Gets a big cash prize and a ticket to Tokyo
At the recent four-day karate event, Akshay Kumar was most impressed by one particular participant, Sarupa Sangam, who won the Upcoming Talent Award.
The Khiladi was so moved on discovering that she works as domestic help that he decided to include her as one of the five recipients of the special cash prize of Rs 1 lakh.
Akshay Kumar with Sarupa Sangam
The actor, who has been holding the annual tourney since 2009, will be sending her to Japan to participate in a tournament.
Says a source, "It was the last day of the tournament when Akki heard about Sarupa. Even though she lost to the current national champion, he felt that she had overcome tough odds to reach the final in her category. That was no mean feat.
Mehul Vora, chief technical director of the tournament, tells us that Sarupa, who's originally from Lingapuram village in Andhra Pradesh, used to come with a kid who trained under one of his students in Mira Road.
We're told that Sarupa and her five sisters work as maids while their father plies an autorickshaw. "Once she asked if she could also learn it as a mode of self defence," recalls Mehul.
Vora adds, "Sarupa doesn't want to continue as a maid any more. She wants to become a karate teacher and teach other women who can't afford to pay for classes.
Akshay conceded that an example like this is one of his rewards in initiating the tournament. "Whatever I am today, is thanks to martial arts that helped me to get a break in the industry.
It's my way of giving it back," he said, adding that he wants to spread martial arts knowledge in India in the way it's common in China, Myanmar, Malaysia and Singapore.