Bollywood star Amir Khan is not only known as "Mr Perfectionist" but also for choosing a variety of interesting projects to work on, the latest of which is his upcoming biopic on cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma; the first Indian to go to space. Amir Khan will portray the cosmonaut in the film.
The title of the film was recently revealed to be 'Saare Jahan Se Achcha' which literally means 'the best in the world' is a reference to the Urdu language patriotic song on India, composed by Muhammad Iqbal. Interestingly, as various news sources like India Today point out, when the-then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, in 1984, had asked Rakesh Sharma how India looked from space, he had simply said "Saare Jahan Se Achcha."
As India Today points out, the film is being produced by Ronnie Screwvala's production company RSVP and will be directed by filmmaker Mahesh Mathai known for the 1999 film 'Bhopal Express,' based on the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy.
There were two titles which were shortlisted, 'Salute' and 'Saare Jahan Se Achcha.' The final choice is then needless to say, appropriate. And that is not just because Sharma uttered those lines, but because those four words are forever fused with the spirit of Indian nationalism – 'Saare Jahan Se Achcha, Hindustan Hamara.' Also, the title falls in line with Amir Khan's more recent patriotic themed television documentary series 'Satyamey Jayate,' meaning 'Truth alone triumphs.'
So who is Rakesh Sharma? He is a retired Indian Air Force pilot who eventually became part of the crew of Soyuz T-11 spacecraft that launched in 2 April, 1984. The crew which also included the Shuttle Commander Yury Malyshev and Flight Engineer Gennadi Strekalov stayed in the Soviet space station Salyut 7 for seven days, 21 hours and 40 minutes. The mission was part of a joint programme between the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Soviet Interkosmos Space programme.
Upon his return to Earth, Rakesh Sharma was conferred with the title 'Hero of the Soviet Union,' the highest distinction in the then Soviet Union. Sharma was also awarded the Ashoka Chakra, the highest award for bravery during peacetime, in India.
In an interview with The Hindu, in 2010, Sharma compared going to space with winning the lottery. "I don't mean to burst your bubble. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have gone into space. But, it could have been anyone. It is like a lottery, meri lag gayi (I got lucky)." He also added that there were "no real surprises in store" for the crew as "it had all been documented" before.
Sharma also hoped that the young generation of today would be much more concerned about our planet Earth and the dangers it is facing from man-made factors like deforestation. Amir Khan who is passionate about various issues, would hopefully delve deeper into the man behind the helmet and explore his philosophies in life, especially his love for the planet.
Hopefully, the film will be an endearing space epic, like Ron Howard's 'Apollo 13' or Christopher Nolan's 'Interstellar.' And, at the same time it should have the subtle yet humble earthen nuances of the brilliant Ashutosh Gowariker directed 'Swades' starring Shah Rukh Khan.