VIRSA, an Indo-Pak venture shot in Sydney
A truly international Punjabi film with cast and crew from India, Pakistan and Australia...That's VIRSA that deals with an expatriate Punjabi community, reconnecting with its roots and spreading the message of peace. VIRSA is the outcome of one of the many initiatives taken for peace across the borders.
An Indo-Pak joint venture, VIRSA features actors from both the nations apart from bringing the talent from Australia. The movie has talented actors like Gulshan Grover, Arya Babbar and Kawaljeet Singh from India, while the lead actress, Mehreen Raheal, is from Pakistan.
According to the Producer Vikram Khakhar, the idea of the movie originated from a brainstorming session with Pakistani singer-composer Jawad Ahmad.
'I have produced videos for Pakistani artists like Ali Azmat, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Ali Zafar and Ahmad. I always receive a warm welcome when I go back. Since hundreds of Punjabi speaking people live in Pakistan and abroad, we thought a film on the community would be interesting", informs Vikram.
Vikram and Jawad joined hands with Dr Amanullah Khan, a 70-year-old renowned Punjabi poet who graduated from Lahore, but now lives in Dallas.
VIRSA is a mainstream Punjabi film that touches on significant issues. It's a story of Nawaz Ali (Naumaan Ijaz) from Lahore and Ranvir Singh Grewal (Kawaljeet) who comes from Kartarpur, a village from Punjab. They migrate to Sydney and become best friends.
Twenty years later, Grewal's rich, wayward ways reflect in his son Yuvraj's (Arya Babbar) behaviour, while Ali's son (Aman Dhaliwal) is rooted in his naive culture. Director Pankaj Batra explains that the movie explores ways of addressing the identity conflicts of immigrant Asians in Western societies so that the succeeding generations can benefit from the best facets of both the cultures.
VIRSA, that marks the most expensive Punjabi movie, has been entirely shot in Sydney, apart from a day's shoot in India. "We gave it the Pakistani feel through the characters and their dialogue," explains Batra.
Denying that the location was determined by an effort to surmount visa problems, Vikram says that the choice of Sydney was because the Australian government was very supportive. "It's a relationship building exercise, we didn't feel any animosity," he asserts.
The film is slated to release on 7th May with English subtitles.