Some time ago, Nikhil flew to London to shoot scenes in the much-revered Southall Gurdwara and to meet Sikh elders there. Cameras are not allowed in the Gurudwara. But once the Southall Gurudwara committees heard the idea behind Patiala House and that two of the most beloved Punjabi actors, Rishi Kapoor and Akshay Kumar will feature in the saga, the Sikh elders of Southall were all for the project.
Says Nikhil, "They just threw open the doors of the Gurudwara and offered to help in every way to make Patiala House authentic. Many of the Sikh elders at the Gurudwara had lived through the infamous Southall racial riots of 1979, where my film is partially set. When I narrated my theme to them they had tears in their eyes. Patiala House is like old wounds being re-opened for them. But it's a story that must be told," says Advani.
Even while the set depicting the streets and homes from the Asia-centric Southall area of London are being constructed in Film City, director Nikhil Advani has managed to get visas for 12 young British Asian actors, chosen after auditioning nearly 60 candidates, to play third-generation Sikhs from a family in Southall. The director has been working on their visas and other details for the last many months. "There are 7 boys and 5 girls all between the ages of 16 and 30. We deliberately kept the lower age-limit at 16 because any younger British -Asian actors would've meant special permissions and visas for parents. Out there, they are very particular about the permissible age for working."
Nikhil has been at the job to the minutest details. "All the details of their schedules have been worked out. Their hotel accommodations, transport, dinner engagements, etc. They started shooting on 21st December and keep shooting right up to 4 February."
At heart, says Nikhil, Patiala House is a father-son story. "Like Billy Elliott, where the father is a coal miner but the son wants to be dancer. In my film, Rishi Kapoor feels his dreams as a Sikh immigrant in England are being destroyed by his son. But the son Akshay Kumar has his own dreams to pursue."
The director fears the minute people hear Akshay plays a Sardarji, they will presume Patiala House is another Singh Is Kinng. "But my film has nothing in common with Singh Is Kinng. Akshay is a Sardar. But a mona Sardar."
Nikhil Advani's film Patiala House on cross-generation cultural assimilation among the Sikh community of Great Briton is getting more and more seriously authentic. Now, Nikhil has hired 12 professional young British-Asian actors who joined Akshay Kumar for the long schedule in Mumbai this month. They will play the third generation of Sikhs in Britain.