Friday, August 22, 2008

Mad ads and fads in India in 1960s and70s-part II

After sartorial fashions, we were subjected to a different kind of fashion. It was not associated with clothes, but with physical appearance. People were subjected to the magazines ads of bullworker where skinny 95 pound kids were shown getting transformed into a clone of Arnold Schwarzenegger in 14 days, else your money back. And at Rs 273/- for one bullworker set ( including VPP charges), it was lots of money those days.

But I do not think bullworker ever refunded any money. In case someone asked for their money back, they would point out fine print which the user did not follow which prevented them from bulking up, hence no refunding the amount.

Then there were ads to increase one's height. Lesser the price of the product, higher the result promised. For instance, for Rs 85/-, you could increase your height by 15 cm, where as Rs 300/- for another product increased your height only by 5 cms. Ads showed the heights of the leading film actors- Amitabbh Bachchan 188 cms, Vinod Khanna 185 cms and Dharmendra as 185 cms. Now I agree to the heights of Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna, but I cannot accept that Dharmendra was 185 cm. He looked much shorter than Vinod Khanna in the movies in which they acted together.

I wonder what has happened to those height increasing ads now a days? Instead of the average height of the leading heroes increasing, now a days, we have the leading heroes half a foot shorter than the heroes of 1970s.

Now a days those ad givers have a much easier job, if they decide to mention the height of the leading heroes of today- something like Aamir Khan 167 cm, SRK 168 cm, salman Khan 166.37 cm, etc. But considering that most leading ladies are taller than the leading heroes, there may not be too many takers for these ads now a days, what with even Rajpal Yadav becoming a celebrity that would make Mukri green with envy.

These days, we have teleshop marketing on TV, in which foreigners tell us, in dubbed Hindi, how they were losers in their lives and how buying the teleshop product made them winners.

I think I have digressed a great deal. It was like going from Bombay to Goa and landing at Kashmir. There was actually a bollywood movie in which it happens.

What I wanted to say was that all these improve your height or get bulky ads required you to sweat out a lot, in addition to parting with your hard earned money. And we Indians being the way we are, we want things for free without sweating it out in the process, and we want results instantly. And "martial arts" offered exactly that. It promised people that they need not improve their height or physique, but they could still thrash big built people by making use of martial arts.

Mainstream audience would not go for "English movies", unless it promised some eye candy. And in case of desi movies, they would keep away from "art" movie. So it was a big paradigm shift for people when they began to throng for movies that were in "English" and moreover they were called art movies- viz "Martial art" movies.

It was the first time in India when tickets of a non desi movie were actually sold on black even in smaller cities, like the one where I was growing up in those days. These movies, called "Enter the dragon", followed by "Return of the dragon" had a skinny hero called Bruce Lee, who was regarded as the best martial art expert in the world. Of course, he was already dead by that time, and that helped add to his legend. Indians could for the first time identify themselves with a hero who was of similar built as compared to most movie goers, and that must have enabled the audience to feel a rapport with him, which they never felt with big built Western actors. Chinky looks suddenly became fashionable.

And believe it or not, people who earlier used to adopt boxing pose while in a street brawl, began to adopt "martial arts" pose while fghting. And in absence of background "dishum dhishum" noise, they would make this noise themselves, accompanied by the yelling, which every self respecting martial artist was required to use as part of his arsenal. No, I am not making this up. I have actually seen people fight in a "martial art" or in more simple terms- "judo Karate" method.

Bollywood too tried to jump into the bandwagon. The resident chinky Danny was roped into a few movies. One new chinky looking actor, Ardhendu Bose, who also had the formidable credentials of being the nephew of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, was signed in a movie. But all these ventures failed.

There was a vacuum in Bollywood movies.Bollywood badly needed a desi Bruce Lee.

In came Mithun da. He proved a package deal. Front stallers could readily identify with him as he looked like one of their own. And he was supposedly trained in martial arts, and looked more convincing in fight scenes than say Rajesh Khanna, Sanjeev Kumar and Dev Saab. And that was enough of a credential for Mithun da to become public's desi Bruce Lee.

