‘I wanted to make an apolitical film based on communal harmony, love and passion for arts and culture’

Noted theatre, television and film actor Yashpal Sharma says his maiden film production ‘Dada Lakhmi’<i>, </i>made<i> </i>on Haryana’s legendary poet Pandit Lakhmi Chand, is a tribute to his home state Haryana

‘I wanted to make an apolitical film based on communal harmony, love and passion for arts and culture’

Rana Siddiqui Zaman

Well known theatre, television and film actor Yashpal Sharma has paid a tribute to his home state Haryana by making a film on its legendary poet, writer, producer and director Pandit Lakhmi Chand (1903-1945) who took the folk theatre called ‘Saang’ (‘swaang’ in Hindi) to its zenith in India and internationally. He died at the age of 42, as if he was born just to do that.

In a candid conversation, Yashpal Sharma shares why and how he made the film, whose theatrical release couldn’t take place due to the Covid pandemic. However, he has been screening it at various film festivals and colleges across Delhi/NCR and Mumbai in order to popularise the film as well as introduce this generation to the great Indian talent.

The art of Saang already existed but Pandit Lakhmi Chand popularised it so well that people used to come to listen to him from far and wide, in trucks and bullock carts. Because of such large gatherings, the entire event used to transform into a fair. And his Saang performance would run for no less than a week to a few months.

The film extracts its rich contents from nearly 20 books on him that came via several research scholars.

Lakhmi Chand was a different child. He had a natural ear for music and poetry. “He would find music in thapki used to beat clothes while washing at home, the sound of azaan and rivers. He was never found at home but somewhere besides a river composing a Saang, despite being unlettered,” Sharma said

He was one among five children of a poor labourer working at others’ farms. But with his artistic skills, he made a fortune, though he never kept anything for himself. He made cow sheds, hospitals, schools, colleges and guest houses for the poor. Due to his philanthropy, people had nearly started worshipping him and for his calibre, he earned titles like Kalidas, Kabirdas and Shakespeare of Haryana. Since he was a tough task master, he had few pupils.

On why Sharma decided to make a period film on a poet, he has a poignant answer. “After my film Pagdi Satrangi got two national awards, my morale got boosted. I decided to make a challenging film. Around 2016, Haryana was burning under the Jat reservation aandolan. It triggered a dislike in me, so I decided that I would make a film on brotherhood, communal harmony, love and passion for poetry, music, arts and culture where there is no scope for politics, hatred or religion,” he says.

“I was looking for a script. I happened to see Nat Samrat in which an artiste (Nana Patekar) is depicted as an unparalleled artiste who earns a lot through his art, and distributes all the money among his children, only to be stranded on the road and die a tragic death. I loved this story and thought that I would make a Nat Samrat on a Haryanvi who would be a Saangi.”

But soon, Sharma happened to meet Raju Mann, a writer who suggested making a film on Pandit Lakhmi Chand. The life story of Pandit Lakhmi Chand just fitted the bill.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Overcoming financial hurdles

“After getting national Awards for Pagdi Satrangi, I realised that no one was doing anything worth in terms of making a film from my state. People like Rajiv Bhatia and Sandeep Sharma were a few exceptions in the modern times, unlike a few old films like Bahurani, Laado, Chandrawal, Saanjhi which were huge hits from Haryana. But no one could sustain filmmaking. For instance, after Chandrawal was such a big hit, people from Haryana went into making of films for which they sold their lands and homes but for lack of sustained outsourced funding, they made huge losses and stopped making films. Haryana’s creative fraternity turned static,” Sharma says.

“I knew these hurdles but as I broached the subject with many people, someone decided to grant Rs. 70 lakh. I thought I would be able to make a film in this amount. But I realised that the poet’s canvas is so big that I couldn’t have compromised with its quality. Rs.70 lakh got spent in just a day’s shooting. Slowly, more people came forward including my brother who gave me Rs.5 lakhs to a few who funded a couple of crores,” he added.

Going up to 40 crores, the film has now become Haryana’s most expensive so far.

“I sold my house in Mumbai and continued with the shooting till it was complete in five years and two months. But I am immensely satisfied with the product and I am sure that I will retain all the money that has gone into making of this film,” he said.

Sharma decided not to compromise with quality, and hired Uttam Singh to score its music, and singers like Javed Ali, Raghubir Yadav, Ahsan Ali (who’s also a Sarangi player), and three famous singers from Haryana Shayam Sharma, Somveer Kathurwal and Meenakshi Panchaal.

While the actor is immensely happy with that he could achieve, he says that one heart-ache that doesn’t leave him is Bollywood’s unfair treatment to him. Despite his calibre being widely applauded, especially in films like Apharan and Gangajal, award committees kept on missing him. On this question, Sharma minces no words, minus any vengeance though.

Ye to prasad hai, haraik ko nahi milta (this is an offering from God’s space, not everyone gets it). It needs some commissions, some cuts, some bribes and some lobbying to get a coveted award. And I can’t do that. I have not been able to get my due in Bollywood yet. But I have no vengeance against anyone. I am working hard with complete devotion to my art. I will make my mark without distressing anyone,” he says.

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines