India has always been the land that has attracted rest of the world for one reason or another ever since the dawn of civilisation. The earliest we can recall is when it was the chosen land of the Aryans. Then for centuries, it attracted people from Asia including Turks, Arabs, Mongols, Mughals and even Alexander the Great wasn’t finished with conquering the world until he reached India.
In the dark middle ages of Europe, it was the land of prosperity and riches which inspired perilous journeys through the Atlantic Sea that led to the discovery of New World and more. And most recently, in wake of open door globalisation policy, it has become one of the biggest markets of the world, teeming with more than a billion people, out of which 30-40% fall in the young bracket. This generation has different taste from their parents, a different attitude to life and more money to spend on personal comfort. This is the market that most multinational companies want a share of whether its electronics, food or healthcare.
And India is only waking to the multi-trillion dollar sports industry that exists in the developed world, IPL being one of the latest examples of the massive amount of money available here for display. So, when a nearly-broke American sports publicist company decided to try and tap the potential of India for the most favourite American sport of Baseball, on paper it seemed a fantastic idea.
We have fast bowlers in abundance in India, how difficult would it be to turn them into baseball pitchers – quite a bit actually as it turned out.
This was the idea that led to the 2008 reality show “Million Dollar Arm” and later a 2014 movie by Disney with the same name. The movie is directed by Craig Gillespie and features a cast of American and Indian actors, including veterans like Darshan Jhariwala, Pitobash and Asif Mandvi. The music was by A R Rahman, and was strongly hinted to be Oscar-nomination worthy, but this didn’t happen.
Million Dollar Arm
|Joe Roth, Mark Ciardi, Gordon Gray
|A. R. Rahman
|Tatiana S. Riegel
|Walt Disney Pictures, Roth Films, Mayhem Pictures
|Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
May 6, 2014 (El Captain Theatre)
May 16, 2014 (North America)
|Jon Hamm (J. B. Bernstein), Aasif Mandvi (Ash Vasudevan, Bernstein’s business partner), Suraj Sharma (Rinku Singh), Madhur Mittal (Dinesh Patel), Bill Paxton (Tom House), Lake Bell (Brenda Fenwick), Alan Arkin (Ray Poitevint, a sports scout), Pitobash Tripathy (Amit Rohan, a baseball fanatic hired by Bernstein), Allyn Rachel (Theresa, Bernstein’s assistant), Darshan Jariwala (Vivek, a local Indian guide), Tzi Ma (Will Chang, a sports business investor), Bar Paly (Lisette), Rey Maualuga (Popo), and others…
The movie was released the same weekend as “The Amazing Spiderman“, and though a commercial success, didn’t turn out to be a blockbuster, even in India.
As mentioned above, the film is a biographical sports drama, based on lives of Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel, who won the reality show Million Dollar Arm and were trained in USA to learn Baseball.
As the film starts, we meet J B Bernstein, trying really hard to sign a current baseball star called Popo, who goes to competition instead. JB’s business is on rocks, as most of his successful clients have retired, and unless he finds new talent, he’ll have to close down. While watching television (the memorable moment of Britain’s got Talent, where Susan Boyle sang ‘I dreamed a dream’ and nearly blew off the roof), he hits the idea of turning Indian cricket bowlers into baseball pitchers. India is after all, the last untapped great market. One successful Indian player will be equal to one billion fans and fans buy merchandise, so bingo, JackPot.
Only, it isn’t easy to sell a sport like Baseball to India, considering cricket is a religion here!! So, JB takes the idea to his finance support Chang and they agree to organise a talent hunt in India with a reality TV show called ‘Million Dollar Arm’.
JB arrives in India, where he meets Vivek (Darshan Jhariwala) and Amit (Pitobash), who help him out with local organising. Rest follows in the predictable pattern of India in a western movie. They show the corruption, poverty, Delhi bellies with local food, etc. as the hunt moves from Mumbai to Agra to Lucknow.
In Lucknow however, they find the gold. They find two players: Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel. The irony of the situation is that Rinku is a Javelin thrower and Dinesh Kumar Patel is a field hockey player. Surprise surprise! Indians are good at sports other than Cricket when they are given the opportunity to pursue them.
Emotional farewells and very good advice from Vivek later, JB arrives in USA with Amit, Dinesh and Rinku. Immediately, he is absorbed in his old life, while the boys struggle to adjust to the new life, new language, new food and new game. Their coach Tom House understands their problems and tries to explain to JB that he is being slightly inconsiderate to his players.
This being a Disney film, we also get a little bit of family time, romance track, etc. and the final tryouts at the end of it.
JB pushes the boys into a big, media attended tryouts. They are way out of their comfort zone, only a few months in the training, while the American players spend years to prepare for their first tryouts, and they don’t do very well under the heavy weight of expectations from JB. Chang decides to forego these players and restart, but finally, JB realises his mistakes and decides to get one last, fair tryout for the boys.
This time, they are more confident, and they perform fantastically, so well in fact, that they become the first players to be signed on the professional level only after 10 months of learning baseball. Success has to follow the Hard Work.
Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel, both did follow the same journey, and most of their training in America was recorded, which provided the base for the movie.
They both stayed with Pittsburg Pirates for a while and had a good career with them. Rinku Singh managed to get to AA level and is still in the field while Dinesh moved back to India and started coaching Baseball. He has also since taken part in Indian national sports tournaments.
The film has faithfully followed the video diaries made during the reality show, training and tryouts of Rinku and Dinesh and that leads to a fair amount of credibility that is visible throughout the film.
It is an inspirational tale, of two players coming out of dire poverty and mastering an entirely unknown sport in the history of Baseball in the shortest possible time. And that’s where the strength of the film lies. The Indian actors get the emotions right, the dialogues in Hindi are flawless, the accent right and that’s where you have the strongest moments of this film. Rest of it is good, but very much on the predictable line of the Disney’s other “find yourself success” stories. The background music in our opinion gets annoying at times, when they try to over-emphasize the Indian note.
6.5 to 7 out of 10
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