakistani fans who proved excellent hosts to the Indians and accepted the defeat with honour. 

Even though Pakistan's young burgeoning side was beaten by a much senior and much stronger Indian lineup and the defeat was predictable but most Pakistani cricket fanatics, including myself, were still suspecting Pakistan's loss in the one-day series as a souvenir to the guests from President Pervez Musharraf. And when we heard that the '05 series in India had an even number of matches instead of odd, we were sure that the top officials on both sides of the border had agreed on a drawn series to make sure that the peace process is not hindered by something which, at times, Pakistanis and Indians deem above Kashmir --- cricket.

So much for cricket being just a game.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Introducing... Masculinism

The flip side of Gender Discrimination

It was around 2200 hrs on September 22nd, when I disembarked at the King Fahd International Airport in Saudi Arabia only to realize that the following day was the sole holiday in the kingdom and that majority of the airport staff had decided to make the most of the rare long-weekend and were on leave. There were only three immigration officers to cater to some 500 passengers and the consequence was three awfully long queues. As if this was not enough, one senior official suddenly realized that he had a moral duty to serve the females and the families first. They were asked to the front of the queues and the poor men were left stranded at the back of the queues for a good part of two hours.

It’s not that I was entirely against this official’s decision (at least not until the third flight had landed) but this was in a country which is deemed by most as the most misogynistic place on Earth; a place where gender discrimination is ubiquitous. This was yet another classic case of gender discrimination but this time it was the males who were on the receiving end. This reminded me of other incidences of discrimination against men. For instance, at most big shopping malls across the kingdom, weekends are a families-only affair and according to the generally accepted definition, only a male who’s not accompanied by a female is not family while a lone female (spinster or otherwise) is a family all by herself. I call this “misoandry” which, I believe, is at least as prevalent in the society as misogyny.

In my humble opinion, misogyny is a very misleading term to start with. Ever since the times of Abel and Cain, women have been objects of fascination, desire and love for men. It’s always been the men who have had to face the brunt of hatred and I have always been of the view that a lot needs to be done in countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to address this discrimination against males.

Okay, Saudi Arabia does have its fair share of instances where females are discriminated against but when you think of Pakistan, or at least the urban parts of Pakistan, there’s nothing that a woman in her right state of mind would want to do that she cannot do while in Pakistan. Women have as much rights as men and in addition to all these “equal” rights, they have their very own “for-females-only” rights as we’ll discuss further.

To start off, let’s consider a very “everyday” example. I, and most of my male compatriots, readily yield their seats on public transport as soon as they see a female passenger standing up. I’m sure Rosa Parks would have strongly objected to this practice of discrimination but we term this as ethics. It is not compulsory; and men are not forced to be gentlemen but if someone decides otherwise, it’s never taken well by the bystanders (or the bysitters) and there are always a few raised eyebrows as if the women have a right to each and every seat on the public transport system in Pakistan.

Now consider education, another famous forte of the feminists. Feminists have always argued that women don’t have an equal access to higher education. Many universities in Pakistan, especially the government universities, have a special quota for female students in addition to the merit based seats. There are a handful of other categories also, each having its own criterion, but none based on gender except the female quota. All other categories/quotas provide an “equal” opportunity to the males and the females but on top of this, we have our very own female-only category giving the females effectively better chances of getting admitted to the university.

And when these females get into the universities - albeit in a smaller number than what the mathematical probability suggests - they have a relatively easier path to the degree as compared to their male counterparts. During my four years at the university, I never saw a girl flunk in a viva voce unless and until she herself was hell-bent on it. While the guys were judged on how much they knew about the electromagnetic theory, the ladies were judged on how well they had made themselves up.

And when these women have breezed their way through the university and are looking for a job, you’ll always find them nagging about job opportunities for females being scarcer as compared to those for males; completely disregarding the notion that it’s the extra “fringe benefits” women want that deter most employers from employing them. Jobs generally have certain requirements; some may require the employee to commute a lot while others may demand working in late shifts. Whenever a woman goes in for a job interview, she neither wants to work in late shifts nor does she want a job where she has to commute a lot and when she doesn’t get that job, she says that the employer was biased.

