Lagaan to '83: Cricket is Bollywood’s favourite pitch

AJ Vinayak | | Updated on: Dec 24, 2021
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Of the 31 movies based on sports that were released in the last 20 years, 11 focussed on cricket


Bollywood and cricket are the factors that connect most Indians, as the former sets action on screen and the latter on the pitch. In fact, cricket has emerged as a favourite pitch for Bollywood also.

The latest entry into this is a cricket-based movie ‘83’ . India did not get a chance to watch Kapil Dev’s action in England during the 1983 World Cup, which India eventually won. Bollywood director Kabir Khan has now recreated this piece of history on silver screen in the movie ‘83 ’ with Ranveer Singh playing Kapil’s role.

In 2001, Aamir Khan’s character (Bhuvan) played a cricket match against the English team in the movie Lagaan (set in pre-Independence India) to beat the opposite team. More than 30 movies based on sports have been released in the last 20 years. A majority of these movies were on cricket.

In a list of 31 movies analysed by BusinessLine , 11 focussed on cricket. Of them, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story , Azhar and Sachin: A Billion Dreams (a docu-film) were based on three former Indian captains. Late actor Sushant Singh Rajput played the role of Dhoni in the 2016 movie, which went on to become the first movie based on cricket to cross ₹100 crore box office collection.


Significance of 2016

Bollywood released seven sports-based movies in 2016.

According to the KPMG India – FICCI’s ‘Indian Media and Entertainment Industry Report, 2017’, 225 Bollywood movies, including sports-based ones, were released in 2016. Only 26 movies were able to earn more than ₹30 crore (net) in the box office, and they contributed nearly 80 per cent to the overall box office collection of all the Bollywood movies that year. It said that only seven movies were able to cross ₹100 crore mark in 2016.

Of the 26 movies, the total box office collection of three of the sports-based movies – Aamir Khan’s Dangal , Salman Khan’s Sultan, and Sushant’s Dhoni – crossed ₹800 crore that year. In fact, Dangal and Sultan raked in more than ₹300 crore each.

At least one movie each on sports was released every month from June to September of that year.




Biopics of sports personalities seem to be the choice of movie-makers and movie-goers. At least 10 biopics on sports personalities have been made till now.

Four biopics — MS Dhoni , Dangal , Budhia Singh and Azhar – were part of the list in 2016. Of these, two were on the former cricket captains of India.

Three biopics were made on athletes. Late Irrfan Khan played the role of the athlete in the 2012 movie Paan Singh Tomar . Farhan Akthar played Olympian Milkha Singh in 2013, and the 2015 movie Budhia Singh: Born to Run focused on the kid marathon runner.

Biopics of sportspersons from boxing, wrestling, hockey, badminton and shooting were also made. Priyanka Chopra played the role of boxer Mary Kom in 2014. In 2016, Dangal focussed on wrestlers Phogat sisters. The 2018 movie Soorma was on the hockey player Sandeep Singh, and the 2019’s Saand Ki Aankh was based on women shooters Chandro Tomar and Prakashi Tomar. The year 2021 saw the release of a biopic on the badminton player Saina Nehwal.

Box office collections

Akshay Kumar’s movie Gold and Farhan Akthar’s Bhag Milkha Bhag crossed the ₹100-crore mark in box office collections, in addition to 2016’s box office toppers Dangal , Sultan and MS Dhoni . Biopics put up a better performance at the box office than others. Two movies on sports made their debut on OTT platforms than opting for a theatrical release.

Women-centred movies

Women-centred themes in sport movies were the other attraction for movie-makers. At least 10 movies had women as the leading characters. While cricket and boxing were the flavours of choice for movie-makers, the women-centred movies focussed on other sports such as kabaddi, badminton, shooting, wrestling and athletics.

Bollywood’s affection for biopics was visible in women-centred movies also with Mary Kom, Saina Nehwal, and Chandro Tomar and Prakashi Tomar getting their achievements highlighted on the silver screen.

Duration of movies

A majority of the sport-based movies had a run time of around two-three hours. However, Lagaan , Bhag Milkha Bhag and MS Dhoni had a run time of more than three hours. Lagaan ’s runtime was 224 minutes (3 hours and 44 minutes).

It is to be seen if ‘83’ will be a spring board for movies on other sports-based themes as many Bollywood movie makers are looking at new subjects, new sports, and new biopics to bring them on silver screen after India’s good performance in the Tokyo Olympics.


Published on December 24, 2021

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