Having come to India with a French delegation with an aim to bolster commerce and trade between France and India (especially with Punjab) by promoting rich Punjabi heritage among the Sikh community in France. UK-based writer, historian and filmmaker Bobby Singh Bansal on Monday talked about ‘Europeans at the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh’ at Centre on Studies in Sri Guru Granth Sahib of Guru Nanak Dev University here.
Before leaving for Pakistan on Tuesday, Bobby spoke to Hindustan Times about the shooting of a documentary film: “‘The Remnants of Sikh Empire/Legacy of Maharaja’ (tentative) is a 25-minute-long documentary in which I am filming the legacy of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the monuments connected to his reign.”
Bobby will be staying in Pakistan for four days, during which he will be visiting various places to shoot the documentary. He will also try to find out the state of ports during Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s rule.
When asked if the Pakistani authorities were cooperative with him, he said: “They have always been. I visit Pakistan and India three times a year for my research works. My UK-based organisation ‘Sarkar Khalsa Foundation’ (SK Foundation) works with various government NGOs and organisations to preserve and restore derelict Sikh monuments in Pakistan. We have also restored the ‘Samadhi’ of Maharaja Sher Singh in Lahore in collaboration with departments of archaeology and Anglo-Sikh Memorials at Rasulnagar near the Chenab River in 2010.”
“When I was working on my book ‘Remnants of the Sikh Empire’, which talks about Sikh monuments in Pakistan and India, I had to catalogue all Sikh monuments and forts built by powerful chiefs of the Lahore Durbar in Pakistan, most of which have either been demolished or are near ruin. Some monuments mentioned in the book have never been seen as they are located near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, where the access was restricted, but the Pakistani army gave to me free access to those areas,” said Bobby, whose short film ‘The Sikhs of Kabul – A Forgotten Community’ won numerous awards at several international film festivals.
Bobby’s another short film is ‘Road to Mandalay - The Burmese Sikhs’.
Elaborating on his visit to India, Bobby said: “I have come to India with a delegation, which included Henri Allard, a descendant of General Jean –Francois Allard, who was one of the prominent officers in the Maharaja’s army, and Ranjit Singh Goraya, who represents the Sikhs of France and their issues. General Allard was born in the French town of Saint Tropez, and thus, we are working in collaboration with the French historians to install a statue of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at the town square in St Tropez next year.” He said a major event was being planned at St Tropez in September 2016.
“In this regard I delivered a lecture at the French embassy in New Delhi, where I highlighted the French contribution and its immense impact on the Lahore Durbar. In Delhi and Amritsar, I also talked about the first French officer, General Jean Francois Allard, who served Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Allard had arrived in Lahore in 1822 with the Italian Jean Baptiste Ventura,” said Bobby, whose is also known for his maiden publication ‘The Lion’s Firanghis - Europeans at the Court of London’ (2010).