22 years ago, Captain Vikram Batra lost his life fighting for the country in the Kargil War. For years, his twin brother Vishal Batra harboured a dream to tell Vikram’s story on screen. Finally, on Sunday, the eve of Kargil Vijay Diwas, Vishal stood next to the Shershaah team– Sidharth Malhotra, Kiara Advani, Vishnu Vardhan and Karan Johar– in Kargil and unveiled the trailer of Vikram Batra’s biopic, Shershaah.
“It was our dream to make a film on Vikram and it took birth in 2015. Shabbir Boxwala from Kaash Entertainment (co-producer, Shershaah) was the first person to approach us to make the film,” Vishal said at the trailer launch, which marked the 22nd Kargil Vijay Diwas celebration.
During the India-Pakistan conflict in the summer of 1999, Captain Vikram Batra distinguished himself for his bravery and skill. He gunned down four Pakistani soldiers and died while saving his comrade who was injured. As he was trying to drag the soldier to safety by deliberately exposing himself to enemy fire, he was shot in the chest and a splinter of an RPG warhead hit him in the head.
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For his service and acts of valour, he was awarded with the Param Vir Chakra, India’s highest military decoration.
Shabbir Boxwala, who has developed a close friendship with the Batra family over the course of the film, said in the first meet itself they handed over the rights to Vikram’s life to him.
“That was the happiest day of my life. They are part of the family. The support of Indian Army and his family, was very essential and unconditional,” said the producer.
For a year, Vishal Batra wondered who would be the right choice to authentically portray Vikram on screen, until another first meeting gave him his answer. “The first time I met Sidharth Malhotra in Bombay in 2016, we knew he was the right one for the role.” While Vishal didn’t divulge what about Sidharth convinced him for Vikram, producer Karan Johar revealed it was all in the actor’s eyes.
“A young actor came to my office and told this story to me with a lot of passion and enthusiasm. Of course, we all knew the story but the way he expressed the nuances of it, I read the character in his eyes,” Karan said while introducing Sidharth on the stage.
Sounding overwhelmed, Sidharth Malhotra said that Shershaah has been an experience bigger than any film as for the first time he played a “real life hero”.
“This day is extremely emotional for me. We started this journey five years ago with Vishal Batra ji… This is my first film where I have portrayed the life of a real-life hero whether it’s personal or professional. Shershaah has been an experience bigger than a film. This story is about true, real life heroes like you. And I consider myself lucky that I got to play him,” the actor said.
Equally nervous was Kiara Advani, who plays Vikram Batra’s fiancee Dimple Cheema. Karan Johar introduced her character the “heartbeat” of Shershaah. “I am quite nervous right now because I am standing in front of the Indian army for the first time. No number of words would justify the gratitude we all have in it hearts for each of you. I would also like to thank the families here. We salute you for your support, prayers and for being true pillars of strength for men and women in uniform.”
Kiara said Shershaah has been one of the rare films in her career that have impacted her personally. “Some films change you professionally but there are some that change you personally. Shershaah is that film for me. Thank you to the Batra Family, Dimple and everyone who made this possible for us. I will forever be grateful. We can’t wait to share this with the world,” the actor said.
Shershaah marks Tamil filmmaker Vishnu Vardhan’s Bollywood debut. The director opened up about the experience of shooting the film in Kargil, which gave the team a minuscule sense of how tough it would have been for the army to fight a battle in those rough terrains.
Some opportunities come once in a lifetime. This is that opportunity for me. We never thought we would shoot in Kargil. We would imagine how it would have been during the war. Every time we would shoot, we could see it all coming alive. What we filmed on those heights is nothing compared to what the Indian army achieved at that time. So, we have tried to bring it everything possible on screen,” Vishnu said.
Shershaah trailer launch was a small part of the grand event, hosted by the army, to celebrate the 22nd Kargil Diwas that marked India’s win over Pakistan in the 1999 war.
The evening that took place at the National Horse Polo Ground, Dras, Kargil was attended by not only men and women in uniform but also their families and kin of all soldiers who lost their life in the Kargil war.
The two-hour-long programme witnessed performances by a band of army officers and Ladakhi girl students, who crooned patriotic songs from Karan Johar’s films– “Teri Mitti” from Kesari and “Ae Watan” from Raazi. The echoes of patriotism warmed the windy night as the Shershaah team also paid a video tribute to the Kargil martyrs that featured clips from the conflict and stills of Vikram Batra.
Shershaah will arrive on Amazon Prime Video on August 12.