“I am extremely happy at this moment,” announces Shoojit Sircar who is gearing up for the release of Sardar Udham on October 16. Headlined by Vicky Kaushal, the film will release on Amazon Prime Video. Sircar, who has been behind some thought-provoking films in the last decade – Vicky Donor, Madras Café, Piku, and October – has been nurturing the dream of making a film on the revolutionary freedom fighter for more than two decades. A visit to the Jallianwala Bagh massacre site in 1999 led to the idea of making the film.
“I was also deeply affected by my visit and I started reading about what happened. I went to each and every library in this country which has any document on Shaheed Udham Singh. I got all those documents and found out more information from the survivors of Jallianwala Baugh. That is how the inspiration came to tell the story. It is not a story but a sacrifice. When I started my journey, no one knew me nor did I know any actors. I wasn’t sure how I would make this film. There was a passion with which I came to Mumbai to make this film. So just like Sardar Uddham Singh, I have waited 21 years to make this film. Whatever my expression is, I have poured it completely into this film,” Sircar tells News18.
The filmmaker adds that people know about Bhagat Singh but not many are aware of Sardar Udham. “He is an unsung hero of our freedom struggle. It is very important for today’s generation to know who Sardar Udham was. Very few people know about him so it is quite unfortunate and sad,” he explains.
Read: Vicky Kaushal: Irrfan Khan was Supposed to Play Sardar Udham Singh, Nobody Can Fill His Shoes
But making this film wasn’t an easy outing as limited information was available about the freedom fighter, “There are not many documents available on Sardar Udham Singh. He was quite elusive by nature and behaviour. We went through a lot of research material but the most important thing that helped me was the written account by Jallianwala Bagh massacre eyewitnesses that they had given to the enquiry commission then (Hunter Commission).”
The limited availability of information also allowed the filmmaker to mould the character in the way he wanted to. “When you are doing a film and are giving a cinematic language to a character like Sardar Udham Singh, you will add certain things in the ideologies and principles that you believe in. So we have marinated Sardar Udham as much as is required. There is a fiction part of it but it is within the boundaries,” the filmmaker says, adding, “I am not making a documentary so you will have to create the character, it’s graph and emotions. So, all these things are fictional based on the facts that we found out and it was woven around it.”
In recent years, we have seen an influx of patriotic films. Many have turned out to be blockbusters, largely because of the themes of chest-thumping jingoism. But the filmmaker says that he had consciously tried to stay away from glorifying the character. “Filmmakers can easily get influenced with the jingoistic slogans and not be aware of it. So we have made a conscious effort in every frame, costume, dialogues that we don’t go overboard. Sardar Udham isn’t a jingoistic film. We have kept the screenplay real and stayed true to the events. I was aware that I won’t get a second chance so this is the only film I can make. I had to be very responsible while making this film.”
While Kaushal plays the titular character in the film, Sircar had earlier envisioned the film with late actor Irrfan Khan who he had collaborated with in Piku. Remembering the actor, he says, “I dedicated the trailer to Irrfan. He will always be there with me. I am unable to accept that he has left us. He was so vibrant. His smile and eyes were so mesmerising. He had a charming persona which would attract everyone.”
Last year, the nation went into a lockdown due to the pandemic which resulted in cinema halls being shut across the country. Sircar’s Gulabo Sitabo was the first film to head to the OTT platform.
Calling himself “impatient”, Sircar says that he wants to showcase his work to the audience as quickly as possible. “What I also experienced after Gulabo Sitabo was the reach the film got. I thought Sardar Udham also needs a huge global platform, apart from our Indian territories. That was one of the reasons for me to go ahead and release the film on a streaming platform. Yes, the cinematic experience of a theatre will be surely missed, but it is not a compromise on the cinematic narrative. It’ll be as cinematic on a big screen as it is on a small screen,” he concludes.