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“I would have made this film in any case”, says Shoojit Sircar on Sardar Udham

“I was looking for somebody who could express without saying too many words”, adds Shoojit Sircar on casting Vicky Kaushal as Sardar Udham Singh



Shoojit Sircar

Filmmaker SHOOJIT SIRCAR who is ready with his magnum opus Sardar Udham releasing on October 16, 2021 on Amazon Prime Video speaks exclusively to SAMEER SALUNKHE in a telephonic interview about the process of bringing Sardar Udham to the screens. Read on the excerpts from the interview:

Sardar Udham has been your dream project. What does this film mean to you?

It means a lot in terms of who I am and unless I am emotionally disturbed or concerned or it has hit me quite some time that we know about the Jallianwala Baugh incident but we just read about it, turn the page and move on. But you know, that freedom came at a big price. My responsibility as a filmmaker was not just to tell the story but also to take the thinking, the ideology of what Shaheed Udham Singh, Shaheed Bhagat Singh spoke and the kind of world they wanted to see, to bring them forth to this generation and the generations ahead.

Does the term ‘dream project’ add more pressure on you to deliver?

First of all, I would like to tell you that I don’t term it as ‘a project’. Ronnie (Lahiri, producer) and I would have made this film in any case. It’s not a dream project. It is something that we felt quite deeply and we’re expressing it through cinema.


From L to R: Producer Ronnie Lahiri, director Shoojit Sircar, actor Vicky Kaushal, cinematographer Avik Mukhopadhyay during the shoot of Sardar Udham

What was the most challenging thing about bringing Sardar Udham to the screen?

One challenge cinematically was understanding Udham Singh. I mean we have read whatever information we had, but who he was, what he was must have been thinking, what he was trying to do, what he was carrying with him, I think that understanding was very important for me to understand Udham and do it cinematically.

And the second important challenge was to create the period and the era because I have no experience in doing that. So, it had to be very particular and had to be very conscious of what we do from colors on the wall to shots to everything. There still may be mistakes but I have tried as much as I can cover it.

What about Vicky Kaushal convinced you that he is your Udham Singh?

I think what I saw of him in Masaan was that he was quite secluded and internal. Sardar Udham is a little cerebral in its nature so I was looking for somebody who could express without saying too many words and that attracted me about Vicky.

In period films, we often talk about the production design and costume which take us to that time period. But which crucial filmmaking elements are not talked about as much? And how did you use those elements in Sardar Udham?

I think it’s the story that you’re telling, the basic wisdom in storytelling, basic moral values you’re telling. Sometimes you get it right but sometimes it gets overpowered by the look and the feel. My attention is purely in terms of the moral values, thoughts and ideologies and the freedom that these fighters are talking about in the film. It is more important to me than creating a period.

Was there anything particular about your craft which you tried to do differently on Sardar Udham?

Yes. There’s only one thing that I have done differently while making Sardar Udham was not to make him a chest thumping patriot, rather a normal human being who had similar emotions and an everyday life and still he was a revolutionary. That was the main thing I was concentrating on.

The trailer looks every bit international. What was your vision behind creating a visual spectacle?

Very big inspiration for this film was Akira Kurosawa and his one film in particular titled Hunter, a Japanese-Russian collaboration. It’s an ode to Kurosawa in that sense. And rest I would say, a lot of archived images, and of course lots of European and Hollywood films and series coming in the last few years, they become your reference points. But the most important reference point was the British Archives, the images from even the Films Division, and there are a lot of images from the time of World War, those images became handy for me to create this world.