Saturday, August 13, 2016

Let the Premier League season begin..

Finally, after 12 weeks, we have a new season of premier league. You know there's something amiss even if your weekends are going fine. There's something lacking to make the weekends even better that it actually is. It's a lot like cooking, you know the food is great but maybe a pinch of salt will elevate it to an altogether new level. Just a small tweak. That's all it takes. For me, Premier League was that salt I was looking to add during the weekends. And it now tastes great!

English Premier League Logo image
So what's new? Both Manchester teams brought in new managers. Not just another manager, but the top ones. Manchester United has Mourinho and Manchester City has Guardiola. This will surely make Manchester Derby even more interesting than what we had in the previous seasons. When new managers come in, expect new players too. That's what has happened. United has Ibrahimovic and Pogba among others and City has Nolito and Gabriel Jesus. I expect Guardiola to buy defensive enforcements as City is poor defensively. I also expect United to follow Mourinho's defense first strategy, which means it will be relatively more difficult to score against United. 

Liverpool and Chelsea have also upgraded their teams. Klopp now has more years under his belt to make Liverpool great again with the players he need. Chelsea have had a terrible season by their standards. By bringing in Conte, they have again shown their intention of competing with the best. Conte is an astute tactician and will be interesting to see how he changes the way Chelsea plays. 

Leicester City are  the reigning champions. I still can't believe this happened. Premier League will now be closely watched to check if Leicester can maintain the same level of performance this season. They haven't done badly in the transfer window either. For starters, they have retained all their top stars except Kante. They also went on to buy value-for-money stars like they successfully did last season. But I feel they now need something more up their sleeve to surprise their opponents as most of teams will now be better prepared to tackle Leicester City's strategy of counter attack. 

And finally Arsenal. Same old, same old, I hear again. Arsenal are in dire need of a quality defender, despite buying a high potential defender in Holding. Arsenal are in dire need of a quality striker to challenge Giroud. With Xhaka, the midfield problem of having a tough tackling midfielder has been solved. What remains to be seen is how Wenger handles his midfield with all the talents at his disposal. I expect Wenger to dip into the market to add 1-2 players to cover his defensive and attacking gaps. The advantage Arsenal has is the form of youngsters like Iwobi and Chuba Akpom. Same old, same old, I hear again. 

What makes me excited about this season is the competition between top managers. With Guardiola, Wenger, Mourinho, Conte, Klopp and Ranieri vying for the top honors, you can't help but wonder who among these will accept failure this season. Add to it the fact that Wenger may leave his coveted post after this season makes the battle more intriguing. This is his final opportunity to win the league and leave on a high but this is by far the most toughest season he will face. 

Rest assured, we are in for a ride this season. Prepare to be amazed and saddened at the same time as the team you support may not win the league as you expected. Manchester teams are obviously the favorites. But count the London teams out at your own peril. 

Monday, August 01, 2016

Transfer Window - bound to be Pogba-tic!

English Premier League has exactly nine months of a single season. The soccer is exciting. There are top clubs who compete for the top honors in England. There are favorites but none clear enough to win the league before the ball is kicked. Italy have Juventus, Germany have Bayern Munich, Spain has one among Real Madrid / Barcelona. England? It could be anyone among the Manchester Clubs (United and City), London clubs (Chelsea and Arsenal) or Liverpool. But it’s not that simple now-a-days. For example, Leicester came and won the league convincingly. Just the season before the last season, they were fighting tooth and nail not to be relegated from the premier league! You have shock results, surprises, winning streaks, non-losing streaks, injuries, comebacks et al. All in all, entertainment guaranteed for nine months at a stretch.

And then the inter-lull (defined as a phase when nothing happens. I guess it’s a soccer term) happens. Inter-lull is defined as a phase when nothing happens; I guess it’s a soccer term. 3 months of off-season. You are so habituated to see soccer during the weekend that the next 12 weekends become damp squib. That’s how we soccer fans thought. Media companies saw a market in this inter-lull. Guess what? The Transfer Window!

Transfer window, for the ignorant folks, is a window where players are transferred from one team to the other. This feels like a boring phase, isn’t it? I mean, why should we care about players coming in and going out of a club as long as we get our weekly dose of soccer. That’s what I thought in the early 2000’s. Not anymore. Ever since Chelsea was bought by a Billionaire, the financial dynamics behind managing a Soccer club changed. Add to that, the revenue generated by the television rights for a season makes even a newly promoted club with limited resources attempt to buy a “top talent” from the European market.

