Kolkata opened its heart to the cricket world as a dazzling Bollywood-led opening ceremony kicked off the Indian Premier League’s (IPL) sixth edition, with American rapper Pitbull and superstar Shahrukh Khan stealing the limelight.
The city let its hair down with SRK, Katrina Kaif and Deepika Padukone grooving to the desi moves, leaving the healthy turnout at the Salt Lake Stadium enthralled.
It reached a crescendo when the evening’s biggest attraction of them all, Pitbull, took to the stage.
The 120,000 capacity football stadium transformed into a magical kaleidoscope of Rabindra Sangeet, Bollywood dance, songs and, above all, unfettered enthusiasm as the 2013 leg formally opened with all the nine team captains taking the ICC Spirit of Cricket Pledge, ‘Play hard, play fair’.
Flying drummers, Chinese percussionists, fireworks were the some of the other attractions that were on offer for the event.
After that a collection of balloons rose slowly and smoothly into the hot air above to the sound of drums, music and the cheers of people, with a performer carrying the winner’s trophy.
The one hour and 45 minute extravaganza, which was high on entertainment, surely made the 60,000-plus turnout forget the controversial build up cash-rich T20 league.
The opening though, at times, appeared to have fallen short of the standards Khan had promised prior to the event.
Divided into six segments, the evening began with Khan doing a poetic rendition of popular Rabindra Sangeet Aguner Paroshmani with the popular poetry ‘Where the mind is without fear ‘ being played in the background.
As is the tournament’s wont, the build-up to this edition, too, had been blighted by controversies, but the gala opening has has put to rest all apprehensions.
The evening started with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee lighting the ceremonial lamp in the presence of a host of dignitaries, which included BCCI president N Srinivasan, vice-president Arun Jaitley, IPL chairman Rajeev Shukla, Cricket Association of Bengal president Jagmohan Dalmiya, besides the cricketers.
Khan, who is also the brand ambassador of the state besides being a co-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders, thanked Banerjee for her support and said, “I’ve always said our performances are in the periphery before the real show [cricket] begins.”
It was a flying female performer’s acrobatic descend on the dais with the trophy that stunned everybody. The performer handed the trophy to defending champions KKR’s skipper Gautam Gambhir.
All the captains beginning with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, skipper of the most successful franchise Chennai Super Kings, signed on the ICC Fair Play pledge.
Padukone made an appearance on the stage from the cutout of her mask as she danced to the tunes of the ‘Tumi ho tumi ho shakha’.
Katrina made an entry on a chariot as the crowd roared to the tunes of her popular dance numbers in the long Bollywood segment.
Khan kept everybody waiting before making his entry after 45 minutes into the ceremony with the popular ‘Main Hoon Don’ number.
“The IPL is not only about excitement, it brings the happiness wherever we go. I am not going to stop now but will continue to dance to the party,” Khan said while dancing to the tunes of Main Hoon Naa, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, and Baazigar among others.
Khan then invited veteran artists Bappi Lahiri and Usha Utthup, who added to the euphoria with yesteryear hit songs such as ‘Hari Om Hari’ and ‘Rambha Ho’.
The show concluded with American rapper Pitbull making the youngsters in the audience groove to some of his peppy numbers.
Before that, 300 dancers lit up the evening with gala performance to Pritam’s music in the opening act, aptly titled ‘Poetry in Motion’.
Hundreds of drummers flew in an acrobatic act. There were about 120 performers from across the world, including 19 Red Poppy artists and a band of Chinese percussionists, who brought the atmosphere alive with their performances.
It was technology that came into the fore in the third segment, titled ‘IPL Universe’.
A huge balloon with the IPL logo embossed on it went up into the air as nine balloons (read planets), representing the franchises, made it look like a universe with about 400 artists performing on the stage.
The chartbusters ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’, ‘Chikni Chameli’, ‘Zara Zara Touch Me’ and ‘Chammak Challo’, made all dance to their tunes in the Bollywood segment. Much to the delight of those present at the venue, the dose of entertainment continued unabated with international rapper Pitbull performing some of his hits like ‘Let’s start the party’.
Earlier, all roads led to Asia’s largest stadium on the EM Bypass as people made a beeline to the venue, leaving the traffic choc-a-bloc since 5.30pm when the gates were open.
As the crowd poured in, local artists set the tone for the evening chanting ‘It’s Kolkata. We will make maximum noise…’ even as record breaking track of Gangnam Style by PSY was belted out.
Security arrangements were at its tightest as the spectators were screened about 10 times before entering into the venue.