Lekha Washington tells Sudhish Kamath about how the IPL changed her life
You know your life’s changed when: You get a call from your grandmother asking you to comb your hair because she just caught you on TV; one day you aren’t sure if you are still part of a film you signed and soon, you have to choose from two Hindi films, three Tamil, a bunch of TV offers and are hosting the news segment of a cricket series with Kapil Dev; Shah Rukh Khan remembers you by name; Ajay Jadeja is a close friend, you think he’s a sweetheart and such a flirt; and you realise it is difficult to talk to Ishant Sharma without a neck catch but then, you find out he dances so well.
“My father who hasn’t paid that much attention to what I do, pays attention now. He watches all my matches.”
Half-Maharashtrian, half Punjabi-Burmese-Italian twenty-something VJ/actress/TV host Lekha Washington is thrilled about what Twenty20 has done to her life.
“If Shah Rukh Khan remembered me by name the second time he met me, the credit goes to my great-grandfather. Who can forget a name like Washington?” she asks. “Okay, I was raised in Chennai, so I consider myself South Indian. I speak English at home and Mom yells at me in Marathi.”
It wasn’t too long ago that Lekha studied Fine Arts before she got into the prestigious National Institute of Design. Twice. Now, NID has only ten seats per course and is one of the toughest schools to get into with thousands of applicants every year.
“It was a cakewalk for me,” she says. “I got in first into the Lifestyle Product Design course. So I re-applied again the next year and got into the Film and Video Communication course. Post-NID, I was clear that I wanted to be in front of the camera because every time when I was behind it, I was like why am I not in front?”
Before she could finish her course, Lekha had shot for Chetan Shah’s English feature film, Framed and had an offer from Southern Spice music. Her introduction to the big bad world of commercial films was Simbu’s Tamil film Kettavan. “According to Simbu, I am still in the film. But my intelligence and everybody’s collective opinion implies otherwise,” she laughs. “So I don’t have much hopes and at this stage in my life, I don’t know if I want to finish that. It’s all water under the bridge.”
When destiny called on All Fools Day, Lekha got a call from the guys at Sony. Just the other day, she was telling her friends how cricket was turning crazy. “So, I didn’t believe it first,” she recalls. The very next day, she was on the plane to Mumbai for her screen test.
“I wasn’t a cricket geek. I watch it casually. So I was really nervous and scared that I was going to make a fool of myself. I did mad amounts of research and I got this huge bible that I created for myself, thanks to friends. Once I was there, I was lucky because Ajay Jadeja was on my team.”
After running out of words to describe the feeling, she gives it a shot: “You have to be there on the ground to believe it. IPL has married sports and entertainment. Once you meet the players and you watch them play, you will not pay attention. You just get sucked in, man. It’s been a freakin’ rollercoaster ride.”
Not that it was entirely smooth. “I had one embarrassing moment when I asked Pakistani umpire Asad which side he was rooting for. I was trying to be funny but I got so much criticism for it. Nobody let me forget it,” she laughs.
“I am not a purist at all. But that does not mean I am an idiot. Purists like the exclusivity of being able to understand the sport. I am here to be the missing link between the sport, the language and the housewife who hasn’t been tuned in on the language. If you listen to the commentators talk, it had become Greek and Latin. And it shouldn’t be.”
But, after 45 days of not being in the same city for more than two days, there’s a huge void in her life, she says. “The one thing I am looking forward to now is the release of my Tamil film Jayam Kondaan.”