Why Manmohan Singh was right on demonetization

December 18, 2016

Former Prime Minister, Finance Minister and RBI Governor Manmohan Singh spoke out strongly against demonetization in the Rajya Sabha on November 24, characterising it as an organised loot and legalised plunder of the common people.  The sharp use of adjectives to describe his position stood out as uncharacteristic of his usually mild mannered approach.  More surprisingly, there was a lack of a substantial rebuttal from the government or the ruling party with the exception of questioning what right did the man who preside over the scams of UPA have to talk about loot and plunder.  Nobody questioned why such words were used in the first place.

In light of a seemingly innocuous clarification given by Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia in a press conference on Dec 16, though, the description assumes significance. Adhia clarified that under the Income Tax Act, 1961, deposits made by political parties are exempt as long as their donations are properly accounted for.  When this led to an outcry by the media and the public at large, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stepped in to put on his best appearance of indignation and ‘clarify’ that the government was taking a tough stand against political parties as well (while only reiterating the law as it stands).

Let us then examine the law and how it works in practice because there is a huge gulf between theory and practice:

  1. Political parties are of course allowed to accept donations.
  2. Donations in cash are allowed.  No amount is specified for the same except that all donations (cash or bank) above Rs.20000, name and address of the donor is to be provided to the EC.
  3. The problem is, it is ridiculously easy to make multiple donations of below 20000 each and not have to report them at all and thus escape tax.
  4. Tax, how?  Well, a person holding black money in (old) 500 and 1000 rupee notes (which have ceased to be legal tender) can simply make a donation to a political party in multiple installments, each below 20000 to escape being taxed on the black money.
  5. But wait, hasn’t the FM said that it is illegal for a party to accept donations in old notes post demonetization?  Right, but you can always backdate the receipt (if any)!  Has been done by lesser mortals than politicians so why wouldn’t a political party be able to get away with it?
  6. Is there a law that says that all receipts must be issued by an automated computerised system that does not allow manually editing the date?  Afraid not!
  7. If this was so, why did the government still go through with demonetization?

Now we are talking!  You see, it stretches credibility to say that the government did not consider such a massive loophole in the chain while rolling out demonetization (with its attendant costs). I mean, if they are really so incompetent, they need to tender their resignations forthwith and publicly own responsibility for such a Himalayan blunder.

But what if they knew?  Once you open your mind to such a possibility, you get a different view.  Remember the tall promise made by the govt to eliminate black money? Something considered impossible by conventional wisdom.  Well, the govt has done exactly that and how!  They have afforded to all black  money operators an opportunity to convert all black money held in cash to white with no questions asked.  The price for that, of course, is ‘donating’ the money to political parties.  But that is perhaps a small price to pay for those who would be overcome by gratitude to the govt for their benevolence.

While the Indian tax administration has hitherto been spectacularly unsuccessful in recovering their rightful claims of tax from black money operators, they have at least had a claim to the same by law.  Black money operators needed to exercise due care whenever they needed to convert black money to white to avoid getting caught.  Not anymore.  Here at last is a one time window to whitewash your sins with not a finger being waved at you.  In 67 years nobody has thought of such a beautiful scheme.  No need to disclose income either, just donate.  Ah, if you won’t donate, that’s too bad.  After all, with several state elections lined up, political parties could do with the extra cash which, and this is the best part, will be totally legal.

Perhaps I am too cynical.  Perhaps I have got it wrong.  Perhaps a man as learned as Manmohan Singh got it wrong too.  But in that case, it is up to the government to offer some substantial rebuttal instead of unleashing trolls who label people as cangi or whatever bullshit to obfuscate the issue. There has thus far been a paucity of clarity from the government, all excused of course under the garb of confidentiality.  But in this instance, the nation really does need to know how exactly does government plan to bring colluding politicians and businesses to book?  That is, if the horse hasn’t already bolted and there’s a good chance that it has.

In the grand tradition of conservative/ Tory parties, the BJP too has arranged for a brutal redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich.  Only, they have succeeded, thus far, in convincing the people that they are in fact playing Robinhood and doing the exact opposite.  Their UK and US counterparts must be watching their genius with astonishment and not a little envy.


An interview with Mr P

December 4, 2016

Yipee do! I did it!  I interviewed a celebrity.  A seasoned veteran in his field, highly regarded and trusted for his capability and integrity.

I am talking about the security guard of the apartment complex I live in.  15 years back, when we moved into the suburb of Mumbai that we still live in, he was the security guard of this same complex (or society as we call it in Mumbai).  Now, I have taken up a house as a tenant in this society for the time being and he is still the faithful and reliable gatekeeper to paradise. Believe me, we have gone through maybe 15 security guards (or not quite) in 10 years at my parents’s place also in the same suburb.  So this is no ordinary watchman that I speak of.

So..I came back today evening from a small errand and greeted him.  We exchanged pleasantries and he got talking about, what else, demonetisation.  It was an interesting conversation which gave me an insight into the way the working classes look at this decision (in contradistinction to the middle and upper class view of it).  It is not for me to judge if he is right or wrong and I also confess that I do not have the means to thoroughly fact-check him.  But I am sharing his insights in the form of an interview where I play the part of intrepid and unprepared journalist who fields one blow after another as a very different view of things is presented to him. Let’s call him P, the Protector.

A note before I start.  The following is written to stimulate a conversation, not a diss-cuss-ion. So I’d highly appreciate if all of us can step out of our preferred echo chambers and consider the views (not mine) being presented with an open mind.  That out of the way, ready, steady, po!

P:  Sir, what is Modiji’s latest?

Me: I don’t know, you tell me.

P: (Laughs)

Me:  We have to spend our time either standing in the queue for cash or watching the TV set to track his latest surgical strike.  (shakes head)

P:  (Amused, but silent)

Me:  I wonder what people in the villages must be doing to get cash.  It must be so difficult, standing in never ending queues.

P:  Who told you that!

Me:  Pardon, you mean there are no queues in the villages?

P:  Sure there are.  Who told you that we never had to stand in queues before?

Me:  Oh!

P:  Once two years ago I went to the bank branch in my village to withdraw cash.  We stood in the queue all day and had to return empty handed.  Standing in queue for cash, for rations, we are all used to it. It’s nothing new.  We’ll have to wait 3-4 days to get cash, big deal!

Me:  So I guess it’s more of an inconvenience for people who live in the cities and are used to easily obtaining cash.

P:  So let me tell you one more thing that you may not know.  There was no cash in the ATMs in UP for 15 days. 15 days.  But nobody rioted.  Nobody protested.  Politicians tried their best to provoke the people but everybody knows what’s happening.  When Modi is going to transfer money to our bank accounts, why should we do something silly at the instigation of opposition parties?

Me:  So you mean it’s people like Mayawati and Mulayalam Singh who are affected.

P:  Absolutely. I was paid to go to the village and stage protests so I know what I am talking about.  They did not bite the bait. Why should we trust Mayawati who loots people in the name of poverty upliftment when Modi is trying to do something for us?

Me:  So what do you think will happen in the UP elections?

P:  Sir, it will be a landslide for BJP.  They are going to win very easily.

Me:  By the by, won’t the rabi crop be affected by this step?

P:  Again, that is just propaganda by those who don’t support this step.  Farmers don’t leave it to the last minute.  Everything is planned.  Why would they wait until 8th November to withdraw cash?

Me:  But what about the old notes?

P:  Sir, I am telling you, they would have already bought whatever they need.  In villages we can’t keep huge amounts of cash at home.  We don’t have security guards like in the cities.

Me:  Ouch!

P:   (Decides to move on as interviewer is speechless) Daily wage workers…..you know, they get paid in cash everyday.

Me:  Right! (Says duh within)

P:  And then when they come home, the wife wants to spend on this and that, they purchase liquor and in no time the money is gone.  In this way, we remain in poverty. Sir, after so many years of living in Mumbai, what do I have?  Nothing!  Everything has been spent. Whatever I send to the village is spent.

Me:  But if you put it in a bank account, you may not spend everything.

P:  Exactly!  They will ask you to maintain a minimum balance.  So if you get ten thousand, you will keep at least thousand in the bank.  In this way, you save money and get paid interest and the government also benefits.  And once the savings habit is inculcated, they will keep putting more and more money in the bank.

