The tragic story of the Komagata Maru incident will appear on the big screen, thanks to a partnership between a Canadian and Indian film production company.
Some 376 passengers, mostly from Punjab, India, were aboard the Komagata Maru ship when it arrived in Vancouver in 1914.
But the public was opposed to the passengers’ immigration and discriminatory laws forced them to turn back after months of waiting ashore.
Salman Khan Films (SKF) and First Take Entertainment Ltd. (FTE) will jointly be producing Lions of the Sea, about the voyage from India to Canada.
“SKF is delighted to join hands with First Take and participate in telling the story of the Komagata Maru incident,” said producer Salman Khan in a release.
“Lions of the Sea is a film based on a true incident which depicts heroism of all those who were on board and challenged the racial policies of the British Empire.”
“It is imperative to tell this story, as it mirrors the current global refugee crisis. Lions of the Sea will allow us to embrace multiculturalism, diversity and bring humanity closer together.”
The film will feature a cast of “international talent,” the release stated, including Irrfan Khan of Life of Pi, The Namesake and Inferno.
“It’s an honour to a partner with Salman and SKF once again to ensure this historic story which has challenged many racial laws in the western world is finally being told,” said Dr. Dr. Ajay Virmani of First Take Entertainment. “The issues of racial acceptance and due processes are at the heart of the story and continue to be relevant in today’s world.”
Production on the film will commence in 2017, and filming will take place in India, the UK, Hong Kong, and Canada.
The film is also the first to be announced and be produced under the new India-Canada co-production treaty.
Ugly racial rhetoric
In May, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau formally apologized for the Komagata Maru incident, exactly 102 years after the tragedy took place.
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In May of 1914, the Komagata Maru ship arrived in Vancouver’s Burrard Inlet with 376 immigrants on board, British subjects of Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu origin.
But it was a time of ugly public racial rhetoric and discriminatory laws said immigrants must come from the country where they were born – or held citizenship – by a continuous journey, using tickets purchased in their home country.
This was known as the Continuous Passage regulation, introduced in an effort to curb Indian immigration to Canada.
This meant that the Komagata Maru wasn’t allowed to dock in Vancouver, and only 20 returning residents were allowed into the country.
After two months of waiting, the ship was forced to sail back to India, where 19 passengers were shot and killed after disembarking, and others were sent to prison.