In august company
Samar Khan, director of Epic Channel’s original series Regiment Diaries, talks about his experience of watching the Indian army regiments at close quarters, and why every Indian must respect our soldiers.
Every time we tune in to a news channel, we either hear our army men on the border vanquishing terrorists or sacrificing their own lives to save the honour of our nation. Our soldiers have proved that whenever a natural calamity or man-made tragedy hits our country, they are there to protect the civilians.
The Indian Armed Forces have the biggest voluntary army in the world, and every soldier who is standing tall at the LOC, has willingly accepted this life which is full of danger. They have to deal with separation from family for months, there’s a constant threat to life as they don’t know which bullet, dynamite or bomb from the enemy will kill them and there are extremely harsh climatic conditions to grapple with too.
And yet, their service mostly remains thankless. Samar Khan, former journalist, director and writer, known for his critically acclaimed film Shaurya, decided to pay tribute to the Indian Army and its various regiments through Regiment Diaries, an original series by Epic Channel. Aired every Thursday at 10 pm, the series takes you behind the heavily guarded gates of army centres.
The series has been shot inside the real regimental centres, with real army men, serving, and retired, who share their life experiences as soldiers. The series which kicked off on August 16, began with Madras Engineers Group regiment, followed by episodes on other regiments including Rajputana Rifles, Sikh Regiment, Jat Regiment, Maratha Light Infantry amongst others.
Each episode explores the specific traditions and culture within one regiment and how each of them adds colour and character to the fabric of the Indian army.
When asked to share some interesting anecdotes that the director came across during the shoot, Samar says, “You will have to watch the show to know that!”
The writer-director, who visited 13 regiment centres, adds that every regiment is tough in its own way and it will be difficult to point out any one in particular.
There have been numerous films, and documentaries made on the army and the Indian Armed Forces. What makes Regiment Diaries different from the rest?
We have tried to make it as in-depth as possible and have spent time with each regiment to understand their history and their way of life. Earlier, there were documentaries which gave us an overview of army life and training, but this series is an attempt to go in-depth with each regiment.
How was your experience of filming the entire series inside real regiment centres, with real army men? What were some of the challenges that you faced during your stay at/visit to these regiment centres?
It was an awesome experience and something that I will cherish forever. I mean how many civilians get a chance to see up close and personal the way of life that our armed forces lead, their training, their museums, their history? It was an incredible experience. The challenge was to match up to the way our army men train and live their life. It’s so tough that one has to dig deep inside one’s strength reserves to match their lives.
How did the officers speaking about their life and experience as soldiers of India in times of peace and war impact you as an Indian, as a writer and director?
Not many people know but I was in the NDA (National Defence Academy) and I was there for three years, almost completed my training, so all my friends are serving officers. We never really get to know the lives of our men in uniform — we only see war stories. With this show and most of the work that I do, I want to bring the human side of their lives to the audiences and hopefully Regiment Diaries will do that.
Tell us about the direction of the series. How did you make it look visually appealing and yet kept the reality intact?
We followed the pattern of shooting a documentary and kept it as real as possible. The regiment centres are visually very appealing, and the training sessions and museums add to the appeal. We have also used illustrations and graphics to enhance the visual effects.
Army is a selfless service, but there are many people who refuse to acknowledge the sacrifices made by soldiers. What would be your message to those?
Just live the life of a soldier for a day and you will understand what having a purpose in life means, what being selfless means ... just one day!