It~~s about SRK, Rabindra and cricket-mad Kolkata...

Published: Friday, May 9, 2008, 3:35 [IST]
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A seasoned businessman... SRK combines his IPL team and Rabindra to lure a whole new genreKolkata: It is a marriage made in heaven. A marriage between Bollywood, India's numero uno entertainment industry and cricket -- the 'national religion'.

And solemnising this union with characteristic elan is King Khan, who wedded the charisma of the willow with the lucre of Bollywood.

''Think what stakes the Indian Premier League (IPL) has in terms of spinning money,'' asked part-time vendor Rashid Khan, who sells improvised plastic binoculars in front of the Mecca of cricket--Eden Gardens.

''Wondered at first what a movie mogul has to do with cricket when Kolkata Knight Riders was launched,'' Rashid said.

''I know 'Chak De India' did inspire our languishing hockey but cricket is not a sick child,'' he preened, rearranging his unsold wares night last night.

''Now I know why Bollywood orbits round SRK. And now cricket too. Because Almighty blesses the brave,'' the resident of Colootolla reasoned.

After a five-run victory over Bangalore, everyone talked about how the 'Devdas' recited Rabindranath Tagore's 'Where the Mind is without Fear'.

Of course, 'hair-raising' Sourav Ganguly's spell of military medium pace, that perhaps earned him the Man-of-The-Match, was also talked about, a fan said.

Inside the stadium, if one is to believe the media, the nearly 50,000 strong crowd braved an inclement weather to watch how Shah Rukh Khan moves and where he goes.

Remember, the Badshah was not allowed to go inside the circle of the main playground, where cricketing celebrities like Ganguly, Rahul Dravid,Anil Kumble--all former India captains--and top ranking overseas players were making acrobatic figures to warm themselves up before the final showdown.

But the nucleus of the stadium was circling the ground and readily replying to questions ending with 'Korbo, Lorbo, Jitbo re', the theme song of KKR.

The so-called 'hindi movie haters' had started endearing themselves to SRK after his tryst with Bengal's popular novel 'Devdas', penned by Sarat Chandra Chattopahyaya. The film was a runaway hit.

Shah Rukh's latest love for Kabiguru's poetry made him an instant favourite on a night when his typical Bombay movie style dance was delisted.

The media was bombarded with phone calls by people wanting to know if play at all will be held. It was held up when rain delayed the match by an hour and forty-five minutes, forcing the organisers to curtail four overs each of the Twenty-20 match, first in this ongoing IPL championshnip.

West Bengal Sports minister Subhas Chakraborty's opposition to the 'Mumbai dance' on the Bard's birth anniversary came as a blessing in disguise for the 42-year-old actor, who, for now, has set aside all punishing shooting schedules for the sake of his new romance with cricket.

''I am proud I could recite Kabiguru's poem. I am privileged to be allowed to recite in front of you. I Love Kolkata,'' Khan said to rupturous cheers.

Celebrated actor-dancer Mamata Shankar lauded the Red Chillies Entertainment, event manager of SRK's Kolkata Knight Riders for inviting her to perform with her ballet troupe in the stadium.

Before leaving for home, Rashid told this correspondent his binoculars sold at Rs 40 apiece because of SRK's presence in the stadium. ''Who will buy this toy type thing at night.'' Hundreds of vendors, from far flung places turn up during every match day and make a tidy sum outside the Eden, much like IPL does inside the ground by projecting the movie stars.

'Long Live Cricket and Long Live SRK too' a placard carried by a middle-aged fan perhaps said it all.


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