For director Shoojit Sircar, Sardar Udham has been 21 years in the making. The film is based on the story of Sardar Udham Singh and his undeterred mission to avenge the lives of his beloved brethren who were brutally killed in the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919. Produced by Ronnie Lahiri and Sheel Kumar, Vicky Kaushal plays the lead role. It also stars Shaun Scott, Stephen Hogan, Banita Sandhu and Kirsty Averton in pivotal roles and Amol Parashar in a special appearance. It began streaming on Amazon Prime Video on October 16.
“I remember I was studying in Delhi as a college student, and I was always very influenced by the revolutionaries of India. That is when I first read a small paragraph about Udham Singh. I asked myself, why do we know so little about the man who avenged the Jallianwala Bagh massacre by travelling across the world to reach London and then finally killed the man who ordered it,” Shoojit shares.
In fact, the filmmaker landed in Mumbai around two decades ago to realise this dream. “I wanted to make my first film on Udham Singh, and that was the idea with which I landed in Mumbai in 2000 for the first time. But somehow, I couldn’t find producers, which is why it didn’t happen then. Like Udham Singh I have waited 21 years... to make this film. He too had waited to avenge the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 1919,” Shoojit says.
Sircar then went on to talk about how he has always been emotionally very attached to the Jallianwala Bagh memorial. “I always visit the place when I am in Delhi. I go there on my own, I go there with my friends, and I go there with my children. It inspires me in different ways, and I have a complicated emotional relationship with that place. I just can’t get over it,” Shoojit rues.
When asked about choosing to release the film on OTT when cinema halls are beginning to open up, Shoojit says, “The film was made for the big screen. That is true. But we have to go on with the times. A film cannot get stuck; it has already been delayed. The advantage we now have on OTT is that we get an international audience right from day one. So, it is basically good for the film to find a wider range of audience.”
The director also opened up about why he chose to cast Vicky as lead. “I wanted to cast Irfan, but that didn’t happen for obvious reasons. I watched Vicky in Masaan. His performance was quite good. I needed him to play someone at ages 20, 30 and 39, which I knew he would be able to do. He has done a fine job,” Shoojit says.
The director shared a particular musical note with Kaushal to acclimatise him with the spirit of the film. “I have shared the music because I wanted him to look for the mental calmness of Udham Singh through that music. He was a revolutionary, but his aggression was of a different kind. He was restrained yet very focused. I told him if he could decipher the music correctly, he would know the state of mind of the person that was Sardar Udham Singh,” Shoojit adds.
However, research for the subject of Sardar Udham took a long time for the director as there are very few historical records about the man or his life. “In most history books, you will only find a paragraph on him. When it comes to Jallianwala Bagh, textbooks in Indian schools have just a page dedicated to it. I have often thought about why this is so. Why don’t we know more about this man who travelled all over the world to finally land in London and kill General O’Dwyer. Our history books are definitely falling short of recording history in its true sense,” Shoojit points out.
Finally, the director talked about the basic idea behind making the film. “I want people to talk about this man’s contribution to the freedom struggle in India. He should not die in our minds. His passion should not fade away from our lives. He did what no one else could do,” Shoojit signs off.