July 8, 2022 – Calabasas Films + Media and Sterling Road Films are partnering to produce the first official documentary film on tennis legend, Vijay Amritraj, considered the greatest Indian and Asian player of all time.
Directed by Oscar®-nominated filmmaker Sami Khan (“St. Louis Superman,” “The Last Out”), the feature film is being executive produced by Calabasas Films + Media partners Kapil Mahendra and Paul Beahan, alongside Prakash Amritraj and Dhaval Desai.
The documentary charts Amritraj’s rise from his childhood in India, overcoming serious health issues, to his emergence as one of the most exciting players of the 1970s and 1980s – defeating Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, and John McEnroe in their primes.
Along with older brother Anand, Vijay Amritraj was an integral part of the Indian team that boycotted the 1974 Davis Cup Finals against South Africa to protest apartheid. That boycott was instrumental in isolating the apartheid government in the sports world.
In the mid-1970s, Vijay, Anand, and youngest brother Ashok moved to Southern California where they became key, early members of World Team Tennis – the all-star league co-founded by Billie Jean King. Amritraj played for Jerry Buss’ colorful Los Angeles Strings team before Buss took over the Los Angeles Lakers.
Amritraj gained a legendary reputation over the years for his style, elegance, and sportsmanship. But he wasn’t without critics. Despite being billed as one of the top young players of the 1970s, along with Borg and Connors, Amritraj never won a major championship. Some detractors claimed he was “too nice to win.” In a culture that often celebrates ruthless victory over sportsmanship, the documentary explores the toll that takes on everyone.
After tennis, Amritraj would go on to have, arguably, an even bigger impact on society. Amritraj was one of the most vocal global athletes fighting injustice, culminating in a 1988 speech at the United Nations denouncing apartheid. The documentary will explore how he used his platform for a greater good: in the name of political activism to further India’s seat at the global table, fight for those less fortunate starting with his humanitarian efforts as a messenger of peace for the United Nations, as well as his vast philanthropic works.
Amritraj became one of the first Indians on American television and shook up the Hollywood entertainment space becoming one of the first South Asian actors to have roles written specifically for him — the 1983 James Bond vehicle “Octopussy,” “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” and his own TV show in 1986, “What A Country.”
Audiences can expect a stranger than fiction tale of passion and hope and keeping family close. With on-screen testimonials from some of tennis’ brightest stars, former opponents and several Hollywood legends, the film will take on the unforgettable ride of Vijay Amritraj’s life.
Director Sami Khan said, “Vijay Amritraj was a legend and inspiration in my house growing up and it’s an absolute honor to help tell his story. Amritraj was a pioneer for South Asian athletes, and I know our film will have urgent resonance today. Kapil, Paul, Prakash, and Dhaval are amazing partners on this journey, and I can’t wait to share Amritraj’s tale with audiences soon.”
“Telling Vijay’s story after so many years of doing charity work together is truly exciting,” said Kapil Mahendra. “The anecdotes he shares of his life on and off the court with his encounters and relationships with legends of the sport and Hollywood are exceptional.”
Prakash Amritraj added, “For so long people of color have been told ‘you can’t,’ and ‘you won’t,’ Vijay has always been a symbol of ‘I can’ and ‘I will.’ And he did it keeping God in his heart, and his family and India on his back. He’s been my greatest example of what it is to be a man and a hero. It’s a dream to bring his story to the screen with Calabasas Films and the brilliant Sami Khan at the helm.”