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'Champion', 'Jersey', Gopichand biopic: South cinema bets big on sports

On what sets sports films apart, he said that stories of underdogs are usually well-received.

'Champion', 'Jersey', Gopichand biopic: South cinema bets big on sports
Pic Courtesy: Pixabay (Representational Image)

Chennai: At the heart of great sports is great drama and inspiration. This line holds true for most sports-based films in Hollywood and might soon be applicable to films in southern India as well, as over half a dozen sports films in Tamil and Telugu are in the pipeline.

In what could be best described as a growing trend, southern filmmakers are betting big on sports-centric scripts in an attempt to celebrate the genre in the mainstream space.

Among these upcoming sports-based films from south India, the biopic on ace shuttler Pullela Gopichand is undoubtedly the most exciting project. "Baaghi" fame Sudheer Babu, a former badminton champion, will play Gopichand in the yet-untitled project, to be directed by Praveen Sattaru. 

Commenting on the growing trend of sports films and on his own project, Praveen told IANS that sports-based stories generally connect with audiences on an emotional level.

"Unlike films in other genres, sports stories in general are packed with heroism, drama and euphoria. Let's take the story of the Phogat sisters in 'Dangal'. When we watched their story unfold on-screen, we were fully aware that it was based on real life, which makes it genuinely emotional. 

"In regular films, you need to write scenes a certain way to bring heroism on-screen. In sports films, such scenes write themselves and it's all about execution," he said.

Filmmaker Suseenthiran, who had earlier directed cricket-based Tamil film "Jeeva", last year announced that his next film "Champion" will be based on football. The film, mostly featuring newcomers, is gearing up for release soon.

On what sets sports films apart, he said that stories of underdogs are usually well-received.

"We all love underdog stories, don't we? Most sports films are about rising against all odds and winning. Audiences can easily relate to such stories. The story of 'Champion' is set in north Chennai and it's about a boy's passion for football, but he can't realise his dream without making a few sacrifices," Suseenthiran said.

Actor Nani plays a cricketer in upcoming Telugu drama "Jersey", slated to hit the screens on April 19.

The film's director Gautam Tinnanuri told IANS: "It's a story about a late bloomer who realizes his talent at a certain age and pursues his dream to join the Indian cricket team.'It's a period sports drama and the story takes place between 1986 and 1996. As a story, audiences will find the film quite inspiring."

Nani plays a character named Arjun in the film. The director describes the film as "a "success story of a failure".

Gautam is of the opinion that sports films can appeal to audiences universally.

"When it comes to the sports genre, language doesn't matter. The reason I went for Nani is that I needed an actor with universal appeal and he is someone with phenomenal following. I want to take my story to far and wide an' it's only possible with his popularity."

Trade analyst Trinath believes sports films, which are embraced by all sections of audiences, usually enjoy very high success rate at the box office.

"Sports films can rarely go wrong. These films are generally high on emotions and drama which work across the board. The best example is the recent Tamil film 'Kanaa', which had cricket and farming as the backdrop. It had all the right emotions and it worked wonders at the box-office. The success rate of sports films is far better vis-à-vis films in other genres," he said. 

Actor Vijay is rumoured to be playing a coach in his next yet-untitled Tamil film, which will have a football backdrop. The project is being directed by Atlee.

Other sports-based southern films in the offing include "Jada", "Natpe Thunai", "Kennedy Club" and "Boxer".