Transfer window is huge business for the media companies. They play on the “hope” factor for the teams that have a significant social media presence. Media is primarily responsible for having a divide in the fan base. Case in point: Arsenal. Then there are deals that are absurd in the real sense of the term. 

Paul_Pogba_Juventus_Manchester_United_100_million_transfer

Take Paul Pogba for example. He is a great talent with strength, vision and pace who will lead the team from central midfield. Acquiring his services would improve any team. It completely makes sense for a top team to buy him from Juventus. Everything makes sense till now. Now let’s look at the price being quoted for him – 100m+ pound. You can replace pound with Euro and it will remain still that – absurd! And to think that Manchester United are ready to finalize the deal, which by the way, is one-fifth of the clubs estimated revenue for 2016, shows how ridiculous the market has become. 
There are means by which we can justify the price. Pogba is one-of-a-kind player and you won’t find his talent and potential elsewhere – a qualitative assessment and is debatable but still a fair point. EPL clubs have loads of money from the TV rights that they can quote over the top figures to get their player – fair point. Paul Pogba is young and has years of top quality football left in him, which means Manchester United are paying for his future potential and hence the amount. If we go by this logic, then Juventus is already making a huge profit after buying Pogba for less than a million and selling him for more than 100 million! 

This is nothing against the player and the buying / selling club. This is just my assessment of the way transfer businesses are being held. I won’t be surprised if players are being bought and sold for 200m+ in the coming years. Where are we going with this? In my opinion, to doomsday! All this brouhaha over the transfer amount and the absurdity behind it is because of the TV rights and renewed sponsorship deals of a club. It’s like a balloon that is expanding and the club is enjoying every phase of stretching the limits of the balloon. But every balloon can handle only so much pressure and once it crosses that point, it will burst. In footballing terms, all it needs is a financial scandal to cut off TV revenue and sponsorship deals. That’s it! 

The “top” clubs enjoy high revenues but have equally high debts (Case in point: Real Madrid). The returns are high, but so are the risks. I wish these clubs have a contingency plan to weather the storm coming their way. Else, fans will stand to lose in the long term. Our years of investment (time and money) in supporting our club will come to nothing. 

Greed is one of the seven deadly sins, and it will be ready to haunt us for the rest of our lives!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Howdy! Let me reintroduce you to...


..ME!

That's right. I have been off blogging for a long time now. Exactly 3 months to be precise. Why, you'd ask. I honestly don't have a reason. I have many excuses though!

I have been in US for almost 11 months now. Things have been pretty interesting here (in both good and bad ways). Maybe I took more time to adjust to the new environment. Being on H1 visa also has its own perils. Since I am starting off in US, my credit history is still in its infant stage. This becomes a hurdle everywhere. The auto loans are high and the way banks accept you as a auto loan customer makes you feel they are doing a big favor. IT returns are also interesting here. We, as a family, went through the highs and lows of first time filing. The process is good but what made it bad was our tax consultants - "Newwave Tax Consulting"! It seems they were under an offshoring contract. There were tax "experts" sitting somewhere in Hyderabad doing night shifts. By the time their offshoring contract expired, I was not done with my tax filing. They just stopped responding to my emails and calls. When I narrated this incident to my colleagues, the first thing they told me was "not to go with Indian offshoring companies when it comes to US tax". Although, I must admit I was slightly offended, but it made sense to me because it happened with me! I then found a "credible" tax consultant (also from Indian origin, we are everywhere!) here in US and he ensured the rest of my experience remained smooth. As a result, I had to pay consultancy fees twice. Anyway, lesson learnt the hard way.

The above mentioned experience is just one among many and is in no way an excuse not to blog. I was so preoccupied with life here that I lost the urge to write something. I feel bad to say that I 'lost the urge to write'. But hey, you always come back to the things you love the most. So, here I am!

