Milkha Singh

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Bhaag, Milkha, Bhaag: Biopic for masses and classes


Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

Language: Hindi

Directed by:
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Produced by:
Rajiv Tandon
Raghav Bahl
Maitreyee Dasgupta
Madhav Roy Kapur
Rachvin Narula
Shyam P.S
Navmeet Singh
P. S. Bharathi

Written by:
Prasoon Joshi

Based on
The Race of My Life by Milkha Singh and Sonia Sanwalka

  • Farhan Akhtar as Subedar Milkha Singh a.k.a. The Flying Sikh
  • Japtej Singh as young Milkha
  • Divya Dutta as Isri Kaur, Milkha’s elder sister
  • Meesha Shafi as Perizaad
  • Pavan Malhotra as Hawaldar (Constable) Gurudev Singh, Milkha’s coach during his days in the Indian Army
  • Yograj Singh as Ranveer Singh, Milkha’s coach
  • Art Malik as Sampooran Singh, Milkha’s father
  • Prakash Raj as Veerapandian
  • K.K.Raina as Mr. Wadhwa
  • Rebecca Breeds as Stella
  • Dalip Tahil as Jawaharlal Nehru
  • Dev Gill as Abdul Khaliq
  • Nawab Shah as Abdul Khaliq’s coach
  • Jass Bhatia as Mahinder
  • Sonam Kapoor as Biro, Milkha’s fleeting love interest 

The movie begins with the Flying Sikh’s heart-breaking loss at the Rome Olympics in the 400 metres. Milkha Singh is far ahead of the field but turns his head to see where his rivals are and loses vital seconds. The result is a fourth place finish; yet, he too breaks the Olympic record along with the medallists.

Milkha is haunted by ghosts of his childhood past from Govindpura, in the then Punjab Province, British India—now Muzaffargarh District, Pakistan.

Milkha’s parents, a brother and two sisters were slaughtered before his eyes in the violence that ensued following the partition of British India. 

The film takes off with Milkha’s return to India and his refusal to lead a contingent of Indian athletes to Pakistan to race against Abdul Khaliq—-the fastest man in Asia.

Milkha’s back story is narrated by Pavan Malhotra as Hawaldar Gurudev Singh, Milkha’s initial coach,  and how he made the journey from a refugee camp to becoming the foremost Indian sportsperson of his generation and arguably of all time.

The movie is gripping while depicting life in a refugee camp, Milkha’s initiation into a life of petty crime but meanders in the scenes portraying his first love Biro and his moments with her.

To prove himself worthy of Biro, Milkha quits his criminal ways and joins the army.

The young Sardar starts running to gain an extra glass of milk, two eggs and to be excused from regular drill.

Milkha is soon on his way to becoming one of India’s top athletes and makes the cut for the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

There he meets and falls for Stella, played by Rebecca Breeds, the grand-daughter of his Australian technical coach. Breeds is charming, delightful and lights up the screen with her cameo.

The Games, however, are a disaster for Milkha on the field. He loses his race and vows to make good by breaking the existing world record of 45.90 seconds.

He trains hard over the next four years with unyielding determination and even rejects a romantic overture from Indian Olympic swimmer Perizaad.

Milkha takes the world by storm in the run-up to the Rome Olympics and is one the pre-Games favourites for the 400 metres.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Milkha makes the journey across the border for the Friendly Games against Pakistan after being persuaded by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

The highlight of the movie is his visit back to his village Govindpura where he exorcises demons of the past and is reunited with his boyhood friend Sampreet.

The Friendly Games race against Abdul Khaliq is a formality with Singh much too strong and powerful for his opponents.

The film ends with an adult Milkha Singh completing a victory lap visualizing his boyish self running alongside him.

Overall,  an enjoyable movie especially for sports fans and a ‘Don’t miss’ if you’re a follower of Indian athletics. 

Salman Khan does not generate enough goodwill as IOA’s brand ambassador (Updated)


English: Indian actor Salman Khan

Indian actor Salman Khan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is Salman Khan the right choice as Indian Olympic Association’s Goodwill Ambassador for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games?

The sporting fraternity is divided—-split wide open in fact.

Olympic bronze medalist at the 2012 London Games in the 60 kg freestyle wrestling category Yogeshwar Dutt condemned the move in a series of tweets.

“Can anyone tell me what’s the job of an ambassador? Why are you fooling the nation’s public?”

“You can promote your movie anywhere you like to. You have every right. But the Olympics is not the right place to do so.”