Me:  One thing is for sure.  Nobody anywhere has attempted something like this.  Thanks so much for joining us but I am afraid we are completely out of time.

P:  My pleasure.

P.S:  The tone of the actual conversation, laced with lilting UP Hindi and with myself deferring to Mr.P’s age and experience, was very different.  So don’t take it too literally.  Also stuff I omitted, like when I told him about how the big fish will transfer everything to offshore accounts and can bear losses on their limited cash hoards.  Didn’t seem to shake his faith though, not one bit.  Will Modi keep his  very tall promise to his loyal voters, though, is the question.


July 29, 2016

Hello All

Below is the link to a PDF file containing my novella titled F Minor.


What happens when an artist has all the talent in the world and success, at least success in conventionally defined terms, eludes her?  Does she curse her luck, put herself down and blame the world?  Or does she seek joy in performing the very art which, after all, she loves?  The book seeks to ask and answer these questions through the account of a fictional ghazal singer who also makes earthenware on the side to keep going.

If the above interest you, you can click on the link given above and download the PDF.  Please feel free to share the PDF file with whomsoever you wish to.  I have only one request to make – please do not appropriate any part of the book and pass it off as your or anybody else’s work as I am the author of the book.

Please also feel free to leave a comment in the comments section below.  Brickbats and bouquets are most welcome.  If you do happen to like the book, please use the ‘like’ function below to express the same. 🙂  It’s an emoji world after all. 😉


Brexit: Britons call the bluff on clueless media

June 26, 2016

The mood before the Brexit in the media as well as the stock markets was one of cautious optimism.  Yes, the referendum was predicted to be close but surely, surely, voters would exercise the sensible, prudent option.  Tried and tested.  After all, who wanted another 2008, right?

In this general vein, CNBC TV18’s Lata Venkatesh made an observation that apocalypse is not a frequent occurrence in the markets and the last such was 2008.  Usually, and she cited the example of the Grexit that wasn’t, politicians got together to resolve a crisis in the eleventh hour.

There was something in that statement that convinced me to expect a Brexit when results would be declared on Friday and to pull out equity holdings in advance.  Let me  break it down now:

  1.  Yes, politicians may resolve a crisis at the brink but there is little they can do in a referendum.  So, no, Brexit had the potential to be yet another apocalypse.  Just as US govt erred in letting the Lehman Bros fail, British Prime Minister David Cameron had already erred in agreeing to a referendum and thus leaving himself at the mercy of events he could not control.
  2. The cautious optimism belied a lack of understanding of how voter turnout works.  I can excuse Western observers not used to the chaos of multi party democracy and gatbandhan politics that we Indians revel in but Indian journalists, including ones who sport fake American accents, should surely have been more clued in.  The point is this: only low turnout in England (outside London, that is) could have saved the Remain campaign.  High turnout would indicate that people who wanted out of the EU had turned up to vote.  Just as how high voter turnout usually, though not always, indicates anti incumbency in Indian elections.  Expecting people to turn out in large numbers to preserve status quo reveals either a lack of understanding of how voters behave or an overestimation of the benefits of EU to the UK.
  3. Grexit did not trigger a crisis in the markets because Greece was mouselike in its haplessness against the might of the European Commission-IMF-ECB troika. Brexit was a whole other matter and the third largest economy leaving the EU would be disastrous news for the EU, firstly, and, secondly, possibly trigger an exodus of other nations disgruntled with the management style of the EU.

I’ll address the last point in a bit.  But before that, let this be a lesson with regard to the media’s behaviour.  When they all display rare unanimity on an event that is in fact uncertain and ambiguous, they are very likely to be dead wrong.  Further, people in the media have a terrible habit of opining on everything so make sure you know what their speciality is and disregard their advice on other matters.  Yes, I am referring to the apparently reliable and erudite Lata Venkatesh here.  Listen when she’s talking about Indian monetary policy or breaking down the IIP.  But she’s no psephologist and she just proved it in the run up to the Brexit.  I have nothing against opinions per se.  People may air their opinions freely except that when appearing on TV, they ought to couch it with a suitable disclaimer to take it with a pinch of salt where it does not pertain to their field of expertise.

Now, as to the management style of the EU, which is my lengthy post script.  What would you do if you lost a long time and valued customer?  You would of course do your best to persuade him/her not to end the relationship.  If he/she was hellbent on a break up, you would respect the decision and agree to be friendly in parting.  If you instead badmouthed your customer for leaving, wouldn’t you expect to be fired by your boss?  Apparently Wolfgang Schauble, Finance Minister of Germany, doesn’t think so.  He didn’t lose the opportunity to rebuke Britain, a democratic nation, for exercising its choice and warned of taking tough action as a deterrent to other EU nations against choosing to leave the EU.

Excuse me, but Britain have the right to choose to end a relationship.  A Brexit in this case does not amount to a Greece-style default.  In fact, by threatening to punish Britain for merely exercising their free will, Schauble only lives up to the common complaint against EU made by Euroskeptics: that the EU is undemocratic.  The common sense thing to do here would be to learn a lesson from this debacle, make the divorce with Britain smooth and painless for all concerned and reach out to other nations and listen to their problems so that the EU doesn’t break up.  But then, whoever accused economists of possessing that elusive thing called common sense! I wouldn’t bet against this being the beginning of the end of the EU though it would be a sad day when that happens.




Ilayaraja melodies

May 28, 2016

Below is a tentative (and incomplete) list of good/hit Ilayaraja songs from 1976-1993, i.e., what could broadly be called his peak/prime phase, by whatever name called.  I have considered only Tamil songs and songs appearing more than once in a film (e.g. happy/sad, male/female versions) have been counted only once. Pl feel free to contribute more songs, especially the rural based films from late 80s to early 90s where memory fails me:

