When Sandeep Srivastava began his research on the life of late Captain Vikram Batra for the biopic "Shershaah", the screenwriter realised the film couldn't just be limited to the heroics of the Kargil war martyr.
Besides being a daredevil Indian Army officer, Captain Batra was essentially a man from the small hill town of Palampur, Himachal Pradesh who fell in love with Dimple Cheema, his MA English coursemate at Chandigarh's Panjab University.
Srivastava, whose writing credits include "Ab Tak Chhappan", Kabir Khan's "Kabul Express" and "New York" and Disney+ Hotstar series "Aarya", said he wanted to delve a little more into Cheema's story who was instrumental in Captain Batra's journey.
Released on August 12 on Amazon Prime Video, "Shershaah" earned acclaim for sensitively piecing together the life of Captain Batra, who fought till his last breath during the 1999 Kargil war.
Through the love story of Captain Batra and Cheema, played by Sidharth Malhotra and Kiara Advani, the film depicts the horrors of war and loss.
In an interview with News18, Sandeep said that during his research he learned that Dimple knew Captain Batra for 4 years but they spent only 40 days together.
He said, “I think that we have captured the essence of those 40 days, which means a lot to the wonderful lady whom I have a lot of respect.”
In an earlier statement, Sandeep had told PTI, "I realised I had an opportunity to not just talk about his war heroics but also the chance to write this exemplary love story which is rare to find."
An "extremely private person", Cheema refused to meet the writer but said yes to a telephone call. But when that brief call turned into an hour-long conversation, she finally agreed to meet him.
"She realised that I genuinely wanted to know what happened. It was an extremely emotional experience. My respect for her rose many notches up when we started interacting." The writer said during the course of the meeting, he was touched to see that Cheema viewed her and Vikram's love story and her subsequent life through the lens of a beautiful, melancholic encounter, as opposed to the public perception of a "sacrifice".
"She told me, 'People keep telling me that this is a huge sacrifice that I have made. But, honestly, I don't look at it as a sacrifice. This is a choice. Vikram was everything to me. That chapter could have been with Vikram, it was with him and that's it. I am fine with it. There is no sacrifice'," he said recalling Cheema's words.
Through their love story, the screenwriter said he wanted to focus on the personal aspirations and dreams of a soldier that make him a human.
"I knew Vikram's story won't be complete without what he shared with Dimple. You could just concentrate on war and it could be a macho film. But the sensitive side of this soldier is what is appealing to the people. The vulnerability of a war hero. He has the love for his country and the love for the girl he has left behind. I understood that theirs was an unconditional love. She was his pillar of strength."
Directed by Vishnu Varadhan, "Shershaah" is produced by Karan Johar's Dharma Productions and Kaash Entertainment.
With PTI inputs