Salman Khan fumbled over gymnast Dipa Karmakar’s name while speaking at the trailer launch of Freaky Ali. The error comes in the wake of criticism over his appointment as India’s Goodwill Ambassador at the ongoing Rio Olympics in Brazil. While saying that he thought Karmakar was going to win a gold medal, he erroneously referred to her as ‘Deepika’, before being corrected by reporters. Khan has a history of making controversial and often unapologetic comments.
This NDTV video for instance explicitly blames the actor for not “doing his homework”. Before the event, however, Khan had tweeted:
— Salman Khan (@BeingSalmanKhan) April 30, 2016
In the video, Khan who couldn’t recall her name, is seen asking reporters, “The girl who came 8th…Deepika?”When someone from the audience tries to correct him, he says, “Oh, Deepti!”.
On Monday, the 22-year-old Karmakar became the first Indian gymnast to qualify for individual vault finals in the Olympics.
Khan’s appointment as the goodwill ambassador was mired in controversy. Many, including veteran sportspersons like Milkha Singh and Yogeswar Dutt, were opposed to Khan’s selection over sporting champions like Sachin Tendulkar, PT Usha and Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore. Yogeswar Dutt, the London Olympics bronze-medallist, said he couldn’t understand what purpose such an appointment would serve for the athletes. Critics also pointed out that someone like Khan, who is involved in two court cases, wasn’t qualified to be a role model.
Salman Khan’s father Salim Khan defended his son, and said that Salman was an ‘athlete and a wrestler of no mean skills.’ Subsequently, the Indian Olympic Association roped in Sachin Tendulkar, AR Rahman and Abhinav Bindra as goodwill ambassadors, in addition to Salman Khan. In an interview with the Hindustan Times, Khan said that neither Rahman nor Tendulkar’s appointment had received similar backlash, even though Rahman was not a sportsperson and Tendulkar has only been associated with one sport. “The media should have done the same thing (criticised the other goodwill ambassadors) when Sachin and Rahman were roped in. Why didn’t that happen? Why did the media not give them the same kind of coverage they gave me?’, he told Hindustan Times.
Khan also felt that court cases shouldn’t be held against his appointment, unless they also disqualify democratically elected officials. “So, you have issues with one person, who has court cases, becoming the Olympics goodwill ambassador. There are so many big politicians who have court cases. I am ready to leave it (the ambassadorship), if you (the politicians) also leave [your posts],” he told Hindustan Times.
The 50-year-old actor is one of the most popular and influential celebrities in Bollywood. His last film, Sultan, collected over Rs. 299 crores at the box-office in five weeks. Even Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, which some critics said was like attending a family function, earned Rs. 400 crores in five weeks.
At Sunday’s press meet, the actor also joked about the 18-year-old blackbuck hunting case in which he was recently acquitted. “I have many friends. Animals, birds,” he said. The crowd hooted with laughter. In 1998, he was accused of poaching two blackbucks in Jodhpur while shooting for the film Hum Saath Saath Hain. 18 years later, on 25 July, 2016, the Rajasthan High Court acquitted the actor of all charges, giving him “the benefit of doubt”. However, on 27 July, Harish Dulani, a driver and key witness in the case against the actor, told an NDTV reporter that it was indeed Khan who had shot down the animal. Dulani, who drove the Gypsy used by Khan for a week and was with him during the alleged hunt in 1998, told a magistrate that the actor was driving and shooting deer at the same time. But he never once testified during the trial as he was ‘threatened’
Earlier, at a press meet before the release of Sultan, Khan controversially said that the training sessions and shooting for Sultan was so physically grueling that sometimes he felt like a ‘raped woman’. The actor retracted the faux-pas immediately, but it was out of his hands by then. He did not issue an apology. Many of his fans trolled celebrities who had spoken out against his comment, including singer Sona Mahapatra.
The incident and its aftermath sparked a conversation about sexism in the film industry. Sachin Kalbag, Resident Editor of The Hindu, Mumbai posted a series of tweets recalling the way a certain star (whose name isn’t revealed) misbehaved with a film critic and journalist before an interview. Apparently, the star, who was miffed with the critic for giving his film negative reviews, made her wait under the sun for hours. When he finally met her, he said, “Wait, I have to pee.” He then went to a tree 5 ft away, unzipped his pants and peed in front of her…”