Omung Kumar will start shooting the film in October and plans to send it to Cannes next year; his producer-partner Zeishan Quadri says it was premature of Hansal to announce himself as director.
In an interview to Mirror (April 16), just before he flew off to Europe and the US for a vacation, Hansal Mehta had admitted that his biopic on mountaineer Bachendri Pal with Kangana Ranaut was not happening. "I came across a better story and took it to Kangana who agreed instantly to act in it," he informed, acknowledging that he was talking about the Sarabjit Singh biopic. "We roll in the first week of October."
Now, Mirror has learnt that while the film will kick off on schedule, it will not be helmed by the National Award winning director of Shahid but by Omung Kumar who last Sunday received the National Award for Best Popular Film of 2013 for his directorial debut, Mary Kom.
Omung confirmed the news, saying, "Yes, I will be directing and co-producing Sarabjit. Even Though I have three scripts lined up, this will be my next film after Mary Kom."
Earlier Mirror (October 9, 2013) had reported that Subhash Ghai had roped in Sonakshi Sinha to play Sarabjit's sister, Dalbir, for a film on Sarabjit being produced by his banner, Mukta Arts. It was scripted by Rajesh Beri four years ago and ad filmmaker Ishwar Singh Muchla was to roll with it in early 2014. The project was subsequently shelved by the banner.
However, when Rajesh Nair, COO of Mukta Arts, joined Zeishan's production house, he mentioned Sarabjit to him. And last year, Zeishan bought the rights from Beri and Ghai and got Nair involved with the creative.
"We approached several directors besides Hansal but had not signed anyone. It was premature of Hansal to make an announcement. We finalised Omung last Tuesday. He's the perfect choice because Mary Kom was both a critically acclaimed film and a commercial success," asserts Zeishan.
Hansal who's in Paris, was shocked by the news and reacted to it saying, "Am out of the country. Have no idea where this came from."
When asked if he could still make the film with another producer, Zeishan retorted, "No, the rights are with us. We also have an NOC from Sarabjit's sister and the family. The film will go on floors in the first week of October with a start-to-finish 60-day schedule. It will be shot in and around Punjab. We want to send it to Cannes and release it by the end of May 2016."
Though the film is Sarabjit's story, it will be told through the eyes of his sister, Dalbir Kaur, who after he was convicted of terrorism and spying by the Pakistani court and sentenced to death in 1991, started a campaign for his release. Thanks to her efforts and that of the Indian government, Sarabjit's execution was indefinitely delayed. But he was attacked on April 26, 2013 in the Central Jail Lahore and on May 1, was declared brain dead. The following day, he was reported to have died at 12.45 am, and his body was flown back to India where a second autopsy revealed that his vital organs were missing and his skull was broken into two.
Will Kangana still play Sarabjit's sister Dalbir Kaur? "We'd love to work with Kangana," says Zeishan. "I've seen her on the sets of Revolver Rani, she gives everything she has to a role. But we have not yet finalised any actor so far which is why I wouldn't want to make a premature announcement."