Emerging stars of Indian cricket

MS Dhoni‘s departure from Tests signalled the end of an era in Indian cricket. The baton has now been passed on to a new, promising breed of talented cricketers. Virat Kohli will soon be leading Team India in the Test series against Sri Lanka. Much of the side remains the same that toured Bangladesh, except for the inclusion of Amit Mishra. The leg spinner has replaced Karn Sharma, marking his return to the Indian Test side after a 4­-year hiatus. Meanwhile in Chennai, another young Indian side in India ‘A’ has been putting up an impressive show against the touring Aussies. Let’s take a look at the young Indian brigade!

1. KL Rahul

Rated as one of the best opening batsmen of India’s Gen Next, KL Rahul has risen through the ranks in the Karnataka Ranji team. Rahul’s consistency earned him plenty of praise from critics, including that of Rahul Dravid ­ his idol. He was subsequently awarded a contract in the 2014 Indian T20 League by the Sunrisers Hyderabad. A fruitful 2014­-15 domestic season with the bat granted him an official place in the Test side that toured Australia that year.

Strength: Technique and application.

2. Karun Nair

Another batsman from Karnataka’s domestic circuit, 24-­year­ old Karun Nair had a fantastic first-class debut in 2013­-14. His contributions with the bat helped Karnataka end their 15­-year title drought in the Ranji Trophy. Nair was all of 15 when he first made it to the U­-19 team. Soon, he became a premier batsman in Karnataka’s batting line-­up. The Indian T20 League served as a huge platform for Nair, whose notable performances earned him a spot in India ‘A’.

Strength: Persistence and determination.

3. Shreyas Iyer

It wasn’t until the 2015 Indian T20 League that the world took notice of Shreyas Iyer, an emerging batsman in Mumbai’s domestic scene. Known for being a go­getter and a risk­taker, Iyer was bought by the Delhi Daredevils for a whopping price­ Rs. 2.5 crore! 439 runs in the season and eighth place in the top­-scorers list made him the rightful winner of the Emerging Player Award. Gary Kirsten touted him to be the next big thing in Indian cricket.

Strength: Fearless approach and adaptability.

4. Sanju Samson

Probably the best find of the Indian T20 League, young Sanju Samson announced himself on the biggest stage of Indian cricket in style. Hailing from Kerala, Samson was noticed for his batting style in junior cricket itself. He was soon drafted into Kerala’s U­-19 team, followed by a place in India’s U­-19 for the Asia Cup. His performances in the T20 tournament earned him recognition, far and wide.

Strength: Ability to time the ball, and precision in stroke play.

5. Sarfaraz Khan

As a 12-­year old, Sarfaraz Khan played a marathon innings of 439 in a Harris Shield tournament game. At 17, he was bought by the Royal Challengers Bangalore for the 2015 Indian T20 League. Today, his batting talent has earned him a hefty deal with one of the biggest sports management companies in India. Regarded as an ‘exciting’ batsman by Sunil Gavaskar, Sarfaraz has already come a long way!

Strength: Aggressive approach and unflinching attitude.

Exciting times lie ahead for Indian cricket. If groomed well in the right proportions, these youngsters will definitely emerge as the torch-­bearers of the country’s cricketing future.

Out­-of-­the-­box directors from Marathi Cinema

The Marathi film industry has come a long way from its Raja Harishchandra days. Today, a Marathi film raises our expectations way before its release. Whether it’s with a stellar star cast, a famous director, an intriguing trailer or an interesting plot ­ Marathi filmmakers have mastered the art of packaging. And it has worked wonders for them. In recent years, the Marathi film fraternity has been joined by a new breed of directors, who have taken film-making to a different level altogether. They’ve made their presence felt, not only in India, but across the globe. Their films often give us a hint of their own perspective towards certain things in life. Let’s take a look at some of these gems of Marathi cinema:

1. Avinash Arun

He was not a known name in the industry until his debut film took the world by storm. Avinash Arun’s first directorial venture, Killa made huge waves right from the outskirts of Maharashtra all the way to Berlin. Arun’s coming-­of-­age story shows a young boy’s tryst with his ever­-changing world, and is laced with visual brilliance. He wonderfully blends local flavours (monsoon in the Konkan region) into a story that is heavily derived from his own childhood. What separates Arun from other directors is his signature style of film-making ­ quiet yet expressive. In this day and age of in-­your-­face cinema, Arun has quietly carved a place for himself with a film like Killa, sans the big star cast and over-­the-­top publicity. 

