The Flying Sikh has finally got a life on celluloid but there are many more sportspersons whose life can generate more drama than a Bollywood potboiler
That an inspiring film has been made about the extraordinary trials, tribulations, triumphs and losses of the legendary athlete Milkha Singh comes as no surprise. The heart wrenching struggle of India’s greatest athlete from the ashes of partition to pinnacles of glory was always worth a biopic but it is incomprehensible as to why it took filmmakers so long to realise that the Flying Sikh’s heroism was worthy of big screen especially as the legendary athlete was and still is the only Indian to break an athletics world record and yet lose an Olympic medal by micro-seconds!
While Milkha Singh’s poignant biography would have made for an outstanding script in any country, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” and its forerunner “Paan Singh Tomar” certainly compel reflection about other sports stalwarts who accomplished similar goals toiling in difficult circumstances and whose stories could be worth depiction on celluloid.
In a nation where systems and institutions are said to work in tandem to destroy ‘sporting spirit’, every achiever is worth saluting but some are certainly exemplary models of indomitable courage, resilience and hard work despite meagre opportunities and facilities. In this regard, one of the first names to come to mind is of the legendary Dhyan Chand who rose from poverty to become the greatest hockey player ever. He also had the guts to refuse Adolf Hitler’s patronage when the dictator’s name made nations shiver! Enactment of the 1936 Berlin encounter between the Fuhrer and the Indian soldier or his refusal to go along with the British rulers after independence can make for riveting action better than many a Salim-Javed potboiler.
Another man to make the cut would be the gritty swimmer Mihir Sen who fought poverty, politics and prejudice across continents and yet became the first Asian to cross the English Channel. A self made man, Mihir was allegedly systematically ruined for opposing the ruling dispensation and died penniless.
Similarly, none would dispute that it would be equally fascinating to watch P. T. Usha’s excruciating journey from a country hamlet to the world stage where she won over one hundred track and field medals yet, like Milkha, lost in 1984 Olympics in a photo-finish. Nicknamed “Payyoli Express”, Usha was always a dignified and affable competitor who believed in the old world school of playing by the rule book andparticipating in sport for the glory of the sport. Obviously, going by that yardstick, Usha’s natural follower would be the artistic Saina Nehwal who too is a shining example. The story of Saina and her parents’ sacrifice would make for a jubilee hit as it has all the ingredients of a family drama.
And if love is what attracts hordes to Indian cinema, then surely Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi’s life would make for an ideal emotional film. His exemplary performances despite loss of a vision in one eye as well as his enduring romance and marriage to film star Sharmila Tagore are the stuff that dreams are made of. Similarly, syrupy family story of the world chess champion Vishwanathan Anand and his upholding of ‘Rajshri’ style tradition-bound family values too could make for an exceptional entertainer to beat all love stories. Maybe that is also the reason that the humble boxer Mary Kom’s wonderful but dogged journey is being filmed for screen!
As for diehard Bollywood fans reared on glitz, glamour and foreign locales, a tale of friendship, rivalry, envy and fall-out could be made on the exploits of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi. Viewers can be assured of a high octane dialogue laden film with several songs and chest thumping scenes about dosti (friendship) and bewafaai (cheating and infidelity) sprinkled throughout for applause from the galleries.
Clearly, it is not possible to recount names and deeds of various outstanding heroes who have illuminated the sporting arena and are worthy of a ‘screen presence’. But it is evident that there could be several fascinating stories of sports personnel who brought laurels and smiles into our lives with their performances. Who can ever forget the travails, tears and triumphs of charismatic Salim Durrani, the affable Everest conqueror Tenzing Norgay, the billiard wizard Michael Ferreira, the gentle batting genius Gundappa Vishwanath, the mercurial footballer Inder Singh or the unfortunate table-tennis champ K. Chandrashekhar and several magnificent men and women who loved life and sport in equal measure despite all hurdles.
If more stories are made on the lives of sporting heroes, perhaps, the man on the street would appreciate that it wasn’t lack of effort on their part but the overall apathy of the system that hindered the progress of our champions.