Bollywood actor Vicky Kaushal plays the title role in Sam Bahadur, out on Zee5 Global now Image Credit: IMDB

Biopics in Bollywood are often criticised for glossing over their subjects’ flaws and eccentricities, but director Meghna Gulzar, whose latest film ‘Sam Bahadur’ chronicles the valiant life of the Indian army officer and war hero, feels she didn’t face the danger of falling into that trap.

The late Manekshaw is arguably India’s best known army general and was the chief of the Indian army during the 1971 war with Pakistan.

“His life is not a usual life and when your material is unusual, you don’t need the usual tropes … The life he led was so unique and so unusual,” said Gulzar in an interview with Gulf News.

Starring Vicky Kaushal in top form in Gulzar’s ‘Sam Bahadur’, streaming now on Zee5 Global, this film takes you into the eventful life of the Indian army man who played a pivotal role in the Indo-Pakistani war. In 1973, he became the first Indian army officer to be promoted to the rank of field marshal.

Gulzar is one of Bollywood’s finest filmmakers. Her credits include stirring and well-made films like ‘Talvar’, a gripping thriller based on the real-life double murder case of Arushi Talwar, and ‘Raazi’, a spy thriller set during the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war, focusing on a young Indian woman (Alia Bhatt) who marries to gather intelligence. She has handled these complex stories with nuance and emotional depth. “I try very hard to steer away from the usual or what’s expected or the predictable thing to do. When I am telling a story, I instinctively try to tell my story in the least predictable manner.”

Here’s her take on her new film and why being jingoistic isn’t an option …

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Director Meghna Gulzar with actor Vicky Kaushal on the sets of 'Sam Bahadur'

What prompted her to make the film:

“The prompt came from Ronnie Screwvala [producer] when he suggested this idea of making a film on Field Marshal Manekshaw’s life. I do hope that I have done justice to the immense life that he has lived. I have been told as much by a lot of people, including the army. Their approval was important for me and I think we did pretty well in telling his life story ... I was also particular about getting the family’s approval. It was the toughest screening that I had ever sat on. But their approval was the first thing we got.”

Keeping a lid on making the film hyper-nationalistic and jingoistic:

“That was not tough at all, because that was not what we were trying to do and that’s not what the man was. The tone of any film comes from the intent with which you are making the film. Our intent was very clear. We were telling the story of Field Marshal Manekshaw. He was not hyper-nationalistic or jingoistic, so how could we make such a film? He was patriotic and was extremely faithful to his army first and then his country. And, that’s exactly the sentiment we had in the film. You have to be faithful to the sentiment of the character that you are depicting and that’s what we have done.”

Her brief to Vicky Kaushal to play the titular role:

“There can’t be one brief when you’re making a film like this. I think every scene, every age that we were playing, every period that we were showing, every historical milestone that we were depicting, came into their own through multiple parameters. Whether it’s at the performance level, direction level, production design level or costume level, you can’t just have a singular brief … But I truly believe that Vicky has managed to embody and capture the spirit of Field Marshal Manekshaw and somehow perform so beautifully. And for me, that’s priceless. Whether it’s his eyes or the way he looks or the way he smiles, he captured the spirit of Manekshaw in his performance and that was extremely important.”

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Director Meghna Gulzar gave multiple briefs to all her actors and team

What viewers should take away from her biopic:

“I want everyone to know that we had a soldier who defended our country and who was a part of our army. He inspired and uplifted us by the life he lived. Even if my film alters a person or inspires them to be better, be more righteous, or more forthright, then I would be proud. I hope the movie compels you to be a better person. Nothing would be more gratifying for me as a filmmaker … this is a story that should reach all those who don’t know about him. There’s a generation out there who should know who he was, how he lived and what he did.”

Don’t Miss It!

‘Sam Bahadur’ is streaming now on Zee5 Global