Monday, September 24, 2012


“Aggression means aggression. That’s just how I look at life. If you fight, I am going to fight,” says a very inspiring and awesome Sir Vivian Richards in Stevan Riley’s non-fiction film Fire in Babylon. One of the few full-length documentaries to be released theatrically in India, this film is one of the most inspiring accounts of a sports team rising from ashes and ruling the world.

Based on the phase of West Indian cricket when their fast bowlers – Michael Holding, Andy Roberts, Joel Garner, Colin Croft, and Malcolm Marshall were nothing short of names of nightmares that batsmen all across the world had, this film tells the background story of what led to the resurgence of a team that was loved for playing entertaining cricket and losing. 

After suffering from a humiliating series defeat in Australia and being mauled by the beastly fast bowlers Australia had then, the West Indian team led by Clive Lloyd embarked on a journey that not only silenced their critics and got them the results they wanted, but also forced fear in the minds of their opponents. The film browses through the period from 1975 to the late 1980s, when test cricket was dominated almost single-handedly by the West Indies.

With personal interviews with Sir Vivian Richards, Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Clive Lloyd, Andy Roberts, Gordon Greenidge and some groundsmen, along with one of the Wailer Bros, Stevan Riley provides kind of a firsthand account of the era. Compiled in a way that captures the Caribbean essence, with amalgamated footage from the live games, Fire in Babylon brings you close to the action. It is evident that the focus is on the fast bowlers that shook the world and broke some skulls. As an Indian, it hurts the ego to see Sunil Gavaskar walk off the field protesting against the vicious bowling. They are the metaphor for the aggression of the oppressed, not just in the sport but in the society. The film sees these cricketers share their experiences on foreign tours where they were met with racial abuse and brutal competitiveness, whose consequence was the brutality in their game. The film also glimpses over the Kerry Packer series and the incident when some cricketers rebelled against the ban on South Africa during apartheid and were later suspended.

The content is gripping but its impact is amplified with the music that plays in the background. Some footage of Bob Marley performing Get Up Stand Up lends an added dimension to the experience. The interviews are also interspersed with folk musicians from the Caribbean singing glorious songs about their favourite game and beloved cricketers who are now Caribbean legends.

Made in 2010, the film releases in Indian theatres today. But, given how rarely we get to watch good non-fiction in theatres, Fire in Babylon is a must watch. It is a fine sports film, a good musical, great action thriller and probably a movie that will motivate you. 

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Published in DNA After Hrs (Pune) on September 22, 2012

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