Dalip Tahil plays Jawaharlal Nehru in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s biopic on Milkha Singh and is all set to join the unit tomorrow at Chandigarh. As part of his preparation for the role, he met India’s Flying Sikh to get an insight into the relation Milkha had with Nehru who called the athlete beta.
Says Tahil, “When this offer came my way, I was very excited. It is an honour to essay the role of India’s first Prime Minister. Many people may be unaware of Pandit Nehru’s contribution in Milkha Singh’s success story. But he was instrumental in several of the ace athlete’s achievements.”
Tahil met the Flying Sikh in Chandigarh at a golf range over lunch. “I spent four hours with him and his wife. Even though he is older to me and we come from diverse fields, we got along really well.”
He terms his encounter with Milkha Singh a fascinating experience. “It was great to hear about the rapport Panditji shared with Milkha Singh. Panditji used to be very affectionate towards him. Whenever he met Milkha, he would hug him. He used to always call him beta and they constantly remained in touch till Panditji’s end.”
The Olympian also narrated to him an incident when Nehru was keen that he travel to Pakistan as the leader of the Goodwill Friendship Games. “Milkha was not keen to travel across the border and was adamant.
But Panditji made him change his mind. When Milkha crossed the border at Wagah, he was received with such great fanfare that he had to change his perception of the people there.” Milkha also showed several photographs of him with Nehru from his album to Tahil. “Most importantly he also told me that it was because of Panditji that he became a star from a sportsman.”