New Delhi, Mar 23: The season of sports-based movies is here once again and legendary athlete Milkha Singh says the rising trend of films in the genre is a positive development that will inspire youth for years to come.
Previously, the iconic sprinter's life story was brought to screen in 2013's "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag", directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra and starring Farhan Akhtar in the title role.
Eight years later, Mehra and Akhtar are reuniting for "Toofaan", another sports film, set against the backdrop of boxing.
"I enjoyed watching 'Bhaag Milkha Bhaag' very much. Many such sports films should be made so that the upcoming generation draws inspiration from the sportspersons of our country, win medals at Olympics and Asian Games, and make India proud," Singh told PTI in an interview.
The 91-year-old also credited Mehra, a former swimmer, for his ability to translate the "pain of being a sportsperson" on screen.
After his son, professional golfer Jeev Milkha Singh watched the director's 2006 acclaimed hit "Rang De Basanti", he decided that rights to his father's story should only be given to Mehra.
"Rakeysh was once a top swimmer in the country. That is why he is able to make such films," the 'Flying Sikh' added.
Apart from "Toofan", this year will see the release of sports movies like "Saina", "83", "Jersey", "Liger", and "Maidaan".
The veteran sprinter welcomed the trend of such features and said he tries to watch as many films in the genre as possible.
"I know there is a film on Dhoni. Films are also being made on other sports personalities like PT Usha and Kapil Dev. It's a very good trend," the Padma Shri recipient noted.
According to Singh, he did not watch many films post the '60s, but he still has fond memories of the 1940-50's classics like friend Raj Kapoor's "Awara", "Shree 420", and "Anmol Ghadi", starring Suraiya and Noor Jehan.
"That was the time of Raj Kapoor, Suraiya, Shamshad Begum, and Noor Jehan. I didn't watched a film after the 1960s. I have no idea who all were the good heroes, directors or producers in the '80s. The only film I watched after all those years was my own film ('Bhaag Milkha Bhaag')."
In the late 1930s, Singh said as a child, he followed some kids from his village Govindpura, Punjab, now in Pakistan, to watch a silent film.
"Children from my village were going to watch something which was being shown on a curtain and I went with them.
"One could only see the actors moving their hands and legs, there was no sound. But it was a wonderful experience. There was no TV, mobile or video (streamers) in those times. It is a different world today," he recalled.
Singh, who missed an Olympic medal by a whisker at the 1960 Games, said illustrious theatre and film actor Prithviraj Kapoor, father of actor-director Raj Kapoor, had organised a 'paath' (devotional reading) at his house to pray for his win in Rome.
"Mera achha yaarana tha Raj Kapoor ke saath (I was good friends with Raj Kapoor). When I used to go to Bombay to run, I would often meet Raj Kapoor and he would take me to the (Kapoor family's iconic) RK Studio," he added.
Even today, the former track and field sprinter, who was introduced to the sport while serving in the Indian Army in the 1950s, is a fitness enthusiast.
"Exercise has kept me safe during COVID-19," he added.