On February 20, 1921, around 150 Sikhs were shot by the British. Their crime — they were protesting to protect the sanctity of Guru Nanak’s birthplace, The Nankana Sahib Gurdwara, in Lahore. Jagmeet Singh Samundri brings this untold story on screen through his film, ‘Saka; The Martyrs of Nankana Sahib ’. In an interview, he tells Divya Goyal about creating Lahore in Punjab, the movie getting ‘A’ certificate, its release in Pakistan and more. Excerpts:
What is ‘Saka’?
Saka means an agitation leading to a revolution. Mahants (priests) ruled gurdwaras then. Nankana Sahib was ruled by Mahant Narayan Dass. He was corrupt and did every objectionable act in gurdwara. The British conspired with him and ordered to shoot 150 peaceful protesters who were demanding ouster of Mahant. British wanted to rule Sikhs by controlling gurdwaras. This protest marked beginning of a revolution against corrupt mahants and getting gurdwara ownership rights to Sikh communities.
Why have you chosen to tell this story?
What happened in Nankana Sahib in 1921 was one of the most painful events in Sikh history. Bullets were pumped into Sikhs chanting ‘Satnam Waheguru’. Mass pyres were lit. I was shocked that coming after the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy in 1919, this failed to move people. Even Sikhs in Punjab were unaware of it. History is repeating itself today. What happened then (dishonor of Sri Guru Granth Sahib), is happening now (recent desecration incidents).
Pakistan has a considerable Sikh population. Will Saka be released there?
Efforts are on (to screen the film). We are negotiating with three distributors. Once they agree, we have to get it cleared by Pakistan’s censor board. We are hoping for its release there in a few months. Indian Board of Film Certification has given ‘A’ certificate to Saka. Your comments.
It is completely unfair and biased against Punjabi films. Children need to see how glorious the Sikh history is. I would like to ask how ‘Bajirao Mastani’ got a ‘U’ certificate despite almost as much violence and bloodshed. If that was hailed as a great eye-opener on Indian history, then why not this? As a director, I object to this ‘A’ certificate given to a movie based on Sikh history.
How tough was it creating Lahore in Punjab? Did you think of shooting in Pakistan?
It was very tough. It took two years of research. Our team went to Lahore as Nankana Sahib was to be replicated. The gurdwara set, first-of-its-kind for a Punjabi film spread over 2.5 acres, was set up in Ucha Pind, Phillaur by a team from Mumbai. Shooting in Pakistan was neither viable, nor did we get permits. Also, landscape of gurdwara has entirely changed since 1921. We completed the shoot within 45 days as it rained incessantly in April last year. It was a miracle that the set was not damaged.