Sachin: A Billion Dreams should be as much about Tendulkar's fans as it is about him
This film is not about Sachin Tendulkar alone, it’s about us too. It will, hopefully, remind us where we were when he bowled that last over in the Hero Cup semi-final or during the 2011 World Cup final.
It is quite the nature of the beast called film marketing that even Sachin Tendulkar has been hard-selling his film over the past few weeks. One might think that a 138-minute look into the life of one of India’s greatest and most loved sporting personas might be promotion-proof. But for Sachin: A Billion Dreams, the man at the centre of it has given interviews to film journalists, hopped to Dubai, held special screenings, met the Prime Minister, visited Gaurav Kapoor’s Indian Premier League pre-match show and thankfully stopped a step short of sharing stage with Kapil Sharma. This, after most of us were sold on it after just a look at a poster.
One might think that a big-screen retelling of the story of a boy who became an institution by just clean, obsessive hitting of a leather ball with a piece of wood would be critic-proof. But there will be critics too, and not wrongly so.
This is a documentary after all, and the subject of it has been widely debated and dissected in the past two decades. ‘Why didn’t it show something we didn’t know?’ they will say. ‘Why was match-fixing just a superficial little sequence?’ they will write. ‘Oh, it’s at least better than that snooze-inducing book,’ they have already said.
I, too, have regularly found myself on the side of those who have criticised Sachin, especially toward the end of his career. ‘He’s great, but he’s not the greatest,’ I’ve felt. ‘His relentless pursuit of personal milestones hurts the team game’, I’ve argued. ‘Have you seen his batting stats in the second innings of Tests, especially overseas?’ I have pointed out.
But then, I also desperately want to watch this film. Perhaps it’s the same reason why I desperately got my hands on a North Stand ticket when his farewell Test was announced. Could even be the same reason why I went weak in my knees when a few moments after Mahendra Singh Dhoni hit that six, Sachin ran out like a child with the widest smile he could manage.
This film is not about him alone, it’s about us too. It will, hopefully, remind us where we were when he bowled that last over in the Hero Cup semi-final (some of us were in nappies or weren’t even born), how we cussed when Pakistani umpire Javed Akhtar judged him LBW a few runs before India’s victory in Sharjah in 1998, what we felt when it seemed like Sachin may have known of the match-fixing rot all along, and yet kept mum. It should take me back to the 2003 World Cup final, a time when I wasn't compulsively cynical as I was by the 2011 final.
That this film is a documentary with a narrator, first-person interviews and re-enactments is a boost for the genre, which is terribly underrated in India. But what new would it tell, that’s newer than all the cumulative YouTube videos, birthday specials and ‘candid’ interviews you have wasted hundreds of hours of your youth on, the cynic asks me. But the hero of this story-we-all-know would be the visuals. Capturing a career of over 20 years with so many characters is quite a feat, but it would be another feat altogether to show us moments we’ve never seen, footage we’ve never accessed. I do hope the 138 minutes aren’t just a one-dimensional view of Sachin I get to see every 24th of April and my only takeaway cannot be getting to hear the late Tony Greig’s splendid commentary again, in Dolby Digital.
I’ve never felt like shelling a thousand bucks to watch a Batman or Bahubali on its first weekend but this time, I will. I’m in this movie after all, God damn it! Somewhere in the North Stand, one among millions. Hopefully, the goosebumps would make me remember where I was when Sachin released his movie.
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