And if an employer errs by hiring a woman for such a job, it becomes his “duty” to provide for her special needs. Remember the uproar in India a couple of years ago when a call center worker in Bangalore was abducted on her way back home late in the night. Following the incident, each and very NGO in the country had taken to the streets asking for “better” transport and “extra” protection for female employees working late shifts. And these were the same NGOs who spend rest of their year rallying around for “equal” rights for women. So much for equality.

Bluntly speaking, female employees are a tad more of a pain in the neck as compared to male employees. They need better transport, more protection, maternity leaves, no late shifts etc. etc. Why would an employer want to employ a female and go through all this fuss of arranging special “services” for her when he can get a male employee of similar caliber willing to work on similar wages without demanding any special treatment?

On the other hand, there actually are a certain jobs where women are preferred over men just because of their gender (read sex) appeal. Jobs like customer care, front desk personnel, secretaries et al. I’m not here to question the morality of the people who employ female secretaries just because they are female; but the fact goes without saying that female secretaries are a lot more in demand. Now, when these women ARE given preference over men, it’s again a crime against the women community. The employer is readily labeled as a “pervert” and the poor female soul stands as the victim (… by the way, one’s just got to go into an interview room to see the “charm offensive” some of these ladies launch). Some people just want to be more equal than others.

Also, you see a lot more nurses (and I don’t feel the need to prefix it with female) as compared to male nurses. Though this is a job – unlike most other jobs - that is better suited for women because of a few traits they are born with à la tenderness, kindness, softness etc., the concepts of gender equality dictate that there should be roughly as many male nurses as female nurses. Even though this is not the case, I am yet to see a rally organized by male nurses against this act of gross discrimination.

Feminists have been grumbling since forever and a day about how women have never had equal rights and how they have never been provided with enough opportunities. I believe it’s time somebody thought about men and the way they are discriminated against. Forget feminism, say hello to masculinism.

Disclaimer: The piece does not entirely reflect the opinions of the author. It is an attempt to highlight the other side of the story, whilst trying to make a point that arguments are needed to be looked at in a context.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

A Free Being...

I looked on as the blurred images sharpened and started to make sense. Lying beside me was a lady I couldn’t recognize but somehow could relate with. It was my mother who had just given birth to me. I don’t remember why but I was crying when I should have been smiling because one of my first perceptions was a sense of freedom. I was a free being, born in a free world of free people where one could do whatever one wanted.

As a toddler, I was even “allowed” to do whatever I wanted but I couldn’t. Nature restricted me; my physical abilities hampered me. At times, I didn’t have the power to do what I wanted and at other times, the resources. I had to cry when I wanted something. I didn’t like it but I had to. The same cry for everything I needed; at times my caretakers catered to my needs but at other times they failed to decipher my cries. I wanted to run but I couldn’t… I could only sit. I wanted to play but I didn’t know how to… I could only lie down and see people around me seemingly doing what they wanted. I wanted to grow up because I thought that my physical limitations were the only thing that came between me and my aspirations.

I grew up. I could now run. I could now play but then I realized that I was captivated within doors; doors with knobs so high I couldn’t reach them. I wanted to reach those doorknobs and see what was beyond them. Finally the day came, when I could open the doors and go outside but outside I found other, bigger doors; doors to which I never had the keys so I had to curb my desires. I could only go outside when an elder accompanied. I liked it that way too but I wanted more space. I wanted to go out whenever “I” wanted to and not when somebody else decided.

Then one fine day, my mom took my hand and confronted me with an edifice which everyone was referring to as a school. I was supposed to go alone to that place afterwards. That sounded so much fun. I liked the feeling of being let out alone but there were newer restrictions. I was bound by rules and regulations. At school too, I had to stay indoors most of the time and the little time I got to set my wings free was too short to suffice my appetite for freedom; but I conceded.

