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Bollywood stars' cricket craze!

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By: Molly, IndiaFM
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
And as the boys in blue are all there in the Caribbeans (also known as the West Indies) to join the grand contest for the World Cup, with the hopes of and entire country resting on their strong shoulders, my thoughts take me on a tour of my own and I think of the close connections between the game of cricket and its strong influence and connection with some of the legends and all-time greats in Hindi cinema. It has been a bond that has grown down the year, long before helmets came into the game and long before the media, the electronic media especially, made the boys welding their bats and swinging and spinning balls as important and at time even more important than some of the most popular film stars of any time....

I must first inform you of some of the legends in film who are ardent fans of the game. You will find it like a believe it or not story if I tell you that the greatest ever and still very ardent fan of the game is the Bharat Ratna, the melody queen of India who millions worships, Lata Mangeshkar. The woman forever in white with velvet in her voice knows every minute detail about the game. She knows all about the changes, the change in condition and rules and details about the game. She may not know the name of the latest star and singers in Hindi film but she knows the name of all the great player of her time which is a long time ago to the best known players of the game in the world today. She knows them with their strong points and weaknesses. She knows of all their latest achievements and failures. She may forget some of her own land mark songs and milestone in her profession but she can never forget the landmarks and millstones of individuals and every country where the game is played. She has been to all the leading cricket playing countries of the world. She has been present at some of the most important matches during the last forty years. Age and the vagaries of time have not allowed her to cut down her trips to watch matches all over. She has adjusted her work schedule according to the world's cricketing calendar. It is an absolute treat to sit with her while she is watching a match. Her running commentary and expert comments can put all the cricketing greats, writers and analysts of the game in the shade. I sometimes think her turning a Nightingale has robbed India of another legend of Indian or even world cricket. I am a fan of her fascination for the game and I will not be surprise to see her at some stadium during this World Cup Series.

Dilip Kumar is another self accepted crazy fan of the game but he himself admits that his madness is not as maddening as the madness of his "Choti Behan, Lata". For Dilip Kumar any match any where is a special occasion, a festival, a holiday. He never worked during all the important matches in his days. He stopped working days before an important match was to be played to get into the spirit and was found at some stadium or the other where interesting matches were played or found close to a radio, intently listening to the commentary. Television has made matters easy for him now his memory is not as sharp as it used to be once but his observations and statements about the game could not be questioned by any authorities on the game. His failing health has dulled his sharpness but the excitement of the cricket fever gives him all the reason to celebrate however unwell he may be. He had some of the best players of the world as his personal friends, many of whom have been his guests at home. His wife, Saira Banu is very happy when there is cricket in the air because it gives her an occasion to spend all the time with her "Sahab" and pamper him but without disturbing him while he is watching the nuances of a stroke or a good ball or a good catch. Some of his reaction about the game can beat the best brains in the game but he can also be as open as the typical "stand wala" lover of the game. There was a time when filmmakers could not shoot with him during a crucial match. It was an unwritten clause in his contract.

Dev Anand, the other legend loved the game but was one of the first to say that the five day test matches were too much of a waste of time and game could be much more interesting if it was played only for a day. He said that thirty five years ago and look how his idea has been put into practice now all over the world. Dev was the first to think of making a feature film based on the craze of cricket and he made Awwal Number with Aamir Khan. The film did not do very well but it gave filmmakers a new subject to deal with, a subject which was followed till Lagaan then in Iqbal and now in a film called Hattrick made at a time to coincide with the excitement of the World Cup.

There have been other big fans who knew just two things in life, films and cricket. There are big fans like Naushad Ali, Kalyanji-Anandji, Laxmikant Pyarelal, Manoj Kumar and Jitendra. They could loose anything to catch up with the latest in the field of cricket. And the one fan of the game I have seen is a fan who is known as a mad man and is mad about cricket too, Nana Patekar. His first love is to see India win and see that every player plays his best and does not leave the rest to God. He has a personal relationship with most of the Indian players. I have seen him blasting the daylights out of the best of players like Sachin Tendulkar or a captain like Azharuddin and Saurav Ganguly, whenever they have blundered or played badly. Nana himself is no ordinary player of the game. He could have given some of the best players a run for their money if he had the money to buy a cricket kit at the right time. He didn't because he was just a spot boy working in theatre for a few hundred rupees. But watch him play the game at fifty five today, even if it is a festival match and you will see the blood of a true cricketer racing in him.

