By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: Don’t tell anyone. But director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra is a closet-actor. In Bhaag Milkha Bhaag when Milkha Singh, played by Farhan Akhtar, flies on a plane for the first time Rakeysh plays the captain of the flight crew who has to come out of the cockpit to pacify Milkha.
Laughs Rakeysh, “Nobody noticed. But I was also in the last scene of Rang De Basanti as young Bhagat Singh’s father.”
Rakeysh describes Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMG) as his rebirth. “There was Rang De Basanti which made a deep impact on me. Now there’s BMG. It was a leap of faith. We had to tell Milkhaji’s story. But we didn’t know how to go about it.We had to think of the right format and find a centre to his epic story.”
Rakeysh gives a lot of the credit to his wife P. Bharathi who is the editor of all his films.
“A lot of BMG was worked out on the editing table. Bharathi has done an amazing job. Her biggest impediment as a creative person is that she is my wife.”
Every incident in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is ratified by history.
Says Rakeysh, “Except that one incident where we show Farhan Akhtar guzzling down two cans of ghee, all other episodes incidents and anecdotes are based on verified facts. Even the joke ‘Are you relaxing? …No I am Milkha Singh’ actually occurred.”
It’s now the third time that the Bhaag Milkha Bhaag director would be working with Sonam Kapoor whom Rakeysh believes to be destined for greatness. Alas, his last two films Delhi 6 and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMG) have offered no substantial space for Sonam to display her chops as an actress.
But no regrets on either side.
Speaking from Dubai on the eve of the BMG release, Rakeysh said, “Sonam, like everyone else associated with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag went into it because she believed in it. I mean, look at the man. We grew up reading about Milkha Singh. Stories about him are part of folklore.Sonam knew it was not a lengthy role. But she knew her role would have an impact.”
It’s the period love-story Mirza Sahiban next for Rakeysh. And this time Sonam would have a lot more to do.
“We’re working on the script, trying to polish it as much as we can. But yes, that’s my next one,” says Rakeysh.
Right now Rakeysh is in transit having screened BMG for audiences the Tribeca Cinemas in New York. He is very happy with the response to the film there.
“In new York a lot of the audience and critics were Americans. And they seemed to connect with the historical perspective and cultural sensitivities of the story.We got a standing ovation at the end.”