The Opening Ceremony

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The IPL, as we all know, is characterized by good taste and subtlety. The opening ceremony of this year’s IPL stayed true to that spirit of understatement, with an aesthetically choreographed show that brought out the essence of what the tournament is all about.

Being held in Kolkata, the birthplace of the Indian Renaissance and the home of Kobiguru, it was but natural (and poetic) that the ceremony should begin with one of his works being recited, in English, by Shahrukh Khan, as Bengali as Ilish maach and nolengurer sandesh.

I might have been carried away but I could not help feeling that somehow, somewhere, we were celebrating the cosmic connection between these two brand ambassadors of Bengal, one who brought the Nobel Prize to Bengal and one who brought the IPL cup. What made it even more poignant were the words “Where The Mind is Without Fear”, capturing brilliantly the state of Kolkata and Bengal today, where those who forward cartoons are celebrated by being thrown into jail, and where those who dissent are tenderly called Maoists.

Truly magical.

And as East-European “Bideshinis” , clad in traditional Bengali skimpy-wear and fake smiles, cavort to Shahrukh Khan’s emotion-drenched voice, one cannot but feel how happy Rabindranath Tagore would be, up in heaven, looking down at the spontaneity and honesty of the performance below.

Of course Tagore is no more. But Ravi Shastri is evermore. A poet among commentators, he is tracer-bullet-like as he sets the cat among the pigeons, calling the captains out to sign the Spirit of Cricket Declaration, a charter of “good behavior rules” that are held in as much esteem and regard as traffic lights on India’s roads. And there they are…the captains as they walk over to the giant touch-screen—Jayawardene (banned in Chennai), Sangakkara (banned in Chennai), Angelo Matthews (banned in Chennai). Oh look there is Ricky Ponting signing the declaration, binding himself to the spirit of fair play, as he has done all through out his career. Did Virat Kohli sign his name? If he did, why does his finger-path look like a giant “Behenchod, teri maa ki” from where I am sitting? Never mind.

Because Deepika Padukone is here,  with this former brand ambassador of Royal Challengers, capturing through her energetic moves, the happiness of Kingfisher employees who were recently paid for the month of June and July. In April.

Which is however but an opening act for Katrina Kaif, the “Kat” inside Kol”Kat”a, known for being to item dancing what Vadhra is to real-estate investing. With the predictability of Gambhir edging to slip or chopping the ball onto his stumps, she executes her “Sheila ki Jawani” and “Chikni Chameli” steps, with the spontaneity of a customer service representative reading from the “Hello sir, how are you doing today?” script.

But wait. Why is the theme from Don playing? Who could it be? Surely not Priyanka Chopra? No.

It’s the Ambassador. No not the white battle-tank that is the vehicle of choice for safari-suited bureaucrats.

But the Brand Ambassador. King Khan. Shahrukh Khan (Banned at Wankede)

The audience is exhilarated by his energy,as he zips from one corner of the stage to another. So frenetic is everything that at least two of the backup dancers seem like they may have a heart attack any second. And yet, they keep on dancing.

Because as the saying goes— You dance Jab Tak Hain Jaan. Jab Tak Hain Khan.

And then he introduces two of the greatest musical talents the country has ever produced.

Bappi Lahiri and Usha Uthup.

Today’s kids won’t get this. Nor will most non-Kolkatans. But seeing this dynamic duo at Salt Lake Stadium, brought back  memories, memories of times gone by. Of Hope 86, the first time Bollywood truly came to Kolkata at Salt Lake Stadium, (organized if I remember right to raise money for striking cine artistes in Mumbai) with Sridevi and Jeetendra and Usha Uthup and Bappi Lahiri and Prabhuji giving us a slice of forbidden fruit. It was the day, many old-timers say, when Bollywood breached the gates of Bengali culture castle. I remembered those tumultuous times, of Left Front strong-man Jatin Chakraborty flying into a tizzy, calling the state-supported (CPM was ruling then) jamboree as “apasanskriti” (Bad Culture) which is possibly the most hurtful thing you can say to a Bengali, and then Usha Uthup in protest singing “Ami shilpi, ami shilpi, ami chai shilpir somman” (I am an artist, am an artist and I want to be respected as one), to which Jatin Chakraborty responded by painting the head of the Ochterloney Monument (called Shaheed Minar) red.

Ah those days.

Sukhen Das DancingMaybe it was just my misty eyes but I think I saw Sukhen Das, the tragedy king of Bengali cinema who always danced before he died (so that people do not understand what pain he is in), prance across stage  clad in his iconic jean jacket, stopping for a second to shed a tear before donating his kidney to the Sunrisers with his patented “Bhai, amar theke eta tomar dorkar beshi” (Brother, I think you need this more than I do).

Sukhen-da. Wish you were here.

I guess after the nostalgia unleashed by Bappi-Usha, I am expecting a representative of contemporary Bengali culture—a modern hero like the dashing Jeet or even better the pushing Deb, whose song “Lal juto paaye khokababu jaaye” (“Wearing red shoes, Mr. Boy moves”) from the movie “Khokababu” was reportedly Pope Benedict’s favorite song ( he being also a Khokababu who wore red shoes).

