In today’s fast-paced world, if a movie is running house full as it ventures into its third week, it definitely means that the film has caught the fancy of masses. Described as an “epic film” even before it was finally released to packed theatres, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag has already earned Rs 72 crore by the end of its second week.
With the biopic of the legendary Milkha Singh known as the Flying Sikh, slowly inching towards the Rs 100-crore mark, it has been proved once again that we Indians simply lap up the movies with sports as an backdrop, thus making them the highest grosser ever.
With Rakesh Omprakash Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag Bollwyood’s love affair with the biopic of sports personalities and sports has only grown stronger. In a land, where cricket is a religion and the players taken as demigod, who would have thought that a story on the life of players from different sport would be loved so much.
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, with its nail-biting climax of Milkha defeating Pakistani athlete Abdul Khaliq in Pakistan in the 1960s, came as a whiff of fresh air because it was the first time that Bollywood has given a different twist to the sports formula in India. Scriptwriter Prasoon Joshi has beautifully managed to bring together the story of life and mentality of the sportsman who went on to became a champion in limited resources.
In fact, in one of the earlier interviews, the director-scriptwriter duo had admitted that they were not too sure if a film on athletics would draw audiences to the theatre. “Cricket is the only sport here. We did our job and the film’s success might open a new market,” the duo said.
It is not for the first time that Bollywood has successfully experimented with the sports genre. Recently, another biopic titled Paan Singh Tomar, a long forgotten legend, who brought home a gold medal at the Asian Games but later went on to become a dacoit owing to circumstances, touched the chord of viewers and critics alike. Apart from winning several awards, the movie also got a national award for the lead protagonist Irrfan Khan. The award citation read: “A unique delineation of transformation of an international sportsperson to a dacoit. A difficult role very convincingly played. A well-calibrated performance that was masked by remarkably subtle underplay.” The movie starred Mahie Gill as Paan Singh Tomar’s wife. The film that was written by Sanjay Chouhan and directed by Tigmanshu Dhuli is real-life story of Paan Singh Tomar, an Indian athlete and seven-time national
steeplechase champion, who became one of the most-feared dacoits in Chambal Valley after taking pre-mature retirement.
A short article about the winning of the Gold by the women’s team at the 2002 Commonwealth Games had inspired screenwriter Jaideep Sahni to create Chak De! India, a film about the Indian women’s hockey team. Director Shimit Amin noted the lack of coverage of the women’s team by the media and stated: “There are a lot of odds these players are up against.” In one of his interviews Sahni said: “The story of Chak De was deeply inspired by the real-life story of ex-Chief National Coach Maharaj Krishan Kaushik and his Indian women’s hockey team’s real feat of winning the Commonwealth and many other championships.”
Produced under the Yash Raj Films banner, the film starring Shahrukh Khan as Kabir Khan, the coach of the hockey team, was made on a budget of Rs 240 crore. It earned worldwide gross revenue of 1,056.5 crore and was declared a blockbuster. The film also earned a National Film Award for Best Popular Film Providing Wholesome Entertainment.
Patiala House, starring Akhshay Kumar in the lead role, was based on the life of Monty Panesar, the English spinner. Though the movie was not a blockbuster, it earned a lukewarm response as it contained more elements of a typical Bollywood flick.
It was Dev Anand’s Awwal Number that started the trend of sports being a basis for the film, starring Aamir Khan and Dev Anand. Released in 1990, the story revolved around cricket in which a rising star player, Aamir Khan replaces another player Aditya Pancholi and the enemity that follows. Dev Anand plays the role of cop who prevents a terrorist attack and defuses the bomb well in time to save Aamir Khan and the spectators in the stadium. The movie failed to create any stir and died an unknown death.
Later, it was in 2001, that Bollywood saw a tremendous hope in sports based stories following the huge success of Lagaan, starring Aamir Khan in the lead role. Written and directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, the story revolved around a group of people of a small village in Victorian India who stake their future on a game of cricket against their ruthless British rulers.
Though these films garnered a huge public liking, there were several others that came and went rather unnoticed or generated a lukewarm response. Films like Hattrick, Salaam India Salaam, Victory, Meerabai Not Out, Chain Kulli Ki Main Kulli and Dil Bole Haddippa, though had sports or rather cricket as their base, failed miserably.
The trend has revealed one thing for sure that only those films that had the underdog emerging as a winner towards the end or the real-life stories have touched the right chords of the masses. For instance, Nagesh Kukunoor’s Iqbal had no big star or a real-life story. All it had was a young deaf and dumb village boy who loved cricket and went on to become a player in the Indian team. The film, featuring Shreyas Talpade, received an applaud from both the critics and the movie-goers.
Now, the eyes are set on the underproduction biopic of boxer Mary Kom. Priyanka Chopra will play Mary Kom in the biopic on the Olympic bronze medallist, directed by debutant director Omung Kumar. The film is about the journey of a middle-class boxer from Manipur to the London Olympics. Priyanka recently visited Imphal to know more about the Olympian.
By Parwinder Sandhu