Even at age 80, Shyam Benegal’s passion for filmmaking hasn’t diminished one bit. One has to be at the sets of his 90-minute documentary-drama ‘Jang-e-Azadi’ to feel the energy with which the Dadasaheb Phalke awardee has been working on the project.
The veteran filmmaker completed the shooting of the first schedule of the documentary which the Punjab government has commissioned him to make, in different parts of Punjab.
Talking about his passion, the veteran filmmaker says he was fascinated by cinema at age six and since the fascination has only grown. He says, “I was struck by the idea of a film as it transported you into the world that is being shown in front of you in the form of moving pictures.”
He says, “Age has nothing to do with it, and it is the passion that you have for the medium, which has remained undiminished as far as I am concerned. Luckily, I succeeded over a period of time. Also, I had no other ambition than to be a filmmaker. And it continues to be as strong as it was in the earlier days.”
Talking about his current project at the shooting site in Patiala, he says the film will depict Punjab’s independence movement at Kartarpur, near Jalandhar, where an independence memorial will come up. The film will have multiple shows over a period of 24 hours with breaks between the shows. It’s similar to America’s South Virginia, where a complex depicts the American Civil War with the cinema that runs on for 24 hours with breaks, he says.
“When I was asked to make it, I jumped on to the unique opportunity to direct the docu-drama and enact the sequences of the Punjab movement,” he says.
While directing the documentary, he developed a good relation with Punjab and its history. He says, “I am not directly related to Punjab, but my wife is half-Punjabi and half-Bengali. Their mother is from a Punjabi family as they were from Lahore. “My connection with Punjab has fascinated me as I like the optimism and strong will power of Punjabis and their contribution to the freedom struggle,” he adds.
While describing the challenges in making of the film, Benegal says they have a committee of experts, including writers, researchers, and scholars who advise them on various aspects. “It was important for us not to commit any mistake. It has to be accurate as it gives the story from Punjab’s point of view,” he says.
On the opportunity to work in Punjab, he says, “I loved to work here and it turned out well. We had no problems while shooting as the locals were disciplined and supported us at every step.