Posted by Fenil Seta
Roshmila Bhattacharya (MUMBAI MIRROR; June 28, 2017)
Pullela Gopichand, the man who stands tall on the badminton court, is all set to bring his game, set and match to the screen. The Padma Shri awardee and chief national coach of the Indian badminton team, responsible for ending China’s dominance in the sport, and regarded as the chief architect of India as a badminton superpower in the world, is now the subject of a biopic.
Vikram Malhotra who has produced films like Airlift, Baby and the upcoming Chef, has acquired the rights from the shuttler-turned-coach to produce a film on his life and achievements. The film, a Hindi-Telugu bilingual since Telugu is Gopichand’s mother tongue and he is worshiped in Andhra Pradesh, is currently being developed.
Confirming the news, Gopi, as he is fondly called, told Mirror, “I am excited at the prospect of the film and look forward to it. I liked Vikram and his team’s vision and hope that it takes the sport of badminton to millions more across the world.”
The ace shuttler is only the second Indian after Prakash Padukone to win the All England Open Badminton Championship in 2001. And while that title was reason enough for him to rest on his laurels, the unassuming guy with the shy smile and a racket in hand, wasn’t done yet. Seven years after this historic win, he founded the Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad.
A household name across the country today, the academy has produced several badminton champions, including Saina Nehwal who bagged bronze in the 2012 Summer Olympics, PV Sindhu who bettered that with a silver in the Games four years later and, more recently, Srikanth Kidambi, whom he turned from a playful joker on court into a much-applauded world champion with two super series wins — the Indonesian Open and Australia Open — in the course of a week. His list of protégés also includes talents like Parupalli Kashyap, Arundhati Pantawane, Gurusai Datt and Arun Vishnu, making him the worthy recipient of the Arjuna Award in 1999 and the Dronacharya Award a decade later.
An excited Vikram asserts that it is an honour that a legend like Pullela Gopichand has chosen his banner to tell his story to the world. “It is a huge responsibility as Gopi’s life has not only been one of inspiring achievements but also that of iconic contributions to the world of sports and our society at large. Our aim is to create an authentic and impactful rendition of his story,” he reiterates.
It won’t be easy to step into the large shoes of the 44-year-old legend, married to fellow badminton player PVV Lakshmi. Which actor do they have in mind to play Gopichand’s reel life avatar? “It’s a tough choice as the actor needs to be a combination of sports skills, acting talent and the ability to transform himself into Gopi. We are even considering doing the film with a newcomer,” says Vikram.
While they figure that out, Gopi continues to keep the Indian tricolour flying high across the world.