Killa won the Crystal Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and the National Award for Best Film in Marathi.

2. Samruddhi Porey

The Marathi film industry is no longer dominated by men alone. Now, women are also at the forefront of film-making. One such example is Samruddhi Porey, director of the national award­winning film, Mala Aai Vhaychay! An advocate by profession, Porey’s strength lies in her ability to quickly grasp technical aspects. Her second big film was Dr. Prakash Baba Amte ­- The Real Hero, a biopic on the life of the social worker and his wife, Mandakini. Porey’s USP is that her films are inspired by reality ­ real people, real incidents.

Porey became the first woman director to win two National Awards (for Mala Aai Vhaychay).

3. Nagraj Manjule

Poet, writer, filmmaker ­ Nagraj Manjule is probably one of the most underrated directors of contemporary Marathi cinema, even though his first two projects created quite a buzz among the audience. Manjule’s first venture was Pistulya in 2011, a short film that won him a National Award. In 2014, the director came out with Fandry,­ his first feature film that deals with issues like the caste system and discrimination in Maharashtra. Fandry received tremendous global acclaim and was a hit at international film festivals.Manjule’s mantra is simple -­ to engage people through their emotions; making people cry is also a part of entertainment.

4. Ravi Jadhav

To be able to create a masterpiece like Natarang in his first attempt requires immense courage and commitment. Ravi Jadhav announced his arrival in Marathi cinema with this 2009 super hit film, based on the famous tamasha culture of Maharashtra. Jadhav won a National Award for Natarang, besides being heaped with praise from the film fraternity. In 2011, his film Balgandharva was screened at the Cannes and Venice festivals. The film also won three National Awards that year! Jadhav was then roped in by Riteish Deshmukh to direct Balak Palak – a brave attempt to touch upon issues sensitive for today’s generation. Known to have a creative bent, Jadhav is also the creator of the Timepass series. Timepass was the first film to cross the 30-crore mark and win more than 30 awards. Jadhav went a step further in 2015, exploring the concept of homosexuality in his latest co-directorial venture, Bioscope.

It is safe to say that Marathi cinema has taken a giant leap in terms of film-making. With such talented directors dishing out masterpieces one after the other, we’re all in for a treat!

Happy Birthday Priyanka Chopra: 5 times PC made India proud!

She’s hot, she’s sensuous, and she’s taken the film fraternity by storm with her enigmatic personality. Bollywood has been lucky to have an actress of Priyanka Chopra’s caliber. And that’s not just limited to her acting skills. Apart from being a commendable actress, PC has also tried her hand at other activities, and  has been fairly successful. Today, Priyanka is one of the highest-paid actresses,  who is immensely popular for portraying a variety of roles in her films. As the gorgeous actress turns 33, we take a look at some of the proudest moments of her career!

1. Miss World – 2000 

Priyanka’s journey in the glamour world began when her mother first entered her in the 2000 Femina Miss India contest. PC finished second, winning the Miss India World title. She then participated in the Miss World Pageant, and that’s when she was crowned Miss World 2000! She also took the Miss World Continental Queen of Beauty – Asia and Oceania title, becoming the fifth Indian to win the competition.
2. National Award winner – 2008