 Sr No Song title Movie Year
1 Annakilli Unnai Theduthe Annakilli 1976
2 Machana Parthingala Annakilli 1976
3 Sontham Illai Annakilli 1976
4 Naan Pesavanthen Paloothi Valartha Kili 1976
5 Kannan Oru Kai Kuzanthai Bhadrakali 1976
6 Kaalai Paniyil Gayathri 1977
7 Vaazhvae Maayama Gayathri 1977
8 Senthoora Poove 16 Vayathuniley 1977
9 Chinnakannan Kavikuyil 1977
10 Vizhiyile Malarnthathu Bhuvana Oru Kelvikuri 1977
11 Ore Naal Ilamai Oonjaladugiradhu 1978
12 Nee Kettal Ilamai Oonjaladugiradhu 1978
13 Ennadi Meenakshi Ilamai Oonjaladugiradhu 1978
14 Indha Minminikku Sigappu Rojakkal 1978
15 Ninaivo Oru Paravai Sigappu Rojakkal 1978
16 Chithirai Sevvanam Kaatrinile Varum Geetham 1978
17 Kanden Engum Kaatrinile Varum Geetham 1978
18 Oru Vanavil Pole Kaatrinile Varum Geetham 1978
19 En Kanmani En Kadhali Chittukuruvi 1978
20 Sorgam Madhuvile Sattam En Kaiyil 1978
21 Mancholai Kilithano Kizhakke Pogum Raiyil 1978
22 Poovarasam Poo Kizhakke Pogum Raiyil 1978
23 Malargale Kizhakke Pogum Raiyil 1978
24 Senthazham Poovil Mullum Malarum 1978
25 Nitham Nitham Mullum Malarum 1978
26 Adi Penney Mullum Malarum 1978
27 Uravugal Thodarkathai Aval Appadithan 1978
28 Paneer Pushpangale Aval Appadithan 1978
29 Ye Paadal Ondru Priya 1978
30 Enuyir Neethane Priya 1978
31 Naane Naana Azhage Unnai Arathikkiren 1979
32 Vaa Ponmayile Poonthalir 1979
33 Kanmaniye Kadhal Aarilunthu Aruvathu Varai 1979
34 Edho Ninaivugal Agal Vilakku 1979
35 Oru Thanga Rathathil Dharma Yudham 1979
36 Agaya Gangai Dharma Yudham 1979
37 Ilamai Yenam Poongatru Pagalil Oru Iravu 1979
38 Sindhu Nadhi Karaioram Nalladhu Oru Kudumbam 1979
39 Aayiram Malargale Niram Maratha Pookal 1979
40 Iru Paravaigal Niram Maratha Pookal 1979
41 Idhayam Poguthey Puthiya Varpugal 1979
42 Namthana Namthana Puthiya Varpugal 1979
43 Vaan Megangale Puthiya Varpugal 1979
44 Azhagiya Kanne Uthiripookal 1979
45 Geetha Sangeetha Anbe Sangeetha 1979
46 Enulil Engo Rosapoo Ravikaikari 1979
47 Orampo Ponnu Oorukku Pudhusu 1979
48 Solai Kuyile Ponnu Oorukku Pudhusu 1979
49 Aadungal Paadungal Guru 1980
50 Parandhalum Vidamatten Guru 1980
51 Perai Chollava Guru 1980
52 Edhan Kannil Guru 1980
53 En Vaanile Johnny 1980
54 Oru Iniya Manathu Johnny 1980
55 Senorita Johnny 1980
56 Kaatril Endhan Geetham Johnny 1980
57 Aasayai Kaathula Johnny 1980
58 Ennathil Yedho Kalukkul Eeram 1980
59 Siru Ponmani Kalukkul Eeram 1980
60 Yen Iniya Pon Moodu Pani 1980
61 Paruva Kalangalin Moodu Pani 1980
62 Entha Poovilum Murattu Kaalai 1980
63 Maaman Machan Murattu Kaalai 1980
64 Pothuvaka En Manasu Murattu Kaalai 1980
65 Madai Thiranthu Nizhalgal 1980
66 Ithu Oru Pon Malai Nizhalgal 1980
67 Poongathave Nizhalgal 1980
68 Dhoorathil Nizhalgal 1980
69 Azhagu Ayiram Ulaasa Paravaigal 1980
70 Naan Unthan Thayaga Ulaasa Paravaigal 1980
71 Deiviga Raagam Ulaasa Paravaigal 1980
72 Germaniyin Ulaasa Paravaigal 1980
73 Yae Thendrale Nenjathai Killathe 1980
74 Paruvame Nenjathai Killathe 1980
75 Uravenum Nenjathai Killathe 1980
76 Azhage Azhagu Raja Paarvai 1981
77 Andhi Mazhai Raja Paarvai 1981
78 Endrendrum Anadhame Kadal Meengal 1981
79 Thalattuthey Vaanam Kadal Meengal 1981
80 Manjal Veyil Nandu 1981
81 Idhu Oru Nila Tik Tik Tik 1981
82 Netru Indha Neram Tik Tik Tik 1981
83 Poo Malarnthida Tik Tik Tik 1981
84 Ramanin Mohanam Netrikann 1981
85 Mappillaiku Netrikann 1981
86 Anandha Ragam Panneer Pushpangal 1981
87 Kodai Kaala Kaatre Panneer Pushpangal 1981
88 Poonthalir Aada Panneer Pushpangal 1981
89 Ayiram Thamarai Alaigal Oyvathile 1981
90 Kadhal Oviyam Alaigal Oyvathile 1981
91 Vaadi En Kapakezhange Alaigal Oyvathile 1981
92 Chinan Chiru Meendum Kokila 1981
93 Hey Orayiram Meendum Kokila 1981
94 Radha Radhe Nee Meendum Kokila 1981
95 Oru Poovanathile Kazhugu 1981
96 Amudhae Thamzihae Kovil Pura 1981
97 Hey Aatha Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
98 Ilaya Nila Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
99 Mani Osai Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
100 Mudhal Mudhal Raga Deepam Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
101 Salaioram Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
102 Thogai Ilamayil Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
103 Vaigaraiyil Payanangal Mudivathile 1982
104 Kadhal Panpaadu Eeravizhi Kaviyangal 1982
105 En Gaanam Eeravizhi Kaviyangal 1982
106 Kanavil Midhakkum Eeravizhi Kaviyangal 1982
107 Janani Janani Thai Mookambhikai 1982
108 Bhoopalam Thooral Ninnu Pochu 1982
109 Thangachangili Thooral Ninnu Pochu 1982
110 Yerikkarai Poongatre Thooral Ninnu Pochu 1982
111 Kanne Kalaimaane Moondram Pirai 1982
112 Vaanengum Moondram Pirai 1982
113 Ponmeni Moondram Pirai 1982
114 Poongatru Moondram Pirai 1982
115 Ilamai Itho Sakalakala Vallavan 1982
116 Nethu Rathiri Sakalakala Vallavan 1982
117 Nila Kayuthu Sakalakala Vallavan 1982
118 Poo Vadai Kaatru Gopurangal Saivathile 1982
119 Endrum Vaanaveliyil Kelviyum Naane Pathilum Naane 1982
120 Vaa Vaa Vasanthamey Puthu Kavithai 1982
121 Vaarey Vaa Puthu Kavithai 1982
122 Vellai Pura Puthu Kavithai 1982
123 Neethane Enthan Ninaivellam Nithya 1982
124 Panivizhum Malarvanam Ninaivellam Nithya 1982
125 Rojavai Thalattum Ninaivellam Nithya 1982
126 Tholin Mele Ninaivellam Nithya 1982
127 Metti Oli Metti 1982
128 Santhana Kaatre Thanikaatu Raja 1982
129 Raasave Unnai Naan Ennithan Thanikaatu Raja 1982
130 Kuyile Kadhal Oviyam 1982
131 Naatham En Jeevane Kadhal Oviyam 1982
132 Nathiyil Aadum Kadhal Oviyam 1982
133 Poojaikaaga Kadhal Oviyam 1982
134 Poovil Vandu Kadhal Oviyam 1982
135 Sangeetha Jathi Kadhal Oviyam 1982
136 Velli Salangaigal Kadhal Oviyam 1982
137 Etho Mogam Kozhi Koovudhu 1982
138 Poove Ilaya Poove Kozhi Koovudhu 1982
139 Vaalai Paruvathile Kanne Radha 1982
140 Unnaithane Nallavanuku Nallavan 1983
141 Muthaduthey Nallavanuku Nallavan 1983
142 Geetham Sangeetham Kokarakko 1983
143 Ponvaanam Panneer Indru Nee Naalai Naan 1983
144 Mottu Vitta Indru Nee Naalai Naan 1983
145 Oru Killi Uruguthu Anandha Kummi 1983
146 O Vennilaave Anandha Kummi 1983
147 Oomai Nenjin Anandha Kummi 1983
148 Anantha Then Manvasanai 1983
149 Poththi Vachcha Manvasanai 1983
150 Andhi Varum Neram Mundhanai Mudichu 1983
151 Devathai Ilam Aayiram Nilave Vaa 1983
152 Sevvarani Thotathile Bhagavthipuram Railway Gate 1983
153 Aasai Nooruvagai Adutha Varisu 1983
154 Pesa Koodathu Adutha Varisu 1983
155 Rathiriyil Poothirikkum Thanga Magan 1983
156 Solai Poovil Vellai Roja 1983
157 Oh Maane Maane Vellai Roja 1983
158 Naanaga Naan Illai Thoongathey Thambi 1983
159 Thoongathey Thambi Thoongathey Thambi 1983
160 Varuthu Varuthu Thoongathey Thambi 1983
161 Paadavathatho Gaanam Ilamai Kaalangal 1983
162 Eramana Rojave Ilamai Kaalangal 1983
163 Kalidasan Kannadasan Soorakkottai Singakutti 1983
164 Uruginen Anne Anne 1983
