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Sudhir Kumar Gautam is one of the central figures in the film.
Sudhir Kumar Gautam is one of the central figures in the film.

The all-inclusive world of cricket

A documentary uses the 2011 World Cup played in India as backdrop to tell a story about stars, fans, aspiring cricketers and the binding world of sport

A passionate fan who paints his body before every cricket match, a 12-year-old boy who some believe to be Sachin Tendulkar’s successor, and an 18-year-old girl fighting the odds to play cricket—these three characters come together in a new documentary film that tries to capture India’s passion for cricket.

Beyond All Boundaries is US-based Sushrut Jain’s first full-length documentary and won both the audience and jury awards for Best Feature-length Documentary at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (Iffla, 9-14 April). The film’s producers still have to work out the details of the film’s release.

Jain uses the stories of three unrelated individuals—cricket being the only common link—to document India’s love for the sport, with the 2011 World Cup held in the country providing him the right time to do so. The film was shot all over India—Mumbai, Bangalore, Kolkata, in rural Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Bihar—for four months before, during and after the World Cup. The approximately 200 hours of footage went back to Los Angeles and the process of editing took over a year before the 97-minute film made it to the Dallas International Film Festival (4-14 April) and Iffla.

Cricket-centric: The film is 97-minutes long
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Cricket-centric: The film is 97-minutes long

The most recognizable among the three principal characters, at least to people who regularly watch cricket on television, is Sudhir Kumar Gautam. The 30-year-old from Muzaffarpur, Bihar, who cycled to Dhaka, Bangladesh, to watch an India match during the World Cup (for the opening match on 19 February 2011), uses orange, green and white watercolours to paint his face and uses enamel for his torso, which sometimes takes two days to come off. He does this before every match involving India. The first time he cycled for a match was from Bihar to Mumbai, 2,200km over 18 days, mentions the documentary. For the last eight years, according to the film, Tendulkar has given Gautam tickets to every India match.

“I had known Sudhir Kumar from TV coverage—he is often seen in the stands waving a giant Indian flag and blowing a conch," says Jain. “I researched him but back in 2010, there wasn’t much useful written about him. I decided that I had to meet him. He proved difficult to find since he has no real home any more and he just travels the country on a bicycle. We waited for him outside the first India home game of the World Cup (in Bangalore on 27 February). I spoke to him and quickly I knew I wanted to follow his story, which is amazing and powerful. A simple first conversation began what is now a great friendship."

Prithvi Shaw started playing with a leather ball at the age of 3 when, his father Pankaj says, he was shorter than the stumps. The 11-year-old scored two double centuries, 13 centuries, five 50-plus scores and 2,000 runs in the 2011-12 school season, according to the documentary. For the longest time, he would travel from the furthermost suburb of western Mumbai, Virar, to south Mumbai, which has most cricketing grounds. In the film, one of local cricket’s keen observers, Makarand Waingankar, compares Prithvi to Tendulkar at the same age. Prithvi’s mother died when he was 3.

Promising: Prithvi Shaw is an upcoming cricketer
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Promising: Prithvi Shaw is an upcoming cricketer

Akshaya Surve’s father died when she was in class IX. Her mother Sharmila and she do not get along with her father’s family and there is always pressure on them to leave the premises they share with the rest of the family. “She (Akshaya) is playing to forget everything," explains her coach, Aparna Kambli, in the film.

“While women’s cricket is nowhere near as popular as the men’s version, there are many girls in India who love the sport and take it seriously," says Jain.

Shot locally by cinematographer Jeremy Guy and mixed with recorded footage of the 2011 World Cup, the documentary is an interesting juxtaposition of the glamorous world of international stars and the ambitious youngsters toiling in recurring local leagues.

Jain, who grew up in Juhu, Mumbai, studied economics at Stanford University, US, and worked as an economist briefly before deciding films was his true passion. He went to film school at University of Southern California in Los Angeles and made a short film called Andheri. Beyond All Boundaries is co-produced by Kunal Nayyar, who plays Raj Koothrapalli on CBS’ hit TV show, The Big Bang Theory.

Jain says the film, which has comments from former and current cricketers like Nari Contractor, Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh, is for anyone who enjoys a good story, and “for Western audiences, unfamiliar with cricket, it is the humanity and intimacy of the personal stories that are more appealing".

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