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How did the decision to buy a kabaddi team originate?
Well, it all started sometime last year when Charu (Sharma) shared the idea of Pro Kabaddi League (PKL) that he and Anand (Mahindra) were working on. He showed me all the research that they had put together and I was instinctively kicked about it. I’m very happy to own the Jaipur Kabaddi PKL team. Your love for Chelsea is legendary as is your deep support for Team India and Mumbai Indians IPL team.
When did this affinity with sports start?
I’ve always been big on sports. When we were growing up, we were not so much into watching television. Every Sunday, a bunch of us used to play cricket, football and pithu outside the gates of Prateeksha. Whenever Dad (Amitabh Bachchan) was around, he used to join us and teach me. But there is one game that I taught him and it’s basketball. That’s because at that time basketball wasn’t played in India. I picked it up in my boarding school. In fact, I was captain of the basketball team in school. But my Dad introduced me to sports in a big way. He introduced me to the Brazilian football team. He introduced me to Muhammad Ali. I remember he used to collect these VHS tapes that had the recordings of all the great games so I saw the likes of Pele, Zico, Socrates in action. It just started from there and grew. That’s how I started All Stars Football Club, where a group of like-minded football loving guys get together and play for charity. I attribute a lot to sports in the shaping up of my personality.
Why buy a kabaddi team and not a cricket or football team? Why not kabaddi?
It’s a heritage sport. It is believed that it comes down from the times of Mahabharata. They say that Abhimanyu’s Chakravyuh — where one person was against seven — was a form of kabaddi. We are a cricket-loving nation and hockey is our national sport but kabaddi is the only indigenous sport and there’s no spotlight on it. It’s looked upon as a rural sport but you’ll be amazed with its reach. Do you know that in Mumbai itself there are 450 kabaddi clubs? Do you know that India has won all five Kabaddi World Cups and has won the Asian Games six times?
How much of this is business driven and how much is it about passion?
I’d be lying if I said that it’s a 100 per cent passion project. Nobody wants to lose money ever. But I firmly believe that in order to do something well, there has to be passion involved. There’s a line in Bluffmaster, which I told Rohan (Sippy) to put, where my character tells Boman (Irani) that if you don’t have this (points to his heart) then there is no point of this (points to the head).
So what’s your game plan for your team?
For the first three seasons I want to take the game to the urban youth in our country and try and make it as cool as football, cricket and tennis for them so that they pick it up. It’s time we have a sports revolution in India. Middle class India still thinks of sports only as a game. Even though cricket was always big in our country, there is no denying that the IPL has revolutionised it even more and made it a viable career option for so many cricketers. Not every sportsman can play for the country and we have to think of them too. I’m hoping with PKL, we can take kabaddi to the people.
Tell me about your sportsmanship. Are you a good loser or a bad one?
I’m a very bad loser. I hate losing. I sulk a lot whenever I lose. I have good sportsmanship and applaud the other team but I’m quite competitive. If you could play a sport professionally what would it be? Basketball.
Any plans of making a sports film?
When we were in boarding school in Switzerland, Rohan and I discussed an idea of making a movie about a bunch of slum kids who want to play basketball. Maybe it’s time to revisit the idea. In our industry there is a belief that sports films don’t do well but then we made Lagaan.
What about a biopic on a sportsman?
There are two men who I’d love to play on screen — Major Dhyan Chand and my dear friend Yuvraj Singh. Both are such extraordinary men and have led such incredible lives. Yuvraj is such a champion, a great human being and his story is full of triumph. It’s amazing the way he keeps fighting back. Talking of films, with Dhoom 3 you are a part of the biggest hit of Indian cinema but during the promotions one got a sense that you were quite terse with your projection.
Do you feel it’s an unfair proposition where the villain takes centrestage?
Well, I’m extremely happy with the success of Dhoom 3 but in today’s time, records keep breaking so the euphoria dies down. I’ve been attached with the Dhoom franchise for a decade now. It’s been a great journey. The format of the film is such that the villain assumes prominence. To be honest, I was hesitant about accepting Dhoom 3. I got a lot of flak for Dhoom 2 for reasons best unknown to me. I didn’t want to go through it again. At this stage of my career, I don’t need to take one for the team so I was not sure if I want to do Dhoom 3. That’s when my wife (Aishwarya Rai) talked some sense into me. She told me that people talk all the time but what matters is the voice on the street. And you know, just now when I was coming here, a bunch of kids saw me and started singing Dhoom machale. I think only our media thinks of this
‘Hero-Villain and who took the film away’ classification. Nobody says who took The Avengers away?
It was everybody’s movie.
What’s your cinema goal right now?
Just to keep doing the work that I’m doing. I have Happy New Year and All Is Well coming up. I don’t want to prove anything. There’s no monkey on the back. I just want to spread cheer to my audience.