Director Kabir Khan has endured nearly two whole decades of industry obstacles and resistance to pull off his latest passion project, The Forgotten Army. The five-part series, which came out on January 24, follows the heroic efforts of the 55,000 men and women who fought for the independence of India during World War II.
At a musical event, wherein The Forgotten Army cast and crew paid tribute to the unsung heroes of the Azad Hind Fauj, Khan said it was a "forgotten chapter" in history that deserved to be told.
"This is the story that made me want to become a filmmaker because ever since I made a documentary on this subject I could never get this story out of my mind. I had almost made a promise to Captain Laxmi Sehgal and Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon who had come with me on that documentary that one day I will tell this story on a wider level and when I started my film career after every film I would pick up this script and say, 'I want to make this,'" Khan said.
Despite the massive budget and production, Khan said he didn't have to compromise on his creative vision for the show, as there was "no interference of any kind" from Amazon executives during filming.
"This was such an ambitious project and I knew whenever I make it, it'll be my most ambitious project. Finally after 20 years, I found the partners who shared my vision, stood behind me like a rock and gave me wings to fly and make it the way I wanted to."
Logistically, The Forgotten Army represents one of Khan's most ambitious projects. The production required filming across 120 days in various locations including Kanchanaburi, along the banks of the River Kwai and the hills near Chiang Mai close to the Myanmar border.
Headlining the cast as Lieutenant Sodhi is actor Sunny Kaushal, who recently made his acting debut with Bhangra Paa Le. Khan has also collaborated with actors from Britain, China, Japan and Myanmar.
Explaining the significance of appropriate casting for the show, Khan said, "It's not just about how they look and how they act but it's also about attitude and their passion. This is not something about this project but I think in every project you need to look for actors who have that passion to take your vision on to the screen and these guys are really troopers."
He further added, "I mean they have been to everything - into the rivers, on the hills. It was really tough. You can see those locations are real, not that have been recreated in studios. You are actually jumping into the river, where a 18-foot python has been sighted just an hour ago. We had to put people and make sure that the python didn't come back.
"I don't think anybody has really shot on those locations before. There are so many other locations that are really tough locations to reach and shoot in. I think it's really because of the cast I had that we were able to do it. Sometimes the goodwill of the story comes in and sort of takes the crew along with it, and I think the goodwill of the Azad Hind Fauj was with us. Their blessings were with us. It's a sacred story for me. It's a story that I had to tell. And I think their goodwill carried us through."
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