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It's a promise I made to Capt Lakshmi and Col Dhillon: Kabir Khan on The Forgotten Army

The filmmaker recalled the two-decade journey of the web-series which traces its roots back to his documentary, The Forgotten Army, made in 1999.

Shriram Iyengar

Amazon Prime launched the new decade with Kabir Khan's The Forgotten Army: Azaadi Ke Liye. The five-episode web-series will be streamed on the platform from 24 January, and features Sunny Kaushal, Sharvari Wagh, TJ Bhanu and Rohit Chaudhury.

At the launch of the trailer for the web-series in Mumbai, executive producer and director Kabir Khan called the project 'a promise' made to Indian National Army (INA) members Captain Lakshmi Sehgal and Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon.

While the web-series was shot in 2019, the journey of its story dates back to the early 1990s, when Kabir Khan was still a new graduate from the Film and Television Insititute of India (FTII).

Speaking at the trailer launch, Khan said, "This is a story that has lived with me for more than 20 years. At a very young age, fresh out of film school, I got an opportunity to witness this history through the eyes of the people who made this history — Captain Lakshmi Sehgal and Colonel Gurbaksh Singh Dhillon. They are no longer here with us now. I was a young 25-year-old, went with them, drove through Singapore, Malaysia, Burma, retracing the route that the Azad Hind Fauj had taken between 1942 and 1945, and saw first time through their eyes what had happened through that period."

The series will revolve around the four characters played by Kaushal, Wagh, Bhanu and Chaudhary who play officers of the INA founded by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose with prisoners of war in Japanese detention camps. It was the INA that launched India's first independent military assault on British forces during the latter half of World War II.

Explaining why it took two decades for the story to finally be captured on camera, Kabir Khan said, "The test of the story is that whatever I did, this story would keep coming back. Finally, it is out with Amazon as an Original series. I can say this without doubt that I have made many films, but the kind of support that Amazon gave me for this project, I doubt any film studio would give me."

Amazon Prime content head Vijay Subramaniam added, "There is an old saying that when the students are ready, the teacher appears. The same can be said of this story. I think we are very privileged to kick off 2020 with a story that Kabir has lived with for two decades. It is prophetic that way."

Vijay Subramaniam also cracked up the audience by his reference to the series as a well-cooked biryani. He said, "There are various kinds of biryani, right? This would be the dum pukht version of it (laughs)."

The Bajrangi Bhaijaan (2015) director was also full of praise for his cast, calling them 'troopers' for braving the difficult shooting circumstances and persisting with the story. The director particularly picked out TJ Bhanu for being the 'calamity Jane' on the sets across the schedules.

Sunny Kaushal, who recently made his debut as a leading man with Bhangra Paa Le (2019), revealed, "I was shooting for another film when I got this call to audition for this film. It was a great opportunity to be a part of a story that we have heard very little about, read very little about. I gave the audition, Kabir sir liked it, and we started having reading sessions. I was just blown away by the sheer knowledge he has on the whole subject."

The web-series will also see Sharvari Wagh make her debut. The actress has already signed on for the sequel to Bunty Aur Babli (2005), opposite Siddhant Chaturvedi.

Speaking of her experience playing a female officer of the INA, Wagh said, "Don't you agree that all women are soldiers anyway? I think everyone I have met in my life, I drew inspiration from them all."

The web-series has been shot across Thailand, Singapore and India, including the famed river Kwai, to capture the journey from Singapore to India through Burma that the INA took between 1942 and 1945, Backed by Amazon Prime Video, the web-series will be streamed on the platform from 24 January.

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