From son of truck driver to getting National Award-winning biopic, the story of Harjeet Singh
The biopic ‘Harjeeta’ -- based on Harjeet’s life’s early struggles -- had won a National Award for Best Punjabi Film.Updated: Aug 09, 2019 23:18 IST
Harjeet Singh, the most recent captain to win the FIH Junior World Cup in 2016, was flooded with phone calls on Friday. The messages were congratulatory in nature and they should have made Harjeet proud and happy. For, the biopic ‘Harjeeta’ -- based on his life’s early struggles and his incredible journey from being born to a truck driver in rural Punjab to leading India to its only hockey World Cup at any level in 15 years -- had won a National Award for Best Punjabi Film.
But on Friday, the phone calls had a bittersweet effect on the 23-year old. While he was thrilled that the film had gained the highest recognition, it also reminded him of the nation’s expectations from him in 2016 and how that great potential has remained unfulfilled in 2019.
“Thanks to the National Award, I once again got some attention today,” says Harjeet, speaking to Hindustan Times over the phone from Bengaluru, where he is currently playing a tournament. “But I wish that I soon get recognition for how I play hockey once again.”
When he was a teenager -- and before he found graduating to the senior-level a little tougher than most other prodigies -- Harjeet was widely seen as the next big thing of the sport. And the photograph of him cuddling the golden Junior World Cup trophy in bed was such a powerful image that the film Harjeeta recreated it as their poster, with actor Ammy Virk playing the young star.
But between the film’s release and the National Award, the real-life Harjeet stagnated. And so did his dream of making the senior national team, which seemed a mere formality during his days as a junior. This April, he did make the long-list of the national camp. But when that list was culled from 60 to 33, Harjeet was one of those who packed his bags and left for home.
“What is funny is that success that I thought I would always get in hockey has gone to the film based on me. I was so thrilled when the director of the film (Vijay Kumar Arora) told me we won. But I am yet to win in real life and my dream of making the Indian team continues,” says Harjeet. “But I have also learned to embrace this struggle because nothing in life has ever come easy.”
As a step in the right direction, Harjeet has signed up with the Dutch club HGC for the 2019-20 season, the rigours of which should make him physically and mentally tougher. But while he is excited about rubbing shoulders with the best in the business and growing his game, the unfulfilled ambition of playing for India was at the top of his mind on Friday.
“I often wonder why I couldn’t make the jump from the junior level to the senior level, when a few players from the World Cup winning team did manage to do it quickly,” he says. “But I never lose sight of that dream. And today’s National Award for the film reminded me once to work hard and make that dream a reality.”