The last time I saw Salman Khan, he was dancing on the streets of Jaipur during the wedding of a minister's son. This particular minister was heading the forest and wildlife department of Rajasthan. And Salman, as we all know, was in a bit of a soup for, well, allegedly turning some endangered animals into his dinner. Obviously, with due respect to Pankaj Udhas, those who have jail to fear, woh phir naache beech bazaar.
I had seen Salman once before that. It was, coincidentally, at the same minister's residence. The actor had come for a hearing of his poaching case in Jodhpur. After a day's hard work and appearing before courts, he was sprawled out on a cot in the minister's official bungalow.
Being treated like a king by the same minister whose department was supposed to prosecute him for killing black bucks and assorted deer. Among his audience that day was the son of the chief minister of the state that was prosecuting him. The poor dynast had just got married. He had a delicate problem he wanted Salman to resolve: How to regrow hair? Salman must have given some valuable tips. Next time I saw the chief minister's son, his scalp was in full bloom. Obviously, Salman has a lot of goodwill and the power to inspire youth to bring about noticeable changes to their hairstyles.
This street dancer and hair-replacement expert, the actor who allegedly killed protected animals in Jodhpur in the 90s and later drunk-drove a car over pavement dwellers in Mumbai, is now India's goodwill ambassador at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics starting in August 2016.
Excellent choice. We could not have found anybody with better sporting credentials, integrity and cleaner police record in a country of 1.25 billion to represent India at the global table. Who better to inspire us in pursuit of Citius (all his films are fastest to Rs 100 crore), Altius (his films take audience expectations higher and higher) and Furious, er, or was it Fortius?
You can, of course, ask what has Salman done for modern sports to deserve the honour. Did he, like Abhinav Bindra, win us our first individual gold medal at the Olympic games? Like Milkha Singh or PT Usha bring us to the edge of Olympic glory? Or, like Akhil Kumar and Vijendra Singh, inspire a generation of boxers? Did he achieve something outside the 70mm universe to become a bigger symbol of sporting glory than each of these legends who were overlooked?
On current evidence, Salman loves many primitive sports that must have inspired the Olympics in 776 BC. He reportedly loves a) sprinting after wildlife, chasing them in the deserts of Rajasthan till the hearts of the animals start bursting b) shooting endangered species in the dark of the night, c) racing on the streets of Mumbai and d) boxing some of his exes out of shape, as Aishwarya Rai would gladly testify.
Though Carl Lewis won four gold medals at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and PT Usha brought a bagful from the Seoul Asian Games in 1986, it is unlikely they could have inspired sprinters, shooters, racers and boxers simultaneously the way Bhai can with his oeuvre.
And there is plenty more to come. To begin with, his next film is on wrestling, the first time this has happened in his career. Bhai would soon turn up at dangals (sorry, Aamir Khan) and beat the pulp out of wrestlers from across the world to make India proud on screens and the box-office sing, never mind Olympic medals. Once people see Salman in a langot, they would take to wrestling just as youngsters took to hockey after Shah Rukh Khan's Chak de India, or to football after Ashutosh Gowarikar's Hip Hip Hooray. Just you wait for his next film Sultan to release, and Olympic wrestling would become a big hit.
Or, would it be the other way round?
There could be a problem though. Consider for a moment the embarrassing possibility of Salman getting convicted before the Olympics, either for alleged drunk driving and culpable homicide, or for reportedly killing protected animals in Rajasthan.
If that happens, the goodwill ambassador would be forced to watch the Olympics from a jail cell and look for a good lawyer. That would be something of a spectacle!