‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams’, the film based on the life of Sachin Tendulkar is set for a global release on May 26. Here Tendulkar, the most decorated batsmen in the history of cricket, and well-known London-based director James Erskine talk about the film and more. Excerpts:
On the experience of making of ‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams’
Sachin: It is right out there. We have done everything that is possible that is exactly like preparing for the match. You tick all the boxes as far as the preparations are concerned and then go out there and give your best and that is exactly what we have done here. We felt that we should do it from our heart and try and be as genuine and real as possible. The whole film is about my real journey so there are no fictional bits and pieces added here. My whole life has been in front of the world. Yes, we have included a few things that are really private and personal, family moments. So, we have added that and people will get to see that, but to be able to relive the journey is special for me. Normally, the tendency is to look at the next game and that is what I have always looked at home, in my family. I was rather brought up thinking about the next game, let the world talk about the last game, so here I was talking about everything that was in the past so it was a new thing for me. It was a new experience to be part of this film.
Were you involved in the music side of it?
Sachin: What does one tell AR Rahman? It is like AR Rahman telling me how to bat. I don’t want to interfere in his work. He is the boss there.
Erskine: We have used some of Sachin’s favourite tracks in the film.
Sachin: AR Rahman kept bettering the score and he was telling that we would do an even better job every time. Every time we heard it, it kept getting better and better and then I went to his studio in Powai and we heard the final version on his system together -- and Irshad was there. He explained the meaning of the song to me which was fabulous because it was the title track. You hear it two or three times and initially it is not easy to understand like any other song but it grows on you. It is a typical Rahman song which is really catchy and then it grows on you and it stays on you and it stayed with me more so because of the lyrics. I think the lyrics are really nice they connect really well with what I tried to do for so many years.
Who was curious to see the film?
Sachin: Possibly, me, I can say. I wanted to know what’s happening. All of us have seen it and they were comfortable with it.
How much did you miss the[late] Mark Mascarenhas while reliving those days [early 1990s]?
Sachin: Mark was more like family and I have missed him not just today but on a number of occasions. You know, one would always say that if Mark was there he would have done this. He was a larger-than-life personality. If I am not mistaken, I was the first cricketer to be signed by a company like this and today it is a normal thing. But way back in 1995, people didn’t know what was in store for me at that stage. People said why does he want to do all these things; just stay focused on cricket, failing to realise that I did this so I could be focused on cricket. I didn’t want to waste time negotiating contracts and making sure this clause should be there, this clause shouldn’t be there. I didn’t want to waste my energy. I wanted all my energy to be channelised only on cricket and nothing else. So, literally my family took all the load of going through the papers and I used to just sign the deal. I did not have anything else to do and there Mark being an ardent fan of Indian cricket and well wisher of Indian cricket never ever forced me to skip my practice sessions and come and shoot. In fact, he would tell them that he was not going to miss his practice sessions so we would have to work around that. We were on the same page, so it really worked well. Today, I miss him without any doubt.
Did you get emotional when you first saw the movie?
Sachin: Yes, and not just then [but] two days ago when we did the first viewing with the Indian Armed Forces and I got emotional; there are such moments and I am hoping people will also feel that. I have possibly seen this movie 20 times.
Erskine: I have seen it a thousand times and I still get emotional. I was crying at the playback yesterday.
Sachin: Even while talking about those things I was getting emotional and if you watch the movie carefully you will know.
What kind of movies do you watch?
Sachin: I watch all sorts of movies, right from my childhood days. Obviously, in my childhood days I didn’t watch movies in English; they were very few, but Marathi and Hindi for sure. Over a period of time I started watching English flicks also. In school, we wanted to watch action movies so there was ‘Top Gun’... but we didn’t watch serious movies and drama in those days, so I enjoy everything. In fact we still get friends together and watch old Marathi movies and laugh our hearts out. We are in fact planning to watch the Marathi films Ashi Hi Banwa Banwi and Thartharat in the next few days.
