This letter isn't about me, my struggles, my achievements, and not about shedding light on my previous films, current films, and certainly not this latest film in which I played a soldier.
This is about every soldier, of EVERY country. This is about who the real heroes of the world are. This was and will always be true, my saying it doesn't validate it, my saying it may not be necessary, but what I'm saying comes from the bottom of my heart as it is an awakening that came from two weeks of playing a soldier and facing challenges and dangers that provoked me to write this letter.
An open letter from a reel life soldier to a real life soldier.
I truly wish the world would be void of soldiers because I wish we didn't need them and the world was at perpetual peace. I played a soldier in a film for art, fame and money. Nothing selfless about it. But whilst playing one, I swear, my emotional build up had nothing to do with hating the other country, and not so much out of love for my own, but a sacrifice that if someone had to protect it, it may as well be me. I played a young Pakistani Major. Whilst playing one, and getting into the head of the character, I not once felt pro-Pakistani or anti—India, or for that matter, disconnected to playing a Pakistani, as I am an Indian in reality. My experience taught me so much about the state of mind of a military man. I affirmatively believe their emotions aren’t political, rather purely human. I don’t think any soldier wants to be at war, they do it out of duty, out of a debt towards his/her motherland, and as firm, dedicated and fiercely trained as they are, do we civilians ever wonder what is going on in their heart and mind? I’ll tell you what was going through my mind, as a soldier. Not as a Pakistani soldier, not as an Indian playing a Pakistani, and not as an actor playing a soldier. Just, as a soldier. I was often sad, thinking what must the mother, father, perhaps spouse or child of such a soldier is going through at home? I confess I was scared many times. The terrain was high and volatile, temperature almost zero, the commute was terrifying, the oxygen levels low and blizzards and fog would make me feel my life would come to an end. I felt a surge of massive love towards my land, but an almost equal disconnect with political or other masterminds who orchestrate such situations. And for what? There isn’t a single country in this world that has managed to make the maximum utility of its own land, what’s the purpose of extending the boundary further? A dozen other such thoughts ran across my mind, and like those soldiers in reality about whom I’ve heard that they would have fun’ frolic after sundown, we actors too would do the same after pack-up. Isn’t that beautiful? My gurus and guides teach me that every morning upon waking, I should thank God for another day of life. What then must go through the mind of a soldier who wakes up, only to get killed or kill another? So many things I can’t stop thinking about.
But my experience was over in two weeks, and nevertheless, adequate measures were in place. But the soldier who lives through this and ten times worse, in all kinds of extremes, for indefinitely longer, not for money, not for fame and not to hone the art of war, what about that soldier?
On this Kargil Vijay Diwas in honour of July 26th, 1999, I pay an homage not only to the soldiers of India, of Pakistan, but of the entire world: ‘My dear brothers and sisters in every armed force of the world, may God bless your souls. I salute the sacrifice of the mothers who delivered and breastfed you, the courage of the father who raised you with a different dream altogether, your spouses like no other and your children who probably pray the most in the world.’
I hope this letter reaches as many people in the world as there are soldiers and that each and everyone reading it has a newfound and glorified respect for these particular children of God.
With the deepest respect,