Vanita Omung Kumar, production designer of Sarbjit, takes us behind the scenes and gives a glimpse of how she went on to recreate the backdrop of Sarbjit’s life, keeping things as close to reality as possible, so the audience doesn’t feel cheated.
Sarbjit’s prison cell in Pakistan
Many scenes had to be filmed in a prison cell in Pakistan where Sarbjit was locked in for years. Vanita says, “Sarbjit wrote a lot of letters to home where he spoke in detail about how the cell looked like. His letters mention that there was only one earthen pot of water for his daily use. He had no washroom and he wrote about how the chains would cut into his skin and how he had many infections in his legs. If not for the letters, it would have been very difficult to recreate the cell. You have to transport people in that zone and it has to look real.”
The family has lot of pictures of Sarbjit taken in their home, which helped Vanita. “The village he used to stay in is now modernised. There were no brick walls at that time. We created the house in Aarey colony (Mumbai), exactly how I had seen it in photographs. I observed the designs on the wall. On the sets, I was a Hitler, extremely particular about the small touches. We show the house over a span of 23 years, so one needs to be careful about how the colour of the walls change and it goes from being a happy house to a sad house. By the time he died, it had become a barren,” she says.
The crew obviously didn’t go to Pakistan to shoot the jail sequences. “We didn’t get permission to shoot inside any jail, so we turned the Palghar Fort into Kot Lakhpat Jail (Lahore). We created the kitchen area and small rooms within the fort itself. Sarbjit’s daughter drew a diagram for us explaining how they went through a long alley, how they were checked and how sat across the bars and so on,” Vanita says.
Streets of Pakistan
Vanita says that the Bori Bazaar area of Mumbai bears heavy resemblance to the streets of Pakistan. “We shot those scenes there. In fact, various parts of Mumbai and Punjab have been used to depict place.