Any plans to watch the film with your childhood coach Ramakant Achrekar sir?
Sachin: Not yet, but he is coming tomorrow [May 24] with the Indian team. Sir is coming; it cannot happen without him.
Do you think anything was missed in the movie?
Sachin: They got 10,000 hours of footage and I really admire their skills because it is difficult to make sense of over 35 years and squeeze that into two hours and 17 minutes.
Erskine: You can never make a perfect film, especially about Sachin. You can only do your best. You strive for perfection like a perfect innings but there are always going to bits that…
Did you have a say in the choice of actors?
Sachin: Absolutely not. They had taken over everything. I said then that this is the first innings that I played and you need to play the second innings.
Erskine: There was no control from Sachin. He allowed me to make the film. He didn’t ask me we need to talk about this or I need to see this... none of that. There was only a positive journey together to try and make the best film possible. It was a difficult film to make because so many people are emotionally connected.
Did you speak to those kids (actors)?
Sachin: They had spoken to me to get a sense of what I was like. My brother helped out a lot and for everyone’s knowledge, the film was shot in my house, not in my studio. So, what you see about five-year-old Sachin was shot in my house, my flat in Bandra Sahitya Sahawas and where you see Ajit trying to teach me how to play is the actual ground that I grew playing up on. Everything is as real as it can get. The only thing is I can’t go back to being a five-year-old that was something we had to manage.
How much of your personal life is in the film?
Sachin: There are my family members talking, my wife is talking and you will also see a lot of personal things. When you leave the theatre you will say ‘I never expected these things.’
Do you still go to the back to your old childhood haunts?
Sachin: I used to. In the recent past I have not had time, but I used to go there and play table tennis and all that with my friends but now they come over. So, we are in touch, we end up meeting here and there but mostly at my place. I was there literally three weeks ago.
Did you ever get carried away when fame arrived?
Sachin: Early on in my life when I started to play for India I clearly remember that my father had a nice way of putting things to me. The message he gave me was everything in life is temporary. At that time nobody knew that my career would last for 24 years. So, he said this is literally one part of your life, plenty has happened and plenty more will happen after your cricketing days. He said it is easy to get carried away because ‘I can understand you are only 16 and so many things have happened and your final destination was playing cricket for India but to me, your journey has just begun’, he said. ‘You have just opened a door now and now people will see what you will do. So think that this is your start and not your end and that is up to you. Firstly, try and be a nice person; then next respect what you have been given and worship that and don’t find- and I tried to do that. He said try to be a nice human being because [only then] even after your cricketing days people will like you and I want people to say that and I want people to want you. People should not say that when is he leaving the room rather than they should say that how long can he stay and that is only because of the person that you are.
Erskine: The footage of his father in the film is the only footage that exists of his father and that has never been seen. The film is about a father and son and it also about Sachin as a father, husband and brother but it is very much shaped around the period of being a son and a period of being a father. Even in the music Rahman had his own son sing. Even he was conscious that we wanted to put this what life is really about.
As a player you have been followed minutely. But in the movie there are many personal elements also. How do you decide what to keep and what to showcase?
Sachin: It boils down to comfort level, because I am a private person, and here my family is also involved. Recently, there was a funny incident. My sister was invited to come on a TV show with me, but she refused saying that she can move around town without being recognised, but once she goes on TV things will be different. So I told her, wait until the movie is out. As a family we have always chosen to stay away from the limelight. They are comfortable where they are. For all of them, the greater satisfaction is to see a smile on my face, and to see me do something good. It’s not been easy on them. I have been walking out alone, but they are all with me, always.
Has it been tougher for your children growing up, knowing that they are Sachin Tendulkar’s children?
Sachin: It has been challenging, without any doubt, when people are constantly focusing on you and analysing everything that you do. My childhood wasn’t like that and neither was yours. We have all had our freedom and that is the best thing in life, which is why when you felicitated me, I said give them their space. Arjun plays cricket, which is also why I told all of you, let your articles follow his performance, and let it not be the other way around.
