From Gloom to Glory - by Mir Ranjan Negi

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Section 3 - Chak de India

Filming of Chak de India

The late night parties started from that day. Discipline had taken a back seat. Everyone was glamour struck, and had changed so much that I could not recognise them anymore.

Being old fashioned, I was a little disappointed, but then that is showbiz.
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he Chak de India (CDI) team left for Australia earlier, and my wife and I joined them later. The sister unit, Black Cat Films, was in charge in Australia. We were given an apartment in a building complex in the heart of Melbourne, where the entire unit had been housed. Everyone used to meet in the evenings in the common dining hall.

We went to the State Netball and Hockey Centre at Royal Park in Melbourne, and were delighted to see the beautiful hockey field. This was the venue where our national women's team had played in the 2006 Commonwealth Games. The Australian air brought about a sudden change in the girls on the field. It was a unique experience for them to play on the latest turf, where the ball travelled true and fast. We had two training sessions every morning.

We went to the National Aquatic Centre, and the facilities there would have delighted any sportsperson. There were three swimming pools, and all were full of children and their coaches. There were four indoor basketball courts, all of which were fully occupied. In one portion of the stadium, there was a karate competition going on. More than the facilities, it was the interest shown in all sports by the common people that was so impressive. I could not help praying that Indians too would one day show such enthusiasm for all sports.

Soon it was Divali, and it fell on the death anniversary of my son Abhi. I had told Amin not to mention this fact to any one else. The entire CDI team, from production and direction to the makeup artists, soon began to enjoy the festivities. While the whole team and the world was celebrating Diwali, my wife and I spent the day in rememberance and prayer.

After the arrival of photographer Chris Reed in Australia, the shooting of the hockey scenes became simply mind blowing. Being an ad film maker, he added so much energy into his shots that it brought alive the real spirit of the game. I would go behind the monitor and watch open mouthed the scenes shot by Chris and Sudeep Chatterjee. For the first time I realised that hockey could actually be so breathtaking and exciting to watch. In India, hockey matches are usually televised with two cameras, and the visuals are so drab that even the most committed hockey buff does not feel like watching the matches.

When people learnt that SRK was going to visit Melbourne, there was a sizable crowd waiting at the stadium. While the crowd was waiting impatiently for SRK's arrival, we worked on the sequence where both the Indian and Australian teams were lined up, and their national anthems were being played. When SRK entered the stadium, the Indian National Anthem was being played, and though this was only a set, the atmosphere was charged with emotion. I went up to SRK and told him that I had lived such moments earlier in my life when the crowd used to number 70,000.

I had taught the girls the importance of discipline and Indian values. The training sessions were designed in such a fashion that there was no scope to go out for late night parties, and the improvement in the players was evident in their gait and game. Everything was under control till the girls requested SRK to show them his latest release Don. The girls became hysterical when they came to know that SRK had arranged a special screening of Don in a theatre that had been booked exclusively for members of the Chak de India team. After the movie, the girls partied in a pub till three in the morning, and then moved to the hotel where the dancing continued till six in the morning. The party would not have ended had the receptionist not come and threatened them.

This party changed the complete atmosphere of the camp. No one seemed to talk about hockey anymore. The late night parties started from that day. Discipline had taken a back seat. Everyone was glamour struck, and seemed to have changed so much that I could not recognise them anymore. I must confess that being old fashioned, I was a little disappointed, but then that is showbiz. Richa Sharma, the Assistant Director, once told me that people in the film industry are half mad, and they need to be, to survive the mad pace. Sometimes shooting started at dawn, sometimes it went all through the night. Normal people cannot survive here.

But at last it was all done. The final scene was when Vidya saved the last penalty stroke and all the players ran towards her and started rejoicing. Then SRK took a few steps back and looked around, then sat on the parapet wall with tears in his eyes. These were real tears, there was no glycerine! Each scene in the movie until then had been shot and reshot. This was the only scene which was given an okay by Shimit in the first take itself.

I was standing very close to SRK. Tears rolled down my cheek too, I was reminded of my own triumph as part of the team management in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games. Sometimes I get confused, this film runs so closely parallel to my life, the triumph of Kabir Khan seemed to be mine. However, it was now time for both of us to leave Kabir Khan behind.


Negi during filming of Chak de India, Photo courtesy Yash Raj Films