OTTplay Logo
settings icon
profile icon

Exclusive | Ghoomer sports director Dhruv Panjuani: ‘Everyone on the set was crazy about cricket’

In an exclusive chat with OTTplay, the sports director also shared his experience of working with Dulquer Salmaan in the much-awaited gangster film King Of Kotha

Exclusive | Ghoomer sports director Dhruv Panjuani: ‘Everyone on the set was crazy about cricket’
Dhruv Panjuani
  • Reema Gowalla

Last Updated: 08.32 AM, Aug 23, 2023


While emotions run high with almost all sports films in India, the concept of having a designated ‘sports director’ as part of a film project is still quite new in the country. Meet Dhruv Panjuani who was actively involved with the sports direction team of the Ranveer Singh-starrer 83, and more recently worked as the sports director for Saiyami Kher and Abhishek Bachchan’s Ghoomer and for Dulquer Salmaan’s highly-anticipated Malayalam action thriller, King Of Kotha

OTTplay recently caught up with Dhruv, who has also served as the sports action director for Ashok Selvan and Shantanu Bhagyaraj’s Blue Star. In the exclusive interview, he spoke about what his job entails, how sports-based films are evolving with time, whether or not AI can come in handy in future sports dramas and more. Excerpts: 


Q. What is the role of a sports director in a project?

A. The role of a sports director can be customised according to the requirements of a project. I can be involved in the conceptualisation of the script - as in, when the emotion of the drama is decided. Accordingly, we can build the sports script around it to complement the narrative. I also have a background in filmmaking. I’ve worked as an assistant director, and have been really fortunate to assist some of the best directors in the industry which, in turn, has helped me to hone my skills. 

In fact, after finishing studies at Boston University, I went to LA and started working with a talent management agency. One of my roles there was to read a lot of scripts, analyse them and write commentaries on them. I use those skill sets to develop the sports scripts now, which is always catering to the narrative because sports is not a separate entity like anything else. It has to propel the narrative forward, enhance the emotions or develop on that. That’s the approach I come with. The conceptualisation or thickening up this thought or just fleshing it out is one of the things that I cater to. 

Dhruv at work
Dhruv at work

Then comes the stage of designing the whole thing - storyboarding or previsting. That’s a very important step, because it helps to get a certain clarity on how we want to do the execution of it. Storyboarding involves details about how the moments or scenes will be shot or filmed - that’s something I work very closely with the director and the DoP. We parallelly work on things like active training. There are some projects, such as 83, where the legends - like Kapil Dev - themselves were involved in the process. If that’s the case, it’s more about streamlining the training process, mostly in terms of body language.

Apart from these, I also help the production team with finding coaches for the training of actors as well as the casting of sports people and handle their rehearsals. Once the execution strategy is set, we move on to VFX, which is an important part too. We selectively take a call with the VFX supervisor or the VFX house to devise this execution strategy. Following that, I engage in the editing process, depending on how involved the director or the production company want me to be. 

Dhruv with Kapil Dev and Ranveer Singh on the set of 83
Dhruv with Kapil Dev and Ranveer Singh on the set of 83

Q. Tell us about your experience of working in Ghoomer?

A. Each project is different, and working on Ghoomer too was a different experience for me compared to my previous projects. By the time I came on board, Balki sir had some of the things set. The manner in which cricket is played by Saiyami was a very important and integral part of the script itself. The director had clarity about how he wanted the sport in the film to be. When I came on board, all those foundations were already set. For me then, it was about understanding the director’s vision and delivering what he wanted in that sense. Also, everyone in the project was absolutely crazy about cricket, including Balki sir. Saiyami herself has been playing cricket for a long time. And yeah, so it was more about designing the shots and what are the things we need to focus on. We wanted this to be a very today’s match. How a match is shot and done today. We did a lot of research on broadcasting cameras and learnt about the best angles possible. Today, a cricket match is captured using a minimum of 20 cameras. But we don’t have that luxury. So, we had to decide on which are the ones that we absolutely needed. We needed to optimise the best for the special moments for Saiyami and design those moments accordingly. I’m very thankful to Balki sir for giving me the opportunity to be part of this project. He’s a genius in his own way. 

Q. Even though India is a sports-loving nation, and movies based on the spirit of an athlete have often been received well, we don’t see as many sports-based films made in a year. What’s your view on that?

A. I actually think compared to other places, India still makes a lot of sports films. I have always been aware that sports has its own language, but I was quite taken aback last year when suddenly I started getting offers from the South industries, and I started working on a project for the Malayalam industry - King of Kotha. Although it’s primarily a gangster film, sports is an integral part of the narrative. Then, came the Muttiah Muralitharan biopic (800). So, I think although such films have been limited, I think that is also slowly changing now. Sports itself is evolving and developing in India. And I think that also is having an impact on the film industry. 

Q. Given the diverse content that we are seeing on OTT now, do you think it will also broaden the scope for sports dramas in India?

A. I definitely think there’s a huge potential for sports dramas in the OTT space there. So, let’s see how things unfold and shape up in the near future. It’s an exciting time for sure.

Q. You mentioned the use of VFX in sports dramas. How do you think AI can come in handy in that context, if at all?

A. I feel we first need to understand and be well-versed with how the whole AI feature works out in terms of sports-based films. And then, of course, we can apply it in a lot of interesting and exciting ways. It’s important for us to first comprehend its scope and limitations. Only then, we can optimise it. 

The sports director with filmmaker R Balki on the set of Ghoomer
The sports director with filmmaker R Balki on the set of Ghoomer

Q. What are your favourite sports films, those that have inspired you in your work?

A. I have recently rewatched Any Given Sunday. Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India again is absolutely fantastic. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is a really well-made movie. Among the other films that have inspired me are The Damned United, The Natural and Rocky

Q. Tell us about your upcoming projects… A.

King of Kotha, starring Dulquer Salmaan, is my next release. This project has been really spectacular. It’s basically an action thriller with an element of football in it. It was great fun working with Dulquer as well. He’s an amazing man. Director Abhilash Joshiy was also very clear about what he wanted and trusted me completely. 

Currently I’m also working on this project called Test, which is very different from the films that I’ve done before. It’s a thriller revolving around a test match. Directed by S Sashikanth, the film stars R Madhavan, Siddharth and Nayanthara. And then, there’s a potential football project also coming up.