Inside Edge: Welcome to the seamy underside of Indian cricket in Farhan Akhtar-Ritesh Sidhwani's web series
Cricket and Bollywood are often touted as India's twin obsessions. And the two fields have tended to flirt with each other, time and again, over the years.
Most recently, we've seen this trend in film trailers being unveiled during cricket matches — Akshay Kumar's upcoming film Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, and Imtiaz Ali's Shah Rukh Khan-Anushka Sharma starrer Jab Harry Met Sejal (which will have a mini trailer release during the finals of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017).
We've also had our fair share of films based on cricketers over the past few months — be it Azhar, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, or Sachin: A Billion Dreams.
Excel Entertainment, headed by Farhan Akhtar and Ritesh Sidhwani, will carry forward the cricket-film romance, and also explore a part of it, in their first web series: the Karan Anshuman-directed Inside Edge — which is all set to become Amazon India's first 'original' on 10 July.
While its trailer shows striking similarities with the 2013 IPL scandal, Sidhwani has steered clear of any resemblance to real life characters and events. "Obviously it has inspirations. You get up in the morning, read about such stuff in the newspapers. But the alternate universe that Karan has created is a fictional interpretation. It could have been any other game but he has chosen it to be cricket," Farhan Akhtar said to Firstpost.
While Akhtar has already aced a sports biopic on the life of sprinter Milkha Singh, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra's 2013 film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, he is now venturing into producing sports dramas (not sports biopics). In fact, Ritesh Sidhwani clarified that Reema Kagti's Gold is not a biopic of renowned hockey player Balbir Singh.
"It's not a biopic. It's a period drama inspired from events that are a part of our sporting history. I am not making a film based on any one person's life. It is a narrative that deals with an assortment of incidents," Sidhwani said.
The film producer confessed that he is not quite fascinated by the biopic genre since the curve in majority of such films is usually linear. While Neeraj Pandey's film from last year, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, was criticised for its inclination towards a hagiography, Sidhwani is of the opinion that it was not the case with James Erskine's recently released Sachin: A Billion Dreams.
"The docu-drama showed the highs and lows of his life. His achievements, the stress he went through, the politics around his captaincy, all those grounds were covered. And that is exactly why it made for an interesting as well as an inspiring watch," says Sidhwani.
However, even Sachin Tendulkar's biopic was slammed for largely showing the bright aspects of the cricketing world. What Inside Edge aims to do is to throw light on the underbelly of the same world, from the locker room politics to the burning issue of match fixing.
Karan Anshuman points out another aspect that will distinguish the web series from other cricket films: "It is traditionally a men's game. But the female characters in my web series are immensely strong. It was a conscious attempt on my part to incorporate author-backed roles for women and cast talented actors for them," he says.
Richa Chadda plays the lead female character and will be seen essaying the role of a Power Play League (PPL) team owner who is an actor by profession. "It's a very interesting role because it offers an insight into the behind-the-scenes world of actors. We stand here as packaged products in front of you. But it will be fascinating to watch what lies behind, goes behind, all these layers of make-up."
Chadha, like Sidhwani, denied any inspiration from a real life person. "Since it's a female actor and an IPL team owner, the coincidences are bound to give way to a lot of guesswork. But let me assure you that my role is not based on any actor. It is completely fictionalised."
Her co-star Vivek Oberoi echoes the same thought as he denies that his role is based on Lalit Modi. "As far as I know, this web series is a work of fiction. I just play a mastermind who shakes things up. You will know more when you watch the series, " says Oberoi, who is seen in a role with negative shades yet again after Sanjay Gupta's 2007 crime drama Shootout at Lokhandwala and Rakesh Roshan's 2013 superhero film Krrish 3. He will also be seen venturing onto somewhat unfamilar turf, South Indian cinema, when he locks the horns with Ajith in Siva's Tamil spy thriller Vivegam (although he has been part of the Rakta Charitra films as well, previously).
Inside Edge also stars Angad Bedi, the son of former Indian cricketer Bishan Singh Bedi, who plays a team captain in the film. His experience of playing under-19 cricket tournaments and stint as an anchor in the IPL is likely to come into play. The web series also stars Sayani Gupta, Sarah Jane Dias, Sanjay Suri and Tanuj Virwani.