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After Tendulkar, British Filmmaker Eyes WWI Indian Soldiers

By: IANS | June 1, 2017

James Erskine hit a six with "Sachin: A Billion Dreams", a docu-drama on the "God of Cricket" Sachin Tendulkar. Hoping to return to India soon, the British filmmaker, who grew up with people "loathing the British Empire", wants to present the gruelling life of Indian soldiers of the World War I era on the big screen.

Erskine was in Mumbai last week to promote the film on the Indian star cricketer, and he seems to have found another subject for his film.

"I'd love to come back here (India). I am interested in (making a film on) the Indian soldiers who fought in World War I. It will be an amazing story. I would love to make something historical," the director told IANS over phone from Mumbai.

Why the World War I (1914-1918)?

"It's about a nation forming itself. For me, being an English filmmaker... I'm interested in stories about British rule. I grew up with the British Empire being loathed. So, I should try and get through their stories and present history in a more contemporary way," said Erskine, who has made movies like "7/7: Attack on London" and "My Kid Survived".

He also wants to give a "new take on American history".

"I am looking at a film on athlete Jim Brown who is considered a great football player... He is a very controversial figure in America. I am planning to do something with him," said the sports enthusiast, known for making sports-based films/documentaries like "One Night in Turin" and "Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist".

Talking about controversies, when "Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist" -- based on cyclist Marco Pantani -- released in 2014, a few critics felt the director closed "the book on the doping allegations".

Asked about the importance of controversies in films, he said: "Of course I am interested in controversies, but what I am interested in is how it (controversies) changed their (the sports star's) mindset. People like Pantani and Sachin... these are heroic people struggling through a different time. 'Sachin...' is a heroic story."

"I like to tell dramatic stories in a unique way, and not just reporting an incident. It's about getting into the heart," he added.

Apart from "Sachin...", he is thrilled about "Le Mans: Racing Is Everything", a limited series with a "very human story as well as gripping drama".

"'Le Mans...' is the greatest car race. It's different from normal races. It goes on for 24 hours," he said about the series based on the participants of France's 24-hour car race that takes place annually in Le Mans.

"We jumped back in time... what these men were doing. It's quite emotional. I can't begin to tell you how complicated it was (shooting it). We had seven cameras and helicopters running the whole day," he said.

The series will premiere on the internet video-on-demand service Amazon Prime Video on June 9.

Sports-drama seems to be his favourite genre.

"I love making films about people, society and tell amazing stories... Stories that haven't been told before in this way... Where we look at what connects the athletes to the wider social picture and wider audience. Often the films that I make are about a genius.

"What we do as filmmakers or writers, we can be good, but can never be clearly defined as a genius as the athletes with the whole world watching them. That's extraordinary," he said.

"Sport stories have a natural drama to them. A lot of people's identities, especially men's, are formed through watching sports players. They are used to seeing sports, so the audience finds the films relatable," he concluded.

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