Hollywood has its 'Coach Carter', 'Goal!', 'Invictus' and 'A Field of Dreams' while Bollywood has a boyish Aamir Khan in the unforgettable 'Jo Jita Wohi Sikander' and an inspiring SRK in 'Chak De! India', the quintessential sports films for us Indians.
Down south, it’s Vijay’s antics on the kabaddi field in 'Gilli' that have held attention all the way. The year 2014 will have films like 'Vallinam', 'Vaa Deal', 'Boologam', 'Jeeva' and 'Eetti', all featuring a sports theme or protagonists playing sportspersons. Do such films appeal to men alone? What impact do they have on society, especially youngsters.
A level playing field
Actor Nakul, who plays a basketball player in 'Vallinam', which is running to packed houses around the state, says that sports films are here to stay.
He says, “When a director comes to us with a script for a sports film, it might sound formulaic. But it is all about the screenplay and execution. I’m glad a script like this came my way as sports films have a message that transcends language or country.
When one sees a person represent his country or a state in a sport, people look up to that character like he’s a solider. It makes them feel patriotic and the underdog story is always inspirational. That’s why films of lesser known sports work just as well with women and people who know nothing about the sport.”
While stating how actors playing sportspersons present an opportunity for the layman to connect with the lead character, especially when it comes to a common sport, actor Arun Vijay feels it also holds a marketing opportunity. He plays a racer in his upcoming film, 'Vaa Deal'. “I felt it would be interesting if I could place the film’s logo on a formula-level race car.
It would get the word going as far the film is concerned and it certainly adds credibility to the character in the film when the star is seen promoting activities related to the actual sport because people know that this guy knows what he is doing,” he says.
But with tight shooting schedules and busy actors moving from one shooting set to the other, they might not get the real opportunity to learn a new sport, understand its technicalities and pull it off on screen to the audience’s delight.
Actor Sibiraj, who appropriately played the role of a footballer in the film, Lee, says, “I had never played too many sports during my school and college days, so it was quite a challenge for me. I had to do extensive training for a few months to nail the role. Moreover, I would match videos of matches to understand the game and its rules. So yes, it did need a lot of effort. This really helped me during the shoots.”
Promoting a love for sports?
Despite films doing well featuring a particular sport, do more people come forward to try their hand at it? Could it promote an unpopular sport? “It certainly doesn’t,” says Sibiraj, adding “Just take a look at a film like Chak De India! Not only a superstar like SRK acted in it, but the movie was well received by the critics and the masses alike. But did it have a strong impact on hockey as a sport? I don’t think so.
Similarly, having a sport as a subject is not a guarantee for its box office success. If the script and screenplay are not engaging, then even a film on cricket won’t do that well.”
Actress Priya Anand played the hero’s love interest in last year’s 'Ethir Neechal' which merged comedy with a marathon. “I don’t think there is a sudden influx of sports films,” she thinks.
“There was Ethir Neechal which had comic elements, and in the end, the character wants to achieve something and joins the marathon. In that sense, EN was fair to both sexes because Nandita’s character trains Sivakarthekeyan. The film showed the female leads to be focused and strong. My character was extremely ambitious while Nandita’s was from a poor family, but her father encouraged her in sports.”...