Entertainment

‘Udham Singh was mysterious, but we’ve connected the dots’

For Sircar, Irrfan Khan had been the first choice for the film. However, after he passed away, Vicky Kaushal got the role. “There had to be someone that serious as an actor,” adds Sircar.

By Reya Mehrotra

“For 21 years, I have been trying to seek vengeance,” said Udham Singh, when during his trial, he was asked about his motivation to assassinate Michael O’Dwyer— responsible for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre in Amritsar—on March 13, 1940.

Coincidentally, nearly 21 years were what it took for Shoojit Sircar’s film Sardar Udham to come to fruition after the director first thought about making a biopic on the revolutionary leader during his visit to Jallianwala Bagh in 1999. Sardar Udham was released on Amazon Prime Video on October 16.

Recently, FE caught up with Sircar, actor Vicky Kaushal and producer Ronnie Lahiri to talk about their latest release.

Sircar calls Sardar Udham a once-in-a-lifetime film. “I question myself sometimes about how I did it,” he says.

For Sircar, who has made critically acclaimed films like Piku and Vicky Donor, the biggest film that influenced him on any patriot was Gandhi by Richard Attenborough. “Though we have not reached that level, it’s quite satisfying to see that we are somehow there,” he says.

The year 1999 is also special for another reason. Film Shaheed Uddham Singh, starring Raj Babbar as Udham Singh, was released in theatres. Ask the team if they watched the movie for any reference, and Sircar replies, “I have seen that film. Our take is a little different. Ours is mostly the survivor stories—the survivors who have given statements, historians and the documents that have come out from the time when he (Udham Singh) was in prison in London. He was quite mysterious, so there’s no extensive document as such, but we have connected the dots.”

Earlier, during an interview with FE, actor Sidharth Malhotra had talked about how he had met late Captain Vikram Batra’s family to know him as a person before he essayed his character. In this case, however, actor Vicky Kaushal had no reference points. When asked how he prepared for the role, he says, “The biggest tool becomes your imagination. The director and the team of 200-300 people create that world for you so that you get into that costume, makeup and dive into that character in physical form. You can only imagine how he must have felt and then you truthfully try to touch that note.

Beyond that I cannot think much and act. I trust my instincts a lot and go and surrender into that space and then explore it with the director that this is what I am feeling right now.”

Vicky Kaushal’s choice of films from the beginning of his career has resonated with Sircar’s body of work—both have worked in meaningful cinema. Ask him how his body of work shaped him up as an actor and he replies, “I was born and raised in Bombay. So, till I was 22-23 years, my life was restricted till about 2-3 km of college and home. So, I had limited knowledge. But as an actor, your horizon keeps stretching and I now have a better understanding of that particular issue or topic raised in the film that I have worked in.”

With expectations from the film high and Kaushal and Sircar bringing their expertise to the table, Sardar Udham gets added to the long list of commercial and critical successes like Shershaah and Raazi. In fact, the patriotic genre—along with sports in the past few years—has become the taste of the audience with most movies being received well. Sports autobiographies add a title almost every year with the greatest successes being Mary Kom, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, MS Dhoni: The Untold Story and more. When asked if the genre would ultimately become the formula for a commercial success, producer Lahiri says, “It is the problem of our psyche as a nation that what one does everyone follows. Not everyone is experimenting or has the courage to experiment.”

When asked why the film was released on an OTT platform (Amazon Prime Video) when the theatres are finally reopening, producer Lahiri shares, “We waited a long time. Till about a month ago, too, we didn’t know if theatres would open soon. There’s always uncertainty and talks about the third wave. As a production house (Rising Sun Films), it is also very important for us that if one film is ready, we must take it out and start another as my 300-person crew wouldn’t get employment from my end. So, these were the deciding factors.”

For Sircar, Irrfan Khan had been the first choice for the film. However, after he passed away, Vicky Kaushal got the role. “There had to be someone that serious as an actor,” adds Sircar.

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