Sports Biopics: Here To Stay


There has always been a connection between sports and celluloid, in Bollywood and Hollywood. In 2001 ‘Ali’ a biography of sports legend, Muhammad Ali, from his early days to his days in the ring was released. And then another on ‘Pele’ in 2013 tells the story of the Brazilian soccer phenomenon, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, who gained worldwide fame as Pele.

Biopics seem to be the new way to hit the jackpot. While Bollywood filmmakers are making biopics on sports stars one after the other, directors in southern India are going the spiritual way. Hollywood is also recreating the lives of important personalities who have been in the public eye. Globally, filmmakers appear to be on a biopic making spree and the audiences seem to be lapping them up.

In Bollywood, this genre of sports-based movies started in early 80s, though sporadically. Who can forget Prakash Jha’s gripping 1983 drama “Hip Hip Hurray” – with the teacher-student clash as its theme where football played the truce maker – or Aamir Khan’s Oscar nominated period drama “Lagaan”, which revolved around cricket.
In 2005, “Iqbal”, an inspirational film by Nagesh Kukunoor, about a cricket-obsessed dumb-mute boy’s grit and determination, was lapped up by all.

However, many feel that 2007 release “Chak De! India”, loosely based on hockey coach Mir Ranjan Negi, changed everything. There were many high points in the film – director Shimit Amin brought the life of ostracised hockey player Mir Ranjan Negi on screen with ease, while Shah Rukh Khan ditched his romantic image to essay the coach’s role with conviction.

Ever since the movies like “Paan Singh Tomar” and “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” have a created a major stir at the box office there seems to be raining biopics in Bollywood. And for our Bollywooders who else than a great sportsman of Indian cricketing history can be a better choice.

So after legendary sports personalities like Milkha Singh and MC Mary Kom it’s time for all you die hard Bollywood fans to get prepared for a biopic on India’s much celebrated cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Yes, you heard it right, there will be a biopic of Mahi on the celluloid. The film poster was launched in 2014 the biopic is named “M.S Dhoni – The Untold Story” and to play the character of Mahi movie’s maker and director Neeraj Pandey zeroed down on Sushant Singh Rajput .

In the recent past rumors were doing rounds that BCCI has registered its discontent over making of movie on Dhoni’s life, but off late Board brushed aside all such speculations while stating that they neither had any issue with the making of the movie and nor will have until and unless it adversely impacts the professional life of Mahi. Reports pertaining to the making of movie were also confirmed by Dhoni’s wife Sakshi Singh Dhoni through her twitter handle. So all you die-hard fans of Indian cricket team’s Mr Cool, so far you have seen Dhoni setting the cricket pitch on fire, now gear up to see some untold realities of this sporting legend’s life on the big screen tentatively on October 22, 2015.

And what’s more, the ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh during the making of the film on him, helped Rakeysh Rehra with the research of the film. Farhaan and Milkha even raced together during the research of the film. He was so touched with Farhan’s work that he presented him with the shoes he wore in Rome Olympics during the filming of the movie.
During the making of ‘Mary Kom’ MC Mary Kom was pleased that someone “as beautiful and talented” as Priyanka Chopra should be playing her. Chopra also could take the help of coaches from Kom’s academy and stand-in boxers who demonstrated shots that Priyanka mimicked.

Now for making M. S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, Mahi had spoken to the film crew before going to Kharagpur. He had asked them to meet his friend Prakash Mishra,. ‘He still remains in touch with me. He is a simple man still,” Prakash said. He took them to the railway quarters which he shared with Dhoni in those days. The Kharagpur station platforms which he and Dhoni manned.  The local SERSA stadium where Dhoni played. Dhoni was in Kharagpur from 2001-2004, before leaving to make his ODI debut in Bangladesh in December, 2004. To make things easier for the film crew, the SERSA stadium secretary Rajesh Singh personally asked the film crew that since most of the places fall within the South Eastern railway zone, they should make a formal appeal to the CPRO. And the Indian cricket team is also keeping no stone unturned, the buzz is that the biopic based on Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, will see several players from the current Indian team making guest appearances. The makers of the film are said to have approached some cricketers who are close to the skipper and have played with him at different stages of his professional career. The aim is to highlight Dhoni’s achievements as a cricketer and personal milestones too. They also intend to rope in international cricketers in the making and marketing of the film.

These films have also attracted a lot of brands. Mary Kom attracted a slew of brand associations, which experts say has given the film immense visibility. The brands that have partnered with the movie include, Havmor, Mother Dairy, Usha International, Monte Carlo and Artemis Hospitals… The brands have either been woven into the film’s script, or carried campaigns on-air and on-ground to promote the film. For example, Mother Dairy had a television campaign on-air, which extolled the virtues of the brand’s product featuring Chopra as Mary Kom. Priyanka’s boxer avatar was also seen promoting the grand finale of the Pro Kabaddi League.

And apparently, Priyanka had taken Bhaag Milkha Bhaag actor Farhan Akhtar into confidence about her marketing plans for Mary Kom, and it was he who suggested that the real Mary Kom be kept in the loop in the same way that the real Milkha Singh fraternized with Farhan during Bhaag Milkha  Bhaag.

For marketing of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, the biggest challenge for the marketing team was to revive a legend who hasn’t faced the media for over a decade. Milkha Singh just needed to be convinced but it was not difficult. The Flying Sikh understood the mechanics of marketing and PR. Usually people of his age consider marketing as a gimmick. But Milkha Singh behaved differently. He understood the importance of it and supported the marketing efforts.

In other upcoming biopics, Emraan Hashmi plays former Indian cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin, Ranbir Kapoor may play Dhyan Chand, Deepika Padukone might play Sania Mirza and Abhishek bachchan has expressed the desire to play Yuvraj Singh. is of the opinion that it’s a good idea to immortalize the sports legends on silver screen. However, they should be more authentic about their life and less fictional. And these living legends should be well compensated as many of them, except the glamorous cricketers and a handful of others, are left to survive on their meager resources.


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