Making a comeback image
Image courtesy - https://i.ytimg.com/vi/eBh7zkxVF3A/maxresdefault.jpg
A lot of things happened while I was away sorting my own stuff. Under normal circumstances, I would've blogged about them. IPL came and went. Pretty boring this season. Leicester City won the English Premier League. That's right! 5000-1 were the chances bookies had on this team at the start of the season. If you had bet on Leicester City with such odds, you would've been a millionaire by now! Leicester proved that costly players are not the recipe for on-field success. But EPL will never learn this lesson, am sure. Copa America came and went. The team I was rooting for - Chile - won again and my man Alexis Sanchez won the player of the tournament. Then came the Euros. I was rooting for Germany. They lost the semis. I was rooting for France. They lost the finals. Damn! I am an Arsenal fan, but if this trend (of my team losing) continues, I would follow all other 19 teams this EPL season. 

In Indian Cricket, Anil Kumble became the national coach. A very good decision coming from the BCCI stable. Ravi Shastri's spat with Saurav Ganguly was portrayed as a case of 'sour grapes'. Shastri did a great job as a caretaker. But now its time for India to have a full time coach and take the Indian team forward. If you follow Indian cricket, you'd know we are batting heavy team and relatively light in the bowling department. If I had to select a coach, I would've selected someone who's a bowling legend, had been through tough times and emerged victorious, a credible person who commands respect of the entire dressing room. Also, one who's not too old and comes from the previous generation. Two names come to mind - Anil Kumble and Javagal Srinath. I would have been happy with either but am not sure if Srinath is keen to take up this role. That leaves Kumble and he's what he got eventually. I am happy.

When this was happening on the field, some cleaning was also happening off the field. Supreme Court decided to go with the Lodha Committee recommendations. BCCI now has no other option but to clean the mess they have created and ensure Indian Cricket fans get to see Cricket in its purest form and more transparency in administrative matters. If you were an ex-Cricket fan, maybe this is the time to return to your original love!

Personally, its so good to be back to blogging again. I feel like a newbie in the blogging world again. Maybe taking a break is a good thing (it eventually turned out well for Ross and Rachel from F.R.I.E.N.D.S).  

More from me soon.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Why so toxic, Gooners?

Before I attempt being realistic and practical, here's my rant - 

Season after season after season, we bottle the league. And the question is not whether Arsenal will win the league next season. The question for the past few years have been how differently will Arsenal bottle the league this season! One season we mess up the initial few games and are playing catch-up for the rest of the season for something that defines our consistency - top 4. One season we consistently top the league gameweek after gameweek, waiting for someone to be injured and then the bottling begins. This season, we were competing not with the heavyweights but with an amazingly resurgent Leicester City and, dare I say it, unbelievably consistent, Spurs. But when the rest of the team are playing against each other, Arsenal chose to play against itself. We kept on dropping points when we were ahead and now we are fighting the battle we master in - top 4. Same old, same old they say.

That's it. Rant done.

Welbeck winner against Leicester City 2015-16 season
Perhaps the only time when all Arsenal fans were on one page
If you read my above frustration carefully, I haven't blamed anyone. It could be Stan Kroenke's fault, Wenger's fault, player's fault and even fan's fault. For Kroenke, its business and its going perfectly fine in terms of numbers. Why repair when it ain't broke? For Wenger, team has been consistent over the past 19 years and, despite the fact that he wants to win the league, he still applauds top 4 position as it guarantees UEFA Champions League for next season. For the players, they know Wenger will trust and support them despite the lack of form or persistent injuries and there's hardly any pressure on them. Even they know that the fans nail Wenger for every loss and the players get away with it every time. For fans, we link every loss with Wenger's transfer business (or the lack of it), Wenger's sacking (or the lack of it). It could be a joint responsibility for all we know. We cannot expect Kroenke to leave (unless the situation drastically changes and he finds sale of Arsenal Football Club as a more profitable deal than continuing with the club). Arsene Wenger is sure to complete his contract. And the players, well, will go through another season thinking what could have been, IF..

But what about us fans? I completely understand the frustration. Count me in too. But how is so much negativity helping the team during a season? Will it help the club win anything? No. Will it help ease pressure on the club? No. All its doing is to make us a laughing stock in front of other teams. Its putting our players under even more pressure to perform. Its almost as if Arsenal is playing against fans every weekend! The other team is just for academic purpose who make use of this sensitive situation leave with 3 points and we restart the circle of blame game. This season has been a prime example of it.