Priyanka’s film journey has been a tumultuous one. After making an initial impact in Bollywood, the actress went through a rough phase with poorly received films. However, the string ended with the 2008 Madhur Bhandarkar hit, Fashion. Chopra was critically lauded for her bold performance as an aspiring Indian model. She won plenty of awards that year, including the National Film Award.
3. UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador – 2010
Chopra is well-known for her involvement in philanthropic activities. In 2010, she was appointed as the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Child Rights. PC is also noted for her promotion of causes such as women’s rights and women empowerment. She is quite vocal about social issues pertaining especially to women.
4. "In My City" and "Exotic" – 2012/13
Besides being a brilliant actress, Priyanka is also a fabulous singer. The actress recorded her first single "In My City",  featuring will.i.am in 2012. The song was a commercial success in India. It didn’t stop there. The following year, Chopra collaborated with renowned artist Pitbull to record her second single, "Exotic". In India, the song was highly successful debuting at No.1 on iTunes. It further increased Priyanka’s popularity as a singer. ”Exotic” became the official theme song of Guinness International Champion Cup 2013. It also debuted and peaked on Billboard’​s Hot Dance Club Songs at Number 12.
5. Quantico – 2015-16

Films – check. Singing – check. What’s next? Priyanka Chopra’s latest venture is the upcoming American TV series, Quantico. The thriller stars Chopra in the lead role of Alex Parrish, an FBI trainee. PC has become the first Indian woman to be cast in the lead role of an American TV series. This will be her debut on US television! If the intriguing trailer is anything to go by, this looks promising, and we can’t wait to find out!

Happy birthday, Priyanka Chopra. Keep rocking!

Bioscope: Film Review – A brilliant, mind-numbing mixture of emotions!

Marathi cinema has grown by leaps and bounds, and Bioscope seems to have raised the bar even further. Four acclaimed directors come together with four touching stories based on the works of four poets. The film explores the various human emotions in the most touching way. Each story has been beautifully laid out by their respective directors, giving out a subtle yet important message towards the end.
The film starts with the 1st story titled Dil-e-Nadaan (Based on Mirza Galib’s poem), directed by Gajendra Ahire. Neena Kulkarni stars as a popular, but aging classical singer, along with Mianji (Suhas Palshikar), her companion. The story portrays the sad state of our yesteryear singers in today’s generation. How they live the rest of their lives in hope and despair has been effectively portrayed by Ahire. Kulkarni does a fabulous job as ‘Bai’.

The second story, titled Ek Hota Kau, talks about how love transcends boundaries. It’s the story of Swapnil (Kushal Badrike), who cannot confess his love to the girl of his dreams, because of his dark complexion. Director Viju Mane has done a wonderful job in showing the dark side of reality that we tend to ignore too often. Spruha Joshi spells magic with her bubbly character. Mane conveys a serious messagethrough this story – True love isn’t about color, race, etc., it’s about feelings.
Director Girish Mohite brings in the third story in the film. Titled Bail, the story throws light on the sorry state of farmers in our country. One such farmer is Mangesh Desai, the protagonist, whose helpless situation brings him to Mumbai, but back in his village, things are going against him. This ultimately leads to a tragic end. Through this story, the director has given us a glimpse of the devastating truth that is usually overlooked by the people of our country.

Last but not the least, director Ravi Jadhav brings in the fourth and final story of the film, called Mitraa. Jadhav takes us back in time, as early as 1945, which forms the background of the story. It is commendable how Jadhav has taken a concept like homosexuality back to the pre-independence era. At a time when the entire country is fighting for freedom, here’s a girl (Veena Jamkar) who wants to fight for her own sexual freedom. What makes Jadhav’s story stand out from the rest is its black-and-white appearance. The story’s message is loud and clear. Even after 67 years of independence, humans are still fighting for freedom.
Why should you watch the film?
Bioscope is one of the finest pieces of Marathi cinema. It’s a must-watch for pure cinema lovers.

#HappyBirthdayKatrinaKaif: Lesser known facts about Bollywood’s Barbie Doll!

One of the most beautiful faces in Bollywood and Ranbir Kapoor’s ladylove, Katrina Kaif has evolved as an actress in the Hindi film industry. Her sense of style has been widely appreciated, not just in India but across the globe. Katrina’s Bollywood career may not have started off with a bang, but the sizzling diva certainly made up for it as time passed. With films like Namastey London, Mere Brother Ki Dulhan, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, etc. Kaif has shown her versatility as an actress. As the glamorous actress turns 32 today, here are some of the lesser-known facts about her!
1. Katrina Kaif made her Bollywood debut with the 2003 Kaizad Gustad film, Boom. However, the film wasn’t supposed to be Kaif’s debut. She was reportedly cast by Mahesh Bhatt as the lead actress for his film, Saaya. She was then replaced by Tara Sharma because of her diction problems. 

