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Dubai-based director and producer Pankaj Sehgal wants to pay it forward this Gandhi Jayanthi (birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi) with an edgy political thriller starring the late Indian veteran actor Om Puri, Hollywood talent Stephen Lang and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels star Vinnie Jones.

The 51-second trailer of The Gandhi Murder, partly filmed in Dubai and mostly in Sri Lanka, was released on October 2, to coincide with the birth anniversary of India’s Father of the Nation and will chronicle the events leading to Gandhi’s gunning down by Hindu extremist Nathuram Godse.

This thriller, which is scheduled to release in the UAE on January 30, 2019, will bring to life a possible cover-up in Gandhi’s murder.

The thriller will also raise questions about whether the world-famous leader’s murder could have been diverted by the Indian establishment at that time. Spanish actor Jesus Sans plays Mahatma Gandhi in this film.

But it’s not the “touchy” topic that makes this thriller intriguing. It’s also one of the last few works featuring Puri, who died of cardiac arrest last year.

“He plays a key role in our film… Om Puri’s last few films have been weak but you will see an Om Puri like the one that you saw in his critically-acclaimed Ardh Satya. He is aggressive here and he feels he can save Gandhi… It’s a role that we want to remember Om Puri in,” said Sehgal in an exclusive interview with Gulf News tabloid!.

Based on real events

Sehgal, who has produced and co-directed this film along with Golden Globe-nominated Algerian director Karim Traidia, claims that this politically-charged film set in post-partition India will delve into areas that have rarely been touched upon by Indian history books.

“This is a film based on real events around the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi at a time when India was divided on sectarian grounds, especially after the partition. Gandhi was trying to bring people together, but unfortunately many people didn’t believe in the concept of togetherness… At that time, some police officers knew about the assassination plot… They were aware of it, but chose not to act,” Sehgal said.

Puri plays a Delhi-based police officer who wanted to save Gandhi from being killed. But not all are noble in this thriller as murky dealings in the highest corridors of power in India are revealed. American actor Lang plays another police officer with a cryptic agenda.

Sehgal, who is an avid history lover, made his ambitious project on a budget of $7 million (Dh25.7 million). As many as 46 nationalities feature in this multi-cultural film, which was shot over 80 days, claims the director. His crew spent around seven days in Dubai filming a few key scenes.

“I love history, but when I was a kid my history books only covered Gandhi’s role in pre-Independence India, but not much else is covered… Our intent is to show Gandhi’s immense contribution to India post-Independence, which is something that very few people understand. They don’t understand that his assassination was bigger than any of his other contributions… India was on the verge of a civil war,” said Sehgal, who believes that Gandhi’s murder silenced the communal frenzy that was threatening to erupt.

The Gandhi Murder, which was initially called Solar Eclipse: Depth of Darkness during its unveiling on the 13th Dubai International Film Festival, also had Puri excited. This journalist, who covered the event then, spoke to the actor at that time.

Solar Eclipse [now The Gandhi Murder] has no agenda and that’s the beauty of this film. It makes you think of finding solutions. It’s a wonderful script and the pace is like a thriller,” said Puri, adding that it doesn’t dwell on Gandhi, the individual.

“It is a wonderful script that brings out truth behind the truth. We are trying to reveal to you why India couldn’t stop Gandhi’s assassination or whether it was that easy to assassinate him,” said Puri during that interview.

The Gandhi Murder is scheduled to release in the UAE on January 30 next year.

The Gandhi murder in numbers

71: The number of years that have passed since Gandhi’s death, which forms the crux of this film. That event shaped the post-Independent India.
46: The number of nationalities featured in The Gandhi Murder.
7 million dollars: The budget of The Gandhi Murder.
80: The number of days that took to film The Gandhi Murder.