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Sports in Indian cinema

Last updated on 21 Aug 2023 | 09:56 AM
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Sports in Indian cinema

Let's look at some instances where the intersection of cinema and sports gave us something to cherish about

Sport in cinema is a combination that speaks to the child in you. The idea of your favorite actor playing your favorite sportsperson is almost always exciting. This excitement takes a whole different form in India whenever the amalgamation of two fields that are avidly followed by over a billion people takes place. The only Indian stereotype we religiously adhere to is our following for cinema and cricket. 

A few days ago, the box office took up notice once again as we saw Ghoomer - starring Abhishek Bachhan, Amitabh Bachhan, Saiyami Kher, and Shabana Azmi - enter the theatres. Having received a great response from the audience and critics, this would make for a great weekend watch.

The movie made all of us here at think about some of our favorite sports movies to come out of India.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

As the title suggests, the movie is based on real-life runner Milkha Singh who brought laurels to a newly-formed India with multiple medals at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. ‘The Race of My Life’, an autobiography co-written by Milkha Singh and his daughter, Sonia Sanwalka, formed the basis for its screenplay.

Popularly called “The Flying Sikh”, the movie traces Milkha’s (Farhan Akhtar) career against the backdrop of India’s partition. Widely infamous for being the largest displacement of human beings in recorded history, the partition and its horrors affected Milkha on a personal level. Born in present-day Pakistan, Milkha’s move to India forced him to fend for himself at a young age. 

Apart from garnering critical acclaim, the movie ended up being 2013’s sixth highest-grossing Bollywood movie. Do check it out to understand how Milkha Singh’s life took a turn for the better thanks to sports. 

Chak De! India

One of IMDb’s highest-rated Indian sports movies, Chak De saw India’s global superstar Shah Rukh Khan in a never-seen-before avatar as Kabir Khan, coach of the Indian women’s hockey team. 

Inspired by the Indian hockey women’s team’s Commonwealth Games win in 2002, the movie witnessed Kabir’s return to glory after being ostracized by the nation following a loss to neighboring Pakistan in a World Cup encounter. 

He gets his shot at redemption after being made coach of the national women’s side for the upcoming World Cup in Australia. Managing various players and the egos they come with makes for a riveting watch. 

Released on the occasion of India’s 60th Independence Day, the movie also delves into various issues plaguing the country - including bigotry, prejudice, and sexism.


This might not be the first name that comes to people’s minds when we talk about cricket-based movies in Bollywood. But, Nagesh Kukunoor and Shreyas Talpade came up with arguably the most realistic depiction of what it takes for someone from rural India to stake a claim for a Team India cap. 

Released in 2005, the movie follows Iqbal (Shreyas Talpade), a deaf and mute youngster who loves the game of cricket. Against his father’s wishes, he manages to convince former India cricketer Mohit Mishra (Naseerudin Shah) to train him. How he makes his way into international cricket forms the crux of the story. 

For the uninitiated, apart from being successful commercially, the movie ended up winning a national award. About a decade later, it was also jointly presented by the Ministry of Defense while commemorating India’s 70th Independence Day.

Irudhi Suttru

A year before Aamir Khan brought the sport of women’s boxing to the mainstream with Dangal, Madhavan and Sudha Kongara came up with Irudhi Suttru, a movie that looks at a temperamental former boxer Prabhu Selvaraj (R Madhavan) and Ezhil Madhi (Ritika Singh). 

Tackling complex issues such as corruption, lack of infrastructure, physical abuse, etc. - the movie opened us up to the world of Indian women's boxing. Fantastic performances and a raw take on how things work in a world never seen before, this makes for fantastic viewing.


Based on the real-life story of Vijay Barse, the founder of NGO Slum Soccer - the movie stars Amitabh Bachchan as Vijay Borade, a sports teacher at a school on the verge of retirement. Post-retirement, he takes it upon himself to rehabilitate the youngsters near his slum by using football as a means to keep them off a life of crime and drugs. 

Directed by Nagaraj Manjule, someone known for his penchant to talk about deep-rooted societal issues in his stories, this movie is no different. Apart from football, the movie talks about prevailing issues such as casteism, classism, and the persisting hierarchies associated with them.

Unfortunately, the downside to over 2000 Indian movies made every year is that a lot of other good movies get a miss. In the interest of the sheer volume of movies produced in this part of the world, some notable mentions include Dangal, Kai Po Che, Lagaan, and Paan Singh Tomar.


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