165 Thendral Ennai Muthamittadhu Oru Oodia Nathiyaagirathu 1983
166 Vaanpole Vannam Salangai Oli 1984
167 Mounamana Neram Salangai Oli 1984
168 Thakitha Salangai Oli 1984
169 Devan Thantha Veenai Unnai Naan Santhithen 1984
170 Thalathu Maari Ponathe Unnai Naan Santhithen 1984
171 Vizhiyile Mani Nooravathu Naal 1984
172 Megam Kottattum Ennakul Oruvan 1984
173 Then Poove Poove Anbulla Rajnikanth 1984
174 Oru Nayagan Dhavani Kanavugal 1984
175 Vaanam Niram Dhavani Kanavugal 1984
176 Roja Ondru Mutham Koomberi Mookan 1984
177 Thaazam Poove Kai Kodukkum Kai 1984
178 Neelakuyilgal Magudi 1984
179 Maalai Soodum Vellai Naan Mahan Alla 1984
180 Kalyanam Vaibogam Naan Mahan Alla 1984
181 Paadavaa Un Naan Paadum Paadal 1984
182 Devan Kovil Naan Paadum Paadal 1984
183 Paadum Vaanampadi Naan Paadum Paadal 1984
184 Seer Kondu Vaa Naan Paadum Paadal 1984
185 Adiye Manam Nilluna Neengal Kettavai 1984
186 Oh Vasantha Raaja Neengal Kettavai 1984
187 Pillai Nila Neengal Kettavai 1984
188 Pottaene Poovilangu Poovilangu 1984
189 Kadhal Mayakkam Pudhumai Penn 1984
190 Kasthoori Maane Pudhumai Penn 1984
191 En Vazhvile Thambikku Entha Ooru 1984
192 Kadhalin Deepam Ondru Thambikku Entha Ooru 1984
193 Azhagu Malarada Vaidehi Kaathirunthal 1984
194 Inraiku Yen Indha Vaidehi Kaathirunthal 1984
195 Kaathirunthu Vaidehi Kaathirunthal 1984
196 Rasathi Unnai Vaidehi Kaathirunthal 1984
197 Megam Karrukaiyile Vaidehi Kaathirunthal 1984
198 Kannil Enna Un Kannil Neer Vazhindal 1985
199 Ada Machamulla China Veedu 1985
200 Chittu Kuruvi China Veedu 1985
201 Antha Nilava Than Muthal Mariyadhai 1985
202 Poongatru Thirumbuma Muthal Mariyadhai 1985
203 Vetti Veru Vasam Muthal Mariyadhai 1985
204 Yeh Kuruvi Muthal Mariyadhai 1985
205 Rasave Unnai Muthal Mariyadhai 1985
206 Poomalai Vangi Vanthaan Sindhu Bhairavi 1985
207 Kalaivaniye Sindhu Bhairavi 1985
208 Naan Oru Sindhu Sindhu Bhairavi 1985
209 Paadariyen Sindhu Bhairavi 1985
210 Thanni Thotti Sindhu Bhairavi 1985
211 Sangeetha Meham Udhaya Geetham 1985
212 Paadu Nilave Udhaya Geetham 1985
213 Ennodu Paatu Paadungal Udhaya Geetham 1985
214 Thene Thenpandi Udhaya Geetham 1985
215 Siriya Paravai Antha Oru Nimidam 1985
216 Kadhal Kasakkuthayya Aan Paavam 1985
217 Oru Jeevan Geethanjali 1985
218 Thulli Ezhunthathu Geethanjali 1985
219 Malare Pesu Geethanjali 1985
220 Poo Malaye Pagal Nilavu 1985
221 Poovilae Medai Pagal Nilavu 1985
222 Vaidhegi Raman Pagal Nilavu 1985
223 Kanmaniye Pesu Kaaki Chaththai 1985
224 Nama Singari Sarraku Kaaki Chaththai 1985
225 Poo Potta Dhavani Kaaki Chaththai 1985
226 Vaanile Thenila Kaaki Chaththai 1985
227 Pattu Kannam Kaaki Chaththai 1985
228 Adhikaalai Nerame Meendum Oru Kadhal Kathai 1985
229 Idhayam Oru Kovil Idhaya Kovil 1985
230 Kootathile Kovil Pura Idhaya Kovil 1985
231 Naan Paadum Mouna Idhaya Kovil 1985
232 Paatu Thalaivan Idhaya Kovil 1985
233 Vaanuyarntha Solaiyile Idhaya Kovil 1985
234 Yaar Veetu Roja Idhaya Kovil 1985
235 ABC Nee Vaasi Oru Kaidhiyin Diary 1985
236 Ponmane Kovam Oru Kaidhiyin Diary 1985
237 Aala Asathum Kanni Raasi 1985
238 Nilavu Thoongu Neram Kunguma Chimizh 1985
239 Pen Manney Naan Sigappu Manithan 1985
240 Mayanginen Solla Naane Raja Naane Manthiri 1985
241 Oora Therinchukitten Padikkadhavan 1985
242 Kavithai Paadu Thendrale Ennai Thodu 1985
243 Thendral Vanthu Thendrale Ennai Thodu 1985
244 Pudhiya Poovithu Thendrale Ennai Thodu 1985
245 Kanmani Nee Vara Thendrale Ennai Thodu 1985
246 Engey En Jeevane Uyarndha Ullam 1985
247 Kaalai Thendral Uyarndha Ullam 1985
248 Vanthal Mahalakshmiye Uyarndha Ullam 1985
249 Chinna Kuyil Poovae Poochuduvaa 1985
250 Poovae Poochuduvaa Poovae Poochuduvaa 1985
251 O Vaanambaadi Sadhanai 1986
252 Naan Thedum Sevvanthi Poo Dharma Pathini 1986
253 Aayirathil Nee Oruthan Naanum Oru Thozhilali 1986
254 Aarum Athu Aalam Illai Muthal Vasantham 1986
255 Hey Maina Maaveeran 1986
256 Mandhira Punnagaiyo Mandhira Punnagai 1986
257 Naan Kadhalil Mandhira Punnagai 1986
258 Chinna Mani Kuyile Amman Koil Kizhakaale 1986
259 Kaalai Nera Poonguyil Amman Koil Kizhakaale 1986
260 Un Paarvayil Amman Koil Kizhakaale 1986
261 Poova Eduthu Oru Amman Koil Kizhakaale 1986
262 Vaan Megam Punnagai Mannan 1986
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266 Edhedho Punnagai Mannan 1986
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268 Mandram Vandha Mouna Raagam 1986
269 Oho Megam Mouna Raagam 1986
270 Chinna Chinna Vanna Kuyil Mouna Raagam 1986
271 Nilave Vaa Mouna Raagam 1986
272 Pani Vizhum Iravu Mouna Raagam 1986
273 Adi Athadi Kadalora Kavithaigal 1986
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276 Oomai nenjin sondham Manithanin Marupakkam 1986
277 Vaa Vennila Mella Thirandadhu Kadhavu 1986
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280 Thedum Kanpaarvai Mella Thirandadhu Kadhavu 1986
281 Kuzhal Oodhum Mella Thirandadhu Kadhavu 1986
282 Vikram Vikram 1986
283 Meendum meendum Vikram 1986
284 Eanj Jodi Vikram 1986
285 Vanithamani Vikram 1986
286 Ilanjolai Unakkagave Vaazhgiren 1986
287 Kanna Unnai Thedukiren Unakkagave Vaazhgiren 1986
288 Oh Endhan Vazhvile Unakkagave Vaazhgiren 1986
289 Ennamma Kannu Mr Bharath 1986
290 Adhikaalai Subavelai Natpu 1986
291 Malaiyoram Veesum Paadu Nilave 1987
292 Kokarako Padura Paadu Nilave 1987
293 Chittirai Madha Nilavu Paadu Nilave 1987
294 Vaa Veliye Paadu Nilave 1987
295 Manathil Uruthi Vendum Manathil Uruthi Vendum 1987
296 Kanna Varuvaaya Manathil Uruthi Vendum 1987
297 Aararo Aararo Anand 1987
298 I want to tell you something Anand 1987
299 Thodatha Thaalam Anand 1987
300 Ola Kudisaiyile Anand 1987
301 Aethamayya Aetham Ninaive Oru Sangeetham 1987
302 Pagalile Oru Nilavinae Ninaive Oru Sangeetham 1987
303 Edutha Vecha Ninaive Oru Sangeetham 1987
304 Yeriyil Oru Jallikattu 1987
305 Hey Unnaithaane Kadhal Parisu 1987
306 Kaadhal Maharani Kadhal Parisu 1987
307 Koo Koo Endru Kuyil Kadhal Parisu 1987
308 Puraakale Puraakale Kadhal Parisu 1987
309 Oru Kadhal Enbadhu Chinna Thambi Periya Thambi 1987
310 Thenpandi Nayakan 1987
311 Nila Aduvanathu Nayakan 1987
312 Nee Oru Kadhal Nayakan 1987
313 Andhi Mazhai Megam Nayakan 1987
314 Naan Sirithal Deepavali Nayakan 1987
315 Shenbagame Enga Ooru Paatukaaran 1987
316 Madhura Marikozhumbu Enga Ooru Paatukaaran 1987
317 Kannan Vandhu Paduginran Rettai Vaal Kuruvi 1987
318 Raja Raja Cholan Rettai Vaal Kuruvi 1987
319 Chinna chinna roja poove Poovizhi Vaasalile 1987
320 Oru Kiliyin Poovizhi Vaasalile 1987
321 Thotathile Paathi Velaikaaran 1987
322 Vaa vaa vaa kanna vaa Velaikaaran 1987
323 Kannukkum Kannukkum Modhal Ninaikka Therintha Maname 1987
324 Jingidi Jingidi Guru Sishyan 1988
325 Vaa Vaa Vanchi Guru Sishyan 1988
326 Kandupidichen Guru Sishyan 1988
327 Malayoram Mayile Oruvar Vaazhum Aalayam 1988
328 Nee Pournami Oruvar Vaazhum Aalayam 1988
329 Thenmadurai Vaigai Dharmathin Thalaivan 1988
