By Rajan Sharma
New Delhi, Mar 15 Little known stories of love and sacrifice of the 1,40,000 Indian soldiers who fought valiantly on the battle grounds of World War I, are the subject of a a new documentary film.
Paris-based novelist-filmmaker Vijay Singh's "Farewell My Indian Soldier" is a moving tale of the challenging lives lead by the Indian soldiers, 10,000 of whom never came back, as they embarked upon a journey to France and Belgium to fight in the War.
Singh's film revolves around Monique, the granddaughter of a woman whose grandfather was an Indian soldier.
The film talks about the affection that Indian soldiers developed for French women during the war, and goes on to narrate their experiences at the hands of French hostesses who "won their hearts" as they recovered from their wounds in barns.
Monique, the descendant of an unknown Indian soldier journeys across France, Belgium, England and India to find her great-great grandfather.
"I discovered a book which was a document of the World War I. It quoted letters which were written by Indian soldiers to their families back in India. I was captivated especially by the part that said these soldiers developed relationships with French women and children were born," says the filmmaker.
Using rare archives, historical testimonies and around 600 insightful letters written by soldiers about their mind-altering experience in France, Singh brings to the fore facts from the iconic battles of Ypres and Neuve Chapelle.
Also essayed in the production is the treatment meted out to Indian soldiers by the British Army.
The letters that Singh discovered, served as a testimony of the soldiers' emotions, as they described the casteless and classless French society to their families back home.
"I was so fascinated by these letters that I wanted to make a movie," says Singh.
Through songs like Lata Mangeshkar's 'Ae Mere Watan Ke Logo' and 'Allah Tero Naam Ishwar Tero Naam', Manna Dey's 'Ae Mere Pyare Watan' among others, the director emphasises on the soldiers' bravery as well as their yearning to return home.
The film also captures the horrors of the warfare through the eyes of soldiers who were unprepared and unequipped for the harsh Europe winters.
The filmmaker is hoping to release the film in theatres to increase the reach of the film.
"With some support I seek for a small theatrical release so that more and more people can watch it. Kohinoor is not the only Indian heritage that we need to retrieve from England, Indian history is also important," says Singh.
The film was recently screened at Alliance Francaise de Delhi here.