Meghna Gulzar plans a biopic on former Army chief Sam Manekshaw who won 1971 Indo-Pak war

Hindustan Times | By, New Delhi
Jun 04, 2018 05:56 PM IST

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was the army chief during 1971 India-Pakistan war.

Even as her latest outing, Raazi is being lapped up by the audience and the film is raking in numbers at the box office, director Meghna Gulzar has teamed up with producer Ronnie Screwvala to tell us the story of Field Marshal Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshedji Manekshaw who the led the Indian Army during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. Tigmanshu Dhulia was in talks with Ronnie for the film in 2015 but that did not work out.

A file photo of Field Marshal S.H.F.J. Manekshaw.(PIB Defence Wing)
A file photo of Field Marshal S.H.F.J. Manekshaw.(PIB Defence Wing)

Meghna will direct the biopic on Sam Manekshaw, the first Indian Army officer to be promoted to the rank of Field Marshal. His military career spanned four decades and five wars. Manekshaw’s military victory in the 1971 Indo-Pak war led to the creation of Bangladesh. He died at Military Hospital in Wellington, Tamil Nadu in June 2008 at the age of 94.

Field Marshal Manekshaw with Madras regiment during the 1971 war. (Photo division Defence Wing)
Field Marshal Manekshaw with Madras regiment during the 1971 war. (Photo division Defence Wing)

Talking about the new project, Meghna said in a press statement, “It’s bitter-sweet, moving from one film to the next, but it’s always a pleasure to tell a story that has grabbed your attention instinctively. The life that the Field Marshal has lived is vast and rich so it’s quite daunting to be able to do justice to it in two hours on celluloid. Ronnie approached me sometime in 2015 saying that he wanted to work with me and I felt flattered because I look up to his work. We didn’t even have a subject back then but over conversations the idea of a film on Sam Manekshaw came up. I leapt at the idea.”

Meghna’s latest film Raazi starred Alia Bhatt and was about an Indian spy in Pakistan. Based on Harinder Sikka’s book, Calling Sehmat, the film has already earned Rs 114 crore.

“We are currently in the early stages of writing while research has been on for a year because it’s an exhaustive subject. I only started internalising the material when Raazi was going into post production. The film requires tremendous prep. One part of the film will be set in the era of the ’71 war which is fairly familiar for me right now (Raazi was set in the 1970s as well) but otherwise it’s a whole new world,” she added.

Manekshaw was one of the 40 cadets of the first batch that passed out from the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun and earned the sobriquet “Sam Bahadur” from soldiers of the 8th Gorkha Rifles of which he was Colonel of the Regiment.

Meghna plans to meet Manekshaw’s daughter and grandchildren in the next couple of months. “I’m also happy to be teaming up with my Raazi cowriter Bhavani Iyer again along with another bright new writer, Shantanu Srivastava,” she further said.

Producer Ronnie Screwvala is equally excited about the film. “I have always felt that India lacks role models. When it came to Sam Manekshaw, it’s a story that must be told and it’s not only about him being India’s first and only field marshal or being at the forefront of the wars we fought against Pakistan, but also about it being an inspirational story. I am also related to the Manekshaws from my wife’s (Zarina Mehta) side. Meghna and I were talking about how I loved what she did with Talvar when we got Sam Manekshaw’s story on the table. It took her a few seconds to say that it is what she would like to do after Raazi,” Ronnie said in a press statement.

Speaking about his plans for the project, the filmmaker adds, “In the next three months we should have our script ready. The movie needs at least six months of prep. When we go on the floors also depends on the lead actors and their dates. The character obviously ages through a certain time and he is as smart and disciplined as he is mischievous. Charm is also an important aspect to factor in as Manekshaw always had time for a joke no matter how busy he was. We have Mr Manekshaw’s family on board along with his then first and second assistants in the Army, besides a lot of compatriots and colleagues to ensure the story remains authentic.”

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