Ranveer Singh will roll his arm over and play the ‘Nataraj shot’ on the big screen soon. The young star will portray Kapil Dev in ’83, a biopic directed by Kabir Khan on the former cricket skipper who led the India to a 1983 World Cup triumph. The idea of making biopics on sports personalities has motivated a few makers in recent years. Azhar (2016) helmed by Tony D’Souza was inspired by the life and times of former captain Mohammad Azharuddin.
Azhar tanked, but Neeraj Pandey’s MS Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016), the Mahendra Singh Dhoni biopic starring Sushant Singh Rajput, was a sleeper hit. James Erskine made a docudrama-biographical film on Sachin Tendulkar called Sachin: A Billion Dreams (2017) starring the Master Blaster himself, which the legend’s fans enjoyed thoroughly.
Fiction and cricket have come together in many Bollywood films. Among them is Subodh Mukherjee’s Love Marriage (1959), which had Dev Anand as a star cricketer. His character has differences with the landlord’s daughter (Mala Sinha), who falls in love with him after watching him in a match. Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Lagaan (2001) is the most popular film to have featured the game.
The story merges patriotism and cricket and, ultimately good guys (naive villagers) triumph over bad guys (British colonisers). Starring Aamir Khan, Lagaan became the third Indian film to get nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
Nagesh Kukunoor’s Iqbal (2005) is the story of a deaf and mute youngster (Shreyas Talpade) who is guided by his alcoholic coach (Naseeruddin Shah). Eventually, the determined young man gets an opportunity to represent Team India. The outcome of fine direction and acting, the film was praised by everybody who mattered. Awwal Number (1990) directed by Dev Anand deserved to bomb as it did. In the film, Anand is a top cop who is also the chairman of selectors.
Aamir Khan plays a promising cricketer, and the story even has a terrorist plot that makes the proceedings appear inadvertently comical. Cricket has countless devotees, which is why most Bollywood sports films have a link with it. Not all these films have been commercially successful, but that hasn’t dissuaded anyone. Is that foolhardy? It is not, if one keeps in mind that the film industry is driven by a monosyllabic word. Hope.
Other on-reel cricketers
Mandira Bedi is a cricket-besotted teacher in Chandrakant Kulkarni’s Meerabai Not Out (2008). Karanjeet Saluja’s Chain Kulii Ki Main Kulii (2007) is about what happens after a teenager (Zain Khan) ends up with an old bat he believes is the one Kapil Dev used to score 175 (not out). Rani Mukherjee plays cricket disguised as a man in Dil Bole Hadippa (2009).