But that does not happen.

Pitbull comes onto stage.

Evidently, the organizers had wanted Jeniffer Lopez. It kind of made sense because if she is facing right she looks, from the side, kind of like the map of West Bengal. But what the organizers had not realized was that while “Love Don’t Cost a Thing”, JLo does.

So they got Pitbull.

I don’t know but I am guessing what probably happened was that someone saw this picture, and decided “Well if not the one on the left, why not the one on the right?”

This is not to imply that Pitbull and his Bald Headed League of Bob Christo Fans are not awesome. They are. They totally blend in like a Rabindrasangeet group from Santiniketan performing on the beaches of Cancun during Spring Break.

And Pitbull gives it his all, like Ricky Ponting did for Kolkata in the first IPL. I would say that with his strategic “Come on”s and “Yeaaah”s and his “Negative to Positive” , Pitbull provides as much value for his Put-Bill amount of $600,000 as the marginally more expensive ($650,000) Mashrafe Mortaza did for Kolkata Knight Riders in the 2009 series with his 21-runs-giving last over to Rohit Sharma. As a matter of fact, the only way we could truly thank Pitbull for this performance would be to make him sit through a 5-hour  presentation of “Invest in Bengal” and then, after that, make him memorize the full “Tum to thehre Pardesi” song before he is allowed to leave.

Now it’s done. Pitbull has left the building. Thanks are being said. The lights are being dimmed. Salt Lake Stadium slips steadily back into silence.

But the fun…the fun.

That’s just started.

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33 thoughts on “The Opening Ceremony

  1. Good one. Even though couldn’t relate to some of the events, the thoughts expressed through satire is something which I can relate to.

  2. Did not SRK look a little like Sukhen Das? From his ‘hoy to amake karo mane nei ‘ avatar ?

    Perhaps a hidden homage to Bengal’s first multi talented artist ( before rise of Anjan Dutta)

  3. “Evidently, the organizers had wanted Jeniffer Lopez. It kind of made sense because if she is facing right she looks, from the side, kind of like the map of West Bengal”
    EPIC!

  4. You seems to have came in form..but it took long time for your comeback. I hope to see same blazing hitting but within shorter intervals..! :)

  5. Simply loved it! I am looking forward to your coverage of the Great IPL much much more than I am looking forward to the games (if one can call them that!).

  6. Pingback: A $600,000 Pitbull: Was it worth it for the IPL? | Firstpost

  7. Wasnt ganguly invited? I was hoping SRK would invite him to share the stage, considering that the ceremony was being held in calcutta.

  8. A few points:

    1. IPL is the brand ambassador of Indian culture today because it involves Bollywood, showbiz, cricket and big corporates not necessarily in that order.

    2. Without the razzmatazz, you can’t hope to make money, a large slice of which goes to commies, conservatives and the con of Indian politics today.

    3. So, the khadi saree-chappal-wearing CM had to be there when Bull performed and the rest jumped and dry humped. It doesn’t matter if a mini riot was taking place in the city where a young commie was thrashed to death by the police. IPL is national concern.

    4. Culture may go to the blazes. Kobiguru isn’t capable of drawing people to para shahitik sommelon, so can’t be expected to excite the Pepsi-drinking chicks from Chennai — which is the reason for IPL being there.

    5. Sentiments more associated with local teams is more important than local sentiments.

    Remember Saurav Ganguly?

    • I agree with your comments. One small comment, though..and this may be too superficial to elicit a reply from you….even when I was growing up in Kolkata in the 70s 80s, Kobiguru did not draw a huge crowd to para shahittik sammelans- but we never had to wean the chicks from other places, not did we did need IPLs…

  9. Few points:

    1. All Tagore fans should thank their last fourteen generation that IPL 2013 ceremony started with a Tagore poem(I am sure Tagore would have been indifferent to this). Tagore is no longer relevant today and the sooner we accept it, the better it is for the Bengalis.

    2. East European bideshinis are needed for this kind of show because average Indians are just ugly. Sure, you can find Indian models and all but let’s just agree to the fact the white girls increases the glam quotient.

    3. Glad that Usha Uthup was introduced. Not very sure about Bappi Lahiri as he has got his share of credit in his life(the amount of gold he wears and the size of his bunglow in Mumbai are the proofs).

    4. Jlo costs money and so does Pitbull. I am sure it’s not money why Jlo did not come. It has to be her schedule or she just doesnt want to visit a 3rd world country. Pitbull did his job very well.

    5. I have seen the program and many of my friends were present in Saltlake stadium. We all think it was very well organized(definitely the best IPL opening ceremony so far). I personally found the content little boring, but honestly, do we have anyone else in India than SRK or Podukone or Kat who can truly entertain crowd? Do we even have any entertainer in talent and culture deprived country like India?

  10. @Shottikarer Aantel…

    1. Jlo – Are you suggesting the BCCI cannot afford whatever JLO was asking? I am sure, if M Jackson was alive, BCCI would have thought about bringing him too and they would be able to afford it. In any case, thank you for pointing out that jlo effectively priced herself out from this. Why should someone even pay that amount for a 43 years old female artist. Money is well spent on pitbull and east european bideshinis.

