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Mary Kom to Chak De! Indian sports movies no Bollywood fan should miss

From drama to inspiration, here's the essential list of Bollywood sports movies everyone needs to watch.

By Sandeep Banerjee ·

Nothing beats playing a sport in person. But watching sports movies may just be the next best thing.

Movies based on lives of sporting heroes tend to be tales of grit, determination and accomplishment against the odds - the full array of emotions which make sports special. It has the right mix for a box office blockbuster!

Here are some hand-picked Bollywood sports movies about Indian athletes no sports lover should miss.

Mary Kom

Priyanka Chopra pulls off a fantastic performance in the eponymous movie from 2014, based on the life of legendary Indian boxer MC Mary Kom.

Portraying her journey as a pugilist as well as her balancing of family and career, the Mary Kom film was widely praised and recorded the highest-ever opening weekend for a female-led Indian movie.

Undergoing rigorous physical training, Priyanka Chopra went to every length to pin down Mary Kom’s style of boxing to where even seasoned boxing enthusiasts will be hard-pressed to pick out any flaws in her depiction of the action.

Even though the film was released in 2014, the story only goes up to her 2008 World Boxing Championships victory. Due to the contractual reasons specifying that the movie only depicts her life until 2008, it left out her 2012 London Olympics bronze medal win.

Chak De! India

Among highly-rated Indian sports movies and a well-received film featuring one of Bollywood’s brightest talents was 2007’s Chak De! India.

Though inspired by the Indian hockey women’s team’s 2002 Commonwealth Games win, the fictional Shah Rukh Khan-starrer delves into a wide range of serious topics such as feminism, sexism, partition, bigotry and prejudice.

Returning from an ostracisation following a loss to Pakistan, Shah Rukh Khan’s character, former Indian captain Kabir Khan redeems himself by moulding and spurring the Indian eves on to victory.

Coinciding with India’s 60th Independence Day, the film strikes all the right patriotic chords and is a highly enjoyable watch even for non-hockey fans.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (Run Milkha Run) is based on the life of Commonwealth Games and multiple Asian Games medal-winning Indian sprinter Milkha Singh.

Starring Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh, the film pulls no punches, as it goes back to Milkha Singh’s early days during partition and charts his upbringing and strife en route to becoming one of India’s most cherished athletes.

One of the finest Bollywood sports movies, it's based on the book The Race of My Life, written by Milkha Singh and his daughter. While selling the film rights, Milkha Singh charged a mere rupee, on the condition that a share of the profits goes to the Milkha Singh Charitable Trust benefiting needy sportspersons.

Dangal

Dangal tells the story of the legendary Phogat family of wrestlers, particularly Geeta Phogat and Babita Kumari and their patriarch Mahavir Singh Phogat.

With gritty realism, the story illustrates how amateur wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat, portrayed by Aamir Khan, after being forced to give up the sport, lived his dream through his daughters who went on to become Commonwealth Games gold medallists.

Winning a score of awards both in India and abroad, the movie was widely lauded by critics. Dangal is perhaps one of the finest sports movies in India.

Gold

Gold is a fictional depiction of independent India’s first national hockey team and its gold medal-winning debut at the 1948 Summer Olympics.

Aside from the 1948 Summer Olympics, the movie starring Akshay Kumar as the fictional Tapan Das also delves into 12 years of Indian history.

While the movie might tell a tad more nail-biting tale than the actual version of events, it is nonetheless a fun watch.

Paan Singh Tomar

Army man, champion athlete and… dacoit?

Paan Singh Tomar is a high-octane movie, not due to fictionalisation by the moviemakers but due to the incredible true story of the movie’s namesake.

Being made to run on the parade ground as punishment while in the army led to the discovery of Paan Singh Tomar’s competency as a runner.

After going on to becoming a seven-year steeplechase national champion and holder of a 10-year record, disputes in his village escalated and lead to Paan Singh Tomar becoming an infamous dacoit.

We won’t spoil his story any further, but be assured Paan Singh Tomar, starring the late Irrfan Khan, is anything but a typical sports story!

Other notable Indian sports movies

Soorma

Soorma is a biopic on former Indian hockey team player and Olympian Sandeep Singh, who was left paralysed after a gunshot accidentally hit him. The biopic stars Diljit Dosanjh.

Sultan

Starring Salman Khan and Anushka Sharma, Sultan is a fictional Bollywood sports movie revolving around a a wrestler looking to make a comeback against all odds.

Budhia Singh - Born to Run

Budhia Singh - Born to Run is a biopic on Budhia Singh, acclaimed as the world's youngest marathon runner. When he was just five, Budhia ran 48 marathons!