Sachin Tendulkar inherited the title Little Master from cricketer Sunil Gavaskar – a reference to their short stature and their on-field authority with the cricket bat. There is one other thing the two master blasters have in common: their flirtations with film roles.
Tendulkar is appearing in the biographical documentary Sachin: A Billion Dreams, directed by James Erskine and being released on May 26. The film traces Tendulkar’s childhood and evolution as one of the world’s greatest cricketers. Tendulkar has been extensively interviewed in the film. He has been on the big screen before in Stumped (2003), a film about cricket and patriotism, along with Kapil Dev, Yuvraj Singh, Rahul Dravid, Zaheer Khan and Ravi Shastri to cheer Indian Army soldiers.
Gavaskar too appears as himself in in Maalamaal (1988), in which he defeats Rajkumar (Naseeruddin Shah) in a friendly celebrity cricket match. Gavaskar had another brief movie moment before Maalamaal. Footage of Gavaskar and the Indian team following the 1983 World Cup victory over the West Indies team was used in the opening titles of Kabhi Ajnabi The (1985). The film marked the debut of cricketer Sandeep Patil, who retired from cricket and films soon after. Syed Kirmani and Clive Lloyd too had minor roles in the film.
Gavaskar too put down his acting bat after Maalamaal. He had tried dancing and singing in the Marathi film Saavli Premachi (1980), after umpire Piloo Reporter persuaded him to play leading man to Reporter’s sister Madhumati. Gavaskar appeared in one more Marathi film Zakol (1980), before he returned to the cricket pitch.
Cricketers who try to leverage their on-field popularity for the movies have often been sent back to the pavilion. Salim Durani portrayed a playboy in Charitra (1973); Anil Kumble tried his luck as a cricketer in Meerabai Not Out (2008); Ajay Jadeja played a romantic hero in Khel – No Ordinary Game (2003); Vinod Kambli appeared as a criminal in Annarth (2002). Only Salil Ankola, who played a police inspector in Kurukshetra (2000), has managed to put his chiselled face to good use in television shows.
Cricketers playing cricketers is a safe bet, but it doesn’t always ensure a box office hit. There is one player with the potential to break the jinx – Indian captain Virat Kohli, whose on-field popularity and pin up-worthy pout make him attractive on and off the pitch.