In addition, Mithun Da, in between his fights, would also dance ( pronounced as "dense" by him) gyrating around his pelvis. So he got the additional sobriquet of desi John Travolta as well.

Not content with that, his film makers would cast him as top secret agent too. His designation with the word "TOP SECRET AGENT" would be written in big bold letters on his car. In short, Mithun da was Bruce Lee, John Travolta and James Bond, all rolled into one. What more do you want ? His fans simply loved him. The less charitable fans and critics called him poor man's Amitabh Bachchan.

So that sums up my discussion for the day. I will be back for more, obviously.

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Mad ads and fads in India in 1960s and 70s- part I

When I was a young kid a few years old in mid to late 1960s, I noticed that "twist" was a craze among the happening crowd. People would wear tight pants and swivel over the front of their left toe, as if crushing a cigarette butt with their toes, their hands hanging behind their back. This was how one twisted. Bollywood movies those days had a dance scene showing a twist, which was like an item song. One popular "twist" song sung by Manna Dey was "aao twist karen".

People, both men and women, at least in movies, wore very tight dresses. Just look at the Salwar Kurta that bollywood actresses wore those days. To this day I have not yet understood how they managed to get inside such dresses, and once inside, how did the blood circulation fare in their bodies. My admiration for actresses like Mumtaz goes sky high, when I see her dancing and singing with abandon in such tight outfits, and even seen enjoying them.

And as "Om Shanti Om" has shown, the fashion for women those days consisted of hairdo that now appears like Khosla ka ghosla. The women in their 20s looked like Behenjis. Look at Vijayanti Mala in 1950s or Hema Malini in 1970s, for instance.

Just as 1960s was giving way to 1970s, Hippy craze hit India, and the person who capitalised on it was Dev Anand, with his "Hare Rama Hare Krishna". People would keep long hairs and that was called hippy cut.

On the other end of the spectrum was Rajesh Khanna. Though his pants were tight, he would wear Kurta ( or shirt that looked like Kurta to me), and would remain untucked. It was called Baba kurta, I have no idea why this name was given to this dress. But he was the superstar, and his mannerisms and dress had millions of adherents.

When Rajesh Khanna was upstaged by Amitabh Bachchan, we suddenly saw the hair style of people changing. Everyone would instruct the barber to cut his hair in Amitabh style, even though Mukri style may have suited them better. When emergency came, Hippy style (mentioned earlier) became untenable. One of the emergency excesses was on Hippy cut hairs. policemen would round up hippy cut youths and have their hair cut short. I feel that their orders must have been to round up eve teasers, and they decided that eve teasers were those who wore hippy cut, so all people with hippy cut hairs had to pay the price.

Not just fans, even other leading actors like Shashi Kapoor etc started sporting Amitabh Bachchan's hair style. In case Amitabh Bachchan had to be shown growing up as a child, that child too would sport the same Amitabh Bachchan hairstyle- for instance, look at Muqaddar ka Sikandar, where master Mayur, playing young Amitabh has the same hairstyle. I suggest that we should make a movie with Amitabh in lead role called Muqaddar ke Sikandar ka Shahanshah, and in this the kid playing childhood role of Amitabh should sport the same hair style, and in addition, he should sport a while goatee as well, lest viewer are left in any doubt.

There were people, especially in small towns ( farmaish sending towns), who would model themselves on their favourite actors. Filmy magazines often published pictures of people who resembled their idols the most. I recall a filmy magazine publishing the picture of such people, and that included one "Gondia ka Amitabh"

Stars and super stars were not the only ones who had fan following. Small budget movies,e.g. Rajshri Production movies, or those made by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Basu Bhattachharya, Basu Chatterji ( frankly I cannot tell one Basu from the other) had their own following. Amol Palekar, who played the roles of friendly next door neighbourhood youngster, was forever getting outsmarted by a street smart Asrani (Bhondu is the Hindi word that comes to my mind), like in the cartoon serial road runner show. These movies tended to have nice music and it was this which may have saved the day for these movies.

