There was a time of sports dramas. Movies like Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar (dir. Mansoor Khan, 1992), fueled the spirit of competition. The action centred on an inter-college cycling race, the romance was a running them, but the values it imparted were about hard work, dedication to one’s cause and the real passion for a sport.
Team spirit was taught in Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan in 2001, produced by Aamir Khan if one can dare put such an epic film in such a category. The rag-tag cricket team’s desire to win against the mighty British became a metaphorical fight against colonialism, racism and injustice.
Then came that remarkable hockey film Chak De India! directed by Shimit Amin and Rob Miller. It forayed into untouched topics, including regional prejudice and sexism. Shah Rukh Khan as the coach of Indian women’s national hockey team portrayed the character in a memorable way. It was inspiring to people from every walk of life.
Now Bollywood seems to have entered the era of sports biopics, taking audiences into the lives of successful sportspersons. The struggle and hardships they undergo to achieve that ultimate goal make for a gripping story. Though we already know the ‘end’, we are exposed to the realities of that particular game. We engage with the character in a meaningful way. And it’s not just as spectators: young athletes are inspired and motivated to pursue their goals with single-minded devotion.
In 2013, Farhan Akhtar left fans spellbound by representing the life of Indian athlete Milkha Singh, national champion runner, and Olympian, in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. Omung Kumar’s Mary Kom was an amazing depiction of the boxer’s journey to her 2008 victory in World Boxing Championships in Ningbo.
In a theatre near you is Tony D’Souza’s Azhar, which takes up delicate issues in the life of well-known cricketer Mohammad Azharuddin. It touches on the match-fixing allegations that led to him being banned for life from playing cricket. Emran Hashmi pulls off a performance fan would never have imagined him capable of.
Sportsmen are the ones who represent the country globally; the world knows a country by their names and identity. Those who devote their life for the country – like the armed forces, but in a different way – deserve to be known more intimately by a grateful nation. In times to come, we will see Neeraj Pandey’s MS Dhoni: The Untold Story starring Sushant Singh Rajput, scheduled to release in September. A biopic on the life of Indian badminton champ Saina Nehwal is in the oﬃng, with Mumbai-based Front Foot Pictures having acquired the rights.
Acclaimed writer-actor-director Amole Gupte has been roped in to write and direct the much-awaited film. Sujay Jairaj, a director at Front Foot Pictures reveals, “It’s going to be a very inspirational story. It is a story of a current sports star, and so both the younger and the older generation can relate to it.”