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Hollywood Dunk: Kal Penn to Produce and Star in Biopic of Toronto Raptors’ Superfan Nav Bhatia

Hollywood Dunk: Kal Penn to Produce and Star in Biopic of Toronto Raptors’ Superfan Nav Bhatia

  • The Indo-Canadian Sikh is a familiar figure to basketball fans, a fixture at every Raptors home game in his courtside seats — and arguably the biggest cheerleader the team has ever had.

Kal Penn will produce and star in “Superfan,” a biopic of Indo-Canadian Nav Bhatia, a decades-long follower of the Toronto Raptors. Penn will play Bhatia, a Sikh, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on May 16, becoming the first fan ever to join the Hall. 

“Stampede Ventures’ Greg Silverman and Jon Berg won the rights to Bhatia’s life story in a competitive situation,” reported Deadline. They will produce the Superfan biopic alongside Penn and Dan Spilo of Industry Entertainment. Rinku Ghei of Yellow Mango Films will be the executive producer. Search is ongoing for a writer and director.

“Superfan is going Hollywood,” Bhatia tweeted. “Excited to have @kalpenn say yes to playing me in the new biopic!! Thank you Jon, Dan and Rinku for making this happen. I can’t believe all of this. I’m speechless and I’m honored!!”

Bhatia is a familiar figure to basketball fans, a fixture at every Raptors home game in his courtside seats — and arguably the biggest cheerleader the team has ever had. Bhatia has sat courtside for nearly every Raptors home game—and many road games—since the franchise’s inception in 1995 (discounting the pandemic games, of course), when on a whim he bought two tickets to the team’s very first game. 

Penn told Deadline that he’s been “researching and following Nav’s incredible story” ever since he saw him at a Raptor’s game the year they started filming Designated Survivor in Toronto. “The crowd loves him – to see what a source of pride he is for Canadians – and all basketball fans, really – makes me smile,” Penn said. “His story is one of unity, which I’m especially excited and proud to bring to life.”

In a tweet, Penn wrote: “Lots of us are basketball fans, but there’s only one @superfan_nav! His story of perseverance & unity is incredible, & I’m super excited to bring his superfan story to the (super?) big screen.”

Bhatia gained international attention last year during the NBA Finals when it was found he hadn’t missed a game since 1995, meaning he’s gone to every game in person. The Raptors won the title last year against the Golden State Warriors, making them the first team outside the United States to win the NBA Finals.

He’s become an integral part of Raptors lore, earning himself a spot in the team’s championship parade, as well as his very own custom ring. He and Drake are the team’s best-known fans, and Bhatia’s endless joy over the team’s success — and his unflagging support even when they are not in the playoffs —is an inspiration to all Raptors’ followers.

In a March 2020 Instagram Live Giannis Antetokounmpo jokingly called Bhatia the most annoying Raptors fan when Drake popped onto the stream to ask him a question.

Bhatia moved to Canada from India in 1984 but faced many challenges working in the field of mechanical engineering as an immigrant. However, despite all odds, he was able to forge a successful career path in auto sales, later becoming one of the Greater Toronto Area’s most successful car dealers.

Bhatia has joked that his devotion to the Raptors is an addiction — but in fact, it’s a gift. 

Every year, he buys about 3,000 game tickets to give to kids in the Sikh community and many other community groups across the GTA.

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In 2018, he founded his own organization, the Nav Bhatia Superfan Foundation, aimed at uniting people through the game of basketball. The foundation helps to build and refurbish courts across Canada with the support of the MLSE Foundation. The goal of the foundation is to ensure that children of all backgrounds can come together and play the sport that Bhatia has fallen in love with over the years. “This is what basketball does—it gives us the opportunity to bring the world together,” he told Complex. “I love basketball. I love the Raptors. But for me, I’m using the game of basketball to bring the world together,” Bhatia told Complex last year.

The same year, he received a Royal Bank of Canada Top 25 Canadian Immigrants Award, an honor given to those who contribute to the Canadian economy, to Canadian society and Canada overall.

Meanwhile, Penn, who recently came out, will be seen in FX’s comedy pilot “Belated.” He will play a gay man in his 40s, who, along with his ex-wife Diana, attempts to find their new normal and take on new relationships while continuing to co-parent together.

Last month, a few days before the Nov. 2 release of his memoir, “You Can’t Be Serious,” Penn announced his engagement to his partner of 11 years. In an interview, Penn told People that he met and fell in love with Josh, his fiancé, when he was living in Washington D.C., and working in the Obama administration. “I discovered my own sexuality relatively late in life compared to many other people,” Penn told People. “There’s no timeline on this stuff. People figure their s**t out at different times in their lives, so I’m glad I did when I did.”

Penn is executive producing and starring in Comedy Central’s upcoming holiday film “Hot Mess Holiday,” headlined by Surina Jindal and Melanie Chandra.

The Indian American became a household name after starring in“Harold and Kumar” films and as a sports medicine doctor on the hit TV show “House.” His “House” his cast-mate Olivia Wilde invited him to be her +1 at a campaign event for then-Sen. Barack Obama. he New Jersey native has worked as an associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, where he was President Obama’s Liaison to Young Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and the Arts communities in America.

He has also served as an Adjunct Lecturer in Sociology and Film Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and in Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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