Amrit Sagar, grandson of late Ramanand Sagar is all set to revive and get the banner of Sagar Arts back to the big screen after almost two decades with his film 1971. The gifted director who has also done TV shows like Prithviraj and Hatim is coming up with his directorial debut 1971 which is based on POWs in the jails of Pakistan. He speaks out to IndiaFM about his new film and his experiences while shooting it.
Coming from a film family, when did you decide that you want to direct films?
I decided to direct films at a very young age. I guess I was 12 when I decided that I wanted to be a director. As I come from a film family I grew up around film sets. I remember looking through the camera all my life.
How much of inspiration was your grandfather Ramanand Sagar to you.
I feel whatever I am today is because of my grandfather. He is my biggest inspiration.
Give us a background of yourself in terms of where you studied filmmaking or whom you assisted?
I studied filmmaking at California College of Arts in San Francisco. I did my Bachelor in fine arts which is a four year course. Then I came back to India and started directing for television. I did Prithviraj, Lucky, Hatim. Then eventually I directed my film last year.
What made you decide on a subject like POWs?
My dad had written a story in 1972 titled Che Kaidi (six prisoners) but it was based on 1972 sensibilities. He gave it to me 7 years back. And then recently I did a little research on the internet and I came upon this articles about 54 POW's still being in the Pakistani jail. Once I read the article, I went and met the families of the POW's. After meeting them it just dawned on me that how important it is to make a film like this and then onwards I was just got locked onto this film.
Is it based on real facts or fictionalized?
The film is not entirely based on facts but we have taken a few factual events that have happened from newspaper cuttings and internet.
Reportedly you met some of the families of POWs in Delhi. What kind of a research did you do for the film?
I did a research on everything from the army uniforms to grenades, guns and bullets to ID cards, we even researched on details like what films were playing at that time, which advertisements were there at that time, which cigarettes were sold at that time. Just to make sure that the conversation the men have was relevant.
Does your film have any similarities to the film Deewar which also dealt with the subject of POWs?
No there isn't any similarity at all. My film is very real.
War films like LOC and Lakshya didn't do too well in the recent past. Aren't you sceptical about making a film with a war based subject?
Not at all. There are films like Haqeeqat and Border which have done well. It depends on how the film is made and how interesting your film is.
Tell us something about the cast of the film? What made you sign on Manoj Bajpai and Ravi Kishan?
I wanted a very intense character for Manoj's role and I feel that Manoj is best when he is intense. The way he has performed in this film and the intensity he has shown in the film is brilliant. Ravi's role in the film is very jovial but in the second half he changes into an intense character. I also have four new people. One is Deepak Dobriayal who is plays Lt. Gurtu and is a very jovial character, then there is Manav Kaul, he and Deepak are like best of friends in the film. Then there is Kumud Mishra who plays Captain Kabir and Chitaranjan Giri who plays Subhedar Ahmed
There is a buzz that there are no heroines in the film. Weren't you sceptical while going against such a Bollywood norm?
I wasn't sceptical. I personally don't feel a need for a heroine in a war film until she is part of the war film. And then I am showing a prisoner of war film which is based in Pakistan, so the only way I can show a heroine is to cut back to India which I didn't want to because it would take the story away from the main theme. I wanted the POW's themselves to speak about their families and about their plights.
The films music has been composed by Akash Sagar, your younger brother. Tell us something about the music of the film?
Akash started composing when he was 16 and now he is 18. I feel he is one of the most talented teenagers I have come across. The music that he has given is fantastic. He has even given the entire background score for the film; he conducted an entire orchestra for the score. He is like one of those child geniuses
Is Shibani Kashap also composing for the film?
Shibani Kashyap has sung a song Sehelenge Hum. When I was writing the film I had approached her and asked her that I want you to sing a song for my film. She comes from an army background and because of which she refused to even charge me for the song and said that this is my tribute to my country and countrymen.
The films subject being a sensitive one was there any difficulty that you faced while going about the shoot?
Difficulty as for the subject matter no, but as for the location I wanted to shoot in yes. We were shooting at the peak of winter in Manali; we lost like 15 days of shooting due to bad weather. We would reach the location like 6 in the morning and be there till 4 in the evening but land up taking only 2 shots and come back due to snow and hail storm. And I was shooting at 12,000 ft altitude at night, even the army people don't go there at night. But due to a night scene I along with my entire unit was up there shooting in the night. It was like a Herculean task made possible only because of my unit.
The film doesn't exactly have saleable stars. So what do you think would be its USP?
I think the USP of the film is the story of the film. People still don't know that there are 54 POW's in the Pakistani jail. Somebody has to be held responsible for them being there. Their families need an answer, that's what I feel is the USP of the film
How did Studio 18 come into picture?
Sandeep saw the film when he was in Sahara. Later when he joined Studio 18 their team also loved the film. To give this level of enthusiasm to this film is actually very brave of this company.
In the press kit you have shown a letter by one of the soldiers is that a real letter or just recreated for the film?
It's a real letter which came in 1974 to Dr. Suri from his son. And the handwriting experts from India have confirmed that it is Mr Suri's handwriting.