How Mani Ratnam Ruined A Generation Of Indian Men

If you fall in love, you might be falling in love with a terrorist. In the arranged marriage market, you’ll find a hot girl who asks if you’re a virgin

I had recently written about how the ages are 13 to 16 are “peak movie appreciation age”, and about how I got influenced by several movies in that period in life. One of them was Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se (1998).

Of course, the most influential thing about this movie was the idea of dancing on top of a moving vehicle. I clearly remember our school picnic (on October 31st 1998), when responding to a challenge, a friend and I (later joined by another friend) clambered on top of the picnic bus and started dancing. I got a 2 litre bottle of Pepsi (presented by the friend who joined us later) for my efforts, which was duly shared between the rest of my class.

Dancing on top of a bus was fun, though it could get dangerous if the bus moved well-at-a -faster rate (I don’t think too many people copied that). The more dangerous thing about Dil Se was about the sort of ideas about arranged marriage that it presented.

Dil Se happened to be Preity Zinta’s debut movie (she was earlier mainly known for this Cadbury’s Perk ad) (it wasn’t technically her debut but I think it got released before the other movie she had shot).

Ten years back, when I was in the arranged marriage market, I wrote this series of blog posts called “Arranged Scissors“. One of them was a hypothetical letter I’d written to a prospective father-in-law (I don’t think I’ve got my actual father-in-law to read it). That included:

During the interview, I’m going to ask your daughter if she is a virgin. If you think she is the type that will be scandalized at such questions, you need not shortlist me.

I must admit that wasn’t an original. It was inspired by this movie released more than ten years before I wrote that.

Preity Zinta plays the role of this Mallu girl whom the protagonist (played by Shah Rukh Khan) meets in the arranged marriage market. They break out to a side room in the house for a chat. The first thing she asks him is if he is a virgin (that also happened to be Zinta’s first line on-screen, helping her set herself an image of a no-nonsense actress).

It fit into the story, so it was all fine. But for a generation of teenage boys watching Dil Se in 1998, it gave the perfectly wrong idea of what arranged marriage was like. It was almost like how Mani Ratnam was telling us that “if you fall in love, you might be falling in love with a terrorist. In the arranged marriage market, you’ll find a hot girl who asks if you’re a virgin”.

And some of us influential boys bought it. It didn’t help matters that just three years later, in Dil Chahta Hai, the Saif Ali Khan character finds that he can find himself a good match in the arranged marriage market (that occurred after my optimal age of movie appreciation, but Preity Zinta in Dil Se had influenced me enough that I bought the tripe anyway).

Many years later, many of us came into the arranged marriage market looking for Preity Zintas and Sonali Kulkarnis, only to find that it was an admission of failure, where you could at best look for a “common minimum program”, and which was overall a dehumanising experience (I’m glad I met my wife when I did, and she bailed me out of the market).

Now, we look back and curse the filmmakers. All because we happened to watch these movies at our most optimal movie appreciation age.

IPL Structuring

I remember that this time, last year, I was eagerly looking forward to the IPL auctions. It also happened to be a time when I was actively looking out for a new job (i wasn’t going to find one till about six months later). And I was secretly hoping that one of the IPL franchises would employ me as a game theory and structuring consultant in order to help them out with the player auctions. While I tracked it online, I imagined myself sitting in the bidding room at the Trident, showing my excel sheet to the franchise owner and captain, and watch Preity Zinta enhance her Mata Amrita Index.

It was also a period of extreme NED, due to which i didn’t bother looking out actively to try consult for an IPL franchise. It was a period of low confidence, so I assumed I wasn’t good enough for this kind of work, and didnt’ bother doing anything in this direction. Frankly, I didn’t have a clue how to proceed, else i might have put SOME effort at least. A few months later, when the IPL was well underway, I figured out that one of my cousins is a big shot with Bangalore Royal Challengers, and he was among the people at the Trident who picked the Test XI to represent BRC. I wanted to kick myself, but for some reason I didn’t.

Currently, I’m comfortably employed, and so far have been happy with this job. Else I might have wanted to throw my hat into the ring. Once again, IPL team formation season is on. A few transfers have gone through already, and a few are currently in limbo. Bidding will happen next season for people who are joining the league this year. It promises to be an interesting time. And so far I’ve been deeply unhappy with the way the franchises are going about their business.

I’m especially upset with BRC, and have half a mind to call up my cousin who consults for them and give him a piece of my mind. How the hell could they let go of Zaheer Khan in exchage for Robin Uthappa? Yes, the latter is from Bangalore, and has that local pull factor. He has batted quite well this Ranji, though not anywhere close to what he played like 2 seasons back when he topped the batting charts. But he is supposed to be paid twice of what Zaheer was being paid! Is he really worth that much? I’m sure that BRC missed a trick here. I’m sure that had the BRC asked for a fee from Mumbai Indians in order to release Zaheer in exchange for Uthappa, the Indians would’ve definitely paid up. When Chelski can reportedly offer Anelka, Malouda, Alex and 15 million pounds in exchange for Robinho, Mumbai could definitely part with Uthappa and maybe a million dollars in exchange for Zaheer.

There were rumours of the Mumbai Indians negotiating a swap with Kings XI Punjab for a swap between Powar and Harbhajan, which reportedly got stalled because Harbhajan earns so much more than Powar. Once again, what if the Mumbai Indians paid a fee along with Harbhajan for Powar? I know it is ridiculous that Powar is worth Harbhajan plus a fee, but given their disparity in income, this is the only way that this deal is possible. And I’m sure that there is a particular fee, which if paid along with Harbhajan in exchange for Powar, will leave all the interested parties (Punjab, Mumbai, Harbhajan, Powar) better off. It seems like people are too lazy to find it.

The opportunities like this are endless. All that the franchises need is someone who has sufficient knowledge of game theory, coase theorem, a decent knowledge of cricket (interest in domestic cricket is a desirable quality) and who understands how to structure deals. I don’t know if franchises have already recruited such people but if they haven’t, they should try and recruit. The most obvious choice of person that I can think of who possesses all the above skills (including interest in domestic cricket) is me. Unlike last year, I’m not in the job market right now, but don’t mind doing some part-time stuff. I may not get paid, but I’m willing to work for a few IPL tickets and maybe invites to some parties with cricketers.

I’m also wondering if cricketers’ pay will go down starting the 2011 season onwards. The IPL auctions happened just before the downturn was to begin, and I’m sure that franchises have overpaid for most players. Since players have all signed three year contracts, their pay till the 2010 season is safe. Beyond that, I’m not sure if franchises will offer them fresh contracts at higher or equal salaries.

It would also be interesting to see if some version of the Bosman ruling is to operate in the IPL. We can only wait and see.