"I grew up listening to stories of the legendary Milkha Singh," begins Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra about the Indian athlete who represented the country in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, and on whom Rakeysh is making a biopic.
At Post Graduate Government College for Girls, Sector 11, Chandigarh, Rakeysh and Farhan Akhtar were present along with 'Flying Sikh' Milkha Singh, his wife and son Jeev Milkha Singh to talk about the film.
Talking about the movie, Rakeysh, who was also a sportsperson in college, recalls stories from his childhood when Milkha Singh's name was used as a means of encouragement by the former's sports coach. "Milkha Singh used to practice until he fainted on the field. I became acquainted with this and many other facts during my childhood," he says.
His movie, the script for which was brought to him by Milkha's son Jeev, will be called Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and goes on the floors in a few days. Rakeysh says he feels fortunate to have been given a chance to direct a film on the famous sportsman. At this, Jeev Milkha Singh, a renowned golfer, adds, "I watch Hindi movies more than sports events.
So, the moment I saw Rang De Basanti, I decided that Rakeysh would be the director of a film based on my father and his achievements."
Interestingly, the lead character is being played by actor-director Farhan Akhtar, who Rakeysh says he chose because of his 'versatile personality'. "Not everyone is capable of stepping in the shoes of the legend on screen. Farhan is an amazing actor. But that's not why I chose him. There is a lot more to him. I think there is just one word that explains my choices - intuition," the director adds.
Such was Rakeysh's fascination for Milkha, that along with filmmakers Viacom 18, he bid successfully for the shoes that Milkha wore at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, buying them for R24 lakh.
Laughs the director, "His shoes were priceless for me. Had I not been able to buy them, I would have stolen them."
However, in a rare gesture of benevolence, Milkha gifted his running spikes to actor Farhan Akhtar, saying he felt privileged in doing so. To Farhan's fortune, Rakeysh and Viacom 18 don't mind it either, since the shoes were 'staying in the family after all'.
The film, that sources claim will also be shot in Pakistan, has witnessed some delays. But Rakeysh clarifies that was because it required research and justice, and adds as an afterthought, "I wish I had five more years to work on it."
As a parting shot, Milkha laughingly reveals, "I took R1 for my biopic," and thereafter gets set to walk on the college's running track with the film's team.