Sports Biopics: Hockey Wizard Dhyan Chand May Score a Hit

Letter from New Delhi

A biopic on Dhyan Chand is in the works after the success of a dozen Bollywood movies based on sports. Almost two dozen such films have been produced in Hindustani but only half of them made any impact.

Of these, the top six, Lagaan, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Paan Singh Tomar, Chak de India, Iqbal and Mary Kom have been most successful so far.

Most of Bollywood sports movies have featured cricket simply because this is the most popular game in India and with Indians abroad. Some have also been made about football but these did not get high box office earnings. Cricket did much better topped by Lagaan.

Lagaan was the most outstanding big budget box office hit  that was nominated for an Oscar. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was the life story of athlete Milkha Singh who is a legend in his own right. True to form, this movie revived the triumphs of this star runner. Paan Singh Tomar celebrated and army athlete of this name who got disgusted with social injustice and became a dacoit, coming to a tragic end. Chak de India was a gripping entertainer about a women’s hockey team and its trials and travails with victory at the end. Iqbal was about a village boy determined to play cricket for India as he was coached by an old-timer who believed in him.

And the most recent, Mary Kom is the inspiring story about a woman boxer who brought gold and glory for India despite many personal and institutional hurdles. More importantly, this movie made Mary Kom much more popular all over India and abroad, more than all the headlines she has generated so far with her victories.

The fact that only one movie about hockey has been a success so far shows that hockey is not the top choice of filmmakers so far. Now after the success of sports biopics on Milkha Singh, Paan Singh Tomar and Mary Kom, interest has been generated in Dhyan Chand. To be fair, the movie on Dhyan Chand was announced before the success of Mary Kom. The movie on Dhyan Chand seeks inspiration from the hockey icon’s exemplary life as a sportsman and a hockey legend. The producer, Aarti Shetty, creative director of Walkwater Media, said, “Films based on real life heroes, that have inspirational content, generate a lot of interest among the audience.”

Dhyan Chand’s family has cleared this film and are cooperating with the producer. A team of researchers has been established to gather information about every aspect of his life and achievements. Writer Ila Dutta who wrote Agneepath will write the story. Ad filmmaker Rohit Vaid, who has been closely following the life of Major Dhyan Chand, will direct it. Who will play the role of Dhyan Chand remains to be seen. Shah Rukh Khan who played the hockey coach in Chak de India has been mentioned but nothing has been finalized.

One thing is sure: if the filmmakers carry out their research diligently, and the writer comes up with a dramatic script which is expertly directed and filmed, the legend of Dhyan Chand will come alive on the big screen in a most dramatic manner to inspire today’s hockey players and fans. Chand won three Olympic gold medals (1928 Amsterdam, 1932 Los Angeles, 1936 Berlin) and was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest civilian honour, in 1956. During an illustrious 22-year career (1926 to 1948), he scored more than 400 international goals. Beyond statistics, Dhyan Chand’s impact on our hockey fortunes can be gauged by the astonishing statistic that India never, ever lost any international match that he played in.

Who knows, after winning the gold medal in the recent Asian Games, the film may also give a big push to hockey in India as well?


* Published in print edition on 17 October 2014

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