Doosra director Abhinay Deo explains why Sourav Ganguly's 2002 shirt swinging moment goes far beyond cricket
Abhainay Deo has directed Doosra, a docu-fiction film that captures the societal impact of Sourav Ganguly swininging his shirt in the air in 2002.
Seventeen years ago, this day on 13 July, moments after India defeated England in the Natwest final at Lord's Stadium, London, then-Indian cricket team skipper Sourav Ganguly took off his t-shirt and swung it in the air to celebrate. That particular moment captured the nation's imagination and also went on to inspire a docu-fiction film, titled Doosra.
In the upcoming Doosra, the archival footage of India's win and interviews with eminent cricket personalities about the cultural significance of that moment run parallel to a fictional story of a Rajasthan small-town girl getting inspired by Ganguly's shirt swinging, and standing up to her family. Abhinay Deo, who has directed films like Delhi Belly and Blackmail, and two seasons of Anil Kapoor's adaptation of the Fox show 24, has helmed Doosra as well.
In an exclusive interview with Firstpost, Deo opens up on why he felt gravitated towards the idea behind the film. "At that time, the one feeling I remember very clearly going through was pride. I didn't think about the moment from the perspective of it touching upon other people's lives. But when I came across the idea, I felt extremely motivated," says Deo.
"In Indian cricket, there have always been individual spurts of brilliance by players, such as Yuvraj Singh's six sixes and Sachin Tendulkar's 100th century. And there have always been victories, like the 1983 World Cup win. But what ended up happening at Natwest and even the 2001 test match series before that when Indian won against Australia, the most incredible team at that time, India performed as a team. We, as a country, came together to support India as a team. India performed with a confidence to win. India went to the grounds with the purpose of winning. I personally feel a large part of that attitude was brought in by Sourav Ganguly. That' why Natwest was a paradigm shift attitudinally and emotionally in the Indian cricket team. It wasn't a spurt. That was a consistent team effort, where the entire team believed they could win. They didn't depend on any one particular player to lead them to victory," says Deo, underlining the importance of Ganguly's contribution to catapult the Indian team to great heights in the early 2000s.
There were signs of India's global dominance in the new millennium in the early 1990s itself, with India opening its gates to the rest of the world as liberalisation coincided with Ganguly taking making his cricket debut. Though Deo disagrees that the economic liberalisation affected India's advancement in the field of cricket beyond a certain extent, the trailer of Doosra declares the 2002 Ganguly moment as the day India achieved "emotional independence" as opposed to "political independence" in 1947 and "economic independence" in 1991.
"There were many factors which changed India then. Liberalisation was one of them. 1991 also happens to be the debut year of Sourav Ganguly. In the mid-1990s, India went through one of the worst phases of cricket because of the match-fixing scandal. While we were coming out of it, the change of guard happened from Azharuddin to Sachin Tendulkar, and then to Sourav Ganguly. Even after liberalisation, we continued to live as a country living under this strong inferiority complex against white men. When Sourav came in, he brought about a change of not caring about the inferiority complex. He shaped the team's attitude that we are good as anybody else in the world, if not better. Matches are not won by economic forums. Matches are won by attitude," says Deo. In fact, Ganguly replicated the shirt swinging moment only because he considered it poetic. "I remembered how Andrew Flintoff took off his shirt at Wankhede to celebrate a 3-3 series draw before, and I just thought why not do the same at Lord's," he said on a recent episode of Breakfast With Champions.
He ranks Ganguly as one of the finest captains to walk out of the Indian pavilion primarily because of his impeccable drive. "I personally feel that Dada, as a captain, was a messenger of change. Kapil Dev, MS Dhoni, and now Virat Kohli have all been great captains with their pluses and minuses. But Dada brought about the killer instinct, that many say once lacked the Indian cricket team. He had the eye of the tiger, which is required in every sport," says Deo.
Deol also maintains that it was a challenge to establish the pan-Indian impact of the Ganguly moment in 2002. While he had the crutch of a fiction story, he ensured that he did not base it in Kolkata, the home turf of Ganguly. "Let me clarify this is not a biopic of Sourav Ganguly. It is not about where he comes from. That's not the point. The point is the whole country was affected by his moment. So the point was in fact to go as far from Kolkata. I didn't want someone who worships him. I just wanted someone who could idolise him, who could rub off his attitude. I wanted to go to any one part of middle India, where a growing person doesn't necessarily worship Sourav. She might not even know his name, but got affected by it," says Deo.
He is positive that interviews with cricket personalities like Harsha Bhogle, Ayaz Memon and Shashi Tharoor in the film helped highlight the impact of the moment. "This particular moment was so iconic, so memorable that it wasn't a challenge to stir anything within any of them. From the Indian perspective, it is certainly one of the milestones in the history of cricket," says Deo.
The docu-fiction is not the first time Deo has experimented with the form. He also directed 48 episodes spread across 24 hours for the Indian adaptation of 24. In Doosra, the challenge was diametrically opposite — to depict the cricketing career of Ganguly, spread across over a decade, within three hours. "That's the magic of filmmaking. It allows you to sometime compress a millennium into two hours and sometimes, make a movie of two hours on one moment. Every form of expression is permitted here."
Cinema and cricket go a long way back. Back in 2002, India's win was juxtaposed against the Indian villagers' victory against British colonisers in Ashutosh Gowariker's period drama Lagaan, that released only a few months before. "These two are, at many large levels, are social pillars. They end up educating you, entertaining you, and giving you a sense of pride. They are incredibly important because they can change the thought process of people. They almost act as the cultural backbone of a country," says Deo.
It will be interesting to see how the two "social pillars" converge in Doosra. The makers are expected to announce the release date of the docu-fiction film this month.
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