Bengal Celebrity League: From Silver screen to Sight screen: The Indian Premier League has successfully juxtaposed cricket with the film industry over the years. In a country where cricket and films are viewed parallel to religion, it is not surprising that sometimes incidents such as Shah Rukh Khan turning jovial cartwheels to celebrate KKR’s IPL triumph or Preity Zinta enchanting the crowds at the PCA Stadium with her mesmeric dimples end up occupying more space in the morning heralds than what is supposedly allotted for printing the on-field cricketing action. The close ties between Tinsel town and cricket went a step further with the installation of the Celebrity Cricket League in 2011; an amateur cricket tournament involving eight teams which comprises film actors from eight different regional film industries of the country. Several film celebrities including the likes of Sunil Shetty, Bobby Deol, Daggubati Venkatesh and Dev have been a part of the tournament and spectators have shown enough courtesy to appreciate their efforts each time they have stepped on the cricket field.
Following the footsteps of the CCL, the film industry of Bengal (fondly known as Tollywood) has come up with the idea of contesting the Bengal Celebrity League- a Day/Night T20 tournament which will feature a host of arch celebs associated with Bengal’s showbiz industry. The tournament is the brainchild of Blue Horizon Sports and Entertainment Private Limited; a company co-owned by actor Jisshu Sengupta. The league consists of six teams belonging to six districts of Bengal and encompasses some of the most widely sought after names from the Film and Television fraternity of Bengal as the owners of these teams. The tournament commenced yesterday (December 26) at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan in Santoshpur, Kolkata (a venue which has been provided free of cost by West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to host the games). The CM is anticipated to attend a few games of the tournament. The initiative launched with the objective of bringing Tollywood and cricket under one roof has already created significant buzz in different sections of the media.
Before we proceed further, let us get ourselves familiarised with the norms and rules of the tournament.
- THE TEAMS
As we have mentioned earlier, the league will see six district based teams of Bengal lock horns with each other over 15 days at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan in Santoshpur, Kolkata.
The six teams participating in the inaugural edition of the tournament are Purulia Panthers, Midnapore Mighties, Jalpaiguri Royals, Birbhum Brave Hearts, Hooghly Heroes and Burdwan Blasters.
- THE OWNERS
All the six teams have some of the most well-known actors, directors and producers from Tollywood as their owners. Although, Shoojit Sircar hasn’t directed any Bengali movie as of yet, his association with films such as ‘Open Tee Bioscope’ and ‘Buno Haansh’ testifies to his relationship with the Bengali film industry.
|1. Purulia Panthers||Prosenjit Chatterjee|
|2. Midnapore Mighties||Dev|
|3. Jalpaiguri Royals||Arijit Dutta|
|4. Birbhum Brave Hearts||Shyam Sundar Dey and Pramod Lundia|
|5. Hooghly Heroes||Shoojit Sircar|
|6. Burdwan Blasters||Kaustuv Roy|
December 26- January 10.
- THE TEAM COMPOSITION
Each side comprises a squad of 15 players, out of which 10 are actors and the rest technicians. The squads are expected to shuffle the players through the length of the tournament and each team can field a maximum of 8 actors and 3 technicians in the Playing Eleven.
The tournament will abide by the conventional rules of the T20 format and all the games will be supervised by C.A.B authorized umpires.
- PREPARATION FOR THE TOURNAMENT
The participants are believed to have engaged themselves in intense training sessions in the past three or four weeks. Quite a few trials were held at former Indian off-spinner Saradindu Mukherjee’s coaching camp where the players got an opportunity to brush up on their skills ahead of the ‘no non-sense’ tournament.
‘’Watch out for the Hooghly Heroes. We haven’t left any stone unturned in our practice sessions’’, roared a highly pumped up Shoojit Sircar, who sounded more like a guardian than the owner of the Hooghly franchise at the opening ceremony.
- FROM CUTS TO SQUARE CUTS
Unlike some of the earlier instances of such celebrity oriented leagues, the contestants herein aim to play the tournament with utmost sincerity and resolve. National award winning director Srijit Mukherjee echoes the notion in his opinion. According to the 38 year old, the initiative has been welcomed with outstretched arms in the realms of Tollywood. ‘’I think it’s a fantastic initiative especially for people who have passion for cricket and love dabbling in various things’’, Mukherjee told our website.
Mukherjee happens to be the ambassador of the Burdwan Blasters and a member of the support staff. ‘’I would have loved to play but my foot is far from being 100% fit’’, said the director of several critically acclaimed films like Autograph, Jaatishwar and Chotuskone, who has been sustaining an ankle injury since meeting a road accident in Delhi 7 months ago. On being asked whether a 15 day long tournament like this be a hindrance to the packed schedules of the people working in the film industry, he commented, ‘’Yes, schedule could be a problem, so can be the chance of a potential injury. But, then one can always walk that extra mile for his/her passion’’. Passion indeed is the element which has inspired the ever so conscious actors to take to field and sweat out on the 22 yards, in the covers or the outfield in the midst of their highly saturated schedules.
Quite evidently, an idea such as this comes with its own set of investment pros and cons. ‘’BCL would be raising close to Rs. 2 crore from corporate sponsorships which would come from both local and national brands. A lot of brand building activities are being taken up and we have a theme song composed by Bickram Ghosh’’, said Jisshu Sengupta; co-founder of the tournament and skipper of the Purulia Panthers. Sengupta has a long association with cricket for he had represented Bengal at the Under 19 level and is the reigning Captain of the Bengal Tigers (owned by Boney Kapoor) in the CCL.
- THE OPENING ENCOUNTER
The tournament started off in a blistering fashion on the inaugural day with Midnapore Mighties defeating Purulia Panthers by 5 wickets. Batting first, Purulia Panthers (which is captained by Jisshu Sengupta and owned by Tollywood A lister Prosenjit Chatterjee) posted a formidable total of 170 runs on the board. Despite suffering a few initial hiccups, Midnapore Mighties kept pace with the asking rate and cruised to a valiant victory with an over to spare. Earlier in the day, the Kishore Bharati Stadium witnessed a gala opening ceremony where all the six teams were introduced to the spectators with their respective theme songs in the backdrop. The highlight of the day was the presence of former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly, who not only attended the game but also conducted the toss between Dev and Prosenjit. Ganguly heaped praised on the initiative by saying, ‘’If the tournament manages to promote a few talented players by the time it finishes, it will be the perfect icing on the cake’’.
It is needless to say that Kolkata is set to experience a year ending gala fest in the form of the BCL.The partakers of the tournament know one thing for sure. Contrary to the reel world, they will not be aided by the CUTS in this real, sturdy world. That said, one can expect plenty of ACTION for the forthcoming 15 days!!