Here's my personal take on this - I couldn't wait for the season to end. We've had perhaps the worst season in the past one decade and we are still 3rd in the league. This could've been the season for us. Our competitors are languishing in their own hole and we, instead of owning the league, dug our own hole and are now attempting to come out of it. There are now 4 games to go. Traditionally, 3 are easy fixtures. There's one against Manchester City which could turn out to be the fight for 3rd place, unless Spurs slip. Let's support our team for these games and then start the blame game / revolution. 

Let's not be our teams biggest enemy, definitely not during a season.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Sharapova's proactive press conference was a stroke of genius!

When Maria Sharapova announced a press conference, it was widely believed that she will be retiring from Lawn Tennis for good. And there were strong reasons to believe so. Sharapova has had her share of injuries and illness and as a result, was not in the 'pink' of health and form. The world's highest earning women athlete for the past 11 years will finally call it quits. But that's not what happened right? She dropped a bombshell! And left the whole Tennis fraternity and fans reeling in shock.
Maria Sharapova press conference Meldonium drug

In the press conference, Sharapova informed the world that she has failed a drug test at this years' Australian Open. The drug in question was Meldonium, which is a blood-flow promoting drug and helps to relieve chest pain. It can be used to enhance endurance and strength (something you need in abundance if you are playing a high paced 3-setter long match every alternate day). She also said she's being having the drug for the past 10 years now. Now here's the most interesting part - WADA (World Anti Doping Agency) has included Meldonium among the list of banned drugs starting Jan 1st 2016. That's this year onwards. Which means, Sharapova was legally having the drug till the end of Dec 31st 2015. She probably had it once or a handful of times in 2016 since Australian Open commenced on 18th January . Because of this shocking admission, she now stands to lose her endorsements (ones who ensured she remain the highest paid woman athlete for all these years). She also stands to be suspended which means she won't be playing Tennis, her passion and her secondary source of income, for a considerable amount of time. How life changes in a matter of days!

What surprised me even more was the press conference itself. I mean, if a player tests positive for a banned drug, the agency will come forward and release the statement to the media. The media will do their stuff and spread the news. That's how it works. The player will get a lot of negative publicity from press and fans alike. Brands will cancel the contracts. Many fellow players will condemn, some bold ones will sympathize. Fans will lose faith in the player and the sport, in general. This will continue till the player reveals all and apologized to everyone in a moving press conference. By that time, the damage has already been done. The player then goes away from the limelight and waits for the suspension to get over. Sharapova was 'proactive' to reveal a lot of information before it was publicly released by the concerned authorities. Many have called her move as bold, honest, transparent, straight-forward and courageous. I largely agree with these adjectives. But think about it, wasn't it a stroke of genius from her team of PR strategists. By doing what she did, they have ensured that she doesn't lose the fanbase the way she would have lost otherwise. Brands will still evade her. A relatively larger section of her colleagues will now support her (like the way Serena Williams did). The press will be relatively less negative. Her team have actually started the damage control exercise even before the damage was done. If a person you admire / respect, comes forward and admits in larger audience the mistake he/she has committed and also accepts whatever punishment is given, you tend to have a sense of sympathy and support towards that person. It's just a natural human response. If my understanding of the situation is correct, this press conference was simply a masterstroke!

Don't get me wrong. I am not underplaying the honesty and courage angle, but I am not overplaying it either. Let's call a spade, a spade. She made a mistake, she admitted it and she will be punished as per the rules of the game. If its proved that she was ignorant about the drug and that it was banned, the punishment will be less severe - which is what Sharapova will be hoping for. The fact the the drug was banned most recently will also go in her favor. By laying the facts, including the recent banning of the said drug, she has strengthened her case of enduring a less severe punishment. This strategy is not illegal, it's not against the rules, it was simply damage control before the damage was done.

PS: I am a big fan of Maria Sharapova (who isn't?). I will continue to be one. I genuinely believe she has shown a lot of courage (whatever the behind-the-scene strategy may be, if at all there is one). I also believe she will make a grand comeback post suspension, make a statement and retire with her head held high. I really do.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

An open letter to some Bangladeshi fans..