“PT Usha and Milkha Singh have served the country during difficult times. What has this ambassador done?”

“I’m a sportsperson, so I was made an ambassador. I don’t drink liquor nor smoke beedis or cigarettes. Why Salman for the Olympics?”

Milkha Singh who missed a medal by a whisker at the 1964 Rome Olympics in the 400 metres joined Dutt’s criticism saying:

“India has produced so many sportspersons who have given their sweat and blood for the country like PT Usha, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Ajit Pal and so many others. One of these could have been made a goodwill ambassador. What was the need to import a person from Bollywood?”

IOA Vice-president Tarlochan Singh defended the decision.

He said:

“When celebrities who appeal to public come forward to help naturally we get more publicity which is good for sports. Trend among the youth is that they look towards such film celebrities. If we utilise them there’s no harm. We’re getting his ( Salman Khan) help and not giving him anything. IOA is not paying him a penny.”

Sports is entertainment and sports persons are entertainers.

So why can’t entertainers be sporting ambassadors? They can attract more eyeballs and appeal to a wider demographic. Perhaps, women will take much more interest in sports now that actors such as Dharmendra, Abhishek Bacchan, John Abraham, Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and others are investing in sporting properties such as the IPL, ISL, PWL and others. Isn’t that what the IPL and Big Bash all about—an attempt to attract more women and children, making these games a family outing?

Sports other than cricket can certainly do with the boost and interest generated.

However, the timing of Salman’s appointment is suspect. The Bollywood superstar plays a wrestler in his upcoming movie Sultan. His rival Aamir Khan plays yet another in Dangal.

Was this one-upmanship on Salman’s part cocking a snook at the more thoughtful Khan?

It certainly stinks to high hell.

Salman Khan does not smell of roses given his embroilment in a hit-and-run court case despite being acquitted.

It doesn’t help that Sardar Singh and Mary Kom behaved like star-struck fans at the press conference.

Reel life imitates life—not the other way around. It’s time our sporting heroes realized that.

Pro boxer Vijender Singh disagrees:

“This isn’t about Salman bhai’s upcoming movie Sultan or its promotion. Salman does a lot of movies every year, and he doesn’t need Olympics for it. Like he himself said, he is doing it as a goodwill gesture. And I have no doubt that he is doing this for the better of Indian sports.

So all in all, I feel this is a really positive step for the future of sports in our country. I have no doubt that it will make a difference in terms of getting more people interested in Olympics sports.”

Singh is hardly the best person to comment though. The pugilist is part of Bollywood starring in the Hindi film Fugli. He probably still harbors  filmi aspirations.

English: Vijender Singh at Milind Soman's gym ...

Vijender Singh at Milind Soman’s gym opening (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the press conference, the charming Khan said:

“My heroes are Sania Mirza, Vijender Singh, Sushil Kumar in sports. I think wrestling is a very painful sport. I was shooting for my film where I shot for many wrestling sequences. I can act like I am fighting, but I cannot fight like wrestler in real life.”

Scriptwriter Salim Khan supported his son’s selection by taking to Twitter shooting out the following tweets:

(Salim Khan does make a point.

After sports persons, models and film actors are probably the fittest people in this country.

The fitness revolution in the film industry was heralded by the likes of Salman Khan and Sunjay Dutt.

Dutt took to body-building after kicking a drug habit.

The duo were a  sea change from the chocolate heroes Indian womanhood went ga-ga over. It must be said that Salman and Sunjay combined brawn and glossy looks. They are also the perennial bad boys of Bollywood.

Now it’s rare to encounter any newcomer to Bollywood  who does not boast a chiselled physique.

Abhay Deol and Ranbir Kapoor are notable exceptions.

Salman cultivates an image of a fitness icon and a hard drinker. It’s hard to reconcile the two. The man is a contradiction in terms: actor, drunk, Casanova, reckless and foolhardy, philanthropist, singer and painter.

)

Former India opener and Kolkata KnightRiders skipper Gautam Gambhir riposted:

“I heard someone saying sportsmen need publicity or sportsmen need Bollywood, but sportspersons do not need Bollywood or film industry for publicity, it is the other way round.

Movies made on sportspersons do not give them any excitement. They do the job for their country because that’s their passion and they want to do something for the country.”

“(Abhinav) Bindra would have been the ideal choice,” added Gambhir.

Pooja Bhatt too joined issue with Salim Khan about his comments on Milkha Singh and the Indian film industry.

She tweeted:

 

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