We had to sell off our property to make 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag', say makers

Jul 21, 2013, 04:14 IST | Jigar Shah

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag has been getting rave reviews, with even Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit and BJP leader LK Advani expressing a wish to see the film. JIGAR SHAH tracked down the movie's director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, and producers PS Bharathi and Rajiv Tandon for a t te- -t te. Excerpts:

How difficult is Rakeysh Mehra as a director?
Bharathi: He is very demanding, which is good for creative people like us. He is very clear in what he wants.

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra took certain creative liberties in the film after seeking Milkha Singh’s permission 

How difficult was it to organise the archival footage on Milkha Singh?
Bharathi: Luckily there was a documentary made on Milkhaji, which is with the Films Divison of India. We got footage from the International Olympic Association too, for the Melbourne and Tokyo Olympic races. There were a few snaps which even Milkhaji didn’t have. So the Gandhi Foundation, the British Council Library…everyone chipped in. We even went to Australia to get the right kind of spikes from that era. In fact for every footage, we had to pay a premium.

British Pathe, the world’s leading archiving institute charged us 9600 pounds per minute for the footage. This was also a discounted price.

We heard all of you put everything you had earned till now on the line for Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (BMB)?
Bharathi: We had to sell off our property in Delhi to make the film. We even sold all our shares.

The film refers to many countries, so is there a possibility for an international cut?
Rakeysh: Yes, Bharathi is working on a world cut and we have had a screening for international distributors in Tribecca.

Was there ever a thought of making the film in English?
Rajeev: We had first planned to make the film in English and then of making it a bilingual film. But later on, seeing the budgets and other details, we decided to make it only in Hindi.

PS Bharathi and Rajiv Tandon are hoping Bhaag Milkha Bhaag will have an international cut

BMB is also trending on twitter with a lot of jokes about how running is the best option after petrol price hikes…
Bharathi: We are happy that people are getting the point of the film, that it is not just about being a runner but about life. We have seen tweets like Bhaag Corruption Bhaag or Bhaag Politician Bhaag.

You have taken creative liberties in the film. For instance, the song Nanha Munna Rahi was released in 1962 but in the film Milkha sings it in 1954. Also a couple of races dates have been interchanged.
Rakeysh: Growing up, Milkha wanted to join the army, so the song was a perfect fit. Which is why we chose it. Also both the races you talk about, happened within a month of each other, in reality. Showing the Rome race first was my interpretation of things as a film maker. We sought Milkha’s permission and
he agreed.

Given the relationship between India and Pakistan, how did you manage to get Art Malik to India?
Bharathi and Rajeev: He plays Milkha’s father in the film and I wanted him for the role. Any Pakistani who wants to work in India has to apply for visa six months in advance and then RAW and IB would do their due diligence. He arrived just one day before the shoot.

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