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Virushka Fever

Virushka Fever
Madhavankutty Pillai has no specialisations whatsoever. He is among the last of the generalists. And also Open chief of bureau, Mumbai  
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A celebrity wedding as the ultimate spectacle for fans of the country’s top two passions

BOY GREW UP with a cricket bat, always on the cricket field, effortlessly batting his way into the national cricket team—an idol for a cricket crazy population. Girl grew up watching Hindi films, got into modelling, took acting lessons on the side, gave auditions, was spotted by a studio, a pretty big one, had a big hit on debut, chose roles wisely, became an A-list actor with leading roles opposite all the three Khans—an idol in a movie crazy population. Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma met, romanced and now they are married, the biggest wedding in recent times because in a voyeur nation, a film-cricket combination is unbeatable. The wedding was in Italy, held in poor secrecy because every newspaper and channel knew. The spectacle will be the reception back in India, when another blizzard of details on the event will have the public lapping them up.

In recent times, this is the third marriage between cinema and cricket personalities. Just a couple of weeks ago, Zaheer Khan, a fast bowler, married Sagarika Ghatge, famous for her role in the Shah Rukh Khan movie Chak De! India. Two years ago, the spinner Harbhajan Singh married the actor Geeta Basra. But these were tame affairs when it came to a media splash. Zaheer and Harbhajan’s playing days at the national level are all but over. Ghatge and Basra never made it to the top rung as actors. For an equivalent, the marriage of Azharuddin in 1996 with Sangeeta Bijlani might count, but even there, while he was the Indian cricket team captain, Bijlani had long dropped out of contention for top- level film stardom. Plus, Azharuddin was already married when the relationship began and so that didn’t really count as a fairy tale romance.

Take away the glitz, and the Virat-Anushka relationship would be regular in its ups and downs. But you cannot take away the glitz when it is happening under the watchful eyes of millions of fans and followers. They broke up in between because— and this is from the gossip mill, so we will never know if it’s true—he was keen to get married and she wasn’t. His form dropped, and, in typical social networking slander, the woman was blamed and trolled until he issued a chivalrous tweet: ‘Shame on people for trolling @AnushkaSharma non-stop. Have some compassion. She has always only given me positivity’. Even earlier, when he had not done well on a tour and she was spotted tagging along with the Indian team, two and two were put together to hold her responsible for his batting. For some reason, the reverse rarely got applied—if a movie of hers did badly, Virat was never accused of it.

The burden of a relationship between a female cinema star and a male cricket star is skewed against the former. A girlfriend might be accused of affecting form, but wives are never culpable. And, for a long time in the Hindi film industry, women actors who got married were more or less thought to have kissed away their careers. That is why most tied the knot after their careers started declining, which is not true in Anushka’s case. Even if these actresses had a steady relationship, it was not openly flaunted because of the notion that audiences would be less interested in them. The trend is said to be changing. Anushka’s wedding will be a test case to check if this connection of saleability with being unwed is a myth.

After the marriage, the couple tweeted: ‘Today we have promised each other to be bound in love forever. We are truly blessed to share the news with you. This beautiful day will be made more special with the love and support of our family of fans & well wishers. Thank you for being such an important part of our journey.’ It is debatable whether you want your countrymen along while starting a married life, but there is little choice that they have.