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The opening night of the Indian Premier League fifth edition (IPL-V) was every bit a product of the age: it was mounted on the unmistakable template of imposing sets, coruscating lights, heart-pounding music, and yes, plenty of hyperbole. What set it apart was the way entertainment was escalated to a rollicking high.
An array of stars with enormous eyeball-grabbing potential — along with the ensemble of the finest cricketers — made for a more-than-usual explosive cocktail.
For all the entertainment blitzkrieg on view, the first programme on the agenda — was paradoxically — a restrained counterpoint. Amitabh Bachchan’s measured rendition of an ode to cricket written by lyricist and ad-man Prasoon Joshi was every bit the calm before the tempest.
The legendary actor’s booming baritone fleshed out the following thought: “If I were to be born again, I just wish for one thing — to be part of the game”.
The lingering intensity was soon dissolved by Priyanka Chopra’s jives, which included some daredevilry as well. Harnessed by ropes, the svelte actress did a few mid-air flips that provided the promised thrills. The crowd did its vocal chords more harm when M.S. Dhoni led his yellow brigade onto the stage.
Some lighter moments were soon unleashed with Priyanka engaging Dhoni and his men with a few impromptu dance moves; suffice to say that Doug Bollinger was the most enthusiastic of the lot (his moment of the day came later in the day when American singer Katy Perry gave him a peck).
Dancing sensation Prabhudeva, quite literally, rose to the stage to flaunt his eclectic, spring-propelled self. There was no way actress Kareena Kapoor was going to be left behind and she gyrated to some popular numbers from her recent films. The ‘Chammak Chalo’ and ‘Dil mera muft ka’ performance was followed by the most important activity of the evening.
The ‘Big B’ was given the task of administering the MCC spirit of cricket oath to the captain of the nine IPL teams. Even as the likes of Rahul Dravid, Gautam Gambhir, Sourav Ganguly, and Adam Gilchrist signed the document, there were boisterous cheers from the crowd. BCCI President N. Srinivasan announced on the occasion that the proceeds from the play-off games would be used to support 185 former players — domestic and international.
Rajeev Shukla, IPL chairman, expressed happiness at being part of the function. While everyone seemed to have fun, the media corps did seem to have a tough time what with dodgy internet connections and the absence of a media enclosure. But for those present in the evening, it was a good two-and-a-half hours of escapist entertainment.