Chennai’s unlikely hero-worship stories

Chennai's unlikely hero-worship stories
5. General

Chennai’s unlikely hero-worship stories

Welcome to the twenty-third edition of ‘3-2-1 by Story Rules‘.

A newsletter recommending good examples of storytelling across:

  • 3 tweets
  • 2 articles, and
  • 1 long-form content piece

Let’s dive in.

🐦 3 Tweets of the week

It’s a great insight – a lot of reading happens driven by fear of ‘I cannot miss this’. We should also read for pleasure and inspiration.

Clearly. this teenager ended up surprising his dad.

A lovely ad and evocative description by Karthik.

📄 2 Articles of the week

a. ‘Can Indian fans ever expect a pleasant stadium experience?’ by Sidharth Monga

In the recent ICC AGM, BCCI managed to negotiate a higher share of ICC’s net surplus earnings (40%, up from 25%). It makes sense, given how much the Indian fan drives the game’s commerce.

The Indian market contributes so much because it can sell the product – live coverage of cricket matches – to a much bigger population than the rest of the cricket world combined. The BCCI has argued its case, and now managed to seemingly convince the rest of the world, for a larger share on the basis of the high numbers and the passion of Indian cricket fans.

Most organisations would treat their biggest asset with a lot of care, love and respect… And yet:

Even as discussions about the revenue model were being held at ICC headquarters in May, a number of the Indian fans on whom the BCCI’s empire is built were being baton-charged outside cricket stadiums and ticket collection points as they tried to get themselves tickets for IPL matches. Even those who had managed to buy the small percentage of tickets made available online needed to collect physical copies of them by queuing up. Those who wished to actually buy the tickets being sold offline turned up in larger numbers. In peak summer, with no shade, people waited hours for tickets that would run out in minutes.”

Can there be a bigger show of power than being able to treat like dirt your biggest asset, your biggest bargaining chip? The fans are the reason you can win any argument at the ICC. They are the weight behind every threat you make of withdrawing from a tour. They are the reason the red carpet is rolled out for your team everywhere you go. And you don’t even have to care about them.

How powerful you must feel knowing that even if you don’t build it, they will come. Indian cricket grounds are like trains in the country: dirty, dangerous, and manned by rude people, but there is no alternative to them.

The article ends on a note of optimism… for the sake of the cricket fan, I hope it is true…​

b. ‘The Romantic Idiot: One year, endless misadventures—my unfiltered dating diary’ by Samarth Bansal

Samarth Bansal gives a candid, heartfelt account of what it’s like to be dating in today’s times:

An anonymous user on Reddit summed it up brilliantly: “For men, dating is like dying of thirst in the desert. Not a drop of water in sight. For women, it’s like dying of thirst in the ocean. Water is everywhere, but it’s mostly toxic and full of salt.”

📖 1 long-form read of the week

a. ‘When Thala became Thalaivar: how MS Dhoni joined the pantheon of mythical Tamil heroes’ By Karthik Krishnaswamy

The cricketer MS Dhoni is a Kumaoni Rajput from Ranchi. But he is treated as a God in Chennai – the city he represents in the IPL.

“He’s taking his guard, he’s strapping his gloves, and Mark Wood is steaming in, and I remember thinking, ‘Ah, Wood, I don’t think MS can do much.’ If he can get a boundary or something, that would be good, but a really express bowler and MS facing his first ball, I didn’t expect much.”​

And then he slashed his first ball over third man. People had already started screaming, and I think there was a deep third man there, and I was like, he might get caught, but once it cleared the boundary, I went crazy. People were taking out their phones and there were flashes everywhere. The whole stadium had gone to the next level. Again, nobody cared about what happened off the next ball. Nobody really cared about the total that CSK were going to get. I cared a little bit, but in that moment I was like, yeah okay, cool, what’s he going to do now?”​

What he was going to do was, well, Rajiniesque.​

“The first six, if you thought people went crazy, then you had to be there for the second six,” Pilani says. “The first one was just a slash, right? It barely made it over the boundary, but the second one – you love pull shots, you see your favourite batsman smacking a 150kph bowler’s bouncer for six. I just remember people jumping on the seats at that moment when he hit it. You can’t make sense of what is happening. People were on their seats, they were jumping, I was jumping. It was crazy. The noise, if it was possible, had gone up by a few hundred decibels more.”

In this long article, Karthik tries to make sense of the ‘Thala’ Dhoni phenomenon. One surprising TIL: While Chennai/Tamil Nadu might have a reputation as a relatively insular place, it can be surprisingly accepting of ‘outsiders’ who fit in:

It isn’t rare for Tamil Nadu, and Tamil cinema in particular, to embrace outsiders. Examples abound. Playback singers TM Soundararajan, PB Sreenivas, P Susheela, SP Balasubrahmanyam, S Janaki, KJ Yesudas and KS Chithra dominated the industry from the 1950s to the early 2000s; none of them spoke or speak Tamil as their first language. The two biggest female stars of Tamil cinema at the turn of the century were Simran and Jyothika, both North Indians born in Mumbai. Ajith, one of the leading male stars of the last two decades, was born to a Malayali father and a Sindhi mother.​

The biggest example, of course, is of MG Ramachandran, or simply MGR, who was born in Kandy, in British-ruled Ceylon, to a Malayali family, and went on to command a level of adulation that perhaps dwarfed even that which Rajini enjoyed after him.

While all these other stalwarts could speak Tamil, Dhoni does not even speak the language. What makes him so special…? Karthik has a theory:

“Kamal (Hassan) is his own man,” Shrikrishna says. “He’s had his share of controversies, and he’s very public about his personal life, so he doesn’t have the kind of aura Rajini has, or some political figures, or Vijay and Ajith, or even [the composer AR] Rahman for that matter. That humility – or the humility that the outside world sees – is what works in their favour. It appeals to a Tamil Nadu audience.​

The way [Dhoni] kind of hides himself in the background, but when he’s on the field, when he’s batting, you have the Dhoni style and swagger – I think that mix appeals to the kind of audience Tamil Nadu is. It’s a very potent combo that has worked and it will never not work.”

Style and swagger on the field. Simplicity and shunning off the limelight outside it. That combination seems to do the trick.

That’s all from this week’s edition.

Photo by AaDil on Unsplash

Get Storytelling tips in your Inbox

Subscribe to the 'Story Rules on Saturday' newsletter

Get a free e-book that decodes the hidden storytelling structure used by leaders like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
Your infomation will never be shared with any third party