Can May 2 be classified as World Artists’ Day?

Dwayne Johnson, Satyajit Ray, David Beckham and Brian Lara.

May 1 is observed as Labour Day. It’s a big day, even in Western India, and the day marks the formation of the Indian states — Gujarat and Maharashtra. In today’s times when there are days dedicated to, let’s say, everything (yes, there exists these days — Leave the Office Early Day, World Toothache Day, Ice-cream for Breakfast Day), how about dedicating May 2 as the World Artists’ Day?

The day marks the birthdays of four entertainers from different fields, who were original, creative, masters at their craft and artists while delivering it.

May 2 marks the birthdays of Satyajit Ray, David Beckham, Brian Lara and Dwayne Johnson (The Rock). One common binding factor between the four remains style.

Someway or the other, all four of these geniuses have inspired me and left a lasting impression on millions, and the crowd includes me. All four left an indelible impact on me.

Satyajit Ray (Born: May 2, 1921)

Being a Bengali and growing up as a creative professional, I didn’t have to look beyond Satyajit Ray for inspiration. Ray was a graphic illustrator long before he painted masterpieces on the film canvases. He designed film posters, illustrated, wrote children’s books, revolutionised book jacket designs, created award-winning Bangla fonts, did calligraphy and later, even his film scripts were more of visual storyboards.

Ray would soon become a global icon after Pather Panchali. He conceived the idea of filming it when he was illustrating Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay’s children’s book of the same name. Ray was a rare image-driven storyteller and detailed every frame with painting before directing them.

Years before Steven Speilberg enthralled the world with E.T., Ray scripted The Allien, a story where an alien lands in a village in Bengal and befriends a young boy. Ray took the film to Hollywood, and despite initial interests, the project was shelved.

Ray said that E.T “would not have been possible without my script of ‘The Alien’ being available throughout America in mimeographed copies.”
Many in Hollywood and India still believe that E.T. was plagiarised.

The Oscar, the National Awards, Bharat Ratna and the plethora of other recognition stands as testimony to his greatness as a filmmaker. One of the greatest filmmakers ever, Ray would even compose music and background scores for his films.

Ray’s gigantic global image as a filmmaker doesn’t really capture the man’s complete mastery of visual arts. Many who have followed the man behind the filmmaker know the real impact of the versatile creative genius.

David Beckham (Born: May 2, 1975)

Millions around the world are at their seats’ edges. They have momentarily stopped their breath. The defenders assemble as per the goalkeeper’s commands. And our man, with the usual aplomb, marches towards the dead ball in rhythmic steps. The feet kisses the ball. The world freezes. The ball paraboles to a corner. The thud in the net. And the world is at our man’s feet.

The art of free-kicks is a blend of wit and skills that adds creativity to sports. The artwork has evolved over the years, with masters adding their strokes of inventiveness. Not many have mastered it. But Beckham did, in his most unique way. So unique that it even made scientists scratch their heads, figuring out an equation on how to ‘Bend it like Beckham’, which years before had also become a movie title.

Swedish midfielder Sebastian Larsson is renowned for his free-kick goals. He has brilliant contemporaries in Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. However, for him, the name that stands out when taking free kicks is Beckham.

Beckham made free-kicks, one of the most challenging arts to master, as smooth as penalties. The goalies were kept the guessing with the variety. High or low or flat or the angles, the variety made him the name he became. He added a dimension to this art — reading the defence’s mind starting with the goalkeeper.

Was Beckham the best footballer of his time? Not quite. The Zidanes and the Ronaldos were winning the world then. However, the Englishman was about magical moments, and Beckham was about pure joy. He would inspire a generation, including me, to tie a tyre on a tree and practice the free-kick.
He also made me romance the number ‘7’, which still exists.

Brian Lara (Born: May 2, 1969)

Lara was an artist with the wood. Or should we say that he still is? Even a fifty-plus Lara can put you off the chores and hook you to those charity or legend matches.

Thanks to the gentle rivalry between the two greatest wizards with the bat, my growing years were unrivalled. The 1990s saw Lara and our own Sachin Tendulkar competing for the №1 batter’s title. Tendulkar was about consistency and dictated with an authoritative calmness. Lara’s appetite for big scores and the flair he got them with made him a delight.

If Tendulkar gave me those smiles with the wins, Lara made do the same for the joy he brought with the art of batting. I may have just committed blasphemy in the Indian context, but go on, judge my southpaw bias.

Like Beckham, he would freeze the moment. The ball would leave the bowler’s hand, and Lara would lean forward. The world, including the fielders, would be fooled. The cover fielder would be alert; the point fielder would relax. In no time, he would execute the seeming cover drive as a square cut past the outwitted point fielder.

Lara tackled the fastest of bowlers and wiliest of spinners with ease. Often the back-lift would make the bowler think that a searing yorker would clean him up. The bat would land in no time to meet the hurled-in ball, and depending on the fielders positioned on the leg-side, it would bisect them.

Lara would do them regularly and each time with grace. Brilliant athletes make you applaud them. Lara, with the artistry, dropped jaws and made all question, ‘How did he do that?’

The willow worked like a brush and the arena as the canvas; he would go on to paint runs and memories.

‘If you smellllllllllll what The Rock’s cooking!’

Hasn’t that got us all on our toes?

WWE, then called WWF, hit India by storm in the early 1990s. Just when the craze seemed to dilute a little in the late 1990s, the Attitude Era made things change, and the Rock was one of the major faces that made it work.

From his antics off the ring to the ones on it to his spectacular moves to his acts in the films, The Rock has entertained fans across the globe like no other.
Often called ‘the most electrifying man in the sports entertainment’, The Rock transitioned from one of the greatest wrestlers to a Hollywood star.

His moves would be a part of our lives. From the eyebrow raise to the way he spoke to the rockbottoms and people’s elbow, The Rock would make everyone fall for him. He continues to do so. He’s among the most-followed celebrities on social media.

One needs to be a master of performance arts to know how to keep the fans gripped with energy and entertainment. The Rock was natural at it. The WWE keeps encashing on The Rock’s popularity by still having him appear in the cameos.

The article was first published by the author, Suvajit Mustafi, on May 2, 2020, in Sakal Media Group’s The Bridge Chronicle.

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Suvajit Mustafi

In life’s game, I stand here, at this Gully, observe proceedings, remain alert, trying to dive or out the unwanted for my team. Well, Rib’s Gully is my alley.