Bell bottoms also came into vogue those days. Look at the movies, and one can find actors and actresses looking ridiculous ( with hindsight), but I, who call this ridiculous now, too wore bellbottoms those days. And naturally I too looked just as ridiculous.

The fashion of bell bottoms which raged like wildfire vanished one fine day, and people no longer wanted to be seen wearing them. What is this fashion, where people suddenly start avoiding to wear that they wore proudly till the other day ? It can only be herd mentality, I am sure.

Fashion for narrow pants was there for a couple of years and then a milder form of bell bottom threatenred to make a comeback, and it did for some time.

And during those days, some other types of fashion were also emerging that would soon take the nation by storm.
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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Ravi- composer of iconic songs in Bollywood movies

1950-60 was the era when Bollywood had an embarrasment of riches as far as quality music directors were concerned. There were so many of them that it was difficult to keep track of all of them unless you were a statistian or a historian of Bollywood music. The songs that they composed are popular to this date. Sometimes we may remember the songs and hum them, without being aware about who the music director was. The present generation have heard about the more prominent among them, but even those whose names are not that well known gave us songs that are very well known.

One of the lesser known music director from that era was Ravi. Like Roshan,he bacame popular by his first name whereas His full name was Ravi Shankar Sharma.He started his career in Hindi movies in 1955 with "Vachan" and his last movie was as late as 1990 in a movie called "Aulad ki Khatir". In addition, he gave music in some Gujarati and Malayalam movies as well in 1980s for which he got best music director's award for the state Governments of Gujrat and Kerala as well.For all practical purposes he can be treated as a music director of 1950-70 ( the golden era) though he gave us some good music in as late as 1980s as well.

He may be lesser known today, but when I looked at the list of his popular songs, I was simply amazed.There are quite a few movies under his music direction, where almost every song ( not just one or two) were huge hits and are popular even today. For example movies such as Chaudhavin ka chand(1960),Waqt( 1965), Kaazal(1965),Do Badan ( 1966), Hamraaz ( 1967),Ankhen ( 1968), Ek phool do mali ( 1969)had Ravi's music and almost every song( there used to be 7-8 or more songs in each movie in those days) is popular. These movies were hits, and Ravi's music played a role in making them hits.

In fact, Ravi gave some memorable music even in movies that have been long forgotten.For example, who remembers now that there were movies called Ek Saal(1957),Dilli Ka Thug( 1958), aaj aur kal ( 1963) and Ustadon ke ustad( 1963). The only reason why these movies are still remembered is because of their songs.

Ravi had a long career, spanning over three decades. There have been very few music directors enjoying such long and fruitful career. Here is a list of some of the most memorable songs that Ravi has composed ( or help compose, e.g. in case of the first song). There were many memorable songs that I had to omit from my list.

Here are some of the more memorable contributions of Ravi in Bollywood filmy music

Song 1
Man dole mera tan dole(Nagin 1954)-

No, Ravi was not the music director of this movie, Hemant Kumar was, but Ravi was his assistant in this movie. The been music in the Nagin song was played by Ravi on harmonium. There is a general misconception among fans that Kalyanji had played that on claviolin ( a new instrument- that could be called a synthesiser of that time). He was playing the claviolin but the main tune was on harmonium played by Ravi and not on claviolin. Kalyanji was called only for the tone. Ravi was the chief assistant, rather only assistant of Hemant Kumar and he was the incharge of this song. This fact was brought out by Ravi in a very long freewheeling interview on Vividh Bharati. When Hemant Kumar got the prize of the best music director of the year, he went down to the rear of the hall where Ravi was seated and handed over the trophy to Ravi saying that Ravi too deserved to share this award.
This song finished in Binaca geetmala top three in two consecutive finals- viz 1954 and 1955.

Song 2
Chanda Mama door ke (Vachan 1955)Singer-Asha,Lyrics-Prem Dhawan, MD-Ravi
This was the debut movie of Ravi as a movie director and he delived this song that became one of the first great lullabies to come from Bollywood movies. In this same movie he also composed a song that became popular with beggars all over the country, viz "Ek paisa dede babu". In fact, almost all songs of this movie became very popular at that time.