330 Muthamizh Kaviye Dharmathin Thalaivan 1988
331 Poove Sempoove Solla Thudikudhu Manasu 1988
332 Engirundho Azhaikkum En Jeevan Paduthu 1988
333 Naan Enbadhu Soorasamharam 1988
334 Neelakuyile Soorasamharam 1988
335 Valayosai Sathya 1988
336 Aasayilae Enga Oru Kavalkaran 1988
337 Thenpandi Tamizhe Paasa Paravaigal 1988
338 Oru Poongavanam Agni Natchathiram 1988
339 Ninnu Korri Agni Natchathiram 1988
340 Thoongatha Vizhigal Agni Natchathiram 1988
341 Raja rajathi Agni Natchathiram 1988
342 Vaa vaa anbe anbe Agni Natchathiram 1988
343 Idhazhil Kadhai Ezuthum Unnal Mudiyum Thambi 1988
344 Unnal Mudiyum Thambi Unnal Mudiyum Thambi 1988
345 Punjai Undu Unnal Mudiyum Thambi 1988
346 Kuyile kuyile En Bommukutty Ammavukku 1988
347 Adhikaalai Neram Naan Sonnathey Sattam 1988
348 Kalyana Maalai Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal 1989
349 Keladi Kanmani Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal 1989
350 Guruvayurappa Pudhu Pudhu Arthangal 1989
351 Gangai Karai Varusham 16 1989
352 Hey Aiyasamy Varusham 16 1989
353 Pazhamuthir Cholai Varusham 16 1989
354 Poo Pookum Maasam Varusham 16 1989
355 Maanguyile Karagatakaaran 1989
356 Indha Maan Karagatakaaran 1989
357 Malayala Karayoram Rajadhi Raja 1989
358 Enkitta Modhadhey Rajadhi Raja 1989
359 Vaa Vaa Manjal Rajadhi Raja 1989
360 Meenamma Meenamma Rajadhi Raja 1989
361 Athadi Yammadi Idhayathai Thirudadhe 1989
362 O Priya Priya Idhayathai Thirudadhe 1989
363 Paapa Laali Idhayathai Thirudadhe 1989
364 Vazhavaikkum Aboorva Sagotharargal 1989
365 Raja Kaiya Vachcha Aboorva Sagotharargal 1989
366 Annatha Aduran Aboorva Sagotharargal 1989
367 Puthu Maapilaikku Aboorva Sagotharargal 1989
368 Unnai Nenachen Aboorva Sagotharargal 1989
369 Adi Vaanmathi Siva 1989
370 Ennathan Sugamo Maapilai 1989
371 Maanin Iru Kangal Maapilai 1989
372 Maarugo maarugo Vetri Vizha 1989
373 Poongatru Un Per Vetri Vizha 1989
374 Velli Kolusu Mani Pongi Varum Kaveri 1989
375 Aathaadi Allikodi Thendral Sudum 1989
376 Ilam Vayasu Ponna Paandi Naatu Thangam 1989
377 Siru Koothu La Paandi Naatu Thangam 1989
378 Un Manasula Paandi Naatu Thangam 1989
379 Idhu Neeyum Naanum Udhayam 1989
380 Vanthathey O Kizhakku Vaasal 1990
381 Pachchai Malai Kizhakku Vaasal 1990
382 Paadi Parantha Kili Kizhakku Vaasal 1990
383 Oru Vittuku Kizhakku Vaasal 1990
384 Mazhai Varudhu Raja Kaiya Vachcha 1990
385 Irandum Ondrodu Pannakaaran 1990
386 Nooru Varusham Pannakaaran 1990
387 Silence Pannakaaran 1990
388 Agaya Vennilave Arangetra Velai 1990
389 Gundu Onnu Vachchuriken Arangetra Velai 1990
390 Mamannukum Machannuku Arangetra Velai 1990
391 Ila Vattam My Dear Marthandan 1990
392 Sattam Varadha My Dear Marthandan 1990
393 Paaku Vethala My Dear Marthandan 1990
394 Anjali Anjali Anjali 1990
395 Mottamaadi Anjali 1990
396 Something something Anjali 1990
397 Vaanam Namakku Anjali 1990
398 Vegam vegam Anjali 1990
399 Iravu Nilavu Anjali 1990
400 Kalyana Thenila Mounam Sammadham 1990
401 Aattama Nadigan 1990
402 Sorkathin Vasapaadi Unnai Solli Kutramillai 1990
403 Yerasathi En Uyir Thozhan 1990
404 Maalayil Yaaro Chatriyan 1990
405 Mannil Intha Kaadhal Keladi Kanmani 1990
406 Thendral Thaan Keladi Kanmani 1990
407 Nee Paathi Naan Paathi Keladi Kanmani 1990
408 Karpoora Bommai Keladi Kanmani 1990
409 Aracha Santhanam Chinna Thambi 1991
410 Povoma Oorvolam Chinna Thambi 1991
411 Thooliyile Chinna Thambi 1991
412 Ada Uchcham Thala Chinna Thambi 1991
413 Kaatukuyile Dhalapathi 1991
414 Yamuna Aatrile Dhalapathi 1991
415 Chinna Thaiaval Dhalapathi 1991
416 Sundari Kannal Dhalapathi 1991
417 Adi Rakkamma Dhalapathi 1991
418 Sundari Neeyum Michael Madana Kamarajan 1991
419 Sivarathiri Michael Madana Kamarajan 1991
420 Per Vachalum Michael Madana Kamarajan 1991
421 Ram Pam Pam Michael Madana Kamarajan 1991
422 Kuyil Paatu En Rasavin Manasile 1991
423 Parijatha Poove En Rasavin Manasile 1991
424 Vanna Poongavanam Eeramana Rojave 1991
425 Adho Mega Oorvalam Eeramana Rojave 1991
426 Vaa Vaa Anbe Eeramana Rojave 1991
427 Kadhal Kavithaigal Gopura Vasalile 1991
428 Keladi En Gopura Vasalile 1991
429 Devadhai Poloru Gopura Vasalile 1991
430 Thalattum Poongatru Gopura Vasalile 1991
431 Paartha Vizhi Guna 1991
432 Kanmani Anbodu Guna 1991
433 Aanenna Pennena Dharma Durai 1991
434 Maasi Maasa Dharma Durai 1991
435 Pottu Vaitha Oru Vatta Idhayam 1991
436 Idhayamae Idhayam 1991
437 Kangalukul Thanthu Vitten Ennai 1991
438 Varudhu Varudhu Bramma 1991
439 Ival Oru Ilankuruvi Bramma 1991
440 Aattama Therottama Captain Prabhakaran 1991
441 Annakilli Nee Sirikka Rickshaw mama 1992
442 Muthumani Maalai Chinna Gounder 1992
443 Chutti Chutti Chinna Gounder 1992
444 Adukku Malli Avarampoo 1992
445 Pudhucheri Kachcheri Singara Velan 1992
446 Sonnapadi Kelu Singara Velan 1992
447 Thoodhu Selva dhavani Singara Velan 1992
448 Pottu Vaitha Kadhal Singara Velan 1992
449 Ada Oranga Sriranga Singara Velan 1992
450 Innum Yennai Enna Singara Velan 1992
451 Kannakarunguyile Paandi Durai 1992
452 Pandiyanin Rajiyathin Pandian 1992
453 Anbe Nee Enna Pandian 1992
454 Chinna Chinna Thooral Sentamizh Paatu 1992
455 Kalayil Kethattu Sentamizh Paatu 1992
456 Kuttukoru Sentamizh Paatu 1992
457 Amma Endru Mannan 1992
458 Rajathi Raja Mannan 1992
459 Sandi Raaniye Mannan 1992
460 Pattu Poove Chembaruthi 1992
461 Nila Kayum Neram Chembaruthi 1992
462 Andhiyile Vaanam Chinnavar 1992
463 Kottukkilli Chinnavar 1992
464 Naan Erikarai Chinna Thayee 1992
465 Potri Paadadi Penne Devar Magan 1992
466 Sandhu Pottu Devar Magan 1992
467 Inji Idupazhaga Devar Magan 1992
468 Maniye Manikuyile Nadodi Thendral 1992
469 All The Time Nadodi Thendral 1992
470 O Butterfly Meera 1992
471 Pazhaiya Vilangu Meera 1992
472 Valli Valli Enna Deiva Vaaku 1992
473 Oru Mantharapoo Chinna Zameen 1993
474 Poongatru Pillai Walter Vetrivel 1993
475 Chinna Rasave Walter Vetrivel 1993
476 Mannava mannava Walter Vetrivel 1993
477 Kannale Kadhal Kaditham Athma 1993
478 Adi Poonguyile Aranmanai Killi 1993
479 Raasave Unnai Vida Maaten Aranmanai Killi 1993
480 Vaanmathiye Aranmanai Killi 1993
481 Aalappol Velappol Ejamaan 1993
482 Adi Raakumuthu Ejamaan 1993
483 Ejamaan Kaladi Ejamaan 1993
484 Nilave Mugam Ejamaan 1993
485 Oru Naalum Ejamaan 1993
486 Anbe Vaa Arugile Kilipetchu Ketkavaa 1993
487 Kalaignan Kattu Kalaignan 1993
488 Kokkarakko Kalaignan 1993
489 Dillu Baru Jaane Kalaignan 1993
490 Endhan Nenjil Kalaignan 1993
491 Aasai Athigam Marupadiyum 1993
492 Ellorukum Nalla Marupadiyum 1993
493 Ellorum Sollum Paatu Marupadiyum 1993
494 Nalam Vazha Marupadiyum 1993
495 Nallathor Veenai Marupadiyum 1993
496 Nenjukkule Innarendru Ponnumani 1993
497 Ennulle Ennulle Valli 1993
498 Oru Myna Myna Uzhaippali 1993
499 Vennilavu Kothipathana Chinna Mapillai 1993
500 Kadhoram Lolakku Chinna Mapillai 1993


