Senna and Sensibility

Ayrton Senna celebrates a victory in a still from the film

An NRI filmmaker, Manish Pandey, pays tribute to Ayrton Senna through an award-winning documentary

When he was alive, Brazilian driver Ayrton Senna kept the Formula One circuit abuzz by speeding down the tracks and winning one accolade after another, as well as for his bitter rivalry with French champion racer, Alain Prost. For an F1 follower, however, Senna's glory is seen through a prism of tragedy, ever since he crashed his car and died while leading the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix in Italy. A documentary film titled, Senna, by Manish Pandey is now revisiting the life of the star, who is considered among the greatest Formula One drivers.

"I was a directionless and a rebellious teenager growing up in Hampshire, England, and Senna embodied everything that I was facing," says Pandey, 44, a surgeon by training, who was born in Shimla and spent five years in Agra before moving to Hampshire. "I grew up in England, while my dad was in the US. Even Senna was an outsider when he arrived in Britain in 1981 as his parents were in Brazil. I was living with my mother and sister, but Ayrton Senna symbolised what I felt," says Pandey, over phone from London. Through his teenage years, Pandey created a collection of books, literature and photographs on the three-time F1 world champion .

Senna, Pandey's debut film, has got a thumbs up from audiences across the world. The 104-minute film was released over a month ago in the UK, and notched over three million pounds in its opening weekend, making it the most successful documentary in Britain. Besides its theatrical laurels at Spain, Italy, Germany, Moscow and Adelaide, it won the Audience Award at the Sundance festival, Los Angeles, earlier this year.

The film documents Senna's journey from a 20-year old newcomer to the final race. What has interested F1 fans are the rare video footage of Senna's races and interviews from the archives of F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone. In the film, we see the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix, where Senna tries to overtake Prost on his chicane. But the cars collide and both crash out of the race. The film, says Pandey, is about "a pure man in a very impure world and his journey home to God. When I watch the film, my hero comes alive." He adds that the film is a culmination of six-and-a-half years of seeking permissions.

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