Kochi July 29: Cricket and films are national obsessions. The popularity and mass appeal enjoyed by cricketers and stars are phenomenal.
What happens when a platform brings the game and the stars together on a level playing field? That was Celebrity Cricket League. More than the game, the bonhomie and recognition that it provided are immense and stars have beautiful memories of the game.
Today, the members of Kerala Strikers find themselves flush with film offers. Has the game changed their career course? Rajeev Pillai, the toast of the Kerala Team, is perhaps the man who has gained the most and he affirms, “I was unknown till CCL happened!
Today, when strangers come and talk to me, I have only one platform to thank CCL! Outside Kerala, people tell me that they have not seen my films but know me through CCL.
It has been the biggest launch pad for me and the best part is that, I am also recognised as a cricketer other than an actor because of which I get more respect.
Soon after the Kochi match, director Priyadarshan offered Rajeev a role in Malamaal Weekly 2 and since then it has been an avalanche of films like My Fan Ramu, Kaash, Karmayodha, Left Right Left and some untitled ones.
One among the rising stars today, Rajeev recollects some special moments, “My parents are big fans of Mohanlal but somehow, I was very shy to call up Lal sir and ask him to speak to my parents.
But, after the match, my parents spoke to Lal sir and that was a proud moment for me. I also got a chance to speak to Mohanlal’s mother over phone, which was an unforgettable moment.”
Stars like Munna, Rajat Menon, Prajod, Bineesh etc have also seen a resurrection in their careers. A deep bond has formed between all the members and they continue to keep in touch. Nikhil and Saiju Kurup, busy with their maiden directorial and scripting venture My Fan Ramu, has got almost the entire team onboard.
Nikhil says, “Everybody took part in CCL because of their passion for the game. Nobody came in expecting offers or to further their careers or establish themselves. Nevertheless, the platform provided a shortcut to fame and my film is a gathering of my friends with no business angle to it.”
Saiju is happy about the deep bond of friendship the game has brought in, with all of them meeting up every three months. “Personally, I have become more disciplined and punctual because of the game,” he says. Rajeev adds in a lighter vein, “The Bhavana link-up made sure that my face was carried in the Tamil and Telugu papers, making me famous there too.”
The game not only showed the stars’ playing skills, but also presented a learning arena. Coach Chandrasenan says, “I taught my boys discipline and etiquette and they have incorporated that in their professional life too!”
Vivek Gopan is another star who has risen from obscurity. He expands, “CCL has given me some nice offers like Thalsamayam Oru Penkutty, Malamaal Weekly 2 and My Fan Ramu. Today, when I say my name, the connect is immediate.”
Some of the stars in the celebrity matches have tasted big success and one name that heads the list is Nivin Pauly. Busy with a clutch of films and flush with the success of Thattathin Marayathu, he opines, “When I joined the team, I was unaware of the magnitude of popularity it provided. The recognition I got is equivalent to five or six hit films!”
“All of us certainly had a passion and responsibility to the game; and the popularity and career growth are but byproducts of the game. I also got a chance to interact with so many national stars whom I have idolised,” he adds.