The popularity of the indigenous sport, Kabaddi, drastically rose in India after the inception of Pro Kabaddi League. Its viewership reached over a billion in the past seven years. Sons of the Soil documents, not the whole league but only Abhishek Bachhan’s team, Jaipur Pink Panthers and excels at it.
Since this is a documentary based on the recent happenings in such a popular sport in India, many people must already be aware of the events surrounding it.
For the uninitiated, Sons of the Soil follows renowned actor, Abhishek Bachhan and film producer, Bunty Walia’s Pro Kabaddi team, Jaipur Pink Panthers.
Everything is on the line for young coach Srinivas Reddy, for whom, this is the second and final chance to win the cup. Similarly, all-rounder and team captain, Deepak Hooda has to prove his mettle not only as a player but also as an adept leader.
Sons of the Soil follows the team through all their ups and downs in their 22 matches of the seventh edition of Pro Kabaddi League while exploring the lives of some key players.
Since the series is not scripted, nobody really has to perform for the camera.
The crew essentially documents interaction of the players, coaches, owners and their families and stitches it into a cohesive narrative.
To give it structure, interviews of Suhail Chandhok, a Kabaddi commentator and Abhishek Bachhan, seemingly taken after the events of the documentary series, have been inserted.
Sons of the Soil has been expertly directed by Alex Gale. It is absolutely captivating and totally hooks the audience after a few initial episodes.
The real-life story of Jaipur Pink Panther is fascinating. But, it has been directed too, in such a way that the story feels almost fabricated as it matches the story beats of a sports drama film. The victories and losses feel personal and everything hangs in the balance.
By giving a glimpse into the lives and humble background of the players, we understand where they come from and what they are fighting for.
At the same time, despite Bachhan being immensely privileged, we understand why he needs to win the cup.
By making us understand who these people are and what the team means to them, the series successfully manages to engage any audience member in what is essentially the behind the scenes footage of a match.
Gale doesn’t even show much of the matches themselves but uses the camera to reveal the character of the players instead.
To top things off, the cinematography by Shreenivas Shirolkar is spectacular for a documentary about the workings of a sports team.
Shirolkar’s cinematography along with Anshu Boses’s intuitive editing creates quite an experience. Editing is an essential tenet of documentary filmmaking. It is because of the excellent montages and other editing decisions that we are able to connect with the people.
Finally, the score in Sons of the Soil complements the camerawork and editing to bring out the emotion even more. Right from the theme of the series, the score in the series is familiar but not conventional. It aides the visuals but does not overpower the viewer unnecessarily.
With five episodes, each around 35 minutes long, Sons of the Soil seems longer than necessary. It could have either been made as a single 90-120 minute long film or an even shorter series.
It does not have enough subject matter to justify a nearly 180-minute runtime.
Sons of the Soil is a refreshing documentary about a sport that isn’t given as much attention as it should be. It is neither needlessly melodramatic nor is it scripted. It is a real account that sheds light on the inner workings of a team.
The docuseries has been made in such a way that knowing about Kabaddi or Pro Kabaddi League is not even necessary. It doesn’t transcend its genre to say something new but, it does well in what its makers set out to do. For that, it is definitely worth your time.