Cricket & The Serial Phenomenon

If cricket did not yield Salil Ankola (facing page) the slot to which he looked entitled as a sturdy all-round performer, his rectangular swing arm has now shown its Josh in The World Of Make Believe. In clinching a prestigious serial award, Salil Ankola has taken Naseeruddin Shah at his word: "There are no retakes in cricket, if you are out you are out."



NO vision like television! What a long way TV in India has come since we had our one DD channel and were only too happy to be "on the Lucille Ball''. From Lucy to Rajni did we mindlessly move. As Priya Tendulkar came through as being no less hard-hitting than Sachin Tendulkar. Serials continue to grip the nation's imagination in a seating style truly amazing. If cricket did not yield Salil Ankola the slot to which he looked entitled as a sturdy all-round performer, his Rectangular Swing Arm has now shown its JOSH in The World Of Make Believe. In clinching a prestigious serial award, Salil Ankola has taken Naseeruddin Shah at his word: "There are no retakes in cricket, if you are out you are out.''

Out of the STAR PARIVAAR awards picture — to the chagrin of 46% of women viewers watching — was Mandira Bedi. This when Mandira's KSBKBT serial was observed to bag no fewer than 6 awards during that glitterati Sunday night. As The Vamp Who Walked The Ramp, Mandira, initially, was expected to leave the field trailing. Yet, at a time when such a bauble was crucial to enhancing her Little Screen stature, Mandira (playing Mandira) came to be pipped at the `vampost' by Urvashi Dholakia (as Saut Komolika in KZK). Mandira thus eased out of the glossy awards picture by the rather obvious scheming Likaaa Woman in the KZK serial (with its Dona-Sourav Gangulian Bengali overtones).

The supreme irony here lay in the fact that the very 46%, so eye-rivetingly supportive of Mandira Bedi as the Sony Panel Presenter, now perhaps tilted the award scale in favour of the no less tantalisingly revealing Komolika, as KZK essayed by Urvashi Dholakia. Urvashi, remember, is from the State of Gujarat where (alongside movies and serials) audiences have eyes and ears only for cricket. The adventurous young women from this State have also blazed the mountain climbing trail. Urvashi Dholakia now, therefore, could have her own "Crickety TV Peaks'' in sight. Do not be caught unawares if SonyMax Channel Head Rajat Jain turns from Mandira to Urvashi as the next Glam Puss Presenter.

Sony certainly comes back into the telepicture as the ICC Champions Trophy materialises in August-September 2004. It was this Mini World Cup that had Ruby Bhatia metamorphosing the set notion of cricket presentation in India. So that Urvashi Dholakia, as the Beat Generation Girl, has plenty of time to grow on the viewer — to mount an all-claws assault on the cricket perch still fantasisably occupied by Mandira Bedi. As a sequel to Urvashi's stealing The Devious Devilry award from under Mandira's Sardarni nose, trust this fluent English speaking Gujju performer to Third Eye the Bedi Dame's niche in the Sony box of commentary tricks.

The 2004 Mini World Cup is just the kind of peep-show during which Sony could, yet again, try a change of pace and face. Do take mental note of the physical fact that Sony does not stay with the same young lady in its cricket avatar to come. Sony, when least expected, "airdropped'' Ruby as no gem of an emcee woman. Turning to Mandira when Bedi was but a Shanti TV struggler. Likewise now — when neo-columnist Mandira is being invited to preside everywhere and so has this feeling of being On Top Of The World Cup — don't be too surprised if she goes the Ruby way, as the Mini World Cup comes along.

I am not saying it will be Urvashi Sony-supplanting Mandira. Still viewers, from hereon, will watch with consuming interest how Urvashi's KZK role develops vis-a-vis Mandira's character in KSBKBT. Mandira stood practically Star Plus marginalised in KSBKBT, when the not so sporty Sony chose to invest her with a bright-eyed new telescreen presence. As the gold-digger in South Africa. Urvashi, momentarily one up on Mandira, could make a bid for the very cricket constituency that fetched the Bedi diva her rare telespot. In a setting where the menfolk (viewing the World Cup) sounded to be so vituperatively ranged against the yoga-hooked Mandira as the gender bender.

One dot-ball point the STAR PARIVAAR awards certainly brought literally home. This is that, if cricket is a passion with the telly audience in India, serials represent our most popular pastime. As the tube transformation that the Frank Tyson coached Salil Ankola has undergone sharply underscores. The World Cup was expected to break the stranglehold that serials had on the Indian viewing mindset. But that did not quite happen. Indeed, some captive Hindi serials — Smriti blending the Tulsi leaf with the Irani Cup of tea — did not even bother to change their nightly timings during the World Cup. So confident were they of pulling their audience even as World Cup play, for the day, drew to a close.

It offers a fascinating theme for survey study, this business of the cricket viewership merging with the serial audience. Briefly, on our b & w set, wasn't there a cute corner reserved for watching a movie or a serial — alongside cricket? Today the idea, if reworked, could catch on with the Mandirapt audience that has emerged as an add-on to cricket, following the World Cup. We do like to hear what Mark Nicholas has to say. While also, discreetly, liking to glimpse how Mandira looks in different cricket scenes. Certainly we are all interested when, fixing his gaze on the rings around her eyes, Mark ventures to ask Mandira if she made a night of it — to celebrate India's victory under lights over England.