The war on inflation-targeting

February 7, 2016

Ever since RBI announced the intention of installing an inflation-targeting framework, there has been a regular supply of articles criticising this move, arguing at once, that inflation targeting does not work in Indian conditions and, that it has failed in developed nations (where demand was saturated a long time ago).  That is fine; views of every hue should be welcomed.  Of late, though, the supply has positively intensified, to put it mildly, and there is a complete (and curious) lack of articles arguing for the benefits thereof to balance the equation.  I could speculate as to the reasons for this based on what I believe in private but in this defamatory age I would rather not.

Briefly, the arguments go that, as said earlier, inflation targeting has failed in countries that adopted it, that monetary and fiscal policy should go hand in hand and that growth is what India needs at the moment.   All these arguments are fine and dandy but do they not disregard the evidence of what happened in India between 2009-2013?  That is, the last time monetary and fiscal policy worked ‘in tandem’?

What is this working in tandem business such columnists refer to anyway but a euphemism for saying monetary policy should bow down on both knees to fiscal policy…and restart the printing press?  By all means, monetary and fiscal policy should go together and the RBI governor does not seem to be saying anything different.  Yes, fiscal policy should support monetary policy in the mission of bringing down inflation in a long lasting manner…by implementing necessary supply side reforms.  Asking the central bank to toe the line of government in inducing demand when inflation hasn’t yet been contained is….well, in that case, you don’t need an academic to head RBI and any meek public servant who can be threatened with suspension of his pension dues will do!

But coming back to the lessons of 2009-2013, what happened is govt decided to ignore fiscal consolidation ‘temporarily’ to revive the economy….at the behest of industry.  RBI followed suit by following an easy money policy.  Both the Finance Ministry and the RBI stayed the course way too long in this instance until inflation spun out of control.  To remind the pro-growth lobby of the facts, WPI inflation, which is today in negative territory, hovered in double digits through 2011-12!  It was in early 2011 that RBI finally seemed to ignore pressure from the growth lobby and doubled down on inflation.  But it was too late to contain the damage by then.

The other problem caused by the easy money policy was to create growth out of thin air, a govt spending induced bubble which burst the moment RBI tightened the screws (and Fin Min, with Chidambaram taking over again, too resumed consolidation).  Industry, which directly or indirectly bemoaned tight policy then and now, paid a heavy price as the capacity they installed to meet high demand during 2009-10 was laid to waste and remains unutilised or underutilised to date.  As somebody who works in the auto sector, I know this all too well and the situation is much worse in sectors like steel where there is a global glut.

There is no point in crying over spilt milk.  The mistakes of 2009-2012 are in the past and India will have to live with their consequences.  But the least we can do is learn from them and not repeat them.  It is way too soon to be clamouring for a demand injection to spur growth.  Households are just about beginning to recover from the battering they faced in the high inflation years, particularly post 2012 when inflation remained high but growth, and hand in hand salary raises, slowed down.  The repairing of the economy is not over.

If at all you should clamour over something, it is the pace of the repair job being undertaken by the govt (as distinguished from the narrow monetary policy remit of the RBI).  Urge govt to hurry up and get done with the plumbing.  But urging RBI to repeat the mistakes of 2009-12 is intellectual dishonesty of blatant levels.  You could cite any number of studies or theories to serve your anti-RBI conclusions.

Or you could just step out and check the prices of everyday essentials.  Yeah…you know where the truth lies.  Inflation targeting may not be the panacea it is seen as by some folks, but it happens to be the need of the hour in a country that has suffered high inflation for the last few years, a country where govts are given to fiscal profligacy, a country where revenue generation is just not enough to finance govt expenditure and finally a country where wasteful govt spend is justified under populist pretexts.  To quote Barry Goldwater, “In your heart, you know he’s right.”


Watch out for Belinda Bencic

August 18, 2015

Belinda Bencic, an 18 year old Swiss player, won the Toronto WTA Premier title (equivalent of ATP 1000) on Sunday, beating Simona Halep who retired even as she was falling apart in the decider.  Bencic also beat Serena Williams, Ana Ivanovic, Sabine Lisicki, Caroline Wozniacki and Eugenie Bouchard en route.   The significance of this event needs to be brought home tellingly.

I am not a statistician or tennis trivia expert.  But if memory serves me right, Bencic is the youngest winner of a Premier level title since Maria Sharapova’s Tokyo win in 2005 (she was 17).  The only other 18 year old winner of a Premier level title since then was Ivanovic, who also won the Canadian Open in 2006, beating Martina Hingis in an amazing coincidence.  But if we reckon by months, Bencic is even younger than Ivanovic.

Yes, 10 years.  It’s been that long.  Women’s tennis was once known for churning out precocious teens who struck gold very early into their careers, the Swiss Miss Hingis being one such herself.  But with WTA introducing age eligibility rules and the game itself becoming slower and more physical, favouring tall, well built players on the WTA, we haven’t had any teens breaking through so early to win a Premier Level Title, let alone a Slam.  Petra Kvitova, Victoria Azarenka, Caroline Wozniacki and Simona Halep had all breached 20 when they won their first Premier Level title.  By contrast, Bencic has broken through earlier.  Bencic also made it through a very tough draw to get there and that she should achieve this in her maiden Premier title win is an incredible achievement.

