It is quite surprising that Bollywood, since its inception, has made only 3 films on the poor man’s sport. – Hockey. And that certainly makes me wonder why a film on Dhyan Chand was never made! The first two films stand out due to the style of film-making, the performances, and of course the brilliant script. The third movie is on the floors. What is commendable is the fact, that these movies have not chosen the opium of the masses, cricket, as their theme.
Chak De India had three negatives opposing its success before its release- a film on sports, hockey being the subject and compounding the problem was that it focused on women’s hockey. Of course the script was neat and the director had the good sense to engage a national hockey player to advise him on the game. That’s why the matches interest every hockey lover with the ball play, strategies, tactics, incorporation of little techniques used during penalty corners.
And did the girls not do a splendid job! Shahrukh Khan essaying the role of Negi, the tainted goalkeeper in the ’82 Asian Games finals, rose above his benchmark to give a sterling performance. It helped that he had played hockey during his college days. Although the film started off with empty halls on the opening days, the “word of mouth” ensured that the turnout was massive in the ensuing period.
The standard of the games witnessed in the film was excellent despite the fact that it was scripted. I enjoyed the adulation many of the girls received after the success of the film. Invites to reality shows, modelling offers, and also product endorsements came their way.
Another movie I would like to talk about is “Pan Singh Tomar”, based on the ex-Army man turned Baaghi. It is evident that Irfan has done his homework for this film. As a runner, he exhibits the typical gait that runners have in them after very many years of practice and competition. The poignancy of the steeplechase runner who rebels to take refuge in the ravines of the Chambal is narrated nicely sans any frills. Honouring a man who could have brought laurels to his country like Milkha but was denied the opportunity due to the system is a bitter lesson for all of us who forget our athletes, sportspersons and soldiers once we have extracted our “pound of flesh.”
The 3rd film is in the making titled Bhag Milkha Bhag, a fitting tribute to the “flying Sikh” – a partition victim, who found his place running for the Army as did Pan Singh since the Army was the only institution, maybe it still is, which ensure that their sportspersons get double rations. Both were victims of fate but Milkha, unlike Pan Singh, thankfully did not have to leave the Army to fight for his ancestral property. Besides, Milkha was a Sikh, post partition he got the empathy and sympathy of all, He justified that by finishing 4th in the 1960 Rome Olympics, losing out on the bronze by a whisker. He did this despite pitted against athletes from developed countries who were scientifically trained. For the record, that race burnt the track as the first four broke the then existing World and Olympic Record. We have to wait for that film to understand how one can win & lose at the same time – break the records and yet miss out on a medal.
Milkha and Pan Singh are two athletes whose lives have been narrated on the big screen but Makhan Singh, Dhyan Chand, Henry Rebello etc. still call for our film-maker’s attention. So let this be a wake-up call and let us have more films on the national game of our country!