Indian baseball story `Million Dollar Arm` premieres in UK

London: `Million Dollar Arm`, a true story of two Indian village boys who go on to become baseball stars in the US, premiered at the London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) and is slated to open in theatres here next month.

The Disney film follows the life of Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel from Uttar Pradesh as their lives are transformed by a TV reality show.

`Life of Pi` star Suraj Sharma and `Slumdog Millionaire` star Madhur Mittal star as Rinku and Dinesh in the movie while `Mad Men` star Jon Hamm plays JB Bernstein.

"This was one of those movies where everything fit like a glove," producer Mark Ciardi told audiences at the UK premiere.

"We had a tiny month to shoot this in India just before the monsoon and everything just seemed to work. There was no shortage of talent there," he added.

Based on real events, the film tells the story of Bernstein as a down-on-his-luck sports agent who hits upon the idea of cashing in on India`s obsession with cricket by looking for a fast-paced pitcher for baseball.

"I finished the script and loved it and then looked back to the title page and went, `Wait a minute. This is true?` I am a huge baseball fan and somehow this flew under my radar," the actor says in reference to the film, which has music by A R Rahman and is directed by Craig Gillespie.

Mittal said he wanted to lend credibility to the story despite never having played baseball.

"I had a huge responsibility on my shoulders and the one person I really wanted to impress was the real Dinesh. I had never thrown a baseball in my life and had to hit the gym for this role. I have tried my best and my reward was when Dinesh came up to me hugged me after a screening in the US," revealed Mittal.

'Million Dollar Arm' was intended to be less about baseball and more about the special bond between JB and Rinku and Dinesh.

Ciardi recalls: "We saw JB at a Super Bowl party right before he left for India and I remember him saying he was going there to do a reality show. It sounded crazy, but two years later he had gotten two kids signed and he came to us with this story. It was a really compelling and heart-warming story that truly resonated with us.

"The idea that this guy goes to India with the sole intention to find an athlete to bring back and get signed to Major League Baseball, and at first they're just an investment but it turns into a real family relationship, that's the emotional core and through-line that appealed to us."

The film, which is now set for its DVD release in India, will get its UK cinematic release on August 29 as part of Disney's worldwide release strategy.

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