From Love Marriage to Dhoni

Posted on October 3, 2016


A short history of cricket in Hindi cinema.

Take the topic of cricket in Hindi cinema and the temptation to concoct a quiz is irresistible. For instance, name the actors who played father and daughter in two films featuring the game.

That would be Naseeruddin Shah and Urmila Matondkar, inMasoom and Chamatkar.

Which is the first film to depict the inner workings of the BCCI? The answer: Awwal Number, released in 1990, which is also the film that institutionalised the trope of the last-ball six, inspired, no doubt, by Javed Miandad’s decisive strike off Chetan Sharma in the 1986 Austral-Asia Cup final.

Which actor was the first to play a cricket-crazy fan? Mala Sinha doesn’t instantly spring to mind, but there she is in Subodh Mukerji’s Love Marriage (1959), brightening up the walls of her flat with pictures of Vinoo Mankad and Khandu Rangnekar. A few scenes later she clips out from a newspaper the picture of the latest batting sensation. You may have heard his name: Dev Anand.

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Why wasn’t there much cricket on screen before Love Marriage? Probably because there wasn’t much sport on screen in the first place – not even in the throwaway sense of the Mr India (1987) scene where Sridevi tries to convince a group of children playing cricket on the beach that she is friends with an invisible man. Scenes weren’t “staged” then, with all the look-what’s-happening-around looseness that outdoor shooting brought with it. Films were shot on sets, and they still followed the theatrical tradition of confining the proscenium to the main characters, the main story. Plus, the narratives of the time were largely about people who had to eke out a livelihood. Who had the time for sport? Only the rich. Hence the game of badminton in which Dilip Kumar single-handedly takes on Nargis and Cuckoo in Andaz (1949), whose characters seemed to occupy the places (and the palaces) left vacant by the British. The sports get even more rarefied once Raj Kapoor makes his entry. He takes Nargis riding. Then they play golf.

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