India shines in baseball flick ‘Million Dollar Arm’ 

click to enlarge Jon Hamm
  • COURTESY ISHIKA MOHAN/ DISNEY ENTERPRISES
  • From left, director Craig Gillespie, Jon Hamm and producer Mark Ciardi take a break on the set of “Million Dollar Arm.”
“Million Dollar Arm” — Disney’s new baseball movie starring Jon Hamm — was shot in India, and not without some cultural and logistical challenges.

Opening Friday, the film is based on a real American sports agent, JB

Bernstein, who goes to India in search of cricket players he can sign to become baseball pitching sensations. Along the way, he learns a cultural lesson or two.

Hamm, who portrays Bernstein, says obstacles the cast and crew faced shooting the film and dealing with “quite a complicated system in India” tell a story almost as compelling as the plot of the movie.

“We constantly got happy accidents like cows walking through shots, which makes it that much more real and fulfilling,” Hamm says. “I think the biggest challenge was time. We had a lot to do and we faced a ticking clock — we had to get out before the monsoons. When it starts raining in India, it doesn’t stop. And there was a language barrier, so we had Hindi- and English-speaking crews working side by side, but somehow it all worked.”

With cameras rolling, filmmakers faced a sensory onslaught and myriad unplanned activities and scenes, including a traditional Hindu wedding party in the street, incessant car honking, clothes strung from window ledges, Technicolor mini-temples to Ganesh above doors, ubiquitous loping cows, pungent odors of cumin and curry, and oppressive heat, with temperatures reaching triple digits by midmorning.

In an effort to truly capture Bernstein’s adventure, filmmakers visited varied segments of Indian society and real sites, from beautiful gardens surrounding the Taj Mahal to teeming backstreets of New Delhi and small villages outside Lucknow, just as JB had.

Summing up his time there, movie producer Mark Ciardi says, “India evokes a wide and varying list of emotions. It’s hard to describe. It would take days. It’s good, it’s bad, it’s loud, it’s quiet, it’s insane, it’s hot, it’s beautiful, it’s sometimes not so beautiful, but it all added up to just an unbelievably incredible experience.”

IF YOU GO

Million Dollar Arm

Starring Jon Hamm, Aasif Mandvi, Bill Paxton, Suraj Sharma, Lake Bell, Madhur Mittal, Pitobash, Alan Arkin

Written by Tom McCarthy

Directed by Craig Gillespie

Rated PG

Running time 2 hours

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Randy O. Williams

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