The writer and director of a film, inspired by the heroic actions of the first Gurkha to be awarded a Victoria Cross Award, has spoken of his hope that the project will help elderly Gurkha veterans be accepted in the UK.
The crowd-funded charity feature film is inspired by the true story of Sergeant Kulbir Thapa during the Battle Of Loos in 1915. Award winner Pradeep Shahi is the writer and director of the psychological war drama who said:
“Sgt Kulbir Thapa was the first Gurkha soldier to be awarded the prestigious Victoria Cross.
“The Gurkhas are a very small representation of the British Army, but we do hold quite a high number of Victoria Cross recipients.”
Gurkhas have won 13 Victoria Crosses in total and Sgt Thapa was the first to receive one. His citation for conspicuous bravery reads:
“When himself wounded on September 25, 1915, he found a badly wounded soldier of the 2nd Battalion, the Leicestershire Regiment behind the first-line German trench and although urged by the British soldier to save himself he remained with him all day and night.
“In the early morning of September 26, in misty weather, he brought him out through the German wire and leaving him in a place of comparative safety, returned and brought in two wounded Gurkhas one after the other.
“He then went back in broad daylight for the British soldier and brought him in also, carrying him most of the way, and being at most points under the enemy’s fire.”
It is this heroic story that is the focus of “Gurkha: Beneath The Bravery”, the first feature film about Nepalese soldiers. The hope is that all profits made from the film will go directly to the ‘Gurkha Welfare Trust’ who provide financial, medical and development aid to Gurkha veterans, their families and communities. Speaking with Jess Bracey on BFBS Radio Pradeep said:
“... we’re going to give all the profit to the Gurkha Welfare Trust who have been looking after the Gurkha veterans for over 50 years, so I think as a whole is a charity film project.”
After returning from the war, Kulbir was awarded his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace. Before dying in Nepal in 1956, Kulbir had achieved the rank of Havildar, the equivalent of Sergeant. His heroism was marked in 2015 when the Royal Mail created a stamp in his memory.
Pradeep wanted to create this film for Gurkha veterans, who are the pride of Nepal, but who sometimes find themselves struggling to settle in their British communities. He said:
“The inspiration out of all this is our forefather’s bravery and contribution to war was acknowledged in Western history and I think this one of the key reasons why I want to tell the story.”
Making this film hasn't been the dream of just one man. This project has been crowd-funded from the start. He said:
“From the very beginning we decided to go for this online crowd-funding campaign, and we’ve been lucky enough to have raised £25,000 for which we are very grateful ...”
Most of the cast and crew are the children of Gurkhas and have volunteered their time for this project. For many of those involved, including Pradeep, this is their first feature film experience.
The crowd-funding campaign began in May 2019 and by November most of the filming had already taken place in World War One replica trenches in Kent. He said:
“That non-stop 30 days of filming was one heck of an experience.”
The film is currently in post-production. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the release of the film has been delayed. This hasn’t stopped Pradeep from achieving his goal of helping Gurkha veterans. He said:
“When I moved to the UK from Nepal and began witnessing these elderly Gurkha veterans struggling to find a place in British communities.
“What they have to endure is not fair and not right in this modern civilised world.
“To make a movie that is good enough to be their voice and be the face the public can see and learn about them and we, as the younger generation of Gurkhas, can help them with social integration.”