Sachin: A Billion Dreams, the ‘authorised’ bio-pic of Sachin Tendulkar gives us exactly what it promises: a glowing portrait of a sports star and a legend-in-his-lifetime, whose fortunes are connected to a billion dreams, hopes and aspirations of cricket-mad India. What you get in the 2 hours 20 minute docu-feature is Everything You Knew About Sachin Because You Didn’t Need To Ask, because practically everything he’s done on-field since he was 16 has been chronicled by breathless commentators around the world. You wish in vain for more colourful, complex off-the-field stuff, but this is not that kind of film.
There are some moments — the ones Tendulkar shares with his parents and elder brother, his demanding coach, his wife and children, the letting-down-his-hair time with his friends — you may not have seen before. But just as you begin to smile when you hear him speaking in Marathi, or listen to wife Anjali saying that her husband loved spending all his free time with the kids, but declared he ‘wouldn’t change nappies’, and settle down for some more intimate revelations, the film is back to being safe and reverential as it takes us through Sachin’s journey, in a decidedly linear fashion, from childhood to his ‘finest hour’, when he won the World Cup in 2011, in Mumbai, at the Wankhede stadium.
To expect any snark or nosedigs from a film like this, whose sole purpose is to stay fully worshipful as it catches fans (including Amitabh Bachchan and Aamir Khan) saying worshipful things about him would be asking for the impossible. Sachin: A Billion Dreams has clearly been mediated by Sachin himself: the choice of what is personal and what is public has been carefully sifted, ignoring dressing-room politics (an askance Azharuddin glance at the rising star at a moment when Sachin is appointed captain is there, but it’s just a flash). Also left out are meaningful details of the controversial, ugly aspects of the game, especially when the match-fixing scandal broke and nearly broke its back. And to even expect a mention of a custom-fee-waived Ferrari ‘ki sawaari’ would be silly.
Having said that, Erskine takes all-too familiar material and makes of it an engrossing film, for both fans who may claim to know more about him than he himself, as well as those who may not live and breathe Sachin. It glides seamlessly from one big ticket event in Sachin’s life to another — the lucking into Achrekar Sir, his coach, the moment he saw Anjali for the first time, the time he held his newborn first, the losing and gaining of the captainship of the Indian time, the vocal disappointment after big losses, and a vital look at the blood and sweat that goes into the making of a successful sports star.
But the failures are all glossed over, and his big wins are presented as India’s wins. ‘When Sachin is quiet, India is quiet’, declares another cricketing star in the film. And when he hits a ton, a double ton, a four, a six, the nation erupts, as did most viewers during the first day first show.
For a movie made as a fulsome tribute, the challenge is always going to be to keep someone who is not bananas about the game (which includes your faithful critic) to stay with the film: I did, and enjoyed almost every minute of it, cheering at the World Cup win, blinking back tears at Sachin’s farewell speech, even while asking for more.