MILLION DOLLAR ARM
Sharma and Mittal began their baseball training
in India and continued it throughout the movie.
Like their real-life counterparts, Rinku and Dinesh,
neither had played the game before and they had
to learn enough to at least play "movie baseball."
Enter Mark Ellis, the "Million Dollar Arm" baseball
coordinator, assistant baseball coordinators Aimee
McDaniel and Jessi Moore, and pitching coach Mike
Ribaudo, along with a cadre of trainers in India and
in Georgia. The baseball experts put Sharma and
Mittal on an accelerated training program, both
on and off the field. When the shooting company
wrapped each day, Sharma and Mittal hit the gym
for a couple hours and drank special protein drinks throughout to keep their
energy and weight up.
"Yeah, those trainers destroyed us," Suraj Sharma says. "Our whole bodies were
aching. But eventually we
started bulking up and got stronger."
As Sharma points out, the training was not merely cosmetic and he learned to
channel the experience into
his character. "The main thing was I had never played baseball and I never liked
cricket, so my bowling action,
anything to do with throwing, was not very good. I had my fears about this whole
actual baseball pitching
business but I really wanted to try. And Rinku had never played or pitched
before either, so he was trying to learn
and improve as fast as he could. So as far as performance is concerned, it
helped me," Sharma says.
Sharma's task was slightly harder in that his
character Rinku is a lefty - and Sharma is not.
Director Gillespie tried to help him out as much as
possible - often, Sharma pitched right-handed and
the uniforms and background signs were printed
backwards - Gillespie would just "flip" the film in
post-production. However, he couldn't achieve
every shot that way and Sharma had to learn to
throw with his left hand.
"I trained mostly with my right arm but a lot of
times I had to throw left -handed. There are not a
lot of things a righty can do with his left hand - I
did the best I could but I was really bad at the beginning and even at the end.
Finally in Georgia, I actually got
two strikes pitching with my left hand and I was so happy," Sharma says.
Even Madhur Mittal, who is very athletic, found his new sport daunting but
addictive. Near the end of the show, he additionally practiced batting and
because it was fun. He was so drawn to the role
of Dinesh he didn't really consider the training he
had in store, not to mention throwing for hours in
front of the camera.
"At first I was so much into the character, I didn't
realize how physically demanding it would be,"
Mittal says. "It was the most physically tough film
I've ever made in my life and I've been doing this
for 15 years now. I'd even done a Bollywood sports
fi lm about cricket. This was really hard at first to
buff up and then the baseball training. During the
actual shooting I threw my arm out a couple times, I can tell you how hard it
is. It's not anything I was used to. In
cricket, you cannot use your elbow, if you straighten it more than 30 degrees,
that's an illegal delivery whereas
in pitching it's all about using your whole wing. Cricket is all about body
movement; you run in and then you use
all that momentum to go. But in baseball, you're standing in one place and you
have to get all that power and
velocity in just that one motion, even if you do use your legs to some extent.
To repetitively throw 100 pitches
like they do, that takes a lot out of you. Pitching is not easy, man, but I love
doing it, I'm hooked on it now."
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