Rahul Mukherji: It takes a lot of sacrifice, sweat and determination to wear the national colors and it takes double the effort to become an Olympian. To represent your country in the Olympic Games is the biggest stage for any sport person. Now further, if you go on to win a gold in Olympics and when your flag is raised with your country’s national anthem being played, you lift the whole nation.
In 1948 London Olympics, our hockey team did just that as tricolors of independent India fluttered and our national anthem was played in the highest international sports podium for the first time. It was an unforgettable moment for independent India and for the whole hockey team led by Kishan Lal. The team had legends like Leslie Claudius, Keshav Dutt, Balbir Singh Sr. and K.D. Singh. The team was managed by N N Mukherjee also known as Habul Mukherjee who dedicated his entire life for Indian hockey.
Being a keen follower of Indian hokey I was quite excited to hear about the release of ‘Gold’, a movie based on 1948 gold medal win in London Olympics. Since it got released on August 15, which being a holiday I made sure I book the first day first show at my nearest theatre.
The movie might have sent out a positive message on promotion of hockey somewhere but it had no right to distort facts and identities of the great men who brought glory to our nation in the biggest sporting arena.
In 1936 Berlin Olympics, the captain of Indian (British India) team was our hockey legend Dhyan Chand, the person who was instrumental in winning India the gold in 1928, 1932 and 1936. The final match of 1936 in Berlin Olympics was shown in the movie where Dhyan Chand was not shown as the captain, his name was changed to Samrat. In 1936 final India led 4-0 before German scored in the 52nd minute and the final score was 8-1 for India. In the movie the final score was 8-1 but they showed Germans led 1-0 in the half-time.
Now coming to the 1948 London Olympics, first all the names of players were changed. India dominated throughout the tournament and played like real champions on their way to being the Olympic champions. But this too was distorted in the movie. Two matches, semifinal and final were shown in the movie. In the semifinal against the Netherlands, India led 2-0 before conceding a goal in the final minutes but in the movie it showed India was down by a goal before winning it 2-1. In the final against Britain, India dominated the game and won comfortably by 4 goals to nil but in the movie it was shown Britain had taken 3-0 lead before Indians came back dramatically to win 4-3. It also showed harsh weather in the final forced Indians to play bare feet which again was incorrect.
Coach N N Mukherjee was shown as a married man and alcoholic. Ram Avatar Mishra one of Mukherjee’s student who now is 85 years old told www.xtratime.in, “Habul Mukherjee died in 1969. Although a movie is made on him after a long time, I am not at all happy because the person who did not taste a single drop of wine in his life, was shown to be a drunkard. He did not even get married because of hockey. This was all done to add spice to the film. The country won 3 golds under his coaching in the 1948, 1952 and 1964 Olympics. No coach has done wonders like him. And as a result, his name will not be used in the movie! It’s very unfortunate.”
Only surviving legends from the 1948 team Balbir Singh Sr. and Keshab Dutt found it hard to accept the distorted history of Indian sports in the movie. Balbir Singh Sr. told www.xtratime.in, Mukherjee was a visionary who taught them are art of tacking and fighting against the foreign teams on the pitch. He also said that though the players played on the pitch and scored goals, it was Mukherjee who was the main architect of the goals scored. He quoted www.xtratime.in, “I have highlighted everything from my side, his achievement-his success – but at the end of the day, they decided to mold in their own way, so I had nothing to do here.”
The movie ‘Gold’ claims to be the story of 1948 Olympic gold medal win in hockey. It cannot distort history and change players and coach’s name. If it had been a movie inspired by 1948 Olympic win then maybe doing all these would have been possible.
If you are promoting hockey and the great 1948 Olympic win as well as 1936 win, don’t hide the architect and players who made it possible behind some other names. It is not only wrong but an insult to those men who put India on the world sport’s map. You have lot of ways to dramatize a movie without changing the facts of Golden era of Indian hockey.
Imagine if we make a movie on 1983 World Cup cricket victory and change the facts as well as names of the players, will India and BCCI take it lightly? This sport has given India 8 Olympic golds. Why should this distortion of facts go unnoticed? Why should the Indian greats like Dhyan Chand, Balbir Singh and others have to hide behind other names?
Its time for Hockey India and Sports Ministry of India to see that the dignity of hockey and hockey greats are undamaged. If the history needs to be told, it should be told right!