Images vivid in the mind's eye

RAJU BHARATAN

AS you re-run the Visual Panorama that is 2002 on the Little Screen of Your Imagination, you insight it as a happening, happening year. `The Ashes Crown The Year' — as Jack Fingleton so topically titled his book. Yet my focus is not so much on non-Indian performers as on Indian personalities. If only because TV is all about the paparazzi. `Sachinspeak' it is when not `Sachindo'. You saw it all on TV, so what is there new to vivify in, say, Sachin's Laxman-rivalling 176 at Eden vs Carl's West Indies? Except to note that 2002-parting point made by Carl in his column. The West Indies, argued Carl, were on the hitback trail with the Eden Test itself — "until Saching played a gem". Of purest ray serene — before Ten dropped out of the TVS ODI contest. Only to remain current coin via the `Harshahi Mehmaan' Sachinspeak interviews — STAR scooped by the Bhogle whizkid. `Sachinspeak', in a sense, marked a watershed in TV programming.

Just view the telepicture by the end of the year. Along comes Sony with the Mini World Cup in its ephemeral custody to upset all settled values in cricket telecasting. Your remote told you exactly how far away from cricket Canada-arrived Ruby was. Ruby's appeal — till the ICC Trophy — was but to the `now' generation. Almost all of us snidely dismissed Ruby as a fluffy non-happening thing, going by the studiedly ignoramus way she projected herself. Only to 2002 discover — a full 70 years after India came into Test cricket — that we could ignore the Bhatia BratPacker only up to a point. Since Ruby was a Tele Presence In Herself. Ruby thus made the scale of breakthrough impact in 2002 that, say, 13-year-old `Pakistunner' Nazia Hasan did, in 1980, with `Aap jaisa koie meree zindagee mein aaye', heralding the `Baat ban jaaye' disco trend in Hindustani Sangeet via Ameen Sayani's `Binaca Geetmala'.

Nazia is no more. But Ruby is here to stay. A Ruby jahannum-bent upon shaping the World Cup in her own trendy telly mould via the razzledazzle SonyMax. The World Cup you can't ignore. So can't you ignore Ruby on Sony — given her gift of the gab and her gift of the garb. Usha Uthup was singing in hotels until Khushwant Singh, as the shrewd Northerner Editor, sold her — a full 30 years before `Mr. & Mrs. Iyer' — as `Pop Goes The Iyer'. So did Ruby come Channel [V] presold through Sony. Ruby it was who invested Kapil Dev with rare telly validity at a time when BBC TV via Karan Thapar had our World Cup superhero in maudlin tears. That must rank as a striking case of 2002 event management by Ruby Bhatia.

That is to say, Kapil stood devalued for all save Ruby. The Bhatia Girl instinctually saw that, as the Hefty Haryanvi Atlas who carried the World Cup home all the way from Lord's. Kapil retained a persona that had merely to be recreated on television. Throwing the thick-set Kapil in the thick of the Beautiful People was a blaster stroke. Kapil now was as much in his element in the compound with Mohammad Kaif as in the make-up room with Shilpa Shetty. Kapil thus sat pat on the sofa in his ruggedly masculine handling of one well-upholstered film heroine after another. "Magic hai to mumkin hai!"

The end-2002 spotlight, here, therefore, is on such images that endure. Such as the Raveena-anchored Rahul, as the technocrat supreme, crafting that 144 in the Bridgetown series opener in the face of his `helmettle' being litmus-tested by Big Merv. Another moment etched in the mind's eye is the `helmeticulous' Anil Kumble going down like a pole-axed bull in Antigua. Then leaving his helmet back in the pavilion and returning to centrepitch battle, stitches and all, to claim Brian Lara's prize wicket. This blow to Anil's ego was sad. Even sadder was the mid-2002 suddenness with which Our Man Geoffrey, large as life, disappeared from the small screen. One moment Boycs was full of Yorkshire pudding go, next he was going through the kind of `tests' about which his straight bat knew next to nothing.

Boycs' gift is his talk being as straight as his bat. No doubt Geoffrey was the most missed man on our TV monitor as the year drew to a close. With no clear image about whether Boycs would be back. Sans Geoffrey for his velvet punchbag, Sunny was so 2002 effective and no more. But Sherry continued to devise his own `Colour by Technicolor' lexicon on the game. For all that, EspnStar faced a near identity crisis minus Boycs, no matter how impactive the freelancing Ravi might have proved, via this channel, in telling the ICC where it got off the White Horse. This was an hour to savour during the year — Ravi making mincemeat of the ICC, on EspnStar, only to catch a Tartar commentator in Sanjay on DD. Ravi's telebrush with ICC authority might have created for him a rare new niche in Indian cricket. But come DD and Sanjay subtly cut the ground from under the feet of Ravi and `WISDEN 20:20' alike. In the sum-up that mattered at the end of the day, Sanjay left an impress all his own.

No less is the year to be remembered for the Sony style Sri brought to slaughtering Hindi, the Max touch Kapil imparted to murdering English. That is behind the scenes. On the spot, it was Sourav's year as the new `wave' fashioner of the thriller: `How The NatWest Was Won'. Sourav's football had all but stolen cricket's thunder when the 326 NatWest chase made Gang the darling of all India. But 2003 is another pair of Sourav shoes. Shoes with which Sourav is optimistically expected to show `The World' a clean pair of heels. If head over heels in love yet another `Paragon' is ever again to be found with him.