Before I address some Bangladeshi fans, here's something I want to say to all Bangladeshi fans - Congratulations! You are no longer the 'so-called' minnows of World Cricket. You have proved beyond doubt that you belong to the big league - definitely in the T20s and ODIs. For all the passion you have shown by supporting your team, you guys deserve every single moment of the success coming your way. Yes, there are challenges that lie ahead, even bigger ones that your team probably haven't been through. But I am sure your team, with your passionate support, will overcome them just the way they did till now. My congratulations again. Maintain your level of passion and see your team take on the biggies of this sport with confidence and hunger to win.

Now, to those few handful of Bangladeshi fans - 

Grow up!

Seriously.

It's one thing to show and exuberate passion for your team. It becomes crass and downright ugly when you cross all limits of sportsmanship. What some of you did creating and sharing the picture of a Bangladeshi player holding the head of MS Dhoni, Indian captain, was appalling to say the least. If you haven't seen that image, search Google for "Dhoni Taskin image". 

Now that the final is done with and Bangladesh lost to a dominating Indian team, I think and I hope, you guys have got a stunning response from MS Dhoni they way only he can respond. He could've negatively commented on it, abhorred it, raised a complaint etc. But he chose to respond on the pitch. And boy, was that some response?

MS Dhoni en route to winning the Asia T20 cup 2016

I know that every fan-base has a set of people who spoil the image by crossing the limits of sportsmanship. It happens in every sport. It happens for every team. Bangladesh has a Cricket team that's on-the-up. They are the team that can genuinely pose a threat to the best in the world and probably win it too. They are no longer the minnows who gets defeated by the big guys and who take their share of the revenue and leave the event without a trace. By performing the way they are doing right now, they can stake claim to the biggest share of the spoils.

I can understand the passionate surge you guys are having when your team defeats some of the traditional biggies of the game and reaches the final of a big T20 tournament. We have all been through it. Defeating the all-conquering West Indies in the 1983 World Cup final was India's moment. We were on the world map in cricketing terms. And then there was no looking back. Yes, there were set-backs in between but these things happen. We have had our shares of mistakes too like the 1996 semi-finals against Sri Lanka where some of the fans threw stones / projectiles on the field to stop the game and eventually hand over the match to Sri Lanka. There are many more such instances. We have learnt the lesson the tough way. You are our younger neighbours. Take this as a word of advice - don't repeat the mistakes the rest of the teams did. Don't bring the sport to disrepute. It's not worth it and you will regret this your whole lifetime. You guys are great fans supporting a soon-to-be-great team. Don't spoil it.

As fans, the best you can do right now is to support the team and accept the results coming your way. It's a sport after all. Treat it like one.

Let's move on.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

When Dilshan had an Isaac Newton moment!

Cricket can be funny sometimes. Especially when you least imagine it. Not to mention if the game is evenly balanced and anything can happen anytime. How's this for funny incidents - 
  • Outfield player attempting to field the ball for a single run, the ball passes between his legs and goes for a boundary - Funny
  • Fielder diving to field the ball and his shorts betray him - crass but funny
  • Certain batsman's fixation with a run-out (either him or his team-mate) - Funny
  • Batsman attempting a shot but the ball finds its way towards the pelvic region - extremely painful but funny
  • West Indies players celebrating a wicket by dancing - funny and entertaining
  • Lance Klusener and Allan Donald messing up while attempting to complete the winning run against Australia in a World Cup semi-final match - funny, only if you are an Australian!

Assume the whole cricketing world is watching a game you are part of and you somehow make a complete 'fool' (for lack of a better family word) of yourself. It may not have an impact on the game as the ones mentioned above but will be totally worth it. That's what happened years ago with a Sri Lankan player.


Dilshan hit by ball on top of head
Massaging the embarrassment
OK, lets just start getting things in perspective here. The bowler bowled the delivery. The batsman swung wildly at the ball and missed it. This incident itself is funny if we think from a batsman's angle - poor footwork and just a wild swing. But that's not what we are talking about in this clip. The wicket-keeper took what he thought was a catch and started celebrating without the umpire even declaring the verdict. Some can find this funny too. But still that's not what we are talking about. What happened afterwards made the whole incident a laugh riot! He threw the ball in the air (typical way of celebrating a wicket) and then the ball came down towards its rightful owner. Talk about taking things head on!

