Saturday, 27 May 2017

Review: Sachin: A Billion Dreams!

Cast: Sachin Tendulkar, Anjali Tendulkar
Direction: James Erskine
Rating: ****
‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams’ is a trip down memory lane for many of us. For those of us who grew up in the 1980s, an era when there was limited access to various forms of entertainment, cricket and Bollywood were the only religions we knew.
All of us wanted the win of the 1983 Cricket World Cup to be replicated because we were too young to have any actual recollection of the real match. A 10-year-old Sachin too had the same dream.
As we retraced Sachin Tendulkar’s steps, we were almost reintroduced to our childhood – Doordarshan was the only channel we could watch on our black-and-white television sets, people would crowd around the few television sets available in the neighbourhood to watch matches and the epic India-Pakistan matches that were like war.
This film also gives us an insight into how this maverick batsman became one of the few Indian cricketers to command respect and adulation not only in India but globally, among the cricketing community and even, among other sportspersons as well.
This documentary feature is the incredible journey of a Mumbai boy who went on to break many a world record and had a nation of a billion cheer him on as the team lifted the World Cup in 2011, 28 years after India’s first win.
Honestly, I wasn’t really looking forward to watching this film. I had been very disappointed by the previous films on cricketers – ‘Azhar’ (2016) and ‘MS Dhoni: The Untold Story’ (2016); they were more like hagiographies than biopics.
In fact, I had hardly watched much cricket for many years now. Like many ardent fans, I was completely disillusioned after the match-fixing scam that made the gentleman’s game infamous in 2000.
Also, I had never been a huge Sachin Tendulkar fan. ‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams’ was also a new format and I was unsure how that would work.
This film does a brilliant job of contextualizing why Sachin is so important to the collective conscience of this country. A nation that looks for hope and escape from their daily strife when they watch Shah Rukh Khan romance or watch Sachin Tendulkar bat. We are crazy about our demi-gods and when they fail, we take it personally. The enthusiasm almost assumes manic proportions.
We get an insight into Sachin Tendulkar’s life and how difficult it had been for him to juggle his own disappointment and that of an entire nation when he failed to perform – the times when he was struggling with injuries, when the team wasn’t performing like he thought they would and when he was letdown by the very people who had made ‘Sachin! Sachin!’ their mantra.
He was also the 23-year-old on whose young but capable shoulders the responsibility of captaincy was placed. There were seniors in the team who found that difficult to accept and the game suffered. For someone, who had played for so long, the decision to replace him as a captain came from the media – that would have hurt the best of us.
While there are team members who swore their allegiance to the master blaster, there were moments of friction with Mohammed Azharuddin, former coach Greg Chappell and even the board, at times. The dressing-room dynamics make for an interesting watch.
Sporting wonders are not just born; they are nurtured over years with blood and sweat. Ajit Tendulkar, Sachin’s elder brother has mentally batted with him from the first time that he picked up his bat to every single time that the Little Master walked down to the cricket field. His entire family was completely supportive of him, they knew that for Sachin cricket always came first.
It is also incredible how incredibly supportive Anjali Tendulkar has been throughout this journey. A qualified doctor, she gave up her career to be the robust support system for the family. During the difficult times, Sachin would withdraw into a shell and she wouldn’t know if she had done anything wrong or how she could help.
This film ties the various facets of this game and this larger-than-life person in a way that is easy for someone, who may not even be a cricket fan, to comprehend.
The voiceovers, the interviews with the various cricketers and coaches, actual match footage and even the handheld camera footage of private moments are seamlessly merged. The narrative is compelling and consistent.
‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams’ is definitely a must watch for cricket fans. And even for ones like me, you might have stopped watching cricket a while back – if you still secretly do a fist pump every time India performs well in international cricket, watch this one, you will not be disappointed.
Sachin! Sachin!
If cricket is religion in India and Sachin is god, then I am a convert. I might start watching cricket once again.

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