With Kabir Khan’s upcoming cricket film 83’s trailer dropping earlier this week and Shahid Kapoor-starrer Jersey finalising its release date, sports films once again are set to dominate our screens this season.
A popular and universal genre, these films resonate with the audience almost immediately. Biographical sports movies such as Paan Singh Tomar and Gold have won National awards while others such as Chain Kulii Ki Main Kulii have appealed to the younger demographic. Ranging from showcasing victorious underdog stories to washed-up athletes getting a second chance, these films can be considered formulaic and predictable but they never fail to be inspirational and motivational.
Silverscreen India brings 10 movies that remind us of why we fell in love with this genre in the first place:
Chak De! India (2007)
Starring Shah Rukh Khan in the lead, this 2007 sports drama film is one of the most popular hockey films of all time. After losing the World Cup finals against Pakistan, Indian team captain Kabir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) is branded as a traitor. Seven years later, in order to redeem himself, he accepts the job of coaching the Indian women’s hockey team and sets out on a mission to not just train them but also help them overcome their personal differences.
The film is not a regular sports drama because it not only focuses on the sport and relationships between the team players but it also tackles themes like feminism, xenophobia, and racism.
MS Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016)
Based on the life of former Indian cricket team captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, this biographical sports film stars the late Sushant Singh Rajput, Kiara Advani, and Disha Patani in pivotal roles. It follows Dhoni’s (Rajput) aspiration to become a cricket player and the trials and tribulations that he faces in his life. Working as a railway ticket examiner, he simultaneously pursues his dream of becoming a cricketer and he ultimately gets selected for the National team.
The film covers both professional and personal events that take place in the cricketer’s life with a special focus on him leading India to win the World Cup in 2011.
MS Dhoni: The Untold Story is streaming on Disney+Hotstar.
In 1893 British India, a small village is burdened with high taxes and incessant drought. The villagers try to persuade the officials and the local king to exempt them from the agricultural tax. However, when a young farmer Bhuvan (Aamir Khan) insults the game of cricket, a tyrannical British official strikes a deal where the taxes will be cancelled for three years if Bhuvan beats him in the game. However, if the Indians lose, they will have to pay triple the tax.
Opening to rave reviews, Laagan not only won praise for weaving social issues in an off-beat sports film but it also won big at the National and Filmfare awards that year. The film was also India’s official entry to the Oscars and it became the third Indian film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
The movie can be streamed on Netflix.
Sarpatta Parambarai (2021)
Directed by Pa Ranjith, Sarpatta Parambarai is a boxing drama that is set in 1970s North Chennai and it showcases the sparring that takes place between local boxing clans. Kabilan (Arya) is a young labourer who is interested in becoming a boxer but this irks his mother (Anupama Kumar). However, in a turn of events, Kabilan is picked and trained by veteran coach Rangan (Pasupathy) to face off against more experienced boxers to ensure his clan Sarpatta’s victory.
Sarpatta Parambarai is an engaging story about an underdog that also touches upon the boxing culture in old Chennai, the changing political landscape, ideological differences, and conflicts between rival boxing clans.
The film is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Iqbal (Shreyas Talpade), a farmer’s son, is mute and hard of hearing. While his father wants him to help out with farming, Iqbal dreams of being a cricketer. In order to fulfil his dreams, he seeks out an alcoholic ex-cricketer (Naseeruddin Shah) to train him. The film focuses heavily on cricket training and even has Kapil Dev making a special appearance in the end.
Directed by Nagesh Kukunoor, Iqbal won the National Award for the Best Film on Social Issues.
Directed by SS Rajamouli, Sye follows two rival college students who must put aside their differences to oust a local gangster by defeating him in a rugby match. Prudhvi (Nithiin) and Shashank (Shashank) compete with each other in local rugby games to prove their superiority and settle differences. However, things change when a local thug (Pradeep Rawat) announces that he is taking over their college. The two players then team up to try and win a rugby match against the goon to get their college land back.
Mahavir Phogat (Aamir Khan), a former wrestler dreams of his having a son to win a gold medal in wrestling. But when he sees his daughters Geeta and Babita’s potential, he decides to train them in the sport so that they can win a gold medal in the Commonwealth Games. However, people in their village and other local competitors are less than thrilled with two girls training and competing in what they consider to be a manly sport.
Based on the real-life story of the Phogat sisters, Dangal explores gender inequality, father-daughter relationships, and the complexities of training for a sport like wrestling.
Dangal is streaming on Netflix.
Chennai 600028 (2007)
Two rival street cricket groups Royapuram Rockers and The Sharks are constantly at loggerheads. The Sharks have never managed to win against their rivals despite their best efforts. However, when Raghu (Jai) moves from Royapuram to Visalatchi Thottam (whose pincode is the eponymous Chennai 28), he is phased out from the cricket team. He then joins the Sharks and the team’s luck slowly begins to turn.
Chennai 600028 is directed by Venkat Prabhu and it stars Jai, Shiva, and Premgi in the lead. In a genre filled with serious films, this movie is a comedic watch as it primarily revolves around friendships and romantic relationships. A sequel Chennai 600028 II was released in 2016.
Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander (1992)
Sanjay (Aamir Khan) is a happy-go-lucky college student who spends most of his time wooing girls and hanging out with his friends. In stark contrast, his older brother Ratan (Mamik Singh) is a dedicated cyclist. After a series of run-ins with the rich and brash Shekhar (Deepak Tijori), a rivalry begins to brew between him and the brothers. However, things take a turn for the worse when Ratan is attacked by Shekhar and cannot participate in an upcoming cycling competition. In order to avenge his brother, Sanjay gets his act together and enters the cycling competition with a determination to win.
The success of this coming-of-age sports drama led to its remakes in multiple languages including Tamil and Telugu.
This Tamil film stars Aishwarya Rajesh and Sathyaraj in the lead with a cameo from Sivakarthikeyan. Murugesan (Sathyaraj) is an ardent cricket fan who is disillusioned with India’s loss at the 2007 World Cup. His daughter Kousalya (Rajesh) resolves to make her father happy by making it as an international cricketer. Soon, with his support, she begins to train as a bowler.
Kanaa may not have a groundbreaking story but its earnest performances and take on social issues such as the plight of farmers, language barriers, gender-based discrimination elevate the film and make it an interesting watch.
The movie can be streamed on SonyLiv.