Way back in the 1970s and 1980s, most debutante directors would've thought of taking an easy route vis-?-vis the genre of their first film. But things have changed today, what with debutante directors opting for themes that aren't run-of-the-mill kind.
Puneet Sira, the director of I - PROUD TO BE AN INDIAN, belongs to the category of film-makers for whom content is of paramount importance.
His first film, I - PROUD TO BE AN INDIAN, tackles a theme that hasn't been witnessed on the Indian screen before - racism. “It tells the story of an Indian on a foreign land. It tells the story of people who are not accepted because of the colour of their skin,” Puneet tells me.
Puneet has drawn incidents from his life, having grown up in U.K. and experienced/encountered people who faced the backlash. “Some were killed, some beaten up, some found their homes burnt,” Puneet reminisces.
But Puneet's protagonist in the film [Sohail Khan] doesn't take things lying down. “The I in the title stands for Indian [nationality], independence and integrity,” Puneet adds, “The film also propagates the message that united we stand, divided we fall, as Indians [Sohail, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Aasif Sheikh, Mona Ambegaonkar] and Pakistanis [Imran Ali, Heena Rehman] join hands to combat their common enemies.”
Not many are aware that directing a film for Sohail was never on the cards for Puneet. “Producer Mahendra Dhariwal had signed me to direct his forthcoming project, starring Sohail in the lead. One fine day, Sohail called me to his office, narrated the story to me and asked me to direct this film. That's how I - PROUD TO BE AN INDIAN was born,” Puneet adds.
I - PROUD TO BE AN INDIAN was shot in a span of 30 days in U.K. and is budgeted between Rs. 4.5 and Rs. 5 crores. Incidentally, the makers have decided to have a Hindi title for the film for the Hindi belt: I - MUJHE GARV HAIN HINDUSTANI HONE KA.