Amole Gupte's new film Hawaa Hawaai that released on May 9 had sports (skating, in particular) as its central theme.
In the coming months, a few more such films will hit the big screen, including biopics on boxer Mary Kom and cricketer MS Dhoni. Although Bollywood is not new to this genre, it doesn’t favour it all that much. Most makers don’t want to invest in sports films as they feel India doesn’t have the culture needed to make such movies work at the box office.
In order to find out why the genre still remains sidelined despite a clear surge in the number, we speak to experts.
We’ve had films like Saaheb (1985), Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (1992) and then, after a considerable gap, Dhan Dhana Dhan Goal (2007), and Chak De! India (2007), to name a few. But not all the films fared well at the box office. Film-makers and trade analysts rue that a lack of sports culture in India keeps it from becoming a mainstream genre.
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The scope is further reduced as most films are only about cricket. Film-maker Nagesh Kukunoor, who stands apart for making a successful movie on cricket, Iqbal (2005), regrets the lack of interest in sports.
"At the core, we are not really a sports-oriented nation. In the US, films on baseball, basketball and other games find success, as each of them has a fan following. We only follow cricket and if you continuously start making films on one game, people are not going to get excited," he says.
Trade analyst Amod Mehra believes it’s not a viable genre or one that draws an audience. "We find it boring, as it’s a very predictable subject. There is always an underdog who wins in the end," says Mehra.
Meanwhile, Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan, who made the National Award-winning film on boxing, Lahore (2010), believes, "We have not had too many remarkable achievements in sports either nationally or globally (ones that would inspires us)." He is now set to make a film on India’s three-decade-old first victory in the cricket World Cup.
Film-makers argue that we don’t celebrate our legendary sportspersons for their achievements, and hence they don’t end up making any sports films. "You have great players like Saina Nehwal. Still, you’ll recognise her for her ads rather than for her work," adds Kukunoor.
Film-maker Shoojit Sircar agrees. He cites the example of Olympic bronze-winner Kom having won greater laurels, which are scarcely remembered. "She is a five-time world champion. Few care to know that she bagged two of those titles after having twins," says Sircar.
He is also set to make a film on football, based on Indian club Mohun Bagan’s 1911 IFA Shield victory.
Besides being a specialised and time-consuming process, people in the industry argue that it isn’t cost effective to make sports-themed films. For instance, Farhan Akhtar reportedly spent two years preparing for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. "If you book a star for two years, that is bound to escalate the budget. We also need specialised people to make the film convincing. Yet, you are not sure about the returns," says Soumik Sen, who is writing Sircar’s film titled 1911.
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Kukunoor believes that the reason the floodgates of sports films have started opening now is because Bollywood has a habit of following a trend. "Now that one sports film is a hit, everyone will try making one. If there was genuine love for sport, these films would be made regularly," says Kukunoor.
However analyst Taran Adarsh argues that it’s not the genre, but the content that drives the viewer. "If the content is good then there is no reason for a film not to work," he says.