So what accounts for her swift rise to success at the top most level of women’s tennis?  What makes Bencic special?

Basically, the things that made Hingis special, with significantly less finesse.  Bencic’s game looks innocuous on the surface and if you were to watch her now for the first time after she’s created a splash, you would be forgiven for wondering what the fuss is all about.  Her serve is not a great threat and the second delivery is already a liability (shades of Hingis again).  Her groundstrokes are somewhat underpowered and she’s also not the quickest mover on court.  But it’s the way she reads the game that compensates for all these problems.  Observe carefully and you will find Bencic improvising incredibly smart plays out of nowhere to come out on top of baseline exchanges with her opponents.  And while her volleys are definitely not Hingis class, as I already alluded to, she too has a great sense of when to come in and sniffs opportunities where most other players on the tour would prefer to hang back.  Maybe a serve volleyer like Kirsten Flipkens might come in on such occasions, but you get the picture.  And Bencic is just 18, so the fact that she already plays this interesting, hybrid game of baseline and all court strategies must itself come as a surprise to opponents.  She’s also held tough through adversity, not throwing in the towel after a flurry of double faults and fighting on to win.

With the Toronto triumph, Bencic has risen to no.12 in the rankings.  She has considerable upside at the Cincinnati event too where she lost her opening game last year.  This year, in the first round she is slated to play Angelique Kerber who could prove a tough nut to crack.   But Bencic is riding high on confidence after her fabulous winning streak in Montreal and might just put it past Kerber at Cincy.  The fast paced surface should suit a smart counterpuncher like Bencic very well too.  At the US Open, she has quarter final points to defend.  Hopefully, she will go further than that and break into the top 10 of WTA.

It is as yet far too early to tell how good a player Bencic will turn out to be.  There have been players before who shone briefly like a meteorite and just as suddenly disappeared from top flight tennis.  Last year’s hot new talent Bouchard herself is Exhibit A of said phenomenon, currently languishing at no.25, having got as far as no.5 last year.  But early indications of Bencic are very promising.  It does look like WTA has a new star, one who will hopefully entertain connoisseurs and recreational players just as much as casual fans.  Go Bencic!

Halep and Bouchard’s contrasting paths to ignominy

July 5, 2015

Eugenie Bouchard, last year’s Wimbledon finalist, and Simona Halep, the semi finalist who lost to Bouchard in said event, were both knocked out in the first round of this year’s Wimbledon.  Both of last year’s rising stars have had a disastrous last few months but their route to ignominy couldn’t have been more different.

After Bouchard got beaten soundly by Petra Kvitova in last year’s Wimbledon final, I wrote about how she had paid the price for hubris that was not backed by enough game to beat a player like Kvitova.  The very fact that I am able to write about how she has fared in this year’s tournament in the first weekend of Wimbledon speaks volumes.  I had hoped in last year’s write up that she would not repeat Martina Hingis’s mistakes and learn quickly.  Yes, she hasn’t.  She has done much worse.  Hingis at least had/has a great tennis mind and bona fide strokemaking ability; she has found a second wind in doubles partnering Sania Mirza.

It is becoming increasingly hard to believe that Bouchard has either great tennis IQ or great shots.  Her conqueror at Wimbledon does seem to lack the former a lot of times and lost to the crafty Jelena Jankovic yesterday.  That’s what separates the stunningly talented Kvitova from the legend that is Serena Williams, who grits through bad patches and uses her underrated tennis mind to find a way to win. You can get by with one of either qualities to some extent in tennis but not without both.  It also seems that even something as fundamental as adequate transfer of weight has not been fixed in Bouchard’s technique.  With the result that after making the Australian Open quarterfinals yet again (where Sharapova drubbed her), Bouchard has struggled to just win matches…against any player on the WTA tour.

Her now much disliked smugness was on evidence again during Canada’s Fed Cup tie against Romania.  Her Highness expressed her unwilingness to shake hands with her opponent prior to the match, calling it ‘lame’.  Shortly thereafter she limped out lamely, losing both of her singles matches in a humiliating fashion.  From that point on, her slump just plummeted to new depths with a first round exit at Wimbledon capping her woes.  Could it get worse for Bouchard from here?  Who knows.  A 4th round appearance at US Open and finals at Wuhan may still prove too much to defend for her, with the result that she may lose yet more points.  While Bouchard has made a reference to learning a lot through this experience, it is not clear whether she is simply referring to the fact that there would be reversals in a tennis career or to the fact that much needs to be done for her to remain in the top 20 on a consistent basis.  It is worth remembering that she referred to the Wimbledon final drubbing as a good learning experience with evident sheepishness and yet little signs of said learning have been evident a year on.

What of Halep?  She too reached the quarter finals of the Australian Open, where another powerful Russian, Ekaterina Makarova, dislodged her with ease.  But after a good showing in the American slow hard court stretch, Halep has faltered with early exits at both French Open and Wimbledon.

If Bouchard reeked of false swagger and a possibly deluded bravado, Halep seems to struggle to cope with the weight of expectations.  She made a reference to it as early as the US Open last year, where veteran Mirjana Lucic-Baroni beat her.  Since then, it’s not clear if she has made much progress in handling nerves.  Considering that she was a finalist at the French Open last year (apart from making the semis at Wimbledon),  it would only appear that she has regressed further in this regard.

Halep, like Bouchard, is grossly underpowered in the “Strong is Beautiful” era of women’s tennis.  Like Bouchard, she needs to use her brains to select her shots intelligently and scramble to win, as she cannot blow her opponents off the court.  But what is noticeable even in Halep’s wins is her shot selection and court positioning can go completely awry in patches (which is why she often wins in three sets rather than just two).  Many a time, I have noticed her getting caught mid court for no apparent reason and losing the point.  For a petite player like Halep, such lapses can be costly and combined with what appears to be timidness in the face of pressure, it’s going to be one hell of a monkey to get off her back.  The saving grace is unlike Bouchard, she doesn’t seem to have any serious problems with her technique.  It’s just that she can’t possibly hit the ball much harder even if she tried.

Signing off, the media, including commentators who have played the game, made references to attitude-related aspects of Bouchard and Halep in talking them up.  With Bouchard, it was her mental strength and immense self belief and with Halep, it was her feline-like demeanour (which apparently is evidence of aggression).  The problem is an appearance of mental strength or aggression cannot win matches on a tennis court.  I would be the last person to downplay the importance of the mental side of the game, especially at the highest level where thin margins separate winners from losers.

But it is no substitute for a bare minimum level of ‘game’.  Shots struck with a certain amount of power and produced with precision, aiming for the lines, with consistency.  Much has been written about Sharapova’s grit and intensity too, but she basically has two amazing shots that she can rely on to generate winners.  The backhand cross court and the off forehand. She can aim for the corners with these shots relentlessly to break down the opponent.   This is how she’s got to 5 slams, not because she clenches her fist ever so tightly between points or because, ahem, she is easy on the eye.

Hollow, superficial contextualisation of tennis is understandable from media pundits since they seemingly know no better.  But at least former players owe it to us to make intelligent, objective analysis of the game instead of making an utter mockery of women’s tennis by refusing to engage with it deeply.  Whatever Halep or Bouchard may or may not have learnt from their terrible slump, I hope it has also been a learning experience for the commentators.  Else, we are probably better off without having any commentary at all.

Dustin Brown: Triumph of throwback tennis in the modern era

July 4, 2015

Rafael Nadal lost to Dustin Brown in the 2nd round at Centre Court in Wimbledon, making it the third time in four years that he could not even make it to week 2 of the slam of slams. The last time he reached the quarter finals or further is 2011, now appearing distant.

That is, the result was not particularly surprising for those who watch tennis beyond the slams and certainly those who remembered that Brown had beaten Nadal last year at Halle.  Now Halle typically plays substantially faster than Wimbledon but this year the heat seems to have helped make the conditions fast in Wimbledon.  The stage was set for an on-the-cards upset.

What, instead, was surprising was Nadal’s after-match refrain that Brown denied him any rhythm.  Brown too echoed the assessment and said his plan all along had been to deny Nadal any rhythm. Surprising because, fundamentally, Brown’s tactics were predictable and uni-dimensional, unlike modern tennis.