Song 3
Sab kuch luta ke hosh mein aaye to kya kiya
(Ek Saal 1957)Singer-Talat, Lyrics-Prem Dhawan,MD-Ravi
An iconic tragic song, as everyone would readily agree. It was the first time Ravi worked with Talat, and the result was this fantastic song.

Song 4
CAT cat, cat maane billi (Dilli ka thug 1958) Singer- Asha, Kishore, Lyrics-Majrooh, Ravi

And this was the first time Ravi worked with Kishore Kumar. The result was several outstanding comedy songs in this movie sung and acted by Kishore, ably supported on screen by Nutan, and on playback singing by Asha Bhosle. Other memorable songs from this movie being- "hum to muhabbat karega" and "ye raatein ye mausam, nadi ka kinara". This song finished second in Binaca geetmala final of 1958.

Song 5
Chaudhvin ka chand ho ya aftab ho ( Chaudhvin ka chand 1960) Singer-Rafi, Lyrics-Shakeel Badayuni, MD-Ravi
Producer Guru Dutt had signed Shakeel Badayuni as lyricist, but Ravi wondered if Shakeel Badayuni would agree to work in a movie without Naushad. But Shakeel Badayuni agreed and put Ravi at ease by grabbing his hands and telling him- "maine baahar kahin kaam naheen kiya hai, mujhe sambhaal lena" (I have never worked in outside movies .So please cover up for me.) And the result of this partnership between a nervous lyricist and a nervous music director was a spectacular musical blockbuster.
This sond finished at number 2 in Binaca geetmala final of 1960.

Song 6
Ek woh bhi diwali thi ek yeh bhi diwali hai( Nazrana-1961)Singers-Lata,Mukesh, Lyrics-Rajinder Krishan,MD-Ravi

Need one say anything about this song ?

Song 7
Wafa jinse ki, bewafa ho gaye ( Pyar ka saagar-1961)Mukesh, Lyrics-Prem Dhawan, MD-Ravi

Ravi used Mukesh's voice sparingly, like Talat and Kishore's voice heard earlier, but when he used them, he made their voices count.

Song 8
Ai mere dile naadaan tu gham se na ghabraana (Tower House)-Singer-Lata,Lyrics-Asad Bhopali,MD-Ravi
Surely this song is a music aficionado's delight.

Song 9
Yeh wadiyan, yeh fizayen bula rahin hain tumhe (Aaj aur kal 1963) Singer-Rafi, Lyrics-Sahir,MD-Ravi


Song 10
Sau bar janam lenge( Ustadon ke ustaad 1963)Singer-Rafi, Lyrics-Asad Bhopali,MD-Ravi

A divine voice at its most divine.

Song 11
chalo ek baar phir se ajnabi ban jaayen hum dono (Gumrah 1963)Singer-Mahendra Kapoor, Lyrics-Sahir

Creating great songs using the voice of great singers is alright, but Ravi could make the most of the voices of less gifted singers too. For instance, it is Ravi who utilised Mahendra Kapoor's voice the best. This song is just one of the earliesr example of this fact.

Song 12
Chhoo Lene Do Nazuk Honthon Ko (Kaajal 1965) Singer-Rafi , Lyrics- Sahir, MD- Ravi
Every song in this movie was hugely popular.

Song 13
If Lata/ Asha ever had a Deevar like showdown about singing Rakhi songs, and Lata says- I have sung a great rakhi song like-"Bhaiya mere rakhi ke bandhan ko nibhana", what rakhi song have you sung, haain ?. Then Asha can calmly point at this song.
Mere bhaiyya mere anmol ratan (Kaajal 1965)Singer-Asha, Lyrics-sahir, MD-Ravi

Song 14
Incidentally, this movie is a musical treasure trove. In addition to the above two all time great songs for dipsomaniacs and Rakhi tying sisters,It had an alltime great bhajan too,
Tora man darpan kahlaaye (Kaajal 1965)Singer-Asha, Lyrics-sahir, MD-Ravi

Song 15
Ae meri zohra zabeen (waqt 1965)Singer-Manna Dey,Lyrics-Sahir, MD-Ravi

What a mast song ! It give one goosebumps every time one listens to it.
Waqt was the first multistarrer movie of Bollywood after Kismat (1943). It was thought that a word like "zabeen" would turn off listeners from this song, but that was not to be. It became perhaps the most popular song of the movie where every song was popular.

