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Ranjan Negi : Life Post Chak De India


Ranjan Negi’s real life story may have been Shimit’s and Jaideep Sahni’s inspiration to make Chak De India. But post Chak De India, Ranjan Negi’s story was just known in the hockey circuit. The movie made it sure that Ranjan Negi’s feats be acknowledged my the country.
Disappointed time and again by a game he so passionately lives for, Negi’s home went from light to dusk to stark black within no time.

That day in 2005, once again, his home was engulfed in the darkest darkness, oblivious to the dawn that was about to slip through a crack in the door — an offer from Yash Raj Films to coach the all-girl squad in hockey for Chak De! India

Today, two years hence, Negi has not only redeemed himself in hockey, he has also achieved what few 50-year-olds have been able to — fame, and some fabulous dance moves.

The ways of Negi’s life were strange from the very beginning. He’d be catapulted to success and almost immediately be unapologetically thrown back on the ground.

The defeat of the men’s hockey team in 1982, the charges of treachery, the victory lap as coach of the men’s hockey team that after 32 years won the Asian Games gold in 1998 and the women’s team that won the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games gold, the offer to coach the men’s Olympic squad, the dismissal soon after and the death of his son at the same time.

Hardened by fate and unable to pull away from his family that needed him the most at that time, Negi tried to duck the offer. But as usual, fate demanded more.

“I was emotionally blackmailed into taking up the offer from Yash Raj Films,” he remembers with a hint of smile in his voice, “One day when I visited the studio, Jaideep Sahni talked to me of his desire to revive women’s hockey through this film. Despite his contacts in the industry he hadn’t been able to generate even Rs 10,000 for the team.”

A few days before he was to meet Aditya Chopra, Negi woke up one night to find his wife missing. “I searched and found her in our son’s room, playing his instruments.”

This was a time of emotional turmoil, a time when the family needed to face harsh reality together. And so, Negi put forward a condition to Chopra — he would work with them only if his wife would be allowed at every shoot. It was shot down instantly. Family members were not allowed on the sets. Negi offered to quit and the condition was met.

Pic : Chak De India

Pic : Chak De India 

During practice sessions with SRK and the girls, Negi read the script that mirrorred his past yet painted a beautifully enthralling story. It wasn’t meant to be a success, just an attempt at reviving the spirit of women’s hockey.

Negi too was unsure of the outcome until he sat through the trial show of the film. In the stunned silence that followed the film’s last scene, Negi turned to Aryan, SRK’s son, for his reaction.
“Aryan told me he loved the film and that is when I realised that if a child could enjoy such a dramatic film, the world would enjoy it too.” As his parting shot, Negi told everyone he met that night, including Chopra, that the film would create history, a declaration that was met with utter disbelief.

Each passing day after Chak De’s release brought Negi closer to the recognition that had eluded him for so many years.

Newspapers were flooded with his stories, channels called him for interviews everyday and “Shekhar Gupta especially flew down from Delhi only to interview me for Walk the Talk,” says Negi with a humbleness and gratitude that only a survivor could have guarded with such honesty

From a time initially when his nervousness and hesitation restricted his conversations with the media, Negi today recounts with pride that though they may not put a face to it, people now recognise his name easily

The commotion around him drove him into seeking solitude in an unfinished task — the autobiography that he had started writing almost 20 years ago and is nearing completion now.
And with that he also decided to move on after Chak De, for success is temporary, and who better to know that than Negi. He started the Abhi Foundation, after his son Abhi Ranjan Negi, to take sports like hockey into rural areas.

“I lost my son on 21 October, 2005 and as we near his second death anniversary, I realise what a big leap my life has taken in the last two years.”

The leap though is not quite complete. If Chak De brought him recognition, a phone call from Samir Virani of iEvents and Management was going to bring him fame.

At the age of 50, Negi was asked to perfect dance moves and present them on national television for Sony’s Jhalak Dikhhla Jaa. The guru had to become the disciple.

“I had to perform every word of the song and it took me 45 hours of practice for a performance that lasted two minutes,” recounts the perfectionist.

He admits to feeling fear at the beginning, “but I am a sportsman and so, I accepted the challenge.

On the show, Jeetendra, one of the three judges, commented, “You started your performance with a hockey stick in your hands but the minute you threw it down you looked lost. Then you got your dance partner in your hands and you came back into form. It seems you need something in your hands at all times to keep going.” Jeetendra had captured the truth of Negi’s life.

Yet, on the first day of his new practice session, Negi broke down and cried, overwhelmed with the love he is receiving and the expectations of him.

“Every new session, I start with a zero because the steps are all new. I am a perfectionist and I don’t want to make a fool of myself in front of the entire country.”

But he knows that the spirit of sport that runs in his veins will give him the chance he deserves in this new game he has begun playing. On his way to the practice session where he is learning, not coaching, Negi is certain that redemption has already taken place.

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