Kargil war hero Vikram Batra and Dimple Cheema’s love story was larger than life. The romance that blossomed in Chandigarh in the late ’90s was a real representation of all the aspirational fictional stories that dominated the screen at the time. Where love was but a promise, made in a fleeting moment of togetherness and stood the test of separation till the end of life. “It’s too reel to be real,” says Kiara Advani, who plays Vikram Batra’s fiancee in the biopic Shershaah.
As the actor speaks to indianexpress.com ahead of the release of Shershaah, where she stars opposite Sidharth Malhotra, Kiara talks about meeting Dimple Cheema and her love for Vikram Batra that’s 25 years younger. Dimple didn’t marry after Batra was martyred in Kargil War, choosing instead to live as his widow.
“We see all of this in Hindi cinema but clearly Hindi cinema is inspired by real life people. Both Vikram and Dimple, their personas in every sense were…,” Kiara pauses before she adds that the couple’s romance was cinematic partly due to Vikram’s heroic personality.
“He was so dynamic and heroic, not only because he sacrificed his life for the country but everything he did was in true hero style. Whether it was his love story or the way he was with his comrades, friends and everyone else, there was so much heroism in it. Anyone would get charmed off their feet by that charisma,” the actor says, as she is joined by Sidharth Malhotra and director Vishnu Varadhan for the interview in Kargil.
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“And we are talking about the ’90s. How cute they were, certain things that they did. I am from that decade so when I listen to what Vikram Batra did, I am like ‘Oh God I have done this, I have felt this’,” Vishnu says.
During the India-Pakistan conflict in the summer of 1999 in Kargil, Captain Vikram Batra distinguished himself for his bravery and skill. He gunned down four Pakistani soldiers and died while saving his comrade who was injured. As he was trying to drag the soldier to safety by deliberately exposing himself to enemy fire, he was shot in the chest and a splinter of an RPG warhead hit him in the head.
Kiara says that since the beginning, Vikram and Dimple accepted the uncertainty of the future of their relationship as faithfully as the love they shared. This could be credited to the respect that they had for each other’s individuality. So, when the possibility of an alternate end to their love story arose, Dimple prioritised Vikram’s personal ambition over her love for him.
“It’s amazing that when you know all the odds are against you and you know there will be a lot of hurdles but you don’t look at it like a hurdle and you embrace it. That’s the way they both embraced their personal lives and their story together, with so much courage. She supported him…
“There was a time when he might have not joined the army, he was making that decision just before he joined the Indian Army. He thought oh may be I will be in Merchant Navy because (he thought), ‘Now I am in love,’ but she asked him, ‘What do you wanna do? Go follow your dreams. Just focus on what you want to do.’ To see the backbone of the Indian army– their families and loved ones– up and close was very moving.”
After Vikram Batra was martyred, Dimple never married. Vikram’s twin brother Vishal Batra made her meet Kiara in Chandigarh, where the actor was shooting at the time. From the letters they exchanged to the few moments they managed to steal during Vikram’s posting, Dimple remembered four years of their relationship as if she had met her fiance four days ago.
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“It was very warm because it was only the both of us. I was in Chandigarh shooting for something else and it was all thanks to Vishal Batra, who made us meet. There was no one else in the room and she spoke and I just listened to her. She reminisced all her memories, their moments. How things were back then, writing letters, trunk calls.
“It wasn’t as easy as it is today to have a long distance relationship. In those four years, even though it was only a couple of times that they might have even physically met, you are so much in love with each other that you decide this is for eternity and that’s a choice you make. Today to see someone actually decide and choose I don’t want to marry anyone else ever in my life, imagine what it speaks for the love they had.”
Shershaah, written by Sandeep Shrivastava and produced by Dharma Productions and Kaash Entertainment, will arrive on Amazon Prime Video on August 12.