All his life, Gurunath Meiyappan saw others — his friends, acquaintances and, most important, his cousins — run past him, showing off their achievements.
The Chennai Super Kings boss, now arrested for his alleged role in betting and fixing, had always been sneered at as an underachiever — despite belonging to Tamil Nadu’s famous Chettiyar family — for his not-too-bright academic and business careers.
“Guru was always put down by his cousins and was compared with the more successful RS Guhan, filmmaker son of his uncle M Sarvanan,” said a friend, who wanted to remain anonymous.
Behind the 38-year-old mild-mannered, likeable and shy to the point of being an off-putting man, was there an embittered and frustrated monster? Was the IPL betting racket his desperate stab at success?Money and the power that comes with it were, however, not new to Gurunath. His father M Balasubramanian, a filmmaker-businessman is one of the owners of the biggest film and television production companies based in south India — AVM Productions.
Gurunath once tried his hand at film producing. His big-budget movie, Vettaikaaran, did well in the box office, but he stopped making films after that. In fact, he has a long list of half-complete ventures.
He did well in the amateur golfing circuit, and it was hoped that he would turn a professional in future. After all, he was the son of Lalitha Subramaniam, one of India’s first woman golfers of international fame. But he left golf midway.
Next he developed interest in Formula One racing. People thought he could go far. But while his friend Narain Karthikeyan went on to become a professional racing driver, Gurunath dropped out of the race.
His friends said Meiyappan showed unwavering devotion to only two things in life — expensive toys, such as a R8-crore double-decker luxury yacht, and his wife Rupa.
He first struck gold by winning Rupa, daughter of N Srinivasan. The India Cement chief and future president of BCCI was initially not favourable to the idea of having Gurunath as his son-in-law since he had already chosen chess ace Viswanathan Anand for his daughter.
But Gurunath clung on to the only big score in his life. They got married in 2001. And the rise of the son-in-law began, but not without a hitch, though.
Srinivasan sent his daughter and son-in-law to the Great Lakes Institute of Management, 40km from Chennai, for an MBA. Rupa completed the course, but Gurunath again quit midway.
In 2009, when AC Muthiah, former BCCI president, challenged Srinivasan for owning CSK while being a BCCI office-bearer, Gurunath was made the team principal and CEO.
And for the first time in his life, Gurunath proved his efficient self. In the next few years, he developed an intricate betting system, involving middlemen, bookies, cricketers and even umpires.
According to Mumbai Crime Branch records, he used to place bets through small-time Bollywood actor Vindoo Dara Singh. And the stakes per match were as high as Rs. 5 lakh to Rs. 20 lakh.
A family friend said, “Balu (Guru’s father) told me that he was absolutely shocked. He said he would never have allowed Gurunath to splurge like Srinivasan did.”