Joshua Burt is not a name most Indians would know. Many would recognize him, though.
Burt was the man who played the role of the Australian women’s hockey team coach in the hit movie, ‘Chak De India.’ He, however, is not just another foreigner playing a cameo in an Indian film.
Burt is a qualified coach in Melbourne and a technical official with the International Hockey Federation. Here as a judge for the junior World Cup, Burt is trying to adjust his image of India with the reality on his first visit to the country.
“How the movie happened is a bit surreal. It all started with a couple of phone calls from Black Cat Films that I thought were a prank and didn’t take seriously. Then nothing happened for six months before they called up again and I met the film team,” Burt says.
“Originally they only wanted me as a local liaison. Then they asked me to help with the casting of the foreign players and so all the Australians, Koreans and Argentine girls came into the picture.
“These were girls that I coached back in Melbourne, they were actual players. Then it moved to storyboards and helping the director, Shimit Amin, keep the action realistic. A day before the shoot, Shimit wanted me to play the Australian coach.
“I was apprehensive but they convinced me. And so, through those few months, the best months of my life, I was an actor, a casting coach, a manager and an assisting director,” he laughs. His team lost to India in the movie but in real life, he says, it encouraged him to take up a similar challenge. Burt led the Victoria women’s side, perpetual wooden spoon holder, to its maiden national title in 2010. Burt’s next encounter with India was far less pleasant. He was the judge on whose recommendation five Indians, including coach Jugraj Singh and manager David John, were suspended for five matches after an on-field fight with Pakistan during a tri-series in Australia in October 2011.
“That was very disappointing for me. It was an India-Pakistan match and maybe some tension was expected. But the incident that happened was not a mere tussle, it was more serious. Expected or not, the rules didn’t allow it. I didn’t want to but it was my job,” he says.
He is looking forward to officiating in an India-Pakistan game here, if it happens, but is hopeful there wouldn’t be a repeat of 2011. As for acting, he says, “No more acting because that would ruin the memories of this experience. Unless, of course, there’s a Chak De 2.”