Modern tennis is all about variety.  Nobody serve volleys all the time most definitely.  Nobody goes first strike all the time.  Nobody takes the net all the time.  Nobody pushes all the time. It’s instead a mix of a variety of tactics that cover the whole gamut of strokes but with a baseline bias to keep the percentages in one’s favour.  What may superficially appear as monotonous and predictable baseline tennis is actually rich with variety and tactical intrigue, intended to keep the opponent guessing.  In a nutshell, you don’t want the opponent to be sure of what your next play is going to be.

Dustin Brown’s approach on the other hand harks back to a bygone era.  His strategy can be summed up in one line: take the net away from the opponent.  This is how we play doubles in clubs – take the net away before somebody gives you a short ball that you can’t get to soon enough.  So it was refreshing and tons of fun to watch Brown do something like that on Centre Court, SW19, consumed live by millions of viewers across the planet and evoked Miroslav Mecir in a way (though Brown is incredibly flamboyant and hardly feline-like).  But one would have thought top players in the ATP main draw wouldn’t take long to sort him out.

On paper, it should be easy if you know what’s coming.  What or rather who was coming in was Brown volleying behind the serve – almost every single time.  And I only say almost because I didn’t watch the full match and cannot confirm if he did choose to stay back on occasion.  But as long as I watched it, he was coming in all the time, even behind second serves. Commentators used to chide players not named Sampras for doing so….in the mid 90s.  Brown played with single minded conviction – he was coming in no matter what and would do his best to improvise a volley if not hit a meaty one.  He also took the net quickly when receiving, seemingly confident he could somehow make a shot no matter what.  Thus, in theory, Nadal ought to have known exactly what would happen every single time.  All he had to do was find a way past Brown somehow – lob him, pass him, attack his body, whatever it took.  This was the old school grass court tennis dynamic – serve volleyer versus baseline counterpuncher.  Except, circa 2015 amid the usual moaning about grass playing like green clay, the serve volleyer triumphed.  And notwithstanding the fact that it went to four sets, I would call it a rather comprehensive triumph given how much lower Brown is ranked than Nadal and how much more used to Centre Court the latter is.

That is the real significance of Dustin Brown’s victory over Nadal.  And for this reason, it must be distinguished from Nadal’s earlier losses to Lukas Rosol, Steve Darcis  and Nick Kyrgios respectively in the last three Wimbledons.  Rosol and Kyrgios relied on a powerful serve to play high risk tennis and bash the ball mercilessly.  But they were not serve volleyers.  Darcis played fairly solid grass court tennis but again did not serve volley compulsively.  They just took a greater amount of risk while still essentially playing the modern game.  They had nothing to lose while Nadal had everything to lose.  Brown played serve volley and played it with a lot of conviction.  In toto, he serve volleyed 99 times and won the point on a staggering 71 occasions.  Who the bloody hell serve volleys 99 times in four sets!

However that Nadal is now clearly on the decline, it is stunning that he could not tactically figure him out.  Perhaps the sheer shock value of somebody daring to stick to this approach in today’s tennis did the trick?  Nah, you still have players sticking adamantly to serve volley like Michael Llodra or Radek Stepanek and they have not toppled top 10 players at Wimbledon, at least not in a long time. After the dust has settled over this upset and the media is through with convenient pigeon holing of this victory in socio-cultural contexts that may interest philosophers but hardly satisfy tennis fans, the analysts will probably drill the data and find out what exactly made Brown so effective with a style of tennis that, in spite of its exalted place in tennis tradition, has been all but written off as outdated.

The king of clay is dead….long live the king!

June 7, 2015

It is appropriate to write this on Sunday, the day of the men’s final at Roland Garros.  The first final since 2009 not to feature a seemingly permanent fixture of it:  Rafael Nadal.  Then, it seemed to be a one-off injury-driven slump (he missed Wimbledon that year).  This time, it brought an end to an unsuccessful, faltering comeback trail.   It would be presumptuous of me to attempt to see the future and declare that Nadal will win no further French Opens.  But the manner of his defeat to long time thorn-in-the-flesh Novak Djokovic certainly seems to mark the end of an era.  The end of Nadal’s hegemony over the red clay of Paris.

The signs were ominous from the get go.  Nadal actually failed to win a single tournament in the European clay court season, running up to the French Open.  Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and Rome – he tried and tried and turned a blank.  What’s more, he wasn’t just losing to Djokovic but to Andy Murray, Stanislas Wawrinka and, finally, Fabio Fognini.  He only made one final in all these tournaments where he lost to Murray.  Even more worrisome from a Nadal fan point of view was that in his fourth round match at French Open, he dropped a set against Jack Sock.  Reading that again will bring home the full import.  Nadal dropped a set against Sock, who played mostly horrid tennis in the first two sets.  Of course, seeing is believing so nobody was prepared to believe this was the end until it did pan out.

Djokovic was to show no mercy, though.  It should be clear by now that Paris hates the hell out of Djokovic (how often outside SW19 do you see a roaring crowd getting right behind Murray?) and they watched in funereal silence as he buried the King of Clay in a straight set demolition.  At first with some difficulty, as perhaps even he couldn’t believe what was unfolding.  Later, with embarrassing ease as Nadal uncharacteristically threw in the towel and could hardly be bothered to put up a fight.  Seven years back, when he had dethroned Federer at Wimbledon, the latter had mounted a strong fightback and pushed him all the way in a modern day tennis epic.  It was a classic clash of titans and Nadal had to earn the sobriquet of King of Grass from Federer (who still has five more slams at the venue than him, by the by); it didn’t come easy.  By contrast,the third set became a mere formality as Nadal was far too consumed by the demons in his head to think about Djokovic.

After all, what could he do if his once reliable forehand shanked even more embarrassingly than Federer in 2013? Or that he only managed to produce short, weak shots when he did get the forehand into play?  On every front, Nadal was utterly bereft of confidence and to make it worse, he was no longer able to run down one ball more the way he used to in his prime.   This was not the way the changing of hands was supposed to pan out.  But in resisting the moment when it had arrived three years earlier in 2012, Nadal also set himself up for a more painful meltdown in his fiefdom.  No, I am not saying Nadal should in fact have lost in 2012 and that would have helped his cause.  Just that that is how the script unfolds in sport.  By 2015, Nadal was simply too much of a shadow of the player he once was to ward off Djokovic’s challenge.

Instead, Murray in the semi final mounted a much more credible challenge to Djokovic’s bid to complete the career slam.  He too eventually faded away in the fifth set but had the match been completed on Friday as per schedule, there’s no saying what the outcome would have been.  On resumption on Saturday, Murray did well to deny any advantage to Djokovic from the loss of momentum to take the fourth set but the wily Serb fed him deep, heavy balls to slow him down and provoke errors from his otherwise massive forehand.

Fittingly, Wawrinka, the man who has lately bothered Djokovic more than anybody else on the tour will play him for the title today.  Wawrinka, save his graceful one handed backhand, is an outright ball bashing machine.  If he gets going, Djokovic will be scrambling to get balls back into play rather than controlling rallies.  But Djokovic still has ultimately had the measure of Wawrinka 2-1 at the Aussie Open and the odds would have to favour him rather than the Swiss who is only playing his second Slam final.   It is however expected to be another humdinger.

The jaded English media lamented that the premature arrival of the much awaited Djoko-Nadal clash would unofficially bring down curtains on this year’s French Open because it would lack a big match to interest viewers thereafter.  Going by the reactions of the Paris crowd when Murray took the fight to Djokovic in the third set, that has hardly been the case.  The tournament reached its best moment thus far in the semi finals and one would hope for a great final as the proverbial icing on the cake.

Perhaps, given the similarly one sided thrashing Wawrinka handed out to Federer, it makes sense that that should be the case.  The media still cannot think beyond Federer and Nadal but tennis is moving on now.  It has moved past Federer for some time notwithstanding last year’s amazing Wimbledon final and RG 2015 may mark the moment it moved past Nadal too.  Murray and Wawrinka are Djokovic’s toughest opponents now.  Not to fear, men’s tennis, as always, continues to be in great hands and the ascension to the throne would not have been easy for Djokovic should he clinch it today.  The king is dead, long live the king!

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