Song 16
Aage bhi jaane na tu(waqt 1965)Singers-Asha,Mahendra Kapoor,Lyrics-Sahir,MD-Ravi
Another very popular song from Waqt. Incidentally, this movie was the one that pioneered the lost and found formula where familiy members would be lost in a tragedy only to unite in the last reel.

Song 17
Gareebon ki suno (Dus lakh 1966)Singers-Rafi,Asha,Lyrics-Prem Dhawan,MD-Ravi

Just as beggars were despairing, having to sing old songs, they got this brand new song which became their anthem all over the nation, and local train commuters in Bombay those days would readily vouch for this fact.

Seriously, there were quite a few nice songs in this movie, as was usual in most movies with Ravi as the music director.

Song 18
Lo aa gayi unki yaad( Do Badan 1966) Singer-Lata, Lyrics-Shakeel Badayuni,MD-Ravi

There were half a dozen memorable songs in this movie, and this is just one of them.

Song 19
Neele gagan ke tale (Humraaz 1967) Singer-Mahendra Kapoor, Lyrics-Sahir, MD-Ravi

This suspense movie ironically became a hit not because of its story, but because of its songs. This movie provided Mahendra Kapoor with his finest moments in his singing career. I recall this song and other songs from this movie being played on loudspeakers on carts selling ice cream in those days, it was that popular with ice cream vendors.

Song 20
Babul ki duayen leti jaa, jaa tujhko sukhi sansaar mile ( Neel kamal 1968)Singer-Rafi, Lyrics-Sahir, MD-Ravi

This mother of all bidaai songs ( or should it be the baap of all bidaai songs ?) was Ravi's composition. A song that has transcended the barriers of time and this song continues to be uppermost on the mind of every bride's baap in Indian weddings.

Incidentally, there was a very popular timepass song in this movie too that went "khali dibba khali bottle lelo mere yaar".

Song 21
Milti hai zindagi me muhabbat kabhi kabhi ( Aankhen 1968)Singer-Lata,Lyrics-Sahir,MD-Ravi

Song 22
Tumhari nazar kyun khafa ho gayi (Do kaliyan)Singers-Rafi,Lata, Lyrics-Sahir, MD-Ravi
A nice duet song in a movie which had a story of twin siblings. This double role was played by Ranbir Kapoor's mom, who was a kid at that time.

Song 23
Tujhe sooraj kahoon ya chanda (Ek phool do mali 1969)Singer-Manna Dey,Lyrics-Prem Dhawan,MD-Ravi
I can count 8 very popular songs from this movie, and this moving song is just one of them.

Song 24
O Neele parbaton ki dhara (aadmi aur Insaan 1969) Singers-Asha, Mahendra Kapoor, Lyrics-Sahir, MD-Ravi
Like many other movies of Ravi, it had quite a few nice songs.

Song 25
Aaj mere yaar ki shaadi hai (Aadmi Sadak Ka,1977)Singer-Rafi,Lyrics-Sahir Ludhianvi,MD-Ravi
Another very popular song for Indian weddings

Song 26
Dil ki ye aarzoo thhi (Nikaah 1983)Singers-Mahendra Kapoor,Salma Agha,Lyrics-Hasan Kamaal, MD-Ravi

The topic of this movie was not a mainstream topic for a bollywood movie ( unlike 1960s), and public taste had undergone a sea change, still Ravi came up with songs that became very popular, and this song finished at number 2 in Binaca geetmala 1983 final, ahead of another Nihaah song at number 3 ( Dil ke armaan aansuon mein bah gaye).
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Monday, August 18, 2008

India in Olympics-proposed plan

Enough of looking back at Indian sports in the past. Let us look ahead. For the last four Olympic games, Indians have been managing to win one medal each, and the medal's metal is improving too. If it was bronze in 1996 and 2000, it was a silver in 2004 and gold in 2008.

