Art & Entertainment

Muttiah Muralitharan On Biopic ‘800’ Releasing On JioCinema: After Cricket, Movies Are Source Of Entertainment In Sri Lanka

Sri Lankan cricket legend Muttiah Muralitharan says Hindi and Tamil films enjoy a huge fan following in his home country and the craze for cinema comes in a close second to cricket in the island nation.

Muttiah Muralitharan
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Sri Lankan cricket legend Muttiah Muralitharan says Hindi and Tamil films enjoy a huge fan following in his home country and the craze for cinema comes in a close second to cricket in the island nation.

The legendary spinner also said he recently watched Tamil hits such as "Jailer", "Leo" and Hindi movies "Jawan" and "Tiger 3".

"In Sri Lanka, Hindi movies are famous because very few movies are made in Sri Lanka. They (Sri Lankan films) don't have a lot of budget but they still run in theatres because people want to watch films in their own language. Both Hindi and Tamil movies are famous in Sri Lanka. Something for entertainment in Sri Lanka, cricket is a part, next one is the movies," Muralitharan told PTI in a virtual interview.

Most of the people in Sri Lanka are Sinhalese, but they watch Hindi movies a lot, he added.

"A young person there can even speak Hindi because they have watched Hindi movies. Mostly there are Hindi movies, Hollywood movies are very few," the 51-year-old former cricketer said.

Growing up, Muralitharan said as he spent most of his time living at a hostel, he would hardly get an opportunity to watch television.

"In those days, we had to go to a cinema hall. Earlier, the movies in Sri Lanka came months after the release. It's only been in the last 10 years that films have been released in Sri Lanka (around the same time) as well," he added.

Muralitharan's biopic "800", titled after the record number of wickets he took in Test cricket, is currently streaming on JioCinema. The film is written and directed by MS Sripathy.

Asked about the response to the biographical drama in Sri Lanka upon its theatrical release in October, Muralitharan said the film did well back home.

"(It ran in theatres there for) More than a month. In India, a film only runs for 14 days or so. Some run for a week because too many movies come and they take (films) off and put (the new ones) there. Many people can't see the movie unless it's a huge actor or a huge hit. It ran for over a month in Sri Lanka," he said.

"The whole country (Sri Lanka) has about 58 theatres. It's too small for two crore people who live there. People go there (to watch films) on weekdays, not weekends or nights," he added.

Muralitharan is part of the Tamil community, a minority in Sri Lanka, and grew up amid the civil war in the country's north. In 2005, the ace bowler married Madhimalar Ramamurthy, a Chennai native.

Sripathy said he decided to make "800" because everything the world didn't know about Muralitharan was interesting.

"I was blown away with the kind of experiences he has had as a child growing up in Sri Lanka amidst the civil war and what happened after he became a cricketer. Also on the cricketing field, the obstacles that he had to go through and the struggle for identity. I thought this is a story that has to be told. That's the feeling I got when I met him the first time," the filmmaker added.

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Actor Madhur Mittal, known for films such as "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Maatr", stars in the role of the spinner in "800".

The actor was roped in to play the spinner after Muralitharan asked Vijay Sethupathi to "step away" from the project as he didn't want the National Award winner to face any trouble after his casting stirred up a political storm in Tamil Nadu.

Getting a hang of the Tamil language, Mittal said, was one of the several challenges he faced while preparing for "800".

"It (Tamil) was as foreign as Afrikaans to me... I didn't have as much time as I would have liked and anyways it's such a complex language. Someone dubbed my part later on in the film but it was still important to get it right as much as possible for the scenes. Also, it throws the other actors off if what you're saying is gibberish," Mittal recalled.

But the 32-year-old actor had help from the crew of "800", including his "captain" Sripathy.

"Sripathy would very sweetly write (lines) in Hindi or Roman English, so that I could make sense of it. I'm still working on it (language) because I want to work more down south in Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu cinema. I'm trying to watch more films from the south... and trying to pick up bits and pieces so that the next time I work I can do a better job with the language also," he added.

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