Dear Lalit Modi:
Now that the IPL first season is over, I thought I’d write you a note. I am not a huge cricket fan but I appreciate what you’ve done to the game. I know that purists probably want to pummel you for changing the format of a gentleman’s game to be savoured over five days into a one-night stand. The young and the restless probably love this new format. The bottom line is that you’ve changed the paradigm and for that, I doff my hat.
Nom de guerre: Mumbai Indians has one of the most unimaginative names.
But Mr Modi, since you’ve invented (in the Al Gore-Internet sense) a new genre in cricket, why don’t you impose that same inventiveness on the IPL owners? I mean, whoever came up with the name “Mumbai Indians” ought to be stuffed into a cheerleader’s costume and paraded around the grounds. What a sorry name for a city known for its grit, spunk and creativity.
But you should have intervened, Mr Modi. You should have been like Lee Kuan Yew or those European city planners who impose aesthetic guidelines on all new buildings in a historic neighbourhood. You should have said that anyone who aspires to own an IPL team ought to possess a certain degree of what I call “Indian cool”.
Take Mumbai Indians, for instance. Isn’t it the ultimate cop-out, particularly when Mumbai was the city that gave the world (okay, India), the endearing term mamu? I am sure that every Mumbaikar on the street can supply suggestions but I feel that “Mumbai Mamus” carries much more punch than “Mumbai Indians”. It reflects the city’s staccato rhythms, its rapid-fire talk and irreverence. Plus, it is cool in an Indian sort of way. You could come up with logos, uniforms, a theme song to complement the name: Shuru ho gaya mamu from Munnabhai MBBS is a good start. Along the same lines, my own hometown Chennai has let me down very badly. Although I would not have thought it possible, the Chennai team’s name is even worse than Mumbai Indians. Chennai Super Kings? I mean, what is that? Chennai doesn’t have kings (not for about 1,200 years anyway); nor is it super. It is as if some befuddled old corporate gent consulted a guy high on ganja for some semblance of a name. Since I am on a roll here, let me offer “Madras Machaans” as an alternative.
I don’t even want to get into the Bangalore team’s name. For Vijay Mallya to use his team’s name as a brand advertisement is in very poor taste, especially since the man doesn’t need to — and is not given to — penny-pinching. You should have told these jokers, Mr Modi, that they should give their teams names that at least veer towards the coolness quotient. In the interest of copyright, let me also add here that if any of these teams want to use the names I suggest here, I would only request the following as an…ahem…token of appreciation.
# An introduction to Shane Watson. Or beleaguered Rahul Dravid, a fellow Bangalorean.
# Front row seats in all the IPL matches for the next season.
# Daily Dump’s composting garbage cans (dailydump.org) to be installed in all the stadiums, which, by the way, can be made “plastic free” like the Nilgiris. Just a thought.
I am not familiar enough with Delhi or the other states to suggest alternative names, but I am sure you will get suggestions if you only care to ask.
The other delicate matter is that of the entertainment at the matches. I’ve already written about cheerleaders and how inappropriate they are for the IPL. But here, let me offer some constructive suggestions, and no, I don’t mean to use the word constructive as a euphemism for an unabashed critique here.
One of my readers suggested that we use folk dancers in lieu of cheerleaders. I think that’s a good start. If the phrase “folk dancers” makes our urban youth yawn, Vaibhavi Merchant or any other Bollywood choreographer can jazz it up. Like all great Michelin-starred chefs, Bollywood is wonderful at taking one element or ingredient of our culture and then jazzing it up to suit a global palate. For proof, I offer the hip-hop mix of Taal se taal mila. Why couldn’t Preity Zinta tap the talent in Bollywood to produce home-grown entertainment that is just as cool as a cheerleader’s high kicks? I know Shah Rukh Khan is now making a career endorsing every meaningless product that hits the market, but surely he could have made a few phone calls and come up with talent that equals the firang babes. Even an item number would do. Of course, if they really wanted to change the paradigm, they would have a man do the item number. A skimpily clad John Abraham dancing to Kajra Re: now, that would have me at the edge of my seat.
India has many indigenous entertainment forms that are as lively and synchronous as the cheerleaders. We don’t need to look to other cultures for blueprints. All we need is a few creative event managers with a talent for infusing the modern into our traditional folk art forms; someone with the ability to do what Rabbi Shergill has done for Punjabi music (mix Western arrangements yet retain an authentic folk touch). For inspiration, we can look to Kerala’s martial arts form, Kalaripayattu; or create a slick synchronized production with giant-sized Rajasthani puppets; or do a laser-light version of the sexy Maharashtrian Lavni and Koli folk dances; or reinvent things such as the Great Indian rope trick into entertainment on a giant scale — somewhat akin to what Cirque du Soleil has done for circus; or discover and patronize unusual forms such as Assamese Bihu drumming. Every state in India has something to contribute. And with that, Team IPL can truly become an “India Shining” moment.
Shoba Narayan would love to dance the Dandia and play the Ektaara. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org