Move over sportsmen, Bollywood shifts focus to Saina Nehwal, Mithali Raj
Encouraged by the popularity of athletes like badminton champions Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu, producers and directors are pinning their hopes on biopics that depict the real life struggles and success of women athletes in India.mumbai Updated: May 26, 2018 00:52 IST
With Indian sportswomen making headlines and winning medals at international sporting events, Bollywood has found a new set of leading ladies. Encouraged by the popularity of athletes like badminton champions Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu, producers and directors are pinning their hopes on biopics that depict the real life struggles and success of women athletes in India.
Viacom18 Motion Pictures has acquired rights for a biopic on Mithali Raj, captain of the Indian women’s ODI cricket team and one of the greatest batswomen in the game. Actor-producer Sonu Sood is gearing up to produce a film on badminton star PV Sindhu, who is the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal. Paralympic champion Deepa Malik’s story will be brought to screen by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani’s Excel Entertainment. Sony Pictures International Productions has bought the rights for cricketer Jhulan Goswami’s biopic.
Amol Gupte’s film on badminton champion Nehwal is expected to begin shooting later this year and stars Shraddha Kapoor as Nehwal. “It will make sports more popular and inspire more kids to play badminton. I am sure the kind of hard-work Shraddha is putting in, she will give 100% and it will come out well,” said Nehwal.
Producer Bhushan Kumar wasn’t “very sure about making a film on badminton, forget a female sports star”. What changed his mind was Nehwal’s popularity. “I did a mini survey of sorts in my office with youngsters,” said Kumar. “It came as a surprise to me that everyone was absolutely clued in about Saina and her on-court exploits. Then I was confident that a film should be made on her life.”
Kapoor, who has been working hard at her badminton moves, said, “It is a huge responsibility on all of us to make sure we do a thorough job of presenting Saina on the big screen. It is a daunting and challenging job.”
In a male-dominated industry that hesitates to back films with solo female leads, biopics like the one on Nehwal are a welcome change. There’s reason to hope they will find success at the box office too. Mary Kom, starring Priyanka Chopra, was a hit in 2014 and boasts of a lifetime collection of Rs64 crore. One of the most successful Bollywood films of all time is Dangal, which may have had Aamir Khan in a key role, but was about wrestler-sisters Geeta and Babita Phogat’s journey. Its earnings are more than Rs380 crore.
“Female sports stars should be lauded and celebrated equally,” said Omung Kumar, who directed Mary Kom. “The great thing is that films are being made on male as well as female sporting icons. While a few will work, others won’t. But ultimately, they are all inspiring stories.”
First Published: May 26, 2018 00:52 IST