Life moved on. I could now move in and out of the big metal door – even alone. I started to feel like a free man but I couldn’t go as far as I wanted to and even when I did, I had to return on scheduled times. I had to do my homework which I hated and I had to go to school which I had started to hate because I no more needed it as an excuse to go out. Time kept flying. I was a young man now. The school wasn’t that much of a fuss anymore and the homework, in its essence, had reduced. I was a high school student. I had almost started to enjoy life but then I was told I couldn’t. I had to study. I had to fare well in the exams because that was the only way I would get admitted to a reputed college and if I were unable to get into a good college, I would never be able to make it big in this world. I succumbed. I could hang out with my friends but I had to be back home for my lessons. I loved to play in the streets but my study-room was always staring at me through its stained-glass windows. I slew my desires and devoted myself to studying because I wanted to make it big. I wanted to be a success story because I was told that it was the sole route to "freedom".

I persevered. I got into the best college in town. But before I had even breathed a sigh of relief, I was told that the high school was just a stepping stone; it is one’s academic achievements during the “all-important” years at college which determine one’s fate. I listened. I agreed. I was told I had to abstain from all the charms and allures of this ‘delicate’ phase of life that could make me go stray from the “right” path. I had a crush on that girl next door but I realized that I couldn’t do anything about it because I had more important things to deal with in life. I tolerated, because I had a belief in all those people who had assured me that I could do whatever I wanted to once I had achieved my goals, "my" goals which weren’t even set by me.

The college days went like a breeze but a breeze I could never relish. I was sent off to a far off university because if I had to have a decent career, I had to be educated from the best place in the country. Whatever happened to all my achievements at the high school and college, I never got to know. I stayed away from home but adhered to the principles I was entrusted with. I wanted to live my own life and I wanted to make my own decisions but I had to make sure that whatever I did, I had to bear in mind that I was not a single entity, I was part of a system; a system that was my family, my relatives, my society… I complied. I got the news that the girl I loved was married off to someone else because she couldn’t wait. She couldn’t wait because she herself was part of a system with rules she had to comply with. It hurt but I took it in.

I came back from the university with ambitions but ambitions which would die sitting in my mind just because they seemed too radical to people around me. I couldn’t do what I wanted to because the career I had chosen for myself had too many risks associated with it. I wanted to do something that would satisfy my appetite for creativity but I was forced to work in an environment where I felt suffocated and claustrophobic. I obeyed. I joined a 9 to 5 job which was never 9 to 5. Life wasn’t great but for once, it had started to settle down.

The work life had only just started to sink in when people around me started telling me that it was time I got married. I didn’t want to, because I still had a lot to do in life but I had to heed to my elders’ advice because they were always right. They wanted me to marry my uncle’s daughter. I gave in. I agreed. I got married.

I moved out. For once, I felt that I had broken away from the system. A system which I loved but one that never gave me the breathing space I’d always craved for. I had started enjoying my new “discrete” life. I had two kids. The kids infused a pleasant freshness into my  dull life. A freshness I hadn’t felt since I was a kid myself. I wanted to be with my kids but my job required me to work late and at times I had to stay out of town for weeks at stretch. I was too indulged in providing for my family that I failed to realize that my kids had already grown up. Life had whizzed past too quickly. My daughter got married and left us for good. My son went abroad for higher studies and decided that it was there that he wanted to stay for the rest of his life. My wife and I were alone again. I was still working but the long working hours had started to take their toll on an old man’s health. I developed a disease which left me bedridden. It kept getting worse. I was admitted to the hospital. The doctor told my wife that I wasn’t going to make it. I was dying. 

One day, the doctor came to me and asked if I’d like to get a life-ending substance injected into my body to relieve me of my pains or I’d like to suffer from these excruciating pains until I died naturally....

I could only smile as I thought to myself:

At last, I was ‘free’ to make a choice of my own.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Doesn't matter if it rocks or not...

The advent of rock music in Pakistan

Ever wondered why rock music has suddenly become the indispensable genre of Pakistani music scene even though it doesn’t actually “rock” much; so much so that every music act these days has to be a rock act. Of the scores of aspiring singers and musicians that have, in the last couple of years, popped up and burst like bubbles in a fizzy drink, only those who have held on to the holy grail of rock music have managed to survive. For others it’s simply been: Enter stage left, Exit stage right.

A large part of the credit for this must be given to a few class-obsessed “divine” beings who had to resort to something unique after western music had become increasingly common among the bourgeoisie. This crème de la crème of the society had to listen to something that pappu, maaja and feeka living in chak 36 don’t even think of listening to. And a few years ago, Pakistani rock music presented them with just what the doctor had ordered.

