METRO PLUS

All set to roar

From a tea-stall in Delhi to a mascot for the First Afro Asian Games, Sheroo has come a long way.

THAT ORANGE scented-eraser inside Appu may still bring back memories of the spectacle that was Asiad-82. A mammoth rage then, the prancing baby elephant was a cheerful mascot that swept the nation by its pervasive presence.

Not that Sheroo, the sportive lion in bright yellow jersey and boots, lacks charisma but it seems that the 20-feet Afro-Asian Games-mascot is yet to surpass the jumbo-sized image Appu packed in a smaller, 12-feet frame. In popularity charts, Sheroo is definitely a few notches above Veera (the bull-mascot for the 32nd National Games), and all set to roar up its fame further.

Mascots are like magnets. Not only do they have to get across the attitude of the games, they have also to arrest attention and infect all with a fever to be a part of the sporting action. "Sheroo has a strong personality, no doubt. With its lopsided smile, the lion appears naughty that makes him friendly, but certainly not as much as Appu — who came out more fond, like a welcoming buddy," feels creative director, Vasu Acharya.

All set to roar

A bull is still okay — it may faintly connote power. For the forthcoming 2004 Olympics, an owl was in the race for mascots! Fortunately, it came runners-up in the fray where people voted for Athena and Phoibos as the mascot.

"Sheroo looks cute and playful, better than the `Duria' (Busan-mascot), or the SAF Games' lucky charm in Kolkata or Chennai, or Bharati, the butterfly. Veera was very sad, and boring," says ad filmmaker Aparna. She adds, "A lot depends on publicity of the mascot also, like Appu was slapped in all kinds of merchandise — water bottles and lunch boxes, tee shirts, caps and all over — which resulted in its phenomenal popularity."

Afro-Asian Games PRO, Pratibha Rathore, has a logical explanation for the choice of Sheroo. "Both the Asiatic and African lions are symbols of pride for the continents. Sheroo justly sums up the catch-line: Two Continents, One Spirit." The Charminar on his jersey was natural to impart a Hyderabadi identity to the mascot, although an aberration from the original copy of the lion by Delhi-based graphic designer, Vishwajyoti Ghosh.

It is said that Ghosh conceived Sheroo in a tea-stall while speaking to a sports-journalist friend. Good it wasn't Irani chai, or else?

SOUVIK CHOWDHURY

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