2. Katrina has also done a few regional films in the South. Apparently, she charged a whopping amount of 75 lakhs for her 2004 Telugu film, Malliswari. She was the highest paid actress in South India at that point.

3. Out of the 20-plus films she has done so far, Katrina has acted alongside Akshay Kumar in six of them, the most opposite any actor. 

4. Katrina is the first Bollywood actress to have a Barbie doll named after her.

5. The actress has been traveling across the globe since her childhood. She was born in Hong Kong, lived in Hawaii for many years, before settling down in London and finally landing in Mumbai. Katrina has traveled to China, France, Switzerland and other European countries, owing to her mother’s philanthropic activities.
Here’s wishing you a fabulous birthday, Kat!

Wimbledon Final: Surreal Djokovic steals the show!

Novak Djokovic – 28, father of one, 3 Wimbledon titles, 9 Grand Slam wins.

Roger Federer – 33, father of four, 7 Wimbledon titles, 17 Grand Slam wins.

It was only fitting that Tennis fans witness a Wimbledon final featuring two of the greatest Tennis players in the world. In the end, it was the tenacity and determination of Novak that persisted over the flamboyance of Federer. Sure, it wasn’t easy to beat a sublime Federer, ON grass, AT Centre Court – an area Roger has enjoyed feasting on over the years. But Djoker did what others couldn’t, not even Britain’s No.1, Andy Murray. He broke the Federer serve, almost as if he broke Federer’s sky-high confidence. This was coming.

Federer’s semi-final against Murray was probably the best Tennis he has played in recent years. His serving, in particular, was next to perfection. It was all too easy against Murray, who didn’t even come close to threatening the eventual 10-time Wimbledon finalist. Finally, we thought, Federer was on course for that elusive 18th title. With that form and those big serves, he could beat anyone.

But could he go past the machine that is Novak Djokovic? If anything, Federer had an outside chance, even though he started off as the crowd favorite. Djokovic was no Murray; he knew what exactly needed to be done against Federer. His ferocious returns to the Federer serve pushed the Swiss maestro beyond his limits. Not once, not twice, but Djokovic broke Federer thrice, the last break point ultimately serving as the Championship point for the Serb. And when his own serve put him in trouble, he eventually found a way out. Djokovic, refusing to give up, refusing to let go. Federer, unable to get a look in, not until the second set tie-breaker at least.

​Though, it was commendable how the 33-year-old dragged Djokovic to a 4-setter, turning it into slightly less than a 3-hour classic movie. The World No. 1’s relentless display of brilliant groundstrokes questioned Federer’s agility time and again. Both Djoko​​vic and Federer won 74% of their points on first serves. But that’s not where the comparison lies. Djokovic won 40% of his break points, as opposed to Federer’s 14%. Add to that 35 unforced errors from Federer, against Djokovic’s 16. There was a slight rain interruption early in the third set, giving both players a breather, more so for Federer. But not even the rain gods and the befriended Wimbledon Roof could help Federer get his mojo back. Djokovic came cruising at him after the break, applying his skill to utmost perfection, and becoming the first man to successfully defend his Wimbledon crown since Federer himself in 2007.​​

The Ashes: Player battles to watch out for

There’s something about The Ashes that gets cricket fans excited to another level. There has to be something. Maybe it’s the intensity, maybe the quality of Test cricket on display or maybe the firepower in both teams, or maybe just the history of it. Australia and England have been long involved in this fierce rivalry that revolves around the tiny, infamous urn. Australia haven’t won an Ashes series away from home in the last 14 years, while England’s 2013-14 outing was a complete disaster. Both teams will be eager to compete at their highest level at the 2015 Ashes in England. Whatever be the case, we’re in for another cracking contest between the arch rivals. Though, the contest isn’t just limited to the teams, there’s a mini contest between the players that is expected to up the ante further. Here’s a look at some of them:

