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Irrfan Khan joins Salman Khan’s international project Lions of the Sea

Based on real-life events, the film follows the 376 sea passengers on the ship SS Komagata Maru who were denied entry into Canada in 1914.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Sonal Pandya

Actors Salman Khan and Irrfan Khan have never worked together on any film; that’s about to change with Salman’s new production Lions of the Sea. Irrfan will play Sikh businessman Gurdit Singh who was a part of the 1914 Japanese ship SS Komagata Maru and its 376 passengers who were denied entry into Canada.

Salman will co-produce the film under his banner, Salman Khan Films, along with Canada’s First Take Entertainment. He said in a statement, “Just as cinema today transcends borders, Lions of the Sea is a story reflective of challenging barriers and breaking them, irrespective of differences in language and race.”

The SS Komagata Maru sailed from Hong Kong to Vancouver in 1914. On board were 376 south Asian immigrants seeking a better life for themselves and their families. When the ship reached the port on 23 May 1914, the government refused the passengers to get off. The ship docked for two months and eventually 20 people were allowed to remain in the country. The rest were sent back to an uncertain future.

Upon its return, the British stopped the ship and treated the passengers as hostiles with guns trained on them. Nineteen people were killed and the rest of the passengers, including Gurdit Singh were jailed.

In May 2016, the Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau formally apologised for his country’s role in the incident. At the time he said, “Today, I rise in this House to offer an apology on behalf of the government of Canada for our role in the Komagata Maru incident. More than a century ago a great injustice took place.”

With his latest production, Salman hopes to bring to light a forgotten incident amidst an emerging global crisis of refugees forced to flee their homelands. 

Irrfan already has a busy 2017 with Homi Adajania’s Takadum, Salim Khassa’s The Wicked Path and Anup Singh’s The Song of Sparrows lined up.

Lions of the Sea will start filming in 2017 in India, Canada, Hong Kong and the UK.