FILMY INNINGS: OUT FOR A DUCK
Indian cricketers and even their rivals across the border have always scored off the field with Bollywood heroines. But on celluloid, they are usually out first ball. From Salim Durani in Charitra to Sunil Gavaskar in Marathi film Svali Premachi (Shadow of Love) to Ajay Jadeja in Khel, cricketers have run after heroines. And they have been as dismal as some of their counterparts running between wickets. There have been some exceptions though. Syed Kirmani and Salil Ankola have sparkled in brief appearances. Kirmani played a karate-chopping killer who undergoes a change of heart in Kabhi Ajnabee The (1985). The Indian wicketkeeper stole the show from hero Sandeep Patil, who actually made more news for his alleged liaison with heroine Debashree Roy. In his autobiography, Sandy Storm, the hard-hitting batsman wrote, “In our original script, Kirmani was not included. He came in only because he was keen to perform some kind of role. We literally had to find him a place in the movie. The (fight) scene between Kiri and me got tremendous publicity.”
More recently, in Chura Liya Hai Tumne (2003), Ankola looked slicker than the film’s hero Zayed Khan and was better eye candy than vamp Rakhi Sawant. He was nominated for best actor in a negative role for a film magazine award, a first for any Indian cricketer. “Being a cricketer, acting was a new profession for me. I worked hard to improve my skills,” says the former mediumpacer, now one of India’s highest paid television actors. He has made fleeting appearances in other films: Pitah and Kurukshetra. But television ( Chahat aur Nafrat, Kora Kagaz etc) remains his forte.
Everybody acted for a different reason. Ankola, a forever journeyman in the Nineties cricket team, took to acting after developing a tumour in 1998 that kept him out of the game for two years. Ajay Jadeja played a good Samaritan opposite Celina Jaitley (who wouldn’t?) in Khelwhen banned from playing cricket. “I wasn’t doing anything those days. Shooting was great fun but I soon realised it wasn’t my scene,” says Jadeja, whose career ban was later overturned by Delhi High Court.
Sunil Gavaskar was roped in by umpire Piloo Reporter to act with his sister Madhumati in Svali Premachi. The batting maestro also acted in Zakol (another Marathi film) and the Hindi film, Malamaal (1988). And few know that Gavaskar’s state mates, Padmakar Shivalkar and Sanjay Manjrekar, are good singers and have cut albums.
Salim Durani was the first cricketer who became a full-fledged Bollywood hero. He was paired with Parveen Babi in B R Ishaara’s Charitra (1973). Durani says he was paid Rs 80,000 for the rich, playboy industrialist’s role. “Zeenat Aman was the first choice as heroine. But it didn’t work out,” he recalls. The flamboyant all-rounder also remembers shooting for another film, Akhri Din, Pehli Raat. “Meena Kumari had written the film’s story. We shot about eight reels. Unfortunately the film was never completed,” says Durani, who was also considered for roles in Pakeezah and Sharmilee. Pakistani cricketer Mohsin Khan, who struck a double century at Lord’s and married heroine Reena Roy, acted in J P Dutta’s Batwara and Mahesh Bhatt’s Saathi. Another Test double centurion, Vinod Kambli turned out in the B-grade Annarth. Kambli danced with elan but ran as poorly on screen as on the playing field. And last year, Kapil Dev made a lastscene appearance in Nagesh Kukunoor’s Iqbal, thereby adding his name to the long list of Indian cricketers who have appeared in a Hindi film.
If cricketers took to the movies, several Bollywood heroes have batted and bowled on celluloid too. Dev Anand’s film Love Marriage had the zany track, She ne khela he se aaj cricket match, ek ball mein dil bechara ho gaya lbw. And, would you believe it, the Evergreen Hero also played a BCCI president in Aamir Khan’s Awwal Number. Kumar Gaurav has also played a cricketer in All-Rounder. And who can forget Lagaan. But the onscreen match in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun takes the cake. The umpire was a dog. And he was almost as good as Simon Taufel.