But one medal in one Olympics is just not good enough. It is time when India sports authorities did some thinking.

Knowing fully well that Indian authorities are not likely to exert themselves in such strenuos tasks like thinking, planning, etc, I have done all the hard work for them. So ladies and gentlemen, here is my master plan.

Ancient Olympic games only had individual games. Modern Olympic games too should have included only individual games, but the Olympic movement has been vitiated by the inclusion of team games. With the inclusion of many modern games, each with their own rules, Olympics games no longer offer a level playing field for participants of different disciplines.

For example, look at a team game vis a vis an individual game. In football or Hockey, about two dozen people and officilas huff and puff for many matches before coming up with one medal. On the other hand, an individual game like swimming offers individuals the chance to win many medals. Surely one cannot say that a team winning Hockey of football gold is aless worthy Olympian than someone like Michael Phelps or Mark Spitz. So it makes sense to expend one's energy in individual events rather than team events. If one looks at the most successful Olympic nations, they indeed have adopted this plan.

But even the individual games cannot be said to have level playing fields either. In swimming, we have different events, where you are required to swim differently ( freestyle,backstroke, breaststroke etc) and for different distances and each of these events have medals. Often the same swimmer can participate in many of these events. On the other hand, sports like boxing, wrestling,weightlifting etc have entirely different rules. Here one individual can only participate in one event, but there are many events based on weifght categories, and a team can have participants in all these weight categories. Now, it is not as if the boxing methods are any different for the different categories, so why should we have people of different weight categories take on opponents of similar weight only. Why the same principle should not be followed in atheletics, for instance.In atheletics too, we have huge discuss throwers from European countries having undue adbnatage over small built South Asians. Why not have different weight categories in throwing events too? Then I am sure cricket playing nations from the Indian subcontinent may find a few of their players in the podium in the lighter weight categories.

But I agree that old habits die hard. Indians and their neighbours are so used to playing cricket that they will find it difficult to take to individual games, so instead of turning bowlers with congenitally defective elbows into javelin throwers, why not try and get cricket itself into Olympics. If team sports like Hockey, football etc can be played in Olympics, then why not cricket?

But while trying to get cricket introduced in Olympics, the ICC ( BCCI by default) should not make the same mistake as Hockey or football bodies do. BCCI should try and ensure that there are many sets of medals available in cricket events,like in individual sports. Having many sets of medals in a team game like cricket will be possible, if we can have different formats of limited overs cricket in Olympics. Thus we can have T20, F15, T10 and F5. This is not my idea incidentally. This was the idea of my friend Raja. So I hereby call this idea Raja Babu method of playing cricket ( Raja Babu sounds similar to Duckworth Lewis, and it incidentally is also the name of a tharki Bollywood movie starring Govinda).

OK, if this idea goes through and gets implemented, what is going to happen ? We may find out that India may once again find themselves on the lurch as teams like Korea, Argentina, Netherlands etc may soon catch on and start beating India the way they have started beating India in Hockey these days. Just as England's T20 euphoria evaporated as Chris Broad's over went for six sixes, Indian euphoria with IPL may vanish ( of it has not vanished already) once T20 and its lower variants become Olympic events.

What to do then. I have another plan. and this draws inspiration from events of weightlifting, boxing etc. Just as we have these individual sports based on weight, let us have the team sports of cricket played on the basis of height. There could be cricket events for three height categories- viz short ( players below 5'6"), medium ( 5'6" to 6'), and tall ( over 6' tall players). This will not only ensure that the number of sets of medal will triple ( 3 sets of medals for T20, F15, T10 and F5 each), it will also ensure that India will stand some reasonable chances in the lower height categories. I can visualise Australia, South Africa etc struggling to put up playing XIs in the short category. But Indians should not get complacent. Team like Bangladesh may really become a powerhouse and capitalise in the F5 (short) category.

