Akshay's Tapan Das is inspired by a real-life legend. Who was he?

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By HT

Akshay Kumar’s latest film, Gold, has opened well at the box office with Rs 25.25 crore in its kitty. The film has been praised for the passion with which it narrates one of the most celebrated Indian sporting victories—our first Olympic gold medal as an independent country. 

That it was won in hockey, India’s national game, made it sweeter. The story chronicles the journey of the team from 1933 to 1948. Playing a pivotal role is Akshay Kumar as Tapan Das. However, who was Tapan? Akshay’s character, we now know, is inspired by the legendary Indian hockey player Kishan Lal.

In an earlier interview, producer Ritesh Sidhwani said the character itself is fictional but is inspired from the story of Kishan Lal, regarded as one of the greatest inside forwards of the game.

The story of Kishan is the stuff of legend. Born in Mhow in Madhya Pradesh, he was a young lad who grew up watching the game of the nawabs, Polo. Far from being in a position to play the game, simply watching it instilled in young Kishan a love for sports. He would soon pick up not the mallet but the hockey stick.

Pretty much like Kishan, Akshay Kumar’s Tapan finds a team that has lost its best player, after many of the best players of British India opted to go to Pakistan. In the trailer, he says: “We dreamt of playing for a free India. India is indeed free, but there is no team left.”

The Indian team that went to participate in the London Games of 1948 was all-new, with not a single player having any previous experience at the Olympics.

However, what this team achieved was beyond anyone’s imagination. They beat the following teams with the following scores: India beat Austria 8-0, Argentina 9-1, Spain 2-0 and Holland 2-1. However, the sweetest moment was when in the finals, India beat Great Britain in a 4-0 thriller, that too on its home turf in London.

Kishan Lal was the captain of this gold-winning team. What’s even better was that Kishan was lauded for his effort and awarded the Padma Shri by the then President of India Dr S Radhakrishnan.

However, Akshay’s character Tapan plays a junior manager of the team. To play a Bengali in the film, Akshay trained with a language coach.

Kishan Lal, a hockey legend in his lifetime and a mentor to many, remained connected with the team till his death on June 22, 1980. He passed away while covering the Murruguppa Gold Cup Hockey Tournament as a commentator for Doordarshan.