(COLOMBO, LANKAPUVATH) – We have seen a flood of biopics in Bolllywood based on lives of various sportspersons. But now, Indian moviegoers are likely to see a biopic made on a legendary sportsperson from a different country. It has been reported by a news website that a movie on the life of Sri Lanka’s former off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, to be called ‘800’ – the number of wickets Murali got in his Test career, is in the works and leading Tamil actor Vijay Sethupathi has been roped in to essay the character of the cricket great.
This story was put out by Gulf News on July 21 but is yet to receive confirmation. The website quoted an anonymous source as saying “We will begin filming in December 2019. It’s a big-budget film that will be shot in India, Sri Lanka, England and other parts of the world.”
Most cricket fans would agree that Muralitharan was a cricketer who deserves a movie made on him. He is the leading wicket-taker in the history of Test cricket and the only one to have 800 of them. But that is only the tip of the iceberg that is the story of Murali.
He had an unusual action which became highly controversial due to allegations of it being illegal. This led to several run-ins between his team and the authorities. He had to undergo tests to verify that he isn’t chucking the ball. What made the issue of his action more complicated than others was the fact that he had a natural deformity which rendered his arm permanently bent at the elbow to a slight angle.
The biggest bone of contention was the ‘doosra’ – a delivery originally invented by Pakistan’s Saqlain Mushtaq but perfected by Murali. This delivery, which used to turn in the opposite direction compared to the regular off-break, led to a rich haul of wickets for the Lankan legend but it was also a delivery that has been looked down upon by many due to the necessity for bending the arm to bowl it. Eventually, the ICC had to change the rules of cricket to allow flexing of the elbow to 15 degrees. But that didn’t stop his detractors from criticising Murali.
There was another reason, apart from his cricketing brilliance, that makes Murali special. He belongs to the minority Tamil community of Sri Lanka and represented his team at a time when the country was locked in a violent conflict with LTTE, a terrorist organisation that demanded a separate nation for Sri Lankan Tamils in northern and eastern part of the island nation. This made the offie a national icon.
Murali also has an Indian connection with his wife being from Chennai. He was also a key player in IPL during the early seasons of the league. There would certainly be a lot of interest in India for this movie, if and when it comes out. The fact that a reputed actor like Sethupathi is playing the main character would make it all the more appealing.