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Posted at: Sep 12, 2017, 1:38 AM; last updated: Sep 12, 2017, 1:38 AM (IST)

Saragarhi saga captured on film

Saragarhi saga captured on film
A still from Saragarhi: The True Story. Photo: Dot Hyphen Productions

Vikramdeep Johal

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 11

“Saragarhi: The True Story”, a documentary by UK-based journalist-filmmaker Jay Singh-Sohal, will be screened at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire tomorrow to mark the 120th anniversary of the epic frontier battle.

It features footage from the site that falls within Pakistan’s unruly tribal region. The day shooting took place on the Samana mountain range, the Pakistan Army was fighting Islamic State militants 40km away at Rajgal. Filming also took place in the UK and India.

Jay Singh-Sohal says: “It’s been a long but fulfilling journey to research, film and promote for the first time the bravery of the Sikhs at Saragarhi. It’s a personal endeavour; I’ve myself been inspired by it because it speaks to the shared history and values that make me proud to be both British and Sikh, and I know many others in my community feel the same.”

On September 12, 1897, 21 Sikh soldiers of the 36th Regiment of Bengal Infantry had fought to the last man against 10,000-odd tribesmen during an uprising on the North West Frontier between colonial India and Afghanistan.

According to the filmmaker, who has also penned a book on the battle, the Sikhs who fought for Britain on the frontier were “rightly rewarded and honoured” for their bravery and devotion to duty. “Today, we must continue to remember the sacrifices they and others made in such conflicts which might not be so well known, but are vitally important,” he adds.

Gurinder Singh Mann, a historian and head of the Sikh Museum Initiative, says, “After the Anglo Sikh Wars (1840s) and the annexation of Punjab, many Sikhs were looking for employment. As a result, several regiments were formed in the British Indian Army over the subsequent decades. The battle at Saragarhi stresses the importance of the role the Sikhs played as part of the Empire.”

The heroic tale is also the subject of two delayed Bollywood projects, one an Ajay Devgn production and the other being handled by veteran director Rajkumar Santoshi. In the latter, the lead role of Havildar Ishar Singh is being played by Randeep Hooda.

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