NOVEMBER 15, 1989. That was the day India and the rest of the cricket-playing world was introduced to a 16-year-old prodigy from Mumbai.
For almost a quarter-century after that India vs Pakistan Test match in Karachi, Sachin Tendulkar thrilled cricket fans around the world. And he remains one of the biggest sporting icons in the world.
He has been extensively written and talked about over the years but the 44-year-old promises that Sachin: A Billion Dreams will reveal a lot that fans don’t know about him.
The biopic on the life of the Master Blaster combines real-life footage from matches and home videos with recreated scenes to trace his life story.
The film, four years in the making, is produced by Ravi Bhagchandka (of 200 Not Out Productions) and Shrikant Bhasi (of Carnival Pictures) and directed by James Erskine.
tabla! met Sachin and Ravi in a sea-facing suite at the Taj Land’s Hotel, a stone’s throw from the legend’s home in Bandra, Mumbai. Dressed in a fuschia button-down and jeans, Sachin asked for a filter coffee before the interview started.
It was Ravi who came up with the idea of a biopic.
“I used to play a little cricket and we would watch sports films based on the lives of (Mohammad) Ali, (Ayrton) Senna and (Michael) Jordan. I thought that we needed an Indian story told in a similar manner. (Sachin) is to cricket what Ali is to boxing or Jordan to basketball.
So, I got in touch with him and decided to push him to do this. It’s a story that will inspire people for years to come. People will know what he did for his country and what he means for all of us,” said Ravi.
It took Ravi almost six months of daily persuasion to finally get Sachin to agree.
“I am a very private person so I wasn’t very comfortable that private moments that happened within the family would be out in a public space,” Sachin said.
“The first thing I asked him (Ravi) was: ‘Do I need to act?’ Thankfully, he said no. I was okay with that. We felt that the fans would want to know more than just what happened on the field in the last 25 years. So, we had to decide on which private family moments we were okay with sharing.”
In the film, the Little Master promises “really, really private and precious moments that have never been seen by anyone outside the family”. So, the decision to share them had to be taken by the family as a whole.
“Those moments belonged to the whole family and everyone’s opinion mattered,” he said.
One moment that made it to the film and is special to Ravi was when Team India won the cricket World Cup in 2011.
“We’ve all seen Sachin the cricketer. In the film, we are trying to show the human side of him. I feel like his fans would want to see the family moments with his wife, mother or brother.
We’ve shot with all his friends. So, I feel like we’ve been able to pick important moments from his life. The World Cup win also ties the whole film together,” explained Ravi.
For Sachin, watching his life on the big screen was very emotional.
“I never thought I would see my life on screen one day. To be able to re-live those moments, it touches your heart. To give you an example, to watch the reaction of the entire nation when we won the World Cup was something else.
We were in the middle of the action so we didn’t see what was happening around us. We were in a different world that time. And, then you step aside and you watch the reactions on a big screen and you go ‘Wow’!”
Sachin retired from cricket about four years ago on Nov 16, 2013.
“I played for 24 years and the kind of retirement I had was truly special. You can’t plan these things. You can’t get 30,000 people to come to (Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai) and cry for you. It was truly special.
That happens only when they care for you. I am in the fortunate position to experience so much love and affection over the years. I will always be thankful to all the people who supported me. If not for all the support I had, it would have been impossible for me to continue for so long.”
Wankhede Stadium was the venue for another memorable moment last month.
On his 44th birthday during a Mumbai Indians and Pune Supergiant IPL match, the whole stadium sang Happy Birthday to Sachin.
“That came as a big surprise. They told me they’ll have a small cake for me to cut. I was not prepared for the whole stadium to sing for me.
They switched on the torch on their phones so the whole stadium was lit up. It was an unforgettable moment. If you saw the video, you could have seen that I was covering my face. I was quite embarrassed.”
Sachin continues to be a part of the Mumbai Indians’ dugout. He even has the special title of Icon.
“There is a good relationship with the family – Mrs & Mr Mukesh Ambani (owners of the franchise). I have always been a part of Mumbai Indians and I am a Mumbaikar.
So, it’s nice to be there. I get to see some amazing batting and bowling. As the time goes by, players are getting more and more innovative. Possibly a decade from now, a 200 plus score would be normal (in T-20 matches).”
Now that he does not play competitive sport, Sachin has started playing badminton to keep fit and spend time with his friends.
“I enjoy playing badminton with my friends. Friends who I couldn’t catch up with on a regular basis, I would meet to play lots and lots badminton with. It has also helped me stay fit.
One of the first things that happens after you retire is that you go completely out of shape. I know that I can’t have the same level of fitness as when I was playing but it is always nice to engage in some sport. Getting together with my friends and reminiscing about the years gone by is priceless.”
In a little more than two decades, Sachin achieved more than most do in a lifetime so it’s not surprising that he doesn’t have any specific personal goals for the coming years.
“I just want to continue doing what I am doing. After all these years of chasing a dream (of lifting the World Cup for India), it’s nice to just chill,” he says, flashing his trademark smile.