Filmmaker Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, who directed critically acclaimed movies ‘Rang De Basanti’ and ‘Delhi 6’, is currently busy with his upcoming movie ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’, a biopic based on life of ‘Flying Sikh’ Milkha Singh.
The director said that more than the records created by Milkha Sigh, it was the athlete’s ‘undying spirit’ that inspired him to make the movie.
“This is not a historical or a biopic in the sense that he was born here, he lived here and he married here. What really intrigued me was his undying spirit," Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra told IANS in an interview.
“This boy, who came from a village and was an orphan at 11, actually witnessed the massacre of his family members, including his brothers and sisters. He picked a knife to survive at 11. He spent time in (Delhi's) Tihar Jail before he joined the army,” he said further.
“He wanted respect and to be a human being against all odds. That's what a wonderful human being he is, and that's what got me into the movie, not the records he made. ‘Bhaag Milkha Bhaag’ is not about the athlete, it is about the spirit, and its interpretation," he added.
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra denied that he makes movies to inspire people.
“Films are not meant to inspire. It is a happy accident if it inspires - at best! How do you make an inspiring film, I don't know!” he said.
The director admitted that this movie has been his ‘most challenging’ of all his movies. He said that he spent nearly 2 years talking to Milkha Singh and learning everything about him.
“He has been very kind. He (almost) adopted me for two years; so I lived in Chandigarh. I got to know him better and entered the dark corners which he had kept close even to his dear ones, children and wife. Prasoon Joshi wrote the script. I feel incredibly lucky to speak to the person about himself,” he said.
“It was like making a film on Mahatma Gandhi and speaking to him. Though Milkha Singh is not as universal as Gandhi, he is definitely Bharat Ratna material, I would say,” he added.
The director was happy to get a free hand from his co-producers Viacom18 Motion Pictures to mount the film on the scale he wanted to - in a "so-called high budget.”
“I could have easily spent five times more, especially when I was making a film showing the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games! I had to rely on creativity to express it all in a budget, but having said that, in the current Indian scenario where budgets stand, I have been very lucky," he said.
“My co-producers Viacom have not just given me resources in the current market situation; they re-assessed and increased the resources by 30 percent when they saw the film's rushes. They said, 'We never thought this is the way you would mount it'. So it is fantastic to see that change is happening," he concluded.
The movie stars Farhan Akhtar as Milkha Singh, while Sonam Kapoor plays the female lead.
The movie is scheduled to release in July this year.