Is it challenging for you as a father, considering you are a cricketer?
Sachin: There is a different kind of pressure on Arjun, and people sometimes want to take pictures with him. He is also like me, rather shy and private, and I have explained to him that this is all out of love. I have also given him the same message that my father gave me. Try your best in life, and you have all the freedom to be whatever you want to be, but you must be a nice person.
What was your children’s reaction when they saw the film which captures your early life?
Sachin: Life has sort of come a full circle. When they were children and had time, I wasn’t able to give them much time and now when I have all the time in the world, our calendars don’t match because they have classes and lectures that they can’t skip. But they saw the movie, and they gave a green signal for the film. For the whole world, I am a cricketer but for them, I am their father first. So it was important how they reacted to the film, and when they gave a positive reaction, I realised James has done a good job.
It must be a very emotional experience for you to watch the film.
Sachin: Yes it is, for the first three-four times I was very emotional when seeing it, but I kept it all in.
Is the movie releasing in Pakistan?
Sachin: I will have to check with the distributors and come back on that, because I’m unsure about the latest developments.
There is early footage of you being interviewed by Tom Alter. Were you nervous because that was your first interview?
Sachin: Not much has changed. I am still nervous about interviews. It was something new for me then. I wasn’t used to any of this. This interview was immediately after I was invited to the nets at the Indian cricket team to bat against the likes of Kapil Dev... Vengsarkar sir had invited me. Then Tom had asked me about Kapil Dev. What was it like facing Kapil Dev? My answer was “he was also good”. That was my answer! Before that he had asked me if you preferred playing fast bowling or spin bowling and I said, “I like fast balling, because the ball comes directly on the bat and I can hit”. And then he followed that with the question, how was it playing Kapil Dev, so I said, “he was also good”.
Paparazzi has always followed you around. Is that a part of the movie?
Sachin: Yes, there is a small bit about fan meetings, and there this part comes in. What happens in my life off the field has been covered a little there.
What did you tell Virat during the World Cup final when you were walking out of the stadium?
Sachin: I told Virat that the ball is still swinging, because there was dew and the ball had kind of stopped swinging in between but that ball swung. It’s why I wanted to warn him that the ball is still swinging.
Before your Pakistan tour in 1989, I read an interview where you say that you were disappointed that you weren’t selected for the West Indies tour in 1989.
Sachin: Yes, I clearly remember that at Wankhede, Raj bhai (Raj Singh Dungarpur) had come over. He was the chairman of the selection committee at that time. This was during semi-finals of Ranji Trophy and we were playing Delhi, and I was having a net session in the morning. I clearly remember Raj bhai walking up to me in the morning and saying, “Sachin, after this Ranji Trophy you focus on your SSC exams. You will play for India, but you are not going to West Indies”. Raj bhai has always been extremely supportive, and I remember during my first tour of England, with Kailash Gattani and Star Cricket Club, Raj bhai was the one who brought sponsors so that I could go to England. It was difficult at that stage. He felt that I should go because England would teach me a lot... about the conditions and all that. He has played a huge role in my life.
Now that you have won the World Cup, do you still regret not lifting it in 2003?
Sachin: 2003? Why not 1996? Whenever you go out to participate in any tournament, especially at the world stage, you want to make sure that you lift the trophy. Sometimes you are able to do it. In fact, very few teams have done it twice -- West Indies and Australia, and India in 2011 lifted it a second time. But I feel if we were allowed to play that match today, players will approach that game differently. We were all charged up that day, and we went out to field. Right from the first over, it was a big moment and we were all charged up. So if the same players are given another chance, they will approach the game differently mostly because of the introduction of T20. In those days, 358 looked like a Herculean task. Today it will be, but it will be closer than what it was in 2003. You still get to see people chasing 434... We have also on a number of occasions scored in excess of 300. That is because the format has changed. Rules, conditions and I feel the mindset has changed because of the introduction of T20. The calculations are different. That is why I am saying that we will approach things differently.