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Sunday Sentiments

  • Kapil da jawab nahin

    Posted On May 8, 2000

    By Karan Thapar

    I first met Kapil Dev in 1983. It was the morning after the World Cup victory. The shock and the surprise had not yet dissipated. The joy and euphoria were only just setting in. The cricketing world was in a trance. Our winning team was on cloud nine.

    “Of course, of course” he said as I followed him down the hotel corridor. He was surrounded by interview-seeking journalists. I must have been one of fifty. His answer to each of them was equally encouraging and similarly reassuring.

    I wasn’t convinced he meant yes. Perhaps he was being polite or may be he was trying to get rid of us. So I started telephoning to reconfirm. I rang the hotel, his room, the lobby, the dining room, his alleged friends. You name the number I must have rung it. Eventually, well past midnight, I got through.

    “Ha yaar ” he cheerfully replied. “It’s tomorrow morning at 9.00 but why don’t you let me get some sleep before that!”

    Kapil was on time and brought his vice captain, Mohinder Amarnath, as well. They were sleepy, perhaps a little hung-over but happiness infused the interview. It was the first I handled as an associate producer. It wasn’t faultless but it was memorable.

    It was this easy helpfulness that struck me about Kapil. Stars can be prima donnas and often reluctant to assist lowly mortals. Not Kapil. This march I encountered the same quality again. We were scheduled to interview Sourav Ganguly. It was the day before the Faridabad one-day game with South Africa. Sourav had agreed, the time had been fixed but he was running late. The clock was ticking and I was beginning to fear the interview might not happen. With stars silly accidents sometimes disrupt the best laid plans.

    “Hi Karan” a voice crackled over my mobile phone. “Mein Kapil Dev bol raha hoon.”

    “Oh hi” I replied, stunned and somewhat speechless. Why was he ringing me?

    “Sunno, Sourav is with me and if you want your interview pick him up from my office in the next ten minutes.”

    When I got there a beaming Kapil had Sourav ready, dressed and waiting. The look on my face must have suggested that I was perplexed. How had Kapil swung this? How did he even know about the proposed interview?

    “I heard your conversation with Sourav on the mobile, I realised you were panicky and I decided that this was the only way to do it” he explained. “Had Sourav returned to the hotel to change you would never have got him.”

    So Kapil took him to his office and made him shower, shave and dress there. The interview that followed was a gem but few people outside my circle of colleagues realised that Kapil had pulled it off.

    The third example of Kapil’s helpfulness was the interview that I hope you saw last week on HARDtalk INDIA. When I met him on Thursday the 4th it was to discuss something quite different. The BBC has asked us to do a series of Face to Face interviews with great cricketers of today and legends of the past. These are to be personality pieces – soft, gentle, anecdotal. Kapil wasn’t very keen. Understandably he had other things on his mind. Yet the idea of an interview to the BBC was one he warmed to.

    “Sunno yaar ” he said, as he poured me a cup of tea. “Let’s do a proper one. You ask what you want and let me answer the way I think I should.”

    It took me a few seconds to realise what Kapil was proposing. He was agreeing to be interviewed but not for a gentle personality series. He wanted to face the toughest questions possible on the charges he was accused of. He was, in fact, giving me a scoop.

    “When?” I asked tentatively, apprehensive that fixing a date might clip the soaring hopes he had just created.

    “Tomorrow? Day after? The sooner the better.”

    And thus it was that last saturday I got a chance to question him and the interview you saw – if you see it you did – was the result.

    Now it’s not for me to comment on the interview; that would be unethical and uncalled for. Yet I feel I can safely reply to one question I’ve been repeatedly asked.

    Why did he agree? Were those real tears?

    Let me start by assuming the emotion was put on. Theoretically it could have been but then Kapil would have to be an actor – not a simple Bollywood product but one of Shakespearean proportions. To cry as he did on demand is not easy. Most of our actors cannot or, at least, not convincingly.

    That leads me inexorably to the conclusion that the tears were genuine and the emotion real. I interpret them as the cry of an anguished soul, expressing both pain and helplessness. If you were in his position I think you would behave very similarly. But were they also tears of remorse? I don’t think so but, of course, they could have been.

    “Yeh dramebaaz nahin dukhi hein” Aru, my secretary, summed up before softly adding “magar samajh nahin aata ki galti kiski thi?”


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