So what if Bachchan was paid to sing national anthem?

Events like ICC World T20 are highly commercialised and everyone gets a share of the pie. It's the general norm.

 |  5-minute read |   21-03-2016
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In the "Twitter Outrage of the Day" (social media's number one soap opera, it always gets top billing) a large number of people were aghast that Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan was paid Rs 4 crore to sing the national anthem before the India-Pakistan match at Eden Gardens in the World Cup T20 2016.

What ho! This is paid patriotism I say? What's this? Isn't it nationalism on sale? LOL! This is Bharat Mata ki jai at a price? I see, no wonder he was waving the tricolour so vigorously when we won! That sums up the mood of the critics.

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Then Dada Sourav Ganguly (who else?) the former enfant terrible of Indian cricket and current chief of all cricket in West Bengal burst everyone's bubble. He told a local media outlet that not only did Amitabh refuse to accept money, but he paid for his travel and stay which came to lakhs!

So all's well that ends well and Amitabh sang for free and hence is patriotic and nationalistic and off the hook and so let's close the issue once and for all.

But here's the thing. Even if Amitabh accepted money to sing the national anthem, so bloody what? The International Cricket Council (ICC) makes tonnes on money out of events like the T20 World Cup.

The BCCI makes so much money that nobody still knows the full details of their earnings. All the sports channels getting cricketing rights usually laugh all the way to the bank. Everybody gets paid including the anchors, officials and players.

Amitabh is arguably India's greatest film personality and he's a professional too. There would be nothing out of place had he been paid to sing the national anthem in such an out-and-out commercial set-up like an ICC World Cup.

There was controversy also when music maestro AR Rahman allegedly asked for Rs 15 crore to compose the 2010 Commonwealth Games and reports said the final fee was in the region of Rs 5 crores. But again, this was an event worth thousands of crores of rupees.

Also read - Kohli and others' salaries revealed: Now make your balance sheets public, BCCI

In fact one report said that the opening ceremony itself cost Rs 350 crore. Then Rahman's fee was just 1.5 per cent of that. Let's face it. Today all sporting events are highly commercialised and everyone gets a share of the pie. It's the general norm.

There was even controversy when another Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan got paid a handsome fee for Satyamev Jayate. Why was he paid so much money for a TV serial focusing on social issues? Many asked.

Again, it's a commercial venture, stupid! The channel made its money, the advertisers were happy and a good message was also sent across to millions of viewers. So why should Aamir do it for free and why shouldn't he take a good share of the profits?

This brings us to the question as to why we are all so ashamed of making money in the first place. Why is everything passed off as a "service"? Our politicians were told that they were doing a "service" and that's why they were paid a pittance in 1947.

The colossal corruption that happened in the decades to follow is there for everyone to see. Rs 1.76 lakh crore for 2G. Rs 2 lakh crore for Coalgate. And so on and so forth. It's become a joke. How are we going to recover all that lost money? Nobody seems overtly bothered.

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Thousands of crores of rupees are routinely lost to corruption on a regular basis and that's OK. But if any legislator increases his or her salary by a few ten thousand rupees then all hell will break loose.

Even journalism was seen as a noble service in 1947 and hence the pathetic salaries. That also made no sense as it's a profession like so many others.

The term "government servants" is ridiculous and hence many of them have become "government looters" instead.

Working in the government is a service.

Politics is a service.

Journalism is a service.

Aamir's Satyamev Jayate is a service.

Also read - From Amitabh Bachchan to Salman Khan: How taxman came to love Bollywood

Rahman's CWG theme is a service.

Amitabh's singing of the national anthem at the World Cup is a service.

Do you see how ridiculous all this sounds?

We need to indulge in "honest business" rather than "dishonest service". Make lots of money, make it cleanly and pay your taxes. That's a much better principle than "service".

Finally, are MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli playing for free? Yesterday Sachin Tendulkar was India's highest paid sportsperson. Dhoni surpassed him. With the way he's playing, Kohli may yet emerge as the richest of the lot.

Also read - Every Indian must hear the Bengali song which inspired the national anthem

Does that in any way diminish their tremendous on-field performances? Does that in any way diminish our stupendous victories?

Finally coming back to that beautiful moment…

It absolutely was great to hear Amitabh singing the national anthem at one of the best cricketing grounds of the world. The way he sang it, many of us had goose pimples. I was in a room full of laughing teenagers watching it all on TV. But boy did they become serious and automatically stood in attention for the complete rendition of the anthem.

The match was great. Kohli's knock was sublime. Dhoni's six towards the end was super.

The crowd (that included tens of thousands of commoners along with the ultra-rich Ambanis and the legend Tendulkar himself) went wild when the victory shot was hit and that was a sight to behold.

The icing on the cake was a 73-year-old evergreen Bollywood megastar waving the Indian flag like an excited little schoolboy. That sure did make my day as it must have for millions of others.

Who cares who was paid how much white money? Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!

Writer

Sunil Rajguru Sunil Rajguru @sunilrajguru

The author is a Bengaluru-based journalist and blogger.

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