Fitness freak and accomplished martial arts exponent Akshay Kumar will sponsor five wrestlers to help keep the traditional sport alive.
"Whatever the cost, I will bear it in full. The decision taken is final," Akshay told IANS.
Akshay's announcement came when he attended a recent competition organised by the Maharashtra Wrestling Association (MWA). He declared that he would look after all the professional needs of five among the wrestlers who came from different parts of India to take part in the contest. He said he would ensure that their wrestling career did not run into roadblocks due to financial reasons.
How much the sponsorship would be worth in terms of financial involvement has not yet been figured out.
Akshay's announcement not only gladdened the hearts of the struggling wrestlers but also brought smiles to Sanjay Nirupam, former MP and Maharashtra Congress spokesman. Nirupam has been single-handedly promoting wrestling by holding an annual tournament in Mumbai for a decade.
Apart from proving a shot in the arm to MWA, Nirupam said this unexpected gesture from Akshay would infuse much-needed glamour to the sport, confined to small rural 'akhadas' (Indian wrestling rings filled with sand) in many parts of the country.
He said: "While Bollywood is generally enamoured of cricket, Akshay's gesture will turn the spotlight on a game which is not as glamorous. I hope more resourceful Bollywood stars would follow suit.
"After Dara Singh walked out of the ring to work in movies in the 1960s, the game lost much of its sheen."
Nirupam says that the actor, who gave four hits last year, is not thinking about any monetary gains by associating himself with the sport.
"Akshay offering to put money on five Mumbai wrestlers to be chosen by me has no selfish designs. His is entirely a no-profit investment. His father, Hari Om Bhatia, was also a noted wrestler from Punjab. He has lived and grown with this sport at his home and is aware how professional Indian wrestlers struggle in their life and career."