There is an abundance of amazing stories inspired by Sikh history; unfortunately, they are limited to the region and the international audience remains oblivious to them, feels director Jagmeet Samundri. Out to undo that, this passionate filmmaker, who has to his credit Rise of the Khalsa, Martyrs, and Saka: The Martyrs of Nankana Sahib, recently wrapped up the first schedule of Shahaadat, near Chunni Kalan, in the vicinity of Chandigarh.
“Shahaadat is a story about Baba Deep Singh and Bhai Mani Singh. Keeping true to the Sikh code of conduct, we are not showing their characters through actors,” says Samundri. He promises a ‘newer’ way of storytelling with his latest outing, “This film depicts a great chapter of Sikh history that took place about 300 years ago.” Baba Deep Singh’s visual of sword in one hand and head in another is a story of legends, pretty popular in the region. “Baba Deep Singh and Bhai Mani Singh’s lives were linked as both spent time with Guru Gobind Singh ji. Of course, we don’t show their characters in flesh and blood, but other characters would be there and our actors like Suvinder Vicky, who is playing Zakriya Khan in the film, have done a great job.”
A fan of Ridley Scott, who has helmed Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven and Exodus: Gods and Kings, Samundri wishes to tap international market with Shahaadat, which is an interesting play of an incredible story and cutting edge VFX. “We believe in perfection. Our planning is foolproof, so much so that for our Chandigarh schedule we would shoot one scene even before breakfast,” says Samundri, who worked on a call time of 6:30 am and would start rolling by seven. “VFX is our USP. Shahaadat would see massive use of visual effects, which are being worked upon for last many months.” The film’s cinematography is by Anil Dhanda and executive producer is Ajit Babbar.
Samundri is known for his films on Sikh history like SAKA — Nankana Sahib De Shaheed, a feature film, and Shaheed, a docu-feature on Sikh history. The documentary Rise of the Khalsa won him the best director award at New York International Film Festival.
“Shahaadat has powerful performances and huge scope in the international circuits,” says Samundri, who is amazed at how the pandemic has changed the face of the entertainment industry. “Our industry, which was star-driven, has lately opted for content.”
In Mumbai now, for a decade-and-a-half, Samundri misses the khana of Punjab the most. “We had a tandoor on the sets to make up for all the Punjabi food that I miss in Mumbai. Also I am a firm believer that good food leads to good thoughts, so I ensure my unit is well-fed,” he laughs. Along with Shahaadat, Samundri is also working on a Hindi horror film.
About 75 minutes long, Sahaadat, written and directed by Samundri, is being made in Punjabi with subtitles and would later be dubbed for the international audience. “It is about time that world knows about Sikh valour and the sacrifices they made,” he signs off.