Actor-director Farhan Akhtar, who painstakingly transformed himself to portray the life of Milkha Singh in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, has paid an emotional tribute to the Flying Sikh, who died on Friday after a month-long battle with COVID-19. Milkha Singh had contracted COVID-19 last month and tested negative for the virus on Wednesday when he was shifted to general ICU in another block of the hospital. His condition turned critical Friday evening.
Taking to his Twitter account, Farhan shared a throwback picture with the sprint icon alongside a lengthy note. “Dearest Milkha ji, a part of me is still refusing to accept that you are no more," Farhan wrote. “Maybe it’s the stubborn side I inherited from you.. the side that when it sets its mind on something, just never gives up. And the truth is that you will always be alive. Because you were more than a large-hearted, loving, warm, down-to-earth man. You represented an idea. You represented a dream. You represented (to use your own words) how hard work, honesty and determination can lift a person off his knees and get him to touch the sky. You have touched all our lives. For those who knew you as a father and a friend, it was a blessing. For those who didn’t as a constant source of inspiration and a reminder of humility in success. I love you with all my heart."
Milkha Singh, who missed an Olympic medal by a whisker at the 1960 Games, had revealed Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was the first film he watched since the 1960s and remembered that people used to tell him that Farhan looked exactly like him in the movie.
“When ‘Bhaag Mikha Bhaag’ was released, no matter where I went — Australia, England or Canada, people around the world used to say Farhan is Milkha Singh’s ditto copy. I even went to see Farhan train during the film’s making and saw him run 100 metres in 11 seconds! He was not a professional athlete, but he trained hard to become one," Milkha Singh had told PTI.
Farhan’s girlfriend, actor-singer Shibani Dandekar also took to her Instagram account to share throwback photos with Milkha Singh and his family.
“…He had such a warm heart, was such a gentle soul and had this way of lighting up a room with his incredible energy. He really is the true champion that this country knows him as but I learnt that he is also one of the kindest people this world has ever had… there will never be another like you Milkha ji… will miss your beautiful laugh… hope you are dancing in the clouds with Nirmal aunty… you will both greatly missed. Love you."
Milkha Singh was a four-time Asian Games gold medallist and the 1958 Commonwealth Games champion but his greatest performance remained the fourth-place finish in the 400m final of the 1960 Rome Olympics.