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Why India can't resist Virushka

By Vikram Johri
Last updated on: December 27, 2017 07:30 IST

The nature of modern celebrity is marked by a curious mix of silence and revelation, a sneak peek here, a clipped remark there.

And the situation is particularly explosive when Bollywood romances cricket, says Vikram Johri.

Virat Kohli Anushka Sharma

Buoyed by social media, the Indian fan may be signalling a subtle shift in the media frenzy typically reserved for Bollywood weddings.
We may increasingly find that we like keeping the private lives of cricketers in focus as tales of grit and hard work transform into fairy tales.
And if the two professions meet, as they do with Virushka, so much the better.
Photograph: @anushkasharma/Instagram.

 

The Virat Kohli-Anushka Sharma wedding in Italy this month brings to a close what is arguably the longest-running celebrity affair in recent memory.

The couple met during a commercial shoot in 2013 and, over the past few years, have been the subject of intense media speculation about the nature of their relationship.

Since little was forthcoming, the media went to great pains to construct the framework of a relationship. From Kohli landing at film shoot locations to meet Sharma to her presence at the matches he played, every interaction was analysed for possible clues.

In the age of social media, Instagram and Twitter, too, played a part in signalling the latest to fans. This did not always play out as the couple may have liked, especially when Kohli suggested through morose pictures that the couple had possibly split up.

The wedding confirms the public nature of their relationship, never explicitly acknowledged but repeatedly alluded to.

For weeks before Kohli and Sharma travelled to Italy for the private function, the media had been reporting on their plans. But, as always, nothing was certain until those twin photos broke Twitter on the evening of December 11.

 

This then is the nature of modern celebrity, marked by a curious mix of silence and revelation, a sneak peek here, a clipped remark there.

With Virushka -- the portmanteau fans have concocted for the couple -- the situation is particularly explosive since they combine two of Indians' favourite preoccupations: Bollywood and cricket.

The two streams have come together before, most famously in the marriage of Tiger Pataudi with Sharmila Tagore. But the greater media gaze of today ensures that fans eager to learn more about the private lives of public personalities are instantly satiated.

It works the other way too, with the media capturing moments we may not know are tinged with meaning.

When Rohit Sharma scored a double century at Mohali, for example, the camera focused on his wife shedding a tear. It was the couple's second marriage anniversary, we were told, and Sharma's answer to his critics could not have come on a more apposite day.

This mix of the public and private, something that has always existed for film stars, perhaps due to the nature of their profession, now officially bleeds to other glamourous pursuits such as cricket.

Sachin Tendulkar was arguably the first beneficiary of this largesse, signing lucrative advertising contracts that made news as much as his exploits on the field.

But it truly found its acme in M S Dhoni, the first bona fide sporting star of the social media age. In his advertisements, Dhoni amped up the cool he was identified with on the field. Be it a shampoo ad from the days he wore his hair long to the more recent Lava phone ad in which he plays along with Prateik Babbar's mischief, Dhoni grew from a talented cricketer to an all-round superstar.

From here, it was a small leap to interest in his romantic life, a promise that was more than fulfilled not just by the media but also by the larger zeitgeist when we were given a film that focused as much attention on his love, lost and found, as on his meteoric rise.

There is also this: a lot of our cricketing stars have risen from humble origins to become globally renowned faces -- a dream that spreads like a ripple through the waters of the collective Indian subconscious. For a game that runs in the country's blood, cricket's ability to transform lives is a delicious fantasy that pushes many.

This is not nearly the case with Bollywood, still looked upon largely as an insider's field where success rests crucially on who you know. Besides, acting as a professional choice pales in comparison to the revered status accorded to cricket in nearly every Indian home.

The cricketer's relationship, then, becomes the cherry on top of an already overflowing sundae.

Zaheer Khan retired from the sport in 2014, yet his marriage last month to Sagarika Ghatge was covered with breathless anticipation in the media. Twitter and Facebook were again at the forefront, as eager fans shared pictures of their honeymoon in Maldives.

Buoyed by social media, the Indian fan may be signalling a subtle shift in the media frenzy typically reserved for Bollywood weddings. We may increasingly find that we like keeping the private lives of cricketers in focus as tales of grit and hard work transform into fairy tales of riches, companionship and all-round success.

And if the two professions meet, as they do with Virushka, so much the better.

Vikram Johri
Source: source
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