On The Mark

Whether it’s at home,on tour or on holiday,there has not been a single night that golf champ Jeev Milkha Singh has gone to bed without watching a Bollywood flick.

Written by Jaskiran Kapoor | Published:February 22, 2012 12:42 am

The cast and crew of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is ready to get,set and go

Whether it’s at home,on tour or on holiday,there has not been a single night that golf champ Jeev Milkha Singh has gone to bed without watching a Bollywood flick. More than sports,it’s films that inspire him. And it was Rakeyesh Om Prakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti that stayed with him all these years. So,when a few filmmakers came knocking at his father,Milkha Singh’s aka Flying Sikh’s home in Chandigarh,with a proposal to make a biopic on his life,the son was firm. “It has to be Rakeyesh Om Prakash Mehra,said Jeev,” narrates Milkha Singh,who then gave away the “story of his life to Mehra for one rupee.”

A year has passed since the film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMB) was announced. On Tuesday morning,the Singhs,Mehra and Farhan Akhtar got together once again,this time at the Government College Sector 11 grounds to add another page to this history in the making. Bought off a sports memorabilia auction for Rs 24 lakh,Mehra and Singh presented the famed ink-blue running spikes with yellow stripes that Milkha Singh wore at the 1960 Rome Olympics,to Farhan Akhtar. “I would’ve given away my entire life’s savings as these are priceless,” said Mehra,referring to the winning shoes,well-preserved in a glass showcase. Akhtar held them close,respectfully. For him,BMB is not just another film on a sport. “It’s the triumph of the human spirit,” remarked Akhtar,who is moved and inspired by Singh’s contagious passion and will. Mehra admits that it’s the film of his life. “You tell a story or make a film when you are compelled to,when you badly want it or your life is incomplete without it. BMB is one such film,from my heart,” said Mehra.

A lean look,long curly tresses and a beard in place,Akhtar now bears a striking resemblance to Singh,which explains why Mehra chose him,and not Ranbir Kapoor or Akshay Kumar. “I had approached Farhan for Rang De Basanti and he wasn’t keen on acting then. I went to him again for BMB. There are many reasons for choosing him — he’s a youth icon,he defines the new-age Indians and he’s a wonderful actor,” said Mehra. But does being a writer-director himself make it difficult to work under another director for Akhtar? He says,“You can’t stop being a director or writer on the set or adopt a clinical approach,but I trust Mehra completely.”

While the shooting begins next week in Ferozepur,Mehra says that the film is taking time because there is so much to Milkha Singh. “He’s a legend,and I realised how little our generation knows about him,” Mehra added.

The film has also got delayed because it’s set in the ‘50s and Mehra wanted it to look authentic. Talk about news of Sonam Kapoor playing Mrs Nirmal Milkha Singh,a volleyball champ in her days,doing the rounds and Mehra says that it will be revealed later. “Rakeysh is a swimming champ himself — he was in the national swimming team for the 1982 Asian Games. Only he could understand what goes on in the mind of a sportsperson,” said Milkha Singh while Mehra narrated how their coaches would cite tales of Milkha Singh and in the process instill “josh and junoon” in them to win.

BMB will also see a sports-based initiative (to be announced later) by its producers,one that promises to impact the lives of sportspersons in the country. “It’s been 60 years since India gave Milkha Singh to the world. It’s time that we,through this film,give 10,000 Milkha Singhs to the world,” says Akhtar.

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