Sachin Tendulkar, it is conjectured frequently, is God. Like God, he is seldom heard, on issues of importance, or seen, at least in Rajya Sabha, and like God, when we really really need him, he is busy answering someone else’s prayers, or at least so say those who claim that he could never perform in the really critical games of his career. It is thus to no one’s surprise that the documentary based on his life, Sachin a Billion Dreams, goes beyond being an uncritical eulogy, beyond being a hagiography, to become a religious film, a “Jai Santoshi Ma” of the times, with acted out sections featuring a cherubic boy doing naughty things, lot of Anjali, and even a Putna, played by The Chappell who feeds the Indian team poisoned milk from his sinister teats by demoting Sachin from his opening spot. At the same time, what’s missing is the Ferrari, the ball tampering, the Monkey Gate, and the many valid arguments for his retiring a few years before he did. Match-fixing is touched upon, but it comes and goes before you can say Aillaaa.
But that is only to be expected. Biographies in India are always backed by the person whose biography it is, which means they are never ever going to ask the tough questions, but at least this, being a documentary, spares us scenes like that one in Azhar where his wife is getting turned on by watching Sangeeta Bijlani while Azhar, the absolutely innocent lamb that he is, sits hiding his face, scandalized by the wanton dance moves. But even as far as non-controversial information goes, there is nothing here that you haven’t seen or heard before, especially if, like me, you have labored through Boria Majumdar’s Bore-kiya biography of Sachin, whose official title I think was “Cricinfo scoreboards transcribed in sentences”.
And yet, and yet, when the documentary finished, I found myself moist-eyed. It’s because Sachin Tendulkar, a Billion Dreams, is like an old song playing on the radio. It untangles the strands from the spaghetti ball of a forty-plus-man’s memories, and as the events tick by, like an action flicker, the debut, the Qadir, the England tour, the Pakistan game, the semi-final at Eden, Warne in the rough, Desert Storm, the dismemberment of Wasim and Akthar in that World Cup game, I am on an emotional roller-coaster and they all come back, the memories, of a younger and lighter me banging T-squares on the canteen table, or standing tiptoe in front of an electronic shop trying to catch a glimpse from the back, grainy TV sets, sweaty heat from bodies packed in tighter than is appropriate, shouting, swearing, putting hand on face, and agreeing with a man I have never met before that Nayan Mongia is a certified leora-choda.
Believing that one man can do it no matter what the heart tells me and no matter what the odds are, even when it is Sunil Joshi batting at the other end, a belief shared by a billion people, across every schism, across every division, of this most divided nation of ours.
And though I am cynical now, about most things and definitely about Sachin the person, and I come out of the theater thinking “How much did Sachin pocket from all this?”, for two hours, I was among the rank of the faithful, united in the joyous rising crescendo of “Sachin Sachin”, the Omkara of our times, wanting desperately, to once again, believe.
In the idea that was Sachin Tendulkar.