Remember films like Chariots Of Fire (1981), The Fighter (2010) and Ali (2001)? Hollywood has been celebrating the journeys of sports personalities with their films for many years. Bollywood, too, is treading the same path now.
The trend of making biographical sports dramas first started with Paan Singh Tomar (PST; 2012). It gained momentum when Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMB; 2013; based on the life of sprinter Milkha Singh) and Mary Kom (2014; based on the life of boxer Mary Kom) impressed moviegoers and the critics. Even now, a lot of sports biopics are at various stages of production in Bollywood.
In the making
Aamir Khan’s next, Dangal, is based on former wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat. Sushant Singh Rajput plays cricketer MS Dhoni in Neeraj Pandey’s directorial, MS Dhoni — The Untold Story. Sushant will also play India’s first-ever Paralympics gold medalist, Murlikant Petkar, in Murli — The Unsung Hero. “Sports-based films or biopics on sports personalities are always thrilling, and have an element of excitement. Also, since most sportspeople come from underprivileged backgrounds [in India], their stories become even more fascinating. Marketing such films is easier, as compared to other commercial movies, because those people (sportspersons) are already in the audience’s memory,” says Tigmanshu Dhulia, who directed PST. That’s probably why a number of biopics on sportspersons, like wrestler Gama Pehalwan, hockey legend Dhyan Chand, shuttler Saina Nehwal and hockey player Sandeep Singh, are in the pipeline.
Omung Kumar, who directed Mary Kom, says it is good that sports-based films are gaining popularity now. “Internationally, innumerable biopics have been made, while we were busy with our love stories or dramas. Also, the success of films like PST, BMB and Mary Kom proved to the makers that it (the success of these films) is not a tukka (fluke),” says Omung.
Trade experts also feel that such films break the monotony at the box office. “We have so many real-life heroes in India, and their stories need to be told,” says trade analyst Taran Adarsh.
Nonetheless, while making such biopics, film-makers tend to take a lot of cinematic liberties, to add drama to the movie. “Some liberties are fine, but only as long as they are some. The basic soul of the story shouldn’t be compromised on,” says Tigmanshu.
Experts admit it’s tough to strike a balance between keeping it real and making an entertaining movie. “Maintaining the balance is tough in such stories, in the sense that a film should, in the end, seem real and not look like a documentary,” says Taran.
But experts admit it’s tough to strike a balance between keeping it real and making an entertaining movie. “Maintaining the balance is tough in such stories, in the sense that a film should, in the end, seem real and not look like a documentary,” says Taran.
Omung adds, “Ideally, when we take up a real story, cinematic liberties should be taken just to connect the dots, but not to go overboard. It is your responsibility to not fiddle too much with that person’s story.”
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