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   Yesterday's opening ceremony... (December 2, 1996)

Yesterday's opening ceremony of the World Cup turned out to be a damp squib. An unrehearsed Eden cards, lit up by a thousand celebratory bon-fires, would have been much more impressive. What we had was Bengali pong, Gurudev music and Sachin Shankar ballet, plus the world's most ineffective laser show.

Still, I must not complain. I did not pay for the show, and, in any case, cricket is still to come, and that, I am sure, will be glorious.

The best part of yesterday's show was the cricketers coming out into the center of the filed, some evidently enjoying the attention, most embarrassed. I wish more of them was shown. They were picked up by the cameras for a few brief seconds as they came out, and then forgotten. There could have been close-ups of them as they stood in the center as the show proceeded. After all, the public has switched on its TV sets to see the cricketers and not heavily made-up Bengali schoolgirls in voluminous gown and petticoats and more petticoats. Still, it must be said, it was the schoolgirls, with their lovely human patterns, who saved the show from being even more drab.

Asha Bhosale was also a bit of a mistake. We must know what mixes with cricket and what does not. Ms. Bhosale is a serious artiste, she does not any longer mix with even one of those starry, starry filmi nights. (Or, nites as it is spelt.)

As for Ms. Sushmita Sen, Bengal's own Miss Universe, who lives in Delhi, and will from now on be living in Bollywood, Bumbai, I hardly saw anything of her. And this on the television screen, with its facilities for close-ups. I do not know what they could have seen of her from the stands.

And I do not know what she was supposed to be doing. She was going around with a couple of little girls, looking like a social worker, distributing bits of cloth of people in a famine area. Aishwarya Rai must be congratulating herself she was not enlisted for the role.

And the laser show. That was the biggest disaster of all. Most of the time she screen was dark with a single light blinking. Occasionally, a red cricket ball, like the ones you see on the rears of Coca-Cola van, flew in the air. I thought somebody at the Tollygunj Studio had designed the whole thing. This morning I read it was done by foreign experts.

So, what do I remember about yesterday's show? I remember the flash of Vinod Kambli's diamond ear stud. And I remember a rather large Farokh Engineer, all eyebrows, sitting in the Hong Kong studio and promising to give the commentary in Hindi. Now, that's a laugh. Engineer is a Parsi, living in Lancashire. What Hindi does he know!

 
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