'S' for Sony or STAR?

NOW that Mandira is out of sight, is she out of mind's eye? An eyeful she certainly looked, while being pneumatically ensconced in the World Cup!


Mandira Bedi with co-host Charu Sharma. Mandira was a revelation in more senses than one.-

NOW that Mandira is out of sight, is she out of mind's eye? An eyeful she certainly looked, while being pneumatically ensconced in the World Cup! Once a young lady `bosoms' as a star performer, to blossom as a mere teleserial enactor is no Sri joke. Sridevi of `The Thundering Thighs' was viewed as that only in her second coming as a mainstream star. From hereon, the Sony years are, therefore, against Mandira as you flesh out the fact that this lady will not see 30 again. TV sex symbolises the Age of Youth. Ruby, as `a gem of a woman', saw Sourav's India make it to the final of the Mini World Cup. Mandira (as Sony's tell-tale talisman right up to the time of writing) had rollercoasted with our team to the World Cup semis. Scoring as Ma Rithambara's card puller and Sony's crowd puller.

Having so identified Mandira as the channel charmer, it has to be put on tape record that Sony's World Cup `commentary teaming' came through as an exercise in masterly mismatch. On the one mike, we had men of authority coming superbly analytically through, as absolute pros at colloquial ease in their own English language. I mean `coms' like Tony Greig, Mark Nicholas, Barry Richards, Mike Atherton, Jeff Thomson and Ian Bishop. On the other mike-wielding hand, Ravi and Sanjay alone — given the pith and variety this `Induo' brought to its succinct visual appraisal — sounded fit enough to hold a candle to the best.

In such a Sony situ, it was not enough if you knew the game and came across as a fair enough radio-style commentator. You needed, innovatively, to be able to move outside the game and yet stay, inventively, within its World Cup parameters — to sound original, going live on TV. At least Siva and Arun came through as clear-headed. Where the Sony commentary became at once an earsore and an eyesore was in those far from TV-savvy `dumbos' — Venkatesh Prasad, Robin Singh, Roshan Mahanama, Arjuna Ranatunga and Aunshuman Gaekwad, even Kapil Dev for all his small screen seasoning — being shown up to be `limited to cricket' as `limited to cricket' could be.

Given such an ambit, the idea of the Sony Panel discussion was a bomb hoax from the word Charu-go, as the `come-hither' spotlight here stayed on Mandira. A Mandira as easy on the eye as Donna is easy on the ear. With the uncritical viewer, `all the Mandirage' did the Bedi beauty, given her bounty, become in what is still a man's World Cup. Actually Mandira held her ground only to the extent the Sony brief and accent were on studiedly outraging cricket sentiment in India. In such a flagrant flag-waving, flag-draping setting, Mandira Bedi-Kaushal, by the mid-March Hare stage, had the Mad Hatter measure of a Charu clearly on an overdrive, aiming to road-hog the show.

Mandira's primed function was to tarot card-case Ma Rithambara alongside those hypey-typey lassies driven more by enthusiasm than pragmatism. Grudgingly impressed you felt by the way Mandira posed certain queries, seeing how seldom off the Mark, Nicholas was. The two, Mark and Greigy, ogled Mandira like nobody's show business, chivvying her all along the line Nicholas `bowled' with that brand-new ball he put forth for display during the Zimbabwe-Kenya March 12 Wednesday non-contest. But the `swinger' in Mandira was resourceful enough to field Mark all the way.

Was it because Mandira was so circumscribed in her Sony approach that Donna Symonds came through, ear-holdingly, as a lady commentator? No doubt the natty novelty of a lady being there in the man's perch made Donna something of a gender-bender wonder — initially. But you soon divined that, concise and precise as Donna was, she tended to pall on the ear with her throaty delivery. Allied to this is the fact that Donna Symonds had no truly remarkable insights to offer on the game. Like had Mark and Greigy, not to speak of other vintage voices in the Mandira arena.

Yet, for sustained spot-on comment and dissent, you still instinctually turned to STAR. Now I have it! There is no way those `game enough' to opt for STAR (even sans visuals) are going to tune with the Sony style of girlie commentary. So the via media is obvious. The moment 50 overs are through, the `Highlights' (of the session gone by) should be made available, on the spot, to STAR, rivalry or no rivalry, rights or no rights. We live in a free world where any TV channel should be, strictly speaking, exercising its monopoly only for the duration of the 50 overs that one ODI innings in the World Cup lasts. Instantly after that, Sony's `Octagon' hold must cease.

This way, those who want to stay with the Sony mumbo-jumbo have the option to go on hearing the Sky moonlighting Mark on how England were done in, day in, night out. The rest of the viewership — those who want their cricket from coms `on the button' — would obviously switch to STAR, with the spot visuals there, for the gap between Sunny's bat and Sherry's pads to close. Only this way could the fringe cricket audience and the genuine cricket audience, alike, get their true due. Wasn't it obvious that, if the visuals had been made available to STAR too, the cheetah-swift Harsha would have had the spot drop on Charu? Leaving Mandira to mind her own plunging neckline while wowing the rising Bond ball.