Indian hockey player Sandeep Singh is gearing up for the release of his biopic Soorma, which is all set to hit the screens on July 13. Starring Diljit Dosanjh in the lead role, the film narrates the comeback story of Sandeep who was hit by a bullet 12 years ago and was declared unfit to play hockey again. However, he did not lose hope and made a smashing comeback on the hockey field.
From winning the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in 2009 to being regarded as the most dangerous drag-flickers of all time with drag speeds of over 145 km/hr, Sandeep has many achievements to his credit. In an exclusive conversation with indianexpress.com, the former hockey player reveals how his story became an inspiration for Soorma team and why Diljit Dosanjh is the perfect choice to play him on screen.
How was it to know that someone was keen to make a film you?
In the beginning, it was unbelievable. It was just like how in Haryana and Punjab people come to you and promise to take you overseas. You start daydreaming about spending your days as a permanent resident abroad. I also started dreaming about my film and story. That time only the movie based on Milkha Singh had come out. So, I also used to think that soon there will be a film on Sandeep Singh, people will get to know about me. I felt really good.
When I met the producers for the first time, we had very short time to talk about my journey. I was constantly talking and narrating my story. They thought I would automatically stop in half an hour but I went on and on for two hours straight. So, they were amazed and gained confidence to make a film on my life.
On 22 August 2006, you were shot at and seriously injured aboard a train. You were on a wheelchair for two years. Will the film cover moments from the life-changing event?
People who followed hockey, they know who Sandeep Singh is. They know I have been Indian hockey team’s captain, but they don’t know about the struggle and the life after being shot. The film brings my tragedy to the forefront.
Was Diljit Dosanjh your choice for the biopic?
I did not want the film to go to a big star, be it Shah Rukh Khan, Akshay Kumar or Aamir Khan because they would not have suited the part. Not that they cannot play the part but they would not have been convincing as Sandeep Singh. I wanted that even if it is a beginner in Bollywood, he should be able to portray the role as real as possible.
Meanwhile, Diljit paaji debuted in Udta Punjab. We always had him in our mind but we also thought that people, apart from those living in Punjab, might not be well accustomed with the actor. He was not yet famous in Bollywood. So, while we were prepping up the story, Diljit had picked up his momentum in Bollywood and became the star of the industry with his songs and films coming back to back.
Diljit said he has never played sports before. How was it training him?
I have trained Diljit during and off the film. He is a good actor and quite hardworking. There are not many actors in the film industry who have the ability to clone your body language. If I tell you to copy me, you would not be able to do that but Diljit did it really well. We spent a lot of time together and got to know each other. People have seen me on-field but no one knows about my off-field life. People rarely know that personality of me. We concentrated more on how he aces me in the field but off-field too, he would notice my habits, body language and in fact, even eating mannerisms.
Every sportsman has a USP. Did you share yours with Diljit?
Everybody has their own way and signature style to play the game. We have worked well on the posture and tried to inculcate my style in Diljit. I am sure people who have followed my game would instantly get the vibe of Sandeep Singh from Diljit.
What do you have to say about comparisons between Shah Rukh Khan’s Chak De! India! and Soorma?
We cannot compare Chak De with Soorma. That film is more like team game but Soorma is all about the struggle a person has gone through. It is about the victory after failure. It is about the dream to make it big in the world. I do not think you will leave the theatre without taking away something from the film. This film will cater to every one among the audience and would have a relatability factor too.
Soorma has a message of never giving up. It is about how a man comes back from death and wins pride for his country. So, that journey is not easy but with will power and confidence, you can do anything.
You have trained actors on Akshay Kumar starrer Gold.
Gold is similar to Chak De! India. It talks about teamwork, the dream to get a medal for the country and other things. The film is all about Akshay Kumar but it is going to be fun. I have given training to Gold stars Amit Sadh, Kunal Kapoor, Vineet Kumar Singh and Sunny Kaushal but I am not allowed to share much details.
On hockey not gaining popularity like cricket.
We are used to it. It is like we are kids of the same mother but one is being fed while other is not. However, I and anyone who play sports, when we go on the field, there is no other feeling than to play for our country. For us, the pride lies in wearing the tricolor on our heart. We do not think about money.
Any biopics you are looking forward to?
In Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan. We know how he has become the Shehanshah or God of Bollywood. We know his success story but there was a downfall in his career too. How did he get his first break? We know about it through books but I guess for the younger lot, it would be interesting to watch on-screen.
In sports, I think Yogeshwar Dutt. Most people don’t even know that he has won an Olympic medal for India. I want films on such personalities to be made. Also, Vijender Singh. He has got fame because of pro-boxing league but Vijender has not got his share of credit. Even me for that matter, no one knew who I am.