Farewell My Indian Soldier, a film by the acclaimed Paris-based writer-filmmaker Vijay Singh, will premiere on Discovery Channel on 15 January 2018 at 6 pm, as part of its Army Day special line-up. The film will be aired to viewers in English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Bengali. This is the first ever film to tell the story of Indian soldiers who came to France and Belgium to fight in the First World War.Following its market screening at the Cannes Film Festival 2016, this film has had a dream run in Europe.
Farewell My Indian Soldier is dedicated to the 140,000 Indian soldiers and civilian workers who defended France against invasion. Produced by Silhouette Films, this film uses rare archive, historical testimonies, 100-year old Indian war songs and 600 insightful letters written home by soldiers to recount the fascinating story of Indian soldiers of whom 10,000 were never to return to their motherland.
Talking about the film, Vijay Singh said, “The audiences of this film worldwide seem to have been very moved by it. I think what they like about the film is, that it has the substance of a well-researched documentary and the emotion of a feature film. Well, that was the original intention.”
A CLOSER LOOK
Farewell My Indian Soldier marks perhaps the first attempt to visually depict the experience of colonial troops during WW1 from a non-Eurocentric angle, adopting instead the perspective of an ex-colony.
It brings to the fore what Indian soldiers lived through on the Western Front: the heroic period during which they fought in legendary battles, like those at Ypres and Neuve Chapelle; the casualties and diseases that afflicted them; their experience of the British army and the English hospitals; the tragicomic situations the French and the British faced while feeding the Indian soldiers who were wedded to their caste and religious beliefs; and the hospitality of the French hostesses, which won the hearts of Indian soldiers during their convalescence in French barns.
In this film, Vijay Singh recounts the story of Indian soldiers through the eyes of human affection and love. During their furlough in French barns, some Indian soldiers and French women developed affection for each other, and children were born. These Indo-French children became the victims of a taboo, because of which most people avoided them. This film is inspired by the story of one such child. In this film, a young girl (played by Paloma Coquant), a descendant of an unknown Indian soldier and his French hostess, journeys across France, Belgium, England and India, and weaves around it the fascinating story of the Indian soldiers in WW1.
In many ways, this film is a re-write of an important aspect of the history of the First World War.