2021 has quite a lot of Telugu films where a popular sport drives the story forward. While Jersey and Majili were among the recent films surrounding cricket that caught the fascination of audiences, the number of sports-driven projects have only increased this year. The first among the lot is Check, even if it is more a crime drama than a sports drama. The backdrop of the chess game hasn’t been utilised frequently in Telugu cinema, so naturally, some freshness could be expected in the Nithiin, Priya Prakash Varrier and Rakul Preet-starrer.
A1 Express, featuring Sundeep Kishan, Lavanya Tripathi and Rao Ramesh, releasing on March 5, is being marketed as the first Telugu film revolving around hockey. Sundeep Kishan has left no stone unturned to work on his physique for the film that’s filled with abundant drama. Several realtime hockey players have acted and even groomed the actors to retain the authenticity in the setup. The promos make it quite obvious that it is a story of underdog victory infused with commercial elements. The disadvantage with the sports genre is always its predictability – one must wait to see if the film manages to entertain beyond the apparent clichés.
Gopichand is taking a break from his regular brand of action films to do a Kabaddi-oriented story with Seetimaarr, in the direction of Sampath Nandi. The story is about the rivalry between the Kabaddi teams of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana that are coached by the lead actors Tamannaah and Gopichand. The recently released teaser indicates that there’ll be a generous dose of masala and emotion in the film, taking a similar approach to Vijay’s Whistle that released in 2019. The director and Gopichand are in desperate need of a hit; Seetimaarr looks a good bet for commercial success.
One of the most anticipated pan-Indian releases this year, Liger, starring Vijay Deverakonda and Ananya Pandey, too is a sports film amidst the boxing backdrop. For its director Puri Jagannadh, boxing backdrop isn’t new, having depicted Ravi Teja as a professional boxer stuck between his family and ambition in the hit Amma Nanna O Tamil Ammayi. He has upped the boxing elements in Liger, where Vijay plays a kickboxer with a stutter. The actor underwent a six-hour training regime daily in Thailand to prepare for the role and has called it a ‘wacky, fun film’ in an interview. Puri has always catered to the masses with his dialogues and raw treatment; this isn’t expected to be any different.
Another sports film, a Tamil-Telugu bilingual that’s set to hit the theatres this year is Aadhi Pinisetty’s Clap that has been in the making for a long time. The actor steps into the shoes of a sprinter-turned-coach faced with a unique physical challenge, as depicted in the poster of the film. Directed by Prithivi Adithya, Aakanksha Singh and Krisha Kurup play female leads whereas the likes of Nasser, Prakash Raj essay crucial roles in Clap that has music by Ilaiyaraja. Though sprinters are a common feature in Telugu films, not many films except Ashwini have completely showcased the struggles in the life of an athlete accurately.