The Indian Premier League is practically the premier league in the world when it comes to the T20 version of the game. As the IPL kicks off in the distant UAE from tomorrow (September 19) --- it was moved out of India due to the Covid-19 restrictions here --- the mood across the nation is decidedly cricket. Anything to distract the populace from the disturbing pandemic is, in a sense, welcome, too.
To go with the cricket-centric emotions, we have this week, for our weekly OTT recommendations, stuck with the same sport. A few months we had compiled a similar list. But this week, we have gone with five different types of films and series that will align with the prevailing sentiments.
And we start off, inevitably, with Mahendra Singh Dhoni, much of whose enormous legend in India has been built around the IPL and his exploits in it as the captain of the eternal favourite Chennai Super Kings (CSK).
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MS Dhoni: The Untold Story
Director: Neeraj Pandey
Cast: Sushant Singh Rajput, Kiara Advani, Disha Patani, Anupam Kher
Synopsis: The impact of MS Dhoni, one of India's charismatic and successful captains ever, goes beyond cricket. His dizzying rise in the game and as an icon of modern India, gave people from small towns in the country (Dhoni hails from the glamour-less Ranchi) a new hope and belief. And India has changed for the better since then. The film primarily focuses on Dhoni's early life to his achievements as an international player that reached its zenith with him hitting a memorable six to seal India's win against Sri Lanka in the World Cup finals of 2011. It is essentially a feel-good movie, and Dhoni's success is mostly the triumph of the underdog that is the principal trope of all sports movies. It is a minor tragedy that Sushant Singh Rajput who played Dhoni in the film took his own life recently.
Platform: Disney+ Hotstar
Sachin: A Billion Dreams
Director: James Erskine
Cast: Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, M S Dhoni
Synopsis: In the world of sport there is only statement that is never under dispute: Don Bradman is the greatest batsman ever to play the game. Okay, there is another indubitable fact: No cricketer is more loved by the fans in his country than Sachin Tendulkar is adored by the millions and millions of Indians. He is a cricketing god. And that is a not sports writer's hype. Sachin: A Billion Dreams is a documentary on his life and sports. It is, yet again, a victory of human spirit in the face of myriad pressures. This too is about his transformation from a prodigious youngster into to a global cricketing icon. The acme of course was the World Cup win in 2011. His was a stellar and long career, the likes of which are hard to come by any more. The documentary film was simultaneously shot in Hindi, Marathi and English. And it had dubbed versions in Tamil and Telugu.
Language: Hindi, Marathi, English, Tamil and Telugu
Fire in Babylon
Director: Stevan Riley
Cast: Viv Richards, Michael Holding, Deryck Murray, Clive Lloyd, Andy Roberts, Colin Croft, Gordon Greenidge, Joel Garner
Synopsis: For close to one and a half decades (from '75 to '90), the West Indies were probably the best cricketing team in the globe. No other cricketing power had enjoyed so much dominance in the game. Their cricket was built on never-ending supply chain of brutal fast bowling, aggressive batting and athletic fielding. This highly-recommended documentary charts the rise of West Indies from being a disparate bunch of talented folks to an all-conquering fighting-fit unit. The racial struggle that the black cricketers from the Caribbean islands had to face is the subtext of this emotional documentary. If you love sports and history, this would be right up your alley.
Director: Nagesh Kukunoor
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Shreyas Talpade, Girish Karnad, Shweta Basu Prasad
Synopsis: Most sports films have a common riff. A young sportsperson or a team overcoming enormous odds, and triumphing improbably at the last hurdle, in a catharsis of joy and hope. But a well-made sports movie never bores you out though you know its trajectory. You get sucked into the 'process'. Iqbal is one such film which talks about the trials and tribulations of a deaf and mute boy. He is obviously discouraged by those around him. But he chases his dream with dignity and passion. The rest is a good story.
Director: Karan Anshuman
Cast: Vivek Oberoi, Richa Chadha, Tanuj Virwani, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Angad Bedi, Aamir Bashir, Sapna Pabbi
Synopsis: The IPL while delivering top-notch exciting cricket has also mired in controversies involving some owners of the franchisee clubs and a few players. The illegal betting and match-fixing is a soft underbelly of the league and cast its dark shadow for a couple of seasons. Naturally, the side show of cricket involving money, starlets, sex, glamour, gambling and behind-the-back scheming lend themselves for screen drama. Little wonder the whole dark shenanigans made for a successful two-season series. And it had a strong cast. It will make for gripping but sobering watch during the IPL times.
Platform: Amazon Prime
Roar Of The Lion
Director: Amir Rizvi
Cast: Chennai Super Kings players and fans
Synopsis: The IPL is a cauldron of unscripted drama and pulsating thrillers. But even given that, the Chennai Super Kings title triumph in 2018 has to be one of the extraordinary sporting tales in cricketing history. CSK was banned for two years from the league after its owner was alleged to have been involved in illegal betting. In its comeback year, when none gave it even a smidgen of a chance at winning the trophy, it spectacularly clinched it. The documentary series, of five episodes, followed the human emotions of not only the members of the CSK but also of its legion of beloved fans (#Yellove). It is rooted in the 2 years time span during the days when CSK was banned over allegations of match fixing.
This may just be the series to watch for sentiments sake as M S Dhoni its talismanic captain takes to the field after announcing his international retirement. Maybe, the Lion will roar again.
Language: English and Tamil
Platform: Disney+ Hotstar VIP
PS: We know the headline says five cricket movies/series. So why one more? Well, the sixth one, your cricket fans will understand, is the extra.
So this week while you get ready to watch the cricketing action, you can also prep yourself with these movies and series.
On the screen and on the field, you can enjoy great drama!
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Over three decades as a journalist covering current affairs, politics, sports and now technology. Former Editor of News Today, writer of humour columns across publications and a hardcore cricket and cinema enthusiast. He writes about technology trends and suggest movies and shows to watch on OTT platforms.