An Open letter on Salman Khan's appointment as Olympics ambassador
Unlike other users of the open letter format, I confess to no dislike for it. While they have become as tripe as Bhai's movie scripts, they are also equally popular, effective and rake in the views.
I, in fact, like them and for better reasons – they are first person and provide an unfettered outlet for passion and outrage. They, of course, are like shouting your throat out from the base of the ivory tower while the ruling classes stand deafened by the clink of their wine glasses up at the penthouse party. But that is never the impetus behind these open letters; you want to be heard by the miscellaneous masses beside you. Hence, let's leave this letter open and unaddressed.
I started watching the Olympics when I was 10. It was Atlanta in 1996. With the innocence that you see only in children, I hoped that my countrymen will bring home “a lot of medals”. I would watch the replays on DD in a small colour TV every day after school religiously. Any advance into the next round would be the center of lunch-time discussions. But, one after the other they sputtered and failed like flames on a windy balcony – Shiny Wilson, Jaspal Rana, Sebastian Xavier, Limba Ram. One giant-killer stood up and punched far above his weight when it mattered. We were all jealous when my classmate told us he had been ball-boy for Leander Paes' practice sessions in Madras. But I still did feel let down and betrayed. No fault of the brave athletes, but my young mind could not comprehend how and why so many of them came back empty-handed, how a nation of 100 crore people (back then) could not bring home even 10 medals.
But that betrayal feels silly today. Salman Khan is ambassador for India at the Olympics? Before we begin, big fan. Okay. Not so big a fan. While not part of the legions of his, i have at least watched his movies, even after all the scandals he has been through. I mean ‘allll’ of them ( I lost count somewhere down the line). I am a strong proponent of the school of thought that separates the artist from his work. I love Woody Allen's movies and watch them despite his controversial personal life. But this one is a bit too far even for me.
We have, as a country, been unmindful of the moral sickness of our leaders and celebrities. Adultering senators in the United States would be forced to resign within hours, but we let polygamous leaders rule our states for decades. But you know the decadence may have reached dangerous levels when your ambassador to the greatest sporting event on the planet is a serial offender. One wonders what the reasons were that led the masterminds behind this decision.
And not unlike his movies, not much is left for our imagination. Olympics is here. Olympics has wrestling. Bhai has movie on wrestling releasing soon. Bhai wants free publicity for movie. Bhai offers his priceless services. The who's who pounce on Bhai's cheap offer. Bollywood, sports. Bhai, Bhai. It would be hilarious, if only it was not so infuriating.
It augurs well that the 'real stars' of the nation have already started questioning this ill-fated decision. In a series of tweets, Olympic medalist Yogeshwar Dutt passionately tackled, slammed to the mat and completed the countdown on Bhai all in 140 characters.
Ambassador का क्या काम होता है कोई मुझे बता सकता है क्या. क्यूँ पागल बना रहे हो देश कि जनता को.😡 https://t.co/vtjb0XWdP8— Yogeshwar Dutt (@DuttYogi) April 23, 2016
Kahi bhi ja Kar apni movie ka promotion kare,Es desh me adhikar hai Lekin Olympic movie promotion ki jagah Nahi https://t.co/ed6vCqNMXT— Yogeshwar Dutt (@DuttYogi) April 23, 2016
PT Usha,Milkha Singh jaise bade sports star hai jinhone kathin samay me desh ke liye mehnat ki. Khel ke kshetra me Es ambassador ne Kya kiya— Yogeshwar Dutt (@DuttYogi) April 23, 2016
On deeper analysis, however, Bhai would make the perfect ambassador. He would score a perfect 10 in shooting if someone would replace the regular drab targets with stuffed chinkaras. Blackbuck dolls would serve the exact amount of inspiration for Bhai to hit the gold in the double trap event. Post that, he could give Bolt a run for his money if only the starting line were at the traffic lights of Mumbai and segued onto the footpaths. Special events organized for 'Fastest foot in the mouth' could very well push Bhai up the ranks, and subsequently India into the double digits in medal tally for the first time ever. Ignorant naysayers to Bhai's will to win need only look at his unbeaten streak of courtroom victories to turn overnight into cheerleaders.
The unholy all-pervasiveness of Bollywood has so far haunted the stands of only the local leagues of IPL, ISL and so on, and the sportsfans found it bearable, if not blissful. The current intrusion, however, raises far-reaching questions. How far really will we bend over backwards to a self-propagating nexus of semi-talented spoilt brats? How far do we allow them to dictate who we get to hear during cricket matches and what we get to hear? How long do we let serial offenders hold the torch forward in our march to the greatest celebration of the human spirit? Why don't we, as Yogeshwar asked, celebrate our greatest athletes as brand ambassadors? If that does not suffice for brand power, why not one of our greatest sports stars even if they are not Olympians? Why not Sachin Tendulkar?
And finally, who or what gets branded over here. The IOA has proudly announced that their catch has been at zero loss to the exchequer – Bhai has solemnly offered to be the ambassador without taking a single rupee. He would probably have gleefully paid millions in hopes of some of the Olympic stardust rubbing the tainted grime off him. #BeingHuman
When the dust settles though, he would still remain the brand ambassador for India for the Olympics. And the powers-that-be would enjoy a hearty laugh at our expense before moving over to that next money-spinning spectacle that straddles Bollywood and sports. A word of caution there to the authorities – Whatever you do, do not utter “Road to Rio” in his majesty's presence. He could unwittingly wander onto the footpath beside.
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