‘IPL8: Virat Kohli enjoys Anushka Sharma’s performance at opening ceremony’, declares an NDTV headline today.
The accompanying picture shows Virat Kohli about to take a sip off a cup. Though the copy insists he is “savouring” her performance, his expression is more reminiscent of one we’ve had as teenagers as our anxious mothers explained the many horrifying consequences of drinking beer and not cracking engineering entrance exams.
But in the current state of affairs, Kohli and Sharma are India’s new real life answer to what Shah Rukh-Kajol were onscreen, so that’s a headline that makes perfect sense. As does an earlier Indian Express headline to a photo post that went “When Virat Kohli blew a kiss and Anushka Sharma smiled!” In the photo she’s not smiling but you’ve got to be Uncle Scrooge to not agree that Sharma must have smiled when Kohli blew that ‘kiss’, right?
Sharma and Kohli’s romance seems to be birthed an entire news beat. The Times of India has a topic called — drum roll please — , ‘Anushka Sharma-Virat Kohli relationship’. It’s just amazing we don’t have a cute moniker for it yet ala Brangelina.
Now, you can’t blame poor gossip lovers of India for tying their Monday mood to the latest breathless nugget of information on the Kohli-Sharma romance.
What was the last big Bollywood-meets-Cricket romance that hit us? None of the Indian cricketers preceding Kohli in recent times managed to cook up a romance that tabloids could really feast on. We are talking about the double whammy of a Bollywood A-lister dating a cricket A-lister.
And no Sangeeta Bijlani and Mohammad Azharuddin isn’t quite the same league. Neither do those torrid Imran Khan – Zeenat Aman rumours. And Tiger Pataudi and Sharmila Tagore was so long ago, that their son was emceeing the IPL opening ceremony last night.
Kohli by himself, is a gossip magnet, but he never kept the gossip mills as busy as he does now. There were pictures of him hanging out with a Brazilian model just a couple of years back, but the gossip columns soon grew wary and weary of them.
However, Anushka with her Bollywood clout and an equally gossip-worthy ex, came as a life saver for the gossip industry. Desi gossip always trumps videshi models.
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Apart from being high brand value stars in their respective professions, the reason that Virat and Anushka have the paparazzi traipsing behind them everywhere and news headlines crossing every limit of absurdity, is because the duo have decided to behave like normal youngsters who are dating. They don’t exit cinema halls from different doors, take different cars to restaurants and are happy to indulge in a little PDA.
So Kohli tweets out how much he enjoyed NH10, they embrace at airports, hold hands and do most other things that any two people dating would. And that’s manna from heaven for our media who normally have to read between the “we are just friends” lines.
And guess who the biggest contributor is in making this romance a blockbuster? The aam cricket fan in India. With their dreams and ambitions resting on Kohli’s shoulders, the Indian cricket fan is forever restless like a mother whose teenage son is out for a ‘group study’.
The cricket enthusiasts anxiously watch over Kohli, clucking their tongues, if he is spotted with Sharma more frequently than at the nets. No wonder then, they were close to stoning Sharma online when Kohli got out for a duck in the World Cup semis.
A big part of India’s obsession with the Kohli-Sharma romance comes from the great Indian cricket fan’s deep anxiety about what was memorably tweeted as the actress’ “distraction” potential and the gossip mills are happy to oblige this crowd with more heartburn. “OMG, he is smiling at her, or, “Look, he just blew her kiss”. And you can almost imagine the cricket lover snapping, “Look at this boy, shouldn’t he be practicing to bowl instead?”.
In the end the Indian fan isn’t that different from the Indian parent.