New film to celebrate Sikh soldiers of Second World War

An artist’s depiction of the film Promises portrays an Allied soldier from India in action in the Second World War Battle of Monte Carlo in 1944. The Indus Media Foundation film production will portray the contributions made by South Asian soldiers during the war.

An artist’s depiction of the film Promises portrays an Allied soldier from India in action in the Second World War Battle of Monte Carlo in 1944. The Indus Media Foundation film production will portray the contributions made by South Asian soldiers during the war.

Peter Mallett
Staff Writer
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The military community is answering a filmmaker’s battle cry for support in highlighting the role Indian soldiers played during the Second World War.

Surrey-based filmmaker Steve Purewal is set to film Promises, an acknowledgement of the contribution Sikh soldiers made in the Battle of Monte Casino in Italy.

He wants his film to educate Canadians about the sacrifices made by South Asian soldiers – who at the time of the war were British  citizens.

“The memory of the contributions Punjabi’s made in the Second World War have largely been lost and my goal is to help people remember.”

Some members of the British Columbia Dragoons will be featured as extras to portray Commonwealth soldiers. Purewal is growing his list of Sikh extras in the coming weeks by reaching out to the South Asian communities of the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, and Southern Alberta.

Currently serving member PO2 Kanwar Nijjer is helping the filmmaker find extras, specifically South Asian men aged 20 to 35.

“When I explained the historical importance of this battle and the cultural significance of this film to the people I have approached, they have all shown great interest in taking part,” said PO2 Nijjer.

Extras are paid $150 per day, plus free meals. Transportation and accommodation needs will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Filming is set for October on a hillside in the Okanagan Valley, with COVID-19 protocols in place.

The historically correct wardrobe and props have been loaned by a former Canadian Army member, Maj (Retired) Ian Newby who owns International Movie Services Ltd in Aldergrove, B.C. 

Purewal hopes to have a preview of the film ready for Remembrance Day. The full film will be screened in museums and community centres across Canada when finished.

Battle of Monte Casino

Promises explores the discrimination of Second World War veterans and Indian immigrants, and their sacrifice through war scenes at the Battle of Monte Casino.

The Battle took place on a bombed out, rubble-ridden hillside in Central Italy in early 1944. It involved a series of four assaults on German positions by the Allies and the taking of a monastery. By the time Monte Casino was won on May 18 it had proven a costly battle. Allies suffered an estimated 55,000 casualties with soldiers from India, the United Kingdom, France, Poland, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, and Italy giving their lives, while an estimated 20,000 German soldiers were killed and wounded in the assault.

About the filmmaker

Purewal is an historian and founder of the non-profit Indus Media Foundation that was established to celebrate and educate Canadians about Punjabi heritage and culture. He is also the author of Duty, Honour & Izzat, an award-winning book and in-class teaching tool for children and youth. It focusses on the largely unheralded role of more than one million Indian soldiers who fought in the First World War.

Those interested in taking part in the production as an extra can contact Purewal via email at steven.purewal@imfc.org

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Filed Under: Top Stories

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