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Another movie on India’s 2011 Cricket World Cup triumph? One was afraid it would turn out to be an extended version of the type of TV programming on sports channels that keep showing reruns and highlights of the Indian cricket team’s famous victories.

The world cup, however, is just a backdrop to Sushrut Jain’s documentary Beyond All Boundaries, which chronicles the travails of three ordinary Indians for whom the sport is a route to fame, riches and a purpose. The focus is the fan rather than the superstar cricketer. The film effectively depicts the ordinary fan’s addiction to the game, the desperation for winning a world cup after 28 years, the breathless excitement during the death overs of a match and other such broad brush summary of the country’s connection with the game. Where the documentary scores is in the exploration of the relationship of its protagonists with the game.

Important matches of the world cup are woven around the lives of these three characters. The director keeps the cricketing action to a minimum—it is more about their hopes and dreams.

One of the three heroes is Sudhir Gautam, perhaps the most recognizable fan to Indian cricket viewers. He is the man who paints himself in the colours of the tricolour and cycles around the country following the Indian cricket team. The second is Prithvi Shaw, a child prodigy in Mumbai’s schools and on the club circuit, who has been compared to Sachin Tendulkar at a similar age for breaking batting records. The third protagonist is a bit of a surprise—18-year-old Akshaya Surve, a girl from a Mumbai slum wanting to break into the city’s under-19 team.

The characters’ devotion to the game is inspirational and yet frightening. Sudhir, for instance, tells a BBC reporter that he planned to sell a kidney before the 2007 World Cup so that he could travel to the Caribbean.

Their struggles also cast light on the dark underbelly of the game. Akshaya works hard, eschews marriage, bunks classes and hides injuries because she has that one last chance to make it to the under-19 team. Yet, she has no idea about how to earn a living as a professional cricketer. Her coach refuses to discuss the salaries of professional women cricketers, terming them an “embarrassment". These are issues which the glitz and glamour of international cricket and the Indian Premier League gloss over and seldom make it to the sports pages of dailies.

Prithvi’s story is one which we are familiar with—a young talent who shoulders the burden of big parental expectations. Prithvi’s father gives up employment to develop the talents of his son. A local politician appears as a sponsor, who at times seems to treat Prithvi as a show pony. The boy is made to play in adult leagues and his father casually says he beats him once a month to “keep him tight".

Underdog stories are always heart-warming. This film too is empathetic towards its characters, the true heroes of the game. The feel-good factor abounds, especially in Gautam’s story.

The exposition is slow. The film begins with a clichéd explanation of why “cricket is religion" and how it is “primarily a contest between bowler and batsman". Inane commentary peppers even the best of cricket matches on TV, but that doesn’t take away from the excitement. Similarly, this film overcomes its clichés and stays relevant primarily as a human drama.

Beyond All Boundaries released in theatres on Friday

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