1. Alastair Cook vs Michael Clarke:

"There is a lot written about my captaincy and it is important I sometimes get on the front foot. If you look back at previous teams, they were more methodical. Maybe there’s more opportunity to be on the front foot with the players we’ve got now." – Alastair Cook

"We’ve been fortunate enough to have a lot of success as a team, winning away from home has been the area we’ve addressed and said we want to be more consistent. Beating teams in their own backyard is always the toughest part of our game and I’m sure this series will be no different." – Michael Clarke

On a personal level, Alastair Cook will be looking to get back in form, whilst also motivating a fairly inexperienced bunch of teammates. On the other hand, Clarke’s primary goal would be to carry all his team’s experience to a foreign land. Will Cook and Co. make the most of home conditions? Or will this be the year of the ‘Dad’s Army’? It’s Cook vs Clarke. It’s Character vs Determination.

2. Joe Root vs Steven Smith

Both England and Australia have had emerging talent in the form of Joe Root and Steven Smith. Root’s position at No.5 means he will be England’s crusader. Smith’s promotion to No.3 will give him a huge platform on one of the biggest stages in world cricket. Both players have had forgettable Ashes outings before, but their recent form shows they’re raring to go. They can bat a lot, they can bowl a bit, and they’re both live wires in the field. It’s Root vs Smith. It’s Talent vs Consistency.

3. James Anderson vs Mitchell Johnson/Starc

There probably isn’t a better exponent of the red cherry than James Anderson in the England side. His experience as the team’s pace spearhead will be more than handy for England. In the opponent camp, the two Mitchells are ready to wreck havoc. Johnson has had a brilliant last Ashes down under, while Starc’s rise to prominence has been phenomenal. But the Aussies will have to tweak their bowling plans, considering the fact that they’re playing in England. Nonetheless, it’s Anderson vs The Mitchells. It’s Inswingers vs Yorkers.

4. Moeen Ali vs Nathan Lyon

©REUTERS/Action Images.

The absence of a specialist spinner is one of the biggest chinks in England’s armor, while Australia’s spin prowess relies on the wily Nathan Lyon. Though, England can bank upon Moeen Ali, their part-time spinner. It’s a gamble that Cook will have to take. A flat pitch at Cardiff will take the spinners out of the equation, but both teams must include one quality spinner in their respective playing XI. It’s Ali vs Lyon. It’s Part Timer vs Specialist.

5. Jos Buttler vs Brad Haddin

One is an upcoming cricketer in England’s ranks, while the other is most likely to play his last Ashes series. With Haddin, Australia’s wicket keeping gloves are in safe hands. On the other hand, England will hope Buttler rises to the challenge. Wicket keeping is a tough job, especially in Test cricket. Haddin has done it on many occasions before, but for Buttler, this will be a litmus test of grit and concentration. It’s Buttler vs Haddin. It’s Nerves vs Temperament.

It’s the new-age England vs the ageing Australia.

It’s The Ashes.

Happy Birthday, MS Dhoni: 5 times Mahi proved he’s the ultimate boss!

Long hair, rough looks, humongous arms and enormous strength of display – most of us vividly remember how Mahendra Singh Dhoni made his first appearance on India’s cricketing circuit, back in 2004. 11 years later, Mahi is the most popular Indian cricketer and has taken Indian cricket to unimaginable heights. Some may call it sheer luck, but the small-town boy from Ranchi has worked hard to earn every bit of the recognition he truly deserves. Critics may have their share of comments, but India loves their ‘Captain Cool’ and they will continue to do so. As MSD celebrates his 34th birthday today, we take a look at how and when Dhoni proved he’s the ultimate boss of Indian cricket!

1. Gambler: When he played a gamble so big, it could have gone wrong for him as well as India!

2. Leader: When he led the Indian team to the top of the ICC Test Rankings in 2009, for the first time ever, among other achievements.

3. Finisher: When he took it upon himself to win the 2011 World Cup and finished the game in style with his trademark Helicopter Shot!

