On the morning he returned from Cannes, director Omung Kumar spoke with Nichola Pias about the significance of the showers in Sarbjit.
Showers that bind
My film has rain in it and it’s there for a very specific reason. Sarbjit in jail hasn’t seen rain for around 18-20 years. There’s a time period that we cross in the song which starts off with the rain. Here he’s stuck in jail and for the first time in so many years he’s had a chance to go out in the open, within the boundaries of the prison, where he and the other prisoners keep circulating around the area. And it starts raining… Earlier in the film, in a song, we see Sarbjit’s passion for stretching his arms out and, as you have seen in the trailer, the pigeons come and alight on his hands. Now he extends his arms the same way as if to feel and embrace the rain. Simultaneously we cut to his wife Richa who is at her house, drying the clothes. She looks up at the clouds and the same rain is falling on both sides… The thought emerges that the same sun touching me, touches my husband. And the same rain…
That’s a very important scene in my film and it touched me as well. This image I had in my mind, of the arms spread and the pigeons alighting…and releasing them. Sarbjit used to breed pigeons and it’s very significant because later he himself is caught and imprisoned. The sunlight doesn’t touch him for so many years. And I wanted the shot of the camera from the top, as if he is let loose. This shot was always in my imagination and my writer Utkarshini and I decided how it could be done.
The rains do have a power to convey more than any other season. You know, you take sunlight for granted, you take everything for granted. But rain falls on everyone and you can actually feel it. You get wet, you enjoy the rain, crops grow – different things happen via rain.
The rain song that instantly comes to mind is ‘Aajrapatjaayein…’ … SmitaPatil and Amitabh Bachchan on a haath-gadireally sums up the joy and abandon of the monsoon for me. In another vein, the song in LAGAAN portraying the waiting for rain. Both portray some of the different interpretations of the rain.
Cannes was even bigger than I expected it to be. It was always a dream and it came true straightaway! At the very start we knew we wanted to go to Cannes. Ash (AishwaryaRaiBachchan) would be there and that was the goal. The timing was right. Earlier I’ve heard stories of people going to Cannes and not even getting the red carpet – they probably got a screening only. And there we were, walking the whole stretch… because of Ash (AishwaryaRaiBachchan) also; it helped a lot to get those eyeballs. It was huge! Your name getting announced, so you take centrestage… It’s all beautifully planned and executed. There are thousands clicking pictures… It was fabulous. My first time in Cannes, walking the red carpet, clicking pictures with the full cast… it felt very, very good.
The response was very encouraging. People over there loved the film. We had two showings – the earlier one was for distributors. They stood up and clapped. It is a very sensitive film so the response was heartening… Some came out crying, shaking my hand and saying, ‘You made me cry four times!’ and reactions like that. In a way I knew this would happen. It has been a roller-coaster journey for everyone in the film. You do get touched – you are human and the emotions strike a chord.