Shah Rukh, Sushmita and a trumpeting Tom Cruise

By Harish C. Menon, IANS
12/6/2004 12:00:00 AM
In the end Shah Rukh Khan's  team clinched a trumpeting victory. But the real winner was the audience that came to watch the elephant polo match between him and Sushmita Sen!

The two Bollywood actors "locked sticks" in the celebrity match held at the Rambagh Polo Club grounds here Sunday on the sidelines of the TAG-Heuer Precision polo cup.

Khan and Sen were here for the launch of TAG-Heuer's Carrera Classic series of watches in India.

TAG-Heuer, makers of luxury watches, announced Sunday that Sushmita Sen has been roped in as the first woman brand ambassador for the brand in India, which already has Shah Rukh Khan in its list of brand ambassadors.

Its international list includes Finnish F1 driver Kim Raikkonen and US golf legend Tiger Woods.

While it was a novelty for their fans, for the stars too riding elephants for sport seemed like a unique experience.

Sen, dressed in casual trousers, seemed quite at home on the back her mount - imaginatively called Tom Cruise! She was at her sporting best as she cheered her teammates, among them photographer Atul Kasbekar.

Shah Rukh took to his pachyderm after some initial hiccups - he accidentally dropped his polo stick and had to be given another one.

His team included Philippe Pascal, chairman and CEO of LVMH Watch & Jewellery, and entrepreneur Kalyani Chawla.

He was clearly the centre of attraction as hundreds of people in the crowd called out his name starting with a frenzied "Shah Rukh Khan" to a loving "Shah Rukh" which in some time became an intimate "Shah Rukh bhai".

Of course, both the stars got expert help from their mahouts who steered the elephants around.

In the end, Shah Rukh managed a 2-0 victory, which left the audience shouting "Shah Rukh Khan Zindabad".

While receiving his victory memento, he regaled crowds with a dialogue from his latest release "Veer-Zaara", "Main qaidi number 786..."

The audience was full of celebrities, among them erstwhile royals like Bhawani Singh of Jaipur and Arvind Singh of Mewar. But the fans of the two actors seemed to far outweigh them.

The stars had made their entry during the TAG-Heuer Precision polo match between the Monaco and Monza teams being played by erstwhile royals and army men.

If the crowd welcomed former Miss Universe Sushmita Sen with cheers and shouts of "autograph please" as she was driven around the ground in a royal chariot, then Shah Rukh narrowly escaped being mobbed when he made his entry, offering "salams" and air kissing, in a vintage Thunderbird car.

From then on hardly anyone watched the match. Even the media glare turned away from the game to where the stars were seated.

"They are showing utter disrespect to the game," lamented 71-year-old Motichand Suchlecha who has been watching polo matches for the past 50 years there.

But few seemed to pay heed.

From four-year-olds to middle aged men and women, all turned into uninhibited autograph hunters Sunday afternoon. But they were to be disappointed as security men threw an impenetrable cordon around the celebrities.

The ancient Jaipur fort on a hill in the backdrop and the presence of cavalrymen from what is said to be the oldest mounted army regiment of the world, the 61st Cavalry, added grace to the proceedings of the day.