A promise made long ago - almost a year ago to the boys of the GHS team was fulfilled yesterday. I had promised them all that since, to me, the key to the movie lies in how well they perform both in the acting and in the cricket, if they manage to pull them both off convincingly I will host a dinner for them. Enthusiastic and confident they were then, last April, and we moved on, shooting the movie over the better part of last year.
|Standing - Sangeet (Varun), Sriraj (Nissar), Suraj (Vikas), Sumanth, Lalith (Rajinder), Vasudev (Ramesh), Bharath (Kaleem), Nikhil (Karthik), Mahadev and kneeling Rohan, Santosh (Gautam), Neelima, Shaurya, Sai Srinivas (Siddhanth) and Sudhir (Sanjay)|| || || || || |
Shameem's dour and dogged approach, Karthik's mercurial approach, Siddhanth and his stylish and confident manner, Gautam's resolute, never say die and responsible presence, Mikey's raw aggression and untamed belligerence, Ramesh's amiable but reliable presence, Ashish's presence of mind, Varun's sheer pluck, Noel's optimism and spirit, Nissar's unpredictable but penetrative ways, Vikas's loyal and steadfast approach, Kaleem and Sanjay providing the stability on the bench were imprinted in my mind from the book. The urgency and the unflagging desire to win needed to be shown by the young GHS team, in their acts, their words, and this, to me was the key. Everglades, the other finalist was not only superior in skill but they were also a team used to winning so they would not give an inch. If GHS has to win they would have to get up every time they fell, conquer all doubts, walk into the Everglades den and walk out with the trophy. This is a final that tests their character, their desire and pushes them to the limit. This had to come through, and by God the kids did it.
|Senthil, Sagar and Mohan discussing a point|
I have seen the movie 14 times or 15 till date on the big screen. And each time I see the run chase I can feel the urgency, the desire, the desperation. In Ramesh's innings at the top I see a calm foil to Mikey's aggression, as he accumulates ones and twos with the deftness of a businessman. Mikey is felled, in a scene that makes my skin crawl each time, in the unnatural way that his frail frame hits the ground, motionless. But the way he gets up, ear bleeding and sends off the helmet to the dressing room sends the signal loud and clear. GHS is down but it will get up each time. Many of my astute cricketer friends who have watched the movie have commented on how resolute, responsible and mature Gautam looks all through the run chase, knowing he will pull it off if there is a sliver of a chance. His running, his batting, his calling, even the way he looks around the ground is picture perfect. That to me was the biggest takeaway from the final as the captain holds it all together. In that final scene when he for a moment thinks that they have lost it all, I find my eyes moistening each time. Phenomenal job. Rajinder, the cricketer that he is, made that partnership scale up a few notches with picture perfect shots, good enough for any cricketer to be proud. And the kid has not even played league cricket. His reluctance, his unhappiness at being sent out for what seems an unfair decision is unforgettable. He looks so real, so much that he wants to go and finish the game for GHS. And each time I see it I think of Abhimanyu, young and frail and full of idealism and hope, being trapped by those corrupted by the thought of winning, over fighting fairly. Somewhere there the Everglades team loses an inch just as the Kauravas did.
|Me and Skipper Gautam|
Nissar's unfortunate dismissal tests GHS further and his reluctance to leave the field, to leave his captain fighting alone for the trophy comes across superbly. The highly talented Varun does his bit to accelerate the score and it is just as I visualised when I wrote, that this stocky boy who is not really a cricketer, gets every move right - from looking at his favourite direction as he takes guard and slogging the speedy Parvez for two brilliant hoicks over midwicket before losing his off stump. Everything that Varun did in his stay at the middle was so genuine that I wonder how this kid did it - even taking his helmet off and walking dejectedly. Shameem and Karthik are challenged by the pace of Parvez, one of the quickest and the tides turn completely in favour of Everglades. Their surprise at losing their wickets and their reluctance at having to leave before achieving their dream is so obvious, but they have been beaten by a better player. Ashish comes in at a time when there are 27 runs more to get and in such situations, it is normal for any team to relax for a moment and Everglades does that, especially when you know that one player is out of action as Siddhanth is with a split webbing. Ashish adding 15 runs with Gautam was again so real, slogs, desperate running, the odd boundary and the increasing tension as they get close to the target. Ashish's fall was something we practised, that shot he plays over to thirdman and it looked really good to me just as that last boundary that Gautam smashes to cover point, going down on his knee. And then the arrival of Siddhanth, braving a finger with split webbing, pain and further injury, for a cause he believes in as do all his mates, and as do most people at the ground, is as dramatic as one would expect. Every time I see him fall clutching his injured finger (Everglades attacking his weakness) I wince again and one of my favourite scenes in the movie is the look on Gautam's face when Sid refuses help. Gautam almost looks like, :now we are through buddy, you just stay with me and we'll see it through". The way he offers his hand to Sid and pulls him to his feet is wonderful. If I were an Everglades player I would start feeling that something big was happening, something was slipping out. And then Sid pulls off what is an expected but hard fought win, over an opponent that did not yield an inch, that did no favours and in fact tried every trick in the book to win. That is the kind of a win that I wanted to see on the screen and I saw it. I must also mention, in the same breath, that the Everglades team did a fine job as well - Rayan, Imran, Pervez and Rohan taking up much of their screen time and each one doing a superb job. They are all trained cricketers who are playing league cricket, some like Rayan playing for the state as well. But they sat through the shoot patiently and did their parts commendably well.
|Anjali, me, Siddhanth, Nissar, Rajinder, Karthik, Ramesh and Sudhir|
And so it was that the boys richly deserved their day out at Sailing Club which was hosted readily by my good friend Kiran Prakash and his family, Anita, his lovely wife and Shreya and Rohan. All the kids were there except Shameem who was appearing for some exam in his college in Vijayawada. Mohana Krishna, Uma and Neelima, Senthil, Ruhee and little Rayan, Shobha, Anjali, Sheila, Vajra, Shaurya were there to celebrate the moment and meet the heroes. Coach Sumanth came too and spent time chilling out with the lads just as Sagar and Mallik were there. A pleasant addition to the party was Mahadev, Vasu's brother and a good time was had by all. I gave all the kids who did not have a copy of The Men Within a signed copy, we all had fun, dinner and split at 1030. Well done boys, you deserve much more for your splendid job!
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