Sachin: A Billion Dreams is a docudrama-biographical film directed by James Erskine. The film is based on the life of Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and spans a period from his childhood to him lifting the world cup in 2011. I have been an ardent cricket fan till 2009 to say the very least. Post that, something broke inside me as far as cricket was concerned. Amidst hue and cry of match fixing, poor performances of my country and a surging interest in cinema led to me cutting away from cricket.

But every time I sat to watch a match, my attention was transfixed on this man. If Sachin was there, we had a hope of winning. Such was the hold of this man and he has had that effect not only on Indians but his adversaries as well. Hence when a film came out that chronicled the larger than life journey of one of the greatest heroes of the country it quipped my interest in it. But for some reason or the other, I couldn’t watch the film in theaters. I had to wait for it to come out on digital TV to finally watch it. One of the advantages of it was the fact that I could watch it multiple times and that I believe is the only way this exhaustive film could be enjoyed and absorbed completely. Multiple views are a must.

The film starts with a young Sachin who is a bundle of energy and is extremely naughty. He is having a ball playing pranks with his friends and neighbors when he receives a cricket bat as a gift from his sister and then something magical happens. The story takes us through his formative years under the guidance of Ramakant Archarekar who took a piece of timber and carved a statue of composure, power, style, and enigma out of it. The story then takes us to his debut, his meeting the love of his life and his subsequent marriage, his becoming the captain at the age of 23 years, his tragic loss of his father during a world cup and then finally him winning the world cup in 2011.

The film is so packed with content and tit bits that you cannot help but feel a tad bit over whelmed by it. This is a documentary that is well over 2 hours in length and not even a single second of those 2 hours plus runtime is wasted idly. The story moves from one focus point to the other at the blink of an eye and you cannot help but be sucked into the drama and intrigue that came with the game of cricket in those days.

I just loved the way the metamorphosis of the character was brought out. Unlike the fictional film M.S. Dhoni that came out last year and felt fake, preachy and draggy without a single credible moment, Sachin: a Billion Dreams is all about credibility. It is presented by the master blaster himself and in his expression, you can possibly re-live some of the moments (sad and happy) which we were also a part of. I remember the ton that he against Kenya in the 1999 world cup after he came from his father’s funeral. I remember the two times he was made the captain and we all felt that his batting suffered because of the added responsibility. And more than anything I remember the ton he hit against Australia in Sharjah dispatching the likes of Warne, Michael Kasprowicz and Damien Flemings with clinical ease.

This is what Sachin: a Billion Dreams does best for us. It brings back fond memories and presents them in the most interesting and intriguing manner possible. There are multiple voice-over accounts from stalwarts like Wasim Akram, Abdul Qadir, Ravi Shastri, Shane Warne which gives the film a revered status and also helps us to dwell deeper into the psyche of the moments that we had already experienced. It helps us to understand what was at stakes in those moments and hence increases their value and appeal.

In the midst of it all, we have the animated Navjot Singh Sidhu telling his favorite Sachin Tendulkar story wherein he is hit by a bouncer from Waqar Younis and is bleeding profusely but still refuses to be evacuated and tells “Mai Khelega”. What I missed in this was the pools of blood that Sidhu saw flowing from Sachin’s nose. Poor camera work of those days I guess. The bit about Sachin and the love of his life is emphatically designed. I loved the amount of mush that was flowing between the two and in a film that is otherwise all cricket, this was a welcome change.

The initial parts were actors make up for the content that the Tendulkar family didn’t have on film is filmed wonderfully. The characters are as close to the real ones as is humanly possible and they do wonderful work out of their roles. The music by A.R Rahman, even though nothing close to his best is still good enough.

This was a film that was heavily dependent on how it was edited as being a documentary and about the life of a man who has been followed extensively by the media and his fans alike, there was very little footage that was not seen before. Hence it had to be cut and arranged in a manner that was interesting. Another problem was to be able to ignore the calling of incorporating a bit too much of his life and especially his exploits with the bat and ball. There is a huge amount of it that is left out and it was courageous on the part of Erskine to have been able to do so. Suffice is to say that he has successfully chosen all that was best in Sachin’s life and brought us a collection of that in a runtime of 2 hours with Sachin himself taking us through those moments.

Sachin: A Billion Dreams is a bravura achievement for Erskine. He is not only able to hit the right chords with the film but often makes us go limp in the legs. It isn’t an easy feat to achieve chronicling the life of someone so larger than life but he is successful in condensing the content dating back decades into a flawless and seamless merger of time lines. This is easily one of the best sports documentaries ever made in our country if not the world over.

 Rating : 4/5 (4 out of 5 Stars)


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