I would have given this method of playing cricket my name, but I could not come up with the name of a suitable bollywood movie including my name and featuring a tapori set of actors. So I have decided to name this method on a movie featuring another set of tapori actors. Yes, I hereby name this method of playing cricket as Munna Bhai method of playing cricket.
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India in Olympics- In the past

For those who have followed India fortune in Olympics for many decades, Indians used to pride themselves that they were the best in the world in Hockey, and that would cover up for their ineptitude in other sports. In typical India style hype, handed over to us for hundreds of generations, we were also told that Milkha Singh was the best runner in the world ( unfortunate not to win a medal). But the biggest hype that we were fed was that Dara Singh, the wrestler was the strongest man in the world, and if he did not participate in Olympics then it was because he was a professional. Another version was that Dara Singh did not participate in Olypics because it was beneath his dignity to participate among such lowly opponents.

Come 1970s and India stopped winning gold in Hockey too. And in any case Indians were just not good enough in any other Olympic sports. During those days, India had won three test series in a row, and some Indian fans actually thought that India was the number 1 cricket team in the world.

Come 1974, and Indian team was beaten black and blue in England. The fact that Indians did not have a pace bowler hurt their cause badly, as even mediocre batsmen made merry against the Indian bowling attack. Indian spinner Chandrashekhar was the quickest bowler in the side.It is like Kumble being the quickest bowler in the present day team, that is how pedestrian the Indian pace bowling attack used to be.

India sucking in Hockey as well as cricket meant that India sports fans were a dejected lot. The negative thinkers were on to their familiar rhetoric- " We are world's second most populous nation, and we cannot win a medal. Look at small nations, they win so may medals." Others would say that India did not win medals because there was so much poverty, and so much corruption in the country.But there were countries poorer and more corrupt than India that were doing better than India in Olympics. So it would be said that Indians were weak because of their dietary habits, for instance they did not eat meat in general and beef in particular. But then our neighbouring countries which had no such dietary taboos were not doing any better than India in Olympics either. Then apologists would point out that Pakistanis had fast bowlers in their ranks and Indians did not have.

Some fans actually thought that Dara Singh, the strongest man in the world, should be included in the Indian cricket team to bowl fast. Experts said that it was not a wise move, because in cricket you do not have to wrestle with the ball.

Just as there was this myth about Dara Singh being the strongest man in the world, there was this counter myth that Muhammad Ali, the heaveyweight boxer was a Pakistani. My argument that he was an American, cut no ice with my school mates, who simply refused to believe me.

Then there were the proponents of past Indian glory who would suggest that India was the greatest country in the world in all spheres, including sports in the past, and it was the conspiracy of the European invaders like British etc that the native know how and skills in all fields, including sports was lost.

Another suggestion was that India would certainly do well if Indian native games like kabaddi, khokho, marbles etc were included in Olympics.

What about the thinking in the official circles? The IAS babus sitting in the corridor of powers would ensure their smooth and unobtrusive participation in Olympic games as officials, whereas the actual players would be running from pillar to post,first to willy nilly qualify, and then to get the paperworks ready.

Qualifying for the Olympics was the main aim of the players. If players of other teams thought about qualifying for finals in the Olympics,then India players thought well in advance, and finished their thinking well in advance too. The thought uppermost in their minds was to somehow achieve the qualifying mark which was arbitrarily set low enough, something like the mark achieved by third place finisher in the previous Olympics or so. And interesingly, a few of the participants actually managed to "meet" these marks. Of course, once they actually participated in the Olympics, they would come nowhere near the mark that helped them qualify for the Olympics.

The Indian officials and media maintained that participation in Olympics would give Indian sportsmen good exposure that would help them gain experience. Was Olympics about winning or about getting experience and exposure ? Gaining experience and exposure for what ? For Asian games ? But such rubbish was actually bought by all without any murmurs.

There was a "celebrated" case in 1984 Olympics when one Indian weighlifter qualified to participate in a certain weight category, but when it was time for his participation in his event, he was found overweight. And what did the Indian contingent do? They fielded him in the next higher weight category. Simple !

Having discussed Indian Olympic efforts in the past, I will discuss what Indian needs to do in future, in my next article.

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