Thursday, May 28, 2015

Raiders of the lost art: Pro Kabaddi’s TV success in has been refreshingly unexpected

Shahid Judge travels to three venues — Mumbai, Pune, Jaipur — to profile Indian sport’s sleeper hit of the season.

The lasers and other bells and whistles have enhanced the viewer experience of the Pro-Kabaddi League. (Source: Express Photo by Arul Horizon) The lasers and other bells and whistles have enhanced the viewer experience of the Pro-Kabaddi League. (Source: Express Photo by Arul Horizon)
Written by Shahid Judge | Updated: August 24, 2014 12:31 pm

Ray Ban aviators. The one accessory that is on top of every small-town boy’s wish-list when he visits Mumbai. The more obscure the brand the better till the time it’s been bought from Fashion Street or one of the many vendors plying their trade outside a local railway station.

When Anup Kumar, an inspector with the Haryana police hailing from the village of Palra, landed in the city back in late-June, his first priority too was to fetch himself a pair of sunglasses of the aviator-kind. One that would become a virtual part of his anatomy over the subsequent two months.

For he would don them incessantly, regardless of whether he was in the confines of a bus or a hired cab, on the streets in the night or in a dimly-lit press conference room facing the media as the inspirational skipper of U Mumba, the city-based Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) franchise.

That is except whenever 31-year-old Anup, an Arjuna awardee and a national kabaddi superstar, has been practising his trademark raids in training sessions or orchestrating one into the opposition half under the PKL spotlights during a match. Despite his enormous physique and his customary swagger, it’s Anup’s ‘aviators’ though that have become his trademark and also led to him being coined the ‘most stylish player’ of the PKL.

It’s a tagline that amuses Anup. His obsession for the fashionable glasses after all has nothing to do with stereotypical fads. Nor is it a style statement. The story behind the ‘aviators’ in fact has little drama about it. “My eyes get affected by light. They turn red. It has nothing to do with fashion actually, it’s more a necessity,” he says.

But inadvertantly, the 2010 Asian Games gold medallist has influenced a fashion trend of his own among the spectators who have been flocking the kabaddi arenas around the country, soaking in the unique sights and sounds of the desi sport’s urban revolution.

Unlike Anup, Bengaluru Bulls’ Ajay Thakur hasn’t required any branded accessory to create a furore. His patented ‘frog leap’ manoeuvre—where he jumps in the air with his feet splayed apart— has earned him fans not just in India but also got him a mention 7000km away during the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

“Have you seen Ajay’s style? He is turning out to be quite a rage, and especially his ‘frog leap’. Wow, that is something,” says Nitin Pai, an Indian sports fan based in the UK.

Closer to home, in his native village in Tamil Nadu, Dharmaraj Cheralathan has been informed about timings for a local tournament being altered to ensure that everyone’s sitting in front of the television watching their local hero show off his wares in a Bulls …continued »

First Published on: August 24, 2014 2:17 amSingle Page Format
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