Bollywood and cricket are often touted as ‘religions’ in India, which is probably why film-makers have mostly chosen to showcase the gentleman’s game on the silver screen. However, it appears that producers and directors are now trying their hand at portraying other sports as well. Not convinced?
Well, the Priyanka Chopra-starrer, Mary Kom (2014), was about India’s star boxer. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), featuring Farhan Akhtar, chronicled the life of sprinter Milkha Singh, while Nawazuddin Siddiqui starred in Freaky Ali, wherein he played a golfer, and Sultan had Salman Khan portray a wrestler.
While the fascination for cricket continues with movies such as Azhar (based on former captain of the national cricket team, Mohammad Azharuddin), and MS Dhoni: The Untold Story (a biopic of India’s limited overs cricket captain, MS Dhoni), we’ll soon see other sports sharing the limelight as well.
“Sports-based films are always thrilling and have an element of excitement. Also, since most sportspersons come from underprivileged backgrounds [in India], their stories become even more fascinating,” says film-maker Tigmanshu Dhulia, who directed Paan Singh Tomar (2010). He adds that marketing such films is easier when compared with traditional movies, as sportspersons are “already in the audience’s memory”.
While Akshay Kumar will reportedly play legendary hockey player Balbir Singh Sr. in Gold, Aamir Khan portrays ex-wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat in his new film, Dangal. Likewise, Sushant Singh Rajput is set to portray paralympian Murlikant Petkar, and John Abraham is set to make a film called 1911, which is based on footballer Shibdas Bhaduri, who had captained the soccer club Mohun Bagan.
“Football has been part of my DNA since I was a child (smiles). I believe sports are extremely entertaining as well. I was a good player and once even aspired to play for my country,” says John. A number of biopics are also being planned. Currently, projects in the pipeline include films based on wrestler Gama Pehalwan, hockey legend Dhyan Chand, shuttler Saina Nehwal and hockey player Sandeep Singh.
Watch: Dangal trailer
While trade expert Taran Adarsh feels there are many real-life heroes in India whose stories need to be told, exhibitor-distributor Akshaye Rathi says that sports films are “always interesting as there’s a touch of realism” to them. Experts also insist that a balance should be struck between portraying reality and making an entertaining film. “Maintaining the balance is challenging because a film should seem real and not look like a documentary,” says Taran.