By Subhash K Jha
MUMBAI: It was an evening that the team of the film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMB) is unlikely to forget for a long time. On Thursday evening the film was screened for army jawans in Chandigarh.
Says director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, “Milkha had a lost childhood. During the Partition he lost his entire family. The army virtually adopted him. So it was natural that we have the first public screening of Bhaag Milkha Bhaag for the armymen. We had the screening in Chandigarh on Thursday night in the army cantonment . All the jawaans and their seniors were there in the Maneckshaw theatre in the cantonment. And every single armyman was in uniform! And what a reception to BMB! They were clapping laughing and warming up to every moment. They didn’t dance because there was no space. But such a different experience from a formal red-carpet premiere. Normally the army gets to see a film two months after release. Here they were watching the first public screening. To top it, we beamed through UFO in 125 army cantonments across the country. So armymen in Siliguri, Ladakh, Kalimpong, etc., were watching with us while we watched in Chandigarh. It was a golden moment. I can’t describe the experience. I suddenly realized why I became a movie maker in the first place.”
Says Rakeysh emotionally, “Chandigarh was where my journey with Milkhaji began. It was only natural that I go back to Chandigarh. Seeing Milkhaji at the screening for the armymen was an experience I can’t describe in words. It was overwhelming. It was a life-changing moment. At that moment, it didn’t matter how the film would perform.”
Recalling his first meeting with Milkha Singh, Rakeysh says, “When 4 ½ years ago I first went to meet Milkha Sir and asked for his participation in my film on his life, he had not seen a single film in the last 50 years. He knew nothing about me. His cut-off point in the movie experience was Amitabh Bachchan. He knew nothing about Aamir or Shahrukh or Farhan, let alone me.”
It was Milkha Singh’s son the golf champion Jeev who is the movie buff in the family.
Recalls Rakeysh fondly, “ On Thursday evening in Chandigarh our journey with Milkhaji had come full circle. Jeev, who travels all over the world with his game, stays connected to his roots by watching one movie per day. And Jeev is a huge fan of my Rang De Basanti. He told his father that if anyone can make a film on Milkhaji, it was Rakeysh Mehra. Milkhaji had many lucrative offers for movie rights to his life story. Milkhaji without seeing any of my work agreed to let me make a film on his life and that too at a token fee of Re.1 . We found a Re.1 note from 1960 (the year he triumphed in Rome by breaking the world record) to pay Milkhaji. We found the 1 rupee note on the Internet.”
About the special screening of the film for army jawans, Farhan adds, “It was a deeply emotional evening for all of us.”
Says Sonam Kapoor, “It was went really well. We got some amazing reactions.”