The thrills and spills of sports on screen


By Kaushik L M

The riveting trailer of the upcoming Vallinam which showcases elements of love, friendship, rivalry among others had another marked characteristic. One, which followers of Tamil cinema would have already been acquainted with. Yes, we are talking about the basketball aspect which seems to be the core of the movie. Lead man Nakul is an exponent of the game in the movie and he had also sharpened his skills with the ball prior to the movie’s shoots. We have to see how convincingly he has portrayed himself as a basketball player and also how the audiences identify with the sport, given its status as a niche sport in the country.

Another recent release, Sundaattam talked about a carrom exponent whose life takes a turn for the worse thanks to his excellence in the game. Now that we have talked about Sundaattam and Vallinam in the same breath, the obvious commonality between the two is the fact that they are movies based on sports. Sports movies as a genre is pretty popular in Hollywood with many memorable movies made on boxing (Rocky, Raging Bull, Cinderella Man), rugby (Invictus) and American rules football (The Blind Side) to name a few.

Even Bollywood has been catching up on this genre with movies like Lagaan, Iqbal, Striker, Lahore, Apne, Paan Singh Tomar and the much awaited Bhaag Milka Bhaag. Superstar Shahrukh Khan gave a major impetus to the genre with his superhit 2007 movie Chak De India, which gave a big boost to women’s hockey in the country.

Back home in the Tamil industry, we have had movies like Ghilli, Chennai 28, Badri, Potta Potti, M Kumaran, Vennila Kabbadi Kuzhu and Lee which have had a sports backdrop. Other elements of a typical Tamil film were also there in these films but the unique competitive instinct and intensity of the sport that was portrayed in these films, made them standout even more. Who can forget the riveting kickboxing matchups in Badri and M Kumaran or the utterly thrilling Kabbadi scenes in Ghilli?

The game of cricket was given a totally lighthearted and irreverent tone in Chennai 28 and that was the sheer imagination of Venkat Prabhu. Even the recent NKPK had cricket as one of the key instigating factors in the entire memory loss drama that unfolds, albeit in a lighthearted way yet again.

With Jayam Ravi’s Boologam, another sports movie based on the life of a North Madras boxer, in the anvil, it looks like there is a small resurgence in the sports movie genre in Tamil cinema. If the crux of the sport is shown properly and authentically on screen, then the cinematic drama is automatically lifted several notches higher.

With the presence of an actor like Ajith who already has sports in his blood, thanks to his periodic racing exploits, some of our directors ought to think along the lines of a movie based on a biker or car racer’s career. Ajith will surely live such a role as he knows what it is; to be a racer in real life and his emotions on screen will surely be genuine. What about a biopic on someone like the late legendary F1 champion Ayrton Senna, who also happens to be one of Ajith’s biggest real-life heroes? If such a highly ambitious and grandiose project materializes with the backing of one of the big-shot producers in the industry, not only will it make for riveting cinema given the exciting and sad career trajectory that Senna had, but it will also give the sports movie genre an unbelievable boost.

If only all our wishes come true …



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