Many a Punjabi youth have been smitten by the charms of film city Mumbai. Jagmeet’s love for the celluloid attracted him towards the cosmopolitan centre. “I aspired to be an actor but gradually discovered that my interest actually lay in direction. I worked as an assistant director with Veeru Devgan for ‘Hindustan Ki Kasam’ in 1999,” says Jagmeet.
Jagmeet directed ‘Rise of the Khalsa’ in 2008, for which he bagged the Best Director award at the New York Independent International Film Festival, followed by ‘Martyrs’ in 2012. On his love for historical themes, he says, “Epic sagas have a magnetic power for me. When I shuffled through history, I felt that if Greek history could be portrayed in films like ‘300’ and ‘Troy’ and Roman history in ‘Ben-Hur’, then why could we not attempt to make films on the history of Sikhs?”
Sikh gurdwaras were controlled by mahants (priests) until a century ago, who became corrupt hereditary managers and exploited religious offerings and estates attached to gurdwaras. Nankana Sahib shrine, now in Pakistan, was controlled by mahant Narayan Das who hired goons to massacre around 130 Sikhs who had entered the gurdwara peacefully, led by Lachman Singh Dharovalia, on February 20, 1921. Mahants were supported by the British for foiling people’s revolution among the peasantry of Punjab.
Jagmeet’s current film, based on this historical incident, is set to release on April 1 next year. It is ironic that even after a century, religious beliefs and sentiments are still burning issues in Punjab in the context of recent incidents such as the desecration of ‘birs’ of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib and the Akal Takht’s flip-flop on pardoning Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh.
“We can say history repeats itself. People should take the initiative to prevent the degeneration of values and corruption in society. People are still dissatisfied with the way religious issues of importance are being managed,” says Jagmeet.
He comes across as a politically correct man, avoiding any controversial statements during the conversation. Earlier this year, Sartaj Singh Pannu’s ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’ was taken off screens, because it stirred a hornet’s nest on the cinematic representation of Guru Nanak Dev. “It depends on the level of acceptance in a society. That is why I try not to hurt religious sentiments,” says Jagmeet.
A special set of Nankana Sahib was constructed at Nihalgarh village near Phagwara for the shoot. “Producer Sukhbir Sandhar provided everything the team needed for the film. No other place could have evoked the true historical ethos as this set has.”
Jagmeet has written as well as directed ‘Saka-the Martyrs of Nankana Sahib’ on people’s struggle against corruption in religious affairs. “You have to engage the spectator and spur his curiosity for exploration. Either you can make people cry or evoke laughter. I hope moviegoers will be emotionally moved after watching the film,” he says.