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Minority Report | The dance of cricket

LiveMint logoLiveMint 12-06-2014 Shefalee Vasudev

While you were glued to the Indian Premier League (IPL) Season 7, S. Sreesanth, 31, was preparing for Jhalak Dikhhla Ja, a television dance show on the Colors channel, also readying for its Season 7.

“Sree”, as the infamous cricketer is known, was “learning new dance forms” so he had no time to watch cricket, he told an interviewer recently. The banned cricketer wants to use the dance show to put the “bad phase of his life behind him”.

A damn good story some might say. Full of optimism and hope.

Not for me.

I refuse to egg on or be entertained by a cricketer banned from the game for life for his alleged involvement in a spot-fixing case.

So, yes, there is a clearly established blur between controversy and reality shows. The temper-spewing Rahul Mahajan, son of late Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Pramod Mahajan, the idiosyncratic item girl Rakhi Sawant who got sparked to “fame” because of an unwelcome kiss, or adult film actor Sunny Leone, among many others, on the programme Bigg Boss have fuelled and firmed the thought that reality shows are bland without a vicarious peep into the daily lives of controversial nobodies.

However, Bigg Boss, terminally boring as it is, still is another kind of show. On it, the possibility of “controversial” people saying something volatile or behaving incongruently enough for our presumptions about them to stick is high and thus meets the proposed idea behind the show.

But dance shows, as we would like to believe, are inherently about talent. That their producers try to mix controversy into it, where possible, is undeniable. How convenient if a well-known but not always faultlessly well-behaved cricketer who becomes controversial turns out to be a dancer as well.

That could be one way to size up Sreesanth.

His selection in the final contestants’ list of Jhalak Dikhhla Ja is proof. That is, if you have forgotten that Ajay Jadeja, also a “controversial” cricketer who was banned for five years for match fixing (till a high court overturned the ban), had participated in Jhalak Dikhhla Ja’s first season.

So there is a formula in place for testy cricketers and with Sreesanth, just the refresh button has been clicked.

If you want to evaluate Sreesanth for his dancing skills, watch some of the show’s promos on YouTube while suspending your final judgment till you see him compete when the show actually begins.

From the few snatches I saw, the man can indeed dance. He may not be able to ever hold a candle to Madhuri Dixit, but his body has rhythm and fluidity.

What’s disingenuous is that talent shows are free to allow players (or heroes, godmen and assorted celebrities) who fall from the commitment they made to their careers and calling. Who were found guilty and have been ousted after some procedural enquiry and proof. It is as disappointing as allowing a convict to contest elections to become a leader; as unethical as re-inducting an abusive teacher to teach students.

While Sreesanth has every moral right to remake his life and do so with some degree of optimism by taking up gainful work, must a popular TV channel support this process with publicity, promotional budgets, dance training, intervention of capable judges such as Madhuri Dixit, Karan Johar and Remo D’Souza and viewer applause?

That’s supporting someone who let down the game we call a “religion” in this country.

Once a talent show gives a foothold to a tainted hero, multiple opportunities open up. After the ban, Jadeja found a PR firm in Delhi to restructure his bowled out respectability. That move not only propelled him to contest on Jhalak Dikhhla Ja, but made him an “expert” on a popular news channel. Ironically, he was hailed as a “true sportsperson” in some of the news items following his eventual elimination on the dance show. And till today, he shares his opinions and dance steps on another.

Of course, there are culpability issues around a cricketer’s alleged crime and the subsequent ban, and there would be arguments one way or the other.

But in the absence of any filter from a programme or a channel on who is eligible to contest as a “talent”, we the people end up not only reabsorbing a fallen star in our midst but also clap as we do so.

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