Disney’s Million Dollar Arm tells the true story of a sports agent who travels to India to stage a competition to get talented cricketers to play Major League Baseball. The film, released earlier this year, shows how Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel (two non-cricketers), were discovered through the competition. Singh later became the first Indian to sign for a professional baseball team. Since leaving his hometown of Lucknow in 2006, Rinku has signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates and has been able to buy a new home for his family. He hopes his story and the film will inspire more young people to take up the sport. We spoke to Rinku ahead of his visit to Dubai for the Host Cities summit taking place Wednesday November 26.
How does it feel to have a film made about you?
It’s amazing that Disney made a real-life story about me – it feels great. I never thought it would come true, but here I am.
What do you think of the movie?
It’s not 100 percent accurate, but it’s Hollywood so it can never be all real. But they did a great job and I’m really happy with it. It has inspired a lot of kids around the world, showing them that no matter who you are or where you come from, if you put 110 percent effort into whatever you’re doing, you will have a good life.
What did you think of Suraj Sharma’s portrayal of you?
I think he did an awesome job. When I first saw him in Life of Pi, I really wanted to meet him to get the chance to talk to him about pitching. I really give him credit because it’s hard for him – I had to learn how to play professional baseball, and he had to learn how to pitch for the movie.
To what extent were you consulted about the film’s story? Is there anything in it that is starkly different to reality?
The filmmakers spoke to me about the story and the script but there were a few things, such as me seeing the girl in the bathroom and getting freaked out and the portrayal of the village that were different. But that’s why they call it a movie – they have to add something extra to make it interesting, otherwise how will it attract an audience?
What did you find most challenging about leaving India?
Communication, learning the culture, and learning baseball. Before I left India I was a javelin thrower and I came to America speaking no English. Now I’m making history. People know all of this, but they don’t know how I felt on that journey. I want to inspire people around the world. I want them to know that you don’t always get a smooth ride in life. There will be a few bumps along the way.
How have your friends and family reacted to the movie?
To my family, my success and my dream is more important than a movie. The film wasn’t a big deal for them. My parents still haven’t seen it yet so after my time in Dubai, I’m going back to India and I’m going to sit down and watch it with them.
Is baseball becoming more popular in India now?
Yes, there are lots of little leagues now, and it’s played more in Delhi and Mumbai. In India we need support for all sports, not just cricket. The country has the second-highest population in the world after China, and we don’t even have 11 men to form a football team worthy to play in the Fifa World Cup because we’re so into cricket. I really hope this can be changed.
Rinku will be speaking at Host Cities November 26 to 27. The Ritz-Carlton Dubai, JBR, www.host-cities.com (04 4475357).
Team Time Out’s top five sporting films
Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
A bunch of misfits enter a Las Vegas dodgeball tournament in order to save their local gym from being taken over by a corporate fitness chain. Starring Ben Stiller and Vince Vaughn, this is a great story where the little guys come out on top, with plenty of silly humour along the way.
A Sri Lankan comedy based on the true story of a team of friends who created the Sri Lankan National Handball team, having never even heard of the sport. A handball competition in Germany provides an opportunity for them to play and leave their old lives behind.
Remember the Titans (2000)
Starring Denzel Washington as Coach Herman Boone, who is tasked with coaching a newly integrated American football high school team in 1971. Dealing with racial prejudices, the team have to learn how to put aside their differences to win on the pitch.
Raging Bull (1980)
Directed by Martin Scorsese this biographical drama stars Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta, an Italian American middleweight boxer whose rage, jealousy, and volcanic temper destroyed his relationship with his wife and family.
Starring Chevy Chase, Ted Knight and Bill Murray, comical capers ensue at a stuffy exclusive golf course where a new member to the club and an indestructible gopher turn things on their heads.