I have always failed to understand why fielders celebrate by throwing the ball in the air. Imagine batsmen throwing the bat in the air when they score a century? If you want to celebrate, run towards the bowler or a nearby fielder, hi-five them, even do chest thumping the way Lee-Hesh used to do! If you get the wicket of a dangerous opposition batsman, dance around and have fun. The sound systems across most stadiums are top-notch now and they play loud music when a wicket falls. Dance when the music starts. One can do all these 'harmless' acts and can even invent a new way to celebrate like some footballers do. If you are not the creative kind, then simply pass the ball to the umpire - which is what they are supposed to do anyways after a wicket! There is absolutely no reason to throw the ball in the air unless you want to prove to your team-mates that your throw reaches the heights.

Don't get me wrong. I used to celebrate this way all the time. Whenever I took a catch, I used to throw the ball in the air, but, unlike other players, I used to catch the ball again. Maybe I was scared of the same incident that Dilshan went through or maybe I needed to show everyone that my catch wasn't a fluke. But then, don't take my word for it. I have not even represented my university in a game of Cricket - just my housing society, class, school and college. 

Dear cricketers, please find a better way to celebrate a wicket. The world has moved ahead, its time you do the same with your celebration.

PS: If I happen to play Cricket again and manage to catch a ball to trigger a wicket falling, I will still celebrate the same way. Guess, some things won't change.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A walk to ponder upon..

The other day, a typical weekday, I was walking back home from work. Here in US, pedestrian crossing is regulated and is followed by people too. After getting off a train station or a bus stand, if you observe, you walk alongside so many people some of whom move away from the crowd to walk towards their destination but there are some who tread a common path as you, and in some cases, till the very end of your destination.

I had the same experience recently. I was walking alongside a lot of people till it reached a stage that only one guy was left from the crowd of people. Oblivious to each other, we continued walking on the side of the road. Till we reached a pedestrian signal. The signal was red. I, trying to be a law-abiding citizen, stopped and waited for the signal to turn white (white means you can cross the road and red means to stop). There were no vehicles around but the signal was still red. My "walking partner of the day" decided to take the plunge and walked along without waiting for the signal to turn white. He crossed the road and moved ahead. After he was about 50-100 feet in front, the signal turned white. I started walking. We maintained the distance between us till the next signal where he continued walking and I stopped again. You now get the drift, don't you? He was proverbially miles ahead and I was behind and reached my destination later than that guy.

This got me thinking. I didn't make any mistake. I followed the law of the land. I made the decision that the authorities expect a citizen to make. Still I 'lost' and reached my 'destination' relatively late. As against the guy who was walking alongside me. He, technically, made a mistake by crossing the road when he was not supposed to. He bypassed the law. He made a decision that the authorities don't expect a citizen to make. Still he 'won'. Not that I lost anything in the process, but you tend to compare your situation with your peers and judge whether you are on the right track within the right timeline.

Here's the big picture: I think this is what usually happens for bigger priorities in life too. Take career for example - there are some who still share an honest resume. By honest, I mean truth and nothing but the truth. Now-a-days, resumes are hardly honest. If, metaphorically, your actual job was to add that extra grip to Sachin Tendulkar's Cricket bat, you resume should say, "provided extra support and grip to Sachin Tendulkar's bat". In today's times, it will change to "advised, directly and supported Sachin Tendulkar to achieve 100 centuries". You see how a play upon words changed the entire job profile of an individual? Ironically it may seem, these are the same people who then go on to add extra grip to Virat Kohli's bat and say they are now "Unearthing fresh opportunities to achieve the next 100 centuries".  They move on to bigger things just by over-emphasizing their importance to the larger scheme of things. And the people who mention the truth - they take their time to reach the top of the ladder.

So who is wrong here? I guess no one. One way of looking at it is to say the guy who circumvented the law of the land did this with an appetite of accepting the damage / loss, if anything goes wrong. And this world welcomes people who have a higher risk appetite knowing that those are the people who go the extra mile to achieve success. Another way of looking at this would be to accept that everyone will eventually reach the destination in the end. Some just happen to reach there earlier. Maybe it depends on how we define success  - achieving our goals or achieving our goals within constraints like time / strength or money. Maybe it's all situational.

So, where do you stand on this?

