Abhishek Bachchan, Saiyami Kher Talk Inspirational Cricket and Disability-Themed Film ‘Ghoomer’

Abhishek Bachchan (“Dasvi”) and Saiyami Kher (“Faadu”) headline “Ghoomer,” a cricket and disability-themed film from R. Balki (“Chup”).

The film follows Anina (Kher), a young batting prodigy who loses her right hand in an accident. An unsympathetic, failed, alcoholic cricketer Paddy (Bachchan) gives her new hope and trains her as a spin bowler with unconventional techniques, inventing a new style of bowling called ghoomer, with the ultimate goal of playing for India. The title is a play on a form of Indian dance that involves twirling the body.

The film also has real-life trans woman Ivanka Das playing Paddy’s house help and adopted sister, veteran Shabana Azmi in a significant role, India’s leading film archivist Shivendra Singh Dungarpur making his acting debut in a pivotal part and Indian cinema legend Amitabh Bachchan playing himself. Murali Kartik who played cricket for the Indian national team for several years, was the bowling coach on the project.

“I do agree that the trope of washed-up has-been player becomes a coach has been seen before. But what I liked was the fact that whenever Balki is involved, he’s going to have his own spin on things. And with Paddy’s character, his spin was very nice, he’s unapologetic, he’s brash, he’s blunt. He’s not even borderline rude, he’s just rude,” Bachchan told Variety.

“What I’d like to believe you unfurl through the movie, is that underneath all these layers and garbs is actually a very sentimental person. I like the fact that he doesn’t make a big deal about Anina’s handicap, he doesn’t make a big deal about the fact that she’s a lady. And in most things in his life, even with his house help and sister Rasika, it’s not a big deal for him. He’s somebody who believes in normalizing these things,” Bachchan added. “I found that to be very novel way to portray a character like this. Through his brashness, through his attitude, you actually realize that there is a certain amount of thought that has been put in on how he wants to achieve his goals or how he wants to help Anina achieve her goals.”

Kher played cricket when she was younger and that stood her in good stead for what was a physically demanding role. A right hander in real life, she had to train to be a left hander for the film. The actor also had to work with prosthetics.

“Balki-sir is someone who is really obsessed about the game, so he made sure that we had no cheat shots at all. He made sure that I had practiced enough to pitch the ball exactly where he wanted it to,” Kher told Variety. “Physically, I went through a whole lot of training with Murali Kartik who helped me with my left arm action because he’s got a beautiful orthodox action.”

“Emotionally it was much more demanding than just the physical aspect,” Kher added, crediting discussions with Balki and her acting coaches – renowned actor Adil Hussain (“Life of Pi”) and Dilip Shankar (“Trial by Fire”) for helping her through the process. “I always called back to them when I know that I have to go and do something which is very difficult and challenging, because they have the skill set to help me out in whichever way possible. With Balki -sir, a lot of discussions with and of course, when you have somebody like AB [Bachchan] opposite giving you so much as an actor, it makes your life much simpler,” Kher said.

Bachchan also serves as a producer on “Ghoomer.” On the recent revival of the Bollywood box office after an up and down year, Bachchan said, “Good cinema is a film that is successful, and a bad film is a film that did not do well at the box office, regardless of what it’s aesthetics or its sensibilities might be.”

“We’re a commercial art, we work for the audience, the audience purchases a ticket, they decide whether what we do is good or bad, regardless of what we want to think, all the intentions with which we made the film and that is the harsh reality,” Bachchan added. “The more we make these excuses that this movie was ahead of its time, or people didn’t get it – if they didn’t get it, then you made it for the wrong reasons, we made for the wrong person. It’s as simple as that.”

Next up for Bachchan are “SSS 7,” a single-actor film that is Parthiban’s Hindi-language remake of his 2019 Tamil-language thriller “Oththa Seruppu Size 7”; an untitled drama-comedy produced by Nikkhil Advani, directed by Madhumita Sundararaman (Prime Video’s “Putham Puthu Kaalai”); and Remo D’Souza’s (“Street Dancer”) drama “Be Happy.” These films are completed and Bachchan is off to the U.S. to shoot an untitled slice-of-life drama directed by Shoojit Sircar (“Sardar Udham”).

Kher has completed action drama “Agni,” directed by Rahul Dholakia (“Raees”) and produced by Excel Entertainment; and a film that reunites her with her “Special Ops” director Neeraj Pandey starts shooting in September.

“Ghoomer” releases worldwide theatrically on Aug. 18.

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