Virat Kohli, Anushka Sharma and our fascination with cricketer-actress romances
Will it be a T20 thriller or a case of Band Baaja Baarat?
Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma's relationship has attracted media attention — and public curiosity — over the last couple of years.
Anushka was recently in the West Indies, when her beau led the Indian team in a series in the beautiful Caribbean Islands. Later, when Anushka travelled to Prague, in the Czech Republic, reportedly for a shoot, Kohli flew all the way to spend time with her. The two seem to be perfectly smitten and head-over-heals in love. What remains to be seen is whether theirs is really a Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi!
A couple of seasons ago, Kohli fell time and again to deliveries leaving him outside off stump, especially in England. For those failures, Anushka — who was watching from the stands — was roasted on Twitter. The 'logic' behind the trolls was that her presence was a disturbance and that it had led to poor performances from Kohli. What’s more, she was blamed for India’s pathetic showing!
The two agreed to a mutual ‘separation’ last year, giving Kohli the space to work on his technique and to rethink his attitude towards the game. It also gave their baiters a welcome break! Once he hit a purple patch — one sincerely hopes it’s here to stay — the couple was back together. But this time around, Anushka has consciously stayed away from the cameras and public gaze.
Very few alliances in the past, between Bollywood stars and sportsmen, have really gone the distance.
But one love-story that really withstood all the stresses and lasted more than four decades was Tiger Pataudi and Sharmila Tagore's. The ‘Nawab’ had a huge female fan following while Sharmila (or ‘Ayesha Begum’ as she was known after marriage) was (and still is) chic and charming. It was the love, respect and the trust that each reposed on the other that helped them get along well.
In a candid interview with Simi Garewal in a television programme a long time ago, Sharmila said, “I liked to watch cricket and I was a huge Jaisimha fan! But I fell in love with Tiger because he came across as caring and had a great sense of humour.” She also admitted to have taken the initiative to find his phone number and to talk to him. “I wanted to show my friends and accomplices that I ‘knew’ the Nawab of Pataudi,” she laughed.
Tiger Pataudi believed that marriages are not really made in heaven. “They are made here, on earth, and it is up to the couple to learn to love and trust each other. You have to be friends, more than husband and wife,” he said.
Apart from the Tiger-Sharmila romance, however, the end result of most other cricket-Bollywood relationships has been tragic.
The world’s most beautiful women would swoon at the mention of Imran Khan’s name. But he was unlucky in love. It is rumoured that he had a brief affair with Zeenat Aman; when Khan was asked who he thought was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, without batting an eyelid, he replied: “Waheeda Rehman”.
During the post-World War II period and after India and Pakistan had attained freedom from British rule, quite a few of the sub-continent’s sportsmen — cricketers, in particular — had affairs with heroines of the silver screen; but most of them were surreptitious in nature. Sportswriters too were civil enough not to report off-the-field ‘activities’.
Nazar Mohammad, a very promising Pakistani batsman, was perhaps one of those unfortunate to be caught with their pants down, literally. He found himself, according to rumour, in the bed of singer-actress, Noor Jahan, when her husband came home early one evening. He is said to have panicked and jumped out of her bedroom window, and ended up with a broken arm. That, sadly, spelt finis to his cricketing career!
The world’s greatest all-rounder too fell for an Indian lass in the mid-sixties. Leading the West Indies on a tour of India in 1966-67, Gary Sobers met Bollywood actress Anju Mahendru and fell in love with the then 17-year old. They were engaged very soon. But the long-distance relationship didn’t last long and the two parted ways. Sobers then married his Australian girlfriend, Prudence Kirby.
The all-rounder with striking good looks, Salim Durrani — born in Kabul — acted in a movie named Charitra in the 1970s. He was said to have had a brief fling with his heroine, Parveen Babi. Babi then went on to become a superstar, appearing in a long list of films with Amitabh Bachchan. The Srinivas Venkataraghavan–Hema Malini 'link up' made its way into media reports too in the '70s, but there wasn’t much substance to it.
The 1980s saw the long courtship between Mohsin Khan, the Pakistani star batsman and Bollywood star Reena Roy, culminating in marriage. After living together for six years in Mumbai, they parted ways, with Mohsin returning to his homeland. Another relationship that churned up a lot of gossip was Ravi Shastri-Amrita Singh's. The left-arm spinner and all-rounder then married Ritu Singh in 1990, while Amrita went on to marry Saif Ali Khan in 1991. Sandeep Patil too was said to have a brief affair with Debashri Roy, his heroine in the film, Kabhi Ajnabi The, before marrying his second wife, Deepa.
That decade also saw West Indies’ Viv Richards, one of the finest batsmen ever, having a relationship with actress Neena Gupta. Masaba, the fashion designer, was born out of that bond. Today, Neena Gupta regrets having a baby outside marriage. “In our society, it is necessary that you marry before having kids. I was a rebel, but now I realise that it was wrong,” she told a reporter recently.
Naureen married Mohammad Azharuddin when she was reportedly 16 years old. Hers is the heart-rending story of a regular girl losing out to the glamour and glitz of Bollywood. The former India skipper and now politician divorced his wife of nine years and married Sangeeta Bijlani in 1996. Fourteen years later, ‘Azza’ and Sangeeta are no longer together.
Sourav Ganguly was believed to have dated Nagma at the turn of the millennium. This was only a couple of years into his marriage with Dona, his childhood sweetheart. Dona and he had eloped to marry. The Nagma tales later died down and the Gangulys are now one happy family again. And of course, there were the reports linking MS Dhoni to Deepika Padukone too.
The passage of time has brought about a change in social mores. Eyebrows were raised a few decades ago when England and other western countries allowed wives and girlfriends (WAGs) to travel with the team and share rooms with their husbands or partners on tour. WAGs are now a part of Indian sports too. This has been given legal sanction by none other than the highest court of the land.
Last month, Harbhajan Singh’s wife and Bollywood actress, Geeta Basra delivered a baby girl in London. After dating Kim Sharma for four years, Yuvraj Singh is now preparing to walk down the aisle with model-turned-actress, Hazel Keech.
Tiger Pataudi led India when he was only 21. He tied the knot with Sharmila Tagore when he was 28. Addressing a media conference recently, Kohli announced that 40 hairs in his beard had gone grey. “I’ve matured as a player,” he declared.
Kohli will turn 28 just past Diwali this year. Anushka is a few months older. A billion cricket lovers have reposed faith in him as a captain of the Indian team and its batting mainstay. Neither the media nor the spectators advise him on cricketing matters — not that he would he listen to anybody. Wouldn’t it be prudent on our part, therefore, to let him decide on his personal matters too? And extend the same courtesy to Anushka?
Given time and space, the Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi may end up in Band Baaja Baarat. Who knows!