Tejas Nair | May 27, 2017
Rating – 5/10
It is not surprising that a British filmmaker who specializes in TV was chosen to make a documentary about someone who is regarded highly by at least 7 out of 10 people in India. We really don’t know how James Erskine came on board, but we can be sure that he hasn’t watched Azhar (2016) or M S Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016) for then this sports documentary wouldn’t have made the same mistakes they did.
Narrating the story of legendary Indian cricketer Sachin Tendulkar from his childhood when he first picked up a bat to his retirement in 2013, the documentary tries to masquerade as a film and goes on to etch his story into India’s history of the last 30 years. How Sachin as a young boy is supported by his family to follow his call, how he met his wife Anjali and got married to her, how he dealt with failure, what his single-biggest dream was, his highs and lows, his health, and his connection with the Indian people is all what the documentary explores. Much how the two biopics mentioned earlier were made, here the idea of the makers is to accentuate Sachin’s appeal as a legendary cricketer by avoiding objectivism. It is clear from the first frame that the makers had no idea to go deeper into the specifics, and instead just provide a superficial chronological time-line of his life that is already present in the public domain. Executed with doses of sentiments of peripheral patriotism, this one is as straightforward as it can get.
The biggest problem with the documentary is that it takes “cricket is a religion in India” too seriously and tries to tie Sachin’s endeavors as elements that carved India’s fate and are reasons why and how India is as it is today – which is first-class drivel. So much that it goes on to exaggerate a couple of events just to prove its point. Statements like “change in the country’s luck”, “country’s fate”, and “the power of Indians” are employed to give emphasis to the point.
For people wondering why we cannot call it a film, it’s because the film is basically a collection of cricket match footage since the 80s and interviews. Of course, there are emotions attached to certain matches which bring back nostalgia (to Indians), which is why I have to use the word “goosebumps” here, but play any nail-biting match in the history of Indian cricket which was a turning point for the national team, and those pimples are sure to crop up. Former batsmen and bowlers, journalists, celebrities, his family members, and Sachin himself share their thoughts about the subject as the documentary simultaneously moves ahead in the time-line. There are some interesting tidbits that it offers – for example, episodes of match-fixing, rivalry, age-gap between players, and other miscellaneous events that shaped cricket in India – which are the only novel thing an average Indian will find in this feature. For outsiders, it will be much more.
How Sachin changed the essence of cricket in India, and helped it rise from its ashes is what the makers and Sachin himself repeatedly convey in the documentary. The only problem is that it is not entirely convincing. Showing that his dream is synonymous with the country’s dream as far as cricket is concerned is bit of an overstatement, and that is what plays with its appeal.
Director Erskine has surely made a recipe that evokes emotions and pulls a cricket fan back to the good old days. The screenplay is crisp and filled with substance, even though most of it is rehash. The problem is that this is not how biopics are made. The characters do a decent job at talking out, and if character performance is really to be mentioned – it should be about the two young actors who played young Sachin. They looked like they were enjoying it. Other than that, it’s mostly Tendulkar, his wife, and other known players doing the talking.
All in all, it’s a well-executed documentary that plays very safe and does not get bowled out. It will not disappoint a fan, but might a cinema enthusiast.
BOTTOM LINE: James Erskine’s “Sachin” may have got the tag-line “A Billion Dreams” wrong, but it surely is an enjoyable, one-time affair. Just don’t expect Sachin to open his closet.
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