Parsi Cricket Icons Celebrated In Documentary ‘Four On Eleven’

A documentary titled, ‘Four on Eleven’, which highlights the influence of the Parsi community on Indian cricket and celebrates the inspiring and outstanding careers of Parsi cricket icons – Nari Contractor, Farokh Engineer, Rusi Surti and Polly Umrigar, will soon be launched by young, Hyderabad-based filmmaker – Shrikaran Beecharaju. Marking his documentary directorial debut, ‘Four on Eleven’ has been made after much research about the legendary cricketers and also explores their historic win in the 1961 Test match which catapulted them into much fame and glory.

Narrated impeccably by former Doordarshan Broadcaster Fredun De Vitre, filmed at Mumbai’s Parsee Gymkhana, the documentary also features Diana Edulji, the only Parsi woman cricketer and an ICC Hall of Fame member. It also highlights the forgotten contribution of Parsi women to the game. Interesting insights are also offered by other prominent figures from the community, including ICC umpire – Shahvir Tarapore; Parsee Gym Vice President – Khodadad Yazdegardi; Mumbai Under-16 Selector – Kersi Pavri, and former Tanzanian National Team Bowling Coach – Vispi Mehta. The documentary also explores the impact of Parsi community on Indian cricket, through the Late Maneck Golvala T10 Cricket League Tournaments.

The 56-minute-long documentary shares how crickets started off as a colonial sport, its entry in India, and how Parsis were the first to embrace playing the game, even as a group of 20 Parsi cricketers embarked on a journey to England in 1886 to learn the game, which culminated, in 1961, into four cricketers from the Indian 11, including Captain Nari Contractor, Wicket Keeper Farokh Engineer, All-rounder Rusi Surti, and senior-most player – Polly Umrigar, making significant contributions to the sport.

Speaking with Parsi Times, Shrikaran Beecharaju shared, “Being a huge cricket fan, when we were asked to make a documentary project as students doing a Filmmaking Diploma at XIC, I pitched this idea because of my awareness of cricketing history. I knew of various pathbreaking moments in Indian cricket and with the added research, I realised that no one has made such a documentary yet, celebrating the contributions and the impact of the great Parsi cricketers. Living in close proximity to Parsee Gymkhana, I strolled in one day to share my idea and was delighted with the support I received from them all, especially Khoadadad Yazdegardi, in helping me connect with the cricketers. It was a series of fan-boy moments for me as I interacted with these cricketing legends – they were so graceful and awe-inspiring.”

In keeping with the decline in Parsi presence in the current scenario, ‘Four On Eleven’ also features efforts taken to revive the sport within the community, through coaching camps and All India Cricket Tournaments, which have borne fruit, with budding talents like Arzan Nagwaswalla coming to the fore to perpetuate the community’s great cricketing legacy.

The trailer has created much buzz already and the documentary – in collaboration with Nirvan Athreya and Karina del Mar, who composed music for the documentary – has received numerous nominations – at the Jaipur International Film Festival; Northeast International Documentary and Film Fest (NIDFF); International Sports Film Festival; and the International Cultural Artifact Film Festival.

Despite being unable to get sponsors for the documentary, Beecharaju transformed this college project to a full-blown cinematic experience, with his own savings and family support, in the hope that it will encourage and revive interest in Parsi cricketing heritage and its contemporary relevance. The film is planned to be screened at Mumbai’s Parsee Gymkhana in the first week of April during the Late Maneck Golvala T10 tourney as well as well as the Hyderabad and Delhi Parsi Anjumans.

[View the trailer of ‘Four on Eleven’:]

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