The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Star trek sets stadium blind date

She makes Bollywood dance to her beat — and we aren’t talking about Farah Khan here. Smita Thackeray’s wish is every star’s command on the glittering Mumbai stage.

But in Calcutta, there is a cloud over the biggest Bollywood line-up the Thackeray bahu is scheduled to bring to the Salt Lake stadium.

The stud Khans (Salman and Fardeen), the sisters Kapoor (Kareena and Karisma), the dancing duo (Shilpa Shetty and Yana Gupta) are to perform on the stadium turf for an evening extravaganza. The grand plan has been “postponed”, though the players on the sidelines have different reasons why.

Hearing of the concert, originally scheduled for February 28, East Bengal, set to take on Salgaocar in the National Football League tie on February 29, apparently requested sports minister Subhas Chakraborty to defer the Bollywood bash.

Stadium management experts say it takes at least “seven to 10 days” to get the ground match-ready after a concert involving a midfield stage.

The minister lost no time in announcing that “sport would be given priority over cultural events”, while admitting that functions are vital to the stadium’s calendar of events, as they bring in revenue for its wellbeing.

Back in Mumbai, Smita Thackeray’s office claimed to have left the pitch long before the tie-breaker at Writers’ Buildings. Mid-March is the earliest the concert can take place, was the word from the Thackeray office because of the unavailability — not of the stadium, but of top-draw Kareena.

“She is shooting in Dubai, and her producer would not release her for February 28. All the other confirmations were in,” said Alwyn Rodricks, Thackeray’s personal assistant. “We wanted to come with the whole team we had promised, to avoid any disappointment.”

The sports department has only issued provisional permission for the concert, said principal secretary S.B. Mondal. Organised by Calcutta-based Bhagwati, in association with Thackeray’s Mukti Foundation, part of the proceeds are to go towards HIV/AIDS awareness projects.

“We issued the provisional permission a long time ago when the organisers approached us. After that, we haven’t heard from them,” clarified Mondal.

Going by signals from the Smita Thackeray camp, the sports department will hear of the star trek at Salt Lake soon.

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