Almost everyone in films, from a spot boy to the superstar becomes an expert in cricket and has an opinion about how Sachin should have played the particular ball from Shane Warne or how a team lost because "sab paise khane ki baat hai". But in the Mumbai film industry we have some thoroughly professional stars, actors and technicians who play the game like some of the best players anywhere and can be compared to the best. There is an actor called Anil Dhawan (brother of director David Dhawan) who was popular in the seventies. He is over sixty now but quick as a fiddle and a genius when he is playing a game of cricket. Batting, bowling, keeping wickets, ask him to do anything in the field of cricket and he can teach a lesson or more to some of the overnight star cricketer who are more of money-making robots in the game today. Naseeruddin Shah is the captain of a team which only consists of professional from film and theatre. But their dedication to the game, their consistent practice sessions early in the morning and the matches they play against different teams in various parts of the country can make all the players and authorities, associations and boards controlling the game in India to take a look at this team and learn how things are managed and controlled in the most dignified way in keeping with the decorum of the game which was once only paid by the royals and people in high places. There are many names but among the top few are men like Tom Alter, Raj Zutshi, Satish Shah, Robin Bhatt (brother of Mahesh Bhatt), Anil Dhanda and Pradeep Suri. They are gradually growing old and I wonder if the present generation which spends most of its free time in bars, discos these days will continue in their traditions.

Talking about the bonding between cricket and films reminds me of some of the one-time star-cricketers who tried to make use of their popularity and make a few bucks more by trying to act in films. It all started with Salim Durani who started his career with the late Parveen Babi. He was followed by the "greatest of greats", Sunil Gavaskar, Sandip Patil, Kapil dev, Ajay Jadeja, Vinod Kambli and Salil Ankola. Not one of them could make it because they didn't know the basics of acting and failed to realise that the two, cricket and acting are two different and dicey ball games.

And still talking about the bond between the cricket and films reminds me of the affairs of the heart between men and women of the two worlds. It all started when Sir Garfield Sobbers, the legend from West Indies fell in love with the then ruling actress, Anju Mahendroo. He left her high and dry. She fell for the ruling superstar Rajesh Khanna who in term fell for Dimple Kapadia and today all the three are part of the fading pages of history. The only successful relationship which has lasted gracefully to this day is the one between The Nawab Patodi and the actress Sharmila Tagore. They had a dignified married and are the parents of two ruling stars today, Saif Ali Khan and Soha Ali Khan. Vivian Richards, another legend from the West Indies fell for Neena Gupta and they had a baby who they called Masaba. The baby is a grown up girl now and I wonder what happened to the relationship between Richards and Neena. There was talk about a great affair between the dashing Imran Khan of Pakistan and the ruling leading lady of India, Zeenat Aman. There was talk about Mohammad Azharuddin falling for a falling star, Sangita Bijlani who seem to have worked out a relationship of their own which they still maintain. And now there is this big hush hush talk about the great Brian Lara of the West Indies again and Sushmita Sen and them being teamed together in a film and also having an affair like there is talk about so many of our young boys in blue who have still to cut there true teeth, and the truth will now be out, I think only after the world cup.

And if Mandira Bedi who was a failed actress of just one film, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge can wear strapless cholis and jewellery all over herself, smile at the camera and talk with great authority on the great stroke play by Mr. Dhulai Dhoni and an Irfan Pathan can walk across the T.V. screen and tell people what they should do and what they shouldn't, anything can happen and God save cricket in the bargain. As of now it is all about playing safe shorts in the right place and run-run for the money and all the gifts that come from Alladins from all over.

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