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The silver screen, a sheen of facade?

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Aamir Khan flanked by Babita (on his right) and Geeta (Image Credit: The Indian Express)

Talk of biopics on sporting personalities in Bollywood, the list just grows and grows. Sporting biopics in Bollywood, provide the audience with the display of the right amalgamation of entertainment and valour. After successful projects like Paan Singh Tomar, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story and now Dangal, one is rest assured many more would follow. There is one planned on shuttler Saina Nehwal and the one on Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar Sachin: A Billion Dreams, will release this year. Most of the sporting biographical films have made the right noises at the box-office. But, some of these films have had a negative effect on the sports persons on whom the films were made.

Take for example, the Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal, the film spins around the wrestling success of the Phogat sisters under the strict tutelage of their father Mahavir Singh Phogat, as the limelight pins them down. The Phogat sisters (Geeta and Babita) were in the limelight once again and even people who had never heard of them started showing their reverence towards the sisters from Haryana.

However, post the release of the film, the 2014 Commonwealth gold medallist, Babita, who was part of UP Dangal, in the second season of the Pro-Wrestling League was pinned down within 46 seconds by former European and World champion Sofia Mattsson as her team lost 5-2 to Haryana Hammers in the 53-kg category.

It was her first wrestling bout since the release of the film that has turned out to be the biggest grosser in the history of Bollywood. Now, the question arises whether the success of the biopic added undue pressure which was why she succumbed to its thrust. In the path of motivating individuals, does it demotivate the personality itself? Does the sheen of the silver screen wear off, once the sports star doesn’t live up to expectations?

Babita’s performance let down her supporters a great deal, as the required aggression was missing in action. Her loss within 46 seconds in the first round itself has been a heavy burden to bear. Geeta’s absence, the 2010 Commonwealth gold medallist, angered the crowd even more. But the crowd lauded Delhi Sultan’s Sakshi Malik, India’s Olympic bronze medallist, who put up a tough fight almost reaching the semis.

Babita and Geeta not having been able to keep up with the Dangal standards in PWL. Since, nothing but the best is expected. And it’s not just Babita, after Mary Kom’s release, MC Mary Kom hasn’t been in the best of form either. The Olympic bronze medal winner failed to make it to the flight to the Rio Olympics. And there are question marks over her career as well.

Dhoni on the other hand, hasn’t had to face a disastrous run after the release of his biopic, though he has had to relinquish captaincy in the limited-overs formats and some section of the media even reported that he was asked to. But, in Dhoni’s case, to talk of his downfall would be an exaggeration as he is still scoring runs (a characteristic hundred against England at Cuttack yesterday) and he is still a force to reckon with in Indian cricket.

Bollywood’s roller-coaster ride from extravagant fairy tales to mundane everyday life has been a drastic shift. The taste of adrenaline on the tips of one’s tongue is a marvellous feeling, but after the projection of the biopic, the expectations from the eminent
personalities increase by a tenfold. Coping up with the public pressure is one of the primary combats every athlete should be prepared for.

We can all thank heavens for releasing Bhaag Milkha Bhaag after Milkha Singh’s retirement. And the God of Cricket has already called it a day. But then again, this is a perception based on facts as two talented sports persons in Babita and Mary Kom are struggling to find their old touch after the release of their biopics. So, the question haunts: Do these biopics at times boomerang? Worth a thought though.