The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, May 21, 2000

A fine tribute
By Amber Sodhi

TERCENTENARY of the Khalsa at the turn of the century was a highly celebrated event all over Punjab which inspired Iqbal Dhillon into the production of Shaheed Udham Singh which bagged the Screen Videocon Award for the best Patriotic film for 1999. The film was also nominated for the international film festival. Dhillon has attempted to pay a tribute to the freedom fighters of Punjab amongst which Udham Singh was a renowned personality with a cause. "We wanted to make a film for the state of Punjab at the completion of 300 years of the Khalsa.

The information for the script of the film has been extracted from the historical documentation preserved by the government over the years. Some of the closed files were reopened. "Most of the dialogue of the court scene in the end of the film is based on historical documentation, but to give it a rhythmic tone at times the sentences might have been altered. None of the characters of the film are fictitious. We met some of Udham Singh’s existing relatives in and around Amritsar. Some of the old folk in the area related incidents from the early life of Udham Singh." Raj Babbar has played Udham Singh with immense dedication and energy. He revealed the potency in the character of Udham Singh. "Raj Babbar’s contribution to the film has been tremendous without any reservations. He is very sentimental about the Punjabi culture and in this film he has put in his best. Our whole team committed itself to the cause. Gurdas Mann, Juhi Chawla, Jagjit Singh and Jazzy Bains have made their contributions free of cost. Gurdas Mann and his writings are an immense source of inspiration for me. Shatrughan Sinha helped us wherever it was possible. But with all the travelling research and production undertaken, the film has turned out to be an expensive project. The film reflects an essence of dedicated teamwork and effort. "The foreign team of actors were very enthusiastic about this film. They gave us complete cooperation and coordinated with us as required", says Iqbal Dhillon, although does complain about the Punjab Government, "The government made no subsidy for this movie. A film which is selected for an international film festival is supposed to get perpetual tax redemption, but Shaheed Udham Singh was allowed tax redemption for only ten weeks after the release. It is a pity that there is no help from the government for a cause that educates the masses of their history."

  A son of the soil, Iqbal Dhillon comes from a landed background and belongs to Mangali village in district Hisar. His family lives in Khanewal in district Patiala but he lives in Chandigarh. In his early twenties, when he plunged into the world of film production, initially with Jagjit Gill Mahi Munda, which was Dhillon’s debut production project in 1979, thereafter making Putt Jattan De, Jatt Jeona Maur, Tabahi and many others down the years.

Twenty years into film making and yet a bachelor, Iqbal Dhillon intends to dedicate his heart and soul to Punjabi cinema." Filmmaking is my passion and these films are my babies, I want to see Punjabi cinema grow to the level of South Indian Cinema. My aim is to show the Punjab to the rest of the world", says Dhillon Delhi 1984 and Apna Punjab Hove are next couple of projects in the pipeline.