By Justin Rao
Mumbai, Sep 30 (PTI) Social worker Vijay Barse, who is set to be immortalised on the celluloid by Amitabh Bachchan, says he is thrilled his mission will find a larger audience courtesy the megastar.
Barse is the founder of Slum Soccer, a Nagpur-based organisation dedicated towards the upliftment of underprivileged children through football matches.
His life story will be adapted cinematically by "Sairat" director Nagraj Manjule in his debut Hindi feature "Jhund", featuring Bachchan as Barse, who brings street kids together to build a soccer team.
"I haven't met Mr Bachchan yet. But he might've a lot of material about me to study. I keep meeting Nagraj regularly. We are always in touch. Because of Amitabh Bachchan's involvement, I know my mission of slum soccer is going to travel far and wide," Barse told PTI.
"From children to adults, everyone is a fan of Bachchan. So when he will give my message, what greater honour there could be? It's an honour for me, that this century's greatest actor is going to play my role," he adds.
In 2001, Barse was working as a sports teacher in Nagpur-based Hislop College where one rainy afternoon, he spotted slum kids playing soccer with a makeshift football.
Having grown up in an underprivileged background himself, the 73-year-old was then inspired to start a soccer club for slum children.
A total 128 teams participated in the first local tournament, which was conducted next year at district level, then state and then gradually went national.
Today, over 15 states are connected to his slum soccer, which sends a team representing India every year for Homeless Soccer World Cup.
It was recently announced that "Jhund" will roll this November, with a 40-day long scheduled in Nagpur but Barse says the project's journey has been on for so long that he would not believe until it happens.
In 2012, yesteryear actor Shammi's son, Iqbal Rizvi got in touch with Barse after reading about slum soccer.
Rizvi came to Nagpur, interacted with the slum soccer kids and even went to Glasgow for Homeless Soccer World Cup, and got required permissions from them.
But Rizvi could not get producers to back the script.
The project was revived after producer Meenu Arora chanced upon the story and took it - first to Manjule and then to Bachchan.
"One night, a man showed up at my house with a bunch of other people. I didn't recognise him. He asked me if I had seen 'Sairat'. I had not. He asked if I at least heard the songs from the film. I had heard only 'Zingaat'. He smiled and said, 'I'm the one who directed it, sir. I am Nagraj Manjule," Barse says.
The director spent some time with him to understand his life and his mission but Barse says he insisted that Manjule rather spoke with the kids and get a better perspective.
Manjule, over the course, met him and his academy kids before starting the project, but the movie hit another roadblock.
"Finance was a problem. There was a set built in Pune but since budget became an issue the film was stalled. Even Mr Bachchan gave back his advance and we were back to square one."
Barse had appeared on one of the episodes of Aamir Khan's "Satyamev Jayate" and says the superstar had also expressed his desire to produce the film but things did not work out.
"Nagraj had his heart set on the story and he didn't want to leave it despite things not working out so he approached T-Series and then everything fell in place," Barse says.
The now-retired professor says he has not yet read the script of "Jhund" but has faith in Manjule.
The director "knows how to handle a story like mine," he says.
For now, Barse is geared to see how the film's shoot will eventually turn out in his city.
"When Mr Bachchan comes here, there will be so many wanting to meet him. Even when I am called to meet him, I know I'll be lost in the crowd. I am a simple man, I've always lived in the lanes of this city. I don't want to change ever. Biopic or not, I'll keep my simplicity alive," he says. PTI JUR RDS SHD