THE MAKING OF THE FILM
It’s a biopic on the teachings of the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev, tentatively titled, "Nanak Shah Fakir".
Since Guru Nanak cannot be represented figuratively, his philosophy has been drawn out through the life of Bhai Mardana, the first disciple and lifelong companion of the First Sikh master.
Playing Mardana is the critically acclaimed actor, Arif Zakaria, who first gained popularity with his award-winning role of a hermaphrodite in "Darmiyaan".
The film will be shot extensively in Chandigarh, Amritsar, Rajasthan, Leh, Ladakh and Mumbai.
Guru Nanak's birth place, Talwandi, now known as Nanakana Sahib (in Punjab, Pakistan), has been recreated at Mullanpur, near Chandigarh, for the shoot.
Busy on the set, Zakaria noted, "It is exciting to learn that the Guru was a visionary and a humanist whose universal message is relevant even today, as it was free of all bigotry."
He did not discount the fact that while preparing for the role the uncanny similarity between Sikhism and Islam unravelled for him.
Calling it as one of the most "challenging" roles of his career, Zakaria said the portrayal of Mardana called for great genius in acting.
"Bhai Mardana had begun sounding like Guru Nanak after some years since he was his constant escort. Hence, the character must have a high degree of serenity and poise," pointed out Zakaria, who is practising meditation to align his inner chaos into oneness with Mardana's persona. "The role requires stillness and radiance of demeanour, so I learnt meditation at a spiritual camp before shooting started."
Though this is a period film tracing the history of Guru Nanak in the 16th century, it exploits modern machinery to highlight its message.
Latest computer graphics, computer generated imagery ("CGI") for special effects, was used, which Zakaria describes as an attempt to "use more than technology to tell the story".
An integral part of Mardana, the musical instrument, Rabab, features eminently in the film. "I am learning to play the instrument. Since Guru Nanak's philosophy was so lyrical, music is pivotal to the script," the actor said.
Considering the universality of the Guru's beliefs, the film's release will have a national release. "We would like the world to know what bearing Nanak's thinking has in contemporary times," added Zakaria.