CELEBS SUP­PORT DI­VERSE SPORTS

Hindustan Times (Patna) - Live - - Front Page - An­jali Thakur an­jali.thakur@ hin­dus­tan­times.com

The as­so­ci­a­tion be­tween show­biz and sport truly took off with the In­dian Premier League, when ac­tors Shah Rukh Khan, Juhi Chawla, Pre­ity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty in­vested in teams, gen­er­at­ing in­tense in­ter­est in the T20 league. A few years down the line, the scene is more di­verse.

While cricket still gets more eye­balls than any other game in this coun­try, its ab­so­lute dom­i­nance has waned. Even as the IPL auc­tion took place yes­ter­day, other sport­ing dis­ci­plines such as kabaddi, football and mixed mar­tial arts could boast high-pro­file back­ers — ac­tors Ajay Devgn, Ar­jun Ram­pal, Ran­deep Hooda, Tiger Shroff and Jac­que­line Fer­nan­dez, to name a few. Some of them are not just pro­mot­ing, but also in­vest­ing e.g. in the Pro Kabaddi League and Su­per Fight League (mixed mar­tial arts).

Devgn, who owns the team Mumbai Ma­ni­acs, a part of the mixed mar­tial arts league, says, “I love it, be­cause I’m con­nected to ac­tion. It’s fun, ex­cit­ing and very chal­leng­ing. That’s why I wanted to be a part of this, af­ter we saw how it hap­pens in the US.” Devgn is an ad­vanced ex­po­nent of taekwondo, a form of mar­tial Dom­i­nance of cricket chal­lenged, as Bol­ly­wood celebri­ties pro­mote and in­vest in other dis­ci­plines arts from Korea.

Fit­ness en­thu­si­ast Ar­jun Ram­pal, who was in the Cap­i­tal for a mixed mar­tial arts match this week­end, also finds the sport “ex­tremely ex­cit­ing”. He says, “We want to take it to the grass­roots level of In­dia.”

Ab­hishek Bachchan’s en­thu­si­as­tic role in the Pro Kabaddi League gave this game a makeover. For ages, a non-ur­ban game, kabaddi now draws big crowds in city sta­di­ums. “I’d love to be an agent who can change In­dia’s at­ti­tude to­wards sport,” said Ab­hishek ear­lier.

In­vest­ment in a sport is a blend of pas­sion and profit for celebri­ties. Juhi Chawla says, “It’s a mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial re­la­tion­ship, in which both parties get more ex­po­sure.”

Ar­baaz Khan, who was in Delhi to pro­mote his film, is also keen, say­ing, “I love cricket, but if I get a chance, I’d in­vest in box­ing or wrestling.”

PHOTO: PRAMOD THAKUR/HT

Left: Ab­hishek Bachchan’s role changed the face of pro kabaddi in In­dia; Above: Ac­tors Tiger Shroff and Jac­que­line Fer­nan­dez have in­vested in the mixed mar­tial arts league

PHOTO: PTI

Taekwondo champ and ac­tor Ajay Devgn (cen­tre) and ac­tor Ar­jun Ram­pal pro­mote mixed mar­tial arts

PHOTO: MANAN VAT­SYAYANA/AFP

Juhi Chawla was among the first IPL team own­ers from Bol­ly­wood

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