Shah Rukh Khan starrer Chak de India is ready for release, and a top official of the Australian hockey board feels that the movie can instil the lost interest in hockey in India.
"The film will give a much needed boost to Indian hockey, given the fact that it is going through one of its darkest phases," Adam Wallish, a board member of Hockey Australia, told IANS on the sidelines of a workshop on the planning and management of the 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
The Indian government has demoted hockey from the "priority" to the "general" category of sports because of the continuous poor showing of the national team in all major tournaments in recent years.
However, recent successes at the 16th Azlan Shah Cup hockey tournament in Malaysia and at the Champions Challenge Cup in the Netherlands, where India won the bronze medals, have given hockey lovers a new ray of hope.
Wallish is also the chief executive of Hockey Victoria, and Chak de India was shot in their State Netball Hockey Centre.
"It was a wonderful experience witnessing the whole unit of the film shooting at our stadium, which was also the venue for the finals of the hockey tournament in the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games," he said.
Wallish also said the authorities had a tough time controlling the mainly Indian crowds gathered outside the stadium to have a glimpse of Shah Rukh.
"During the shooting I realised that hockey may not be of any great interest for Indians but Shah Rukh is! We hope hockey gets back its interest via the superstar," he said.
In the movie, which will be released on August 10, Shah Rukh plays the role of hockey coach Kabir Khan, who turns a rag tag bunch of hapless girls into a unit that goes on to win the World Cup on the silver screen.
The story is based on the real life story of former Indian goalkeeper Mir Ranjan Negi, who fell from grace after conceding seven goals against Pakistan in the 1982 Asian Games final, after which he was dropped from the side.
Negi, however, managed to extricate himself from disgrace by guiding the women team to Commonwealth Games glory in 2002.
"Indian hockey has lots of icons and inspiring tales to encourage a whole generation to pick up the stick and dribble ahead. If these stories are captured on the celluloid and presented in a captivating tale, nothing would be better than that," said Wallish.
He felt that in the past films on sports had been successful and were able to pull crowds to the theatres.
"We can't forget that films ... have been really very successful and they have immortalised some of the legends of the game," Wallish pointed out.
The movie Ali was featured on the life story of heavyweight boxing champion Muhammad Ali. Hurricane was about middleweight boxing champion Rubin "Hurricane" Carter - whose dreams of winning the middleweight boxing title was destroyed when he was wrongfully accused and arrested along with another man for the murders of three white men in a New Jersey bar. Academy Award winner Denzel Wahsington played the role of Carter.
"It is good to see that superstars are coming forward to play such roles that capture the struggle of the sports personalities. I am sure that Chak de India will create the same magic these movies have done so far," Wallish said.