Until the mid 90s, these so called élites had successfully clung on to western music to maintain their individuality (read superiority) but during that time the western music had started to make its way down the strata into the masses. Though they had to look inside the covers of the cassettes to understand what the singer was whining (or shouting) about, the middle-class youngsters had started to develop a taste for the western music and it had already created its niche among the “ordinary Pakistanis”.

During the same period, the local music scene was all but doomed. A general lack of interest in music (making not listening) coupled with some government-imposed restrictions on what can and what cannot be allowed on the electronic media saw the worst years of Pakistani pop music. Except for the two music powerhouses, Junoon and Vital signs, and some good songs which were few and far between, the rest of the stuff being done by Pakistani musicians was downright pathetic.

The “enlightened” bunch had already given up on the local music and a few rich kids (who could afford to expend their time and money on something that never looked like a career prospect or even a part-time money spinner) had formed their own “underground” bands. Most, if not all, of these wannabes had been brought up on a feed of western rock music and you couldn’t have expected someone who had grown up listening to Metallica or Guns n’ Roses to pen a typical Pakistani love ballad. Result: the birth of “Pakistani underground rock”. Most of these musicians never made it to the mainstream because frankly, at that time not many people wanted to listen to them. Even though western rock had already become a routine with the listeners, the idea of heavy guitaring and noisy drumming with Urdu lyrics just didn’t seem to add up.

Another few years of stagnancy in the Pakistani pop music industry and then enters “Battle of the Bands” a.k.a. BoB, Pakistani version of Pop Idol.

The raison d’être: an effort by Pepsi to find the next big thing in Pakistan music after the split of Vital Signs (Junoon had already been signed by rivals Coca Cola and Awaz hadn't turned out to be "the one").

The prize: an album sponsored by Pepsi (… the most coveted prize for any aspiring musician in Pakistan)

The participants: the underground ‘rock’ bands

BoB was a dream platform for all these aspirants to launch their music careers from. eP already had a single out in the market as the soundtrack of the sitcom “Jutt & Bond” but nobody had heard of bands like Aaroh or Call except those who frequented the so-called “underground” gigs. It was the first time the general public had experienced the phenomenon that was Pakistani rock. BoB was a huge success but the novel music genre was not instantly welcomed by the public. The middle class listeners who had by then somehow acquainted themselves with listening to someone torturing a guitar with an accomplice screaming in the background couldn’t fathom the idea of this being done in Urdu, the sweet language of ghazals and ballads. “Urdu rock” was bizarre and a tad outlandish and it didn’t immediately appeal to the masses. The very fact that it didn’t appeal to the man in the street made it all the more attractive to the uber-élite who had been desperately looking for something to stay ahead of others after western music had lost its repute as the up-market thing.

Rock music became the order of the day. It was cool and hip to listen to these latest music sensations. It was like making a statement that you really knew what good music was and you weren’t one to follow the herd (by listening to all those oh-so-Pakistani singers). The beau monde led the way and the commoners jumped on the bandwagon and our very own desi rock music was propelled into the mainstream like nothing before.

The whole effect was compounded by burgeoning of private music channels which gave the impression that everybody who is anybody can be a singer. You just need to have enough moolah to produce a song and shoot a decent (or preferably ‘indecent’ video) and voila... you’re a ‘rockstar’. Every teenager living in DHA puffed the dust off his guitar and set out on a quest to become the Led Zeppelin of Pakistan. And when you have so many people trying to do something, at least a few of them will get it right and a few did get it right and have come up with some great numbers.

Rock music still remains volatile in it’s rapport with the public. In this short span of almost half a decade (since the rock revolution begun), we’ve already seen the dramatic rise and an almost equally dramatic fall of novas like Noori and eP. Noori and eP might have failed to hold on to the acme for very long but the likes of Jal and Call have kept the rock revolution alive. The torchbearers might have changed but rock music still remains the order of the day.

