One of the fastest bowlers the world has seen, a commentator, a post-match show host, a musician and now an actor – Brett Lee is always up to something, much like his favourite Indian city, Mumbai, says Priya Adivarekar
“Butter chicken, that’s my favourite – of course with less spices,” says the 39-year-old former Australian fast bowler. “I guess that has got to do with the fact that I’m a firang, but thoda thoda masala chalta hain,” he adds, grinning.
When Brett Lee talks like that, you cannot help but grin along with him, especially when you have seen him play the adorable Will in his first film UnIndian, which released in India last month (the world release was in end 2015). “Working with the people of India – whether as competitors on the pitch or as crew members on the sets of UnIndian – has been an incredible experience. Indians are very real and warm. I have always believed they are extremely giving. I think that is one of the many aspects that makes India so very beautiful,” says Lee, lovingly called Binga.
As he hops from one promotional event to the other in Mumbai, Lee talks about how visiting India has always been special. “However, even after all these trips to India, the chaotic Mumbai traffic still upsets me,” he confesses. “Travelling from one place to another can really take a lot of time, and it tends to get tedious, especially when you have work.”
“But all the stress vanishes when children on the streets come up to me and ask for autographs,” Lee adds, beaming. “Or when fans want to click pictures with me. This is exactly why I love this country. I like to call it my second home.” So did he get a chance to explore it? “Unfortunately, no. I have been travelling around Mumbai and Delhi for movie promotions, but I would love to visit rural India. I haven’t had the time to zero in on a particular place, but I have that in mind for my next trip to the country,” Lee says. Among the cities he has visited, Mumbai remains his favourite, though. “There is always something happening in the city – be it a festival, a cricket match or a grand event,” he says. “I love exploring south Mumbai, especially the areas around Gateway of India – I see it as a perfect window to the city’s past.” He also loves Rajasthan, which he visited for a travel show in 2013. “Rajasthan has so much beauty and history to it. I still remember my visit to the Jain temple in Jaipur – the peace and positive energy it radiated was amazing. But when it comes to architecture, I think nothing beats the Taj Mahal,” he says.
However, he admits he has not seen as much of the country as he wants to. “During tournaments, I would usually just be shuttling between the hotel and the stadium, so I never really got enough time to explore the country the way I would like to. Now that I am done playing cricket (he retired from international cricket in 2015), I’ve got my travel wish list ready. I can now make frequent trips to India and explore regions and cities I have always wanted to,” he says, laughing.
We wonder which Indian state Lee would pick first. Keep an eye out, travellers. You might just spot Binga around!