The IPL Opening Ceremony is finally over. I’m relieved there was no load-shedding in Kolkata during the ceremony. I’m thankful that no one sang Ekla Chalo Re despite being fed sandesh and jhaal muri in the VIP room. Because that’s how we roll in Kolkata. Even if it gives our visiting international performers, a bad case of diarrhoea.
Back to the ceremony, despite the absence of Ekla Chalo Re, there were some other sparklers which more than made up for this Tagorean slip-up. Here are the six high-low-mediocre points of the “ceremony”.
Can’t be in Kolkata without trotting out Tagore.The evening began with people swaying and swinging to Tagore’s Aguner Poroshmoni. Why? Ours is not to question why, ours is but to watch and sigh. So after crucifying yet another song of Tagore’s – although I must grant this time that it was sung beautifully – it was time to get on with the show. But only after “where the mind is without fear and the head is held high” was recited very loudly. And sotto voce apparently by SRK himself sounding very un-SRK. Take that Big B. While you’re breathing in a bit of Gujarat, event managers have found another star to recite Tagore’s lines at events.
The travelling circus comes to town. When we were six or seven years old, the Gemini Circus and the Nataraj Circus used to pitch its tents at the Park Circus maidan. And they seem to have just shifted to the Salt Lake stadium now . Because there was everything from people on stilts, to women in silver foil outfits with white wigs which I think had been made by the IndiGo air-hostess’ wigmakers. There was even one woman who had the punishment posting of being hung from thirty helium balloons and made to float over the crowds while holding the trophy in her hand. You kept wondering what would happen if she either got blown away and impaled on the Howrah Bridge or if a swarm of Salt Lake’s barracuda-sized mosquitoes punctured the balloons. Would she bounce off His Rotundness, Rajeev Shukla’s prosperous paunch? We never did find out.
Cricket makes for strange bedfellows. To provide some comic relief from the jamboree, the cameras were kind enough to pan over the many many celebrities in the audience. There were the BJP big boys taking a break from their politicking, by watching Katrina and Deepika dance. Arun Jaitley maintained a pitbullish expression through the evening while the real Pitbull feigned ecstasy about being in Kolkata’s heat. Then there was Mamata sitting next to and chattering with Rajeev Shukla, who was sitting next to N Srinivasan and probably asking him about how much garage space he had left now. And who could miss Usha Uthup who seemed to have a look of amazement tattooed on her face. Seated next to Bappi Lahiri, man of many chins and chains, and exactly the same shape as the giant white balls rolling around with the names of the teams. Then they rolled on stage to rock the crowd.
Katrina’s costume quandary and Honey’s resurrection. Katrina was rolled in on a contraption which looked like a really bad rip-off of Elizabeth Taylor’s throne in Cleopatra. And for some reason she was wearing a dressing gown made of golden foil. After her song and dance sequence – which wasn’t half bad - the curtains which covered the stage turned out to be made of the same material. Deepika, who’d appeared just before her, decided to send out the message “come back Honey Singh, all is forgiven”, because she gyrated to his songs without a care in the world. So much for how his songs glorified sexual violence against women and must be boycotted. It made me worry how many of the portly Marwari and Bengali gents in the audience were going to become uncontrollable Lotharios by the end of the evening. Going by the heat in Kolkata, it was more likely that they’d melt into deep pools of sweat, but lascivious sweat no doubt.
And then there was Pitbull. Kolkata’s Marwaris and Bongs were going crazy dancing to Pitbull. Or so we were told by Lady State The Obvious who was the hostess of the IPL gig. You could see both Pitbull and Mamata didi looking confused by how to behave. Pitbull asked the crowd “Do you want to stop the party?” Luckily Mamata didn’t interpret it as an international conspiracy to thwart the Trinamool in panchayat elections. Anyway caalchar vultures were looking askance at what to make of “International Lover” preceded by “I'm Sexy and I know It” accompanied by Pitbull’s pelvic movements. High culture in the city of Tagore. To mark the end of the evening, all the freaks were trooped out. From the balloon girl floating above the crowds, to the people on stilts to what seemed to be the golfers from Tolly Club with their golf umbrellas. After the Femina Miss India competition though, I was a little despondent when Shiamak Davar didn’t suddenly appear to sing, “Give me everything tonight” in Hindi. But maybe at the Closing Ceremony.
Oh, and those cricketers. We did see them. The floating girl was lowered down to Gautam Gambhir – who hasn’t been taught by his parents that it’s impolite to chew gum in public – to hand him the trophy. He didn’t seem to know what to do with the trophy once she gave it to him. After that Motu and Lotu aka Rajeev Shukla and N. Srinivasan took the stage with the team captains (which is when Jayalalithaa must have had a heart attack upon spotting so many Sri Lankan players in one place). Then we were shown that the cricketers were all literate and could actually sign their names though Dhoni looked like he was trying to scratch his name on the touch screen. But that was the last we saw of the poor sods
And suddenly, before you knew it, it was all over. Pitbull sang and danced and introduced SRK, Deepika and Katrina back on stage and vanished. The trio then gyrated to Gangnam Style and clapped while fireworks lit up the Kolkata sky. And poof, the telecast portion of the evening was over. Not a minute too early. But some warning would have been nice, because I would have shut the TV off before Sidhu appeared to spout some nonsense and Kapil Dev reminisced how Lata Mangeshkar showed up after the team won that World Cup way back when.
These are the moments you realise the perks of being that floating balloon girl who could at least make a fast escape.