IT PAYS TO PLAY THE REALITY GAME.
THEY are prominent names in various Indian sports but, despite winning honours for the country, have never really garnered the acclaim that our cricketers do. So, many of our sportspersons have taken the reality television route to acquire quick fame and big money, in the process becoming household names.
The reality fever for our non-cricketing heroes started when former hockey player and coach Mir Ranjan Negi participated in the dance reality show Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa 2. A year later, Indian football star Bhaichung Bhutia became an overnight sensation when he won Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa 3.
"After Chak De! Indiaportrayed a story based on my life on the big screen, people were curious to know more about me. The dance reality show that I participated in revealed my fun side as well as my artistic ability," says Mir. Later, he bagged a small role in Rahul Dholakia's film, Lamhaa.
Bhaichung says he participated in Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa "only to test my dancing ability". He however admits reality television has helped him become a familiar household name all over India.
Former WWE wrestler Khali voices a similar reason for participating in Bigg Boss 4. "I did not win but the show made me popular among the masses," says Khali, who also bagged a few Bollywood projects such as Kushtiand Ramaa The Saviour.
We look at four sporting heroes who are maximising the impact of reality TV right now.
STARRY STARRY HEIGHTS
QUICK CHECK: Krushna is a 21-year-old mountaineer from Pune. She holds the record for being the youngest Indian female mountaineer to climb Mount Everest. She achieved the record when she was 19.
STINT ON TV: Zor Ka Jhatka (2011)
THE REALITY EFFECT: Krushna Patil was the winner of the women's special episode on the ongoing water-based adventure game show, Zor Ka Jhatka, which is hosted by Shah Rukh Khan. She took home a cash prize of `10 lakh for winning the particular episode.
In the process, the win gave her instant recognition. And Krushna is quick to catch the irony of the situation. After her Everest conquest, she was signed on as the brand ambassador of a couple of products such as Docomo and Kokoraj Hair Oil, but these campaigns never gave her any prominence.
Just one episode of Zor Ka Jhatka, she admits, has made her a familiar name among the masses.
Krushna hopes her newfound reality television success will help her bag some new endorsement deals as well as television shows. She points out she would use the money generated that way to fund her dream expeditions to the South Pole and the North Pole. Armed with a diploma in dance, Krushna says she wants to appear on a dance show on reality television next.
QUICK BYTE: "I was initially quite hesitant to appear on reality television. The primary reason for thinking that way is that I always associated television game shows with models and actors. After Zor Ka Jhatka, however, my notions have changed. I feel this is a great medium for sportspersons like me to gain wider recognition.
Despite the laurels one achieves, one cannot deny that reality TV makes you popular more quickly. For instance, very few in India know anything about mountaineering. I aim to use my newfound popularity to familiarise the masses to this sport. I also want to earn enough money to help girls aspiring to take up mountaineering."
DANCE WITH A PUNCH
QUICK CHECK: Akhil Kumar, 30, is a Haryana based, internationally acclaimed bantamweight boxer. The Arjuna awardee won gold medals for India at the 2006 SAF Games, the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, the 2005 Commonwealth Boxing Championship and the 2003 Afro-Asian Games. He was declared the best boxer at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2006.
STINT ON TV: Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa 4 (2011)
THE REALITY EFFECT: Akhil has been popular among boxing lovers all over India but he points out that it was reality television that made him a celebrity among the masses.
Appearing on the current season of Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa, he says, has had a positive effect. Bollywood and endorsement offers are coming his way. He says he is going slow on the offers because he wants to focus on the upcoming World Boxing Championship, to be held in September. He also featured in a music album of Asha Bhonsle some time ago.
QUICK BYTE: "Reality TV gave me a public face. In India, the only sports that are considered glamorous are cricket and lawn tennis. Cricketers become stars overnight if they win one match but it's not easy for boxers.
People don't even remember the names of winners in boxing after the craze of a tournament is over.
Reality TV helps you reach out to the audience. I believe ever since I appeared on Jhalak Dikhlaa Jaa, more people have started to search my name on Google. That is a start in the right direction for me."
