If fate, that capricious mistress of Man’s future, had willed it, director Kabir Khan’s first feature film would have been on the Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army (INA). “I had made a documentary on the INA entitled The Forgotten Army for Doordarshan in 1999 and the idea of making a film on the subject stuck in my head. The story of Subhas Chandra Bose’s army stayed with me. I remember as a 25-year old I visited all the places where the INA had been, imagined what they had been through. It was a story that I needed to tell. After I made documentaries I realized these won’t provide me with a sustainable career. I wanted The Forgotten Army to be my first feature film. But then, Kabul Express happened. Then New York and the others…Now, it’s finally happening on Amazon’s OTT platform,” says Kabir experiencing the sense of elation that comes after a long wait.
Did The Forgotten Army take so long to materialize because it was impossible to make as a feature film? “No it’s not that,” Kabir corrects me. “In fact Adi (Aditya Chopra) and I had been discussing The Forgotten Army as a feature film for years now. Although I made other films for Adi I somehow never got down to doing this one project that I wanted to.”
Is it because of the budgetary constraints? “No, it’s not the budget. But yes, if I made The Forgotten Army for the big screen I’d probably have to have a big superstar in the lead role. I guess every story has its own destiny and this one was destined to be made as a 5-part series. I’m very happy with my actors in The Forgotten Army. Sunny Kaushal is excellent, and Sharvari who plays an equally important role, is now doing a feature film Bunty Aur Babli 2 for Yash Raj films.”
How different would The Forgotten Army have been as a feature film?
Kabir mulls over that one. “I don’t know if it would have been any different. I have told the story of these incredible foot soldiers and subalterns exactly the way I wanted to. What this 20-year wait taught me was to not let my story be a slave to history. By that I mean, the characters need not move in a particular rigid way. While filming the story I gave myself the liberty to make the characters mouldable.”
The tension of awaiting release is no different from what Kabir felt while preparing for the release of his feature films which include the very impressive Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Ek Tha Tiger and New York. “It’s exactly the same on the OTT platform as a feature film. This is the story I want to tell. And I’ve told it without any changes.”
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