Fire in Babylon – Caribbean Carnage

June 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Posted in Movie Review, Politics | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , ,

If you follow cricket even remotely, unless you have  been living in a cave ( the ones that come without cable and an Internet connection) for the past few months, I assume you’d have come across much fanfare and hoopla around this movie, ” Fire in Babylon”.

Fire in Babylon

The resurgence of West Indies Cricket by adopting a vicious pace strategy in demonic fashion, is the stuff that legends are made of. And rightly so, many of them figure in this slightly offbeat masalafied  documentary, backed by much awe-inspiring videos, anecdotes, and of course Bob Marley and the Wailers.  The movie, as a testimonial to the mojo of the 70s and 80s team was very much overdue, and is really enjoyable to watch as well.

If you were around back in them days, ( or are a cricket tragic like me, and have peered at footage in xyz sports channels and the internet), you damn well know that the West Indies Pace quartet did deliver some sweet chin music, reducing batsmen to miserable lumps in the middle of the pitch ( which by then would’ve acquired a shade of red ). Yum Yum. And to think that we currently ban pitches and stadiums which are even slightly threatening under the arbitrary “awkward bounce” category. I WANT TO SEE  BLOOD ON THE PITCH, DAMNIT.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypso

These deliveries were regular sights back then. The one that whizzes past your face, the one that was directed at your head, A quick fiery jab at the sternum, One at the unmentionables if you were being careless and duck-footed. And finally, when they were visibly bored of this playful waltzing – a lethal yorker to finish off the business.

Does this movie  deserve all the lavish praises thrown at it? Is this a sign of well-made cricket documentaries to come? Was the screenplay/story right in choosing to make this an overtly political movie including distinct tones of blackpower struggles, Rastafarian movement and anti-apartheid observations?

No. Hopefully. Not so much.

Michael Holding and Colin Croft have this to say. [ source ].

“What the film does well,” reckons Holding, “is show how what happened on the field affected what happened off it.” What he and the other players are less comfortable with is Fire in Babylon’s suggestion that the reverse was true as well. “The film is political,” says Croft, “but I don’t think any of us were playing political cricket. We were just playing to win.”

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Read that whole article, to get an assessment of the cricketers’ opinions about this movie, and views from recent cricketers like Chris Gayle.

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This in itself is an astute, but simple observation. A motif that is seen even when the Windies players supported Kerry Packer’s initiative. There was an inner drive, mostly motivated by Clive Lloyd, to take the sport more professionally. This coupled by the fact that they were being paid peanuts by their own cricket board ( rings a bell? ) was indeed one of the factors behind them pulling up their socks. This is not to reduce the romanticism and the devilish zeal behind the resurgence. If anything, it adds the concept of the working man’s struggle into the mix.

Racism is a tricky beast to handle. Many changes were happening in the Caribbean political climate around this time. The film makers, in an act of sensational overkill, decided to attribute almost all those factors to the cricket regime, and with a healthy dose of feel-good feedback to the political struggle delivered by the resounding victories.

I believe that the words that were exchanged by Aussies ( fans and players alike) could’ve been of racist nature, and smacks of arrogance . But what seemed irrational was portrayal of the bowling acts of Lillee and one of my personal favourites Thommo as wicked colonial oppression, white man’s violence yada yada, while the very same strategy being picked up by the west Indies was proclaimed as a Blackman’s victory ( with a proud inflection), by one of the loony old men narrating along.

To put it in an laymanish manner, You can’t use the race-card twice. And more importantly, when you discussed cricketing strategies, bringing political bias into it was just plain ignorance.

I’ve read on numerous sites, that some of the footage used was inaccurate/ wrongly timed. This again isn’t acceptable from a documentary point of view. It speaks for itself that the moviemakers paid more attention to the “Fire” outside the cricketing field, and didn’t get the basics of the sport right. A large audience for this movie would be the cricket-savvy folks, and this doesn’t go down well with us.

Now, to my last and a critical objection with this movie. Apart from Marley and the Wailers, and some key BGM tracks, most of the musicians chosen for this film were of the “so bad it’s good” category, selected mostly for upping the #kvltness of the movie, and for gratuitous usage of cricketing lingo in the lyrics. Horrible selection, and severly offputting in the context of the movie.

To sum it up, What the movie lacks in overall common-sense and bad choice of sensational matter, it more than makes up for by including delicious ( if i may say so) video snippets of raw and awesome fast bowling *.

Also for multiple reasons like the ominous Moustache of Clive Lloyd ( wah wah ), The camraderie between Bob Marley and Viv ( which increased my respect for both of them), Vivian Richards’ casual swagger along with the incessant chewing of gum, girls swooning over him, the rhythm and enjoyment on the field that was shown by that team knowing very well that they were invincible , and that terrible desire to win by any means necessary while still honouring the rule books.

Clive Lloyd

[*  not Agarkar fast, not sissy fast, not medium fast, but something that the batsmen feared to face for the tiny annoying reason to not have their heads knocked off ]

The present west indies team is in a sorry state, it’d do them well to draw inspiration from this movie. Sure, the joint of the Rastafarian movement has long since died down, the blackpower struggle isn’t a big motivator anymore, Aussies aren’t the champions they used to be, but that’s still no excuse to not get your sorry asses moving and reclaim the honour and pride of the idols you look upto.

Some random Bible passage has this to say, almost prophetically,

“and Babylon will become a heap of ruins, haunted by jackals. She will be an object of horror and contempt, a place where no one lives. ” .

May there be a revival of Caribbean Carnage. Some of us still love fast bowling the way it should be. Merciless.

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P.S : I was terribly disappointed that the movie talked about Malcolm Marshall for only around 5 mins. Terrible injustice, but I’ve been informed that in the context of the movie this was necessary.

The man’s a legend, a bowling stud beyond description, and provided hope for aspiring short-in-height bowlers ( relatively speaking) worldwide 🙂 .

Here is a better documentary about him, which I thought was more inspirational than this movie itself.

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2 Comments »

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  1. Good stuff, I say.

    That’s an interesting point – about the film portraying the cricket as being as political as off-field drama.

    I think this is a trap many writers fall into – they force-fit explanations and frameworks that *could* make narratives more interesting, even if factually inaccurate. It’s tempting – y’know – to think – damn, if the facts were jusst a little different, it’d make for *such* a cool story(take, for instance, the many stories about Indian cricket that say – ‘resurgence of small town India’ and such) .

    +1 about Marshall – sad that he got only a passing mention – Colin Croft got much more footage. I was also disappointed that they didnt feature Lara, who I think was the last spark of that generation. The 277 *should* have been there. I’d have wanted to see the 153 and 213 as well if it werent for the fact that they were in ’99.

    • Agree with the small town fascination bit. Some of it is justified ( lack of facilities and such), but more done because it makes for a nice struggle story.


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