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Raag Desh teaser: Tigmanshu Dhulia's film based on 1945 Red Fort trials of Indian soldiers

Dhulia's period film tells the story of Indian soldiers, Gurubaksh Singh Dhillon, Prem Kumar Sahgal and Shah Nawaz Khan who were charged with treason.

Mayur Lookhar

Many of India's patriotic films are centred around Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh or the Indo-Pak wars. Steering clear of the popular practice, director Tigmanshu Dhulia has pulled out a forgotten piece of Indian history.

Raag Desh is a film based on the famous 1945 Red Fort trials that saw the British charging three Indian soldiers — Gurubaksh Singh Dhillon, Prem Kumar Sahgal and Shah Nawaz Khan — with treason.

The makers released the teaser of Raag Desh and it’s one that spells out its story clearly. Amit Sadh plays the Sikh Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon, while Mohit Marwah plays Prem Kumar Sahgal and Kunal Kapoor is essaying the role of Shah Nawaz Khan.   

Sadh is barely recognisable in his Sikh avatar. Unlike the Mahatma Gandhis and Bhagat Singhs, these names don’t come to mind easily.

After World War II, the British captured some 23,000 Indian National Army soldiers and charged them with treason. In November 1945, the INA trials began at the Red Fort.

The first trial, that of Shah Nawaz Khan, Gurubaksh Singh Dhillon and Prem Sahgal, was held between November and December 1945 against the backdrop of general elections in India.  

All three of them were charged with waging war against the king contrary to Section 121 of the Indian Penal Code. In addition, charges of murder were levelled against Dhillon and of abetment to murder against Shah Nawaz Khan and Prem Kumar Sahgal. The three soldiers elected to be defended by the defense committee set up by the Indian National Congress.

Protests against the trials took place and in February and March 1946, the Royal Indian Navy and Royal Indian Air Force mutinied. By then, the end of British India was clearly apparent and on 15 August 1947, India was free from colonial rule.

Despite the public and political pressure, the court martial was carried out and all three defendants were sentenced to deportation for life. This sentence, however, was never carried out, as the immense public pressure of the demonstrations forced Claude Auchinleck, Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army, to release all three defendants.

While Gurubaksh Singh Dhillon, Prem Kumar Sahgal and Shah Nawaz Khan are the pivot around which the film revolves, Raag Desh will cover all the drama that took place during the arrest of the three and many other Indian soldiers. So, we see Subhash Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi too in the trailer.

For a patriotic film, Dhulia has used a cool, rocking background score.

Indian fans will welcome a new tale from the history books. Raag Desh is set to be released on 28 July where it will compete with Indu Sarkar and Mubarakan.

Watch the teaser below: