Farewell Milkha Singh- the Flying Sikh

Actors Divya Dutta, Dalip Tahil and Pavan Malhotra and music director Shankar Mahadevan, reminisce about the legendary sportsman during the making of the film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
Former Indian athletics Milkha Singh at an event. (Praful Gangurde)
Former Indian athletics Milkha Singh at an event. (Praful Gangurde)
Updated on Jun 19, 2021 06:04 PM IST
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The Flying Sikh, the man who inspired generations to run and never give up is no more. The legendary Indian track and field sprinter, Milkha Singh, a name synonymous with speed, passed away of post Covid-19 related complications at 91.

Farhan Akhtar starred as Milkha, in the biographical sports drama, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMB; 2013). The film directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra was well received at the box office.

Music composers Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy composed music for the film and Shankar Mahadevan recalls meeting Singh, he says, “I met him at the Delhi airport, he was walking with us as we were on the same flight. There was this whole battalion of soldiers who were sitting, waiting to catch another flight. The minute they saw him, the kind of respect they gave him, by standing up and saluting him, it was unbelievable. It is so amazing that today’s generation came to know about him and what he has done. He has been an inspiration to every person, on never losing hope once you have set your mind on anything. He was a simple man, my interaction with him was short. He loved the film and the music and gave us a lot of love.”

Divya Dutta, who played Milkha’s sister in the film too has fond memories of meeting the icon. “My first memory of meeting Milkha ji was at Rakeysh’s office, he had organized a meeting between me, him and Farhan (Akhtar). I was trying to understand his relation with his sister, Farhan was taking details about what he needed to know, and the way Milkha ji was enjoying it, in a child like manner, reminiscing his days getting emotional. It’s nice when you have the legend right next to you narrating his story, then watching the film too! He gave me feedback after the film, hugged us. I went to his house in Chandigarh too a couple of times for a chit chat. I met his wife, Nirmal ji too, so exuberant. It’s the end of an era for sure.”

Dalip Tahil, who played Jawaharlal Nehru’s role in BMB, says, The news was very sad because his wife was also passed away five days ago, and then to hear about Milkha ji. I had the privilege of meeting him, because when Rakeysh ji called me for the role, my preparation had begun. Towards the end, I requested him that the only person among us who had met Nehru ji was Milkha ji himself. Before starting shoot in Delhi for my sequences, I went to meet him. My timing to meet him was 11 am sharp, because he and his wife used to play a nine hole round of golf every morning before coming back home before 11, then they would have breakfast. On the first meeting he almost froze, he said you resemble Pandit Nehru so much I feel like meeting him all over again. Then began a discussion till late evening, whereas it was supposed to be for just an hour. Slowly he began to open up His life was full of so much adversities, and from there he rose to every challenge. If there was ever a phenomenon who showed triumph of human spirit, it was him.”

Pavan Malhotra, who played Milkha’s coach in the film, feels honoured to be a part of a film that documented his life. He shares, “Milkha Singh led a healthy life till his last breathe. He set an example for not only sports persons but also for every common citizen. He never gave up. He always strove to stay fit. I remember reading one of his recent interviews where he mentioned that never in his life had he taken a medicine for headache. I remember meeting him in Mumbai at a restaurant before we started shooting for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. He came across as a warm and gentle person almost like a father figure. I wanted to know how his coach was and he explained everything so calmly. Despite all his achievements for the country, he was such a down to earth person. I feel honoured to be a part of a film that documented his life.”

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Saturday, December 04, 2021