Despite India’s evident madness of cricket for decades now, revered director Alex Gale’s willingness to explore a sport like Kabaddi is commendable. Furthermore, with BBC Studios producing it and streaming giant Amazon Prime Video willing to make it their first-ever Indian original sports docu-series, viewers knew something special was brewing.
Hence, the release of Sons of the Soil: Jaipur Pink Panthers coincidentally getting a release when the country was thirsting for some Pro Kabaddi League action in any way possible, is the universe's way of paying back for the noble intent.
Alex Gale, who has previously made films on football legend Eric Cantona, Scottish Highland Football League wooden spooners Fort William FC and others, rightly decided to keep the docu-series “unscripted” as the five episodes explore the seventh Pro Kabaddi League season campaign of Jaipur Pink Panthers.
Any ardent follower of Pro Kabaddi League would know that JPP finished seventh in the points table last season, one spot behind the qualification range, and it was far from a decent season. However, Gale’s project showcases much more than just the end result.
From the gravely serious dressing room discussions to a player’s home where a mother is seen doing oil massage on his head, the series goes back and forth as Gale tries to bring out the dichotomy of the emerging kabaddi players’ lives.
“Sons of the Soil” has a layered meaning as well.
Despite PKL’s emergence as one of the most-watched events in 21st century India, where the ancient rural sport is repackaged into ostentatious surroundings, the players trading the muddy kabaddi soil back in the village for an artificial mat have their own challenges.
Whether it be the continuous media interference in the touchline, or in this case the dressing room, the young players of Haryana, Chandigarh and other places bearing the price tag of their talent is a huge task as well. And directors Alex Gale and Omkar Potdar strive to bring out that struggle.
Coach L. Srinivas Reddy and captain Deepak Niwas Hooda personify this pressure that the JPP team feels in the 2019 season after an underwhelming 2018 season, where JPP had finished fifth in Zone A.
However, the most ever-present figure in the entire five-episode series is Abhishek Bachchan, who is the owner of the team and the orator of the story as well.
Despite his repeated accentuation of how the entire JPP team is a family, Abhishek Bachchan is severely uncompromising about his innate urge to win at all cost. The three adjectives that junior Bachchan use are defining and in a way, Jaipur Pink Panthers’ motto: passionate ("I don't like losing"), fair ("I still don't like losing") and affable ("But not when I'm losing.")
Overall, viewers are taken in a rollercoaster of emotions that revolve only and only revolve around kabaddi. The raw language used in discussions, both on and off the mat, will almost throw its viewers off the seat as it depicts how a cricket-crazy nation has a small populace that lives, breathes, and thinks kabaddi.
Though an ambiguous ending to the docu-series - for lack of a better conclusion of Jaipur’s season - is a loophole in the ambitious project, Amazon’s August attempt highlights the notion that India’s tag of a “cricket-crazy nation” might have just started to change.
Feature Image courtesy: Instagram / Jaipur Pink Panthers