Over the years, the attraction between film stars and cricket heroes has been mutual, says V. GANGADHAR

Seventy-five years of exciting Hindi cinema. Seventy-five years of action-packed Indian cricket. When these two come together, it is a dream come true for the public and the media.

Today, film stars and cricket champs are often featured in Page 3 journalism and film gossip includes write-ups about stars from both sides. Now with Shah Rukh Khan and Preity Zinta ‘owning’ cricket teams for the IPL, what more can we ask for? Together, Bollywood and cricket stars are terrific.

We don’t know how much film stars know about the game or how much cricket stars appreciate good films. But the mutual attraction between the two kinds of stars has existed for several years. Rumours, broken affairs and successful love matches — they are all part of the game. Cast your mind back to the 1960s when Bombay starlet Anju Mahendru was the long-standing girl friend of our Number 1 heart throb, Rajesh Khanna. He chucked her away for nymphet Dimple Kapadia and she announced her engagement to touring West Indian cricket genius, Gary Sobers. We thought it was all a publicity stunt to boost the sagging morale of Anju. Nothing came out of the romance; Gary set off to marry Australian Prudence while Anju remained…Anju. Were her parents opposed to a match with a black cricketer?

If Anju let her man go, another starlet, Nina Gupta did not. Her ‘catch’ was the equally impressive Viv Richards with Nina announcing in a popular weekly she wanted a child from the world’s greatest batsman. Indian feminists cheered. Well, they had a daughter, Viv visited her and the daughter regularly and Nina found a career in television. Marriage? Obviously, that was never on the cards. But there was a marriage between Pakistani opener Mohsin Khan and Bollywood star, Reena Roy. Bollywood had been a sort of pilgrim centre for visiting Pakistan players; one of their captains, Imran Khan, briefly carried the torch for our own Zeenat Aman. Mohsin tried his hand at acting, failed. Reena was never happy in Pakistan, came back and the marriage ended after a custody battle for the daughter. Not a happy story.

Happily ever after

It was a happy story between Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi and the Tagore family film star, Sharmila. The Prince wooed the showgirl for four years, she followed him on cricket tours of England, and finally they got married to become one of India’s show pieces, show biz couple. Son Saif and daughter Soha are also in films, no one opted for cricket! Kapil Dev briefly flirted with Sarika but decided to stick to girlfriend Romi. Nothing came out of the long Ravi Shastri-Amrita Singh engagement, both finally chose different partners. Dashing six hitter Sandeep Patil was lured to Bollywood to make a movie “Kabhi Ajnabi The”, the media reported that sparks flew between him and co-star Debashree Roy, but no wedding fire was lit.

Now, don’t be discouraged. Simple Simon Hyderabadi and father of two, cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin, was dazzled by model and starlet Sangeeta Bijlani. Bijli struck powerfully, Azhar switched over to Armani suits and expensive cars, but discarded wife for Bijli. Page 3 regulars, the couple withstood match fixing scandal onslaughts which shattered Azhar’s career. Another captain, Sourav Ganguly’s soft corner for starlet Nagma was exposed when the couple was seen at a temple, but Dona Ganguly with her dancing skills and a charming daughter, held on to her man, though allowing him to remove his shirt after one of those rare victories.

Today’s young stars not only run and field well, but also ‘catch’ well; I mean Bollywood stars despite some doubts as to who was chasing who. We were told the Dhoni was sweet on Deepika Padukone, providing her with tickets for important matches. But then came best friend, Yuvraj Singh who though forgetting to score runs, wined and dined with Deepika in Australia. Did we have a cricket “Sangam” here? Sreesanth, we all know, can scowl and make faces, but then with Priyanka Chopra around was on his best behaviour.

Long relationship

Everyone in Mumbai knew of the long standing relationship between Isha Sharwani (of “Kisna” fame) and fast bowler Zaheer Khan. But then her career never took off, he was constantly on the injured list and Isha was never around to play Florence Nightingale. So it goes on and now we are told that Irfan Pathan, whose father worked at a Baroda mosque, had a girl friend hidden in Australia and that was why he played particularly well Down Under!

More In: METRO PLUS | FEATURES