What happens when a talented 17-year old, a “tiger mother” and a sports coach cross each others’ paths? To be produced by Onir and Sanjay Suri (of I AM fame) and directed by Ashwini Malik, Coach Kameena promises to be a simple comedy about allowing a naturally gifted athlete to follow his dream.
“Coach Kameena is about a sports coach in a Punjab school and his struggle to have a schoolboy of 17 — who has a natural talent for running — pursue a career in athletics. But the boy’s mother insists her son will get into IIT and become an engineer, then do an MBA and take up a regular job,” says the Mumbai-based director.
“The crux of the film is that the coach has so much faith in the boy’s ability that he’s not even averse to using devious psychological tactics to persuade him to get into athletics. On the other hand, the boy’s mother — a single parent — is equally determined that her son stays focused on studies,” explains Malik.
The first-time director, who has earlier written for films such as Sorry Bhai! (story, screenplay and dialogue), Bas Ek Pal (dialogue), Road, Movie (Hindi dialogues) and I AM (dialogue), decided to work on a sports-themed film to capture the joy and the struggle in the field of adrenaline.
Denying any likeness of the story to one particular real-life incident, Malik says his film is inspired from several stories of sporting talent being smothered by the system. “Our performance at the Olympics is getting better for sure, but it is still quite shameful. I do understand that the more developed countries tend to do better at sports and that our priorities are different. Who in India would want their daughter or son to have a second-rate life as a sportsperson?” wonders the FTII alumnus.
Malik is also eager to break the stereotypes of the way north Indian small towns are portrayed in Bollywood. “They’re either caricaturised or simply ignored. Ditto for the Punjabi family, which is always portrayed as being loud and flashy,” he says, adding that he plans to experiment with the film’s music as well while trying to keep it “very Punjabi, very fun, but also very rooted”.
Ask him about the lack of good sports-themed films in Bollywood, and Malik retorts, “We’ve had a few decent ones. But once we start doing well in sports other than cricket, the film industry is not going to spare the subject of sports. It is inherently inspirational, uplifting and thus perfect for cinema.”
He says he will start shooting for Coach Kameena later this year in Ludhiana. The film’s cast will be announced next month.