BENGALURU: Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan was one of the several martyrs who laid down their lives for the country during the 26/11 operations in 2008. He may well have remained just another of the unsung heroes relegated to school textbooks.
But a young man who remembered reading about him in one such textbook, in a chapter titled 'Unsung Heroes', made it his life's mission to make Major Unnikrishnan get the glory that he deserved beyond the platitudes of politicians.
It was the dream of the young Adivi Sesh, who had spent his formative years in California, to ensure that Major Unnikrishnan lived forever in the hearts of a grateful nation.
The Tollywood actor did it when he got the opportunity to do so, scripting and acting in the titular role of the biopic called 'Major' released in May this year.
'Major' immortalises the exploits of Major Unnikrishnan, an Indian Army officer serving in the 51 Special Action Group of the National Security Guards (NSG) on deputation, in his heroic fight against Pakistani terrorists holed up in the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai.
Major Unnikrishnan laid down his life on November 28, 2008, and was awarded the Ashok Chakra, the nation's highest peactime gallantry award, posthumously on Republic Day 2009.
Sesh developed the Major's professional and personal on-screen character after painstaking research and reaching out to the martyr's parents -- a sacred bond that the actor continues to cherish.
"I am going on the 26th to Mumbai, and I'm going to be with Uncle and Amma [Major Unnikrishnan's parents] at the memorial. I think that's what Major Sandeep sir means to me, that's what the film means to me and that's what he did to me. 'Major' has changed my life and he has blessed my life. I'll never forget it," Sesh told IANS.
The actor considers 'Major' as a life-altering experience -- both professionally and personally. In a nation marked by divisions on the bases of religion, caste and language, the big-screen adaptation has brought late Major Unnikrishnan closer to all Indians, across all barriers, Sesh said.
"I remember reading about Major Sandeep in a CBSE textbook in a chapter titled 'Unsung Heroes'. It was a moment that everyone sang his name. So that meant a lot to me," the actor said.
As the country observes the 14th anniversary of the 26/11 terror attacks, Sesh said Major Unnikrishnan's sacrifice has bigger lessons for all Indians.
"I think it is important to remember his sacrifice but also realise that we can all do something for the country in our own stead and not just think about it on 26/11 or a national holiday such as January 26 or August 15," Sesh said. "The goal is to think of our country in the way we live and work. That's something I have taken away from playing Major and I hope the country thinks the same."