Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Who are we kidding?
Here is the story of the man who has lived his life at the centre of a nation’s collective attention. Almost every detail of Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar’s life has been obsessively chronicled over the years. Sachin: A Billion Dreams doesn’t need a spoiler alert because it’s a straightforward retelling of his career.
Does the biographical documentary reveal anything that we didn’t already know about him? That’s a definite no. When the trailer was released, there was a lot of talk about how it at least touched upon the match-fixing scandal at the turn of the century. The incident that shook the game of cricket to the very core. The incident that left thousands of fans doubting their mad passion of the game. The incident that Tendulkar has barely spoken about. The incident that’s a mere footnote even in his seemingly never-ending autobiography.
On that front, it’s status quo. There is footage of effigies being burnt, stones being pelted at the houses of cricketers, with a voice-over that tells you how oh-so-terrible the whole thing was. Then Tendulkar takes over to reiterate the point. He says a few lines that sum up his disgust and the movie quickly cuts to a montage in Goa where he has a jolly good time with his close friends, who, for their part, tell you how Tendulkar hates losing in life – a not-so-subtle defence of his integrity.
But seriously, what else did we expect?
What Tendulkar and director James Erskine did promise was a sneak into his personal life. On this, they deliver fulsomely. The collection of amateur footage, giving a glimpse into Tendulkar’s life away from the glaring limelight, is wonderful to watch. We see him making faces to make his daughter Sara laugh, walking around in his shorts, spending time with his son Arjun, and at one point just sitting by himself in a room and listening to music. It’s a nice little window into the fortress he had build around him during his playing days.
The bulk of the film, unsurprisingly, is a showreel of his career. Starting from the famous series in Pakistan that saw a 16-year-old walk into the cauldron of international cricket, facing Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, and getting hit on the face, to that famous speech that reduced grown men and women into tears in November 2013, it’s a well thought out selection of goosebump-worthy moments.
A big part of all those moments were the men behind the mic, the likes of Harsha Bhogle and Tony Greig, who have made themselves part of cricket folklore by being there to talk about his game. But here we have AR Rahman take it a notch higher with a rousing background score. Tendulkar’s straight-drives and cuts and pulls are set to the maestro’s music.
The initial part with two boys playing the naughty Sachin are also well shot. The kid who plays the 11-year-old version of Tendulkar had the unenviable task of looking the part as a prodigiously talented cricketer and he does it exceedingly well.
But in a docu-feature that’s meant to glorify the man that a country revered (perhaps, still does) there emerges another hero – Anjali Tendulkar. We finally get to hear first-hand from the woman who has been such a massive part of Tendulkar’s career. We get to see the well-spoken woman who sacrificed her career for Tendulkar’s. We hear her talk about their love story, how she dealt with Tendulkar’s mood swings when he doesn’t do well, his long absences, his love for their children.
We have all heard Tendulkar talk so much over the years about his father, his mother, his brother Ajit (who perhaps deserves his own short film) and above all, Anjali. The film strives to give the people who made Tendulkar the legend he is, the footage they deserve.
Tendulkar since retirement has noticeably become a walking-talking PR machine. That has not gone down well with too many of his fans, while critics have feasted upon it. The fear for many fans with this movie was that it would fall into that category. Sure enough, the movie paints him as an infallible individual but it also offers a reminder of the effort that went into a little naughty kid in Bandra East becoming the greatest cricketer this country has seen.
Nostalgia is a powerful tool, and Erskine seems to be fully aware of that fact. If you are a fan, if you are one of those who grew up with a habit of turning off the television set when he got out, this movie is a joy-ride. If you are a critic, either during his playing days or of what he has become since, there is nothing in the movie that would change your opinion.