4. Talker: When his press conferences aren’t sugarcoated with things the media wants to know. Instead, Dhoni’s answers to controversial questions are witty, blunt and do the job for him.

On DRS – ‘We don’t need a watchman who guards us 9 to 6 and then leaves us on our own’.

On the Indian tail’s underperformance – ‘Now even PETA has said you can’t cosmetically remove the tail.’ 

5. Speaker of truth: When you listen to his behind-the-stump chatter, recorded on the stump mic, which is insightful and equally hilarious.

Happy birthday, Dhoni! We love you. 

Hrithik Roshan reactions to everyday life situations

Last night, we saw the Greek God of Bollywood going crazy on stage at the 2015 IIFA Awards held in Malaysia. Next thing we hear, he’s off to Turkey to recreate the hit ’90s song, ‘Dheere Dheere’ from Aashiqui with Sonam Kapoor. And guess what? It’s going to be reworked by none other than the one and only, Yo Yo Honey Singh! Excited already? So are we! It’s hard not to be impressed by this starry-eyed hunk, on and off the screen. Especially, if you’ve followed Hrithik’s journey since his ‘Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai‘ days. Hrithik will now be seen in his next big film, ‘Mohenjo Daro‘ and we can’t wait for it! Meanwhile, check out these awesome Hrithik Roshan reactions that are very much a part of our daily lives.

1. When someone says something nice and it drives away your Monday morning blues…

2. When your friends quiz you about your messed up love life…

3. When your mother asks you where your salary has disappeared already…

4. When you successfully manage to get off a crowded second class train compartment in peak hours…

5. When you try to show how well-behaved you are in front of your friends’ parents…

6. Saturday night broke scenes…

7. When you work hard in office and your boss appreciates it…

8. When you show off your talent to perfection and none of your friends can up it…

9. When you like someone at first glance and your friends are already talking about it…

10. When your best friend gets what you’re saying without even having a conversation…

11. When someone cancels a plan at the last minute and you have nothing to do…

12. When you ask your mom to get something and she misinterprets it…

13. When you randomly wake up one fine morning, feeling determined about life, goals, dreams, etc.  

Damn you, Duggu!

Shutter: Film Review – Intense and gripping!

Few Marathi films have been able to base their story around their titles. The makers of Shutter have done a tremendous job in that aspect. Shutter takes the genre of suspense to a whole new level with its unique script. Director V.K. Prakash brings out flawless performances from the lead actors of the film. 

Shutter is the story of a middle-class family man, Jityabhau (Sachin Khedekar) whose life revolves around his wife and two daughters. His eldest daughter, Pari, is a college student, who has her own set of friends. However, Jityabhau detests the company she keeps. He plans to marry her off to his friend’s son at the age of 18, despite knowing that it’s too early. On the personal front, he enjoys drinking with a bunch of friends, has an accomplice in auto rickshaw driver, Ekya (Amey Wagh) and is a womanizer. One night, Jityabhau and his friends decide to party in an empty shop, right in front of his house, owned by Jitya. In a series of events, Jitya and Ekya pick up a nameless prostitute (Sonalee Kulkarni) from a bus stop. They bring her to the isolated shop. What transpires between Jitya and the prostitute in the next 24 hours behind the closed shutter is slowly revealed. 

Shutter isn’t a slow-paced film. It picks up right from the start and keeps you at the edge of your seat till the end. While being confined to the walls of the empty shop, Jitya goes through many emotions. Soon, he realizes what one moment of weakness has done to his life. There are nail-biting moments throughout the film, and you can’t help but anxiously wait to find out what happens next. The equation between Jitya and the prostitute also begins to alter as time passes. The first half is brilliant and keeps you hooked. Post interval, it’s slightly dragged but you don’t mind, considering that it’s just a two-hour movie.

The climax is a little unexpected. You’re almost  sure it’s headed one way, but it’s not. That’s where Shutter scores all its points, apart from impeccable performances by Khedekar and Sonalee.

Why should you watch the film?

Shutter is a brilliantly executed suspense thriller. Plus, it’s all of two hours. Watch it!