India’s undying passions, as is well-known are cricket, cinema, crime and politics. In the Mumbai context, these are my pick of stories that had the city riveted in 2016, and should reach culmination this year.
Cricket: The first week of 2017 has been extraordinary for Indian cricket what with the BCCI president and secretary being sacked by the Supreme Court, followed by MS Dhoni relinquishing captaincy in ODIs and T20s. But for Mumbai’s diehard followers, the Ranji Trophy is perhaps more pertinent.
Virat Kohli’s brilliance and India’s win over England in the match at Wankhede last year couldn’t hide the fact that not one player from this city was in the playing side. This had never happened in a Test match in Mumbai in 85 years.
True, Ajinkya Rahane and Rohit Sharma were injured, but even so, Mumbai’s reputation as the bastion of Indian cricket came under some threat, which seems to have been thwarted.
Despite the absence of some stalwarts, with some huffing and puffing, Mumbai is in the final of the Ranji Trophy this season now, anchored by 17-year-old debutant Prithvi Shaw.
A 42nd title — with perchance a substantial contribution from this talented youngster — would be more than just a redemption song: it would show that cricket in Mumbai and India is still inseparable.
Bollywood:Sports biopics are the current flavour of the country as Aamir Khan’s Dangal has proved at the box-office. Before Dangal – based on wrestler Mahavir Phogat and his champion daughters Geeta and Babita — movies on Milkha Singh, MC Mary Kom and MS Dhoni did excellent business too.
My favourite though, is still Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Paan Singh Tomar, released a few years back. Sports biopics don’t necessarily have to be all rah-rah. Paan Singh Tomar is a pathos-laden, riveting story about an extraordinary runner who ends up as a dreaded dacoit.
I understand several sport biopics are being discussed these days in Bollywood, which is wonderful. Understanding the pursuit of excellence in sports, whether resulting in triumph or not, can only take us a step ahead in becoming a sporting nation.Hopefully, among the subjects includes Major Dhyan Chand (who made Hitler swoon in shock and awe with his hockey skills) and PT Usha, the superb and versatile runner who broke the glass ceiling for women sportspersons and spawned so many champions.
Crime:When the Sheena Bora case came to light in the second half of 2015, it left the country gobsmacked: as much for its intriguing story with several twists, turns and hooplas, as well as the people involved.
Indrani and Peter (Mukerjea) was a power couple from the highest echelons of Mumbai’s high society. It seemed unthinkable that they could be embroiled in such a morbid crime.
From what is in the public domain, it seems a fascinating cocktail of passion, intrigue, family feuds, greed and envy – with big money and Indrani at its core – making it the most extraordinary crime story in decades.As the case unraveled, it drew in a cast of players as far flung as Kolkata, Dehradun, London and became murkier and murkier and became a tantalising thriller which is still to be entirely solved.
Indrani, last heard, had turned spiritual, wanting to donate her organs and much of her wealth for charitable causes. Peter, meanwhile, continues his grim battle to show he was not complicit in the murder.
In 2017 we should know whodunit. And why.
Politics:Action and excitement builds up as Mumbai gears for elections to its municipal corporation, due in February. With a whopping budget of Rs 37,052-crore (for 2016-17), the stakes are high for all political parties, notably the Shiv Sena, which has had a free run of the civic body for a long while, but now faces stiff competition from the BJP.
Allies in the state and at the Centre, the two parties have nevertheless been spared no effort in running down the other for the past 30 months. Chasing to occupy virtually the same political space, how the frenemies approach the forthcoming BMC elections should be intriguing.
After incessant shadow-boxing, whether they will contest as allies or independently is still undecided. Break-ups and patch-ups have been equal in number. With only a few weeks remaining, things are heating up.
Among other parties, the Navnirman Sena has been pushed to the margins; with the Congress and the NCP, it is unclear whether they are in the running or resigned as also-rans.Irrespective of the result, however, the moot questions is whether anything will change for the hapless denizens of this city. The past makes only for pessimism. For the future, I submit people must be proactive and vehement in their demands.