irudhi suttru – state of sports in India

What prompts me to write a movie review ? – generally either something really touched me or I am spending a lot of time thinking about a movie after I have watched it.I do not review technical aspects of a movie as  Movie making mechanics is not something I have tried to learn about  but it is incredibly hard thing to do is something I appreciate. To me often movie is snapshot of happening in society  around us at this moment in time –  filtered thru directors life experiences and what and how he/she chooses to present them in less than 3 hours.

First the review, Movie Irudhi Suttru was very crisp,  and made its key point very clear “In country that does incredibly poor in International events, we have raw talent that is sometimes not discovered, not nurtured even worse stopped from attaining great heights”. It depicts lives of folks living on the margins while maintaining a cosmopolitan touch to the movie. It shows inner working of sport governing body without dwelling too much on theatrics. A woman director handling sexual exploitation of young athletes without giving it more than the necessary screen space  was refreshing (if anyone thinks this is limited to developing countries read this long form on Swimming coaches in US). It depicts the ego of fading star who feels he does not have to bow but ultimate the system humbles him until he is vindicated. Sports body head show in this movie is not fictional – > 70% of sports associations are run like this is a fact we need to freaking bow our head in shame (there are lots of well meaning but less capable folks like Nazer character or even coaches and official who do not hesitate to spend their own money who sustain in sport in India, not demeaning them)

After having lived in US, one thing that has always resonated with me is that you can make professional career in lots of sports even after your active playing career ends and the system has openings at various levels from school to college to development league to pro-league, that is big contributing factor (+economic might) for US to excel in lots of sports. While the earning potential of men and women is still very lopsided at least men can make a career focusing on Sports. I have always wanted this(sports being professionalized) to develop in India, this movie has made me thinking about what will make sports more mainstream in Indian middle class psyche, so here are my thoughts. One could argue Public sector  and private sector sports quota did provide some help, while they helped it is not same as sports persons making a career in sports.

So I was very happy when IPL (a professional domestic sports league) happened but cricket (men) was successful even before and even if you performed at state level you could make a decent living. For the past 20 years cricket stars from Urban centers are trainied systematically and they produce >80% of  Cricket stars ( we seem to stumble on fast bowlers from hinterland – Munaf , Praveen, shami ). IPL was squandered opportunity make cricket structure more professional and created a crony capitalism in Cricket. But IPL  success has create whole bunch of leagues but these are not building any echo systems just cashing on popularity of existing stars and these are narrowly focused on couple of months in a year but still these organizing bodies are controlled  by same old vested interests that stifles talent than enables them.

I have stared playing recreational badminton about a year back and observing some interesting development. First some recollection of Badminton in India early  recollection from my childhood when Prakash won all England (1980) it was great deal and he started an academy in 1994 because he mostly practiced in Marriage near where lived and wanted to create facilities he enjoyed in Denmark in India as there was only one decent facility in North – Lucknow was other badminton powerhouse in India.  Next big jump was Gopichand winning All England (2001)  (he got to refine his talents in Padukone academy and so Gopi started this academy goodwill of  CBN in Hyderabad. In the past 15 years these and other academy has started throwing a stream of budding talent Saina, Srinath, Sidhu etc which kind of creating ripples in sport dominated by fellow asian and couple of Scandinavian countries.

An interesting phenomenon is people who used to play in open courts in public parks have migrated to playing in Indoor stadium and number of these facility in South Chennai unbelievable (I need to check but I am pretty sure Bangalore & Hyderabad have similar facility). Lots of folks in all ages are playing the sport with reasonably good facility, which means children have more facility to play at and parents are more likely to persists with training regime for kids  giving longer shot at talents to surface and reach their full potential. I personally think Badminton has reached a tipping point and we going to keep producing a stream of young talent that is going to keep winning in international level.

This movie made me think this is way forward for other sports in India, we can learn from proliferation of Badminton  and replicate in other sports. We need to move away from Government run facilities for sports to excellence-in.


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