‘800’ is just 20% cricket, the rest is about the unknown aspects of my life: Legendary cricketer Muthiah Muralidaran

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Muthiah Muralidaran, the legendary off-spinner, has been loved by people across countries and cultures. That’s because he is a sui generis genius and is the only bowler in the history of International Test cricket to take 800 wickets. Movie Train Motion Pictures has made an authentic, grand sports-based film titled ‘800’ as his biopic. Madhur Mittal of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ fame is essaying the role of Muralidaran in the film. Directed by MS Sripathy, the film up for a grand theatrical release. Sivalenka Krishna Prasad, the famous Tollywood producer and the head of Sridevi Movies, has acquired its All-India theatrical rights. The movie will be released in theatres on October 6th.

Ahead of the movie’s arrival in theatres, Muralidaran has interacted with the Hyderabad-based cine media. Excerpts from the interview:

Did you pitch the biopic idea yourself? Or, was it suggested by the director? What was your initial reaction like?

Everything happened by chance. I never thought of making a movie about my life. I started an NGO foundation two decades ago to help the needy of Sri Lanka. We have helped many people through it. Our service programs are available for everyone to learn about on the Internet. Director Venkat Prabhu was in Lanka to reach out to Tamil people way back in 2008. Then, director Sripathy and two others were with him. My wife and her childhood friend Venkat Prabhu met us as they were childhood friends. Seeing my trophies and achievements, they proposed to make a biopic. I declined the offer. My manager convinced me to do something for the foundation around that time. Then, Venkat Prabhu asked Sripathy to write a story. Due to some reasons, Venkat Prabhu did not produce the film. But he asked Sripathy to finish the script. Later, efforts were made to produce the biopic with Vijay Sethpuathy as the hero by Suresh Productions. Everyone knows what happened subsequently. I asked Sripathy, who had traveled with me for much time, to wield the megaphone with Madhur Mittal playing me on the screen. The pandemic delayed the plan. After the completion of the film, Sivalenka Krishna Prasad of Sridevi Movies came forward to release ‘800’. There have been ups and downs just as is the case with my life. The film is finally coming out on October 6.

A biopic is a huge responsibility. Also, there is the burden that it should inspire the youth. What precautions did you take in that regard?

My first job was to give consent for my biopic to be made. I read the script four or five times. I didn’t want my story to be spiced up. That’s what I conveyed to my director and the producers. My condition was that only the actual reality must be told. It is not a biopic if it doesn’t tell the true story. My life is like a movie. A lot of things happened, both positive and negative. I don’t think even a good scriptwriter can write such a good story.

It is said that every biopic needs to be fictionalized because, otherwise, it would look like a documentary. How much fiction is there in this movie?

There is no fiction. Cricket is only 20 percent in this movie. The remaining 80 percent is my life, the unknown facets of my life. In ‘800’, we have shown my journey, the situations confronted by my family and the circumstances in which my country found itself. My childhood, my brush with selectors, what made them choose me… Everything has been shown.

To what extent did Madhur Mittal do justice to your role?

To be honest, I have met him only twice. The director took care of all the responsibility of training him. I didn’t want to get involved. The teaser and trailer have convinced me that he is 70 percent me both in terms of looks and body language.

Are you yet to watch the movie?

Yes. I am a big movie fan. I can’t miss Indian movies. I wanted to watch the movie rather than the rushes. Only then can I enjoy it completely.

Did you never visit the set of ‘800’? Didn’t you want to know how it was going?

I visited the sets only once. At that time, the shooting was going on at our parents’ house. I don’t know anything about movie-making. It is a difficult art. I like watching movies. Sometimes it’s sad to see producers making losses. Besides the actors, everyone is paid. If the movie does not play, their money will be lost!

How do you see the result of a movie?

A movie can be a hit or a flop. That’s why cricketers usually don’t want their biopics to be made. A lot of money will be spent to find diamonds on earth. Sometimes, even after so much effort, only one diamond is found. Many times, diamonds are not spotted. The movie’s fate is similar. Success has many factors. If the film flops, my legacy will not collapse. My legacy is cricket! ‘800’ is our attempt to tell people the true story. Some may like it. Some may not like it. Shivalenka Krishna Prasad, who has 35 years of experience in the film industry, is presenting and releasing the film worldwide. This is a good movie. Surely everyone will like it.

Is the movie going to be released in Sri Lanka?

We are doing it. It is going to be released worldwide in Tamil, Telugu, Hindi and Sinhalese languages. Many Sri Lankans live abroad. For them, we are also releasing in the Sinhala language. We are releasing the Sinhala version in Sri Lanka.

Do you watch Telugu movies?

Telugu movies are not released in Sri Lanka. Tamil and Hindi movies are released. We watch Telugu movies that are dubbed in those languages. ‘Baahubali’, ‘RRR’ and ‘Pushpa’ were released across India. They were also released in Hindi and Tamil languages. We had the opportunity to watch them. The popularity of Telugu movies is increasing fast. Bollywood movies are pretty popular in Sri Lanka. Slowly, Telugu movies are reaching the top.

Who is your favorite Telugu actor?

Telugu has more superstars and star heroes compared to other languages. I have seen more of Nani’s movies. I liked ‘Shyam Singha Roy’. Besides, I also liked his ‘Eega’ and ‘Jersey’. I don’t remember many Telugu titles because I watch dubbed versions. I like Nani’s films because he is an actor. He is not an action hero. He is a Natural Star.

*Venkat Prabhu and your wife Madhimalar are childhood friends. Do you have connections in Kollywood, given your wife’s father was a Tamil film producer?

Madhimalar’s father Ramamurthy garu is no more. However, many people know about him. They own Malar Hospitals in Chennai. They still hold shares in it. He produced one or two films with Karthi as the hero. ‘Chandramukhi’ directed by P Vasu and Ramamurthy were good friends. Also, Chandrasekhar too! I got a Madhimalar’s marriage proposal from Chandrasekhar. I know Sun TV Kalanidhi Maran, CEO Shanmugam and many others.

What are your thoughts before the release of the movie? Are you tense?

I am normal as always. Why should I stress out? It is not like I am playing the final of the World Cup.

The World Cup is going to start soon. Which is your favorite team?

Sri Lanka is my only favourite. It seems that the Indian team is the clear favorite, though. Team Australia is also good. It’s impossible to say who will win. Success also requires luck. I thought that New Zealand would win the last World Cup. But England won.