Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra writes the inside story of what triggered the film ‘Rang De Basanti’

“The Russian ambassador in New Delhi, Alexander Kadakin, said, ‘India should not be surprised if aircrafts meet with accidents if it continues to use spares from outside Russia’.” A citizen named Kavita Gadgil and her husband Captain Anil Gadgil (retired), who lost their son, submitted a petition to President Kalam to make ‘flying safe’.

In response, in 2003, Defence Minister George Fernandes undertook a 25-minute sortie on a MiG-21 in a bid to dispel fears. The minister further declared that the MiG21 is safe or why else would he have flown in it. What a charade! What enraged me further was the planted propaganda articles, which said that 45 percent of the accidents were due to human error. I was drawn back to ‘The Young Guns of India’. And the idea of RDB started taking shape once again! Kamleshji heard me out and the genius in him started ticking. Within three days, he turned the idea on its head, and RDB was born.

As soon as we finalised the script, I flew to London to meet Rahman, who was working there on a West End musical. He loved the story. Late that night, he even composed the theme music for RDB, which we used in the climax of the film five years later.

London was also a revelation of another kind. At the British Council Library, I was researching the British Raj in India for the film. One must admit that the British have preserved their records amazingly well. But then I also realised that one nations’ patriot is another nation’s terrorist. Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Chandrashekhar Azad were terrorists as per British records. In my mind, the British were the oppressors.

I was consumed by the passion of bringing back patriotism. This seemed even more important, given that my initial focus groups revealed that the youth of my country did not relate to what it is like to give their life for their country.

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