Major is a tribute to my childhood hero and a martyr, who served the country, says Adivi Sesh. In addition to Telugu, the film releases across India in Hindi, and as a tribute to Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan it is shot in Malayalam as well. Adivi Sesh shares the process of making the film from the time he watched the horror of 26/11 unfold on his TV screen, which he watched as a child
“On 26/11 like every other Indian I was glued to the television screen in San Francisco. I was watching with tears in my eyes and abject horror about what was happening to my home. It really shattered me. In the middle of it all I looked at this photograph that came up on the screen, of Major Sandeep. He felt familiar, like he could have been my elder brother or cousin. They are so many family members who looked like him. It stuck with me and I kept going back to the picture, his story and eventually it became my passion to understand his life,” explains Sesh on how it all began so long ago.
‘Major’ released in three languages – Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi. “It is the story of not how he died but how he lived. We also shot for the film in Malayalam as respect to his mother tongue, and Hindi because we feel the entire country has to watch it,” shares Sesh, who is excited to tell the story of his childhood hero and martyr, who gave his life saving the hostages during the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
The trailer ends on an intense note with Major saying – ‘Don’t come up I will handle’. These are actually his final words. “His final words got me interested in finding more about his life. I wondered if these words were said on the spur of the moment or they had more meaning. I realized that it was the way he looked at life. He was always concerned about the well-being of people around him, ahead of himself. There are countless instances of how he would place others before him. In the officers’ mess he would sit with the ORs to eat. When I heard that I was reminded of Bahubali scene where Prabhas has lunch with security guards. 26/11 is the last chapter of his life. He was born in Kerala, grew up in Bangalore, was briefly in Hyderabad cantonment, was in Maneswar, Haryana as a training officer, fought in Kargil and was a shahid in Mumbai. It is an all-India story that has to be told. Then the goal was not if this was the right subject for the film, but how to do justice to such a great man,” he relates.
Going by the initial reports ‘Major’ directed by Sashi Kiran Tikka has indeed done justice to the hero.
It is not that parents of Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan did not get other offers to make a biopic. But it was Adivi Sesh and his passion for the story that finally made them give in to the idea. He says, “Our greatest source was people he directly interacted with – his colleagues, his students when he was a training officer, family members, superiors, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins and all those who often were recipients of whatever he was conveying. Firsthand accounts became fundamental base to know him as a person, especially from his parents. It took a lot of trust building and meetings for uncle to believe we were genuinely interested, and will not just make them open their hearts and leave. They weren’t looking for sympathy. They wanted somebody to understand the joy he lived his life with. Once they saw the gravitas we carried for the film, they slowly started to believe us.”
There were several poignant moments during the shoot, reveals Adivi Sesh. “There was a moment on the sets when I was standing in front of the Gateway of India facing the huge facade of Taj that we built and a large street with around 1000 people on it and wondered about the madness we created in a hope to pay tribute to my childhood hero. I was extremely tired and it was 42 degrees outside. I was carrying this original, heavy gun for authenticity and wearing this black bullet proof caviar attracting all the heat and thought I was exhausted. Then I remembered we are doing all this for a man who had it so much tougher. And that though gave me the inspiration to move forward and we started shooting faster and harder.”
“I am not as great as he is, but I found my bit of courage from his story.”