    2. Jeet-fan: I don’t know where I gave that impression. I don’t know, how old you are but if you have followed bengali movie industry in last 20 years, you would agree that the production quality have improved if nothing else. A simple litmus test of this is by seeing the number of movies playing in multiplexes along with high budget english and hindi movies.

    3. Didi-r-dhopel: etar mane bujhlam na. and again not sure how I gave that impression. How is didi relevant here? Kindly enlighten.

    • Dear Dumdum-r aantel,

      Since I am not privy to the finances of the BCCI and neither are you, let us go with what the media says. The BCCI, given the budget for the opening ceremony, could not afford JLo. The fact that you equate age with desirability (of course because JLo is female, MJ had he been alive today would be older but that would not have affected his desirability) shows how regressively non-aantel and sexist you are. Your equating of “production quality” with “quality” in point number 2 also calls into question your aantlamo since by your own implied logic, Michael Bay should then be better than Tarkovsky, KJo be better than Ray. Finally, the third point. There is a cult of Didi-bhakts (fraud aantels like yourself mostly) that have mushroomed in Calcutta, the Deb-Jeet worshippers, Soumitro-abusers, petty two-paise gubrepoka who think that will redefine what Bangla culture is. The reference was to that.

  11. GB , that was hilarious.
    Anyone else think SRK is the SRT of bollywood. He just looks like an old man trying hard to prove he’s ‘still got it’.
    @Dum_Dum – ‘average indians are just ugly’ . Lolzz.. do you get depressed every time you see a mirror? Although its always good to hear from someone who actually loves this kind of crapfest.

  12. @Crime Master Gogo

    I get depressed for many reasons..okay..looks many be one of the reasons…but that does not negate the fact that average Indians are ugly. Just take a sample from Indians anywhere in this world…may be divide it by demography(age.etc.) to be fair…..play with the numbers(leave out the beauty is in the eyes of the beholders crap…ugly is just ugly…just like me)..and tell me what you see…..
    BTW…you look surprised…you did not know this? (on a side note..to protect myself from further annihilation….being ugly does make someone any less of a human of course..it just makes him/her less deserving to attention)

    @GB…I have no intention to pollute your blog..saw ur post..and saw the opening ceremony…had some opinions(everyone and their dogs have opinions)…
    so just tell me to shut up..and I will..

  13. @Shottikarer Aantel

    1. I thought media says BCCI is the richest club and all. I am merely indicating that just because someone can afford something does not mean it’s money well spent.

    2. You find me sexist because I equate age with desirability. Of course I do. If that makes me sexist let it be. Let’s imagine that for your brother’s marriage you want some celebrity to dance in the boubhat. Ceteris paribus, Sredevi and Katrina asking the same rupee amount. Who would you invite? That makes you sexist? Or ceteris paribus, A R Rehman and Shaan asking same amount. Who would you invite?

    I never degenerated any gender…Just pointed a fact that attractiveness reduces for many reasons…age of female in show industry is one of them….are you seriously saying that’s untrue?

    3. I was very specific about “production quality” of bengali movie. I don’t know Bay or Vosky. I am not eligible. I understand simple logic the lesser mortal I am. Go back to 1995 – 2005 era and tell me how many bengali movies were release in mainstream bengali theaters. and tell me how many of them are released now and people actually go to see them(not being ashamed to watch them with family). Doesn’t that tell you something?

    4. Didi bhakt, and soumitro abusers .. once again…I never said anything about them..neither I am knowledge to form an opinion…I just know that a 22 yrs old guys was killed yesterday…I blame everyone in the world for that..(that’s all I can do other than being depressed by looking myself in the mirror)…I just did not understand the correlation between this kind of thing and an IPL ceremony…There are many stadiums in India which can host this…I am just proud and relieved of the fact that uncultured Indians(sure, I am one of them) did not throw stones at each other or players at least in this incidence……

  14. Yep, SRK is truly an Icon, as KRK tweets “SRK’s flop film Ra One collects 125 crore whereas Hritikh’s biggest hit Agnipath collects 125 crore, that’s the difference between SRK and others”. 500 years from now people will hardly believe these Ranbirs or Hrithiks were compared with SRK, just like people hardly remember competitors/contemporaries of Don Bradman, whereas even then SRK will shine brightly even more. SRK is like world’s most advanced aircraft “Air Force One” whereas others are like the low fuel “Vayudhoot”. When these filmily background assisted stars will lose all their charge even then SRK will be in full of charge. Also no wonder you are so clever by hiding to the people that actually you are a closet SRK fan (It’s actually good idea bcoz when you write something in favor of your star they take things as granted even its true so that’s a good idea to hide or to be a closet fan ) after all his name is Khan Shahrukh Khan

  15. How ever I am greatly curious to know have Amreekans bcm so advnced ?? Prhps so after I have seen Mr. Vishwa Bondhu Gupta’s interview I am totally convinced.. Please do share this gem to others

    here is it:

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