Sunday, September 10, 2006

Pompoms in Akhada: Kushti in age of WWF

Indian express, unknown date (around 2003)

Shailendra Awasthi, Mumbai, Feruary 29

Pompom meets langot, cheerleader meets pahelwan, catwalk meets clay. Welcome to Kushti in the age of the World Wrestling Federation.

At the all-India wrestling competition held here today, mud smeared pehelwans dressed in traditional langots (loincloths) walked down a 70-ft-long ramp to the ring, escorted by models, and to music played by Mumbai's famous wedding band Astik. While the audience remained all-male, 32 female cheerleaders were present to root for the wrestlers. The Akhada bore a new look too; raised to 4 ft above the ground, and laid with a foot-thick layer of clay.

If there was a strong hint of the schmaltzy but successful WWF, there were no complaints. Former wrestler and Uttar Pradesh Kesari (champion) Keshav Singh pointed out that unlike the staged wrestling extravaganzas of America, Indian kushti wasn't fixed. So it was a happy marriage of spectacle and tradition.

"We thought of bringing some novelty to the event," said Mukesh Parav, representative of the main sponsor, the Congress party's sport's cell. "A kind of trendsetter."

Opposition? There wasn't' any. "Mud wrestling should not remain untouched in the era of globalisation," said Singh, "Our image needs to be changed."

Murtaza Khan, vice-president of the Bharatiya Kushti Mahasangh, also welcomed the glamour, "If any change is for the betterment of the sport, it is always welcome," he reasoned.

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