The year is 1947. Two Indian soldiers deployed on the Kashmir border stealthily move past bushes with rifles in their hands. Heavily outnumbered, Mohan and Krishna are the only two Indian soldiers left, fighting against the Pakistani tribal militia. Making sure there isn’t danger, Mohan stops and hurriedly opens his water bottle. Not long after he quenches his thirst, Mohan is shot in his chest. As he crashes to the ground, all Krishna can hold on to is a photograph of Parvathi, Mohan’s sister, and a faint recollection of their last conversation.
Sravan Gajabhinkar’s short film 1947 Two Soldiers isn’t a tale of victory. It doesn’t harp on patriotism, a hit formula in today’s movies. Rather Sravan has chosen to tell the story of families, equally brave as the soldiers, who cope with the loss of their dear ones. Shot in black and white, the film is also a tale of friendship between two soldiers, both from the south, on duty at the border.
1947 Two Soldiers was first screened at a film festival in Uttar Pradesh where it won big. Ever since, the short film has won over 100 awards at film festivals across the world, a first for a Telugu short film shot on a shoestring budget in two days. Speaking to TNM, Sravan recollects how one night, a video on a former army commander on YouTube intrigued him and made him want to know more about wars and their aftermath.
“One video led me to another and I spent the entire night researching about wars that India had been a part of. I watched documentaries on the personal accounts of Indian soldiers and I couldn’t help but think of their equally courageous families who had sent their sons to the borders,” Sravan says.
Hyderabad-based Sravan had previously worked with the Paruchuri brothers and also as an assistant to director Puri Jagannadh. Sravan met actor-model Abhinav Janak who plays Mohan at the SIIMA awards last year, where Sravan’s previous short film Malli Kaluddam had won two awards.
“A year after I met him, I called and asked if he could play Mohan’s role and he readily accepted,” Sravan recollects. Krishna is played by Malhottra Shivam and Parvathi by Sahaja Chowdhary, both newcomers.
The war sequences in 1947 Two Soldiers is shot in Lambasingi, also referred to as ‘Mini Kashmir’ of Andhra Pradesh. Shot on a budget of Rs 4.5 lakh, the film has till date fetched an incredible 113 awards from the across the world!
The first half of 1947 Two Soldiers is without any dialogues except for the occasional sounds of bullets being fired. The second half of the film begins with Parvathi, pedaling her sewing machine in vigour, with a portrait of her brother Mohan hung on the wall in the background.
“We held multiple auditions to find a suitable actor for Parvathi. Finally we met Sahaja through one of my friends, and she played Parvathi to perfection,” Sravan shares.
Parvathi in the film is shown as a woman who speaks her mind. She doesn’t hold back while expressing her love for Krishna to her brother before he leaves for the war. It is interesting to note how the director has invested in the character of Paravthi, letting her speak for herself, and bringing out many dimensions to the film other than just patriotism.
Elaborating on Parvathi’s character, Sravan adds: “There is usually so much grief in the house of a martyred soldier. However, Parvathi is a woman who has no other means but to move ahead in life. Sewing clothes is the only option in front of her to earn a livelihood. She doesn’t shed tears but rather fights destiny, just like her brother.”
The short film ends with Krishna (walking with a limp after sustaining injuries from the war) visiting Mohan’s home to return his possessions. He proposes to Paravthi, a promise he had long ago made to Mohan a day before the war. The film ends with Paravthi left staring at Krishna, probably unsure of what the future has in store for her.
“The core idea of the film lies in family values, that behind every soldier, there is a strong family supporting them, emotionally,” says Sravan, adding, “Parvathi let her brother fight a war. His death left her alone. And yet she is again left with the choice of marrying a soldier. The sacrifices that a family makes are equally courageous as that of a soldier who serves in the border.”