Omung Kumar is busy these days. The filmmaker, who directed the National Award-winning Mary Kom, last year, is already occupied with the pre-production of his next film, which will be a biopic on Sarabjit Singh. Kumar plans to start shooting for the film in October and is already working with scriptwriter Zeishan Quadri of Gangs of Wasseypur fame, and making the required changes in the script.
Was it an obvious decision to make a biopic after the success of Mary Kom?
(Laughs) I think this is a question that I will come across in the days to come. Mary Kom was a big success but seriously I didn't want to make another biopic after Mary Kom. In fact, I had already announced my next three projects. In the meantime, I came across scriptwriter Zeishan Quadri, who gave me this script. Like others, I too had read about Sarabjit Singh and we all know what happened with him but Zeishan did an extensive research before writing the script and I was simply blown away after reading it. What happened with Sarabjit Singh is a spine-chilling story. In fact, Zeishan has written some really powerful and hard-hitting dialogues and I felt this story must be told. My next project wouldn't have started soon, so I had some time in between and I decided to make this film.
The National Award for Mary Kom must have given you a lot of confidence.
It always does. Mary Kom's life is really an inspiration to many and I am happy because I have been successful in telling her story to millions. Sarabjit Singh's story too isn't known to many and I feel his story too is equally inspiring. My film is not only about how a common man was convicted of terrorism by a Pakistani court, but it's also about how her sister Daljeet Kaur started a campaign for his release. She is a brave lady but unfortunately she could never see Sarabjit again.
Such stories require extensive research, as you will be dealing with facts.
Yes, that's the biggest challenge with any biopic. I was really very impressed with Zeishan's script and then we sat together and thought of rewriting it. We both are reworking on the script and making a few changes. We want to show everything that we know about Sarabjit Singh and Daljeet Kaur.
How big is the challenge given that Sarabjit Singh spent 23 years in a Pakistani prison and not much is known about the trauma and sufferings he had to go through?
That is definitely a challenge but we have the government reports out there. We know what the Pakistani government had to say and the efforts made by the Indian government to bring him back to the country. We also know everything about Daljeet Kaur and her struggles. We have already met her and have got a lot of information on Sarabjit Singh. In fact, the film will be made from the point of view of Daljeet Kaur.
What had Daljeet Kaur to say about the biopic?
Oh, she has been extremely supportive and is happy that a film is being made on her brother. We all understand the pain she had to go through, which only increased with his death. She has gone through the script and has approved it. There isn't a single thing we are doing without her approval because her character is the protagonist of the film.
So, have you decided on the cast?
The truth is no because I am busy with the script and my focus is on making the film look as realistic as possible. I have a few actresses in my mind but neither have I initiated talks with anyone nor have I finalised anything. There have been reports of Priyanka Chopra and Sonakshi Sinha being finalised for the role but there's no truth in those reports. Daljeet Kaur is a very brave and bold person, so I will obviously look for someone with a bold persona. As far as Sarabjit Singh's character is concerned, I haven't initiated talks with anyone either. I will be going to IFFA in Malaysia in another few days after which, I will be meeting Daljeet Kaur again. I will start talking to the actors only after that.
You were known to be one of Bollywood's most sought-after set designers before you took up direction. Will you be designing the sets this time too?
(Laughs) Yes, we have already done the recce and most of the film will be shot in west Punjab. We will be constructing the set of a Pakistani prison. We need to give it a 1990s look. We will also be creating a set of a jungle from where Sarabjit disappeared one fine night. We are really working hard on these details. I hope I will live up to the expectations of the audience.