Sporting in Bollywood

2014-09-18 00:00

PRIYANKA Chopra’s highly acclaimed portrayal of the life of Indian women’s boxing champion Mary Kom has sparked renewed interest among Bollywood film-makers in biopics about the country’s sports champion.

The husband of the late track-and-field athlete, P.T. Usha, has reportedly been approached for permission to make a film on the first Indian woman to reach an Olympic event final.

There is also talk of superstar Shahrukh Khan playing the role of legendary hockey player Dhyan Chand. Earlier, Khan won honours playing the coach of a women’s hockey team in Chak De, which won a National Award.

In the past two years, two films about Indian athletic champions have won numerous accolades. Last year, Farhan Akhtar was lauded for his performance in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag about the country’s top male athlete, while a year earlier, Irrfan Khan won the same honours for his portrayal of Paan Singh Tomar, about the steeplechase champion.

But with cricket being almost every Indian’s biggest passion, movies about the sport, even if not about players’ actual lives, have dominated Bollywood. Most cricket movies portray the determination to succeed despite great odds, as with Akshay Kumar meeting resistance from his domineering father in Patiala House and Shreyas Talpade playing the title role in Iqbal about a lad from a poor home making it big despite being ignored by selectors in favour of rich parents. Harman Baweja did the same in Victory.

In his early career, Aamir Khan starred in the box-office flop Awwal Number as he played a new cricketer replacing a famous but failing player. Producer-director Dev Anand spoilt what could have been a good film by convoluting it with terrorist’s threats during an international game. Later, Khan produced the epic four-hour international hit Lagaan about a rural village in British colonial India learning to play cricket to challenge the rulers.

Say Salaam India featured four cricket-crazy boys being dissuaded by their coach who believed cricket had destroyed the traditional popularity of Indian sports, such as kushti and kabbadi. Hattrick dealt with two people who were Indian exceptions in hating cricket — one a doctor who would not even allow hospital patients to watch cricket on TV and the other a recently married woman whose husband’s obsession results in her hating the sport.

The world match-fixing sagas produced Jannat where Emraan Hashmi got involved in the shady world of illegal bookmakers and World Cupp 2011 (sic) with unknown stars in a forgettable production.

Women’s cricket got a shot with Rani Mukherjee disguising herself as a young man in Dil Bole Hadippa! (sic) to fulfil her burning desire to show her skill in a male-dominated world.

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