x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Jumping the gun on Mumbai movie

Filmmakers are falling over themselves to bring the tale of the attacks to the big screen. But some in Bollywood feel this is happening too soon.

A soldier gestures as the Taj Mahal hotel burns during gun battles late last month between the Indian army and militants inside the hotel.
A soldier gestures as the Taj Mahal hotel burns during gun battles late last month between the Indian army and militants inside the hotel.

New Delhi // Filmmakers in India are lining up to shoot movies about the Mumbai terror attacks, a move that has drawn criticism from many in Bollywood. The Indian Motion Pictures and Producers Association (IMPPA), the governing body for registering film titles in India, has so far listed 18 titles associated with the attacks that killed about 170 people. One project, 26/11 at Mumbai Operation, is due to start shooting next month. The film will go into the source of the attacks and its toll on the lives of ordinary citizens.

According to Ujwala Londhe, of IMPPA, the first title was registered on Nov 28, a day before the siege ended. Vijay Verma, a filmmaker from the Hyderabad-based Salt and Pepper Entertainment, registered 26/11 at Mumbai Operation. Mr Verma said it was his responsibility as a filmmaker to chronicle the event. "I don't want people to forget the incident. We suffer, and tend to forget quickly, till another tragedy strikes us."

Though he has not finalised the cast for the film, Mr Verma is trying to sign Naseerudin Shah, a veteran Bollywood actor, to play the lead role of a police officer. According to the IMPPA, the titles listed so far include 26 Taj, Taj 26, Taj and Oberoi, The Taj Encounter, 48 hours at Taj, Taj Terror, Bird's Point of View of Taj Terror, City of Crime, 26/11 Mumbai under Terror, 11/26 Operation Taj, Black Tornado and Operation Five-Star Mumbai. Industry insiders said another 16 producers are planning to make films about the attacks.

The forthcoming films have drawn flak from many in the Bollywood fraternity. "I am disappointed that such a thing is happening," said B B Nagpal, a New Delhi-based film critic and journalist. "It is too early to make a film on the tragedy. We should make a difference while depicting and glorying violence." He said with the investigations still going on, filmmakers had to be careful with legal issues surrounding the case. "The matter is sub judice and there is a suspected Pakistan role in the attacks. One has to fictionalise the plot to avoid censure."

B Subhash, the director of the Bollywood blockbuster Disco Dancer, is also planning a film, 26 Taj, about the Mumbai attacks. Mr Subhash said his film would be about the human emotions involved rather than the political repercussions. "For me, creative art is about evolving emotions and emotions are always interesting. I am making a film because there were human emotions involved in the attack rather than political bargains.

"We can call an enemy an enemy without naming him." However, the public may not have an appetite for movies so soon after the attacks. A day after the siege ended, Ram Gopal Verma, a filmmaker, along with the state's chief minister, visited the ravaged hotels. There were allegations that Ram Gopal Verma's visit was facilitated by the state to give him first-hand experience of the attacks to help him build a plot for a film. The controversy around the visit forced the minister to resign.

Ram Gopal Verma has not confirmed he is making a film on the attacks. Turning real-life incidents into reel life is not a new phenomenon in the US$6 billion (Dh22bn) Bollywood industry. Mumbai Meri Jaan, Wednesday, Shootout at Lokhandwala, Shoot on Sight, Black Friday, Ab Tak Chhappan and last year's award-winning Parzania are based on real-life characters and were successful at the box office. However, many people in Bollywood believe the industry has contributed a lot to bridge the divide between India and Pakistan.

One actor, Akshay Khana, recently declined the role of a Pakistan-bashing protagonist in a film, drawing praise from Bollywood. Many films made in the late 1990s played on anti- Pakistan sentiment. Pakistan this year lifted a 43-year ban on the screening of Bollywood films. The Indian government reciprocated by allowing the screening of the first Pakistani film. Khuda Kay life, which was produced by Shoaib Mansoor, a Pakistani filmmaker, was widely acclaimed in India and was followed by another film, RamChand Pakistani, which looked at the plight of Indian and Pakistani prisoners.

In addition to the filmmakers, a New Delhi-based group of computer game developers is considering developing a game based on the attacks. The group has yet to decide on a name but hopes the game will be available by the end of next year. Pritish Banerjee, who leads the game developers, said: "Considering the damage which was caused during the attacks, every Indian has developed extreme hatred towards terrorists and an overwhelming feeling of revenge.

"But you are supposed to use tit-for-tat tactics, so we came up with an idea to develop a computer game to give vent to the anger by eliminating the perpetrators, though digitally." * The National