Sachin Tendulkar is a colossus who fans includes the biggest names in Bollywood like Amitabh Bachchan, Aamir Khan and Shahrukh Khan

Sachin Tendulkar’s Bollywood link has been strong since his birth as he was named after the great music director Sachin Dev Burman. For many, Tendulkar grew even bigger than the biggest in Bollywood.

Cricket and Bollywood has been a heady mix since the 60s when the debonair Nawab of Pataudi wooed and married the ravishing Sharmila Tagore. That cocktail has since grown into an inseparable  alchemy. Sudatta Mukherjee dwells deep to bring out Bollywood’s chemistry with Sachin Tendulkar.

Bollywood and cricket have been humongous sources of entertainment for the people of India, far above anything else. Scores of youngsters in the length and breadth of the country aspire to be Amitabh Bachchan or a Shahrukh Khan, while countless kids on the streets and maidans of the nation dream of becoming a Sachin Tendulkar

Tendulkar made his much coveted Test debut on November, 1989 and a month later he made his One-Day International (ODI) debut. Bollywood was already riding a high on new age films such as Qurbani, Karz, Dostana and Judaai. The 1970s saw the emergence of a series of action films. The 1980s saw Bollywood inching towards the romantic genre. A month after Tendulkar made his debut, Salman Khan starred in his first blockbuster, Maine Pyaar Kiya.
 
Romance filled with action became a part of the reel industry, while in real life it was the nation’s romance with Tendulkar and his youthful on-field action. Aashiqui, Dil, 100 Days, Ajooba, Phool Aur Kaante, Deewana, 1942 A Love Story, Barsaat, Roja, Khamoshi, Raja Hindustani... the 1990s was the age of romance in Indian cinema. The era saw the rise of actors like Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Salman, Karishma Kapoor, Kajol, Rani Mukerji, etc.  Many of these stars went on to form a strong bond with cricket. Aamir Khan, whose perfection has often been compared to Tendulkar, starred in the epic film Lagaana movie set in the British Colonial period with cricket as the central theme. Shahrukh went on to buy a cricket team [Kolkata Knight Riders] in the Indian Premier League in partnership with actress Juhi Chawla, as did Preity Zinta (King’s XI Punjab) and  Shilpa Shetty (Rajasthan Royals). Salman started Celebrity Cricket League with brothers Arbaaz and Sohail — two big fans of cricket. Of course, Saif Ali Khan has cricket in his blood as son of Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, the former Indian captain.
 
From just entertaining people with ‘masala’ films, Bollywood entered the thinking film zone. Cricket also grew in India, largely due to the colossus-like stature of Tendulkar. As the cliché goes, “If cricket is religion in India, Sachin Tendulkar is God” — a divine stature hitherto given to Bollywood actors like Amitabh Bachchan.

For many, Tendulkar grew even bigger than the biggest in Bollywood. And one of the reasons being the crème de la crème of Bollywood, the demi-Gods themselves, became huge fans of Tendulkar. And the adulation spanned generations.

Says the late Dev Anand in Gautam Bhattacharya’s book Sach, “There is an inner drive in Tendulkar to continuously better his excellence. You can’t cultivate this in people. And when he finally reaches the landmark, he very rightly pays homage to the unknown source which is called energy.”
 
When a film lover reads those words of Dev Anand, he or she instantly draw comparison with an actor like Aamir Khan, who always tried to excel himself. From Dil, Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak to Lagaan and Taare Zameen Par,  Aamir kept growing in stature like Tendulkar.
 
Tendulkar’s Bollywood link has been strong since his birth. He was named after the great music director Sachin Dev Burman.

Bollywood artists drew inspiration from Tendulkar. As music director Shantanu Moitra said, “I was shell-shocked when I didn’t win the National Award for the Best Music Director despite our Antaheen team walking away with so many awards. Then after a day or so, I thought how Sachin would have handled a similar disappointment.”
 
During early 1990s, there was a sudden rise in the family-centric films. Cricket also became a part of prime-time family entertainment. In 2000, Indian cricket went on an upswing, thanks largely to players like Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Virender Sehwag, VVS Laxman, Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble. Similarly, Bollywood’s popularity also soared in 2000s. It made a global splash, due to films like Lagaan, Kal Ho Na Ho, Rang De Basanti, Lageraho Munnabhai, Chak De India, etc. The growth of Indian cricket and Bollywood seem to go hand in hand.
 
Tendulkar has been part of the Bollywood films over time. Says cricket historian Arunabha Sengupta, ” In the Salman Khan-starrer Judwaa (1997), in the songs East or West, India is the Best, there is mention of Tendulkar – Sachin ka batting wah wah…There are much more instances where Tendulkar has played a vital role in the film. For example, in Dil Hai ke Maanta Nahin, Pooja Bhatt pretends to be pregnant and she wants to name the son Sachin. In Taxi No 9211, Nana Patekar finds his son fielding in a cricket match and he tells his son that he should be batting because, Tujhe Tendulkar banana hai, Kaif nahi.  In Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon, Antara Mali, who plays a role of an aspiring actress in the film, stars in a film within the film, in there were various lookalikes starring opposite her. One of them was a Tendulkar lookalike, who actually wins the heroine. There are plenty of other instances where Tendulkar has been mentioned, directly or indirectly.”
 
Tendulkar transcends all sections of the society. As Aamir Khan said recently, “Sachin is the embodiment of the collective pride of India.” He is a national obsession, as the avalanche of tributes across all media emphatically proves following Tendulkar’s decision to go public with his retirement. He is an “addiction”, as Shahrukh Khan said. “Suddenly I realised the meaning of addiction. Mine was the Master [Tendulkar]. I am going thru cold turkey. To see cricket without Sachin? Unbearable,” Shahrukh said.

It will be not be an exaggeration to say that Tendulkar is bigger than the mighty Amitabh Bachchan. Amitabh himself feels Tendulkar is a much bigger icon than him. “I’m nowhere near what Sachin Tendulkar means to India. He embodies the identity of the country in many ways. There are many countries you identify with some kind of achievement, some kind of historical or geographical achievement. Like when you talk of Japan, you talk of cameras. When you talk of Brazil, you talk of football. When you talk about India, you suddenly think of Sachin Tendulkar.”
 
Thinking of cricket without Tendulkar is something that is going to slam millions of Indians in a few days’ time. Maybe, Bollywood will make a film biopic that will be as big an epic as David Attenborough’s “Gandhi“.

Sachin Tendulkar Retirement

(Sudatta Mukherjee is a reporter with CricketCountry. Other than writing on cricket, she spends penning random thoughts on her blog and produces weekly posts on new food joints at Whopping Weekends. She played Table Tennis for University of Calcutta. When she is not writing, you will catch her at a movie theatre or watching some English serial on her laptop. Her Twitter id is @blackrosegal)