Irrfan Khan who plays a National champ who won the steeplechase event seven years in a row in his just-released bio-pic, Paan Singh Tomar, that opened to rave reviews and is holding its own in the second week, doesn’t hold out much hope for India at the Summer Olympics in London this year.
“I don’t see us winning any medals. And if we do it would be because of extraordinary individual talent or because a participant from a well-to-do family has the advantage of resources. Otherwise, I don’t see a successful Games for the country, we just don’t match up to world standards,” rues the National Award-winning actor.
Irrfan sighs over the fact that even though India is rich in sporting talent, many of them, like 800 metres runner Ram Singh, are trying to survive despite grabbing headlines with their track and field records.
“Many sportsmen take up running to feed their families. And after their careers are over, struggle for two meals a day. The sports ministry is of little help,” he says.
Point out to him that Milkha Singh’s shoes from the 1960 Olympics in Rome fetched R24 lakh at Rahul Bose’s sports auction, and prod him on whether he’d like to do something along those lines, and Irrfan says, “People know Milkha Singh because a film is being made on him but how many know Ram Singh and would pay for his shoes?” he asks.
“There should be a sports body to take care of these people, to ensure that their basic needs are met so they can focus on the sport.”
Cricket has a BCCI that is rich in funds... “Yes, and since it has so much money, why can’t some of it be used for other sport given that cricket is one of the few sports in our country to attract corporate sponsors?” he argues. “Why does the money have to remain for cricket alone?”
He admits that given the kind of money our cricketers are making today, every child in India dreams of becoming a cricketer. “That’s not a healthy sign,” he says. “You should be able to be guided by your talent and not some monetary gains.”
No money for Bangladeshi Nobel
Irrfan has been approached to play Nobel Prize winner Mohammad Yunus from Bangladesh in a film directed by Italian filmmaker Marco Amenta. Banker To The Poor, based on a bestseller, tells the story of how Yunus set up the Grameen Bank to lend money to the poorest of the poor, giving a boost to Bangladesh’s economy.
“Yes, I was excited by the narration and looking forward to the film. But they still have to raise 21 per cent of the funds required,’ he says. “Once that happens, we’ll review the project and see if I can still do it.”