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On a different pitch

From noodle straps to summer dresses, from life in the studios to field reporting, Mandira Bedi discusses change in a tete' a tete' with Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi.

entertainment Updated: Jun 06, 2009 20:33 IST
Tavishi Paitandy Rastogi

It must be fun being Mandira Bedi. First, a few years ago, the TV host and anchor hit the headlines for co-hosting a cricket show while wearing sexy sarees with noodle-strap blouses.

Then, during the Indian Premier League (IPL) in South Africa this year, she hit the headlines for hosting a cricket show and not wearing sexy sarees with noodle-strap blouses. (She wore short skirts, summer dresses, capris or trousers, but no sarees.) And with short hair at that. Why on earth did Mandira change her look?

Well, she wanted a change. But it wasn’t for the sake of change. “My job demanded the look I carried,” Mandira insists. Earlier, when she hosted her cricket shows, she sat in a studio, looking pretty and making intelligent conversation. This time round, she was out in the field, interviewing cricketers. “And I would have looked rather silly running across a cricket field in a saree and jewellery,” she grins.

Ground work
Mandira says being on the field was a “phenomenal” experience. “Can you imagine the excitement of being in the middle of all the action?” she asks. “And I was the only presenter who managed to interview all the captains!”

Since she had to talk to the players, Mandira had to really know the game. And given her other duties during the tournament, that wasn’t all that easy. “I was fully prepared, though,” she says. “I watched all the matches and if I’d missed one because I was doing some soft feature story someplace else, I watched the highlights. I had to know how each player performed and how each team played before I could put the mike to them.”

Given her previous image of noodle-straps and slinky sarees, though, was it hard for Mandira to be taken seriously? “Well,” she says, “They answered my questions with all seriousness. Moreover, most of the players, the foreigners included, had seen me before on TV. They knew me as a cricket presenter, so I really didn’t have trouble with them.”

Blog Buster
The players may have been courteous, but someone else in the IPL wasn’t. The person known as the Fake IPL Blogger, whose inside stories of the IPL fascinated the whole nation, had lots of not nice things to say about Mandira. She was very ‘close’ to certain cricketers, he insinuated on his blog. She also partied wildly.

Mandira is quick to defend herself. “Whoever this guy was, he’s a creative genius. He made up so many stories and gave such creative names to people. Ramiz Raja was called Kameez Pyjama. How interesting. But of my partying, all I can say is of the 40 days that I was in SA, I went out only on seven evenings. If that is too much, then so be it,” she asserts.

Not that it really matters, she adds. Mandira couldn’t care less about random gossip so long as her family doesn’t take it seriously. And it doesn’t. “My husband Raj is more chilled out about all this than I am,” she says. “I still get irritated. But he sees it purely as another person’s point of view. If this man wishes to say nasty things about me, I can’t help it. So why bother?”

Just me
Back to the field then. At the start of the IPL, Mandira didn’t look like the strong confident woman she’d always been in the studio. Rather, she looked quite lost.

“I tried not to look that way, but yes, I was lost,” she admits. “This was the first time I was presenting cricket alone. There was no Charu (Sharma, her co-host in the last season). I had never presented without Charu, ever. I was thrown among the masters of the game without any support and I was live on TV. So initially it was a bit intimidating, but it got okay with time.”

That was when her new look come in handy. Finally, she says, she could be herself on TV. So were the noodle-straps and sarees not the real her?

“I love my sarees, but they are for occasions when I want to put my best foot forward,” says Mandira. “This new look is for when I just want to be myself. This time, I wore the clothes I usually wear and behaved the way I usually do. Can it get any better than this? Be yourself, do exactly what you want and yet be on TV with some of the best known names in the world?”