Chaar Sahibzaade has grossed over Rupees 200 million in 7 days since its release on Guru Nanak Guru gurpurab on Nov 6. This photo realistic 3D animation film has raised the bar for Punjabi movies, as an average Punjabi movie normally earns Rp 80-100 million. Sonia Srikureja chats with Director Harry Baweja to find what went behind the making of this epic movie.
What inspired you to make Chaar Sahibzaade?
I’d made 20 films and have always looked back to thank God every time I took a step forward but I felt there had to be a better way to express my gratitude. As a builder I might have built a gurdwara but since I’m a filmmaker it’s only natural to make a film. Initially it started with an idea to base the movie on one of the Sikh Gurus which I wasn’t permitted to, or better put, nobody is permitted to. At the most you can show them as still images. It’s not practical to make a feature film using only still images so finally after requesting the SGPC (Punjab-based Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee), I got permission to animate stories related to Guruji. The closest to Guru Sahib is his family and that’s when the whole focus fell on the Chaar Sahibzaades. It’s quite a recent history of only about 300 years and a story so inspiring that I decided on it.
Was it difficult to verify the storyline for this sensitive historical event?
It sure was. There’s very little historical references. We don’t have all the historical architectural structures. Many have been destroyed or lost. Whatever was available was incorporated in the movie and for the missing puzzle we searched to see what it could’ve been, trying our best to stay true to history and to make sure that the film did not hurt anybody’s religious sentiments. We wanted to make sure everything turned out perfect, everybody enjoys the movie and nobody gets hurt.
What other challenges did you face?
Since this is my first animation, when started direction, I thought I I’d just need to go once a week to overlook. However, in the last one and a half years I have been doing nothing but sitting in the studios day and night. I needed to make sure all the characters appear as human as possible, working from the little bits to the bigger picture of human nature which means correcting every single character in that frame. It has been a tedious and tiring job.
It was a difficult journey to make such an expensive film with no support. I tried my best to have partners, but nobody came forward. Towards the end I did get investors but it was a very small percentage for distribution not production.
Any advantages of making an animation film?
I could control all the actors, I can make them come and go as needed. I didn’t have to wait for anybody.
How did you feel the first time you watched your film?
Seeing the movie wasn’t something new as I had been going through it for two and a half years. My dream came true the first time I saw the Chaar sahibzaades come alive. Seeing the characters performing in front of me live when I had always only seen them in photographs was a moment I still can’t forget. I still have that 30 second clip with me.
What’s your favorite scene in the movie?
When the two chote sahibzaades shared with their grandmother their dream and the both of them had the same dream. Their grandmother was surprised. Well it wasn’t just a dream, it turned out to be a premonition.
What’s the message you want everyone to go home with?
I want everyone to watch how the chote sahibzaades stood by their principles. Their courage and bravery is just ‘wow’. They had complete faith in God and trusted that whatever he does is for the best. I also hope this movie opens doors for others to make films on such historical references so that all the history that’s lying in books can come out.
Any other projects to look forward to?
There’s another Baweja Movies’ film releasing, Happy Go Lucky, on November 21st. Other than that there are no other projects for now as for the last five years my complete focus has been into making Chaar Sahibzaade. I still have the letter I wrote to SGPC in 2009 to express my idea and schedule a meeting with them for permission and input.
How was your experience with the Thai Indian community?
The kind of enthusiasm everyone showed to watch the premier encouraged me to be part of the organizing team. I also love the way you all are in touch with your culture. You are probably doing what Thailand expects from you and yet you haven’t forgot your roots and thats what makes it beautiful.
[Chaar Sahibzaade is being screened worldwide in three languages, Hindi, English and Punjabi, in 3D and 2D]