High octane war drama Shershaah starring Sidharth Malhotra and Kiara Advani has been garnering rave reviews ever since its release.
Shershaah is based on Param Vir Chakra awardee Captain Vikram Batra, who laid down his life in the service of the nation while recapturing Indian territories from Pakistani intruders during the Kargil War in 1999.
Besides exemplary performances by actors, those behind the scenes are also being lauded for putting together an impeccable masterpiece.
Writer Sandeep Srivastava, who is best known for films like Shivaay, New York, Ab Tak Chhappan, Kabul Express and the web series Aarya, gets candid about working on Shershaah.
Excerpts from the interview:
How did you come on board for Shershaah?
In the summer of 2017, I was in Chennai. Vishnuvardhan (director) was about to direct a film with Kamal Haasan playing the lead and had brought me on board to write it. We were all geared up to start but owing to some hiccups the project was getting delayed and it finally got stalled. I came back to Mumbai wondering what should I do next. That’s when Shabbir Boxwala approached me. I met him and he informed me that he had the rights from the Batra family to make a film on their legendary son- Capt. Vikram Batra. Shabbir and I met couple more times before we shook hands. Then I met Somen Mishra with Shabbir and started the initial rounds of creative discussions with them.
What kind of research and prep did you do for a story based on true events?
There was a lot of information available on the internet, books and various magazines about those true events of the Kargil war which feature in our movie. But all of it came out of somebody else’s research. It was helpful to an extent but to get a better grip on what exactly happened at Pt. 5140, Pt. 4875 and also during Capt. Vikram Batra’s posting as a Lieutenant in Sopore, I needed to do my own research. I needed to interact with all those who fought alongside him at these peaks and also with those who served with Vikram during C.I. Ops in J&K. Shabbir Boxwala and Vishal Batra helped me get in touch with each and everybody from 13 JaK Rif. My interactions with all these Army Officers and JCO’s about how the events unfolded not just during the war but also during various counter insurgency operations gave me a ringside view of Vikram’s short lived but illustrious career as an Army Officer.
Did you meet the Batra family to discuss insights and take notes?
Of course. I met them all. Not just the family but everybody who knew and had interacted with Capt. Vikram Batra. They all gave me valuable insights, anecdotes and their own individual assessment of what kind of a person Vikram was. The material I collected on Capt. Vikram Batra was so vast that when I would sit down to write I would face what you may call a problem of plenty. What should be omitted from the narrative was a bigger problem than what could be included. And I must say that interacting with my director- Vishnuvardhan and my creative producer- Somen Mishra on these matters really helped me during the scripting process.
Patriotic movies are filled with monologues and cheesy dialogues, how did you manage to keep Shershaah subtle and more realistic?
While I have seen such movies and enjoyed them to an extent, I also knew that what is being showcased in such films is far from the reality. At least in terms of the characterization. It’s a hard sell on patriotism. Why is it so? I haven’t a clue. A certain image of an army man has been created in our collective consciousness. As I started spending time with the real army men, I realized that it’s not a true portrayal. These army officers in real life are in complete contrast with their image being circulated by the movies, by the media and by the pulp fiction. They talk like you and me. They don’t really mouth highfalutin dialogues in their interactions with each other. So, we stuck to our findings and took a realistic approach to all things Army. And, that’s what has actually stood out. That’s what the audience is loving. In fact, during our screening for the Army people in Delhi each one of them came and told us that for the first time a Hindi movie has shown us exactly as we are.
Do you think the OTT release helped the film to be more organic?
When we set out to make this film, we were making it for the big screen. It wasn’t a film project which was conceived for any other medium but the cinema halls. Shershaah was meant to be a film for theatrical consumption. We all know that. So… What you’re seeing now on OTT- is what you would have seen any way if it were to be released in a movie theatre.