We’ve seen some of them. Ex-hockey player Mir Ranjan Negi’s story was made into Chak De! India, Milkha Singh trysts in the 1960 Olympics were depicted in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom portrayed how the boxer won the 2008 World Boxing Championships, Sushant Singh Rajput as MS Dhoni lifted the 2011 World Cup, and Dangal chronicled the event where Geeta Phogat won gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Championships. These were most of India’s phenomenal sporting achievements that have been encapsulated into a journey and made into popular Bollywood biopic movies (mostly known as ‘sports movies’) over the years.
But there are many more waiting to be made. With Phantom Films recently announcing the 1983 Cricket World Cup biopic under the direction of Kabir Khan with Ranveer Singh playing the role of Captain Kapil Dev, let us take a look at some other potential sports biographies:
Dipa Karmakar’s 2016 Rio Magic
The first ever Indian gymnast to compete in an Olympics also became the nation’s biggest hero at the Rio Summer Olympics last year. 23-year-old Dipa Karmakar, like Milkha Singh, will forever remain famous for coming fourth, missing the medals by a whisker. However, she made her country proud for going further than any Indian had ever gone in her field. Don’t be surprised if her book and film rights have been sold already. Her story – especially leading up to the Olympics (her request for a physical therapist from India was deemed wasteful before she competed) – has everything the classic underdog tale demands. And it ends with a heart-stopping final and the now world-famous Produnova vault – the most difficult vault in artistic gymnastics. A spunky newcomer, much like the Dangal girls, would be appropriate for a biopic where the ‘character’ and not the star needs to stand out.
The 2017 Women’s Cricket World Cup
Oh, what a journey! They lost their warm-up games, and nobody expected Mithali Raj’s warriors to even go past the group stages. Eight teams were competing for the top four sports and the semifinal pairings. But the Indian women’s cricket team became an overnight sensation in July this year, when Raj and her bunch of merry ladies waltzed their way to the Final. They lost only three matches in the whole tournament – one of them being a heartbreaking final against England by 9 runs. But they won hearts across the globe with their fearless brand of cricket. Imagine the characters – crystal cool Mithali “record-breaking” Raj, batting sensations Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana, fire-breathing pacer Jhulan Goswami, teenaged dynamo Poonam Yadav and all-rounder extraordinaire Deepti Sharma. It’s Chak De! all over again! Though it ended with a loss, this is a team effort for the ages. It changed the face of women’s cricket in a country obsessed with their male counterparts.
Golden Man Abhinav Bindra
Because they’re so rare, Indian Olympic victories make for the best stories. We’re surprised nobody has made a film about India’s first individual Gold medalist yet, though we suppose that filmmakers are getting closer to shooting as a cinematic sport after exploring boxing and wrestling already. The 2008 Beijing Olympics will remain entrenched in our memories for the way 26-year-old Chandigarh boy Bindra snatched gold in the Men’s 10m Air Rifle final after finishing fourth in the qualifying round. The nation celebrated its newest hero because nobody had singularly captured the imagination of a country thirsty for the ultimate glory on the world stage. And nobody has, ever since. And what makes this an interesting sports biopic is that Bindra doesn’t come from rags, but has been fortunate enough to come from enough wealth to support his rather expensive passion. The ‘underdog’ tag will have to be intrinsic – for here is an athlete obsessed with his craft on a micro-level. Bindra missed out on the medals in Rio in 2016 by a whisker, finishing fourth in his favorite event.
Chess Master Vishwanathan Anand
Speaking about chess, it’s probably only a matter of time before we see India’s most famous international Grandmaster and former World No. 1 Vishwanathan Anand on celluloid. He is still active and competing at the topmost level, which is why perhaps Bollywood has had to be patient. He has had a rise and fall, too, but perhaps his 2007 World Championship win could be the event around which the film could revolve. It led to his title defense against Vladimir Kramnik a year later and then Veselin Topalov in 2010. But his rivalry against Magnus Carlsen – who he lost to twice as a challenger – will be the crux of the story of India’s finest sporting treasure.
The Vijender Singh Story
The best part about one of India’s rare amateur-turned-pro boxers is that his life doesn’t even have to be dramatized on screen. It has everything already. And given that he acted in a few doomed films, he can headline his own biopic. He has gone from Olympic medal-winning hero to drug-controversy-ridden villain to reality show star to an ultimate sports comeback in the form of professional boxing – a gutsy move for an amateur at the top of his sport. His lonely journey (in Manchester) to train for his pro-boxing debut will make for film gold, as well as his first 9 fights and 9 wins. Singh is unbeaten so far, and is the holder of two titles, and could even lose a match in the near-future. But the Middleweight boxer has already been where no Indian has been before – both figuratively and literally. And what better way to be launched as a Bollywood hero?