IPL Nights: curtain lifts on mingling set

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  • Published 23.04.10

April 22: If big boys played at night three decades ago, the players have grown bigger and the nights naughtier in the age of IPL.

What happens at IPL Nights, the after-match parties organised at the team hotels and drawing criticism in the wake of the scandals surrounding the blockbuster game? The Telegraph has pieced together an account, based on descriptions by some of those who attended these parties and what the paper’s reporters saw first-hand in Calcutta.

Seven of the 55 parties took place in Calcutta, on all the Kolkata Knight Riders’s home match days, at ITC, The Sonar. The event had two parts — a short fashion show at Pala, the hotel banquet, and then the party at Dublin, the nightclub.

Once the 10-minute fashion show got over and the photographers were coaxed out, the real action started at Pala and then moved on to Dublin.

The term in vogue was “mingling”. On one side, “mingling” involved cricketers, support staff and other members of the team entourage. On the other were foreign cheerleaders, models from other metros and some city girls who would otherwise be seen lingering at Calcutta nightclubs.

Their calling cards? Little black dresses and backless numbers. A city businessman said: “Some of these girls made huge amounts of money, going up to lakhs, every night.”

Not that the cricketers were poor victims. “We got a lot of support from the players during the IPL Nights…. They seemed to have enjoyed these parties quite a bit,” said Mehr Jessia Rampal, the former model who “officially” organised the parties with her husband and actor Arjun Rampal.

Those who were witness to the wild parties, which went on till the late hours of the morning, have many a story to tell. About a fast bowler from Down Under. About a struggling Indian six-hitter. About the Caribbean big man. Mostly the ones who failed on the field.

Some of the city’s party regulars also attended these events.

To make the cut, you had to either be holding the Rs 32,000 super hospitality ticket or be on the guest list of the fashion designer who was showcasing collections on that particular night or on the list of IMG, the event management company. IMG said its role was limited to “helping out in guest list management” at the check-in gate.

While the parties were hosted under the umbrella of the IPL, Arjun and Mehr chose everything from the décor design to the designers. They were paid fees estimated between Rs 15 crore and Rs 24 crore for the 55-party assignment.

“I feel that a Rs 24-crore budget is too much to allocate to night parties. It’s too much money especially when you are not even promoting anything,” said Shaina NC, a fashion designer associated with the BJP.

The Rampals are family friends of Shah Rukh Khan and the couple had been accompanying SRK to cheer KKR at home and away games right from IPL 1 in 2008. During IPL Nights, the only time King Khan made an appearance on the fashion ramp was when Mehr dragged him from the back row.

“The after-match party was my concept because I felt that lifestyle was an important aspect of the IPL,” Mehr said.

Was Lalit Modi involved? “The whole IPL team made it possible…. It is very easy to think of something so huge but to get the backing is something.”

Husband Arjun echoed the sentiments and added: “IPL Nights is a natural extension of brand IPL. It is a great way to end things in a nice way.”

But at least one fashion designer said no payment was made. Unlike the models walking the ramp, who signed contracts with the Rampals’ company Chasing Ganesha, and were paid, the designers just exchanged a letter of confirmation.

So why did designers like Manish Malhotra and Anamika Khanna agree to show their collections? The reasons varied from Shah Rukh on the front row to friendship with Mehr to just the thrill of being part of the game-meets-glamour platform.

“Initially, I thought it would be a great opportunity to showcase my designs at such a celeb gathering but then I realised that the fashion show was just an excuse for the party which was the main focus,” said a city designer. “We all got a real bad deal.”