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January, 2016:

Vennila Boxing Kuzhu!

Most sports, except perhaps golf, which is less sport but more a cleverly disguised VRS scheme, lend themselves to films. I got thinking about sports and movies this week when Irudhi Sutru (Saala Khadoos), a movie around boxing and whether a honest-to-goodness underdog manages to outwit a top gun or not (oh, you can never guess the ending of a sports movie), released.

Irudhi Sutru is a different kind of Madhavan movie. If it were his regular type, Madhavan would have played a cool-dude boxing coach, and one of his female students would end up falling in love with him. Here, here he has shunned his customary chocolate-boy approach. He has added muscles to his frame and hardened his bearing; he looks menacing, uses foul language and plays a crass boxing coach, and one of his female students stills fends up falling in love with him. The sublimnal message is: the film may be about boxing, but boss, the hero is still Madhavan.

But this is not above Madhavan or his new movie but about sports and films. Here are four films which you wouldn’t classify as full-fledged sports-themed, but without that aspect they will be less fun and far lesser ones for us to make fun of:

Priyamana Thozhi: The hero is a very promising cricketer with the ability to play all deliveries, including bouncers bowled way down the legside, over the third man.

The hero, who is just a step away from getting selected to the Indian national team, has another talent up his sleeve: He is a videographer for weddings and parties. If onlyVinod Kambli had shown this vision, he wouldn’t be struggling to make ends meet now.

The climax of the film is the most original: The Indian team is announced at a Rotary Club meeting. The hero drops out from the national team so that his position goes to his (girl)friend’s fiance, who after he comes to know of the real reason for his own selection, manfully gives back the team spot to the hero. This was exactly the kind of flexible regime that N Srinivasan was aiming for. If Justice Lodha had any sense he would have asked for a life ban on this film.

On the whole, Priyamana Thozhi is the most comical thing, outside of Stuart Binny’s selection in Tests, connected with cricket.

Sye (Telugu): A college is about to be usurped by a dreaded don and his band of brawny baddies. But the students of the college, who are no less hot-headed, wouldn’t let the don have his way. And so the don, to settle the issue once and for all, challenges the students … for a fight? No, for a rugby union match. Yeah, a rugby union match in rural Andhra where people generally have difficulty spelling their own names. They should have created an Oscar for extreme creativity and offered it then and there to the makers of this film.

Despite being a Telugu film, the director chose rugby union for a reason: At its feverish best, a rugby union contest is hard to tell apart from a bloody climax fight in a typical gult movie. Basically, it is free for all minus Sumos going up in air and flames.

Fun fact: A rugby team’s logo is Chicago Bulls’. Fun Fact 2: After the release of the film, Chicago Bulls have not managed to win the NBA (National Basketball Association) title even once.

Maan Karate (Tamil): There are not many films which combine comedy and sports, but Maan Karate is an exception, and proves why the two should not be mixed. I mean by the time the film ended, you were rooting for the referee and that he would kill both the contestants.

Sivakarthikeyan is head over heels in love. To impress his lover, he practices hard and participates in a sports tournament and comes out on top. Oops sorry, this is the story of Sivakarthikeyan’s Edhir Neechal, the film released prior to this one.

In Maan Karate, Sivakarthikeyan is head over heels in love. To impress his lover, he does not practice hard, but still participates in a sports tournament and comes out on top.

Both the films were reportedly hits. And Sivakarthikeyan has become one of the top-ranking heroes in Tamil for his ability to choose scripts that are different and varied.

Another highlight of Maan Karate is — you would have doubtless guessed as the word ‘karate’ in the title is a huge giveaway — about boxing.

Dil Bole Hadippa (Hindi): Think Rani Mukherjee. Okay, now think of all possible characters she would fit in. I am pretty sure that the role of a big-burly Sardar would not be in your list even if it were 1000 entries long. But that is exactly the character she plays in the film.

To cast Rani Mukherjee as a cricket-playing Sardar and then think of a story where she has to play the winning hand in a match against Pakistan for a nominal Indian team may beggar belief, but to be fair to the makers of the film they would have been emboldened in that direction by Rani Mukherjee’s voice.

The film’s closing moments are a cracker: Rani Mukherjee trips and falls and fractures her hand. But the match is still to be won. So she, a woman in a men’s match, bats left-handed and wins the match for India against Pakistan. This was clearly India’s revenge for the Mumbai attacks of 2008.