'The worst 20 cr spent on an event'

Apr 06, 2012, 08:41 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

Former Indian Premier League chief, Lalit Modi talks about the T20 event's much-ridiculed opening ceremony and other issues

Why didn’t you like the IPL ceremony?
Firstly, for a sporting event to even consider having an opening ceremony anywhere else than a stadium to me is just foolish. The objective should be to start the long awaited event in a manner where we honour the teams and embrace the fans, and put a glow in the minds of our viewers around the world. It  should have been a celebration of things to come.

What was the most boring/appalling part of it?
The whole concept of stringing Bollywood acts together was a complete disaster to me. It was just like another award show. If one wanted to tune into a Bollywood show then I guess that is something I would watch. But I was looking forward to watching an opening ceremony for a sporting event.

Had you still been in charge, what would you have done instead?
Well, I always believed in innovation year on year. As you would have seen from Year One to Three, we constantly innovated. The key and foremost would be a pre-game show and in a stadium so that everyone was part of the ceremony. There was enough going on around the ground for 60,000 spectators to cheer about and millions across the world to smile upon. It would definitely not be for a select few in front rows to watch an award show. I would have ensured that there was something new that people had not seen live or at an event like this. We used to research constantly of how to make it more appealing for the fans and also how to ensure best production value. Here, it was just another show. What was new or innovative or not seen before? Probably, the worst Rs 20 crore I am told they spent. Even the Bollywood acts could have been streamlined to give it a sporting flair. Yes, in past we had a Bollywood Item in our ceremonies. But it was no more than 10 to 15 per cent of the show. Here, with no disrespect to the Bollywood community which, mind you, is fantastic - but in my mind, it was definitely not appropriate. Whose ever idea it was, it just had no feel of how to run or market a sporting event; had complete disconnect with the sports-loving fan. This is probably the worst 20 crore spent on an event.

Are you going to be closely watching the next 45 days?
Yes, I will be watching the event daily. Now that the opening is behind us, the matches is what matters and I am sure that it will be a highly competitive and enthralling event over the next 45 days. We have the best players from the world and I am looking forward to it.

What do you think are this season’s weakest points: money collection, logistical organisation, viewer interest, internal politics, dressing room politics...
In my view, it will be to ensure viewers’ interest. IPL is just not only about cricket. It’s a Cricketainment product. It has to be looked at as much as on-field performance by teams and what goes on around it. That’s what the fans want to see and read about. It’s supposed to be all encompassed. I am worried that there may be a disconnect with current management and fans expectations. I hope I am wrong.

Do you EVER think you’ll be back where you belong? Running the IPL to international standards again?
IPL is not the domain of one person. I am happy I was able to realise my dream and create a world-class product. We all have to move on and so does the IPL. Irrespective who is running it, I am sure it will continue to grow. Hiccups, we can all have in life, but we all should learn from them and move on. IPL too will overcome its hiccups and will continue to warm our hearts. And yes, I am very much a part of it - and it’s a part of me which will never go away.

Everyone feels you fell foul of jealousy and big egos... what do you feel?
It’s part of life especially in India where we have a crab mentality. No one can digest others’ good work. I just hope they don’t mess things further. It’s simple - one should not fix what’s not broken. Hope the mandarins at the BCCI realise that and nurture and grow what they have got rather than try and change what’s proven to be an exciting, fun event.

A word of advice for IPL team owner Vijay Mallya during his time of trouble?
This too shall pass. I strongly believe in that.

Ok this is from memory lane but it bears re-telling. I was present at a swish dinner more than a decade ago at the Race Course to which Demi Moore had accompanied Deepak Chopra and Dave Stewart (once of the Eurythmics) and now of Super Heavy along with Jagger and Rahman.

Obviously Mumbai society couldn’t get enough of the Hollywood hottie and didn’t want to leave her table. So when a shy and newly crowned Miss World Aishwarya Rai walked in, to the host’s horror no one wanted to vacate the seat next to Demi that they’d reserved for the putative ethereal Bollywood star.

Big mistake. Because after a chair was pulled up, not only did Moore spend all her time gushing over Rai, calling her ‘the most beautiful woman she’d ever seen’ but also made a call to her husband Bruce Willis to tell him to cast her in his next movie.

Nothing came off of that venture, but of course Ash went on to acquire a star status that not only matched — but some feel — outstripped Moore’s. We hope the boors who hadn’t stood up for the lady that night have regretted their lack of chivalry.

Everyone knows that we adore Parsis and amongst our favourite community known for its compassion and brilliance stands its tallest citizen Ratan Tata, who epitomises all the values and grace that have set his people apart.

So it is with particular delight that we chanced upon one more reason to admire India’s most respected business leader: his abiding love for his dogs Tango and Tito.

So concerned is the reclusive Tata for his pets’ well-being that in his newly constructed Colaba bungalow, he has built a special pool for them, right beside his own.

A friend who had the pleasure of catching the two water bodies from a neighbouring compound says, “The dog’s pool is of a pretty good size, and next to it is a bench on which the retired Tata head can sit each evening and watch his dogs splash around.” Parsi: another word for grace and thoughtfulness!

A little bird informs us that the swash-buckling developer Jaydev Mody, one half of Mumbai’s uber power couple (wife Zia is the country’s top corporate lawyer), who has been a pioneer of sorts in the lifestyle industry (he was involved in Mumbai’s first mall Crossroads, and then kicked off the Goa casino boom) has now a bigger plan up his sleeve: a game park in Africa! With Indians now factoring game parks in to their holiday plans, it sounds a sure-fire success. Especially if ‘udhiya idli’ and ‘thepla’ is thrown in to the package, we say.

While we are grateful that following the coup story instead of flabby politicians our TV screens are flooded with handsome servicemen with ferocious moustaches, we are saddened by their outrage and anguish.

As one such senior officer told us, “The ‘coup’ story was concocted by a group of officers close to a general who is peeved that V K Singh has ordered an enquiry into Adarsh and has also court martialed two Lt Gens over the Sukna land scam.


All this then ties in with a group of arms agents close to the powers that be. The fear is that V K Singh will set off a slew of inquiries that will seriously impact the planned hierarchy put in place by vested interests.

” All kinds of conspiracy theories are being floated. One source tells us that the plants to discredit the army chief emanate from a high official in the I&B Ministry. And the names of hacks close to the Ministry are being circulated.

Serves the MoD for not keeping its house clean! As one retired Navy Chief tells me, “In my time I made sure that if there was ever a contentious issue that cropped up with the MoD, I’d invite the bureaucrat to the Gymkhana Club and we’d sort it out right away over a soft drink.

In fact that’s exactly why the Gymkhana club was created — as a meeting ground for servicemen and government officials!” If only someone had told Antony that things go better with Coca Cola! 

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