Review : ‘Sachin: A Billion Dreams’ Is a Simplistic PR Exercise
Sachin - A Billion Dreams is a tomato sauce film. It reduces everything to gooey nostalgia and evokes the same wistfulness some may feel if ketchup is actually retired from the culinary world, with "my first samosa with ketchup", "my fifth french toast with ketchup" and "my last paratha with ketchup" gradually becoming the operative, emotionally-charged, preoccupations.
Case in point: when Tendulkar talks about his wife giving up her medical practice to stay at home, he makes it seem as if it is her idea, but Anjali (easily the most likeable and real character in the film - the best moments in the film have her in them) clarifies immediately in her separate interview - “he said as much that one of us has to quit his or her career” - perhaps the only moment in the film where the director appears to be interested in something other than PR, but it doesn't last long.
The film lacks any nuance whatsoever (in a "not-telling-the-full-story-here-is-almost-a-lie" way) and produces absolutely zero insight on anything. It doesn't even succeed in shedding any light on what Tendulkar's biggest strengths actually were. Despite some nice family moments and dressing-room footage, it does not expand on anything already known - not even the impact of his father or brother Ajit on him (which has to be an important story).
Platitudinous and one-sided when it insinuates, it is the exact opposite of a latter-day Martin Crowe interview - emphatically at the other end of the spectrum.
The unpretentious linear narrative chronicles highlights from his life as unimaginatively as cricket highlights packages are routinely put together (here, though, it really reveals how cricket is totally not director Erskine's sport), but still, their nostalgia value alone makes it absorbing, admittedly.
It is amusing to see people in the cricket world making some of these criticisms. For most of them - if they want to know what led to such an anodyne view emerging in the end, the quickest way would be to reach out for a mirror. 95% of cricket coverage has come from, and perpetuated, this exact same mindset. This is merely the partial withdrawal of that deposit.
It is a shame really that India's first big screen cricket documentary is so unambitious and safe, perhaps to cater to assumed audience tastes. Even with a mass figure like Tendulkar, and a very compelling subject as Indian cricket between 1989 and 2013, it produces such a fundamentally vapid narrative. If it fails commercially (and the signs are already there of that), it is a nice kick in the solar plexus for possible funding of future sports documentaries, even though this aimed so low in the intelligence stakes. Nicely done.
The only way to enjoy this utterly mediocre film is to look forward to the catalogue of memories that unfold and not expect anything else. Though, the impression it leaves you with eventually is probably a good test to see how much you have evolved since you were 12-years-old.
(Jaideep Varma is a writer, filmmaker and creator of Impact Index - the alternative statistical system in cricket.)
(Hi there! We will be continuing our news service on WhatsApp. Meanwhile, stay tuned to our Telegram channel here.)