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The only real game in the world, I  think, is baseball,” are the words of  legendary American baseball play- er Babe Ruth. Ironically, the condi- tion that prevailed in Manipur not  too long ago is about as real as  things can get.

Living with con- cerns like drugs, guns, AIdS and  civil war, the Manipuris connect  with each other through America’s  favourite game — baseball. “This is a movie about hope, joy  and a shared passion for the sport  of baseball,” starts off Mirra Bank,  director of The Only Real Game —   a documentary that unveils the life  of the people through the eyes of  the unlikely sport. When on a cul- tural visit to Manipur, producer  Muriel (Mike) peters, a huge fan of  baseball, chanced upon the popu- larity of the game there.  Quite taken with the craze for  this unlikely discipline in a coun- try where cricket is the norm,  peters decided to film a documen- tary that focuses on this aspect of  the troubled North Eastern state.

Back in India With Bank and a fully-equipped  camera crew in tow,  peters returned  to India to start filming what  turned out to be an emotional story  of how the Manipuris used base- ball to keep their wits about them  amidst the uncertainty of life. The  game is played by a majority of the  locals with no discrimination in  regards to gender or age. There are  a total of 15 teams in Imphal alone,  of which five are all-girl squads.  “What was so compelling to us  was the mystery. We had so many  questions. For example, how did  this happen and why did they start  playing it,” Bank says. “Through  our research, we found that a few  American soldiers were stationed  in the state during World War II.  And that’s probably how the locals  learnt it and passed it on. We were  also able to trace two American  soldiers, now in their 80s, who  remember playing the sport in  Manipur,” she continues.

The film, to be screened for the  first time in Bangalore this week,  won the title of “best documenta- ry” at the 13th New York Indian  Film Festival earlier this year. Purpose-driven peters was also instrumental in  creating First pitch, an organisa- tion dedicated to helping locals  play the best baseball they possibly  can. This not-for-profit venture  organised a coaching camp that  was conducted by Major League  Baseball International coaches  Jeff Brueggemann and  dave  palese. The duo trained 31 Manipuri  coaches of whom 11 were women.

First pitch has roped in Spalding  Baseball, MLBI, The College of  New Jersey and Sundaram Tagore  Gallery to donate equipment to the  baseball-loving Manipuris.  November 7.At Bangalore  International Centre, Domlur.

Details: 25359680

—Rashmi Rajagopal 

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