Diljit Dosanjh who plays professional hockey player says he doesn't have any interest in sports
Stepping into the role of professional hockey player, Sandeep Singh, for Soorma has been no mean feat for Diljit Dosanjh. He tells mid-day about learning a sport that rarely appealed to him
Diljit Dosanjh loves to challenge himself. The Punjabi musician-actor won acclaim when he forayed into Bollywood as an earnest cop in Abhishek Chaubey's drugs-drama, Udta Punjab (2016). His successive outing with Anushka Sharma in Phillauri earlier this year also spoke of his acting prowess. However, it is probably his latest offering that may put his prowess as an actor to test. Currently shooting for Soorma, a biopic on professional field hockey player Sandeep Singh, in Chandigarh, Dosanjh admits that the world he is now being introduced to is one that he isn't acquainted with.
"I have never been interested in any form of sport," Dosanjh tells mid-day, adding, "For me, the focus was always on music. Forget following a game, I had never stepped foot in a stadium before this offer came my way." The actor recalls that when he was approached with Shaad Ali's directorial venture, he opined that the film was set against the backdrop of Punjab, and would chronicle the state's love for the game. "Later, I was told that I would be playing hockey champ Sandeep Singh. I broke into a sweat. Leave alone holding a hockey stick, I wasn't even versed with the rules of the game."
Sandeep Singh. Pic/AFP
It's hard to come to terms with what he says, especially when we notice the proficiency with which he navigates the ball and scores the goals at a Chandigarh stadium. It is here that he is filming Soorma. It's hard to miss the earnestly in his voice when he reveals he's only recently begun deciphering the tricks of the game. "I have an understanding of at least one game now," he laughs with childlike joy. That he had the man himself to play mentor off screen implies that Dosanjh was bound to ape Singh's demeanour. "As soon as I gave my nod for the film, I began spending time with Sandeep paaji. We lived together throughout October. I remember, the first time that I met him, I gave him a good, hard look. I carefully analysed the man I was set to play." Short interactions slowly extended to long hours, and Dosanjh was certain to utilise the time noticing Singh's quirks. "We would spend several hours together so that I could observe his mannerisms. But, it was really learning his game that was the uphill task. Yet, I was determined to give my best shot. I have seen many actors strum guitars and play pianos on screen. As a musician, I know that the way they do it is wrong. So, I was certain that I wanted to get the techniques of the game right," he says, quick to add that he cannot match the prowess of his muse.
"I can't match his perfection. He has a world-record for the drag flick," he says with pride. If he needed additional help, Dosanjh also had Singh's brother, Bikramjeet, also a hockey player, for assistance. Bikramjeet also features in the film. The cuts on Dosanjh's hands are evident as he chronicles his toil of learning the game over the past three months. "They bleed often," he says, adding that he also finds himself tending an aching back due to the postural requirement of the sport. "This made me realise what Sandeep paaji must have gone through. He even battled a back injury after he was shot. And still overcame it to return to the field. In hockey, a player is constantly bending. He had to do it after being shot in the back. I have immense respect for him."
His joyous face quickly drops when we ask him about his diet that has him knocking off kilos from his already-lithe frame. "I was told that I would have to lose weight and acquire a lean look. I realised that dieting is tougher than playing hockey," he wails, irked by his diet that comprises egg whites, brown rice and cucumber. "It's difficult to resist food. So, I have made it a point to be around people when they are tucking into delicious fare. That way, I am at least connected to food in a way, even if that involves merely stealing a glance at it."
It would be fairly futile to appoint Dosanjh and not employ his vocal skills, and the makers of Soorma have been wise to notice that. They turned to Dosanjh with a plea to sing a romantic track in the outing, which pairs him alongside Taapse Pannu for the first time. "Sandeep paaji is a romantic person. I'm thankful for that trait which enabled me to sing in this film."
Battling all odds
Sandeep Singh's career was almost cut short when, onboard a Shatabadi train en route to join the national team due to leave for the World Cup in Germany, he was shot in the back after an accidental round of firing. The bullet wound confined him to a wheel chair for two years. Determination and grit enabled him to not only recover from the injury, but also reinstate himself into the team.
Interestingly, Singh says he has always been a fan of Dosanjh's music and knew the artiste via a relative. "When I was told that Diljit paaji was going to play me, I was amazed." Admitting that he would often get upset when Dosanjh would err in his attempt to learn the game, Singh adds, "We are like brothers now. When Punjabis squabble, it is full of colourful language." Now that he has had a brush with Bollywood, Singh confesses he would also like to try a hand at acting.
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