The Phogat Sisters created history and changed the face of Women’s Wrestling in India and their Bio-pic, Dhangal created a wave so sensation amongst the audience and was critically acclaimed by all. But, what most of the audience did not realise was that the movie, came with a disclaimer that said it was 99% truth and 1% of fiction. Though the team did not specify as to which part of the movie was fictitious, after a few days of its release, the actual coach of the Phogat sisters in SAI, Mr. P R Sondhi considered turning to legal action against the team for misrepresentation of his character in the film.
The character of P R Kadam, played by Girish Kulkarni, was portrayed in a negative light, especially in the last 15 minutes of the movie. He was seen to lock up Mahavir Phogat (Aamir Khan) during the final of the Commonwealth Games. In reality, the coach and Phogat were fast friends and worked in complete co-operation with one another in making the champions of the Phogat sisters.
This is not the first and the only biopic of a sports personality, there are numerous others like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom, M S Dhoni: The Untold Story, and many others that feature sports like Irudhi Suttru, Ethirneechal, Sultan, Chak De India and Iqbal. All these movies have been much awaited and anticipated movies of their times and have been box office hits. But, the question of how ‘real’ is the reality showcased in the movies remains something that needs to be looked into, Whether, the Screenplay strikes a balance between fiction and showing the reality is always a neglected aspect when it comes to movie analysis and reviews.
The Federation’s Story
“In movies like Irudhi Suttru (Saala Khadoos in Hindi) the reality is far much worse than what was depicted,” says Martial Arts Coach Kebiraj.E., who trains students as well as represents the country in Judo, Karate and Taekwondo. The movie outlines the story of a Boxer(Played by Madhavan, a neglected boxer by the Boxing Federation who trains an amateur fighter to earn the attention he deserves. The movie Chak De India, though purely fictional, does justice in depicting the condition of hockey especially women’s hockey in the country. The federation, wishes to sponsor only one of the two teams- either the men’s or the women’s team to the world Championships and the training too, begins only weeks before the actual event. “In India, the national team always comprises of the best players from different states and they meet only during the national training camp where they are all put together to play,” says Kavin, a sports geek and movie buff from Chennai. “Since the players in the team keep changing year after year, it is difficult for the team to consistently practice as one, and the amount of time they practice together as a team also does not suffice to be able to present outstanding performance in international Arena,” he adds on how the movie depicts the identification of importance to be given to team building by the coach of the Women’s Hockey team, comprising of girls from different states.
Sweating in Practice
Ethirneechal saw Kunjitapatham (played by Sivakarthikeyan) who had low self-confidence train and run in the Chennai marathon in a short while. “One needs to have proper training, stamina and diet to even be able to run a marathon,” says Huzefa Taiab, who has been participating in marathons for four years now. “If one doesn’t have proper training and runs a marathon with minimal training, there are very high chances of getting injured,” he adds, outlining the arduous training that one would have to undergo in order to participate and win in a marathon, which was not depicted significantly in the movie.
However, one part of the plot depicts the story of Kunjithapathams’s coach, who was a former athlete to quit athletics due to fraudulent genetic test reports. This is one aspect that does not come to light in the media often, as not many report of the occurrence of such cases. “I have seen how low people can get in order to secure a spot on a contingent to many national and international games,” says junior athlete Rochelle Macfarlane commenting on the play of power in sports. Partiality, age frauds are all common in sports, and performing athletes need to surpass all that to make it to the top.
These movies with the hype that they bring with them, also bring the stories of the efforts the actors put into doing justice to the role. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, based on the autobiography of veteran athlete Milkha Singh, saw the tremendous effort by Farhan Akhtar that was lauded by Singh himself. “The screenplay, direction and acting was good effort,” says Paresh Palicha, a Mumbai-based movie reviewer. “one cannot really blame the actor for his/ her poor performance in such movies if there is any,” he adds.
The screenplay, of movies always have a Bollywood element in them according to Palicha but, the level of fiction and drama cannot be deciphered and analysed by those who do not know and understand the sport, he adds. “Movies always have some masala in them, we cannot do anything about it,” says Taiab.”The fiction element culd be fictitious to that movie, but, the fictitious concept portrayed in the movie isn’t alien to the sports persons and their stories,” says Krithika Jain, a former state swimmer and a movie buff. ‘If not relevant to the sportsperson or the sport featured in the movie, they are all concepts that are a reality somewhere, affecting someone, so there is a little truth in that drama as well,” she adds.
But, despite the reality, the drama, the censorship, the battles braved by the movie in coming out as a bio-pic is a struugle in itself as it strives to give voice to the community that is not taken very seriously in our country. Sports Movies and Bio-pics will help in infusing sports into our culture, which is predominantly made up of education, art and leisure, they throw light on the struggles endured by sportsperson in being who they are today, be it family acceptance or government intervention or lack of support, these movies depict all of them, in a subtle yet powerful manner.