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Lankan cricketers land Bollywood roles

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s top cricketers had a shot at Bollywood stardom when they were filmed for an upcoming movie that features some of the best players in the world.

Scenes for Victory, a story of a small town boy who dreams of playing cricket for India, were shot in Colombo last week, with actor Harman Baweja playing against Sri Lanka’s national team. Kumar Sangakkara, Muttiah Muralitharan and Sanath Jayasuriya were among those filmed at one of Colombo’s oldest cricket venues, the Oval.

Also starring in the 10-million-dollar movie will be the Indian team, plus Australian paceman Brett Lee, England bowlers Sajid Mahmood and Simon Jones, and New Zealander Craig McMillan.

“The film combines what Indians love best - cricket, music and Bollywood movies,” producer Chandran Rutnam, who handled the Colombo leg of the shooting said.

Rutnam said Bollywood names such as Baweja and Amrita Rao play key roles in the movie, but the biggest draw would be 40 international cricketers from seven countries, who all play themselves.

“This was more difficult than actually playing cricket,” Sri Lankan paceman Dilhara Fernando told reporters, after his first Bollywood experience.

The plot centres around a father who dreams his young son (played by Baweja) will rise from a small village in Rajasthan to play cricket for India. “Luckily, I’ve always been a cricket fan, but then I think every Indian is born loving cricket,” Baweja, 27, told reporters.

Playing against some of the world’s most famous cricketers was an intimidating experience, Baweja said.

“It helps that they are all going easy on me,” he admitted.

Filming, which began in Sydney last December, also includes locations in India, England and Pakistan, Rutnam said.

The film is intended to give a glimpse into backstage politics and the role that sponsors, selectors and managers play in the game, he said.

Victory is not Bollywood’s first move into cricket. Lagaan was released to rapturous reviews in 2001 and was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film. In 2003, British-made film “Wondrous Oblivion” told the story of a young Jewish cricket fan growing up next door to West Indian immigrants in south London in 1960. For “Victory” director Ajitpal Mangat, meeting the stars of the game has been one of the highlights of the marathon shoot. “These are all guys I’ve sort of admired from afar - and then here’s Murali (Muttiah Muralitharan) actually taking directions from me,” Mangat said.

The film is scheduled to have its premier in January in Bombay, followed by a release in Britain.

The Economic Times



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