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Bandon Mein Tha Dum review: The real-life Lagaan story of the Indian men's cricket team is told with gusto and lucidity

Neeraj Pandey of M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, Baby, and Special Ops fame directs the four-party documentary series with actor Jimmy Shergill as the narrator.

3.5rating
  • Swaroop Kodur

Last Updated: 11.43 AM, Jun 16, 2022

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Bandon Mein Tha Dum review: The real-life Lagaan story of the Indian men's cricket team is told with gusto and lucidity
Indian cricket team lifting the Border-Gavaskar trophy

Story:

The much-celebrated Indian test series victory over Australia in 2020-21 is retold in a documentary series through first-hand accounts of the players, coaching staff, and journalists. Highlighting the behind-the-scenes action, tensions, misunderstandings, and the banter, this four-part series tells the real-life Lagaan story of the depleted Indian cricket team's journey to retain the Border-Gavaskar trophy and create history. 

Review:

“Sports can unite worlds, tear down walls, and transcend race, the past, and all probability. Unlike life, sport matters,” said Sri Lankan author Shehan Karunathilake in his highly discerning debut novel Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Matthew. The book, through a fictional cricketer called Pradeep Matthew, enunciates that perhaps there isn’t an avenue more democratic than Sport that allows the underdog to thrive and reach beyond an assigned space. And as the loudest, an almost pitch-perfect echo of these sentiments came the 2020-21 Indian test tour of Australia which, in its own unassuming way, proved to be a momentous, coming-of-age occasion for the visiting team. In the latest four-part documentary series out on Voot, we see how the Indian men’s cricket team, impaired beyond repairs with physical injuries, player absences, and a genuine lack of trust, rose out of nowhere to prove its worth and catalyze the future with an undisputed victory on foreign soil. Bandon Mein Tha Dum is an ode to the same victory as it unravels the many minds and emotions that were employed during the course of those 30-odd days, and how the adversities were overcome despite the lack of resources. 

In essence, the real-life story is not unlike any piece of dramatic work and the makers of Bandon Mein Tha Dum seem completely aware of it. The documentary is split into four episodes to dedicate one to each of the four test matches played between December 17 of 2020 and January 19, 2021, focusing on every important aspect of a most eventful sporting contest. It was a contest, no doubt, for India walked on to the Australian land as the defending champion, and the hosting nation, freshly rejuvenated after the very threatening sandpaper saga, had its arm stretched firmly in the direction of the Border-Gavaskar trophy. Surrounded by tremendous media scrutiny and fanfare, the series was being played with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic looming very large and the Indian team, especially, wasn't yet particularly well-adjusted to the idea of a bio-bubble which, in an overarching way, is said to have a tremendous impact both on players and their touring family members alike.  

To its credit, Bandon Mein Tha Dum keeps all the various details in perspective and hits the ground running assuredly. Aided by effective and succinct narration (actor Jimmy Shergill), director Neeraj Pandey and his writing team manage to highlight the dramatic value of the test series and even suggest in a subtextual manner that at the heart of it all lay personal reputations and individual futures & sacrifices at stake. But where the film succeeds the most is in presenting a first-hand account of the many ebbs and flows of the nail-biting contest. The four-part film is an encapsulation, so to speak, of the simmering drama that unfolded over the course of the cricket series but inadvertently, it also reveals the individual candor and personality of the players involved. We hear the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Pat Cummins, Tim Paine, Ashwin, and many others recount their respective journeys through the course, and in this garb, they all reveal how much the game of cricket means to them, the social and mental backgrounds they emerged from, and the myriad versions of aggression that they all withhold - Rahane, a regular stoic presence on the cricket field, presents a much more expressive and strategic side to him as the captain of the underdog team. Tim Paine, his Australian counterpart who was in the line of fire and a lot of scrutinies during the series, speaks of the luck, the lapses, and the potential complacency on his team's part in foregoing the Adelaide win for a crushing series defeat. And Ravichandran Ashwin, as his usual animated and assured self, reveals how he perceived Aussie batter Steve Smith’s batting style to be akin to a dancing pattern and how it was upon him, as the bowler, to best those dance moves. For a film that eulogizes the Indian win, Bandon Mein Tha Dum has the grace of providing the opponent a similar platform to speak openly and even point fingers at times.

“Us tail-enders, we cop it from other teams, and for me, it’s fair game: if a batter doesn’t want to face it then he can retire,” says Aussie paceman Pat Cummins who, beneath the coyness and reticence in his speech, withheld a boisterousness about his and the entire team’s approach.

(The end credits reveal that the likes of Vikram Sathaye and Bharath Sunderasan were involved in interviewing the players. It is apparent throughout the film that the players, especially, were put at ease during those sessions to ensure they do not mince their words). 

Bandon Mein Tha Dum is a strikingly simple film that doesn't seem obligated to tell a larger tale. Right from the get-go to the last frame of the film, the film delivers on the fundamental promise of being a celebration of the iconic win and keeps at it without ever second-guessing. Through the voiceover, the tone is kept professional and neutral but the film is strictly for Indian cricket fans who are bound to relive the historic moments - with them now made privy to the behind-the-scenes drama, the experience is sure to be more impactful. The infamous Virat Kohli runout in Adelaide, Ajinkya Rahane’s splendid hundred at the MCG, Ashwin and Hanuma Vihari’s display of pure grit in Sydney, Shubman Gill’s elegance and Cheteshwar’s Pujara’s painful resolve at the Gabba, Washington Sundar’s no-look six, Shardul Thakur’s crunchy drives down the ground, or Rishab Pant’s sheer exuberance – the film brims with all this and much more. Watch the documentary series to revisit the amazing heist that it was, pulled off by arguably the most unimposing team in the history of cricket. 

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