August 21, 2006, a 20-year-old hockey player took the Chandigarh-New Delhi Shatabdi train eager to join his World Cup-bound team mates. India were set to compete in the 2006 World Cup at Monchengladbach, Germany, in a few days time and defender Sandeep Singh was an integral part of the team.
After breakfast, Sandeep was relaxing when suddenly a sharp object hit his back. He was shaken, thrown off his train seat and wriggled on the floor in a pool of blood.
An RPF Jawan, sitting right behind Sandeep, was cleaning his rifle when the trigger went off accidentally and the bullet pierced through Sandeep’s lower back. His dreams and hopes of the World Cup were over. It meant long periods of darkness for Sandeep, who was confined to bed for months after being paralysed waist down. From a fast-rising star, Sandeep was now struggling to get out of a wheelchair and faced tough questions about his future.
A heart-wrenching story that will now be showcased on the big screen, Sandeep’s life, that freak bullet injury, struggle and the amazing comeback that saw him become India captain in 2012, it will all come alive in the cinema halls come July 13.
Soorma, a Bollywood movie based on Sandeep’s life and directed by Shaad Ali, is set to hit the screens this Friday. Actor-singer Diljit Dosanjh will play Sandeep’s character and Taapsee Pannu will play Sandeep’s love interest.
As the film is set to be released, Sandeep, who is currently travelling for movie promotions, get emotional. “My entire life story will be out there for people to see. I hope it inspires the youngsters,” says Sandeep, adding, “I want to tell the world that no dream is unachievable if one really tries hard.”
A few days ago, Sandeep “found the courage” to travel in a train again — his first train journey since the 2006 incident — and it brought back “strange memories”.
“It has been a remarkable journey. From breaking into the India side to being injured at the peak of my career to making a comeback when no one believed in me… I saw tough times and there were many nights when I would just cry out aloud.
“I was not sure if I would ever be able to wear that blue India jersey. Every step was a struggle… from the bed to the wheelchair to learning how to walk. Hockey demands top fitness and it took me months of blood and sweat to make a comeback. Now, to see all this on the big screen and share my story with the world is something that makes me emotional and happy at the same time.”
Back in 2006, the doctors had told Sandeep that he would never be able to walk again leave alone playing hockey. He was depressed and broken, but never gave up hope. While in hospital, he requested his elder brother Bikramjit Singh, also a hockey player, to bring him a hockey stick and would sleep with the stick in his hand. When after months, he first began to walk he used the stick as support.
“I never wanted to leave hockey and kept the stick with me 24x7 as a reminder that I have to play for India again. The pain was immense and I would not sleep for nights… the doctors said it was not possible to play again but my family stood by me.”
After months of rehabilitation in the US, Sandeep was finally back on his feet. The journey to the hockey field took another six months. And when he finally returned to the field in 2008, it was one of the greatest comeback stories in Indian hockey. He not only established his place in the team, but also went on to lead the team.
“It was all like a dream coming true. A blessing from above…” says Sandeep, who is happy that Dosanjh is playing his character in the movie. “He can do full justice to it and I think the movie will reflect my true struggle.”