MS Dhoni strides onto the ground. DJ Zen pushes a button.
Thousands of fans, all dressed in yellow at Chepauk stadium, go wild.
This has been a familiar sight for Chennai’s cricket lovers in this edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL). Playing superhit Tamil cinema tracks to go with each player, especially Dhoni, DJ Zen — manning the console at IPL for the first time — has been making a lot of noise, quite literally.
If it was ‘Once upon a time, there lived a ghost’ from Kamal Haasan’s Vikramduring the start of the season, it was the Vishwaroopam track that accompanied Dhoni’s walk to the crease in the last league phase. Rajinikanth’s iconic Tamil ‘introduction numbers’ added to the goosebump-inducing moments as well.
KC Senthil Kumar aka DJ Zen is the man behind this magic. “This IPL has been most memorable for me,” says Zen over a telephone call, “I’m happy that I have played a small part in enhancing some tremendous cricketing moments on the ground.”
While songs being played at the IPL are not new, this year, MS Dhoni’s entry into the stadium has been among the most-anticipated moments this season. DJ Zen plans for that crucial 1-minute 15-seconds-long celebration with utmost detail. “Dhoni takes an extra few seconds to get ready, and that gives the audience time to cheer and then settle down, before he faces the ball. When he enters, we go with music, because the ground is anyway very noisy then. When he takes to the pitch, we play the lyrics , so that the audience relate to him. “
He is referring to tracks from hit Tamil films such as Padayappa, Baasha and Vikram, which not only have peppy music but also lyrics that match the situation that game is poised at. So, when Shivam Dube hits a couple of sixes, Zen played ‘Doobey Doobey’ from Gehraiyaan. Or when Ravindra Jadeja starts batting, he went with a melody like ‘Mannipaaya’ (Will you forgive me?), based on what the southpaw said in an on-ground interview in the last match.
From AR Rahman to Anirudh, tracks from many composers have been played at Chepauk this season. And Chennai’s audiences, with a fascination for all things cricket and cinema, were enjoying the revelry.
“As a DJ, it helps if you are a cricket fan. I have, for instance, been following the sport for many years, thanks to my father’s keen interest. While I am focussed on the job at hand, I am also keenly following the match proceedings, which helps me really enjoy my work,” says Zen, who shortlisted around 100 to 150 copyright-free songs from all languages IPL began.
Zen reveals that he chooses a track for the entry of every player — but also has to quickly adapt if there’s a change in who is walking in to bat. The DJ team has the team sheet, but also has a phone with a maximum zoom lens ready, so that they can see which player is walking in, and quickly play the appropriate track. “The players themselves might not understand some of this, because they are Tamil songs, but the audiences get it, and that’s my success,” says Zen.
For Zen, who hails from Tirunelveli and is also a visual artist, IPL 2023 has been a huge platform. “Social media has played a big role in reaching out the on-ground experience to millions who are not physically present,” he says. His Instagram video of the Dhoni entry with music from Padayappa has garnered more than 10 million views on Instagram alone. He adds, “In the TV broadcast, the audience might miss the music due to advertisement breaks, but the atmosphere on the ground is something magical.”