will you sex it up? And without that, your average viewer will damn it by calling it a “documentary” and stay away.
Which is why the filmi Milkha is given a girlfriend, and a faux romance. He is made to sing and dance in army dormitories and pubs. His failures are glossed over by slo-mo camera work and melodramatic music. His wins are accompanied by swelling orchestral music which tells us that now we must applaud.
Paan Singh Tomar also featured a national award winning athlete, and the film won a national award too. It was a much more true-to-life portrayal of a man who could have got his country laurels if circumstances hadn’t forced him to turn into a dacoit. The film could have had Irrfan’s Paan Singh stab his rifle into the air, and do a jig with his fellow daakus. But it stays close to the sombre mood and tone of the mud-coloured ravines that Paan Singh takes refuge in, once the system he worshipped abandons him. Because of its veracity, it is high in terms of satisfaction, but doesn’t go about breaking box-office records: it has to be content with making more than it thought it would, and with the critical acclaim.
Why don’t we make true-to-life sports films? Why do we need to dress them up to make them palatable? Why is masala needed to be sprinkled so liberally that you drown out all other tastes? Why are we so afraid of seeing the truth on screen?
Because gloss is what we want above everything. Decades of having our taste debased by filmmakers, who only have an eye on the bottomline, have made us unused to films that break that mould. Why don’t we have our own Chariots Of Fire, an unforgettable film on striving and losing and winning? Or even the much more “mainstream” Jerry Maguire, in which the good-looking Tom Cruise plays a greedy sports agent who has a change of heart?
Because in a real sports movie, like in all “real” movies about real things and people, reality has to be right on top. You can’t fake