Remember some of the greatest sports movies that you have seen? Remember the rush of adrenaline each time you watch them? Remember the number of times you became inspired by the heroes and made unrealistic promises to yourself?
Hollywood has churned out enough of them and some of my favourites include Any Given Sunday, Remember the Titans, The Color of Money, Bend it Like Beckham, Ali, Million Dollar Baby and of course, Jerry Macguire.
Bollywood, on the other hand, though mostly focused on family dramas and candy floss romance, did have its share of sports movies, and good ones at that. Think Lagaan, think Paan Singh Tomar, think Iqbal or even Chak De and the first of the lot which still manages to make me root for Aamir Khan: Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar.
So this weekend when I watched Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, I braced myself for an emotional upheaval. This was not only a sports movie, but a true story at that. Milkha Singh might have been well before my time, I may not have known much about him growing up, but when you combine history with sports and give Farhaan Akhtar the reins to it, the result has to be quite out of this world. At almost three and half hours, it may be a tad too long, but that doesn’t take away from the sheer cinematic treat that it is. It’s a journey through time, and instead of just watching it, you feel a part of it, as you are taken on a rollercoaster ride into the life of an athlete, who, as gifted as he is, is essentially a human being, with his share of trials and tribulations, vulnerabilities, mistakes and distractions. It also provides a fair portrayal of the political turmoil of the era: something most of us haven’t experienced. Most importantly, it reminds us that there is more to a sportsman’s life than glamour, fame, money, women and endorsements. It’s very easy to get caught up in the frivolities and temptations, but dig a little deeper, and you see the hard work, discipline and willpower that goes into the making of a great athlete. Which brings me to Farhaan Akhtar and the effort that he put in for over a year, to get under the skin of the character. Literally. When you talk about the conventionally ‘hunky’ Bollywood hero, you would say Salman Khan or John Abraham or Hrithik Roshan. But not Farhaan Akhtar, who plays a nerd in a movie like Karthik Calling Karthik! If Aamir Khan surprised you in Ghajini, Akhtar simply blows your mind away in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.
May be it’s not one of those movies that I can watch multiple times (like Jerry Macguire), but if I ever had a chance to make a movie myself or act in one, this would surely be on top of the list (right up there with Boys Don’t Cry or Philadelphia). Not too many works of art challenge you to this extent, both emotionally and physically, but the fact that Bollywood has matured enough to treat a true story with sensitivity while retaining the ethos of it, speaks volumes about our industry today. And yes, it’s entertaining too.
At the same time, it has enough sense to limit Sonam Kapoor’s screen presence to bare minimum.
The Flying Sikh does fly high with flying colours, and carries Bollywood with it…