Let me begin this with a confession: I had no clue what to expect of Sachin: A Billion DreamsIt was supposed to be a docudrama-biographical film. If there are longer genre names (there must be some, with a semi- or a quasi- inserted here or there), I can vouch for the fact that I have never watched one in theatre. But then, I am no movie buff: cricket leaves me little time, opportunity, or energy to explore other wonderful parallel avenues of human creation.

I belonged to the Sachin Tendulkar generation. I grew up with Tendulkar. To be more precise, I grew up on Tendulkar. The cricket fan in me had grown up with Tendulkar. There had to be goose-bumps. There had to be nostalgia worth twenty-four years. I also knew about the unseen clippings that were supposed to be there. I knew Sachin has been graced by the genius of AR Rahman.

Before I delve into a review, I think I should begin with the Tendulkar generation, for it is essential to understand that to form an idea about the movie. Tendulkar, more than anything, used to be a code in India in 1990s. When you asked someone “is he still batting?” they would respond with a “yes” or a “no”.

Tendulkar was a pronoun. Had aliens landed in India in the 1990s they would have assumed there was some sort of underground cult in place.

Yes, it used to be like that. And that is precisely the brand of nostalgia Sachin thrived on. The movie did not target the millennial audience: it could well have been an only-1980s-kids-will-get-this meme.

However, this also meant a compilation of Tendulkar innings. It was going to be difficult to keep a cricket fan hooked based on that: why would anyone pay to watch a clip they can view on YouTube (a shout out to Robelinda for this) without spending time, energy, and money?

Experts and teammates and opposition cricketers were supposed to feature throughout with their comments. But do sports channels not run the identical capsules hundreds of times when there is no live cricket? I agree that you can watch umpteen re-runs of the 155 not out at Chennai or the 98 at Centurion, but why would you move beyond the confines of your couch for that?

This obviously meant that the script had to be tight. And that is where Sachin mostly works. Despite his mastery of the willow, Tendulkar had never earned reputation for being an outstanding narrator. Unlike some of his illustrious teammates, he has never graced the commentary box.

Indeed, James Erskine could have opted for someone else: no one would have complained. But he chose not to: he backed the aila-famed voice that had often been mimicked. He probably knew that there may be better narrators, but when it comes to telling one’s own story, who better than the man himself?

Of course, we knew a lot of Tendulkar’s childhood days. We knew why he was named Sachin, about his numerous acts of mischief, about his insatiable energy, about his family, first visit to Ramakant Achrekar: we had read about it too many times to not know. The re-creation had to be special to live up to expectations.

That is where the extremely adorable Mikhail Gandhi steals the show. Despite us knowing what was going to happen at every stage, little Gandhi brings every scene to life in the early stages, setting the tone for the movie.

The fun begins after that. The most relatable phase of a biopic is the one where one nods his head and smiles as the memory agrees; then predicts exactly what the next scenes would be; and finally, either nods and smiles more or gets annoyed at his favourite bit being left out.

We re-live everything, from the debut tour to his farewell speech. The 2011 World Cup gets special mention: the hundreds against England and South Africa, the dismissal in the final, the ecstasy of triumph, unseen footages of Gary Kirsten’s pep talk, and the famous quote of gratitude from an awestruck Virat Kohli. It was evident how much it meant to him.

If I had to choose one moment (in terms of making, not batsmanship), it has to be the Chennai duel with Shane Warne. We all know the story. Tendulkar fell cheaply to Warne in the first innings. Warne strode in round the wicket in the second innings — but Tendulkar had a well-rehearsed plan in place. He stepped out, just as he does in our memories — but this time with Rahman for company. That innings was exemplary, but Rahman takes it to different heights.

Of course, there is his family too. Video footages of Tendulkar’s family life have seldom come out in public. Devoted fans may thank the makers for that. For the most hardcore of fans, there is even a clip from his wedding — complete with RD Burman’s bade achchhe lagte hain.

Thankfully, instead of portraying the romantic bit, Erskine portrays Anjali as the ubiquitous support to Tendulkar’s career. One wonders what a Bollywood director would have done.

There are other revelations from the clippings. For example, it was refreshing to see, for once, what Tendulkar is like with his friends or family: after all, how many of us have seen him without having to carry the burden of the expectations of a nation?

However, of the many takeaways, perhaps the most striking was that of Tendulkar practising batting relentlessly, even on a pitch full of puddles in the monsoon: the work ethic of the man boggles the mind.

But then, there were the faults. Tendulkar is shown as too perfect, which is not what biographies are supposed to do. True, some failures are depicted — but not with the same details that his successes are.

Every comment, every quote by a cricketer or expert is a eulogy of sorts, which made me wonder throughout the movie whether Tendulkar is the first man in history without a single fault: if you have to admit to your faults and errors, what better place is there than a (auto-) biography or biopic?

It was frustrating for the viewer at times. Had his faults — the ones unknown to his fans — been pointed out vividly, would Tendulkar have been a man any less revered? Would it not have made him a bigger hero than he already was? Why would he have to be the perfect human being, even in his own biography?

Why, even that painstaking Mohali fifty in the 2011 World Cup semi-final shows only the landmark — but not the innumerable dropped catches!

As for controversies, while Sachin reveals some of Tendulkar’s strained relationship with Mohammad Azharuddin after the latter lost captaincy of the Indian side to the former, it does not delve into too much details. Tendulkar’s attitude towards Greg Chappell is renowned, but even with Chappell the movie seldom goes beyond what we already knew.

As for the match-fixing scandals, there is almost no coverage (barring Tendulkar’s disappointment over the saga). But then, given his noncommittal stance in his autobiography, little was expected of that in the movie. There is almost no dressing-room anecdote barring a few clips of key moments (courtesy someone’s camcorder); again, that is something that might have added value to the movie.

There is also a conscious effort to make the movie work on nostalgia. The makers were aware that the 1990s held the key to its success, which is why they focused on that particular decade. The phase from 2007 to 2011, despite being at least as incredible, gets little attention: the internet era, after all, does not leave you misty-eyed.

At times Sachin also gets too preachy, trying to over-enforce the values of honesty, hard work, and commitment. It feels nice for a while before it seems overdone. There are flaws, as mentioned above, but to be fair Erskine has done a competent job, given the difficulty of the subject.

After all, given that Tendulkar himself has been a part of the production, it was wrong to expect of Erskine to touch on the flaws: you do not really expect the Ferrari to be mentioned, do you?.

I will not argue if an objective viewer calls Sachin a borderline hagiography: but then, how many of us has been objective about Tendulkar?

Final rating: 3.5/5

Sachin: A Billion Dreams
Director: James Erskine
Producer: Ravi Bhagchandka, Carnival Motion Pictures
Music: AR Rahman
Casting: Sachin Tendulkar, Anjali Tendulkar, Mikhail Gandhi
Duration: 139 minutes