Imran versus Imran
Falcon and falcon
Rs 795 pp 462
Playboy Pathan Imran Khan, the World Cup winning skipper of Pakistan, has inspired a number of biographies. Imran Versus Imran is a hagiography at best. Whenever author Frank Huzur writes about Kaptan saheb, he goes overboard, sometimes with comic consequences. Sample this description of Imran’s hilltop home near Islamabad: “He lives like a Pharaoh on the hill overlooking gleaming streets of Pakistan’s capital … He doesn’t watch movies like a crazed movie buff. In a sprawling suite-size bedroom adorned with vivid art works redolent of beautiful hallucinations, there were no images of grimacing actors and screaming sultry sirens …” You get the picture?
Wherever Huzur tries to focus on Imran’s political misadventures and cricketing attitude, he spins out new platitudes. Whether it is raising funds for a cancer hospital, or cozying up to dictators, Imran can’t do any wrong. Still, whenever the book begins to read like a Pakistan Tehriq-E-Insaf mouthpiece, one is rescued by tragi-comic stories featuring players on the periphery.
When the author isn’t composing paeans for Khan, he is much more readable. One such anecdote involves Mick Jagger exchanging pleasantries with a prostitute in Lahore’s Hira Mandi. When she challenges him to show her his moves, Mr Big Lips keeps gyrating through the night. In another story, former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif, egged on by sycophants to score a century, agrees to open the batting for the Punjab Chief Minister’s XI against a marauding pace attack led by a certain Courtney Walsh.
For a cricket tome (more than 450 pages), the quality of photographs is poor and the editing slipshod at places, with names of players and even the Pakistan prime minister misspelt.
Huzur blanks out big time in describing the doomed romance between the dandy turned radical and the billionaire British heiress Jemima Goldsmith. She is abruptly introduced: “In the summer of 1995, matrimony brought its own share of limelight and fillip to the cancer hospital.” In another chapter, ‘Sita White, Silly Point’, Huzur reads like an apologist for the Casanova cricketer.
Still, if you are a hardened Imran fan and a collector of trivia, the book has a number of gems.
n The Rolling Stones’ ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ is one of Imran’s favourite songs. ‘Smooth Operator’, by English group Sade, was the anthem of a Pakistan team which went on an unofficial trip to Bangladesh. On the team bus, one-time cricketer, Junoon singer and Imran acolyte Salman Ahmed strummed the guitar to the number on his request.
n At his hilltop home in Bannigala, Imran keeps Doberman Pinschers and Rottweilers. In London, he never misses dog races and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
n As a student in England, he did menial jobs such as dishwashing and cheese cutting on Lewisham High Street.
n He once dated fashion journalist Susannah Constantine and lost his virginity at 18 after an afternoon of passion with then girlfriend Alexandra, while studying at the Royal Grammar School, London.
n In the 80s, Imran loved visiting the London nightclub Tramp, but never touched alcohol. He used to ask for a bottle of milk instead. In 1982, his regular arm candy was portraitist Emma Sergeant who painted several black and white portraits of Imran in gold leaf and oil.
n Hostile bilateral ties between India and Pakistan spiked the prospects of matrimony between Zeenat Aman and Imran even after Zeenie had met Imran’s mother and sister at Lahore, Islamabad and Dubai.