Slumdog Millionaire meets The Blind Side in this true story brought to screen. Jon Hamm of Mad Men fame plays sports agent J.B. Bernstein who, in a last-ditch effort to save a floundering career, conceptualizes a reality show called Million Dollar Arm. Children from all over India are invited to try and win a million dollars and train for a major league team in the US.
After a series of tryouts, Bernstein selects Rinku (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh (Madhur Mittal) and takes them back to Los Angeles (LA), US. The simple small-town boys are fascinated by automatic lifts and confused by escalators. Immersed in American culture with only Amit (Pitobash Tripathy) the interpreter, Rinku and Dinesh have to master both the sport and a new world. Through Rinku and Dinesh’s journey, Bernstein too undergoes a major transformation from a selfish, single, ambitious bachelor and businessman to a compassionate family man and nurturer of talent.
In the first hour, director Craig Gillespie captures India in all its dusty, chaotic exotica. There are shots of slums and comments on the honking on Indian streets. Adding mood and rhythm to the action and comedy is A.R. Rahman’s soundtrack. The pace slackens when the location shifts to LA but the performances and the gentle hand with which the subject is directed keep you interested. Hamm, Sharma and Mittal are measured and delightful to watch. Alan Aarkin stands out for his performance as the talent scout who dozes throughout his visit to India.
Like all good underdog stories, Million Dollar Arm, which often feels like a slick marketing tool, does have a feel-good ending.
Million Dollar Arm released in theatres on Friday.