Gautam Gambhir and his boys won IPL 5 but it was Shah Rukh Khan who bowled the maiden over.
Here’s how it went down, as reported breathlessly in the media.
SRK: Next year if we win, we’ll make her dance.
MB: But this year you have to dance for four hours! You told me… you assured me.. first day!
SRK: Okay, Didi will dance with us for five minutes in the next four hours! Didi has to dance next time when we win it! Come on!
MB: Is it a promise? No… (giggles) I can sing for you…
SRK: See Didi, Bengal aapka hoga par Eden Gardens hamara hai. Yahaan pe hamari chalti hai, okay?
MB: Woh dekha hai na!
SRK hugs MB and gives her a peck on the head.
And that is how KKR ne bana di jodi.
Yesterday’s Telegraph newspaper carried not one, not two but SIXTEEN pictures of Mamata and Shah Rukh Khan together cementing their bandhan including a blow-by-blow sequence of Bollywood’s beleaguered badshah standing, his head bowed, as the CM put a golden chain around his neck.
In hindsight, they are oddly made for each other. He is an unlikely filmstar who came out of nowhere. She’s the unlikely politician who rose without the backing of a husband, father or godfather. They both know how to play to the gallery and have that crowd-connect charisma. They also shoot from the hip and tend to speak before they think. They both regard themselves as straightforward, no-nonsense and wildly misunderstood. “I believe I’m kind-hearted and so is Didi,” said SRK. She in turn told Hillary Clinton Shah Rukh Khan was “a good boy.” They form their own private fan club.
Both Mamata and SRK badly needed this victory. They have been reeling from one self-inflicted PR disaster after the other. Gambhir and his Knights delivered them the gift of all gifts on a platter and the dynamic duo just ran with it. No one understands the power of symbolism the way Mamata does and she knew that the image of her holding aloft a shiny trophy was the mother of all symbols for a resurgent Bengal. It had everything the aam aadmi cared about – cricket, Bollywood, politics all wrapped up in a feel-very-good fairy tale storyline where the underdogs felled the favourites.
Shah Rukh, at least, was the man who had invested in and believed in his underdog team through thick and thin (mostly through thin). He had risked Kolkata’s ire by dumping its favourite son – Saurav Ganguly, the original Dada. But what did Didi do to reap the fruits of this long slog in pursuit of the Holy Grail? She was not even known to be much of a cricket fan, preferring to paint when the World Cup matches got in the way of her 2011 election campaign according to Ruchir Joshi’s Poriborton – An Election Diary. But she boarded the players’ bus on the way to Eden Gardens. “Boarding the team bus, Didi became a Knight,” gushed a cabinet colleague.
SRK explained Didi’s pivotal role to The Telegraph (Read the whole interview here). She helped in getting a couple of security requests taken care of. And also this. “It rained in the very first match this season and Didi offered to buy two Super Soppers to add to the four already there. I found that touching. Also, she was pained to see that people had to wait (in the rain). Her kindness towards the public stood out.” Bengal’s newly minted brand ambassador has apparently become Didi’s personal brand ambassador as well.
But really, why was it even Mamata’s party? Karunanidhi never put on a big party for the Chennai Super Kings when they won the last two IPLs. Sports fans will sneer Chennai is Chennai and Kolkata is Kolkata but why was the Bengal CM micromanaging every last detail from the selection of a five-layered sandesh to playing emcee? Historian and cricket buff Ramachandra Guha said it was a “well-nuanced political exercise by a new government that had become unpopular in its first year piggybacking on a cricket victory.” It seems unseemly to try and put political colours on a cathartic victory for a city that is mad about sports but has been starved of bona fide victories and international champions since Sourav days. After all Mamata even carefully chose a white sari with a KKR-purple border for the big day. The euphoria that filled Eden Gardens on a hot muggy summer afternoon was state-organised but not stage-managed.
Didi showered the men in purple and gold with praise. “We are proud of you, Bengal is proud of you. Please keep it up,” exulted the CM. But the question is for what? It was a thrilling nail-biter of a final as cricket goes but not a World Cup victory which can still make some claim towards national pride and sports-induced patriotism. Kolkata Knight Riders is a club, owned by millionaire film stars and a businessman, none of whom live in the city though they might support the Thalassemia Society here. Its players are bought from all over the world at an auction. Next time around some of them will play for other teams against the Kolkata Knight Riders.
But a club victory has become dubbed as the new “hope” for Bengal and the symbol of the grand change the Trinamool government had promised. “This is not Calcutta’s victory, this is a victory of Bengal,” said the state’s governor MK Narayanan. “It is true paribartan that she (Mamata) had promised.”
Mamata got to pretend this is the shiny paribartan she promised and has now delivered. SRK got the monkey off his back about being a loser stuck in a midlife crisis. As for poor Gautam Gambhir, all he got yesterday were two photographs in the Telegraph. One was on the sports page and the other seemed to be a stock file photo.