December 6, when the whole country was on red- alert, Tigmanshu Dhulia was supposed to kick-start his film, bio-pic on Pan Singh Tomar, at an army base in Bengal.
The permission was denied. Says Tigmanshu, "It is true we had to start a day late because the army-clearance papers were held over. We finally got clearance for Dec 7 and now we're shooting the army portions of Tomar's life in Rourkela at an army base called Bengal Engineers."
No film has ever been shot in this army base. "In fact I went to Saharanpur where I'll shoot at another army base soon. I believe the only prominent actor who shot there was Sunil Dutt for a film called Amrapali many years ago."
Tigmanshu will also shoot in the Chambal Valley in March when his protagonist turns into a dacoit. "The Chambal and banditry are familiar cinematic grounds for me because I assisted Shekhar Kapoor on Bandit Queen. But these army scenes in Rourkela and Sharanpur are gruelling."
In addition Tigmanshu is working with a leading man who insists on utmost authenticity. Says Tigmanshu, "Irrfan Khan refuses to shoot with a false moustache. So he has grown a real thick moustache for his scenes in the army. Then we move to his sports scenes where he requires a thinner facial growth. Then for his scenes as a villager, he'll have to be clean shaven and finally as a dacoit, he'll have to have stubborn stubble all through."
The actor insists on growing all the correct facial hairs for the different phases in the protagonist's life that spans 1950 to 1980. "A time-taking process. But then this kind of dedication adds to the authenticity by leaps and bounds," says Tigmanshu.
Irrfan's Olympian trainer Satypal Singh has also joined the actor in Rourkela. "So while Irrfan performs the army scenes, he's continuing his athletic training," informs the director.
Under normal circumstances Irrfan's dedication would be dead-on. But the sensitive army base restricts and severely controls the shooting's movement and timing.
"We're working against all odds. But I wanted to shoot in all the places where Tomar had been. Otherwise no point in making a bio-pic," ends Tigmanshu.
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