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'Vajpayeeji helped me make this film'

'Vajpayeeji helped me make this film'

Publication: Rediff on Net
Date: November 27, 2001

He was called the crown prince of the revolutionaries. Veer Savarkar led the life a legend. And the saga of this martyr and freedom fighter captured on 70 mm is all set to hit screen later this week to inspire the latent patriot in all Indians.

Rashmi Ail meets director Ved Rahi who says that the film is must-see for anyone who is proud to be Indian.

Q.: Swatantrya Veer Savarkar, who adopted a more violent approach to our freedom struggle is not as well known as Gandhi or Nehru. What inspired you to make a film on his life?
A.: Innumerable patriots sacrificed their lives by defiantly fighting alien powers who mauled and chained our motherland with fetters of abject slavery. Systematic efforts were made to erase the memory of these patriots from the pages of history by people with vested interests. The latent and unbiased force of time has ultimately discovered the contributions of these noble souls, which have now begun to see the light of day. One such golden saga in our glorious history is the story of Savarkar.

This feature film incorporates the events in his life with accuracy. Savarkar was in favour of violence, which is depicted very openly in this film. That is why his name is taken along with those of great revolutionaries like Bhagat Singh and Subhashchandra Bose.

Savarkar himself stated that when the desire to vanquish our enemy vanishes, the country itself is vanquished. Violence should be perpetuated on sinners, then alone can the innocent survive.

Didn't Ram conquer Ravan? Didn't many women breathe a sigh of relief when the Taliban regime came to an end? Why must violence always be considered ignoble?

Q.: What kind of research did this project entail?
A.: I spent two years exclusively researching the film. Hundreds of books have been written by Savarkar himself, thousands more have been written on him. I read extensively before beginning with the screenplay. Dhanraj Kheer's book on Savarkar and Savarkar's My Lifelong Banishment were constant sources of reference.

Look, Veer Savarkar is a historical film. All the incidents portrayed in the film are true to life. Nothing is imaginary. It has been only 36 years since his death. We can't afford to tamper with historical facts.

For example, there is a scene in the film that shows the meeting of Savarkar and Gandhi. If we were to twist historical facts, neither the Gandhians nor the Savarkar loyalists would spare us. We didn't want to put ourselves into a spot. Therefore the utmost attention has been given to the most minute detail.

Q.: Did you have a problem searching for sponsors?
A.: It is the first time in history that a film has been funded totally by the people. Members of the Savarkar Darshan Pratishtan Trust and Savarkar Film Fund Raising Committee raised funds for this film. People donated generously.

Significantly, it was a middle-class lady, Lata Mukhadam, who was the first to contribute to the making of this film by spontaneously donating her gold bangles to the film's corpus fund.

Eminent personalities like Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Sunil Gavaskar and Anup Jalota too have also lent us a helping hand.

Vajpayeeji collected Rs five million during his tour to America. After the screening of the film in Delhi, he said to me: "You've made a good film. Do you have the money for its publicity?"

I answered in the negative. He, then, very generously donated Rs 15 million towards the film's publicity. The Government of Maharashtra has also donated Rs five million.

Veer Savarkar is not a small budget film. Nearly six crores have been invested in its making. It is as grand as Atenborough's Gandhi.

Q.: How did you select the cast?
A.: I saw Savarkar in Jammu Kashmir, when I was 10. I wanted an actor whose face bore a marked similarity to that of Savarkar for the lead. And I found my man in Shailendra Gaur.

I'd also seen pictures of Savarkar's wife. Navni Parihar looks a lot like her. Great care has gone into the casting. I must add here that all the actors have delivered fabulous performances.

Q.: Where was the film shot?
A.: We've shot all over the world -- Nasik, Ratnagiri, Pune, London and the Andaman islands. We tried to keep it as authentic as possible. We shot in the same room that Savarkar was born in; we filmed in the same prison cell in the Andamans he was incarserated in.

We've endeavoured to give the film a very real feel.

Q.: Were there any issues with the censor board?
A.: The censor board asked us for proofs which we willingly provided. It took 20 days for the film to be cleared. They asked for a few dialogues to be cut and we complied. Fights with the Censor Board only delays the film's release.

Q.: What is the message you hope to send across through this film?
A.: It has been a sincere effort on our part to give the younger generation a glimpse of the trials and the tribulations that freedom fighters of our nation had to go through so we can live easy.   We call ourselves an independent country today but we fail to realise the value of our independence, the sacrifices thse martyrs made. Savarkar served his life sentence imprisonment in a seven by thirteen foot room. India is free today because of people like him. We must learn not to insult the freedom they earned for us.

Today, money talks. Service to the self is of primary importance, not service to the country. The spirit of patriotism needs to be kept alive. If people realise the value of freedom and refrain from cheating the country, our purpose of making this film will be served, we'd be successful in our endeavour.

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