Best known for the immortal line from Sholay — Itna sannata kyon hai bhai?, the 91-year-old A.K. Hangal is Bollywoods longest-serving good old man. His has been a remarkable feat through five decades, for he has played only one role in his films — a cowering, withered, weak old man. The only variety offered to him was he could be a father, grandfather or domestic help. Except in Shaukeen, where he played a naughty old man and apparently liked it very much. But he has been sighted as recently as in Mr. Prime Minister. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2006. We are in the right direction.
Move over Harry Potter. If there is one couple in politics that has never had any differences, it has to be M.K. Karunanidhi and his dark glasses. Children may have been put to bed with the threat of Karunanidhi approaching with his pair, but that has never had any impact on the DMK chief, or his glasses. To be fair, if Karunanidhi hasnt ever objected to his glasses, his glasses have never objected to him either, unlike Jayalalithaa. He may never have taken them off. They have been together through a lot, refusing to part even when Jayalalithaas men were arresting him after roughing him up. Probably even as he was naming his son M.K. Stalin. If you are not looking through a glass darkly, can you name your son that?
Currently at the top of the hate list of every Indian for his controversial decisions in the ongoing India-Australia Test series, Steve Bucknor has been around for years. He is the longest-standing obstacle for India on the cricket ground, more than the Australians. Making his debut in 1989, the man from Jamaica has umpired the third highest number of One-Day Internationals. Bucknor is also the only cricket umpire to have stood in five World Cup finals. But in the Sydney Test, Bucknors alleged hostility against India — or the cataract in his eyes — became more glaringly visible with one controversial decision after another, including the dismissals of Sourav Ganguly and Sachin Tendulkar. And the man isnt willing to give up yet. Im in reasonably good physical condition, seeing reasonably well…. So Ill go on until I think it is necessary (to stop), he says. I want a Bharat Ratna, he is likely to say. To be Bucknored, is to be had.
The Air India Maharaja
He was born in 1946. Air Indias portly Maharaja with his striped turban, moustache, traditional churidar kurta and pointed shoes is not only one of Indias oldest mascots, he is also perhaps one of the most easily recognised. Though after Amitabh Bachchan. Created by Air-Indias then commercial director Bobby Kooka and Umesh Rao of JWT, the Maharajas popularity has remained unparalleled over the years. We call him a Maharaja for want of a better description. But his blood isnt blue. He may look like royalty, but he isnt royal, wrote Kooka of their creation. Right credentials for the Ratna.
Sania Mirza for the Bharat Ratna? Shell make it in the longest-serving underachiever category. The poster girl of Indian tennis has been one of the longest-serving stars in the 30s in the WTA rankings. She was the 31st seed in the ongoing Australian Open, where she lost to Venus Williams in the third round. She is also consistently injured, sometimes for the greater part of the year, and her off-court antics are consistently more in the news than her on-court achievements.
Medha Patkar and Arundhati Roy
If Medha Patkar deserves the crown for carrying on with the longest fasts possible (including some recent ones in Calcutta) for one group of displaced people or another, then Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy is a contender for her never-ending tirades against globalisation that are never-ending processions of frilly, fancy words that cry: Look at me, I am so pretty! Roy joined hands with Patkar on the Narmada dam issue. Can someone please give them the Bharat Ratna? Maybe they will spare us then.
The Taj Mahal
Reinstated last year as one of the Seven Wonders of the World, officially, the Taj Mahal is one of the longest-standing institutions of India. For long it has been a symbol of Indias pride and has inspired generations of lovers, Hindi films and family photographs. It has survived Mayawati. It deserves the highest honour.