Charulata Patel, 87, the grandmom from London who busted the circuit breakers on fame last week with her yellow vuvuzela and the tricolor on her cheek (and around her neck) has overnight become the most recognized superfan of Indian cricket, moreso since the Indian captain Virat Kohli and his vice (and multiple centurion) Rohit Sharma came by to hug her and seek her blessings on the sidelines of the World Cup match.
It is now part of everyday cricket lore that Kohli asked Patel to come back for all the India matches in the rest of the tournament and she said she had no tickets. And the Indian skipper said ‘no worries, be my guest’, and offered to gift her invites to the rest of the India fixtures. I was so impressed by the irrepressible and seemingly indefatigable octogenarian that I wrote two blogs in Campaign India last week … the first when Patel shot to fame and then when she was signed on by Pepsi as a Swag Star joining the ranks of Tiger Shroff and Disha Patani.
While Patel continued to be the darling of the media last week, including bagging an exclusive on NDTV, there are already small tell-tale signs that her new found fame has started to fray somewhat in the past 72 hours. Few noticed perhaps that in the Sri Lanka match on Saturday, though captain Kohli delivered on his promise with tickets for the old lady and BCCI PR-ed it with posts on social media, but he did not come back to stands to hug her this time around. As it is the superfan arrived about an hour after the match had started; but more importantly, the TV cameras did not quite seek her out as they had in the match versus Bangladesh. There could be two reasons for this.
The obvious one, ofcourse, is that the novelty of the vuvuzela blowing old lady is becoming somewhat stale. Nothing new to entertain viewers.
The more interesting possibility is that the instant commercialisation of her fame by Ms. Patel … her signing on with Pepsi … may not have gone down too well with the ICC (whose crews shoot at the stadium) and the broadcasters (who carry the feed). Giving her airtime on television now needed to be weighed as ‘patriotism’ for India versus ‘brand promotion’ for Pepsi’s latest Swag Star. Especially since Coca Cola, Pepsi’s arch-rival is an official ICC World Cup sponsor. Coverage for Charulata would have meant ambushing Coca Cola. The muted coverage on Saturday showed that the Pepsi sponsorship kept the broadcast cameras away.
Another interesting dimension to the Pepsi sign-up is that not very far back in time, almost two years back, Captain Kohli quit as Pepsi’s ambassador. When he sought out Charulata Patel in the Bangladesh match, she was just a very special India fan. But in a matter of a couple of days she now represents the Pepsi Swag. A swag that Kohli no longer endorses. Is that the reason Virat Kohli kept his promise on the match tickets but kept his distance from the old lady on camera at the Sri Lanka match? I have a very strong feeling that the encashment of the hug and the blessings through the sponsorship by the savvy Patel may have alienated the Indian captain and diluted his enthusiasm somewhat for an encore of the hug-and-blessing Kodak moment.
So the moot question is whether a commercial sign-up with Pepsi means the 87-year old lady’s fandom is now no longer pure, pristine and unqualified? Well, if the players can sign up with brands, why can’t she as a fan? Yes, I would tend to agree with that logic on any given day. Except for the ordinary Joe watching the match at home, Patel now appears more mercenary than motherly. Atleast that is the general feeling.
There is another dilemma that Patel is possibly faced with. She is a Kenya born UK citizen of Indian origin. India could well have been playing England in the semis if the game results on Saturday had not changed team standings. It is still likely that there is an India-England final on Sunday. Whom will Patel then cheer for? The country she is a citizen of, and resides in? Or India, the country her forefathers came from. Will we have the kind of situation depicted in the Ranbir Kapoor deo ad where the English fan cheers for India. Frankly for Patel to cheer for India versus England would make for poor optics!
Watch this space for more as Charulata Patel comes back for the Semis, and hopefully for the Finals. I really am looking forward to all the happenings with the yellow vuvuzela!
Dr. Sandeep Goyal loves his cricket, for sure!