MUMBAI: “1971 is not completely a reality based film,” says debutant director Amrit Sagar. “No one has access to all the facts about the plight of the 1971 Prisoners of War (POW). My film is based on a few facts that have been woven into a fictional story. The names of the characters too are fictional.”
Explains Sagar, “We have used excerpts from letters received by families of the PoWs. Also, some of these families had travelled to Pakistan with the Red Cross, so that scene too has been incorporated in the film. We also researched various newspaper articles, borrowed excerpts from a book titled The Bhutto Trial and Execution by Victoria Schefield, which mentions the tortures former Pak president Butto underwent. He was unable to sleep for many nights due to the screaming he could hear in a cell close to his. In his account, Bhutto has mentioned that there were Indian PoWs in that cell, and that some of them had even gone mad.”
Since the film focuses on the war aftermath, it is based in 1977. To recreate a 1977 ambience was another task for the filmmaker. “For recreating the Pakistan of 1977, you have to give credit to my set departmentk, which painstakingly researched and transformed the entire town of Jagatsukh into Muzzafarabad in just two days,” says Sagar. Mukesh Khalola has provided the art direction for 1971.
The film also needed research on aspects like the brands of cigarettes in use at the time, the ads that abounded and popular film stars and cricketers of the time, since these were topics that would find their way in the PoWs’ conversations.