Mumbai: A hotly anticipated film about the life of Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar hits cinemas this week but the batting great says he might find watching it an unsettling experience. “I am used to seeing myself on a big screen inside the stadium, not inside a movie theatre,”.
Tendulkar said ahead of Friday’s release of Sachin: A Billion Dreams. The docudrama, directed by Emmy-nominated British filmmaker James Erskine, took four years to make and traces Tendulkar’s life from aspiring cricketer to arguably the greatest batsman of all time. It features real footage, including clips from his matches and interviews with colleagues and family and present day stars including Virat Kohli and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Tendulkar, who played 200 Test matches and enjoys an almost god-like status in cricket-mad India, consented to the biopic but admitted that letting the cameras into his family life didn’t come naturally. “Being a private person I always believed I should let my bat do the talking, stay focused on the game and give all my energy over there,” said the “Little Master” in an interview.
“There are personal moments in the film and some family footage. I know fans want to see something more than what they have in the last 24 years. Nobody knows what was going on in my mind at that time so we have spoken a lot about highs and lows and the line between me, my family and fans,” he added.
The right-hander made his debut for India aged just 16 in 1989 and broke almost every batting record possible before retiring from professional cricket in 2013. The former Indian captain is the only cricketer to have scored 100 international centuries and is the highest run scorer in international cricket with more than 34,000 runs. Tendulkar published his autobiography in 2014 and there isn’t much that cricket fans don’t know about him.
But Erskine, who has made several acclaimed sports films, insists the docudrama will reveal new aspects about his life. “You might know the stats, you might know how he performed in certain matches, but you don’t know what happens when he goes off-stage, in his house — his private life, his hopes, dreams, his highs and sorrows,” he said. “You know little of his family except perhaps their names. This film really is the story of the man, and while cricket is a huge part of his life, it is just one chapter,” Erskine added.
The Brit has made a number of well-received sports biopics including The Battle of the Sexes, about a tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs, and Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist, about Tour de France winner Marco Pantani. He also made One Night in Turin, a documentary about England’s run to the semi-finals of the 1990 football World Cup.
Sachin: A Billion Dreams is being produced by a company called “200 NotOut”, a reference to the number of Tests Tendulkar played, leaving some movie critics wondering if the film will be little more than hagiography. “My purpose was to make a film exploring three clear strands — how did this boy become perceived as a god, who is the real man behind the god, how was Sachin’s journey (and iconic status) a result of the massive shifts in Indian culture, cricket and media over the past 30 years.
“The last of these I treat subtly and through imagery so that it’s more felt than thought. And that’s key to understanding the film,” said Erskine.