Friday, January 01, 2016

Part 2 - Bollywood movies in 2015 that made me think

Part 1 of the series can be found here. Continuing with the top movies in 2015 that made me think -

6. Bajrangi Bhaijaan - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Bajrangi Bhaijaan

Second surprise of the year for me. Salman Khan movies are normally all about his charisma, his body, his dance moves and dishoom-dishoom. This movie was a refreshing change and had a good story too. If you are one of those few folks who haven't seen this movie, this is about a Hanuman-bhakt (Salman) who meets a Pakistani girl lost in Indian shores. He helps her find her family in Pakistan by going to Pakistan without a visa. What he encounters and viewing the same in the larger context of India-Pakistan troubles, forms the crux of the story. I seriously don't know why Kareena Kapoor Khan was cast in this movie as her acting talent was rarely utilized. The child actress, Harshaali Malhotra, became an instant favorite amongst movie goers and for all the right reasons. I normally don't say this, but watch this movie for 'bhaijaan'!

7. Drishyam - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Drishyam

First of all, I have seen the "original" movie released in Malayalam. That was simply awesome. Till the last scene, most of the audience weren't able to join the loose threads. In that context, Bollywood's Drishyam was a carbon copy of the Malayalam movie and it had to be good as far as story was concerned. The main actor's role is critical to the movie and hence, I had my doubts when it was revealed that Ajay Devgn will reprise Mohanlal's role in the Hindi version. Ajay Devgn's persona and his recent (action) movies make it difficult to believe an out-of-shape police officer hitting a muscular Ajay Devgn and Devgn, on his part, is simply begging for mercy. But I commend the risk Devgn took and am sure it will work wonders when the award season begins. Expect a few "Best Story" awards for Drishyam and maybe a best actor award too.

8. Manjhi - The Mountain Man - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Manjhi the mountain man

Nawazuddin Siddiqui all the way. This is his movie. From start. To end. If you want to see genuine acting talent, look no further. The guy may look small for a typical Bollywood actor, but don't be fooled by his physical stature. He is one of the best there is, in the industry. Manjhi further cements his position in the film industry - as one who is full of talent and can play any role with full dignity. The thing about Nawazuddin Siddiqui is that you tend to remember the character he performs and not the actor. That's the quality you need in your stars. And I haven't even started with the story of this movie! This is a must watch, and primarily for the main lead. Hope we get to see such movies in future too.

9. Talvar - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Talvar

I had seen the 1st movie made on the Aarushi Talvar case (Rahasya) which was more un-biased. I still wanted to see Talvar, primarily for Irrfan Khan. And I had no regrets. The movie is more or less on the similar lines as Rahasya. The role was tailor-made for Irrfan and he, as always, did a splendid job. In terms of relevance to actual story and keeping a balanced view on an issue that has plagued the nation, Rahasya was better. Talvar seemed to take a sympathetic and biased stand towards one side. However, in terms of acting and story-telling, Talvar was better than Rahasya.

10. Bajirao Mastani - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Bajirao Mastani

Third surprise of the year. I am not a fan of Ranveer Singh. I still am not. However, he took this movie to an altogether different level by his acting and intensity. Deepika reprised the role of Mastani and did a good job at it. Priyanka did their part well, although I felt she should have got a meatier role. In a way, her acting talent was somewhat wasted in the movie. Bajirao Mastani is not the best movie of 2015 but it's one of the movies you should watch once. The sets and color combinations had Sanjay Leela Bhansali written all over it and makes it a visual appealing.

If you observe my list carefully, you will realize that 3 of the these movies have Irrfan Khan and Nawazuddin Siddiqui as main / side characters each. You may feel I am being biased towards these actors, but hey, their movies were great too. Let me know if you think otherwise.

Other Notable movies of 2015 that didn't make the cut but still worth a dekko (in the order of their release) - 
1. Rahasya  - similar to Talvar.
2. Shamitabh - watch it for the chemistry between Amitabh Bachchan and Dhanush.
3. Dum Laga Ke Haisha - cute love story and nice acting.
4. Dharam Sankat Mein - another movie on religion by Paresh Rawal. Not as involving as "Ohh My God".
5. Margarita with a Straw - top class acting by Kalki and Revathi, as always. 
6. Baahubali - for the special effects, one of a kind.
7. Masaan - for Sanjay Mishra's acting.

Happy New Year guys. God Bless!

Part 1 - Bollywood movies in 2015 that made me think

Welcome to another edition of top Bollywood movies of the year. This is my 5th year of publishing a post on top 10 movies in Bollywood that made me thing. Yes, 5 years! 

