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Can Diljit Dosanjh’s Soorma match up to these 6 Hollywood sports biopics?

With the Sandeep Singh biopic Soorma, starring Diljit Dosanjh, around the corner, let’s take a look at some of the best sports biopics from Hollywood. Can Soorma match up?

hollywood Updated: Jul 12, 2018 16:28 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Diljit Dosanjh,Soorma,Hollywood sports biopics
Punjabi star Diljit Dosanjh plays Sandeep Singh in Soorma.

Sports biopics are the flavour of the week in Bollywood, but the week has turned into years, with each new film doing wonders at the box office. It all began with the one-two punch of Dhoni: The Untold Story, based on the life of former Indian cricket captain MS Dhoni and Dangal, about the coming-of-age of the wrestling sister Geeta and Babita Phogat, which went on to become the biggest box office success in Indian movie history.

There were a few hiccups along the way. The Mary Kom biopic starring Priyanka Chopra didn’t quite set the cash registers on fire and Azhar, the film about the disgraced former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin, starring Emraan Hashmi, was criticised for being a PR exercise to cleanse his image.

Diljit Dosanjh readies himself for one of Sandeep Singh’s signature drag flicks.

But this week we have Soorma, the biopic of Sandeep Singh, in which the Indian drag flicker will be played by Diljit Dosanjh. Not only does it face the uphill task of appealing to the Bollywood masses with a Punjabi star at its centre, but it’s also about hockey, a sport that doesn’t quite attract the attention that something like cricket does in our country.

Bollywood biopics have always struggled with accurately representing their subjects, usually because they’re closely involved with the production. A common criticism is that they whitewash the lives of their subjects and focus mostly on the achievements.

This isn’t the case in Hollywood though. The best sports biopics abroad are the ones that fearlessly explore their subjects, unbothered by whatever demons that might be uncovered. Here are a few of them.

Raging Bull

Raging Bull is often listed as among the best movies of all time.

No list of great sports biopics is complete without Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece about boxer Jake LaMotta. There’s so much going on in Raging Bull, so many layers and so many resonant themes, that it’s easy to forget that it’s a sports movie. But then again, it’s so much more than that. It’s a classic that does just what it’s supposed to: It makes Jake LaMotta immortal.

The Fighter

Christian Bale won an Oscar for his performance in The Fighter.

So while we’re at it, why not nudge another boxing movie in there? Also, can we all just stop arguing and agree that boxing movies are the best sports movies? And The Fighter is one of the best boxing movies ever made - unflinching in its portrayal of Boston fighter Mickie Ward and his cocaine-addicted brother, Dickie.

Senna

Ayrton Senna’s life has become the stuff of legend.

Senna is a documentary (not the only one you’ll see on this list) about Ayrton Senna, possibly the most celebrated Formula 1 driver to ever grab a steering wheel. What’s so amazing about this film is that minutes into watching it two things will happen: One, you’ll forget you’re watching a documentary and two, you’ll become an F1 fan (if you aren’t already, that is).

Bobby Fischer Against the World

Bobby Fischer is often regarded as the greatest chess player of all time, thanks in no small part to his strange and sad story.

Yes, chess is a sport. And Bobby Fischer is the greatest chess player ever. At least for the purposes of this list. This entry is unusual for two reasons: A) It is also, like Senna, a documentary, and B) Well, it’s about chess. No one was expecting a chess movie here. It’s about Fischer’s famous 1972 World Championship match against Boris Spassky of the USSR, and how one man became a symbol, and – ahem – a pawn in his country’s Cold War strategy. It combines interviews of several chess grandmasters, rare archive footage, and it is, all in all, unmissable.

The Damned United

Director Tom Hooper went on to win an Oscar for The King’s Speech.

A biopic of a football player makes sense, but one on a football manager? There was no reason for The Damned United to be as good as it was, but thanks to a thrilling story (Leeds United manager Brian Clough’s ill-fated 44-day tenure at the club), an outstanding performance by Michael Sheen and lines like this: “I wouldn’t say I was the best manager in the country. But I’m in the top one.” The Damned United is the best, and most unexpectedly brilliant football biopic you’re likely to see.

Seabiscuit

Tobey Maguire starred in Seabiscuit, directed by Gary Ross.

After a biopic of a football manager, here’s one about a horse. Seabiscuit, about the undersized thoroughbred who became a hero to thousands affected by the Great Depression, a symbol of hope in terrible times, is a special movie. So much so that when you Google the term ‘crowd-pleaser’ you’re probably going to find Seabiscuit’s warm eyes staring back at you.

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First Published: Jul 12, 2018 16:25 IST