Many martial artists have taken inspiration from their favorite films, and Puja “The Cyclone” Tomar is no different.
The Indian star is a huge fan of sports movies, especially when she can empathize with the protagonists and gain motivation from their stories.
Tomar also watches these flicks to escape reality and enjoy something that is a little bit more fun and lighthearted.
Now, the Muzaffarnagar native reveals her top five sports movies and explains why these films have made a lasting impression on her.
At the top of Tomar’s list is 2016’s Dangal, which is the highest-grossing Indian film of all time and the highest-grossing sports film worldwide.
“Dangal is my favorite movie. This film portrays the hard work of Mahavir Singh Phogat and what he did for his daughters to achieve big things in life, which is very inspiring. He did some extraordinary work for them,” she explains.
“Dangal‘s story feels like my story, too. My sisters and I emerged from a small village as well. We also had a joint family, and our relatives were not very supportive [of our goals and dreams].”
One of Phogat’s daughters, Ritu, is now an unbeaten mixed martial artist in ONE Championship and continues to inspire millions in her homeland.
#2 Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
Another movie based on an Indian sporting hero takes the second spot. That happens to be 2013’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
Milkha Singh was a champion sprinter and Olympian who came from a troubled background. When he was young, his parents and several of his siblings were killed. He became a refugee, but later turned his life around through sports.
“I like this movie very much,” the Indian wushu champion says.
“The movie shows how the whole life of Milkha Singh was full of struggles, yet he still managed to achieve so many great things because of his hard work and dedication.”
#3 Kung Fu Hustle
Sometimes you just have to take it down a notch, and Tomar prefers to do that with a comedy.
The 2004 Hong Kong film Kung Fu Hustle — which features Stephen Chow as the director and leading man — ticks different boxes for the Muzaffarnagar native.
Between the riveting martial arts action and constant laughs, this 98-minute flick is a firm favorite.
“I have watched this movie several times. It’s a very entertaining comedy movie,” she offers.
#4 Shaolin Soccer
2001’s Shaolin Soccer was a successful precursor to Kung Fu Hustle, with Chow again serving as the director and lead star.
It also features martial arts themes alongside the comedy, but Tomar took much more away from the record-breaking Hong Kong film.
“Shaolin Soccer teaches us to be respectful to one another in martial arts. To be a good martial artist, one should be hardworking, as well as patient. All these things were shown in a very good manner,” the 26-year-old says.
“There are so many things in this movie that I have practiced in wushu. You can see several things related to other forms of martial arts in this film.”
#5 Kung Fu Panda
Rounding out the list is the 2008 animation Kung Fu Panda.
In the film, Po Ping – a giant panda who lacks martial arts skills – fulfills an ancient prophecy of being the Dragon Warrior and defeats the villain, Tai Lung.
“It’s a very nice animation film, which one can enjoy with family,” Tomar notes.
Some of the characters’ voices may sound familiar, as the movie features Hollywood stars Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Angelina Jolie, Jackie Chan, Lucy Liu, and Seth Rogen.