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Sarath Ramesh Kuniyl
Sarath Ramesh Kuniyl


Sports biopics—formula for success?


The joke about biopics is that the filmmaker does not have to hunt for a story. With two films based on sportspersons already having released this year and two more to come, biopics seem to be the flavour of the season. The life of a sportsperson is more often than not an inspiring tale of struggle and grit. And who doesn't love a fight. These sportspersons became heroes fighting against odds, be it discrimination or lack of infrastructure.

One such person is Indian cricketer Mahendra Singh Dhoni, a small town boy from Jharkhand who grew into a cricket icon. His journey is being brought to the silver screen by director Neeraj Pandey through M.S. Dhoni—The Untold Story, where actor Sushant Singh Rajput essays the role of the Indian captain. With a little over a day to go for its release, here's a look at some other sports biopics in Bollywood:

Paan Singh Tomar (2012)

Tigmanshu Dhulia's film on the athlete-turned-dacoit earned it the National Award for the best film and the best actor for Irrfan Khan, who played the role of Paan Singh Tomar. While in the Army, he was the national steeplechase champion for seven years, and represented India at the 1958 Asian Games. A land feud forced him to become a dacoit, who soon became a terror in the Chambal valley, till he was killed in a police encounter.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013)

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's film on “The Flying Sikh” was the film that made biopics a winning template in Bollywood. The film based on sprinter Milkha Singh's life from the time of Partition, to his stint in the Army and his exploits on the race track, including how he narrowly missed a medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag won the National Award for the best popular film, and swept other film awards, too. Actor Farhan Akhtar sweated it out for more than a year to get the look right to don the shoes of Singh.

Mary Kom (2014)

Directed by Omung Kumar, Mary Kom was based on the life of the Olympic bronze medallist and five-time world boxing champion. Actor Priyanka Chopra underwent months of rigorous training to play the role of the pocket-sized dynamo from Manipur. The film won the National Award for the best popular film and earned accolades at international film festivals, too. The film shows how she overcame opposition from her father to take up boxing, how she met her husband Onkholer Kom and how she made a comeback to the sport after motherhood.


Tony D'Souza's film inspired from the life of cricketer Mohammed Azharuddin was the first sports biopic this year. One of India's successful captains, Azharuddin's life was nothing short of a potboiler—a sensational debut, captaincy early in his career, multiple marriages, match-fixing allegations and then coming clean. Emraan Hashmi played the role of Azharuddin in the film, which failed to set the cash registers ringing in spite of the promising storyline.

Budhia Singh—Born to Run

Soumendra Padhi's film was based on world's youngest marathon runner, from Odisha. Budhia ran into the record books in 2006 when he covered 65km—from Bhubaneshwar to Puri—in seven hours and two minutes, when he was only four. The film explores the story of the boy (played by Mayur patole), who ran 48 marathons, and his coach, Biranchi Das (essayed by Manoj Bajpayee), who rescues him from penury and adopts him, and how things go wrong when bureaucracy rears its ugly head. Budhia Singh—Born to Run won the National Award for the best children's film.

Nitesh Tiwari's Dangal is the other sports biopic coming up this year. Aamir Khan plays Mahavir Singh Phogat, a former wrestler and father of India's wrestling champions Geeta and Babita. It is scheduled to release on December 23.

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