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'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag': Scripting the amazing Milkha Singh story

Mumbai, May 12, (IANS):

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra is working on one of his most ambitious projects ''Bhaag Milkha Bhaag'' and says he wants to break linguistic barriers with the film on the greatest Indian athlete Milkha Singh so that the whole world will know his story.

Indian athlete Milkha Singh

"I want Milkha's story told in Hindi-Punjabi, to be dubbed in French, Polish, etc. This would be my most ambitious project striving to break linguistic barriers. Milkha's story has a universal resonance. It's an Indian story but very universal. We want Milkha Singh's story to go out to the world," Director Mehra told reporters.

"The theme is - 'zindagi se bhago nahin, zindagi ke saath bhago' (don't run away from life, run with life). It's very relevant to today's life." Mehra says he hasn't finalised any actor to play the role of the legendary runner who made history by coming fourth in the Rome Olympic Games in 1960.

Excerpts from an interview:


Q: What made you decide on a movie on Milkha Singh?

A: I was keen on doing a historical love story 'Mirza Sahiban'. But the idea on Milkha Singh worked out better. Prasoon Joshi is writing it. I've grown up with Milkha Singh's name. One has heard jokes about him, how he was known as the Flying Sikh, used to run barefoot, how he came from Pakistan. These were anecdotes I grew up with.

I've been a sportsman myself during my student days. I used to go practising in the National Stadium in Delhi for swimming every day. Milkha Singh used to practise there. Then I came to know more details about his life. How at the age of 13 he watched his whole family being massacred in undivided India. He didn't know where to go. He somehow made his way to Delhi on refugee trains...

Q: Would all that be part of your film?

A: That's what attracted me to the subject and not so much his athletics. Milkha Singh's story was inspiring. The theme is - 'zindagi se bhago nahin, zindagi ke saath bhago'. It's very relevant to today's life. This guy had nothing and still he made spectacular success of his life. His life has such a resonance.

Q: Have you met Milkha Singh?

A: I've met him numerous times in Chandigarh, talked to him for hours. During our conversation, I opened doors for him that even he had closed. We got to know things even his family didn't know. But I'd be depicting his life from age 13 to the age of 28. Milkha's family has been very cooperative. It was Milkha Singh's son, the champ golfer Jeev, who coordinated the whole thing.

Q: Whom are you casting?

A: No idea. We're starting the film end of this year or early next year. Any actor would kill for the part of Milkha Singh. This kind of a subject comes to an actor once during his lifetime. Not too many people are such role models. Even my "Rang De Basanti" was a bio-pic in a very strange way. But that was set in contemporary India. "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag" goes back in time. I might cast a big star or a newcomer. Let's see.

Q: Your films reflect socio-political reality - would your Milkha look like him?

A: The role is extremely demanding. Dramatically and psychologically more demanding than physically. The actor will have to go through a journey into darkness to emerge in the bright light. It's a classic tale of struggle and triumph.

Q: Your films have always been musicals. What about "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag"?

A: It's a musical. A.R. Rahman is doing the music. I've met him, told him the subject. It's a completely new territory for me. Rahman has travelled many universes. I want Milkha's story to reach every part of the world. I want Milkha's story, told in Hindi-Punjabi, to be dubbed in French, Polish, etc. This would be my most ambitious project striving to break linguistic barriers. Milkha's story has a universal resonance. It's an Indian story but very universal. We want Milkha Singh's story to go out to the world.

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