By Sanjay Suresh:
Now I am not usually a documentary person. I rarely get time to watch movies these days, so I make it a point to watch good mainstream entertainers or highly rated movies. When my close friend begged me to watch this documentary about a formula one driver called Ayrton Senna, I was sceptical. The fact that the entire movie is made up from old formula one tapes, news footages, interviews etc. convinced me that it must be some drab and boring piece on some apparently amazing driver. But I am pleased to say that I was wrong (Except for the amazing driver part).
“Senna”, the documentary, is one hour and forty minutes roller coaster ride of thrills and emotions compiled in such a melancholic way that it will leave you jarred for hours afterwards. Yes, it is that amazing. The movie is the complete account of the life of arguably the best racer the world has ever seen, Ayrton Senna. But why is it that this movie lingers with you hours after watching it? What is so special about it?
Quite a few things actually.
1. It is a compilation of actual videos of Senna
Now this might sound bad to many of you but hear me through. Imagine watching an intense movie with so much emotional drama. Now what if the movie did not have any actors, but instead had a bunch of people who actually went through all that in real life (Basically a documentary)? The movie is so well compiled that it lands right on the line between fact and fiction where the ingenuity of the story and the drama makes it as good as any fictional story while you are actually watching real people go through their lives.
2. It is a movie of a sport that is comparatively unexplored by mainstream cinema
I can think of quite a few good sports movies over the years but I don’t remember any which has explored Formula One racing like this one. “Senna” takes us through everything related to Formula One, from intra-team politics to the psyche of a driver just before the race. It even goes one step further by showing us the lives of so many people associated with the sport and the impact they have on it.
3. The Senna-Prost Rivalry
The rivalry between team mates Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost was as if it was following a Hollywood script. The drama, the intensity and sheer magnitude of the impact the rivalry had on Formula One as a whole is mind blowing. And again, the best part is that, in the movie you are watching compiled videos of everything from what happened inside the garage of McLaren-Honda to TV interviews they gave together. Such is the quality of the editing that the movie builds on face like an accelerating Formula One car till the very end.
4. The man himself, Ayrton Senna
The biggest selling point of the movie is the main protagonist himself. I can assure you that I could watch a hundred more movies but I will never forget the face of Ayrton Senna. Even though he has a smile that plays on his lips, there is a sort of sadness to his eyes. His journey from go-karting to Formula One is more than inspiring. He was a part of a dying breed of fearless racers who danced a dance with the car that others couldn’t even dream about. But what is most astonishing is the fact that even after being the World Champion for staggering three times in a span of four years, the man was humble and quick to attribute his success to god.
In the most controversial era of Formula One, Senna proved that the skill and intellect of a driver could compete with technologically superior cars. In one of the most memorable scenes in the movie, Senna wins his home GP in Brazil for the first time, after completing the last few laps with a jammed gearbox. And as soon as the race is done, he immediately asks for the Brazilian flag to wave to the fans. Now remember that this was a time when Brazil, as a country, was in complete turmoil. Senna was a source of happiness for Brazilians around the world. “He was the best of Brazil“, they say in the movie.
5. The underlying tone of the movie
Being a documentary, many would argue that the movie itself was just an account of an eventful life and nothing more. But I would like to believe that it was something more. Such is the impact that the movie had on me. Even though he was never hard pressed for money, Ayrton Senna did not buy his way into Formula One. He worked his way up from go-karting and was truly a self made man. His uncanny nature of being able to see god in his victories and defeats was inspiring. The brilliance of this is not the fact that he is religious. The way in which he can find peace in entrusting the result of the race to a higher power while at the same time giving his best to everything he does is unbelievable.
I will now struggle to control my excitement and refrain from giving out too much about the movie because this is one documentary that you just cannot miss. The movie opens with this line from Ayrton Senna when asked about his go-karting origins: “It was pure driving, pure racing. There wasn’t any politics then right? And no money involved either. So it was real racing”.