Indian actor Madhur Mittal as Sri Lankan cricketing icon Mutthiah Muralitharan in '800'.
Indian actor Madhurr Mittal as Sri Lankan cricketing icon Mutthiah Muralitharan in '800'. Image Credit: Screengrab

The trailer of '800', a biopic on the Sri Lankan cricketer Mutthiah Muralitharan, who underwent immense hardships on the pitch and off it in his ascent to becoming one of the game's foremost legends, is out. The movie's name refers to the number of wickets that the offspinner took in Test cricket, which in addition to his 534 one-day international scalps, are records that are unlikely to be broken any time soon.

Directed by MS Sripathy and starring actor Madhurr Mittal ('Slumdog Millionaire') in the lead, '800's trailer opens with a shot of an ongoing match at the famous Galle cricket stadium, which overlooks the iconic Galle Fort and beach. Muralitharan played the last Test match against India at this venue, where he claimed his 800th wicket and walked into the sunset. Murali, as he was fondly called, was inducted into the International Cricket Committee's Hall of Fame in 2016.

This in interspersed with shots of stadia in Australia, where, in the initial stages of his career, he faced tumultous times for being no-balled repeatedly and his very talent being questioned.

The trailer touches upon numerous other sensitive topics. We're soon introduced to sequences of riots — in a reference to the acts of violence in the Tamil-speaking region of Sri Lanka — and bombings. And that's when Murali lets the ball do the talking.

For cricket aficionados worth their salt, the trailer highlights the key matches of Murali — and Sri Lankan cricket. Sri Lanka's one-off test match in England in 1998, which they won with surprising ease, thanks to Murali's spin wizardry; the no-balling controversy of 1996; and Sri Lanka's epochal one-day World Cup triumph later that year under Arjuna Ranatunga.

And above all, the scrutiny he was subject to before his bowling action was declared legitimate.

Yes, this is only a trailer, but even in this short duration Mittal brings to life Murali's character and makes us empathise with the bowler who had to go through a lot. The movie, billed as "the unknown story of Mutthiah Muralitharan", also stars actress Mahima Nambiar and the veteran actor Nassar.

'800' faced many hiccups nearly three years ago when it was announced that the actor Vijay Sethupathi would portray Muralitharan. The move led to protests across the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, notably by politicians and film personalities. The bone of contention was Murali, despite being a Sri Lankan Tamil, allegedly didn't speak up for his community at a time when a civil war raged in his home country — a charge the cricketer has denied constantly.

Sethupathi withdrew from the project at the cricketer's insistence. At the time, Murali, who had consented to the biopic, said he didn't want to derail the former's acting career.

'800' is expected to release in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi.