Farewell My Indian Soldier
Of the hundreds of people who visit the India Gate in Delhi every day, few have any idea that it commemorates the Indian soldiers who lost their lives fighting in the First World War. Approximately 1.3 million Indian soldiers served in this war – over 74,000 of them lost their lives and a comparable number were wounded. It was Indian jawans (junior soldiers) who stopped the German advance at Ypres in the autumn of 1914 soon after the war broke out. Hundreds were killed in a gallant but futile engagement at Neuve Chappelle. More than 1,000 of them died at Gallipoli and nearly 700,000 Indian sepoys (infantry privates) fought in Mesopotamia against the Ottoman Empire, Germany’s ally. India contributed a number of divisions and brigades to the European, Mediterranean, Mesopotamian, North African and East African theatres of war. But history has mostly forgotten these sacrifices.
The centenary of the First World War has finally forced a rethink of these lapses. Vijay Singh‘s latest film Farewell My Indian Soldier is a docu-fiction which aims at exploring these narratives which have been forgotten or overlooked. Using rare archives, historical testimonies, 100-year old Indian war songs and 600 insightful letters written home by Indian soldiers about their mind-altering experience in France, Farewell My Indian Soldier tells the story of these men through the eyes of love and human affection. During their furlough on French barns, some of these soldiers and French women fell in love with each other and children were born. These Indo-French children became a taboo and most people avoided them. This film is inspired by the story of one such child – a young girl. This descendant of an unknown Indian soldier and his French hostess, journeys across France, Belgium, England and India thereby weaving a fascinating story.
Vijay Singh – the Director of Farewell My Indian Soldier – is an Indian filmmaker, screenplay-writer and novelist living in Paris. After studying History at St Stephen’s College, Delhi, and at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, he moved to the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, for his doctoral work. From the early eighties, he started writing extensively for Le Monde, Le Monde Diplomatique, Libération, The Guardian, and several other international newspapers and magazines. Over the last two decades, he has written and directed four internationally acclaimed films. Vijay Singh is the recipient of the Leonardo da Vinci Award in 1994 for screenplay writing, and the Prix Villa Medicis hors les murs for foreign literature in 1990. Thanks to a tour being organised by Alliance Française de Delhi, Vijay Singh will be present at the screenings of Farewell My Indian Soldier at nine Alliances in India namely Trivandrum (Feb 19), Chennai (Feb 28), Bangalore (Mar 2), Hyderabad (Mar 3), Goa (Mar 4), Pune (Mar 7), Ahmedabad (Mar 8), Lucknow (Mar 9) and Delhi (Mar 10).
Rédaction, AF Magazine Inde-Népal