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Prasoon Joshi remembers Milkha Singh: It is a huge personal loss for me

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag writer Prasoon Joshi says not just Milkha Singh, he was also close to his Nirmal Kaur, who had passed away five days ago due to Covid.
By Juhi Chakraborty
UPDATED ON JUN 19, 2021 12:11 PM IST
Writer Prasoon Joshi has fond memories of working with Milkha Singh while writing his biopic, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.

As the writer of the biopic on Milkha Singh, Prasoon Joshi has fond memories of working with him for more than two years while scripting the story of his life for Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra-directed Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), in which Farhan Akhtar played the titular role.

The legendary athlete died on Friday night with Covid-19 related issues in a Chandigarh hospital. He was 91.

“It is a personal loss for me. Also professionally, one of the pieces of work I am very fond of is Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. I consider myself fortunate that I could explore his life and his entire journey and revisit those years with him during the making of the film,” Joshi shares, while adding that they kept in touch till the very end.

“We would speak on phone regularly. I always found him so inspirational. Whenever I would call him, he would always have something positive to say which used to fill me with energy. It is sad that I will not feel that way again,” Joshi says.

The writer says not just Milkha Singh, he was also close to his wife, Nirmal Kaur, who had passed away on June 13 from Covid.

Prasoon Joshi with Milkha Singh and his wife, Nirmal Kaur.

“It just happened that just two months back, he was in Delhi and I spent a lot of time with him and his wife, Nirmal ji. I was fond of them both. I chatted with them for hours. He was 91 but he was still looking forward to life. He was talking about Fauja Singh (British marathon runner) who is 110. Both of them looked forward to live and enjoy life more. I can’t imagine that they left us so early,” Joshi laments.

Talking about how he kept in touch with Jeev Milkha Singh for updates about his father’s health, the 49-year-old says, “I have been close to all his children. I spoke with Jeev and he told me that his heart was fighting till the very end. He had an athlete’s heart. Milkha ji was an absolute fighter,” he adds.

Reminiscing the times he spent with Milkha Singh during the making of the film, Joshi says, “It took me two years to finish the script. I used to visit his house in Chandigarh and spent hours chatting with him. I used to make him remember so many things which probably he would not have even thought about for such a long time. I made him revisit his whole life. I probably sometimes made him uncomfortable with the questions but he explored life with me. After the film released, he was very happy with it.”

Despite the massive loss, Joshi wants to remember Milkha Singh as the person who had the ‘Never Say Die’ attitude towards life, something that the entire team of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag also thinks according to him.

“What epitomizes him for me is the song I wrote in the film, Zinda, hain toh, pyala, poora bhar le. That is what describes him the best. Every song captures various aspect of his life. He was a layered personality. He was a die heart romantic at heart which I captured in the songs Mera Yaar and O Rangrez. Then Tu Bhaag Milkha captures another side and then the dialogues too describe his spirit the best,” Joshi concludes.

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