Galardón para el corto ‘Boxing Babylon’, del alicantino De Braganza
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Lights, camera, sports!

Senna, playing at the festival

Senna, playing at the festival

A rare sports film festival was held in New Delhi recently

The inaugural edition of the Tiger Paw Sports Film Festival was organised in the city this past week, providing viewers with a unique experience of watching some of the best sports documentaries from across the world.

Sports films in India are a rarity. The closest we have had are movies like Chak De! India, Goal,Paan Singh Tomar, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag andHip Hip Hurray, fictional narratives inspired by real events.

The three-day festival, on the other hand, was a delight for sports aficionados, which highlighted unknown nuggets about stars as well as bringing focus on little known sports like equestrian and adventure activities like mountaineering.

Organised in association with the All Sports Los Angeles Film Festival, the fest was the first such experiment in the country. It had some international gems, including the acclaimed 2010 documentary Senna (on the life and career of Formula One legend Ayrton Senna) andUndefeated: The Roger Brown Story, highlighting both the good and bad in sports.

Held at the Alliance Francaise, the variety of screenings made for a gripping experience. The most popular, undoubtedly, was the documentary on Senna, the 34-year-old World Champion who crashed to his death before the sport of motor racing woke up to the dangers. Screened under the ‘special’ section, it was accompanied by pin-drop silence in a full house.

Undefeated, the tragic story of Roger ‘Rajah’ Brown, considered by many as one of the best-ever to never grace the NBA, brought to the fore the dark side of the sport in the 1950s, much before it became the money-spinning international sport of today. Nawang Gombu: Heart Of A Tiger unravelled the lure and the extremes of mountaineering through Gombu, a nephew of Tenzing Norgay, and the first man to summit Mount Everest twice.

Interestingly, for a country considered devoid of stories and sporting success barring cricket, there were quite a few Indian films that found pride of place and were an eye-opener for many. There was Leslie Claudius: Story of a Hockey Legend, on the three-gold-one-silver Olympic medal winning great; there was Sleeping Giant: An Indian Football Story, on the popularity of the beautiful game in the country despite lack of success internationally; and there was Boxing Babylon: The Story Of Olympic Deva, that made people aware of Venkatesan Devarajan, who put India on the world boxing scene long before it became popular.

“Director Alfredo De Braganza pestered me and my family for quite a while before I agreed to this, because I did not believe it was worth it. It is ironic that it took a Spaniard to put this film together,” Devarajan said.

In cricket, there was the story of Kenya’s Asif Karim, the Indian-origin spinner who was part of the golden generation in late 1990s and early 2000. And there was The Warrior Prince, on Sourav Ganguly, tracing the story of the man credited with transforming Indian cricket.

Pat Battistini, director of the ASLAFF, admitted there were teething troubles but was optimistic of the future. “In the first edition in LA in 2009, I screened 13 films in one day. The next year, there were 65 films to be screened over two days. There are great stories in sports that need to be told and must be told but not the right kind of budgets to make them into full-length features. Such festivals help expose these stories to a wider audience. I am positive of this festival too succeeding in India,” he said.