Dancing with the Sport Stars

This article was written long before  ‘Ek Khiladi Ek Haseena’ happened on Indian Television. The writer had long wished for a program like this and had put together his dream line-up of stars.

This week I was tormented by an episode of ‘Nach Baliye’- a dance competition involving celebrities. The format is interesting but I cannot say the same for the participants. Most of them were small-time TV stars – celeb quotient too low to create any buzz. Then the competition was not gripping enough, in spite of all the snarling and put-on intensity. Not good enough. So what should be done, given that it’s a format with potential? Well, just bring on the real ‘competitors’ and the real ‘celebrities’ – the sports stars.

There is no denying the competitiveness of a sportsperson; it’s also all-encompassing. Trust them to fiercely compete with their five-year old in a game of criss-cross. And even the biggest film stars play second-fiddle to them (remember SRK not being his usual narcissist self at the Pepsi gold world cup launch)

For those of you doubting their dancing skills, here are some hard facts. The British equivalent – ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ has been won by Darren Gough and Mark Ramprakash in the last two editions. Even the American ‘Dancing with the Stars’ has had a Footballer and an Olympic Champion Marathoner as two of its four winners. Other sportspersons like boxer Laila Ali have also figured in the top-3. All these non-dancers have come out on top against a largely filmy opposition – people who dance as part of their profession. Talk of competitive intensity. And before you mention Ajay Jadeja’s disappointing performance, please note that he didn’t have Waqar Younis’ presence to get his competitive juices flowing.

Rather than have more players on ‘Nach Baliye’, I think it makes greater sense to have a full-fledged competition for the sporting fraternity.

So, let’s go ahead and lay down the ground rules, identify the participants and have our own ‘Dancing with the sport stars’.

Rule no 1 – The celebrity participant has to be a renowned sportsperson
Rule no 2 – The partner will have to be someone who has been in some kind of relationship with the player. We will also consider ‘rumoured’ relationships for the sake of all the paparazzi in this country. They need to make a living too.
Rule no 3- At least one member of every team has be an Indian national

And here are the participants. I have taken into consideration the dancing ability of the couple, chemistry, masala news creating ability, popularity (to get enough viewer votes) and finally their competitive spirit. They are in no particular order. In fact, I would request you to rank them and we can have our very own iSport Reader’s Choice Awards. Other than the first prize for best dancing couple we will also have a special prize for the most entertaining couple.

Sourav Ganguly and Naghma – have we ever had a more competitive captain in this country? I guess not. Has no ‘footwork’ to speak of but I am sure will overcome this deficiency. Has an acclaimed dancer for a wife; but I will still go with Naghma. Dona Ganguly is too ‘technically’ correct for Dada’s good. And Naghma’s no slouch as a dancer having matched steps with the great Prabhu Deva. Sourav’s controversial partner and expected victory celebration (taking his shirt off, a la Lords) should have enough fans rooting for him.
Leander Paes and Sania Mirza – Leander’s got great feet and great hands. On top of that, he’s a master of ‘mixed doubles’. Will pick Sania to partner him over ex-girlfriends – actress Mahima Chaudhary and model Rhea Pillai. Sania’s got more glam and the double whammy from the world of tennis opens up interesting possibilities (a tennis based routine perhaps). They have a proven track-record (the Asian games gold) and extra motivation to give every tennis supporter in this country bragging rights over the cricket fanatics. Competitors beware.

Mohd Azharuddin and Sangeeta Bijlani – Here is a man looking for redemption and with no chance of returning to cricket, will make do with whatever he can get his hands on. Azhar’s supreme fitness and athleticism coupled with Sangeeta’s acting experience will make a heady combination. Expect some energetic performances. As for wristy stroke play, he’ll find Sangeeta too heavy to handle. Not to worry. A stint in Azhar‘s gym and she’ll be light as a willow. That should send the competition on a leather hunt.

MAK Pataudi and Sharmila Tagore – This is a special couple. A cricket playing Maharaja and a Bollywood queen from the great Tagore family. Pataudi’s educational stints at Winchester and Cambridge would have given him a thorough grounding in ballroom dancing – a form which will bring out their timeless grace and be further accentuated by their understated romantic chemistry. This older couple will have strong fan following (even splitting the Bengali votes) and will not go out without a fight (remember that Pataudi was the first captain who taught Indians to stand up and fight)

Sanjay Kapur and Karishma Kapoor – Sanjay Kapur is one of India’s foremost polo players (before you open your mouth in surprise). He has also been voted one of India’s most well dressed (check out the first Indian edition of the Vogue magazine). Karishma and her dancing abilities need no introduction. This is a strong team from a purely dancing stand-point but lacks the over-all star quotient and will start as underdogs. This situation might work to their advantage

Imran Khan and Zeenat Aman – The now single pair would look to re-kindle the passion of 1979. (When they first became an item). The best looking couple in the event; the besotted audience (and even the judges) will keep bringing them back for more. Imran’s a born winner and proven motivator of men (and women). Zeenie baby sure knows a thing or two about dancing (think Qurbani). As for Imran; even his walk to the bowling mark was languid grace. Will have support on both sides of the border.

Bipasha Basu and Cristiano Ronaldo – The competition will lose an Indian viewer (John Abraham), but this pair will add an international touch and bring international audiences in droves. Ronaldo’s deft footwork will leave the audience dizzy with delight. It would be the second coming of Super Soccer. Bipasha will have a lot of man-marking to do. But I am sure this Bengali damsel knows her football pretty well.

Ravi Shastri and Amrita Singh – the last time they were together, he won the Champion of Champions in Australia. Shastri is well known for punching far above his weight and an encore cannot be ruled out in this competition. Will have to avoid the ugly ‘Chapatti shot’ though. Amrita has made a return to acting and will be in fine shape for this competition. She will have extra motivation to beat her former in-laws as well. Their favourite dance form – a fusion of Koli and Bhangra styles.

This is quite a formidable line-up. I have purposely not given my rankings as they will create a bias. Please play judge and vote for both categories. Best dancing couple and most entertaining pair.


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