In a new highlight reel — er, documentary! — from CBC Gem, Raptors Superfan Nav Bhatia looks back on his odyssey from Canadian newcomer to pop-culture phenomenon, and how his trajectory mirrors that of his beloved Toronto Raptors.
Superfan: The Nav Bhatia Story, which premieres Dec. 3 at 9 p.m. ET, chronicles Bhatia’s life, beginning with his immigration from India in the 1980s, when he said and his family were forced to flee the country following a military operation targetting Sikhs.
But when he arrived in Canada in 1984, Bhatia says he had difficulty finding employment. And when he finally did get work, he endured racism at the hands of unhappy customers.
“They said they wanted to be served by a ‘normal’ salesman without a turban,” Bhatia said in the film. He went on to become a successful car salesman and dealership owner.
In addition to his life as a superfan, the documentary explores Bhatia’s nearly 40-year marriage to wife, Arvinder (or, as she’s referred to in the doc, Mrs. Superfan).
It also examines how his devotion to the Raptors has impacted their relationship — Bhatia says he attended every Raptors’ home game since 1995, the year the team first joined the league. That is, until the pandemic hit.
WATCH | The trailer for Superfan: The Nav Bhatia Story:
In Superfan, Bhatia’s underdog journey from a struggling outsider to a Canadian icon is parallelled with the journey of the Raptors themselves.
The team suffered during their first few seasons, settling in at the bottom rung of the Eastern Conference standings during the mid-90s and early 2000s before their stunning ascent to the NBA championship in 2019.
For Bhatia, who received a coveted championship ring when the Raptors won, the documentary came as a surprise.
“I didn’t think there should be a movie made on me,” he told CBC Sports. “I didn’t think so.”
WATCH | Nav Bhatia chats with CBC Sports about his new documentary:
But the 70-year-old businessman has amassed fans from all over Canada and the world, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, comedian Russell Peters and former NBA player Vince Carter.
In 2019, Bhatia became the first fan inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.
In his interview with CBC Sports, Bhatia said that Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole had watched, and enjoyed, Superfan.
“Yesterday, he was sitting next to me in Vancouver, along with a lot of Members of Parliament, and he was amazed by it. He said he learned something new today.”
Nav Bhatia fought against systemic racism and discrimination, and eventually became a successful businessman – and a true <a href=”https://twitter.com/Raptors?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Raptors</a> superfan! <a href=”https://twitter.com/superfan_nav?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Superfan_Nav</a>: you are an inspiration. I’m glad we could celebrate your journey, and your uniquely Canadian story, tonight. <a href=”https://t.co/OlbJJr6Z5N”>pic.twitter.com/OlbJJr6Z5N</a>
Fans of the documentary have another Superfan project to look forward to: Actor Kal Penn will play Bhatia in an upcoming biopic announced on Thursday.
“The crowd loves him — to see what a source of pride he is for Canadians — and all basketball fans, really — makes me smile,” Penn told Deadline. “His story is one of unity, which I’m especially excited and proud to bring to life.”
Asked whether he has other entertainment projects in the pipeline, Bhatia didn’t specify.
“You know, whatever comes, I don’t plan anything in my life,” he said. “Everything is so organic in my life and I take whatever it comes with.”
“I’m really blessed.”