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Sports in Bollywood: The Upcoming Azhar Biopic

How Sports-Themed Movies Have Perform In Bollywood?

Azhar
Movies based on sports have had a recent surge in production. Not that it was a taboo, but somehow sports movies didn’t rake in enough moolah to make it attractive to producers or directors. Inspite of these challenges, there were some wonderful movies made based on this theme. But over the years and more so recently, sports-themed movies now have both – commercial and critical acclaim. Emraan Hashmi starrer,Azharis the latest entry to this club and everyone from trade pundits to Bollywood fanatics, is sure that its going to set the box-office on fire just on the basis of its controversial story.

When it comes to sports, Bollywood has offered a mixed bag with the larger share of movies devoted to Cricket.The industry has not entirely been neglectful as several movies were based on sports other than cricket.
Remember Golmaal, Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s magnum opus where the protagonist Ramprasad Sharma was a sports enthusiast and not merely a Cricket lover. One of the first movies that comes to our mind is the Anil Kapoor starrer, Saheb, adaptation of a Bengali movie of the same name. It is about a promisingfootballer and how tragic circumstances force him to give up his dream of playing Football. One of the finest movies ever made, Saheb mixes middle-class sentiments perfectly with sports where a game like Football has no place in the race to survive.

Apart from Saheb, another notable movie was Hip Hip Hurray, directed by Prakash Jha about a techie turned sports instructor and how he inspires his players to win a tournament. Another Football film, Sikandar, a movie that released recently tackled the subject of the game with the backdrop of terrorism in Kashmir. It was directed by Piyush Jha and written by Sudhir Mishra. If you are looking for sports documentaries then a must watch is Inshallah Football, its about sports in the valley. Another movie,Dan Dhana Dhan Goalhighlighted the immigrant angst and Indo-Pak relationship. John Abraham, Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani star in this tale about football and a South Asian community in UK that did decently well at the box-office. John Abraham, a passionate Football lover is also in the talks of making a movie on Mohunbagan’s historic IFA shield win of 1911 against an English Club.

When it comes to sports-themed Bollywood movies, Chak De India deserves a special mention. Based on Hockey, the story of a player who is now coach, who was once called a traitor for missing an important goal, Chak De was a movie that won hearts and minds for truly being able to deliver the idea of secularism as well as female sports personalities in India and the troubles they undergo. There is a movie even on the popular game of carrom called Striker and how one carrom champion finds himself drawn towards the murky world of crime. Striker also shows the face of Mumbai set during the riots of 1992 and has Siddharth and Aditya Pancholi in lead roles.

Such moviesoften mix with socio-political situation of our country. Two such movies that infuse the socio-economic structure as well as the status of the subaltern were Pan Singh Tomaar and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. One was a story of an athlete turned rebel while the other focused on an athlete who was going to make India proud at international tournaments. These are the stories of two athletes with two very different endings. Paan Singh Tomar, from an army sportsman becomes a bhaaghi or a dacoit later only to be shot dead by the police. Played with utter perfection by Irrfan Khan, the movie went on to become critical as well as commercial hit. So did Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, a movie on the legendary sportsperson Milkha Singh and his rise to success following a traumatic experience with partition. These two movies focus on two faces of India, and how athletes are often treated in our country. They suffer from anonymitywhere only a few people come to know about their achievements. We have to accept that Paan Singh Tomar deserved better, but caste and clan wars forced him to take up the gun and bid adieu to a sport he loved. He became a dacoit and ended up dead. Moving from challenges at a country level to challenges at a student level, the Aamir Khan starrer, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar, based on a cycling race, had a populist sentiment attached to it along with the story of the underdog who will eventually achieve success. This movie is an all time favourite.

Now coming to the game that has captured the imagination of Bollywood like nothing else. Yes, we are talking about Cricket and the countless movies made on the subject featuring that underdog vying for triumph and glory like some medieval knight out to win his ladylove after a joust or like a matador in the ring facing an angry bull out to gore him. Awaal Number and Laaganneed special mention here because both have cricket as well as Aamir Khan in the lead roles. Awwal Number directed by the legendary Dev Saab, a movie that totally focused on Dev Anand and Cricket with the rivalry between Aamir and Aditya Pancholi, is now acclaimed by the connoisseurs of trashy stuff. The entire script along with Cricket and rivalry also has to do with secret societies, espionage, terrorism and more. Only Dev Saab was capable of pulling such a picture. But Lagaan had a historical setting with a bunch of Indians beating the Englishmen in a game they created and it did so well that it was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.

India’s obsession with Cricket has somewhat sidelined other sports even in Bollywood but after Laagan there has been no single movie that has been able to capture the spirit of the game properly. Iqbal was successful to some extent; Jannat was mostly about betting hence we hope the upcoming Azhar will do the needful. Movies like Hattrick, Chain Khuli Ki Main Khuli, Victory and a few more came and went away without making a place for itself. Akshay Kumar’s Patiala House inspired by the life of the English spinner Monty Panesar too didn’t work at the box-office though Akshay’s performance was appreciated by one and all. But Azhar, the biopic on the former disgraced Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin might serve as a populist apology, in true Bollywood form.

Azhar has moved on from cricket, he got his ban revoked, entered politics, has now become a Member of the Parliament and has also endured a terrible family loss. This becomes a fodder for Bollywood and since it is masalafied to the core we might not know how much fiction will be coated on the real story but none-the-less we hope that this movie unveils some of the behind-the-scene events from Azhar’s life so that his fans gain the closure they have been waiting for.

Mary Kom, starring Priyanka Chopra is an example of Bollywood’s power to promote sports in our country. We now know of Mary and her story because PC chose to play it. With controversial IPLs year after year and its connection with Bollywood, its normal for Bollywood to make movies on Cricket. While we wait for Azhar, we are also waiting for a change and such is the case of hypocracy.
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