The man behind the batsman
Director James Erskine says that Sachin: A Billion Dreams will show the world the Sachin they have all wished they could know
James Erskine finds Sachin Tendulkar incredible and is grateful to have got an opportunity to make a film on the legendary cricketer. “You can never make a perfect film. But in this case, I’ve given my best. It’s quite similar to how you sometimes have a perfect innings,” he says. The director is also excited about all the footage that Tendulkar’s family has shared with him. One in particular—on Sachin’s father—has never been seen before, he says. “The film is about Sachin, the father, the husband and the brother. AR Rahman was also quite conscious on how to convey this in the film.” The title was decided after a contest was conducted. “This was the name that finally was chosen. I thought it was quite compelling for the film, as it revolves around a man and his dreams. He’s also the dream player of one billion people.” Erskine has tried tell the story of a man who’s “influential and inspirational” in his field. “It’s not only about his cricketing exploits. There are other chapters in his life that we have tried to show to everyone.” Given that this is among the very few Indian documentary-style sports films, was there pressure? “People are getting to understand this genre better across the globe. Sports is something that everybody connects with.” The film comes hot on the heels of last year’s biopic on another cricketer, MS Dhoni. Does Erskine compare? “Sachin is an iconic figure, and a person many people have never really known. The film provides a lot of insight into the man behind the batsman. And so, we get all these perspectives in the film. All the elements make a mosaic. Would it change cinema? I don’t know. But we wanted to make a movie showing people close to the hero.” Sachin never interfered in the making of the film, says Erskine. “He let me be. There was only a positive journey together and we’ve made the best film possible. It was a difficult film as many people are emotionally connected with him.” Sachin: A Billion Dreams has a compelling narrative, he says. “It is an emotional journey and we wanted the emotions to be at the heart of the story. We dovetailed between the great sporting moments and behind-the-scenes events. Imagine if you could follow him into the dressing room, into his home to see the real Sachin Tendulkar.” Erskine feels sports as a culture is underappreciated, and says it’s among the very few things that unite people. “You will surely see more collaborations between sportspersons and filmmakers as people come to appreciate this genre.” The film has been co-written by Sivakumar Ananth, who’s known for his longstanding association with Mani Ratnam. Erskine says Ananth’s insights gave a great perspective that blended well with his own vision. On one beach sequence that was shot in Goa, he says the team just had 15 minutes to get a great shot of Sachin in the environs. “It was shot like a moment where he reflects on his life, and it has come out beautifully,” he recalls. I ask if Erskine thinks that a sequel would have been better, as it may have been difficult to cram the highlights of Sachin’s life into one film. “Well, we have tried to make a unique film, and bring in all these dramatisations, animations, and real footage. Combining everything was a real challenge.” What’s next? “I haven’t decided on the path ahead yet. It has been extremely rewarding and a learning experience to work with Sachin. I’m living in the moment and savouring every moment.” The film will be released in Hinglish, Hindi and Marathi with Sachin dubbing in each of these languages. It has also been dubbed in Tamil and Telugu.