Kal Penn is going to play Raptors' Canadian superfan Nav Bhatia in new biopic

The world is about to know Toronto’s pride and joy.
December 3, 2021 10:32 a.m. EST
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Toronto (and let’s be honest, all of Canada) has long been in love with the Raptors’ biggest superfan, Mr. Nav Bhatia. And now, thanks to Superfan, a new biopic that’s in the works, the rest of the world is about to learn all about the guy’s charms—not to mention his incredible real-life story.

Superfan revolves around Bhatia’s decades-long passion for the Toronto Raptors, but it also explores how the man has historically used basketball to bring people together. Who is up to the challenge of playing such a beloved figure? That would be Kal Penn, whom audiences will know from Harold and Kumar, his work in the White House during the Obama years or from his new memoir, You Can't Be Serious.

According to Deadline, the actor first saw Bhatia at a Raptors’ game while he was filming in town, and now not only is he playing Bhatia in the movie, but he’s one of the producers on the project, too.

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

In fact, Bhatia’s story is so inspiring that there was reportedly a bit of a bidding war in terms of who would ultimately get to produce this film. In the end, it was Stampede Ventures (run by Greg Silverman and Jon Berg) that won out, and they brought on Industry Entertainment (with Penn and Dan Spilo) as well as Yellow Mango Films.

So far, there is no director or writer attached to the movie, but one thing we do know is that there’s no shortage of source material.

For those who don’t know Bhatia’s background, the Delhi, India native immigrated to the Toronto are in the '80s without a dime. From there, he basically defined the word “ambitious” by becoming one of the most successful car salesmen and dealership owners in the country, all while facing systemic racism and prejudice. 

Over the years, his dedication to the Raps (he has never missed a home game) has gained national attention and even earned him his own championship ring in 2019. Bhatia also led the championship parade that year and he became the first fan inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. Sure, that was partly because of his commitment to the team, but also because of his work with underprivileged kids, whom he often brings to those games.

“I’m speechless. To have the opportunity to continue to tell my story with such esteemed producers is a dream. Then to find out Kal Penn has been brought on to play me is even more surreal,” Bhatia said in a statement. “This is not something I can even dream of. He is one of my favourite actors and to know he also loves basketball is an added bonus. I’ll be teaching him all my tricks of the trade when distracting opposing players!”

It may be another dream come true for Bhatia, but something tells us this could also be the beginning of a new chapter for the guy. In addition to this biopic, he’s also the subject of the December 3 CBC documentary Superfan, plus he continues to oversee and run several philanthropy and education initiatives.

In other words, you may want to try and snag a ticket to his annual April Baisakhi halftime show on the Raps court sooner rather than later this year. The Sikh New Year’s celebration is practically guaranteed to sell out faster than hotcakes at this point given Bhatia’s ever-growing (and well-deserved) popularity.

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