New Delhi: Thakur Ranvir Singh, who is proud about making the first docu-drama on the10th Sikh guru, says he travelled to eight Indian states and visited 61 gurudwaras to make "In the Footsteps of Guru Gobind Singh", which he feels will build bridges between different religions.
"This is the first film that has been made on Guru Gobind Singhji and probably the last one," Singh told IANS in an interview, adding that this is not a subject that many people would like to experiment with.
"In the past, there have been some special programmes and some general information dedicated to him, but this kind of treatment has never been given. This film is an encyclopedia on guruji`s life and brings out his glory.
"It is not just a mere film and it is not a commercial drama - it is my `sewa` for Guru Gobind Singhji. `In The Footsteps of Guru Gobind Singh` does not promote any one religion. It`s my attempt to build bridges between different religions -- may that be between Hindu, Muslim or Muslim`s and Sikh`s. A lot has been done to bring religious differences to rest, but seems it can never be enough," Singh added, saying so far there have been about 100 shows of the movie in India as well as abroad.
Born in Kota, Rajasthan, the 74-year-old, who is "devoted towards heritage", started his career as an assistant in British films and later worked on both film and television projects in Britian and the US. In his more than four-decades-long career, he made documentaries like "Heart to Heart", "Spring is here once More" and "Lions of Gir".
He was the executive producer for the first Hollywood-India co-production "Shalimar" in the 1970s starring Rex Harrison, Dharmendra and Zeenat Aman.
Singh, who had also written a documentary called "The Long Dual", says his film brings 42 years of the guru`s life - from his birth till his death.
"We travelled 8,000 km and covered eight states of India -- Bihar, Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra to make the film. We also covered 61 gurdwaras from Hemkunt Sahib in the Himalayas to Hazoor Sahib in Maharashtra following the actual route traversed by guruji himself."
"It took us four years to make it. It really wasn`t an easy task, but what kept us going was our admiration for guruji," added Singh, who shuttles between India and Britian as his family is based here and work makes him to travel abroad.
To bring authenticity and appeal to the film, scriptwriters Ranvir Singh and Kartar Singh Duggal recreated the battle scenes on the actual locations.
"It has been the most challenging film I ever made in my career of 40 years. It imposed artistic limitations and probably it is not the best film technically, but it opens one`s mind and brings one face to face with guru maharaj.
"As the film is a historical document, based on hard core facts, I had to be very attentive and conscious all the time. It was like walking on the broken path because you could not add or subtract anything from the events," he said.
Despite having so much experience, Singh had his inhibitions about the film.
"I had my reservations, my inhibition before making the film. I thought a lot of times whether I will be able to do justice to the subject. But when the script got approval, I felt confident and then there was no looking back," he said.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) that controls Sikh shrines in India approved the film.
"Moreover, in my film there is no image or character that plays the role of Guru Gobind Singhji. There was no question of being afraid of any controversies," he said.
Made in English, Hindi and Punjabi, the two-and-a-half-hour-long film uses paintings and pictures to depict Guru Gobind Singh.
"I thought of releasing it in three languages together because such subjects cannot be touched upon again and again. They cannot be recreated," he concluded.
There was no financial support.
"Honestly, nobody has helped me with funding. I have put in all the money that it took to make the film. My team comprised of seven people. Yes, when I ran out of money, a friend of mine helped me with some money. I see this as my best work despite being discouraged in terms of finance."