Best known for his much-popular 1997 war-drama Border, veteran filmmaker JP Dutta is set to make a comeback after more than a decade with multi-starrer Paltan. Based on the 1967 India-China clash over the Nathu La border issue in Sikkim, the film set to release on September 7 showcases Arjun Rampal and Sonu Sood in the lead roles of senior army officials. The movie also has Jackie Shroff, Gurmeet Choudhary, Harshvardhan Rane, Esha Gupta and Sonal Chauhan in prominent roles.
Talking about his first film of the year, Arjun says, “I play Lt Col Rai Singh, who is the commanding officer of his regiment. And he was a person who was definitely influenced by the British army. He was a great strategist and was a person who led from the front. He wasn’t the one who stood on bunkers and just gave orders. I do come from an army background as my grandfather and Nana, both were Brigadiers in the army. I grew up in the cantonment area so I had seen the army up close.”
For Sonu Sood also, essaying the role of an army man was not a tough task because a lot of his friends and family members were in the force.Seen in Jackie Chan-starrer action film Kung Fu Yoga last year, Sonu will portray an army man for the first time in this film. “I play Major Bishen Singh’s character. Since terrorism was at its peak in Punjab during my childhood days, I was used to seeing a lot of Army deployed in the region. Even many Brigadiers and Colonels used to visit us.”
Sonu also credits JP for making the task at hand a lot easier. “It’s because all the homework was done by JP Dutta sir. We were shooting with real guns, real bullets, and on real locations along with the real army. So there was a feeling of an army man in each one of us, which made the job even easier.”
Dutta, who is known for making films on patriotism and post-Partition problems in India, was on a break after Umrao Jaan in 2006. On his motivation to make this film, Dutta says, “The reason is very simple. The story was not known to people. After having made films on Indian forces, I share a yarana (friendly connection) with Indian forces now. I feel their pain and commitment for the nation. So, this was one such story which was never discussed, as the then government ignored it. One of my friends in the army told me about this incident which took place in 1967 when we fought with China over the Nathula border in Sikkim and that was for the first time when we defeated China. When I directed Border, I had told media that I’ll make a trilogy, following which I made LOC: Kargil and now I am back with Paltan.”
Sonu believes that the best thing of being into a war film is you actually get to live that part of the history which was always there and people will remember you for years and years for that. “Besides, you are getting into the shoes of an army person who sacrifices his life for the nation and I think that’s a very high point as an actor. It’s something that one really has to be proud of,” he adds.
Arjun, who has earlier played the role of a cop in Kahaani 2, thanks the director for making the preparations easier by putting in all the efforts for the research. “Different directors work in different ways and I believe as an actor you should just give yourself up to the director and JP sir expects that from all his actors. He expects you to just trust him and along the way we discovered the characters in depth. I think that’s far more exciting because it makes it more spontaneous as you don’t come with a preconceived notion about the character.”
Known for his acting in films such as Singh Is Kinng and Dabangg, Sonu says, “Shooting on real locations, with -20°C temperature with almost no oxygen was really tough. But when you get into the army uniform, it gives you the courage. And once you start the movie, the whole idea excites you.”
The director, who is working with both the actors for the first time, is all praises for them. “I was very lucky that they all were so fit. You cannot imagine that they used to wake up at 5:30 or 6 in the morning and go out for running on the streets of Leh in such cold weather. They ran five km every day, followed by a gym session. I am thankful to them for their dedication.”Arjun will be seen next in Nastik, while Sonu has Kangana Ranaut-starrer Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi in his kitty.