Since the debut of its trailer in December 2013, Million Dollar Arm, produced by Walt Disney Studios, has shaken the world of cinema by its roots, speeding its way onto our television screens like a scuffed baseball launched at a blazing 95 miles an hour.
A twist on the definition of "underdog," this magnificently poignant adaptation of a true story captures the journey of two Indian boys, Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel (portrayed by Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mattal, respectively), who after a series of competitions, are plucked from their impoverished villages and taken to Los Angeles by financially struggling American sports agent J.B. Bernstein (Jon Hamm).
J.B., determined to turn these two boys, who have never picked up a baseball in their entire lives, into professional and major league baseball players, challenges what we know of the impossible. It also chronicles the spiritual transformation in J.B, who throughout the film evolves from a cold-hearted businessman to a warm-hearted parental figure. So naturally, I had to go see it.
As the son of two Indian immigrants who are all too familiar with the dearth of opportunity that plagues the nation of India, I watched Million Dollar Arm with an insight that the average American viewer may not have. Having visited India in both 2007 and 2010, I have witnessed the overwhelming poverty and malnourishment that defines much of the population. My parents, for example, came to America with little finances and knowledge of the American lifestyle, but like Singh and Patel, they possessed a burning desire to better themselves and their families. Like Singh and Patel, my parents were motivated by their determination to climb up the ladder of success, no matter how slippery the rungs are.
Unfortunately, these rungs remain slippery for the first half of the movie. As Singh and Patel struggle to learn baseball at the University of Southern California, they are weighed down by the pressures of international success and the absence of J.B himself (who is far too busy chasing business deals to spend time watching their progress). They become frustrated and their spirits are defeated. It is only after a failed tryout and a strict talk from Brenda, J.B.'s neighbor, who later becomes his wife, that the sports agent realizes the importance of playing the game rather than winning it.
Yet despite the challenges that Indian immigrants in America face, I also consider India to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and I could tell that the movie producers feel the same way. From everything to the food to the infamous Indian head bobble to the marbled Taj Mahal, the minds behind the film creatively captured the culture of India in a humorous, optimistic and open-minded manner.
Million Dollar Arm is a story of courage in the face of adversity, determination when faced with the insurmountable. We have all seen stories like these. But this one is different, and to not see it would be a horrible strike on your part.