Telugu star Adivi Sesh has opened up his journey of making a film on Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, who was martyred during the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008.
"I can only say that he impacted my life from the first moment I knew about him. It was in 2008, I remember when I had seen his photograph splashed across all the channels. I didn't know what to make of it, I kept wondering, who is this man. There was some sort of madness of spirit in his eyes aur hothon pe halki si hasi (and a faint smile on the lips). There was a madness and there was a smile, I couldn't understand it," said Adivi, sharing his first memory of Unnikrishnan.
Adivi stars in "Major", the film based on the late Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan's life. Recalling the first time he saw the Major's photograph, the actor said he noted a likeness.
"He looked like he could be one of my family members, an older cousin, and then I found out he was Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, and he had given his life for the country. I couldn't stop looking at that now-iconic passport photograph," added the actor.
Recounting the battle of acquiring consent of the late officer's parents, Adivi shared: "When I first called uncle (Mr. Unnikrishnan, Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan's father), he didn't believe ki koi pichhle 10 saal se Major Sandeep ki zindagi pe research kar raha tha (that someone had been researching on Major Sandeep's life for the past 10 years) and wanted to tell a story inspired by his life."
"He was very cynical, in fact. Since they didn't believe me or my team, we all kept meeting uncle and aunty. I think after the fourth or fifth meeting, they started trusting me a bit and I imagined in this moment after the fourth meeting, uncle looked me in the eye with lot of sincerity and said, 'I believe you want to make a movie about my son's life 10 per cent," Adivi continued.
"Zero se 10 tak gaye the (we had gone from zero to 10 per cent), and sab hasne lage (everyone started laughing). There was a lot of relief behind that laughter because he believed 10 per cent that maybe there was a chance that somebody genuinely wanted to tell this great man's story, not for exploitative reasons but just because they believed in the kind of life this man had lived," recalled the actor.
On meeting Unnikrishnan's mother, Adivi said: "We had already said our goodbyes to uncle and aunty and were standing near the lift, and dur se aunty ne mujhe dekha and she said, 'Idhar aao' (see saw me from a distance and called me)."
Adivi went to her and she looked at him in the eye. "She said 'durse bilkul mera beta lag raha hai (you look like my son from a distance)'. She had tears in her eyes when she said that. I think that was the moment I knew, that I had their permission to tell a story inspired by their son's life."
Ever since, "it's just been a crazy number of many many battles of trying to get this film made and making sure we do justice to how we are doing this film and we are still making the film", said the actor.
Adivi shared the film, "Major", speaks about the way "he lived, not about the way he died".
Directed by Sashi Kiran Tikka, "Major" will be released in Hindi and Telugu. The film is slated to hit screens next year.