Documentary Film Review

Sachin: A Billion Dreams

In trying to capture this story, the main criticism for the film is that it is too scripted. It tries to bottle the narrative in a template structure, when none is needed in a story like Sachin’s.

I grew up in the era of Sachin. It was quite obvious that irrespective of how good or bad the film would be, goose bumps and high nostalgia were a given when watching the film.

I admired Azhar when I started watching the game. His batting was light and incredibly wristy; his strokes played with the grace and panache of a fencer.

Then Sachin came along. His batting was hard, full of spine and determination. His bat was a mace, and his stroke play had audacity and power. It was unfailing, as we would discovered over the next two decades. My fandom passed from Azhar to Rahul Dravid making a brief stop for Sachin in between, but of course he was always on the pedestal. It was India in the nineties, and Sachin was god. As I grew older, and learnt more about life, and success and failures, about disappointments and hard work, my wonder for Sachin grew. Age made me recognize and appreciate what Sachin had done and was continuing to do.

Because how could one man be so consistently good? Yes he did not win as many matches for India as we wanted to, and as he could have. Yes, his captaincy was a no-show. Yes, he stayed resolutely quite during the match fixing controversy when we needed our hero to make a stand. But how could he still continue making runs?

Who dismisses McGrath like that? Which batsman has punched a cover drive or a straight drive like that off every great bowler for over 20 years? Which batsman has been such a run machine in every world cup he has played, and in fact who has played 6 World Cups? And really, is there any sportsman who has faced such singular pressure and expectations for so long, so well? The numbers are boggling. It takes a man of nerve and sinew and supreme talent to put together a career like Sachin’s. In fact, I doubt if there will be another like him.

The structure of the film is straightforward; it picks up specific matches and series (debut, world cup, Sharjah) and intercuts aspects of his personal life in between, all of this in a chronological manner. For each segment, you also have present day Sachin talking to the audience directly. These bits jar. Shot in a studio clearly in one straight schedule, it has Sachin patiently explaining the “inside” track to what we just saw. I’m not sure it works. It is studied, thought out, and prepared, and kills the drama that is his story.

The film also has other people talking about him – peers, seniors, team-mates. It would have been rewarding to hear their personal insights into his personality, his game, his quirks – things that we are not usually privy to. What we get are essentially platitudes and repeating eulogies that have been heard before.

It is of course nice to see personal clips of Sachin playing with his kids – that remains perhaps the only new aspect of his that the documentary reveals. Otherwise, it is regurgitating stories and anecdotes that we’ve already heard before – be it about his childhood or about his career itself.

In trying to capture this story, the main criticism for the film is that it is too scripted. It tries to bottle the narrative in a template structure, when none is needed in a story like Sachin’s. So much has been reported and discussed and dissected about him already, that we see nothing new in it. I think the film misses a trick by not taking a far more probing and intrusive look into the film. It is probably because this is after all fully supported by Sachin, and not an independent venture like say the Senna bio pic, which is one of the most incisive and brilliant sports bios in recent times.

The film is a staid test match on a dull Dambulla pitch. No answers are asked of the audience. A nail biter this ain’t.

Score40%

Hindi, Documentary, Sports, Color

Leave a Comment