October 23, 2006

Marital Bliss Is Amiss

October 23, 2006 Posted by Vijay No comments
Strange that such a topic has to be selected for a sport related issue, that too when it’s not about marriage per se’. When Sony’s SET MAX took up the challenge of “marrying” entertainment with cricket, the general consensus was that both should be treated separately. But such a union would blur the already thinning line of commercialism and cricket. Sony though, with their popular Extraa Innings show had brought a lot of curiosity to the game, especially among the female audience, mainly due to smart hosting by Mandira Bedi. The marriage took place, and now it was the turn of Extraa Innings to take centre stage for each of the Champions’ Trophy matches being telecast on MAX. Mandira Bedi was to epitomize the entertainment value, with help from another failed actor, and Charu Sharma the co-host of the show would give the cricketing perspective.

It all seemed a very good idea, for Extraa Innings had a good reputation and was supposed to do remarkably well this time too. But that is not how things have turned out to be. If anyone has been watching the pre-match and post match shows of Extraa Innings, it is quite evident that all is not well with the 2 hosts, Mandira and Charu. Charu, whose torso refuses to move even as his hands and head move about like a robot, tries to be over enthusiastic, a trait which Mandira exudes no end. As a result Charu Sharma looks more artificial than he always has been. Trying to show a penchant for passion and enthusiasm is just not his cup of tea. This is precisely what happens when a former commentator is put in a predicament where it is more entertainment than pure analysis, as is the case here with Charu.
With Mandira having gained a bunch of knowledge about cricket, due to her previous experiences hosting the same show, she has now started pitching in with cricket related question. Unfortunately for Mandira, though her curiosity in cricket has been raised substantially, she has been forgetful of the fact that cricket questions are best left to Charu. On the other hand, Charu is so excited and enthusiastic, that he now tries to steal the thunder from right under Madira’s nose. It has become so dramatic of late, that the differences between the two hosts have become glaring and all too obvious for everyone to see. It has become an ego tussle, live on air to millions of television audiences all around the world. Some might say it’s all a gimmick to gain more publicity. But in the last match between Australia and England, Mandira went on to say – “Do you want me to cry Charu?” and fortunately for MAX she also made a statement – “I don’t want to throw a tantrum”, and stuck to her words, as a true professional. That she continued to grin and smile through all the episodes including the previous one, is a testament to her acting skills.

It all seems a case of mistaken professions. While Charu feels threatened by the glam of Mandira, and her emerging cricketing intellect, Mandira feels Charu is purposefully stealing the limelight, for whatever reason. It is quite obvious that, whenever Mandira announces the various sixes or super fours package, Charu Sharma, lip syncs whatever she says, and loudly at times. Charu seems to be making all the mistakes, by interrupting comments that the illustrious former cricketers in the commentary panel have to make. Maybe Charu may have all the knowledge in the world about cricket. But then the analysis in this format of telecast is best left to the experts on the panel. Mandira, on numerous occasions during the Champions’ Trophy telecast of Extraa Innings has got irritated and on air requested Charu to go ahead with the rest of the show while Mandira would smile away like a dummy.

All this makes for bad viewing and can only tarnish the reputation of the Extraa Innings which was built up so very well. It’s a matter of knowing one’s job, and it seems, neither Charu nor Mandira are doing what they are supposed to do. The fact that Extraa Innings requires the expert panel to listen to bhangras and Hindi talk by other panelists or Bollywood stars is really irritating. More than half the time, either a tarot card is being read or worse, John Abraham talks about his upcoming films, which do not have any bearing whatsoever on how the match will be played! Pray, who wants such theatrical nonsense when esteemed cricketers such as Ian Chappell and Barry Richards have so much to talk about cricket? This is the simple reason why Harsha, as host, and ESPNSTAR as a sporting channel for cricket (in this case) is head and shoulders above the rest. ESPNSTAR has a detailed post match analysis of all the nitty gritties, including where did the most successful bowler pitch the balls, or where did the highest run getter score his runs, on the leg side or the off side ? And Harsha Bhogle as host is both an entertainer and cricket analyst. He exudes a natural charm and his beaming smile has always been what saves a lapse in airing advertisments, thus not causing embarrassment to either him or the channel. As a sporting channel, which MAX of course isn’t, there is none better than ESPNSTAR. Which is why watching the entire telecast of the India’s tour to South Africa would be a treat.