Shooting his second biopic after Mary Kom, this time on the life of Sarabjit Singh, Bollywood director Omung Kumar is unruffled by the claims of a Ludhiana woman that she is the real sister of the Indian prisoner who was killed in Pakistan’s Kot Lakhpat jail.
The movie is about the life Sarabjit led as a prisoner in Pakistan, and the struggles of his sister Dalbir Kaur, wife Sukhpreet Kaur and two daughters back in Punjab, to have him released.
The movie is expected to be released worldwide on May 19 this year — on Sarabjit’s birthday.
“I have no idea about any controversy. Nobody has come to me. The family of Dalbir Kaur is what I know. I have gone through news reports, photographs and YouTube videos related to the struggle of Sarabjit’s family back in India. I have seen who crossed the border and went to Pakistan to fight for him,” Omung told The Indian Express. “Nobody has told me that he was an Indian spy. That is not my story. What is fact for me is that he was convicted for being Manjit Singh. He got a 21-gun salute [when his body came from Pakistan] is fact for me. We are showing facts,” said Omung Kumar, when asked about Baljinder Kaur’s claim that Sarabjit was an Indian spy.
Sarabjit Singh was incarcerated for over two decades in Pakistan, most of that time in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail. He was accused of being an Indian spy and tried and convicted for a series of bombings in Lahore and other cities in Punjab province in 1990, and sentenced to death.
At Dalbir Kaur’s intervention, the Indian government had pleaded for his release. Pakistan put off his execution several times, raising hopes that he would be repatriated to India. He was killed by fellow inmates at Kot Lakhpat in April, 2013.
Omung said he had initially refused to make the film “I didn’t want to be labelled as a biopic director, so I refused initially. Then after I saw some YouTube videos related to Sarabjit’s story I realised it was a fabulous story. If I would not do it, someone else would,” the director said.Sarabjit will be portrayed by Randeep Hooda.
Dalbir Kaur, who is played by Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan in the film, has been making sarson da saag and makki di roti for the production team that is shooting in Narali village near Bhikhiwind. She often goes to see the shooting. She told The Indian Express that initially she wanted a movie to made as part of her campaign for Sarabjit’s release.
“I wanted to make a movie on Sarabjit on his life while he was jailed in Pakistan. I hoped that such a movie would be big help in his release. I also met director Subhash Ghai for this purpose. It, however, couldn’t become a reality as Sarabjit was murdered in a Pakistan Jail,” she told The Indian Express. She said, “After Sarabjit’s murder, I asked writer Rajesh Beri to make the movie a reality and finally its shooting is near
Omung said for research on the subject, his team visisted Sarabjit’s village, met people there, spoke to his friends, former prisoners who had been in jail with Sarabjit. “We met journalists, army officers, diplomats. We did complete research for authenticity,” he said.
The team, he said, was overwhelmed by the support and hospitality of the people during the shoot. They were offered lassi in every house they visited.
“We did our shooting in Narli village near Bikhiwind as native village of Sarabjit has modernised over the years. We have a whole set depicting Sarabjit’s house in Mumbai. Still we need some real touch of a village,” Omung said.
He said even those on the sets were moved by the emotional scenes in the movie. “Aishwarya met Dalbir Kaur and Richa Chadda with Sarabjit’s wife Sukhpreet Kaur (who the actor plays). Both actors have made all efforts to get everything about Dalbir and Sukhpreet right, their gestures, the way they walk and talk.”