Over the years, Bollywood has gone from being a film industry that churned out cheesy romantic films to one that is now taking more risks with their content. While it is true that those cheesy movies have been given a makeover to stay relevant with the times, Bollywood has also started tackling matters which were once considered taboo. The case in point are the number of films that are now based on cricket.
The trend of producing cricket-based movies was certainly set by the smash hit, Lagaan starring Amir Khan. To say the film was grand would be an understatement as it handled the concept of colonization by infusing it with a match of cricket. Audiences were certainly bowled over (no pun intended) by the scale of the film and the acting prowess of Amir Khan led to the film being nominated for an Oscar in the ‘Best Foreign Film’ category.
It was from this point onwards that the floodgates for cricket related films were opened and audiences were treated to titles such as ‘Iqbal’, ‘Jannat’, ‘Do Dooni Chaar’ and most recently ‘Dhoni’. Out of the films mentioned above, only Jannat has been brave enough to throw in another sensitive topic into the mix and that of cricket betting.
This subject matter was brought onto the big screen in Bollywood by none other than the Bhatts aka Mahesh and Mukesh Bhatt. Industry veterans who have been shy of pushing the envelope when it comes to controversial subject matters. While the Bhatts were the driving force behind the film, the directorial duties were handed over to by a debutante director in the form of Kunal Deshmukh. Similarly, the script and screenplay were written by debutants as well – Vishesh Bhatt; screenplay Kunal Deshmukh and Vishesh Bhatt. In our humble opinion, this is quite astounding in the sense that the end product turned out to be much better than what we were expecting it to be.
Yes, the movie does start off slow with the initial bits focussing more on the love story than the actual act of cricket betting. To be fair, it would be a disservice to the audience if there wasn’t a romantic element to the film. However, once Arjun (Emraan Hashmi) meets up with the love of his life Zoya (Sonal Chauhan) is when all hell breaks loose. The character goes from being a small time gambler to one that aspires to be a major bookies in hopes of lavishing Zoya with everything she dreams for.
Arjun in his quest for fame also decides to take the next step in cricket betting by going from a player to a bookie to an all-out match fixer. The good news is that you don’t have to be a cricket fan in order to follow the plot. The language being used to describe the art of betting and fixing is relatively straight forward. What is great about the film is the interaction between Arjuna and other cricketers and how quickly it all escalates for the hero.
Cricket Betting in India
This is where we feel the film does a good job of highlighting the evils associated with cricket betting in India. Matching fixing has always tarnished players from the sub-continent. Mohammad Azharudin and Salim Malik, former Indian and Pakistani captain respectively were banned from the game due to their involvement in match fixing. While the sport has somewhat moved on from their exclusions, the dark cloud of matching fixing still looms over the sport.
Regardless, we feel that Jannat is a film worth watching. Yes, it does start off relatively slow and offers nothing new at the beginning, but the stakes are amped up soon after. Emraan Hashmi has done a good job of playing the main character and it is astounding that despite giving such fantastic performances Hashmi is still being relegated to the B-list of Bollywood pecking order. The less is said about the heroine the better. Sonal Chauhan is not to blame for this but her role for this particular film is to provide eye candy which succeeds in but adds very little otherwise. Jawed Sheikh, a veteran Pakistani actor is fantastic, and it would be a dream to see more actors from Pakistan making their way into Bollywood cinema.
On the whole, Jannat is a well-made film with a compelling storyline. Given the popularity of cricket and online cricket betting in India, we hope that more films on the subject matter will be made in the future. Maybe this is something that Shahrukh Khan should look into in order to revive his career?