“We haven’t seen the film yet.”
That was the first thing both Madhur Mittal (“Slumdog Millionaire”) and Suraj Sharma (“Like of Pi”) told me when I sat down with them for an interview. Although they haven’t seen the film yet, I had the pleasure of watching “Million Dollar Arm” a few weeks ago and was excited to be able to speak with these talented guys to learn more about them and their experience working on the film right before it was to world premiere.
Although the film revolves around American elements like baseball and business, the first half of it takes place on location in India where we first find these two characters. Following the real life story of Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, the newest Disney live action film features the two young Indian actors playing these two famous fellow young countrymen who went on to become major league baseball stars. But just because they and the people they play are Indian, both Mittal and Sharma don’t want to make you feel that this is a Bollywood film or be stereotyped as one.
“Although we’re Indian, we play totally different people compared to Rinku and Dinesh,” Mittal said. Sharma added “In Hollywood often, we’re thought of as ‘You’re playing an Indian’ and that’s how deep it goes. But [Indians] are much deeper than their culture. Our characters are deeply different people in their characteristics just like anyone else.”“…we’re thought of as ‘You’re playing an Indian’ and that’s how deep it goes. But [Indians] are much deeper than their culture. Our characters are deeply different people in their characteristics just like anyone else.”
At the same time, though, Mittal and Sharma told me that they’re still very happy to be representing their culture and what it stands for in an American (moreover Disney) film! “These are our roots and we’re glad that we get to share it with the world who’s willing to accept it,” Mittal said. “Not only that though, we have the privilege of being the outside and insider when playing Indians in another country’s movie,” Sharma said commenting on relating to their characters in the real life story.
Being Indian, as well as connecting and appreciating the story of Rinku and Dinesh, allowed both Mittal and Sharma to share a genuineness on-screen, which was crucial to another important part of the movie: the idea that dreams come true. Although that comes off really easy for any Disney film, this movie made it clear that hard work and persistence lead to that outcome. “Yes, it was hard work to make a true movie like this, but the journey we and Rinku and Dinesh shared is what makes this movie, even life, so beautiful,” said Mittal.
And these actors and their real-life counterparts’ hard work resulted in a film that really caught me and the rest of anyone who sees it off guard…for the good! The careful crafting of the characters and staying true to good storytelling, all set to the backdrop of India and baseball make this film much more than what it was “pitched” to be in the ads. “It’s a human story making it a film for everyone,” Mittal concluded.
Feeling his emotion and pride in his voice, I’m quite confident that Mittal and Sharma at their premiere (and perhaps even you) will find out that “Million Dollar Arm” was much more than Indian. For them, it was a home run of a film.
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Do you associate Indian actors with Bollywood movies? Does that dictate which movies you’ll see? Were you thinking that when you saw the ads for this film? Now that you know that this Disney movie is more than “Indian”, will you be seeing it in theaters when it opens on May 16? Let us know in the comments!