Shoojit delivers masterclass on making of Sardar Udham

Shoojit delivers masterclass on making of ‘Sardar Udham’

Vicky Kaushal plays the lead in Shoojit Sircar's 'Sardar Udham'.

Cinephiles filled the quaint Maquinez Palace in Panjim to the brim to listen to Shoojit Sircar and Ronnie Lahiri, the director-maker duo of ‘Sardar Udham’. The highly acclaimed Hindi biopic on the Marxist revolutionary
Udham Singh narrowly missed out on being India’s official entry to Oscars this year.

The duo was at a masterclass session at the 52nd International Film Festival of India on Tuesday. The movie makes a mention of the British not apologising for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, even after 100 years of the horrific incident. Lahiri, the producer of ‘Sardar Udham’, explained why.

“Even now, almost 70 years later, the Jews who survived make sure that nobody in the world forgets what the Germans did to them, which isn’t quite the case with countries that were under colonial rule,” began Lahiri.

“The British colonised half of the world, but they were the ones with the better public relations machinery. They have committed Jallianwala Bagh-like massacres all over the world. It is high time the erstwhile colonies of the British came out with their side of history,” he added.

Shoojit spoke about the craft of the film. ‘Sardar Udham’ is a tale woven out of fragmented memories. It contains some chosen details of the history that are landmarks in Udham Singh’s life, including the Hindustan Socialist Republican Army (HSRA) and Irish Republican Army (IRA), he said.

“Even in ‘October’ (2018) and ‘Piku’ (2015), I have tried not to play to the gallery. You are your first audience when you make films ,” he said. 

The background score was given extra importance to make it unobtrusive yet fill in the long silences in the movie.

“When I thought about that one thing that people should take home, it was not Sadar Udham or Bhagat Singh. To me, it was Jallianwala Bagh,” said Shoojit, explaining why the sequence on the incident was so long and immersive. “With Jallianwala Bagh, you take the entire independence movement home. This is the fulcrum of the movement at that time,” he said. 

The characters of Udham Singh, Bhagat Singh and the Jallianwala Bagh massacre story were reimagined and “nurtured” for over 20 years by Shoojit, who believes in extensive research. 

It took 22 days to shoot this immersive 45-minute sequence. The most important part was to show people lying in a pool of blood, agony writ large on their faces, on the fateful night. Children from local martial arts schools in Punjab were hired for the film.  

Lead actor Vicky Kaushal’s action sequences in this portion were organic. Kaushal kept doing his own moves, without being directed and the cameras captured it all, reveals Shoojit.

The reference for the mass firing scene was Richard Attenborough’s cult classic ‘Gandhi’ (1982). The rest of it was recreated by listening to the stories of the survivors. Thus, ‘Sardar Udham’ is full of survival stories.

Behind every story he tries to tell, Shoojit says there must be an ideology that he wants to propagate to the world, and the voice should be direct and powerful.

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