The Turning `Sherry' Point

HOW the best of them go populist with a Stevengeance! Thus, if you accept the housetops screaming Sherry as fitting the serious 24x7 format, that channel could not have scooped the scene better.

By BHARATAN

HOW the best of them go populist with a Stevengeance! Thus, if you accept the housetops screaming Sherry as fitting the serious 24x7 format, that channel could not have scooped the scene better. In terms of personality performance. By re-inventing Navjot Singh Sidhu as Indian Cricket's numero uno, Sherry, in fact, happened to 24x7 during a propitious election hour indeed. As in a 40% segment of Mumbai, Star Sports (alongside ESPN) was, yet again, offputtingly off screen. In this EspnStar bat-pad gap did Sherry merrily materialise. On 24x7. Suited, booted and rooted!

Navojot Singh Sindhu with Ravi Shastri. One just can't keep Sidhu out of the small screen.-

Sherry's English, isn't it just what the 24x7 spin doctor ordered? But the `chestnuts' that accompany Sherry's gift of expression are not easily pulled out of the fire. They should normally have had the thinking, feeling Sonali Chander — looking so sum totally Indian in a savvy saree — blushing as never before. Yet Sonali took the strident Sherry in her engagingly feminine stride. Ceasing to worry about whether or not Sherry's tone was in tune with the 24x7 metier.

Always remember, Sonali, that Navjot Singh is the nearest thing we have, inside the Idiot Box, to Khushwant Singh inside the Mario Bulb. Khushi never did bother about contradicting, next issue out, what he said this week in his Om Ganeshaya Namah column. Sherry is one up on even Khushi here. As one embracing Meera Vasudevan on her own Om Cricketaya Namah home ground. Sherry least bothers about his ceaselessly coming through as a visual reductio ad absurdum in cricketing terms.

Sherry predictably took some potshots at Sourav at the outset. But displayed no hesitation in changing his Daler Mehndi tune as Sourav put India on song with that Man of the Match 144. Verily did Sherry twist `Turning Point' inside out. Where Sonali Chander, earlier, had attracted 24x7 notice by sailing against the cricket wind. By shaping `Turning Point' into a multi-sports oriented weekday magazine. Yet what could even the classy Sonali do when confronted by the marketing-forces spectre of `Cricket, Lovely Cricket'? Tour Australia was here. And Sonali was just not there.

Sonali therefore spot decided that what Jason Dasey did so well she would now venture to do even better. With Sherry did Sonali saddle herself. Talk of saddling herself with an albatross around her nifty neck! Things soon got to a stage where Sherry, rather than Sonali, became the Talking Point with 24x7 viewers. But the picture changed swiftly as the cable operator, in the Bal Thackeray ilaakaa of Mumbai, decided that he just could not keep the Star Sports screen blank over the weekend. A weekend seeing Steve ruling Sachin so outrageously out. As `Sunny By Night' held 8-to-10 sway, viewers momentarily forgot all about Sherry being on, at 9.30 in the evening, that Saturday! But they later vividly remembered missing out on Sherry! Such is the omnipresence of cricket, in our living room, that viewers would like to `take in' Sherry and Sunny alike. All the more so as Sherry has the STAR visuals — for Sonali to action replay — by way of backing him up as the last word on the game with the Souravenous name.

Thus Sherry remains a happening, happening thing on the tube. Fetching 24x7 those TRPs it urgently needs to buttress the Abhijit Kale story it broke. One thing became obvious on election eve. That Sherry had his home constituency intact. Even after a fair spell `away from it all'. Love him or hate him, ignore Sherry you can't. Only in a country like India could they be virtually hanging on Sherry's lingering lips for those Sidhuisms to drop. As pearls of wisdom in their ear. Now Sonali, willy-nilly, has to look overwhelmed by Sherry witticism. If Sidhuism is witticism, Rub Ka Kamaal it is. Trust Sherry to rub it in.

Sourav and Rahul sowed the telly wind when they saw Sherry off the World Cup screen. They are now reaping the whirlwind fallout. In the 24x7 play Sonali gives to the Sidhu idiom. For Wilko to wait and watch, for a full 30 minutes, before interviewing `Sunny By Night'. No matter that this is a bit of short changing on the part of Star Sports. Look, it has merely turned, into `Sunny By Night', its earlier `Day's Highlights'. Lights that came on with Sunny occupying a ringside seat. A Sunny then engaging, in a piquant passage of arms, a Boycs never leg before wicket. Now you feel oddly sorry for Boycs. As you enlighteningly hear him out. You do want to listen to Boycs with the same absorption as before. But you can't help noticing that what ails Boycs `shows' on the screen.

This is something of a distraction. A harkback to what master composer Salil Chowdhury told me. "Never use a classical raag so prominently in background music,'' said Salil, "that your `scoring notes' attract attention to themselves. Rather than perform the function of accenting the tempo and the temper of the scene." It is `to distraction' Boycs now holds your attention. How to Harshape the tenor of the commentary, in such a setting, is at times something of a problem for Harsha. As the `Anchor Of the Year' — to Charu's chagrin.

We take it lightly enough as Harsha worries about the calories of screen heavyweight Raveena. Knowing Harsha, in essence, to be a commentator committed to quality casting. Interacting with the Sunnys, the Ravis and the Gregs of this world — each with an ego the size of an ostrich's egg — is no laughing matter. Yet Harsha never ever sounds harsh. As a commentator deadly serious in his approach. So Harsha you listen to intently. Where viewers take Navjot about as seriously as they do Des Mein Nikllaa Hoga Chaand being voted the `Weekly' Serial Of The Year.