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Vicky Kaushal on Udham Singh biopic: ‘Main challenge was to internalise his state of mind’

Actor Vicky Kaushal, filmmaker Shoojit Sircar & producer Ronnie Lahiri spoke about their upcoming biopic 'Sardar Udham' in a conversation with Shekhar Gupta at ThePrint's 'Off The Cuff'.

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New Delhi: As an actor, Vicky Kaushal’s main challenge was to understand Shaheed Udham Singh’s journey of life and to internalise those emotions.

Kaushal, who will soon be seen playing the role of the revolutionary in the biopic Sardar Udham, said in a conversation with ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, News Editor Ruhi Tewari, and reporter Tina Das on Off The Cuff: “Being a part of Shoojit’s (Sircar, the director) vision of Sardar Udham and that period of freedom struggle, my main challenge as an actor was to really internalise his state of mind and understand his journey of life.”

The actor added: “As a Punjabi, I had the advantage of being culturally connected with Sardar Udham, but the most challenging part was getting into the mind of a revolutionary. It had to be done sensitively and responsibly because that was how people will remember this freedom fighter.”

Very little material is available on Shaheed Udham Singh, but director Sircar said this allowed him to use his imagination.

“We had very little information on Udham Singh, so we connected the small dots and created a persona around it. It is imagination but stitched around facts,” he said.

On what inspired them to make the biopic, producer Ronnie Lahiri said: “Many people know Sardar Udham only as someone who avenged the killing of Jallianwala Bagh. But he was not an assassin on hire. He was a bigger revolutionary, who had travelled to the US, Africa and all over Europe and had seen discrimination in all these continents.”


On biopics & fictional films

Speaking about the difference between fictional films and biopics and his experiences of doing both, Kaushal said: “A biopic has a stronger fence around the playground than a fictional story, an actor cannot be random when it comes to the depiction of a character.”

On his journey in the Indian film industry from starring in Masaan (2015) to signing up for movies based on real incidents such as Uri (2018) and later for Sanjay Dutt’s biopic Sanju (2018), Kaushal said: “It’s a deliberate quest that I take characters that are different from each other. That way I remain stimulated and get to explore myself as an actor.”

Sircar mentioned that Irrfan Khan was supposed to play the character of Udham Singh at first. He also explained how they wanted the actor to be someone who had Udham Singh’s nuanced philosophical ethos and passion, which they saw in Vicky Kaushal, instead of look and authenticity.

Being from Punjab definitely helped, Lahiri added.

Arguing how this biopic will go beyond the predictable plots seen in the biopics of Sanjay Dutt, Mary Kom, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Lahiri said: “The reason why there are layers in films is because our research goes beyond a Wikipedia page, as we wanted to show people what was going on in Udham Singh’s head during those periods, so it will not be a linear story … it will challenge the audience’s knowledge of him.”

To a question on the need to have an independent movie award in India, Sircar said: “Yes, constituting such a platform is not a problem but it all boils down to how aware of cinema … how open the jury is in their outlook and beliefs is important.”

(Edited by Neha Mahajan)

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