x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Bollywood filmmaker launches talent hunt in Dubai for India Mein Lahore

The Bollywood filmmaker Ikram Akhtar talks about his talent hunt in the UAE and why he wants to film his debut venture, India Mein Lahore, in Dubai.

There is no dearth of Hindi movies documenting the strained historic and political relationship between India and Pakistan. Now the Bollywood writer Ikram Akhtar has channelled the subject in his debut film, India Mein Lahore, and is scouting for new faces in the UAE to star in the romantic comedy, which will partly be shot in Dubai.

“Dubai is the best place to see Indians and Pakistanis living together in harmony and friendship,” says the writer, who has scripted more than 25 movies, including Salman Khan’s 2011 comedy Ready and the action riot No Problem (2010). “Keeping aside the political issues between the two countries, the aam aadmi [common man] in India and Pakistan have no problem with each other and want to meet,” Akhtar claims.

The movie, produced by Rajest R Tripathi of the Once More Life Foundation (oncemorelifefoundation.com, a new NGO set up this year for deprived girls in India, has a budget of 150 million rupees (Dh8.8m) and will begin a 60-day shoot in December. Akhtar will cast newcomers after auditions in Dubai and India that began over the weekend. Sanjay Masoom, who wrote the script for the forthcoming superhero drama Krrish 3, is behind the dialogues. The music director is Lalit Pandit, credited for the classic numbers in Shahrukh Khan’s Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) and Yes Boss (1997).

The director is looking for five actors — four male and a female — for the lead roles, with several more to round off the supporting cast. “I need as many people as I can get — from 5- to 50-year-olds,” he says. “This is a character-based film and the script requires newcomers. I have seen a lot of good talent during my visits here.”

There is also an opening for an Emirati actor. “If I get an Emirati for the role I will sign him on immediately. “He will play a Punjabi boy. Language is not a problem — isn’t Katrina Kaif still learning to speak Hindi?”

Akhtar said he has been working for two years on the script for the film, a romantic comedy that will mostly be filmed in Dubai and the northern Indian state of Punjab. He is also trying to get permission to shoot in Pakistan.

But how will the audience receive the film? Emotions run high — and sometimes spill over — when it comes to India-Pakistan relations.

“Nobody has depicted it as a comedy before and that is what the audience will like,” Akhtar says. “Whenever this subject comes up, we think of terrorists or war. Romance between a girl from Pakistan and boy from India has been shown in movies such as Veer Zaara [2004], but a romantic comedy will be a new insight into the connection between the two countries.”

• Auditions for India Mein Lahore will be held at Ramee Royal Hotel in Bur Dubai from October 12 to 14, from 10am to 8pm. Email imljyk@yahoo.com or call 056 795 9018

aahmed@thenational.ae