They both have a famous first name, Vijay. One in films and the other in real life. One had played a little soccer in his youth while the other has never played the game. But their identities are going to coalesce into a film that could be yet another highlight of their careers.
For 73-year old Vijay Barse, though, director Nagraj Manjule’s forthcoming film Jhund is not as much exciting for the fact that actor Amitabh Bachchan will portray his character of a man who had changed the lives of hundreds of slum children through soccer, but for the possible impetus the film may provide his ‘Slum Soccer’ project.
Barse has been written about extensively for his work to engage slum children in soccer. The idea had struck him about 18 years ago, when he saw children playing with a broken bucket, kicking it all over a small open space in Nagpur.
“As a physical education teacher in Nagpur’s Hislop College, I was a handball guy. I had also been an international umpire but never had a brush with soccer. Even today, I don’t know many things about the game. But when I saw those children, a thought was triggered — I can help them play the game as it is played. So, I sought help from some of my football friends,” Barse told The Indian Express.
The thought was soon converted into action, with the first slum tournament being held in 2000. Since then, Slum Soccer had grown by leaps and bounds with Barse’s boys and girls participating in various tournaments, nationally and internationally. Last year, the boys’ team ended 19th among 60 teams and girls’ team notched seventh spot among 16 teams in the Homeless World Cup tournament for the underprivileged at Oslo. Slum Soccer now has two more centres, at Chennai and Kolkata.
“I have used my and my teacher wife Ranjana’s earnings to raise this project. The aim was development of slum children, who have no takers. Today, my children are doing well, which makes me happy. People from around the world have lent a helping hand. International coaches volunteer to come to my centre to train my children. That’s so very satisfying,” said Barse.
At the Bokara village campus of Krida Vikas Sanstha, the NGO that runs the Slum Soccer project, the buzz about Jhund — Manjule’s debut Hindi venture — can’t be missed. Manjule and his teams have been frequenting the place over the past few months to prepare for the shoot.
Four from a group of girls playing the game on an astrotrufed ground on Barse’s land are a excited lot. “They have auditioned us. But we don’t know if we will get to play a role in the film,” said Bhumika Deshmukh, from a local village.
The shoot was earlier planned at Savitribai Phule Pune University campus and the set, too, had been erected. But opposition by students led Manjule to shift base to Nagpur, where shooting will begin from November 9. Bachchan will arrive on November 15, said Barse.
Barse has seen many Bachchan films but isn’t excited about meeting the actor. “Meeting him will, of course, make me happy but I avoid excitement. Let the film be completed and run successfully first.”
His son Abhijeet, the CEO of Slum Soccer, said: “He has always been like that. He feels let the film get off the ground first. “ Abhijeet had left his job in the US to work with his father.
In regard to Jhund, Barse hoped Manjule is successful as this is his first Hindi film. “I learnt that he, too, comes from a humble background like many of my children.” Barse has no issues with Manjule putting in his own interpretation in the film. “All I want is that the film should project the right message about my work,” he said.