22/09/2015 6:34 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Indian Super League Has A New Star-Studded Promo Featuring Footballers As Extras


Ranbir Kapoor, Hrithik Roshan, Virat Kohli and John Abraham decide to face-time. And the nice people that they are, they let us and Abhishekh Bachchan in on their little bro-time. Keeping with the august conventions of an industry where 40-year-olds play college students, their conversation is littered with pithy and age appropriate expressions like 'bro' and 'machas'. They also take turns to gleefully gasp 'check this out' like boys who have just discovered hair on their chests or have laid their hands on their first Playboy.

#LetsFootball: Banter & Battle - it's on!

The warning shots have been fired! The battle for the #HeroISL title kicks off on October 3rd and the clubs are ready. What about you? C’mon India, #LetsFootball!Featuring: Ranbir Kapoor, Virat Kohli, Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham, Hrithik Roshan & Sourav Ganguly Official.

Posted by ISL- Indian Super League on Thursday, 17 September 2015

In a bit, Sourav Ganguly surfaces in the video reminding the said boys 'who is their dada'. The boys guffaw.

There's a peppy tune playing in the background.

What's this video about you wonder? Because till now, these are the things you have noticed and in the following order:

- Ranbir Kapoor's face agrees with beard.

- How does John Abraham not topple from the weight of his own biceps?

- Ranbir Kapoor's face agrees fabulously with that beard.

- Hrithik Roshan is bored.

- Is that a mushroom on Virat Kohli's head?

- Ranbir Kapoor. Beard.

What are they up to? Some Bollywood versus TV-friendly-cricketers match? A cola commercial? Do they want to watch a football match together, since there are some footballers lurking in the background like back-up dancers in a big, fat Bollywood wedding song?

It's not until Nita Ambani appears clutching two clueless children like pompoms and declares "let's football", that you get that it's the first promotional video for this season of the Indian Super League. You couldn't have guessed it. The footballers, after all, were relegated to the background as close shots of the Bollywood and cricketing stars took over the video.

Now, it is true that Bollywood and cricket are far more popular in India than Indian football. It isn't a bad idea either to sell football in a star struck country by saying, 'Ooh, look Hrithik Roshan watches football too'. But what great purpose does it serve to use footballers as dispensable props in a video meant to promote them? If it does anything, it reinforces the unwritten hierarchy that football comes only after Bollywood and cricket in this country. If ISL means to revive football in the country and push money into it in the way of sponsors, it doesn't quite make sense either to point out what companies could put their money on, instead of football.

And apart from that, it's plain disrespectful for the footballers to be pushed into the background as fleeting, unfamiliar faces. The ISL is about them, then the least they deserve is to get equal importance in a video brimming with seemingly soccer loving Bollywood stars and cricketers.

When promos of the Pro-Kabaddi League started airing on television, the focus was not on stars when actually Bollywood stars did own teams in it. In fact, Le Panga, the promotional song sung by Amitabh Bachchan had extensive footages of the matches, focussing on popular moves in the game, the important faces in the teams, interspersed with footage of Bachchan recording the song. It was followed by by features on individual players, which aired repeatedly on television.

Clearly, sports publicists in the country know how to promote a sport by latching on to faces from Bollywood and cricket. And that's not by letting Bollywood eclipse it. Which makes you wonder, what went wrong with this ISL video?