James Erskine: Sachin himself did not want a straightforward biopic

June 12, 2017 5:12:23 PM IST
By Pooja Sharma, Glamsham Editorial
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James Erskine's SACHIN: A BILLION DREAMS that released almost 3 weeks ago has been declared tax free in several states including Maharashtra.

Directing a docu-feature based on the life of ‘The God of Cricket' Sachin Tendulkar capturing his professional and personal life must not have been an easy task.

In a candid conversation director James Erskine reveals about what all went into the making of this film and how overwhelmed he is by the response the film has been receiving. The director also shared how box office success is the oxygen that breathes life into the projects he desires to bring to the screen

Read the excerpts below:


What inspired you to make a document drama on Sachin?
Actually the credit goes to Ravi, the film's producer, the idea was his and he approached me after having seen my previous films, which focused on sports icons, but also looked to place them in the context of the world that they lived. Earlier, I actually had the idea to make a film on Sachin, but couldn't figure a route. So it was a case of waiting for it to come to me. And the universe provided.

How did you approach Sachin for this? How easy or difficult it was to convince him?
Well, again this is more a question for Ravi, who I believe spent a year convincing Sachin and earning his trust. It was always Ravi's idea that we should try and make a docu-drama because as a real hero, he felt that the feats achieved by Sachin were worthy of the silver screen. Sachin himself did not want a straightforward biopic, and to be fair I feel like that is only really possible many years down the line. So it was a harmonious decision to walk the road less travelled.

Were you expecting this kind of success from the film?
Of course anybody always wants his/her film to be a success, but for me the film is a success if a person loves it, by which I mean if only one person sees it and loves it, it will still be a success. I cannot control the world beyond this. I try to do my job as best as possible and hope for the best, that it has reached into so many people's hearts is a great triumph and what I hoped for. I hope that many more people will see it for generations to come, and also that children can see it and be inspired. The film was never intended to be merely a film for intellectual elite, but for a mass audience, because I believe that the messages of the film are relevant to everyone.

What was Sachin's reaction after the success of the film. Did he share anything regarding this with you?
I think Sachin is delighted with the response to the film. We absolutely knew we were making a risk not making a “masala” film, but we were united in how we wished to make this film. I think we are all proud that it has touched so many people, not just in India but across the world.

Are you planning to make few more biopics or docu-drama on any other cricketer?
Yes, I'd love to make more biopics, especially in India. I'm interested in true stories and looking to dramatise them as well as tell them through docu-drama. I like to make films about people that make a difference. I think there is a gold mine of great stories to be explored. Cricketers, sportsmen, politicians these are all ideas I am developing. Though I think it's hard to follow up on another cricketer, at least in docu-drama form, after Sachin.

'We knew we were taking the risk'

How do you gauge Indian cinema and how's it different from Hollywood?
I think the world is changing fast - and the way we consume movies is also changing. The strong positive forces of Amazon and Netflix are opening up people's eyes to different forms of story-telling. Hollywood, of course, has bigger budgets, but I think Indian cinema offers more freedom to experiment - the Indian audience is used to Hollywood films and Bollywood, it's a fast-changing audience and I'd expect in the coming years to see more work that originates from India but has a global reach - perhaps with bringing in non-Indian directors to work here and look at different ways of telling stories, as well as Indian directors going out in the world more.

Which Bollywood actor do you like and would like to work with?
GOSH! There are so many. I've had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Ranveer Singh and they are all actors I admire and would love to work. Even Salman Khan, Deepika and Priyanka. But those are the big names; I'm impressed with the wide range of talent on screen in India and hope to get the chance to put together a great film with a great cast using the cream of your (Indian)talent.

Have you watched any Bollywood film? If yes then which one?
Yes, many in the process of making this film, as I scouted off screen talent. I know he's(Sachin) not Bollywood. But I am and have for a long time been a fan of Satyajit Ray. Of course LAGAAN is a master piece and I also hugely admired MADRAS CAFE.

How much does box office numbers matter to you?
Good question. Box office numbers means people have seen and appreciated your work. I try to make films for audiences, so of course it matters. Also, a good show at the box office is the oxygen that breathes life into the projects I desire to bring to the screen. But I certainly don't have any interest in ranking the quality of a film purely on box office.

How long did it take to finish this docu-feature? Tell us about the kind of research that went behind this film ?
Well, Ravi started 4 years ago. I was on it for a mere two and a half years! The research was huge - I tried to speak to as many people who knew Sachin as possible. I tried to bring as much footage as possible from all over the globe.

Any message that you would like to give to the viewers?
It is a film that should make you feel proud of your country, but also that has lessons about the right way to live. It should be watched because it will make you want to shout out-loud and even though it will make you cry, the tears will not be sad tears, but those of the power of the human spirit.


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