New Delhi: It was a scandal to begin with - a Bengali Hindu girl having a clandestine relationship with a Muslim boy. It did not matter then that the boy was a celebrated cricketer and belonged to a royal family. But for Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi and Sharmila Tagore, love was the foremost important thing.
When they got married in 1969 few expected it to last. But then as the cliché goes, love conquered them all.
It was perhaps love at first sight for Tiger Pataudi when he first met the bong beauty in 1965 in New Delhi. Sharmila, an established actress at that time was in the capital for a shoot and Tiger Pataudi got introduced to her through a common friend. But the beautiful dame was hard to impress. She took four long years, dozens of roses, numerous proposals and a refrigerator to finally say a yes to the charming cricketer.
In an interview to a magazine few years back, Sr. Pataudi had admitted that wooing Sharmila took a long time. "She batted on for four long years."
Initially like any other typical love story, there was opposition to the alliance from both the families. Sharmila`s parents did not like the idea of their daughter getting married into an orthodox Muslim family while Tiger’s parents were apprehensive of their son getting married to a movie star who was hailed as a sex symbol of the nation. After a lot of persuasions, both parties agreed. Sharmila also had to convert to Islam to become Pataudi’s begum.
But even though the families agreed to the alliance, there were opposition from people at large. Sharmila Tagore in an interview to a leading paper had mentioned candidly, “Even though our families had made their peace with us, there was the odd threat to disrupt our wedding plans. To be cautious, my parents obtained permission to have us married in a small ceremony at Fort William. But since some of our guests were from Pakistan, we could not get married there. The ceremony finally took place at a friend`s home in Kolkata. One morning, I woke up to find two gentlemen from the CID in my sitting room. Apparently they had been sent from Delhi, for my `protection`. I assured them I didn`t need any, but they politely refused to budge. That was the political climate of India then — in spite of the fact that the man I had married was the captain of the Indian cricket team! A few weeks later, the Shankaracharya of Puri ex-communicated me for marrying a Muslim.” Soon after the wedding Sharmila quit films and became the perfect bahu of the Pataudi household.
Interestingly, the film actress was a cricket buff when she met her future husband the first time but Pataudi had not seen a single film of Sharmila’s!
While everyone predicted doom, young Pataudi and Sharmila were perhaps determined to work it out. “We were told we wouldn`t last — apparently a serious institution like `marriage` was not for `fickle` young people like us. Thank god we proved them wrong!” said the actress.
They sure did! And it certainly was one of the longest ‘partnership’ that the cricketer played in his life.