Fire in Babylon

If you love cricket and love fast bowling and are fans of the golden generation of The West Indies, ‘Fire in Babylon’ is a must watch. And, even if you are not much of a Cricket fan, still do watch this movie- because, this one, is not just about the game.

The movie is a wonderful tale of a bunch of Cricketers, termed as a Gang, who went on to be the team that conquered the world.  I grew up listening to stories of this team and its members- Clive Lloyd, Andy Roberts, Michel Holding, Viv Richards, Joel Garner and all. Watching their story on big screen is really a great experience.

It begins with a short look back at the colonial times when Cricket was brought to the West Indies to teach discipline to the slaves. They mastered the game of their masters. Despite having talented cricketers, West Indies team lacked that punch. Of course, it was difficult to be a team when all 11 players come from different islands- dots on the map- each of which was a different country. But all changed after the Caribbean team’s tour of Australia in 1975 where they got a smack from pacers Dennis Lilee and Jeff Thomson and sledging and not to forget, the slurs from crowd.

As the old Caribbean narrates, “After humiliation come riches and blessings.. Forever and eternal…” But for that, you have to fight ‘Babylon’- the establishment which refuses equality to all. And Lloyd’s men did exactly that. From a gang of happy-go-lucky guys, they grew up into a unit, a team that became invincible for nearly 2 decades.

They not only dominated the world of Cricket, but also shaped it, molded it and in doing so influenced thousands of people across tiny islands in the Atlantic.. Their success inspired artists like Bob Marley and that created a cultural revolution.

Lloyd’s men not only played cricket, they waged a war on racism. It was the time when England suffered from race riots, South Africa was under the Apartheid rule and there was unrest in the Caribbean too. One always questioned why the team was so aggressive, and the answer is the brave attitude “You fight, I’m going to fight.”

There are moments in the movie that’d trigger your emotions. We see Tony Greg, then Captain of the English side making that infamous “I intend to make them grovel” comment that fired up the aggression among Windies bowlers. And just 8 years later another English Captain, Ian Botham is seen having fun with Viv Richards. We see Richards talking about why he refused the offer by Apartheid regime in South Africa to play in the country and then recalling “Desmond Tutu told me how I had helped fight Apartheid in my own little way.”  Bob Marley’s comment “Live for yourself you live in vain, live for others you live again”… These are the moments which remind you that at times, a sport is much more than a pastime. It is about life.

Steven Riley has come up with a fantastic movie, which includes loads of archival footage, paper clippings and less of narration, more of memoirs of people. Good use of quotes and Caribbean music- I actually felt like a party at times..

The only thing that bothers me is the label “Documentary”.  In a documentary, you are supposed to be factual and the movie actually fails a bit here.

Riley has shown that Indians were demolished by a formidable West Indies bowling attack where as India had put up good performance there and lost 2-1.

To portray how Indians could not face West Indies Pacers, Riley has used the footage of an incidence in India-Australia Test in 1981 when Sunil Gavaskar walked off then ground and almost forfeited the match. This is not a goof-up, it’s a blunder!

Further, there is no mention of India’s victory over West Indies in World Cup 1984. (Probably because Riley focused only on Test Cricket and probably because he is a Briton) Also, there is no mention of current situation wherein the glory days are long gone, the board is about to go bankrupt, players are leaving test team to play in T20 leagues.

And that makes this movie slightly one-sided. Loose ended.

Still, I think all Cricket lovers should watch it, rather, all Cricket players, particularly West Indians should watch it, for the movie leaves you with hope and lots of positive energy.

–                      Janhavee Moole