Sudip Tewari is a man on a mission. One of the founders of Bootroom Sports, a sports media company which produced the recent cricket biopic Kaun Pravin Tambe?, Tewari is on the lookout for stories which are not only “entertaining and fascinating” but also “convey a life lesson”. “The goal is sports for change and to impact lives,” he says. “We are looking at big stories not necessarily big names.”
The journey of Pravin Tambe, the spinner who made his IPL debut at the age of 41, was a perfect fit as it highlighted that “dreams do not come with an expiry date”. The film, starring Shreyas Talpade as the titular character, released on Disney+ Hotstar and received largely positive reviews.
Central to Tewari’s vision for Bootroom is that he is convinced in the ability of sports “to touch lives positively”. “There are enough stories in India, one just has to look,” he says. His team has been scouring for them and tracking all developments since the company set shop in 2016. Over the course of these years, the company has established a connection with sports journalists and associations and federations in various disciplines. With its emphasis on research, the company aims to develop content across all formats, be it OTT or theatrical films, fiction series, documentaries and documentary series, talk shows and podcasts. “There is dearth of quality sports storytelling in our country,” Tewari says. “Sports stories are not easy to do or tell; you need authenticity, be it recreation or documentary.” Apart from cricket, Bootroom is also looking to create stories centred on gymnastics, track & field, football, badminton, kabaddi, boxing and wrestling.
Born and brought up in Kolkata, Tewari says his childhood was “consumed by sports”. While he was playing cricket with the intent to be a professional, he was supporting the Indian national cricket team, obsessing about football, rooting for tennis players like Steffi Graf and Ivan Lendl and idolising Michael Jordan as Chicago Bulls won their sixth NBA title. “Very early in my life, I knew that sports is something I loved more than anything else, and it impacted me more than anything else,” he says. But by the age of 18, Tewari, who was a batsman, knew that he wouldn’t be able to have an international career in sports. Instead, he pursued MBA in marketing from NMIMS in Mumbai, joined the automobile industry and later the banking sector. After more than a decade of work, he took a sabbatical in 2013.
Tewari says he spent the first year and a half just travelling to watch sports live. He felt his next work stint would have to be in sports, his “first love”. As Tewari explored options, he realised there was a void when it came to non-live sports engagement in India. “I couldn’t find many who are dedicatedly doing work in sports media, which can truly take the power of sports to people,” he says. With the encouragement of Neeraj Pandey, the director of films such as A Wednesday, Special 26 and Baby, and producer Shital Bhatia, he set up Bootroom Sports. Neeraj and Bhatia are co-founders of the company.
As Tewari looks to make Bootroom “the leading voice for sports content”, he is mindful of the fact that India is a “big sports-loving nation”. With his stories he hopes to fuel that passion even further. “We have to be the catalyst. You have to make people fall in love with sports, the teams and athletes, and make people emotionally connected to sports,” says Tewari. “It is then that they will watch more sports and there will be more advertising revenue—how leagues become profitable and more money flows into the sports ecosystem.”