A significant event in Indian history is the Ghadar movement, a revolt against the British rule and fight for India’s Independence. Many freedom fighters went to the gallows for the freedom of their motherland and one such freedom fighter was Kartar Singh Sarabha, remembered for his leadership in the Ghadar Movement. Kavi Raz, director of the critically acclaimed Hollywood film, The Black Prince, is now all set to present his new Punjabi film titled Sarabha- Cry
Written and directed by Raz, the film is based on Kartar Singh Sarabha’s journey as India’s first and at the time the youngest martyr. Last year in February, on Kartar Singh’s 104th death anniversary, the villagers of Sarabha, his birthplace, organised a special event where the filmmakers released the poster of the film. The film will release worldwide on February 21, 2020, a historic date in Indian history as it was marked by Sarabha as the date when a nationwide ghadar (revolt) was to take place across India. Raz talks about his new film and how he wants the generation of today to know the freedom fighter, his struggle, passion and how he left a comfortable life in the US to become the leader of this historic movement.
How and why did you think of a film on Kartar Singh Sarabha?
I learned about Gadhar Movement when I first migrated to the US. I grew up in England, and in my teens, began working in the fruit orchards in California along with my older brother to help our family. The owner of the orchards was Hazara Singh Janda, my elder sister’s father-in-law. He had arrived in America in 1913, the same year when the Ghadar Party was formed. He knew a lot about the movement and would regale us with his real-life experiences and stories of Kartar Singh Sarabha and Sohan Singh Bakhna. I was moved by the sacrifice of these great men, especially Sarabha. Later, when I entered Hollywood as an actor I promised myself that one day I will make a film on this fascinating chapter of our history. He is an icon who inspired legends like Shaheed Bhagat Singh. His leadership, courage, bravery and sacrifice cannot be forgotten. The fire that burnt in his soul spread across India after his death, leading many others to take up the cause of our motherland’s freedom from the shackles of British slavery. In a short period of just three years, hung at the age of 19, he left an indelible mark on our history.
How challenging was it to piece together this important historic event?
The most challenging part of this journey has been to condense this epic and historic period into a little over two hours. So much took place around the globe, in terms of incidents and characters. What to focus on and what to keep out was the artistic decision I had to make. Finally I decided to focus mostly on Kartar Singh Sarabha and his journey from an innocent 16-year-old wide-eyed student, seeking admission into Berkeley University in America to becoming a national hero of the most important chapter in India’s struggle for freedom. This to me was the beginning of the Indian Independence movement. If I succeed in connecting with our audience with this film, perhaps one day an international series on the subject is warranted. That’s a goal that I would like to pursue in the near future.
What was the process of research and writing the script?
I read many books and articles on the subject and my film also includes many incidents that are not found in any written piece but are based on stories that I have heard from Hazara Singh Janda and also Mr Dhillon, the last surviving secretary and caretaker of the Ghadar Movement artefacts. I was a regular visitor at his place where even the press that was used for printing the Ghadar papers was housed in his basement.
What is it that you want to convey to the audience?
I hope that they appreciate my efforts to preserve and highlight our glorious history. I hope that they come out in great numbers around the world and support the film.
Punjab is where you always find your inspiration.
I was born in Punjab, but have only lived there the first eight years of my life. But my background and history has always fascinated me and I continue to draw upon it. I am proud of who I am and where I come from. I have a deep-rooted fascination for Punjabi culture and my mother tongue. Punjabi, I sometimes feel, is the language that God speaks and we just happen to be blessed with it. I am easily moved by humanity, courage, heroic deeds and acts of generosity. I have faith in the human heart and I believe that in the end, it’s only the goodness of our heart that will win the struggle of mankind.
How has filmmaking changed for you over the years?
I feel that with the advent of digital technology and the fast pace of everyday living, we have lost our sense of immersion. To sit there for three hours and get totally lost in the make-believe world of cinema is quickly eroding. I grew up on that experience and relish it completely and often turn to cinema for solace in my troubled moments. We want our information instantly and this need then reflects on the style of storytelling. As a writer and director, I am forced to adapt to this new landscape of sharing a story in this fast-paced narrative, though I always strive to find the middle ground, where I don’t lose too much of myself and still connect with the audience. It’s an ever-changing battle.
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