“I Am Grateful For Having Those Shoes”, Farhan Akhtar Remembers Flying Sikh
It was in 2013 Om Prakash Mehra, Prasoon Joshi and Farhan Akhtar came out with the film, a biopic about the Flying Sikh, Milkha Singh, titled, “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”. And now the nation mourns for the demise of the legendary sportsman. Farhan Akhtar, who handled the role with ease remembers, “He gifted me those shoes which he wore during that legendary race at the 1960 Rome Olympics as a good-luck gesture for the film. And it will remain always a priceless gift to me from Milkha Ji. I am just very grateful that I have those shoes. I will always treasure them.”
How the film took shape
Growing up in Delhi, Om Prakash Mehra was familiar with anecdotes from the life of Milkha Singh, the ace runner popular as “Flying Sikh”. He used to visit the National Stadium, Delhi for swimming, where Singh also came from his practice. Gradually, he came to know the details regarding his early life, including how he witnessed his entire family being killed during the partition and travelled alone to Delhi as a refugee. Mehra started developing the project as a personal story rather than a sports film, taking the theme of “zindagi se bhago nahin, zindagi ke saath bhago”, depicting his life from 13 to 28 years.
For research, Om Prakash Mehra visited Chandigarh several times, where he talked for hours with Singh. Jeev Milkha Singh, the son of Milkha Singh and a notable golfer, arranged his meetings with the family members. Milkha Singh refused a large offer for allowing his story to be adapted and charged a token amount of as he believed if the film could “inspire our young people and result in India’s first Olympic track gold, that would be an ideal reward enough for him.” It took the next two and half years to write the story. As Mehra puts it, “it is not a sports film, but a film about the human spirit”.
Remembering A Legend
Farhan Akhtar said after the film release was a success about the Flying Sikh is being very happy with his biopic and his portrayal. “I do think that he was very happy with the film that was made. The sweetest thing he said to me after watching it was, ‘You know Farhan, after this film, you’ve added 10 years to my life’. That really stayed with me,” recalled Farhan. As Farhan recollects, “Every time anyone thinks of Milkhaji, they are going to think of somebody who fought all odds to achieve what he did. He somehow gives you the feeling that things are possible if you truly believe in yourself. And, if you are willing to work hard. I think that’s his legacy.”