JANG-E-SARAGARHI, a Sight & Sound extravaganza has astounded audiences and shone light on the forgotten Battle of Saragarhi, considered to be one of the greatest last stands in history, where only 21 soldiers & 1 cook under the command of Havaldar Ishar Singh of the 36 Sikh Regiment crammed in a small signal post fought over 10,000 tribal Pashtuns and killed more than 600 of them before perishing to enemy bullets.
Based on Capt. Amarinder Singh’s much acclaimed book “Saragarhi and the Defense of Samana Forts”, JANG-E-SARAGARHI, a Sight & Sound Panorama has been produced & Directed by Shiromani Nirmata awardee Harbux Singh Latta, who pioneered the technique of Sight & Sound shows.
The selfless sacrifice of a soldier for his country does not have any comparison, it deserves the utmost respect.
The bravery these 21 soldiers of the 36th Sikh Regiment showed in the Battle of Saragarhi had to be documented and kept alive for future generations. We enjoy Hollywood films like ‘300’ where 300 Spartans fought Xerxes and his massive Persian army, then why not make people feel proud that their own people have also achieved such miraculous feats.
The battle of Saragarhi took place during the uprise of Pashtuns against British, on 12th September 1897 in Tirah region of North-West Frontier Province now in Pakistan. Saragarhi was a strategic signal post that connected forts of Lockhart and Gulistan on the border areas of Afghanistan, which was the border of Sikh Empire before the annexation of Punjab by British Empire.
According to Harbux Singh Latta the credit for the success of this show goes to Capt. Amarjit Singh Jaijee at who’s house it was initiated during a meeting along with a friend, Lally Gill.
For the last three decades, Capt. Jaijee has been selflessly working along with members of The Saragarhi Memorial and Ethos promotion Forum, Patiala, to popularise the Battle of Saragarhi and educate people about the supreme sacrifice of 21 Sikh soldiers of 36th Sikh regiment.
Another person to whom Latta is very grateful for valuable inputs and guidance during the whole production is Brig I. S. Gakhal. Latta said that JANG-E-SARAGARHI has been the most difficult show he has produced. Co-scripted with the veteran TV & Film writer, Keshav Bhrata.
After the rigorous efforts of research and several script drafts came the time to cast the 21 Sikh actors who would play the 21 brave of Saragarhi. We looked for physical fitness, a discipline in body language and be quick learners. Teaching army drills took a lot of time but everyone mastered and were in sync by end of rehearsals. Months of rehearsals together created a family bonding between the cast which shows in performances and adds to the story and characters we are portraying.
The property that was the most laborious to recreate were the 21 Henry Martini guns, they proved to more difficult than anticipated. Carving the butts out of wood based on photographs from the internet were not enough for the property designer to recreate an exact replica. Fortunately for us Qilla Mubarak, Museum in Patiala had them on display, we took the property designer for a first-hand look. Fabricating barrels and breech loading leaver was another difficult task.
Costume designing was another feat. After looking around in cloth markets of Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Patiala, we found the khaki cotton fabric for uniforms that resembled 100 years old dresses. The uniforms were stitched according to the size of the artist for proper fittings. Finding Sam Browne belts of brown colour with ammunition pouches lead us to the manufacturers of army supplies around Delhi and Rajasthan. The most difficult part was making of Turban batches of XXVI SIKHS as no fabricator would make only 21 or 30 pieces.
Digital sets of Saragarhi the signal post were re-created that were to be shown on 50 feet LED walls. Finding and booking the massive setup was another hurdle. Such a big and custom setup had not been yet attempted, a 70 ft truss for lighting along with 3000 sq. ft of stage was arranged from multiple vendors.
Premiered during the closing ceremony of Patiala Heritage Festival, JANG-E-SARAGARHI, Sight & Sound Panorama has been widely acclaimed by the audience as well as the critics.
In the end ‘All is well that ends well’, because with the success of the show you sit back and reminisce on all difficulties you faced during production. Hope we are able to perform this wonderful production all over the world.