India is a nation known for its culture, cricket and Bollywood. Despite being a nation that is obsessed with cricket, we have very few movies made on sports themes. While a few feature films have been made on cricket such as Lagaan, Jannat, Ferrari Ki Sawaari, there are hardly any movies on athletics, football, tennis, swimming, hockey, or on traditional sports such as Kabaddi, Kho-kho, Mallakhamb, and others.
When a filmmaker decides to combine the nation’s two most loved topics – films and sports, he knows he is going to get it right. Yet, we do not find many Bollywood movies that are inspired by sports. A major reason could be the notion that filmmakers do not want to portray their central character as a regular chap. Protagonists in Bollywood formula films are larger-than-life characters who want to be showcased as dancers, singers, romantics and fighters all in one movie.
Here is a list of sports themed movies that have earned their spot in the classics; these movies inspire and entertain us, while sending out a strong message to the society:
Hip Hip Hurray
Hip Hip Hurray can be considered the pioneer in sports themed movies in India. It is a tale of a computer engineer who takes up a temporary job as a sports instructor in a school in Ranchi. This engaging movie explores his journey as he coaches and motivates his school football team to victory. Released in 1984, this movie starred Raj Kiran and was directed by Prakash Jha, which was the debut film for the renowned socio-political filmmaker. The movie didn’t become much of a commercial success, but is considered one of the finest Indian movies based on sports.
Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar
This Hindi movie needs no introduction. Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar has everything a standard Bollywood movie needs – romance, intense relationships, drama, humour, action and a nail-biting climax. Set in Dehradun in north India, the movie is about teenage angst, rich-poor disparity, college romance and a sports contest. The story revolves around an inter-collegiate cycling competition in a small town; undisputed cycling champions of Rajput College face some real tough completion from the often despised Model College boys, who are determined to give their competitors a taste of their own medicine.
Starring Aamir Khan and directed by Mansoor Khan, this movie was released in 1992. Similar to Hip Hip Hurray, this movie did averagely at the box office. However, the popularity of the movie increased by word of mouth; and today, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar is considered as a benchmark for sport-themed movies.
This story of a struggling football player is an adaptation of Bengali movie named “Saheb”. Isn’t that obvious?! Saaheb is the youngest son of Badriprasad´s family. Saaheb doesn´t do well in college academically, yet he excels in soccer. Due to his passion for football, everyone in the family constantly mock him about his bleak career. However when circumstances demand, he gives up his kidney to fund his sister’s marriage, at the cost of his football career.
Released in 1985, this movie starred Anil Kapoor as Saaheb and was directed by Anil Ganguly. While the movie didn’t earn much at the box office, the music score by the inimitable Bappi Lahiri is quite memorable.
Bend It Like Beckham
Actually this movie is not made in Bollywood! It is a British-Asian film produced and directed by Gurinder Chadda. The theme juxtaposes the clash between traditional values and the modern world along with fantastic feel-good story about passion for sports. This humorous piece of work tells the story of Jesminder Bhamra, who rebels against her orthodox Sikh parents to go on and play for the women’s football team in England. Set in Hounslow, London, the film narrates the story of two 18-year old girls whose hearts are set on a career in professional soccer.
Starring Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley in the lead roles, this movie was released in 2002. The movie saw considerable success both in India and abroad thanks to its instant connection with the youth.