Sharman Joshi part of ‘The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story’
“But human emotions are the same all over the world and depicting them on screen is always a challenge. I was very young when the incident took place but I remember I was moved by it and wondered why it happened. While working on the film, the mystery unravelled for me, as it did for my character,” Sharman Joshi explains.
Sharman Joshi, who plays the role of a reporter in The Least of These: The Graham Staines Story, says that the story is quite tragic which revolves around an incident which took place in 1999, when an Australian missionary known for his charitable work with lepers in Odisha was burnt alive allegedly by Bajrang Dal fundamentalists.
According to locals, it was because they believed that Staines was luring his Hindu patients into Christianity. Along with Staines, his two sons, Philip (10) and Timothy (6), were also charred to death while they were asleep in their station wagon at Manoharpur village on the night of January 23.
Talking about the film in which he is asked to launch an undercover investigation into the missionary’s activities, Sharman says that Staines’ story is relevant today when tolerance is need of the hour. “What happened was tragic,” adds Sharman, who is sharing the screen with Hollwyood actors Stephen Baldwin and Shari Rigby.
In 2003, Bajrang Dal activist Dara Singh was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, Staines’ widow, Gladys forgave him, hoping he would repent and reform. She continued to live in India, caring for leprosy patients until 2004, when she returned to Australia. The following year, she was awarded the Padma Shri.
Sharman didn’t have a reference point for his character. “But human emotions are the same all over the world and depicting them on screen is always a challenge. I was very young when the incident took place but I remember I was moved by it and wondered why it happened. While working on the film, the mystery unravelled for me, as it did for my character,” he explains.
The film has been shot in Hyderabad, Odisha and a small valley in Andhra Pradesh. The American- Indian production has been directed by Aneesh Daniel. Speaking about working with Hollywood actors, Sharman said, “I hadn’t worked with mainstream American actors apart from Alice Patten in Rang De Basanti, before this. It was a delight to work with Stephen and Shari. We were not sure what to expect as actors from both ends, but Stephen and I exchanged notes because it was a different world for him to shoot in India.”