2007 looks to be the Year of Sports Films

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Hollywood has done many sports flicks and some have gone on to be very successful, and Bollywood is hoping to follow suit. “As a sports-crazy nation, we must have more films on the subject. After all, they have a universal appeal,” says Taran Adarsh.

2007 has already seen the trend of sports movies with: Aryan – The Unbreakable, Hat Trick and Say Salaam India releasing earlier in the year. And there are many more films with sports as part of the story scheduled in the pipeline.

Anil Sharma agrees with Adarsh that Indians love sports and said, “It’s just that not many filmmakers have offered them quality sports movies. Today, audiences have become very intelligent to appreciate novel themes like sports. And don’t forget they also want change.” His next film is the eagerly awaited film Apne, starring Dharmendra, Sunny and Bobby in a story about boxing. To insure that the boxing scenes looked real for the film he brought in choreographers from Australia to train the 3. “Since boxing is a tough game, there were intensive training sessions complete with a real boxing ring.”

Also coming up, we have the highly anticipated film about hockey, Chak De India starring Shah Rukh Khan and directed by Shimit Main. “I hope the film makes a positive impact on the game and promotes it,” commented SRK.

Other films we’ll see at the Cineplex are Nisha Chainani’s debut film, Marathon, which is about the power of running and some smaller budget films like Chain Kulii Ki Main Kulii, a story with a magical cricket bat.

Subash Ghai tackles a film about The Tour De France with his Cycle Kick and it’ll give audiences the INS and OUTS about professional cycling with showman Ghai’s special touch.

Chandrakant Kulkarni’s Meerabai Not Out is a film that stars Mandira Bedi as an ardent Anil Kumble fan. Kumble will make a special appearance in the film. “It’s the story of a cricket fan and couple of months in her life. I don’t think, till date, any other film has ever represented the masses. Meerabai Not Out is more special for me because I am doing something that I love a lot,” says Mandira, who is Indian cricket’s favorite poster girl.

Soccer is one of the main sports being kicked around in this new slew of sports films. Vivek Agnihotri’s next directorial venture, Goal, starring John Abraham playing a soccer player. The film also stars Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani and Bipasha Basu. “Football is a cinematic sport. It has the maximum aggression, style and energy. Plus, viewers love and know about soccer more than any other game,” says Agnihotri, who calls himself a true soccer buff.

Ahmed Khan agrees saying, “Today, players such as Sania Mirza, Michael Schumacher and David Beckham are as popular as any other cricketer.” This choreographer-turned director also plans a soccer flick. His film Mazhab, reportedly stars Nana Patekar playing the coach of a team comprising Vivek Oberoi, Suneil Shetty, Arjun Rampal, Sohail Khan, Bobby Deol and Aftab Shivdasani. “I am through with the casting and screenplay, but let everyone else make their films, I will start later,” says Ahmed.

Agnihotri worked hard to make his film Goal look authentic. “Training is of paramount importance to bring correctness on the screen. As a director, I can’t take care of the technical aspects of movie-making,” says Agnihotri. He hired famous football choreographer Andy Ansah to train his actors. Anash did all the choreography for the commercials with Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Beckham, Thierry Henry and Wayne Rooney. The main soccer scenes of Goal were shot at the well-known Manchester United stadium and there was a tie in with the Chelsea football club.

Another John Abraham starrer with sports central to its arc is Vicky Singh’s Raaste, which is about car racing starring Abhishek Bachchan and Sikandar Kher. Shabbhir Boxwala producer of the film said, “Today, people are as excited about Formula One and racing as cricket matches. Especially, the younger generation is more than game for offbeat sports.” John once again plays a biker, Abhishek as a car racer and Sikandar’s character drives a truck, with each trying to make their dream come true on the dirt tracks of Mexico.

Boxwala went on to say that, “Being a difficult terrain, training is important for actors. After all, the look of a film should be authentic.” So there is going to be a 3-week long training session for the actors conducted by Sports choreographer Steve Kelso, who trained Saif Ali Khan for Ta Ra Rum Pum. Plus, the race sequences are going to be shot by Ivor Shier, the top class Hollywood photographer of Babel and Collateral.

There are even more films scheduled to begin filming with this trend of sports storylines. Soham Shah will soon start his film on adventure sports starring Ajay Devgan, who is also a producer along with Kumar Mangat. “It’s an exciting period with a slew of sports movies. But I am sure all the filmmakers will attempt something new and different from each other,” said the Kaal director.

Sanjay Chauhan, who is a newcomer, is directing Lahore, a film about kickboxing. “It’s a very bold story, which hasn’t been attempted in Bollywood yet,” says producer Sunil Chauhan.

David Dhawan, who is known for his comedy films is now making Hook Ya Crook, featuring Amrita Rao and Siddharth of Rang De Basanti. It has a “good dose” of cricket and “It’s the most interesting script to come out of UTV,” said Siddharth Roy Kapur, the producer of the film.

Though each film may have a different aspect of sports whether it’s the fans or the sport themselves, there’s one theme that runs through many of them. The underdog triumphing on the field of battle, be it pitch, road, ring, ice or field.

SRK’s character in Chak De India is coming back to the ice after 7 years to pass on his knowledge to a girl’s hockey team.

Goal is the, “… journey of a man who travels from playing for a British club to turning out for a South Asian team to assert his identity – it’s a story of inspiration, glory and victory,” according to Abraham.

In Apne, Bobby Deol gives up his music career in order to enter the boxing ring to wash away a stain on his father’s boxing career. In doing so he wins the nation and eventually the world.

“People can easily identify with underdogs. There is an instant emotional connection with them, everyone sympathizes with underdogs and want them to succeed,” says Subhash Kapoor, who made the already released Say Salaam India, which is about small town boys that make it big in the cricket world.

Of course probably the most well-known and successful Indian film with sports as its heart is Lagaan and 2007 looks to have some sports hits as well.

There’s quite an array of films coming that’ll please almost all sports fans and maybe teach us a sport that we’ve never seen before.

We look forward to cheering on our favorite Bollywood Star!

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