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MOVIE REVIEW: MILLION DOLLAR ARM 

 The Disney production, Million Dollar Arm, is based on the true story of Rinku Singh and Dinesh Kumar Patel, the first Indian baseball pitchers to make it into American major league sports. Or rather, it should be said that the movie is based on the true story of the guy who discovered them, sports agent J.B. Bernstein, for the story is told from his perspective. 

 

The movie is out-and-out a family entertainment package- true inspiring story, excellent humor, amazing A.R. Rahman music and gripping to the very end. So-

What It Has Going For It~

#1. The Cast!

Suraj Sharma (the lead from 'Life Of Pi') plays the role of Rinku Singh with subtlety and grace. And Madhur Mittal (the boy who played the older brother in 'Slumdog Millionaire') has played his part well in the role of Dinesh Patel. Their accent, from Uttar Pradesh state of India, is well done and interesting to hear. At the end, when the credit sequence shows the actual footage of the real-life characters in the movie, you can especially see how well Suraj has managed to convey the subtle spunk in Rinku Singh's eyes.  Aasif Mandvi (of 'Today's Special' and 'The Internship' fame) has done well in the role of Bernstein's partner, Ash. Getting to the lead pair- Jon Hamm as 'Mr. J.B. Bernstein Sir' and Lake Bell, as 'Ms. Brenda' are very impressive. The relationship that each develop with the Indian boys is portrayed well and kept interesting. And we hear that Ms. Brenda's role is actually real and she does play a part in the boys' destiny. Alan Arkin and Bill Baxton are both excellent. You simply have to watch the movie to appreciate what they bring to the story. Last but not the least, Pitobash, a newcomer to Hollywood, is par excellence. Pitobash, who plays an eager-to-please free-help wins the cake. If you're from india or grew up there, you would have, no doubt, met countless people with his outlook to life- what is referred to as 'happy go lucky' in India. Quite literally, he was that, making you laugh throughout the movie with his accent, style, attitude and body language.

# 2. The Story!

The true tale is well told. It's inspiring, funny, subtle when needed and not when required. The movie nails the subtle and the not-so-subtle nuances of the Indian character traits which it is able to achieve because it is based on a true story. Sure it is clichéd at times, but always keeps you interested and intrigued. The part of the story that occurs in India aptly portrays all kinds of people in India- the ready to please, the ready to stall, the poverty stricken family, the son who is doing his best to help his family, the kids who follow foreigners or run after the foreign make car, the people in the village who gather around in large numbers to witness any action in anybody's life and so on and so forth. The part of the story in America is just as fascinating- the story of the immigrants who have come to pursue the American dream and at times that of a man struggling to regain his lost prosperity that America promises.  

What It Doesn't~

The cast and the story are obviously the strength of the movie. So what is the movie lacking in? 

#1. As Indian Americans full of nostalgic memories of growing up in India, we have heightened capacity to notice the tiniest details in traits and traditions pertaining to India. And there's lot of both to notice and relate with, that might perhaps be lost on others which would likely be an hindrance to it's success. Although, as per Forbes, it doesn’t need to attract all that much attention to have a successful opening, since it’s $25 million production budget plus perhaps $50 million in marketing costs sets the bar pretty low.

#2. The interaction between the boys, their experiences of adjusting to the life in America and their thoughts and feelings are thrilling and touching and leave you wanting to know more. At times, you do wish the story was told from their perspective more. The downside of it being from the perspective of a white guy too obsessed with finding his way back out of financial desperation, is that the movie and hence the audience miss out on the glorious colors of India. Most of the first half that is shot in India seems to be through a grayed out lens, devoid of the vibrant colors that is as much a part of India as chaos and poverty is. Even the magnificence of the Taj Mahal is much toned down, been shown from the worst possible angle and described just as plainly. The drab and the lack-luster might well make the movie a potential Oscar candidate, much like 'Slum Dog Millionaire', and you do wonder if that was the intention, but the movie goers sadly miss out on seeing a very vibrant part of India.


Overall, 'Million Dollar Arm' is a must-watch family film. The kid will surely love the movie and will certainly laugh out loud at the various funny parts. Yes, even the kids born and raised outside of India. Go see it this weekend!


(by Sonal Kulshrestha)

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Movie INFO: MIllion

Dollar Arm

The movie, Million Dollar Arm, releasing on May 16th 2014 here in America, is not a Indian production. In fact, it is directed by Craig Gillespie and produced by Joe RothMark Ciardi, and Gordon Gray for Walt Disney Pictures. However, the movie has a strong Indian connection in that it is based on a true story of baseball pitchers Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, played by  Suraj Sharma (of 'Life Of Pi' fame) and Madhur Mittal (of 'Slumdog Millionaire' fame, as Salim) respectively. Singh and Patel were discovered by sports agent J.B. Bernstein, played by Jon Hamm, after winning a reality show competition. Aasif Mandvi (of 'Today's Special' and 'The Internship' fame) plays Bernstein's partner, Ash. Oh yeah, the music is by our very own world famous, academy award winner, music composer, A.R. Rahman. The soundtrack has some catchy titles like- 'Makhna', 'Taa Taa Tai', 'Lucknow', 'Desi Thoughts', etc. And of course, part of the movie has been filmed in Mumbai.

The story so goes-

In a last ditch effort to save his career as a sports agent, JB Bernstein (Jon Hamm) concocts a scheme to find baseball's next great pitching ace. Hoping to find a young cricket pitcher he can turn into a major league baseball star, JB travels to India to produce a reality show competition called "Million Dollar Arm." With the help of a cantankerous but eagle-eyed retired baseball scout (Alan Arkin) he discovers Dinesh and Rinku, two 18 year old boys who have no idea about playing baseball, yet have a knack for throwing a fastball. Hoping to sign them to major league contracts and make a quick buck, JB brings the boys home to America to train. While the Americans are definitely out of their element in India - the boys, who have never left their rural villages - are equally challenged when they come to the States. As the boys learn the finer points of baseball - JB, with the help of his charming friend Brenda (Lake Bell) - learns valuable life lessons about teamwork, commitment and what it means to be a family.

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Million Dollar Arm

(Photo Credit:  Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

The real life story of Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel starts in Lucknow, India, where they were born in 1988 and 1989 respectively. They grew up in poverty, and not surprisingly, played cricket on the streets of India. In 2008, at 20, he won the Indian reality television show, 'Million Dollar Arm'  out of over 37,000 participants after throwing a baseball at 88 miles per hour. Singh and runner-up, Dinesh Patel, travelled to Los Angeles where they trained with University of Southern California pitching coach Tom House, who trained pitchers such as Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson. When they signed with Pittsburgh Pirates in 2009, they became the first Indians to sign American major league baseball contracts. On July 13, 2009, Singh became the first Indian-born pitcher to win a professional baseball game in America.

We say that the movie is a must-watch in theaters. It always is, when it's based on a true story. This one even more so for us, for it tells a tale that is inspiring, it stems from our roots, and no doubt, we'll relate to it at many different levels. Make time for this one on May 16th or soon afterwards.

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