Filmmaker Harry Baweja’s Punjabi language film Chaar Sahibzaade was one of the sleeper hits of 2014. The animated movie is based on the teachings of the tenth and final Sikh Guru, Gobind Singh, and the martyrdom of his four sons. Baweja skilfully got around the prohibition in Sikhism against using actors to portray Sikh Gurus by focusing on the valour of Guru Gobind Singh’s sons. The sequel delves further into Sikh religious history and follows the folklore surrounding Banda Singh Bahadur, the eighteenth-century ascetic-turned-warrior who resisted Mughal rule and was tortured to death in 1716. The movie is being released in Punjabi as well as in Hindi with English subtitled by Eros Entertainment. Excerpts from an interview with Baweja.
Why a sequel?
Why not a sequel? I wanted to take the story from where I left off. The new movie starts where the previous one ended. The historical events in this story are so vast that even a five-hour film won’t be enough.
The new film talks about how Banda Singh Bahadur makes his own empire under the nose of the Mughals. It’s also about how Guru Gobind Singh travelled to Nanded, and the events that connect the two.
What role did animation play in the success of the first film?
Since the protagonists could not be enacted by live actors, it became an animated film. Parents wanted their children to know about their history, which has not been explored before, and children do get attracted because of animation. Thus, animation solved my purpose, and Chaar Sahibzaade became more of a family film.
That said, Chaar Sahibzaade is not a cartoon. We used photo-real animation in the first film. In the new film, the characters are more interactive than in the first film. The production has been handled by Prime Focus.
Were you surprised that the first movie turned out be such a big hit?
Animated films don’t work in India, and everybody thought at the time that only a mad man could attempt such a film. I could have lost all the money I invested in the production. Yet, this format has never come before, and as long as I could maintain the sanctity of the religious content, it worked. We had released the first film on 200-300 screens, and we kept increasing the screen count because of the demand. This time, we are targetting 700-plus cinemas as well as 200 screens in overseas territories. We will be releasing in Italy at 12 centres where Bollywood films haven’t been shown before. There is a big demand there for the film.