Sajjan Singh Rangroot is a Punjabi movie, starring Diljit Dosanjh in the lead role. The film traces the arduous journey of the Indian British Army’s Lahore Regiment as it takes on German forces during the war. The film highlights themes of alienation, discrimination and loss whilst also celebrating the bravery of Indian soldiers who put their lives on the line for their colonisers. The period drama, directed by leading Punjabi film director, Pankaj Batra, is based on the experiences of Sikh regiments on the front lines of the war.

British actor and Yorkshireman, Peter Irving, won a major role in the film. He spoke exclusively to Asian Style Mag about his role and how he found the experience of working with Diljit Dosanjh. 

By FATIMA PATEL

How did this film come about for you?

Right Peter Irving in a still from Sajjan Singh Rangroot

Well as an actor you’re constantly applying for jobs, your agent is putting you up for jobs and vice versa. Naila Mughal casting agency who do most of the casting for Indian films, they’d seen my details and said to me, ‘Would you like to come for this film called Rangroot?’ So what made me kind of go for it, was because I think maybe in the past I’d seen castings for Bollywood films before, but in my head I felt well what role have they got for English people and it’s normally a lot of singing and dancing and very romantic, so I didn’t go any further, but this particular film, it wasn’t the fact that it was a Bollywood film, it was the subject matter that excited me. So, the fact that it was the first World War and so that’s what drew me. The fact that I’d always wanted to do a war film. My grandad, he was in the second World War, my great uncle he was in the first World War, so I really wanted to do a first World War film and then I thought ooh this is Indian as well and the connection in the detail seemed really interesting. So, I thought this sounds really good and it was for a lead role. So, obviously I thought I had to go seem them.

The audition was in a nice hotel, so I immediately felt at ease and it was so relaxed, as it wasn’t an audition as such, but more like a meeting with Pankaj (Director of Rangroot). The actual brief said it was an officer’s role, so when you know it’s an officers role you have to think like an officer. So when I walked into the room I walked in like an officer, I had to think of the class, the social status and how I spoke and so on so it’s kind of an absorption of that. I liked Pankaj and I liked the way he did things, so I thought this is how it should be done.  I asked Pankaj if he wanted me to read anything and he said no I can tell a lot about an actor, from the first five minutes I meet them and what we’re looking for. So, it was talking and seeing bits of videos and then I left and you kind of forget about it. Then a few days later I was invited to a summer garden party with free-flowing wine, I got a bit hungover and it was there I got the call that I got the role (laughs). The exciting thing about it was they wanted me to come in the day after, so I said yes, before I could let it sink in.

So, you went to India for the shoot. Did you pick up any of the local language whilst you were out there?

Well, I used to say ‘theek hai’ (that’s OK) quite a lot (laughter). Apart from the fact that I do get along with everyone and we spent a lot of time filming in the UK before we went to India, so I could get by. But I picked quite a lot of things up.

Diljit Dosanjh is huge in India and across the globe. How did you find working with him?

Well, it’s not the first time it’s being said, he is a very humble man. When you meet him for the first time,

Peter with some of the cast from Sajjan Singh Rangroot

you know he bows and you bow towards him. So, he is always on the same level. And yes, he is a huge star, so therefore he has to keep a level of distance. Otherwise extras and people will always go up to him all the time. He was very good to work with and if you had to do a take again, he was very considerate, so I think he is a great guy. He is very easy to work with. And that’s another thing I feel very honoured to be in this production, it’s not just because that he’s an extremely good actor, but also because he is a good human being as well. He oozes talent, so hopefully to learn something from working with him.

We’ve seen the trailer and seen glimpses, how have you found glimpses of you in the film so far? Are you happy with the way the film has shaped up?

There is something very different about this film. So, it feels like you know you’ve got the Indian culture, the Sikh culture in there and that’s the beauty of that and the spirituality of that. At the same time, you sort of see other films where people put it in a box and say that’s a Hollywood film and that’s a Bollywood film and things like that. This film is something else, because it seems to have those elements, that have risen to the surface and it could be seen as an American blockbuster. I mean the battle scenes look amazing, the acting strikes you as it’s going to be good acting I wanna see this and very powerful. There’s power about it and it’s a very strong emotional film to watch. At the same time, it looks very colourful and beautiful. So I think it’s amazing how many people have reacted so wonderfully about the trailer. I think it got to 5 million really quickly which is really amazing.

Sajjan Singh Rangroot also stars newcomer Sunanda Sharma alongside Yograj Singh, Jagjeet Sandhu, Dheeraj Kumar and Jarnail Singh in key roles. 

The film is produced by Jay Sahani and Bobby Bajaj of Vivid Art House with music by Jatinder Shah. 

Sajjan Singh Rangroot is distributed Worldwide by Omjee Group and Grand Showbiz Entertainment and releases in cinemas on Friday 23 March 2018.