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The chosen ones

A journey that began three years ago in Chandigarh came full circle in the same city on Thursday. The words came straight from the director’s heart, with evident efforts to conceal emotions. Just a day before the film hits theatres, the team of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMB), accompanied by living legend Milkha Singh, visited Chandigarh to warm up the audiences to their film.

brunch Updated: Jul 12, 2013 09:53 IST
Navleen Lakhi

A journey that began three years ago in Chandigarh came full circle in the same city on Thursday. The words came straight from the director’s heart, with evident efforts to conceal emotions. Just a day before the film hits theatres, the team of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMB), accompanied by living legend Milkha Singh, visited Chandigarh to warm up the audiences to their film.


The first words came from the Flying Sikh himself: “Those who belong to my generation know almost everything about me; the ones below the age of 30 are mostly unaware. I’m glad they will get to know about my journey through the film. Two days ago, I saw the film in London. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and Farhan have done such a great job with the film that I started crying in the middle of it.”

We wonder if such responsibility gave Farhan Akhtar performance jitters, to which, he says, “Fear is important — it inspires you to do better and helps you stay focused. Milkha Singh’s life teaches us the same — one should work with dedication without thinking about the results. It gives you wings, as was the case with Milkha Singh.”

Calling it his ‘life-defining role’, Farhan adds, “I have invested emotionally in the character. I don’t know if I’ll ever get the chance to play a character similar to this one, but I will take away some memories from this; they way I did with Lakshay.”

Filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra goes on to share his journey with the film, as he says, “I was always inspired by Milkha Singh’s life — a story we had grown up listening to. In Punjab, only two names echoed — Dara Singh and Milkha Singh. I once came across his autobiography, which was written in Gurmukhi. As I didn’t know Gurmukhi, producer Rajeev Tandon’s uncle read it to me. After just two pages, jaise aag lag gayi thi andar. Then, a friend arranged a meeting with Milkha ji, and we came to Chandigarh. Post it, I was sleep deprived for three months; I just wanted to make the film. It so happened that Jeev said he’d give us the rights to the story in just R1. Not that they hadn’t been approached for a movie earlier — they had been offered R50 lakh to R1.5 crore by others. Basically, I did not choose the subject for the film; Milkha ji chose me.”

The writer of the film, Prasoon Joshi, had his own battle to fight, as he says, “It’s a film that required a lot of research, compilation of raw material and thorough understanding of historical facts. Also, the film will not portray a negative image of Pakistan; it only shows how the Partition affected the mind of a child.”

Also present at the promotion was Divya Dutta, who plays Milkha’s sister in the film. About working again (after Delhi 6) with the team, she says, “Working with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra is like going to school for me. He offered me the role of Jalebi in Delhi 6 when almost everyone was offering me roles similar to the one I played in Veer Zara.”

Special screening for armed forces

While dedicating the film to the Indian Army, director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra says, “Indian Army is an imperative part of the film. When Milkha didn’t have anyone by his side, the army became his family. Some of Milkha’s early days were spent in Tihar jail, but he wanted to earn a living by working hard, he wanted to earn respect, and thus decided to join the army. After three attempts, Milkha succeeded, and it was the Indian Army that acknowledged Milkha’s caliber. Hence, the film was simultaneously screened at 125 Indian Army units on Thursday.”