Sportspersons are all about passion; the performer in them shines only when they are on field, but they have little to do with exaggerated drama. Couple this attitude with the fact that sports-themed movies don’t really bring in a lot of cash. Most of the classic sports-themed movies didn’t fare very well commercially. It was only when successful movies like Lagaan and Chak De! India emerged that filmmakers took notice of this unexplored genre of film-making.
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:
This movie ranks among the all-time classics due to its impeccable execution and storytelling ability, which even got an Oscar nomination! Lagaan, which literally means Tax in Hindi, is about a story of bold villagers who defy officers of the British Raj in a game of cricket. Set in 1893, peasants from a barren village of Champaner in Gujarat are oppressed by high taxes imposed by their rulers. They attempt to persuade the British officers to reduce the taxes because of poor harvest, but they end up challenging the British team in a game of cricket.
After depicting the villagers learning an alien game in the first half, the second half of the three-hour film focuses on the three-day cricket match, where Bhuvan and his ramshackle team of 11 players fight against the well equipped British team and win. Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, this Aamir Khan starrer was the first Indian block buster inspired by sports. Mostly, it’s cricket that did the magic!
Chak De! India
Chak De! India is a timeless classic about a dejected hockey player and a bunch of rebellious young girls who come together to create history. It is based on the real life story about the Indian women’s field hockey team that won the gold medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. Kabir Khan, an ex-captain of the Indian men’s hockey team makes a comeback as a coach years after he gets wrongly accused of match fixing and is ostracized from the game. He soon finds himself coaching a team of rebellious women’s hockey players who come from different states of India.
His perseverance and tactful way of handling situations enable him bring the team together. With an ultimate goal to win the woman’s hockey world cup for his country and clear his name, he sets out to wipe out the preconceived notion about women players. Shimit Amin directed this wonderful movie with Shah Rukh Khan in the lead. Released in 2007, the movie was a block buster hit.
Paan Singh Tomar
It is a surprise why it took such a long time for Bollywood to notice this classic thriller story. The movie narrates the interesting tale of Paan Singh Tomar, a soldier who discovered his talent for athletics while serving in the Indian Army. After series of fortunate events and fierce determination led him to become a national steeplechase champion, this fascinating tale takes an unexpected turn when Tomar returns to his village after his retirement. A family feud leads him to murder and soon he becomes one of the most feared dacoits in the region.
Directed by Tigmanshu Dhuli, this movie has Irrfan Khan in the lead role. Released in 2012, this movie gathered the masses to the theatres in bulk.
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
A story based on the life of Milkha Singh, India’s most heralded Olympic athlete should not have taken this long to be picturised. But it is hard to create an exact biopic of a sportsman who loses his greatest opportunity of his lifetime despite doing his best to break the world record. However, director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra chose to do Milkha’s story, who endured the massacre of his family during the India-Pakistan partition and battled life’s cruel ordeals. His fight against his troubles with awe-inspiring determination begins with humble needs to get noticed in the Indian Army, where athletes get far better diet consisting of milk and eggs.
Released in 2013, Milkha Singh’s role is played by Farhan Akhtar. The movie saw tremendous commercial success and was an instant hit with masses.
This yet to be released movie is based on Mary Kom, an Indian boxer who is the five time world champion and is the only woman boxer to win a medal in each of the six world championships. The movie is generating high curiosity as it is probably the first sports themed Bollywood movie where the main protagonist is a lady.
Leading actress Priyanka Chopra has been signed to play Mary Kom’s character. Directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the movie is slated to be released in 2014.