How an American broadcaster helped spruce up Indian sports flicks
Rob Miller took great pride in sweating the small stuff — not the beads of nervous perspiration on his forehead while planning a shoot, but the minute attention to detail that Western productions are known for. Back home in Los Angeles and in Hollywood, they called it professionalism.
Then Hindi movies happened to him.
The American, who is in his late 40s, helps choreograph sports sequences in Indian movies. He was on the sets of Chak De! India in Australia, his debut Hindi film project, when the scene needed a real-time audience in the stands. Half an hour before the shoot was to begin, the stadium was empty. Miller began to wonder where he’d get 5,000 “balloon people” — inflated plastic models used to simulate crowds in sports movies — from. But the line producer, an Indian, calmly told him that he would get his full stand when Shah Rukh Khan fetched up. “With all due respect to SRK, we were in Australia!” the sports action co-ordinator thought. “But the moment Khan entered, some 4,000 people filed in! They couldn’t even see him all the time. He would step out and wave in their direction every hour and that was enough to get all our crowd shots canned. I’d started by thinking how everything to the last man in a frame needs to be planned months in advance. I’d never been so wrong. By the end of it, I knew filming Indian movies would be a bit of a circus, but it all comes together beautifully,” Miller says. Since then, he has helped shoot sport sequences for seven Bollywood movies, including Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Dil Bole Hadippa, Patiala House and Student of the Year.
Given that Bollywood’s brought to life the stories of Milkha Singh, Paan Singh Tomar and now MC Mary Kom, the sport movie genre is reflecting the country’s tryst with success on the field — in the last five years, India has won a cricket World Cup and doubled its tally of Olympic medals.
MS Dhoni’s Cup-winning six two years ago, though,