Documentary captures Indian cricket’s lesser-known faces

October 28, 2013

Prithvi Shaw is 14 and looks like any other schoolboy at first glance. But those who have seen him wield a cricket bat call him India’s next Sachin Tendulkar. They say he’s as natural and as powerful in his stroke play as the world’s most famous batsman was at that age. Shaw started playing when he was three, going up against people more than twice his age.

“He was shorter than the stumps he used to bat in front of,” Shaw’s father said.

The teenager plays cricket for one of Mumbai’s best school teams, trains with Tendulkar’s son Arjun at the city’s famed MIG cricket club, and is considered the next big thing in Indian cricket.

Shaw is one of the three Indians whose lives are captured in “Beyond All Boundaries,” a documentary that tells the story of an India that works hard and plays harder.

Sushrut Jain, a U.S.-based filmmaker, worked on the documentary for four months before and during India’s 2011 World Cup campaign. He said he wanted to tell the stories of Indians and their aspirations, with cricket in the background.

In the film, Akshaya Surve and her friend Kaikesha are young, promising female cricketers in a sport dominated by men. Both come from poor families, conservative backgrounds and hope that cricket will lead their families to a better future.

The last but perhaps the most colourful character in the film is Sudhir Kumar. Kumar is 30, unemployed, has no intention of getting married, and attends every international cricket match in India. What little hair he has on his head is styled in the shape of India, and he paints his reed-thin body in the colours of the Indian flag for every match.

Kumar doesn’t have money to buy train tickets, and says he evades paying by impressing ticket checkers with his album of photos with India’s cricketers.

“When they see I am friends with cricketers, they let me go,” Kumar says in the documentary.

Director Jain said Shaw, Surve and Kumar represent millions of Indians for whom cricket is an essential part of their lives and not just a sport.

“It isn’t even about the money, even though all of them could do with it. They do it out of sheer love for the game. Even if they weren’t going to make tons of money out of it, and Kumar at least isn’t, they would still do it,” he said.

Jain returned to the United States two years ago with over 200 hours of unedited footage, and worked on it till he had a 97-minute film.

“What made it worse was that we had to do it in phases, as we gathered funds for the post-production of the film. American editors charge four times that of Indian editors, and coming up with the money to finish the film was tough,” said Jain.

The filmmaker found a Good Samaritan in Kunal Nayyar, star of the American sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” who joined Jain to produce and help finish the film.

Beyond All Boundaries” was screened at the Mumbai Film Festival this month.

(Editing by Robert MacMillan and Tony Tharakan; Follow Shilpa on Twitter at @shilpajay, Robert at @bobbymacReports and Tony @tonytharakan)

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