By Greg Bach
Growing up, actress Emily Shah scooped up lots of valuable life lessons while diving for balls and turning away shots as a goalkeeper on her youth soccer teams in Edison, New Jersey.
And she called upon many of those while tackling one of the most challenging projects of her career: starring in, and executive producing, the movie Jungle Cry.
The film is based on the remarkable true story of 12 underprivileged children from India – playing sports barefoot – who went on to win the prestigious U14 Rugby World Cup in England in 2007.
“I was a goalie and that required a lot of discipline, focus and commitment,” Shah said of the sport she enjoyed the most during her childhood years. “Sports is all about that. It really instills those qualities in children and sets them up for their future.”
While reading through the script for Jungle Cry, Shah noticed a lack of female roles, so she had a physiotherapist for the team added.
And then she took on the role herself, marking the first time she had taken on the challenging task of acting and producing in the same film.
She spent countless hours researching rugby and even shadowed a rugby physiotherapist to gain a full understanding of what her character’s job and significance to a rugby team entailed.
She and her production team also traveled to Calcutta, India to cast the roles, choosing young rugby players for the film.
“These kids were brilliant,” Shah said. “If you watch the film you wouldn’t even realize that they weren’t real actors.”
This team that went on that amazing run to the championship was comprised of youth from the Kalinga Institute of Social Sciences in Orissa, India. The institute strives to eradicate poverty through education and sports.
“The most beautiful thing about Jungle Cry is that the entire family can sit in their living room or movie theater and watch this film together and take something away from it,” Shah said. “You don’t have to be a rugby fan. It’s just a beautiful story of people from different backgrounds coming together and achieving a goal that seems unattainable.”
CONNECTED TO THE CHIEFS
While Shah grew up in New Jersey, her allegiance to the Kansas City Chiefs was forged early on – and she’s been a huge fan ever since.
Her grandparents had season tickets and she cherishes all those trips her family took to famed Arrowhead Stadium to see games.
“I had this love for Kansas City at a young age,” she said. “Going to games and feeling the energy in the stadium, I was a fan from the start. I’d wear my Chiefs’ jersey to school and everyone would ask me why I was wearing that. I still have my Tony Gonzales jersey that I wore as a kid.”
As her career flourishes – both in front of the camera and behind the scenes as a producer – she’s grateful for all those experiences on the soccer fields of her youth and how they helped shape her life.
“Playing sports teaches you a sense of responsibility and a sense of discipline,” Shah said. “And being committed to your team.”
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