An expatriate Punjabi community, reconnecting with its roots and spreading the message of peace…. That’s Virsa, a Punajbi film, the outcome of one of the many initiatives for peace across the borders. An Indo-Pak joint venture, the film has roped in actors from both the countries, apart from bringing in talent from Australia. It features Gulshan Grover, Kawaljeet Singh, and Arya Babbar among others from India, while leading lady, Mehreen Raheal, is from Pakistan.
Producer Vikram Khakhar says that the idea originated from a brainstorming session with Pakistani singer Jawad Ahmad. “I have prduced videos for Pakistani artistes like Ali Azmat, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Ali Zafar and Ahmad. I always receive a warm welcome when I go back. Since hundreds of Punjabi speaking people live in Pakistan and abroad, we thought a film on the community would be an interesting,” informs Khakhar.
The two joined hands with Dr Amanullah Khan, a 70-year-old published Punjabi poet who graduated from Lahore, but now lives in Dallas. Virsa is a mainstream Punjabi film that touches on significant issues. It’s a story of Nawaz Ali (Grover), from Lahore and Ranvir Singh Grewal (Kawaljeet) who comes from Kartarpur, a village in Punjab. They both migrate to Sydney and become best friends.
Twenty years later, Grewal’s rich, wayward ways reflect in his son’s behaviour, while Ali’s son is rooted in his native culture.Director Pankaj Batra explains that the film deals with the identity crisis that third generation immigrant Asians in the West go through.The film has been entirely shot in Sydney, apart from a day’s shoot in India. “We gave it the Pakistani feel through the characters and their dialogue,” Batra explains.
Denying that the location was determined by an effort to surmount visa problems, Khakhar says that the choice of Sydney was because the Australian government was very supportive. “It’s a relationship building exercise, we didn’t feel any animosity,” he asserts. Yeah, sure… The film will be released with English subtitles.