Bollywood Celebrates as Sakshi Malik Wins India's First Olympic Medal in Women's Wrestling
The bronze medal in Rio comes in a year when Bollywood has produced two wrestling dramas, including Walt Disney India's upcoming 'Dangal.'
Bollywood was jubilant on Thursday amid news that India won its first medal at the Rio Olympics, with Sakshi Malik picking up a women's wrestling bronze.
The win is historic as it is the first-ever Olympic medal to be won by an Indian female wrestler. Malik is also one of only four Indian female athletes to win an Olympic medal.
As news of her win broke Thursday morning Indian time, news channels aired wall-to-wall coverage with clips of her winning bout in the 58 kilo freestyle wrestling category against Kyrgyzstan's Aisuluu Tynybekova.
“I always wanted to be the first Indian woman wrestler to win an Olympic medal, and today I have achieved that as a result of so many years of hard work,” Sakshi was quoted as saying in Hindi to news channel ABP TV.
Congratulatory messages poured in on social media for the 23-year-old winner as #SakshiMalik became a top trending topic on Twitter in India.
Big-name celebrities who lauded the win included Bollywood icon Amitabh Bachchan, who posted a series of tweets to his 21.9 million followers, and actor Anil Kapoor (Slumdog Millionaire), who is currently starring in the second season of the Hindi remake of Fox's 24 and who congratulated Malik by saying “stars like you make India shine."
Actress Tina Desai, whose credits include Netflix's Sense8, which is currently filming its second season, wrote: “Enjoy that you've made history.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared a series of tweets praising Malik's achievement given the challenges faced by aspiring female wrestlers in the country. The male-dominated sport has historically not encouraged women, but more women have challenged traditional norms and taken up the sport in recent times.
Malik was born in the northern state of Haryana, which has given India some of its top male wrestlers, including 2012 London Olympics winners Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, who is also competing in Rio.
She started to break through internationally after winning a silver medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, followed by a bronze at the Incheon Asian Games the same year.
Bollywood's connection with wrestling this year saw the release of Sultan, starring Salman Khan in the title role of a former wrestling champion from Haryana who makes a comeback. The film starred actress Anushka Sharma as his love interest who is also a wrestler. Malik's win led her to be hailed on Twitter as India's real-life Sultan.
The London Olympics also saw a historic performance for India, with Mary Kom winning a bronze, thus becoming the first Indian female boxer to win an Olympic medal. Her story inspired a biopic starring Priyanka Chopra (Quantico) in Viacom18 Motion Pictures' Mary Kom, which premiered at Toronto in 2014.
Meanwhile, Bollywood is gearing up for another wrestling drama, Dangal, starring Aamir Khan as real-life wrestler and Olympics coach Mahavir Singh Phogat. Also from Haryana, Phogat became a trailblazer by teaching the sport to his two daughters, Babita Kumar and Geeta Phogat. Both sisters won medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, bagging a silver and a gold, respectively. Following Malik's win, Khan congratulated her in a tweet stating that she “had done India proud."
Dangal is due for release on Dec. 23 by Walt Disney Studios India.
Read some of the congratulatory and celebratory Twitter posts about Malik below:
Congratulations Sakshi Malik! 1st Indian female wrestler to win an Olympic medal. Well done. You have done India proud!— Aamir Khan (@aamir_khan) August 18, 2016
For me it is worth a 1000 golds and even that is not enough. Pride for Sakshi, proud that she is Indian and a woman https://t.co/io5JyaMTUP— Amitabh Bachchan (@SrBachchan) August 18, 2016
Sakshi Malik will inspire several sportspersons in the years to come. https://t.co/5aE24BIryT— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 18, 2016