The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - SPECIAL REPORT - Avi­jit Ghosh | TNN

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.

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