These are my posts on top Bollywood movies from previous years - 
2014 - Part 1 | Part 2
2013 - Part 1 | Part 2
2012 - Part 1 | Part 2
2011 - Part 1 | Part 2

2015 was a year of the "non-Khans" in my honest opinion. And by Khans, I mean the 3 Khans - Aamir Khan, Salman Khan and Shahrukh Khan. No Aamir Khan movie was released (which means there can more than 1 movie scheduled next year), one super-hyped Shahrukh Khan movie was released which was apparently beaten down on social media and two Salman Khan movies were released, one of which had a story (yes, seriously).

Before I talk about the movies, one word of caution. These are the list of movies I think were worth watching. You, obviously, can chose to disagree. 

Without further delay, these are the top 10 movies (listed in the order of their release) that actually made me think - 

1. Baby - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Baby

Every once in a while, Akshay Kumar comes out of his funny-simpleton roles and delivers a baby (sic). Why am I making this statement? Because his last two movies before "Baby" were "Entertainment" and "The Shaukeens" which were released last year Last year also had a much acclaimed movie "Holiday". This year, it's "Baby". Despite what the name of the movie suggests, the story is about a secret mission and how the Indian forces get hold of the terrorist perpetrators. The movie is a bold statement and something which can be termed as fictional and cannot happen in real life. Akshay Kumar is simply great in "Baby" and is strongly supported by other actors in the movie. And by the way, this movie is from the same director (Neeraj Pandey) who gave us "A Wednesday" and "Special Chabbis". Any reason not to watch the movie? I don't find any. 

2. Badlapur - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Badlapur

Dark. Very dark. Brutal. That's how I should define this movie. I feel this is Varun Dhawan's best. Huma Qureshi did justice to her role. But, Nawazuddin Siddiqui took the cake! Its a revenge story of a hero (Varun Dhawan) whose family died when the villain (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) was running away with the loot. But as the movie unfolds, the audience is forced to change the perspective of their hero and villain and eventually, you tend to realize that the villain lost the battle but won the war and the actor, despite winning the battle, lost everything in the process. This movie is by far the best from Sriram Raghavan's stable.

3. Qissa - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Qissa

Few facts first. Qissa is technically a Punjabi film, although it has been perceived / promoted as a Bollywood film. Second, it belongs to parallel cinema genre. Third, it's a tale where you have to believe certain things that are not scientifically correct. Why watch this movie, you may ask. Because of all the reasons above, I say. Qissa is a master-piece in its own right. It's a tale of a Punjabi guy (played by Irrfan Khan) who wants a son to carry forward his legacy. When the fourth child born is also a girl, he decides to raise the child as a guy. Irrfan is shown as a guy who is desperate to raise his daughter as a son, who beats his daughters for having a fight with his 'son', who marries his 'son' off to a girl. Everything he does is illogical yet his portrayal makes you feel he is right to do what he is doing. That's what top actors do, they make you feel that wrong is actually not wrong enough. Qissa exceeds all expectation you have of parallel cinema. A word of caution, if you are not a fan of parallel cinema, stay away. If you are, don't miss this movie.

4. NH10 - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - NH10

First genuine surprise movie of 2015 for me. When you have a actor who is also a producer, I feel the movie will be about the actor marketing himself / herself. Anushka Sharma is the main lead and also the producer of NH10. The trailors proved the aforementioned feeling I had. But I was wrong. The movie was pure acting and not about producer promoting herself. Yes, she was the main lead and there was no popular actor cast alongside her. But she singlehandedly delivered. One of those movies where acting, story and dialogues were top-class. And yes, women-centric movies work in India. 

5. Piku - 
Notable Bollywood Movies 2015 - Piku

Another women centric movie that worked. You have to commend Deepika Padukone for acting alongside stalwarts like Amitabh Bachchan and Irrfan Khan. Piku is the name of Deepika Padukone's character who has a dad with constipation problems. The movie is a sweet and funny take on dad-daughter relationship with constipatio providing the humor. And no, its not toilet humor which is why the movie is classy. Piku is easily the best light-hearted movie of 2015. You have to watch Piku, if you haven't. You have to watch Piku again, if you have watched it before. Must watch. 

As always, there are 5 more movies that make this list. You can read about them by clicking here.

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