SOCKER FOR MOOLAH
QUICK CHECK: Manoj Kumar, 23, is a light welterweight boxer who originally hails from Rajound village in Haryana. He won the gold medal in his category at the 2010 Commonwealth Games held in the Capital last year and also secured a bronze medal at the 2007 Asian Boxing Championship.
STINT ON TV: Zor Ka Jhatka (2011) , guest participant on Kaun Banega Crorepati 4 (2010)
THE REALITY EFFECT: Manoj tells you the monetary boost from reality television has been the biggest boon for him so far. Despite winning lots of plaudits for the country, Manoj admits being cash strapped, and adds that he had to struggle even to garner funds for proper training all along.
This, he adds, was the main reason why he agreed to appear on Zor Ka Jhatka.
Manoj started off on the Shah Rukh Khan-hosted adventure show on a bright note. He was the winner of the opening episode of the show, which made him richer by `10 lakh.
The victory also helped him gain a direct entry into the Grand finale. If he wins the final he will pocket `50 lakh.
Manoj says he is getting endorsement offers that he plans to take up once Zor Ka Jhatkais wrapped up. He adds that his reality TV stint has helped him handle fame with confidence, too.
QUICK BYTE: "The reality TV exposure helped me deal with fame, and also introduced me to several celebrities including Shah Rukh Khan. People now recognise my name more easily. Boxers, after all, are not so frequently covered by the media in India as cricketers are. Reality television is a good option for non-cricketing sportspersons like me to earn quick recognition and money."
QUICK CHECK: Daughter of former wrestler Master Chandgiram, 23-yearold Sonika is India's only professional female wrestler. She has represented the country in various national and international tournaments.
STINT ON TV: Khatron Ke Khiladi 2(2009), Zor Ka Jhatka (2011)
THE REALITY EFFECT: Sonika gained instant popularity on Khatron Ke Khiladi, anchored by Akshay Kumar. She managed to make a mark thanks mainly to her close resemblance to Twinkle Khanna, Akshay's wife. The fact that she finished among the last seven finalists helped her earn good money and also brought her in the limelight. Right now Sonika is seen on the Shah Rukh Khan-hosted Zor Ka Jhatka.
QUICK BYTE: "Reality TV gave me overnight recognition. Having become a household name, I can now push the cause of women's wrestling in India more easily. I always wanted to promote the cause but never had enough resources. After Khatron Ke Khiladi, I used a portion of my earning to set up a training facility for aspiring women wrestlers. People in India tend to associate women sportspersons mainly with lawn tennis, swimming, badminton and athletics. My introduction on reality TV as a female wrestler has promoted the cause of the sport for women, too."
After his cricketing career waned, Kambli took a shot at Bollywood with a stint as hero. His debut film, Annarth, co-starring Sunil Shetty and Preeti Jhangiani, however flopped. He was seen on a few TV shows subsequently.
Now that he is close to retirement from the sport that made him a global icon, India's tennis ace Leander Paes is all set to make his Bollywood debut. His first film is Ashok Kohli's social satire, Rajdhani Express. Paes has also bagged a thriller, Agent K, directed by Arindam Mitra. He plays a spy in the film.
The former cricketer appeared in films such as Kurukshetra and Pitaah, alongside Sanjay Dutt. He also essayed a vital role in Zayed Khan's debut film, Chura Liya Hai Tumne. Known as a fast bowler in his heydays, Ankola's Bollywood stint may have been brief but he went on to make his mark on the small screen. He appeared successfully on several soaps including Chahat Aur Nafrat and Kora Kaagaz.
The first boxer to win a medal for India at the Olympics, Vijender is reportedly all set to make his Bollywood debut opposite Govinda's daughter, Narmmada Ahuja. While Narmmada is gunning for a size zero figure to present a sexy image, Vijender is learning karate for his role that promises to be an action-packed one.
Patil, a member of India's World Cup winning cricket squad of 1983, starred opposite Poonam Dhillon and Debashree Roy in Kabhi Ajnabi The in 1985, which also featured Syed Kirmani as villain. He plans to launch son Chirag in Bollywood soon.
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