A biopic of hockey wizard Dhyan Chand was announced on Tuesday, but a film on the life and times of the arguably one of the greatest hockey exponents has been in the pipeline for eight years, and at one point star Shah Rukh Khan — and even Varun Dhawan — was said to be playing the ace centre forward, with cricket icon Mahendra Singh Dhoni producing it.
Dhyan Chand’s son and 1975 World Cup winner, Ashok Kumar, was first approached for a biopic on his illustrious father way back in 2012. But, despite him signing an MoU and later a contract, somehow the film never took off due to various reasons, the latest issue being Covid pandemic that stalled everything, including film production.
And now Ronnie Screwvala’s RSVP Movies has announced that it would produce the biopic. Abhishek Chaubey, of ‘Udta Punjab’ and ‘Ishqiya’ fame, would direct it, and Premnath Rajagopalan is co-producer.
“Mr Rohit Vaid (creative producer with Blue Monkey Films) was the first ever person who approached me with a proposal to make a biopic on my father, when I was on a coaching assignment in Bhopal. We first met at the Asihbagh Stadium. I talked to my family, and we were happy that a film would be made on Dhyan Chand, so that the world would know who he was,” Ashok Kumar told IANS.
“Then both of us met in Delhi and further discussed the matter. Sometime later, Mr Vaid invited me to Mumbai where I went to meet him along with my son-in-law and a friend of mine. I told Mr Vaid that my family didn’t want anything from the film, but he said that he would share with me the profit that the film would make. Pooja Shetty was the producer. I signed an MoU,” said the 70-year-old player who scored the winning goal at the 1975 World Cup final against Pakistan.
Then, a few issues cropped up. One was the reported non-availability of studies, and the other was that the casting wasn’t finalised.
“In the meanwhile, I also heard that Shah Rukh Khan – and later Varun Dhawan – would play Dhyan Chand in the biopic. The bottom line is that for about five years there was no forward movement on the film,” said Ashok Kumar, who won bronze at the 1972 Munich Olympics and silver and bronze at the 1973 and 1971 World Cups respectively.
Some reports even claimed that actor Ranbir Kapoor would play Dhyan Chand.
“Then, around 2017 or 2018, Mr Vaid sold/transferred the film rights to producer Ashok Thakeria, and a new contract was signed with changes. Again, there was no forward movement; the casting was not finalised and I was told that the studios weren’t available. As per the new contract, the film was to go on the floor this October-November, but since the start of this year Covid has stalled everything and it further delayed the project. I was asked to extend the contract period by a year and I did that,” he said.
Ashok Kumar said that he had been told that casting would be complete in about a month.
“The playing style of Dhyan Chand is necessary for whoever plays him in the film. Also, his height and build is important. Mr Vaid has told me that in about three-four weeks, the casting would be complete. The decision of locations for shooting hasn’t been finalised. The man who the coordinator between me and the producer told me that it would be an extraordinary film,” he said.