Actor Vicky Kaushal feels “something was blessing us to reach the honest note” in his latest release Sardar Udham. Vicky, who’s currently winning accolades for slipping into the role of the revolutionary seamlessly, said the intense climax in the Shoojit Sircar directorial is something he hasn’t gone through before as an actor or a person.
Sardar Udham has mostly received positive reviews from audience and critics. The biopic on the life of the freedom fighter explores his camaraderie with Bhagat Singh, how the Jallianwala Bagh massacre changed his life and ideology, ultimately leading him to assassinate General O’ Dwyer in London.
During a round table interaction with select media, both Vicky and Shoojit got candid about making Sardar Udham, the Jallianwala Bagh sequence and the film missing the mark as India’s official entry to the Oscars.
Shoojit revealed the crew faced numerous hurdles while shooting the massacre, since barring a few bullet points, nothing was properly scripted, so nobody was clear how to execute it. From making Vicky look like a 20-year-old convincingly, to recreating the location and the bloodbath, it was a mammoth task.
“Jallianwala is actually the fulcrum of our independence movement, that gave birth to many revolutionaries. So it had to be a little indulgent from my side and I was quite adamant,” Shoojit said, heaping praise on prosthetic make-up artist Peter Gorshenin for doing a fine job in projecting the injuries and dead bodies.
Vicky, who according to many, has given his career-best performance so far, recalled the nights they shot the Jallianwala Bagh sequence. “It was physically exhausting. But at the same time, it was also doing something to us on an emotional level. As an actor I knew I’m getting into an intense space, so it’s not going to be easy. What I was not prepared was while doing it, I kept on thinking that there were actually people who have gone through this. And that would kind of numb me down,” the actor told the media.
Director Shoojit Sircar revealed that the original script had a cot but he found a cart from that era by chance, which was ultimately used in the sequence. Vicky Kaushal added that he wasn’t aware about where the camera was placed. “All the actors were laid down on the ground and I just had to perform. Whoever I find moving, I will consider them injured and will pick them. So seven out of 10 bodies were not planned and none of the picking up was rehearsed,” Vicky said.
“There were days we were really dazed because there was so much blood, we could not take it,” the director shared as Vicky added, “Even after we returned to the hotel, we won’t be chit chatting or having a wholesome dinner. Some nights it was difficult to sleep. All these things were playing out at the same time but I guess there was some energy that kept us going and we got through it.”
Indianexpress.com asked Shoojit if it was a conscious decision to not reveal the fate of Udham’s love interest Reshma (played by Banita Sandhu) as a victim of the massacre, and rather stick to Udham’s struggle to save lives amid the heaps of dead bodies. The director agreed, “If I would have shown even one single shot of Reshma in the night, Udham would have failed. It was not a matter of Reshma then, it was about humanity, you can’t be selfish enough to just be concentrating on your family or people. That’s what makes Udham. He didn’t have control over his body or mind while saving people. He was doing it with some other force.”
Apart from the Jallianwala Bagh sequence, Vicky’s monologue in London while being drunk is another talking point of the film. Revealing how the scene was decided a night before, the actor told indianexpress.com, “The free speech scene came as an idea to Shoojit sir where we can actually see Udham Singh venting out, as the person he is, and not the revolutionary. That’s where you see these disjointed thoughts that he’s pulled off.”
He further added with a smile, “The night before I had only gotten the idea of what we are shooting tomorrow by Shoojit sir. He finished his dinner at 10.30 and went to bed, and I sat with writer Ritesh Shah. I pleaded him to tell me what monologue he was writing as I’ll need a couple of hours to memorise it, especially because it’s a drunk scene. I only got the lines when I sat in the car to go to the location. Now in retrospect, things were probably aligned in a more organic way that we could reach the honesty of those moments. I guess something was there, blessing us to reach the honest note.”
Sardar Udham, which released on Amazon Prime Video recently, was in the race for India’s official entry at the 94th Academy Awards. But, it got stumped by Tamil drama Koozhangal (Pebbles). Shoojit called it “subjective.”
“What somebody feels about the film or the British is very subjective. I can’t comment on that because it’s very personal. I can also say many things about some other film. And jury is very sensitive. I am really proud of the film that’s been selected. It’s very deserving. I don’t have any comment on that, I don’t think it affects me at all. I trust the jury and abide by the decision,” he said.
Sardar Udham also stars Amol Parashar as Bhagat Singh, apart from Shaun Scott, Stephen Hogan and Kirsty Averton.