satire state

Ventriloquism, naps and other things Indian cricketers like to do on their days off (not really)

Is there any such thing as shutting down?

If you’re an active Indian cricketer, you tend to be a very active Indian cricketer. There are off days, but they tend to strewn all over the calendar, and not strung together like a pearl necklace. In such hyper-hectic, blink-and-you-miss-the-next-match times, an Indian cricketer is left with little choice but to construct a fortress of form, built on runs, big, big runs, or wickets, loads ‘n loads of wickets. Even bowling machines have it easier.

Still, with solid form is built a solid reputation, and a very few, the elite of Indian cricket, can dream and actually take time off cricket. It’s because they are an industry to themselves – and every successful industry must have an aura, a rather unusual one at that. Bordering on freaky at times.

So when the big boys chill, they end up doing some fairly weird things. This is beyond what you see on their Instagram or Facebook pages; this is insider dope, the fuel that makes them what they are – sane in spite of the insanity.

Mahi, the ventriloquist

Take for instance, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. He spends hours locked up in his Trophy House talking to his stumps. Not just that, he even plays ventriloquist and speaks for the stumps. Once overheard, “Oh Mahi, I still remember when you picked me up, me, the middle stump, off and leg were so upset, but ME in the middle, that was a lotta fun.” Only to hear Mahi reply, “Yes, I remember the day like it was yesterday. I had hit yet another six, excuse my modesty, or don’t, of course it was the last ball, and I saw you standing tall in the middle, calling out to me, 'Mahi, come get me, get me,' I just had to have you.”

MSD’s other idiosyncrasies, and he has a few, include racing bikes with his guards – he always gives them the better machine and a head-start to boot, revving up only at the finish line where he pulls off a death-defying stunt, a manoeuvre that’s pretty much the equivalent of a six in biking parlance – a good 10-15 meters behind the guards, he takes off, pulling off a Rajnikant – soaring past the guards, meeting the guards at the finish line flipping an unlit cigarette in his mouth.

Leaving it late

Then there’s Virat Kohli, and his love of unlikely chases on the Delhi-Mumbai flight. He makes it to the airport well before time, only to wait it out 120 seconds before the gates close. Not having check-in baggage helps. Virat has homes and a change of clothes in both cities. He bolts through – a quick frisk at security, a dash through the last 100 metres, and just as the door is about to close, he slows down, nonchalantly handing his boarding pass to a Namaste from the air hostess. That he sits in the first row's aisle seat ensures he doesn’t disturb anyone.

On reaching Delhi, Virat catches up with his Delhi buddies who always tell him he’s getting a little soft and too metrosexual – together they spar in some hardcore Delhi desi filthy niceties. Virat admits he’s going soft, and not swearing on the field that much, especially since he’s become captain, has taken some of the edge of his expletives.

Sleep, pranks and tattoos

Then there’s Ajinkya Rahane, who just likes to sleep. He gets so tired with all that practice and looking intense and honest all the time, he just needs to shrug it off, dozing off for marathon afternoon naps, after an honest home-cooked Marathi lunch.

As for Ashwin, he gets off playing pranks and making sure he doesn’t have to run at all while catching flights – he reaches the airport up to three hours before takeoff for even domestic flights. He spends his time going up to strangers locked into their phones asking for their autographs, usually with a – “Hello sir, aren’t you that famous cricketer?” Ashwin also takes a pocket magnet chess board and plays with himself, sitting on both sides of the board, changing his voice for both players: one speaks in Southie English, the other in chaste Tamil.

Everyone knows Shikhar Dhawan loves to get himself inked. Unlike his batting, he doesn’t favour one side. His love for tattoos makes him read about the art, even though the only written stuff are the captions below the tattoos. Dhawan also has a deep love for Sufi music. He spends hours tattooing his favourite sufi singers on PhotoShop. “They must look as good as they sing”, he says, with that broad smile of his.

Hair today, gone tomorrow

But the one thing that unites all Indian cricketers is their love for grooming their hair, especially their facial hair. A deadpan Jadeja puts it all in perspective, “As someone smart said, hair is today, gone tomorrow – we want to live in present and work on hair before it is gone tomorrow.” To which KL Rahul shrugs and says, “Dude, what are you saying, it’s hair today…” But just then Virat walks in doing some bhangra. Stuart Binny follows him, he’s holding a drink.

However plausible this sounds, this is largely a work of fiction.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”

“Terrible!!!”

“Like what?”

“Like….”

A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”

“Shameless!”

“Shameful!”

“Ashamed.”

“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:

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This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.