MUMBAI A new Bollywood film brings to life the story of one of India's greatest track athletes in a rare sports movie from a country obsessed with cricket.
"Bhaag Milkha Bhaag" (Run Milkha Run) is a three-hour biopic on Milkha Singh, known as the Flying Sikh, who finished fourth in the 400 metres at the 1960 Rome Olympics, missing the bronze medal by a hair's-breadth.
Singh, 77, was orphaned during the riots that followed the partition of British-ruled India in 1947. He started running after joining the Indian army and represented India at international competitions, at a time when the country had few facilities and infrastructure for sports. His son, Jeev Milkha Singh, is an international golfer.
"He believed in hard work, he had nothing in life and he still persevered, while we complain about the lack of things in our life all the time," the film's screenwriter Prasoon Joshi told Reuters.
"I wanted to capture that persona in the film," he said.
"Bhaag Milkha Bhaag", directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and with actor Farhan Akhtar playing the athlete, opened in cinemas on Friday.
Joshi said he resisted the temptation to include incidents from the athlete's later life, only chronicling Singh's rise as a sportsman and his psyche.
"What interested me was the person Milkha Singh and I explored what goes on into his head, because that is what drives him when he was running," he said.
Bollywood is slowly warming up to sports biopics, with a film in the works on Mary Kom, a five-time women's boxing world champion who won a bronze medal at the London Games.
Joshi said it was impossible to predict whether a film like "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag" would draw audiences in India.
"Cricket is the only sport here. I don't know if there is a market for these kind of films, but we have done our job," he said. (Editing by Tony Tharakan)
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