'Virsa' seeks to connect Punjabi expats with their roots

'Virsa' seeks to connect Punjabi expats with their roots

The film comprising Indian, Pakistani and Australian actors is the outcome of one of the many initiatives for peace taken across the border.

According to the Producer Vikram Khakhar, the idea of the movie originated from a brainstorming session with Pakistani singer-composer Jawad Ahmad.
"I have produced videos for Pakistani artists like Ali Azmat, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Ali Zafar and Ahmad. I always receive a warm welcome when I go back. Since hundreds of Punjabi speaking people live in Pakistan and abroad, we thought a film on the community would be interesting," Vikram said.

Vikram and Jawad joined hands with Dr Amanullah Khan, a 70-year-old renowned Punjabi poet who graduated from Lahore, but now lives in Dallas, to produce the film.

Virsa, the most expensive Punjabi movie till date, has been entirely shot in Sydney, apart from a day's shoot in India."We gave it the Pakistani feel through the characters and their dialogue," explains director Pankaj Batra.

Batra says that the movie explores ways of addressing the identity conflicts of immigrant Asians in Western societies so that the succeeding generations can benefit from the best facets of both the cultures.

Denying that the location was determined by an effort to surmount visa problems, Vikram says that the choice of Sydney was because the Australian government was very supportive.

The film is slated to release on May 7 with English subtitles.The movie has actors like Gulshan Grover, Aarya Babbar and Kawaljeet Singh from India, while the lead actress, Mehreen Raheal, is from Pakistan.

Bollywood bad man Gulshan Grover who essays a very crucial role in the movie, was so overwhelmed by the film that he has returned 40 per cent of his renumeration to the producers.

Speaking about the film, Batra said Virsa is a mainstream Punjabi film that touches on significant issues. It's the story of Nawaz Ali (Naumaan Ijaz) from Lahore and Ranvir Singh Grewal (Kawaljeet) who comes from Kartarpur, a village from Punjab. They migrate to Sydney and become best friends.

Twenty years later, Grewal's rich, wayward ways reflect in his son Yuvraj's (Arya Babbar) behaviour, while Ali's son (Aman Dhaliwal) is rooted in his native culture.
The film was premiered at the Dallas International Film Festival yesterday.
Says Aarya Babbar, "I have always wanted to be a part of a Punjabi film as it's my culture and my virsa. And our film Virsa is being showcased at the Dallas International Film Festival amidst great film personalities. It's an amazing feeling as it’s for the first time a Punjabi film has received such a huge and appreciative platform."

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