I’d like to add that Pakistani rock music is certainly not as bad as I might have made it sound here. When you pit it against other music genres on equal grounds, Pakistani rock is well above par. One of the reasons being that rock music is one of the few media-related things from the west that en route to Pakistan have not had a stopover in India. This has saved it, unlike other music genres popular in Pakistan, from getting an indianized feel or an Indian tinge to it before we add our very own Pakistani spices to make it suit our taste buds.

I like Rock music.

Or maybe I’m suffering from the same malady, the phobia of becoming another face in the crowd.

P.S.: this article was conceived (and mostly written) in 2004 when rock music had just “started” to make waves. That might explain why it seems a "little" ;) outdated. Even though I have tried to update it to make it sound fresher, it sure doesn’t look like it’s straight from the stalk.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Pakistan Cricket - Brawns without Brains

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to another thrilling encounter between Pakistan and archrivals India. Pakistan has been playing some exceptional cricket of late and are the out-and-out favourites to win this vital clash. Their ace quickie has been bowling exceptionally well and has single-handedly taken Pakistan to victory in many a recent match.
The lightening fast bowler is the biggest threat to India and they must be hoping to see him off without losing too many wickets and here he comes, steaming in from the pavilion end and …… he’s been dispatched for a boundary on his very first ball.

(Halfway through the match)

The Indian team is well and truly on top at the moment. The Pakistani spearhead hasn’t been able to live up to the expectations today. He has gone for plenty and is still wicketless but Pakistan “seems” to have no other choice but to persist with him.

This is a typical Pakistan match, when the captain and the coach devise a fail-safe strategy before the match and as long as things go as premeditated, Pakistan can never lose the match. This strategy though is the only thing that the captain takes with him onto the playing field. Normally the strategy is quite impeccable and provided things go as planned, you can put all your money on Pakistan. But the problem arises when the stars decide to take a different path. So fifteen overs into the match, the captain suddenly realizes that nothing is going as designed but then, the captain neither has a ‘plan B’ nor he can think of one there and then. Consequently, in most cases, the captain just sticks to his original plan or desperately makes such irrational changes that the savvy viewer is left spellbound.

We’ve been hearing for ages that what Pakistan needs to match the likes of Australia or South Africa is a good cricket infrastructure but I beg to differ. A better infrastructure is definitely going to help by giving the captain a better set of players to march onto the field but then what. There has to be somebody who knows the art of getting the best out of the players that he has.

Cricket is a profound ‘science’ in itself and it’s not an ordinary man’s job to tackle the subtle twists and turns the game offers. The captain not only has to be an exemplary leader but he has to understand the nitty-gritty of the sport as well (that is of course in addition to being a great cricketer). Lately, Pakistan has failed to find the right man for the job. This is something that has hurt us ever since Imran Khan left the team in ’92. Maybe he set the pole of expectations a bit too high for his followers to surmount.

Wasim Akram is probably the only successor to Imran’s throne who came close but then he was lucky in the regard that he always had a superb group of players at his disposal. The umpteen other captains we’ve had since lifting the world cup have failed to deliver as a leader. The only other person in this epoch who showed some signs of the requisite killer instincts was Aamir Sohail who handled the team exceptionally well in his short stint as captain. One can not forget that match against Sri Lanka in Singapore when chasing a modest 210 runs, Jayasuriya hit the fastest ever half century to post 100 runs on the board in under 10 overs. Pakistan was down and out but Aamir Sohail didn’t lose hope and used his bowlers remarkably well to successfully defend the timid score.

The likes of Waqar Younis and Inzamam-ul-Haq along with a host of others have not been up to the scratch. They have failed to handle crunch situations and have succumbed to pressure time and again. The real test of a captain is to lead his side when the opposition is on top and the players are underperforming and these are the times when most Pakistan captains have failed to deliver.

But it’s not only the captains who are to be blamed for not having enough ‘brains’ to go with their ‘brawns’, the problem starts above them in the hierarchy with the selectors and the administrators.

It seems that the selectors have got the basic idea wrong. The criterion they seem to adopt while picking a player from the domestic level is probably the number of wickets taken or the runs scored by him. At first blush, this idea doesn’t seem absurd at all because it’s the runs and the wickets that count at the end of the day but it’s not always the best player who makes the most runs or bags the most wickets. Also, if one is to choose a player based only on statistics and numbers, why do we need selectors at all. The selectors are supposed to be ultra-cricket-savvy-souls who can judge, or sense, the ability of a player rather than his performance. They are supposed to judge a player based on his technique rather than the medals he has garnered.

