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`Bhaag Milkha Bhaag`: Scripting the amazing Milkha Singh story

Mumbai: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra is working on one of his most ambitious projects `Bhaag Milkha Bhaag` and says he wants to break linguistic barriers with the film on the greatest Indian athlete Milkha Singh so that the whole world will know his story.

"I want Milkha`s story told in Hindi-Punjabi, to be dubbed in French, Polish, etc. This would be my most ambitious project striving to break linguistic barriers. Milkha`s story has a universal resonance. It`s an Indian story but very universal. We want Milkha Singh`s story to go out to the world," Director Mehra told reporters.

"The theme is - `zindagi se bhago nahin, zindagi ke saath bhago` (don`t run away from life, run with life). It`s very relevant to today`s life."

Mehra says he hasn`t finalised any actor to play the role of the legendary runner who made history by coming fourth in the Rome Olympic Games in 1960.

Excerpts from an interview:

Q: What made you decide on a movie on Milkha Singh?

A: I was keen on doing a historical love story `Mirza Sahiban`. But the idea on Milkha Singh worked out better. Prasoon Joshi is writing it. I`ve grown up with Milkha Singh`s name. One has heard jokes about him, how he was known as the Flying Sikh, used to run barefoot, how he came from Pakistan. These were anecdotes I grew up with.

I`ve been a sportsman myself during my student days. I used to go practising in the National Stadium in Delhi for swimming every day. Milkha Singh used to practise there. Then I came to know more details about his life. How at the age of 13 he watched his whole family being massacred in undivided India. He didn`t know where to go. He somehow made his way to Delhi on refugee trains...

Q: Would all that be part of your film?

A: That`s what attracted me to the subject and not so much his athletics. Milkha Singh`s story was inspiring. The theme is - `zindagi se bhago nahin, zindagi ke saath bhago`. It`s very relevant to today`s life. This guy had nothing and still he made spectacular success of his life. His life has such a resonance.

Q: Have you met Milkha Singh?

Q: I`ve met him numerous times in Chandigarh, talked to him for hours. During our conversation, I opened doors for him that even he had closed. We got to know things even his family didn`t know. But I`d be depicting his life from age 13 to the age of 28. Milkha`s family has been very cooperative. It was Milkha Singh`s son, the champ golfer Jeev, who coordinated the whole thing.

Q: Whom are you casting?

A: No idea. We`re starting the film end of this year or early next year. Any actor would kill for the part of Milkha Singh. This kind of a subject comes to an actor once during his lifetime. Not too many people are such role models. Even my "Rang De Basanti" was a bio-pic in a very strange way. But that was set in contemporary India. "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag" goes back in time. I might cast a big star or a newcomer. Let`s see.

Q: Your films reflect socio-political reality - would your Milkha look like him?

A: The role is extremely demanding. Dramatically and psychologically more demanding than physically. The actor will have to go through a journey into darkness to emerge in the bright light. It`s a classic tale of struggle and triumph.

Q: Your films have always been musicals. What about "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag"?

A: It`s a musical. A.R. Rahman is doing the music. I`ve met him, told him the subject. It`s a completely new territory for me. Rahman has travelled many universes. I want Milkha`s story to reach every part of the world. I want Milkha`s story, told in Hindi-Punjabi, to be dubbed in French, Polish, etc.

This would be my most ambitious project striving to break linguistic barriers. Milkha`s story has a universal resonance. It`s an Indian story but very universal. We want Milkha Singh`s story to go out to the world.

IANS

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