Brett Lee: From Cricket to Bollywood Star

Brett Lee with Marc Fennell - The Feed

Cricketers sneaking out at night for nefarious reasons isn't all that rare, but Brett Lee was probably the first one who was doing it to record an Indian pop single. #thefeedsbs

Posted by SBS 2 on Thursday, October 8, 2015

People have started to see the trailer for Unindian and they're going, ‘Brett Lee in a Bollywood movie - how in the hell did that come about?’

Well it goes back to 1994 when I first went to India. I was 17, got sick, hated bowling on the wickets, but I got home after two months and thought, I really loved that trip. There was something about India that struck this beautiful chord within me.

Over the years the love grew for India, from the culture to the people. Fast forward a few years, and I got a couple of Bollywood offers, but I wasn't ready. I was still playing cricket. Then this Australian movie came across the desk. I had a look at it and loved the script, loved what it stood for, and I thought, this would be a good chance to do my first movie. So why not?

One of the things I've discovered while researching this film is that this is not necessarily your first appearance. If you go through the credits of the movie Babe, there's the name Brett Lee there. How is it that you ended up there?

I was looking after some pigs in the agricultural shed when I was in about Year 7 or Year 8. In the movie Babethey used 52 pigs, because obviously the pig grows up, so they'd go, here's the next pig, and then that one grows up, because pigs grow pretty quickly. Apparently I may have helped with one of the pigs.

So did you not realise at the time?

No, I didn't have a clue. Someone said, 'Your name is in the movie', so whether it is me or not? Still don't know.

Just own it. Nobody's going to question it. It's on your IMDB page now. You do have this massive hit song in India that you wrote - how did that come about?

In 2006 I was over there for a tour with the Aussies, I met two people from a company and they said, ‘We'd love you to do a collaboration with Asha Bhosle'. They asked if I'd heard of her and I said, 'Yeah, of course!' This girl is an absolute legend.

She's the voice of every Bollywood song.

I didn't realise at that time she was 74. Not that there's anything wrong with 74. I wrote this cheesy, pathetic little love song…

No it's not! We've been playing it in the office for two weeks on a loop.

Your ears must be burning. When I went home and I asked if I could have a go at writing the song, they said yes. So I picked up the guitar, got the speakerphone on, played it and sang some lyrics down the phone. He said he loved it.

No one knew I was doing it from the team so I was sneaking out of the hotel. We're in this locked down hotel where security is tight - people can't really get in, you can't really get out. So I sneaked out and did this song, put down the vocal, put down the guitar, put in the bass, did it, went home, and then six weeks later get a phone call to say it's on the charts.

You making a hit song in secret is my favourite part of this.

Yeah, no one knew about it.

What's the most misunderstood thing about Brett Lee?

I get the tag 'injury prone' and that type of stuff. I've had two elbow operations, six ankle ops, broke my back twice...

Do you think sport fans in Australia recognise how much pain you guys go through?

It changes from person to person. Doing the trade that I do as a fast bowler, so your spine... I always say it's a bit like a school ruler. You get the ruler and you bend it and you get this little white line coming up, and you keep bending it and eventually it snaps. Well, that's what happens with your spine. If you keep putting your body under immense pressure and putting power through your body, something needs to give.

The person at the ground doesn't see the hard work that goes in behind the scenes, doesn't see the thousands of hours of rehab. And I thought it was a gentleman's sport! Mum and Dad said, 'Play cricket because you won't get injured, don't play rugby’.

We've had some interesting experiences this year in the interaction between sports fans and players on the field, like with Adam Goodes and Buddy Franklin. Do you think we prepare elite sportspeople enough for that kind of scrutiny?

No, I don't think so. I think it's becoming better these days. I think young guys who are 15, 16 years of age have had no life experience. They throw you into a team, put you in a jersey with a number of your back, and you become the perfect role model.

That doesn't always happen; kids are growing up, they're finding out about life, about guys, or girls, depending on what team they're in. They're trying to work out who they are as a person.

And you're also under an incredible amount of physical pressure with your time being taken up with lots of training.

Then you get thrown in a press conference and you've got 20 journalists, it’s just, 'Okay, you've got to make your test debut - good luck’. I think I remember saying, 'I want to bowl really fast and see some blood on the pitch'. Steve Waugh said, 'You might want to do that mate, but maybe forget the blood thing’. Then you sit back years later and go, ‘What did I say that for?’