Scene One : October last year, Chandigarh airport, India.
As me and my 20-year old son waited for our flight, Milkha Singh (of Bhag Milkha Bhag ‘fame’) was spotted at the check-in desk and even as many rushed to shake his hand and pose for pictures, my son, who prides himself being from the new, cricket-mad generation, said he was not interested.
“Why Milkha,” he asked? “What has he done?”
Sure, he was not Sachin Tendulkar, or Kapil Dev, or even the present-day heroes Dhoni and Pujara, but he was Milkha Singh – India’s first-ever global hero. Only a few have come close to him in stature but, no, this 20-year old was “not interested”.
I pity him. He missed out on one golden opportunity. Maybe some of the man’s greatness would have rubbed up on him. But it was not to be.
Scene Two : Bahrain, this evening
My teenaged daughter came home all excited and upbeat after having watched the film on the legend – and said she would want to meet the great man who brought so much joy and pride to Indians. True, he missed an Olympic medal at Rome by a whisker but he was the real hero. He was an icon for a nation that was just emerging from a bloody divide and coming on to its own.
Farhan Akhtar has done a commendable job playing Milkha and Milkha himself has said that. It’s a true portrayal of his life, complete with the tragedies, the loves, the ups, the downs and struggles he had to go through.
I believe any youngster who has watched this film would want to try to emulate the great Flying Sikh as he was called and stop, for a moment, worshipping cricketers. It can be argued cricket has brought some sort of ‘glory’ to India but so has it brought fixing scandals, cheating and big money, coupled with corruption.
One look at what the recent, and earlier, Indian Premier Leagues have thrown up, what the Board of Control for Cricket in India is now going through and how senior players refuse to hang up their boots and have to be thrown out, prove beyond doubt what I mean.
But who will tell this to the present generation? If someone is to be worshipped, it should be Milkha, hockey legends Dhyan Chand and Balbir Singh, even P T Usha and Vishvanathan Anand. And what about the prodigal Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, who excelled in the gentleman’s game cricket once was even after being blinded in one eye?
It seems the present generation, and it is a sad commentary on the future of the nation, is only interested in fixers, cheats and scamsters who are interested in inflating further their egos, never mind the harm they are doing.
Three cheers to the film producers for at least trying to drive the message across. Leave the rest to destiny.