Even after the selectors have made their selections based on whatever criteria they use, they don’t back them up. They give most players a run of only two or three matches which is never enough. One might ask the dear selectors that if you’ve selected someone and if you’ve deemed him suitable enough to play at the summit level, you must put some faith in him and must give him a reasonably long run to allow him to prove his mettle without bearing the fear that one or two bad performances can mean an end to his international career. He must be given ample time before the selectors admit that they’ve made a mistake in judging him and he was better off playing at a lower level.

I remember seeing Rahul Dravid and Marvan Atapattu in their early days. Neither of them could make it to double figures in their first few matches but their selectors had faith in them and today, they are two of the most dependable batsmen with the best of techniques. Had Atapattu been a Pakistani, I presume he’d have had only 3 or 4 international matches to his credit.

So, it seems that what Pakistani cricket needs the most is a few cricketing brains; people with profound cricketing acumen who can add the ‘brains’ to the profuse raw talent that the Pakistan team is brimming with. Hope we get some soon.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Sohni Mahiwal come back home...

A Bollywood film is to be screened in Pakistan for the first time in 40 years. The distributor of "Sohni Mahiwal" – a film based on the Punjabi folklore – has been successful in persuading the authorities to make an exception to the rule. The film’s distributor is said to have imported the film to Pakistan in 1989 and has been involved in a legal battle to allow its screening since then. But bearing in mind that the film was made in 1984 – more than two decades ago – one fails to see how the distributor can luck out with the rare opportunity he has been provided with.

The government hasn’t made any suggestions that it’s considering the lifting of the decades old ban. The film has been ruled as an exception because the story’s origin happens to be from Pakistan.

The screening of Indian films in Pakistan has been the topic of several heated debates among the film circles for a few years now with both the "for" and "against" camps boasting some of the biggest names of Pakistani media... but what’s all the fuss about.

I, for one, have still not been able to decide whether or not I want the Indian movies to be screened in Pakistan but I think I am a bit inclined towards allowing the screening.

Let’s analyze the scenario. There are some valid arguments which go against the screening of Bollywood movies. One being that such a move will wipe out whatever is left of the Pakistani film industry. As far as my personal opinion goes, I believe whatever is left of the so-called ‘Lollywood’ would be much better off obliterated. Except for a very few films, which can be classified as just “acceptable”, the movies being produced in Pakistan are simply terrible and seriously question the level of creativity and aesthetics thriving amongst the people of Pakistan. The cinema industry is as good as dead already so the demise of the cinema industry is out of question. In fact, allowing Indian movies will not only revive the cinemas but can also help revitalize Lollywood.

With the cinema industry revived and the populace back in the balconies, Pakistani producers can finally muster up the courage to pump in more money in their own film industry and come up with better projects. Because if you see some of the tele-films that are being produced in Pakistan these days, they can seriously go head to head with some of the best produces of the Indian cinema, provided that one’s not too big a fan of the glamour element. There are hosts of young talented people who’ve taken the Pakistani television scene by storm but most of these will never even try to get into the movie biz because of the fact that it isn’t as lucrative, and on top of that, it’s not even a respectable industry to be associated with. The people associated with the television industry have been able to earn some respect for themselves with the good work that they’ve come out with but films still remain sort of a taboo. Cinema has lost its place among the lives of people. It has become so ‘out-of-place’ that there are a lot of teenagers and youngsters in Pakistan who’ve never even been to a cinema. A revitalized and rejuvenated cinema industry can encourage these youngsters to consider the film industry as a serious industry and with the influx of talent; the industry is all set to boom.

Another ‘very’ valid argument we generally encounter is the fact that most of the Indian films produced these days do not, by far, conform to the Pakistani cultural and traditional values. But a simple solution to that might be the screening of a selected movies (albeit I believe that only one out of 20 films made in India these days can get a nod from a morally correct censor board).

So, can we expect to see Shah Rukh Khan in Gulistan cinema soon?