In the height of cricket season, Bollywood readies three films that revolve around the sport. ANUK KUMAR reports

They have been the undisputed entertainers of this country. Now with cricket fever soaring, Bollywood is out to cash in on the game's popularity. Three films using cricket as a plot are going to hit the silver screen during the World Cup. To start with, Milan Luthria's Hattrick is releasing this week. Refusing to call it a sports film, Milan says, "It's a light film where cricket has been used as a metaphor, as the promotional song `Wicket Bachao' compares life with the 22-yard pitch." Milan feels it's easier to make a film on the game than create characters whose lives are affected by cricket. "It took four months to prepare the plot. Here Paresh Rawal plays a fan who has to switch loyalties to the English side because he wants British citizenship. Kunal Kapoor starts hating cricket because his beloved is bowled over by Mahendra Singh Dhoni."Asked who was the most difficult actor to direct in the multi-starrer, Milan quips, "Nana Patekar was the most difficult wicket to bat on!"

New reality

Close on its heels is Say Salaam India, a small-budget film, which revolves around the new reality of the Indian cricket team, where more and more players are coming from small towns. With Sanjay Suri and Milind Soman as the coaches of the rival teams, the film has a bunch of newcomers as players. Like every sports film, from the Rocky series and Escape to Victory to our very own Lagaan, here also, a bunch of underdogs takes on the privileged ones. Says Sanjay, "I play a coach to whom gulli cricket is as important as the World Cup." He teaches his wards not to play the game for the glamour that comes with it. "If you play to your potential, it doesn't matter even if you lose." In contrast, Milind espouses the Australian way of cricket. "To me winning is everything, even if it is achieved through dubious means," he says. Interestingly, both Sanjay and Milind have been national level players, not in cricket but in squash and swimming respectively. According to Milind, the film also brings out the politics and manipulation that afflict Indian sports, which he has seen from close quarters in real life. He says the director has also incorporated some real instances into the script, like Kumble bowling with a broken jaw and Sreesanth breaking into a dance on the pitch.Milind feels as the film is releasing before the cricket fatigue sets in, there is no chance of people getting bored. "Also as the matches are at night this time, there is plenty of time for people to warm up."

Kumble coup

Finally, there is Mirabai Not Out, set to roll in the first week of April, where again cricket is just a metaphor. Mandira Bedi, in a completely deglamourised role, plays a mathematics teacher and cricket fanatic, who wants Anil Kumble back in the team. "Like Mira was in love with Lord Krishna, this Mira is a devotee of cricket," says Mandira, who is in London for Extraa Innings these days. With Mahesh Manjrekar and Anupam Kher to support her, the film's USP is the presence of Kumble himself. Director Chandrakant Kulkarni reveals that Kumble is not doing a cameo role in the film. "His is a significant role as the script has certain hooks which wanted his presence. He shot for two days and his only condition was I should not make him act. While shooting in the sun Kumble would ask the spot boy to take away the umbrella for this would spoil him," says Chandrakant, a known name on the Marathi theatre and film circuit. If Chandrakant has Kumble, Milan has used Harsha Bhogle and Gautam Bhimani in their real life roles. "I was supposed to ask questions amidst the crowd and we are part of the promotional video too," says Gautam, who wants somebody to make a film like Tin Cup on cricket to bring out what goes on in the mind of a cricketer. It is for the first time that films are being released to coincide with the World Cup. The filmmakers maintain though the attempt is definitely to cash in on the hype, the stories are such that they can work at any time of the year. "Remember Lagaan and Iqbal were not released during the World Cup," sums up Milan.