Sports and movies form a perfect combination. You know the good guys will always win and there’s absolutely no chance of some Son of Satan Mashrafe Mortaza coming and uprooting the middle stump of Marathi Boy Next Door.
But given the logistical nightmare of shooting sports matches realistically, filmmakers have shied away from making too many sports films in Hindi. But then you wonder, since when has lack of realism bothered our directors?
In the recent past, of course, there has been a slew of sports films made or being made but none of them have managed to get even close – forget match – the adrenalin rush of some of the best sports films. Obviously, I mean the sports films of Hollywood because in India, I cannot think of any film other than Lagaan and Iqbal, which used a sports theme with style and reality.
So, which are the sports movies of India? And to make it merrier, which are the films that have had passing references to sport?
The first and only film, which seems to have encroached my entire consciousness is Dev Anand’s magnum opus Awwal Number. (Incidentally, Dev-saab is the only director ALL of whose films are magnum opii!)
Dev Anand’s character in the film was an absolute rarity – a Police Commissioner of Bombay who was also the Chairman of the Selectors. And if that was not enough, his brother (Aditya Panscholi) was the top batsman of the Indian team. Dev dropped his brother from the team because he was doing ayyaashi (this is an all-encompassing term for drinking, boozing and being generally prodigal) and took a baby-faced boy called Sunny (Aamir Khan in his pre-one-film-a-decade days) in his place. Aditya took grievous offence to this and teamed up with a terrorist outfit to bomb the stadium from a helicopter above it! (No, VVS – give me the detonator back right NOW!)
In a double-barreled climax, Dev killed Aditya before he could kill anybody. And Aamir killed the Aussies by hitting a six off the last ball. I was slightly disappointed because I thought Aamir would take out the helicopter with the same shot which would eventually be the winning six!
For all its inane bloopers, Awwal Number had probably one accurate depiction – one of the Aussie openers was shown to be a fat, moustachioed guy a la David Boon of those days!
Another cricket movie was All Rounder. This had Kumar Gaurav playing a talented cricketer, egged on by his rustic villager brother (Vinod Mehra in one of his sugary sweet do-gooder roles). He broke into the national team, only to be framed on some trumped-up charges of ayyaashi (see definition above) by a jealous Shakti Kapoor (I think, not too sure). He is promptly chucked out, his girlfriend’s (Rati Agnihotri) father rejects him and he takes to the bottle. Ultimately, of course, he is inspired to make a comeback and he hits Glenn Mcgrath for six sixes in an over. Oh well, not exactly but thereabouts.
Cricketers have made several appearances in Hindi films – including some extended ones. Sandeep Patil, thoroughly misguided about his looks and sex appeal, acted opposite Debashree Roy in a movie called Kabhi Ajnabi They. The movie also starred Syed Kirmani as a villain.
Salim Durrani’s celluloid debut opposite Parveen Babi has been the staple of innumerable quizzes. Though despite that, I have forgotten the name of the film.
Sunil Gavaskar acted in a Marathi movie before he was called upon for an extended guest appearance in the film Malamaal. Naseeruddin Shah, who plays a cricket-crazy tapori in the film is asked to spend Rs 30 crores in 30 days as part of a bizarre inheritance challenge. And in one of the ploys to blow it all up, he invited Sunny to play against his Chawl XI in the Wankhede Stadium.
Of the movies, which do not have cricket as a central theme, we have several that make a passing reference to the national obsession.
Amitabh does a fantastic monologue in Namak Halal on the partnerships of Vijay Hazare and Vijay Merchant, Wasim Bari and Wasim Raja… which was elevated to a different level of nonsense by his accent!
Again, in Amar Akbar Anthony, when he is asked about the whereabouts of a criminal Robert, he responds with “Kaun Robert? Oh – Andy Roberts! Woh toh series khatam hone ke baad West Indies chala gaya…”
Anupam Kher in Darr was Juhi Chawla’s cricket crazy brother who watched matches with full cricket gear on. As he put it, “Hamare team ka itna bura haalat hain ki na jaane kab mera bulawa aa jaye…” – exactly the sentiments of most cricket fans in the country.
In the film Chamatkar, SRK – as a coach and assisted by Naseeruddin Shah’s ghost – played a college cricket match (which had bookies betting on it!) against a nasty opponent, which was captained by Ashutosh Gowariker! Maybe the Lagaan idea originated then?
Karan Johar put his SRK-obsession on a giant screen in a New York soccer stadium when he showed a close-up of Shah Rukh’s eyes as he was about to take a penalty shot. Filling up a soccer stadium in USA is something only the Dharma Productions budget can do! SRK, of course, did not become famous and ended up being a frustrated coach in the film though no sight of any football stadium is shown ever again.
One of Anil Kapoor’s earlier hits – Saheb – was a remake of a Bengali film of the same name. The maudlin plot was about a good-for-one-thing youth who played football and had promise to make it big. He blew it all away when he sold off a kidney to pay for his sister’s wedding. The minuscule budget of the Bengali version did not permit inclusion of any disco numbers. The Hindi one did and to this day, “Yaar beena chen kahan re” remains one of Bappi’s Lahiri’s cult classics!
Anil Kapoor re-appeared on the football pitch in Mashaal as well where in one scene, Dilip Kumar dribbles around all his cronies to score a goal that would have made Maradona proud!
India’s pride was completely sidelined in Hindi cinema – except for probably one time where Rishi Kapoor and Rakesh Roshan (many kilos and hair ago) came back from behind to win their college hockey match in Khel Khel Mein. The match was all of five minutes in screen time!
Now, I am told that SRK is lending his charisma to be the coach of a girl’s hockey team in a Yashraj film called Chak De India… Bend It Like Dhanraj?
Apart from the these, the appearance of sport has been largely peripheral to the Bollywood plot.
A few stray cases here and there...
Basketball: Kajol and SRK fighting it out in the coolest college of India (Kuch Kuch Hota Hain) was followed much later by a rather boring banter between Aishwarya and Hrithik in Dhoom 2.
Table Tennis: In Chhoti Si Baat, the introverted Amol Palekar is coached by Wilfred Julius Nagendranath Singh on how to gain the upper hand in life, which included a table-tennis session won by upsetting the opponent’s rhythm.
Billiards: Raaj Kumar plays it with great style because this is the only game which permits heavy-duty dialogue-baazi while moving around slowly between shots (ref: Tirangaa). Or, flirtatious heroes try to teach heroines the game by embracing them from behind and trying to steal a kiss or two (ref: Jaanbaaz)!
Of course, no mention of sports is complete without the mention of the epical badminton match played by Jeetendra and Leena Chandraverkar in Humjoli.
It is momentous for several reasons – it gave Jeetu a valid reason for wearing white pants and shoes (he was playing). The game was played in a choreographed manner, to the tune of a song. And most importantly, it incorporated the sounds of the game (the shuttle cork hitting the racquet with a TUK) into the soundtrack.
And we have the absolute gem of a song…
Dhal gaya din *TUK* Ho gayi raat *TUK*
Jaane do *TUK* Jaana hain *TUK*
Abhi abhi to aayi ho *TUK*
Aur abhi abhi jaana hain? *TUK *
Maybe, I overdid the TUK a few more times than actual… but then, great sporting achievements are meant to be exaggerated!