Films with Pak­istani mi­lieu are be­ing shot in In­dia

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - Front Page - Anirudh Bhat­tacharyya let­ters@hin­dus­tan­

plan­ning for In­dian di­rec­tor Hansal Me­hta’s lat­est project, Omerta, large sec­tions of which are set in Pak­istan, film­ing in that coun­try was never con­sid­ered se­ri­ously.

“I don’t think we would have re­turned. We would all have been heads if we had shot in Pak­istan,” Me­hta said dur­ing an in­ter­view at the Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val (TIFF), where the movie had its world pre­miere.

Omerta deals with Pak­istani-ori­gin ter­ror­ist Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, who is con­nected to ma­jor ter­ror events around the world, in­clud­ing 9/11 and the Mum­bai at­tacks, and the be­head­ing of Wall Street Jour­nal re­porter Daniel Pearl in Pak­istan in 2002. Sheikh was fi­nally ar­rested by Pak­istani au­thor­i­ties for Pearl’s killing and re­mains in­car­cer­ated af­ter be­ing sen­tenced to death.

Given Me­hta’s In­dian back­ground and a script that points fin­gers at Pak­istan’s ISI con­spir­ing with Sheikh, there was lit­tle rea­son to be­lieve their de­ci­sion to film in In­dian lo­ca­tions was mis­placed. So, places such as Mum­bai, Pa­tiala and Lon­avala be­came on-screen sub­sti­tutes for Karachi, La­hore or Rawalpindi.

Omerta wasn’t the only film at TIFF to have Pak­istan at the heart of the screen­play while be­ing shot in In­dia.

Nor­we­gian-Pak­istani fil­maker Iram Haq’s What Will Peo­ple Say had a sec­tion set in Pak­istan’s Pun­jab prov­ince which was shot en­tirely in the cities of Udaipur and Ajmer.

As Haq said, “I didn’t feel it was the place I would film this movie and also the in­dus­try is so well (de­vel­oped) in In­dia, so I wanted to shoot in In­dia.”

Both these in­stance point to a trend in in­ter­na­tional pro­duc­tions that look at Pak­istan­based sto­ries be­cause of their dra­matic po­ten­tial. But even as the nar­ra­tives are set there, the sets end up in In­dia.

Haq col­lab­o­rated with Mum­bai-based Sikhya En­ter­tain­ment for the shoot. This isn’t the first time Sikhya has trans­posed Pak­istan into In­dia. It was also among the pro­duc­ers for the 2104 movie Tigers, di­rected by Academy Award-win­ning Bos­nian Da­nis Tanovic, which recre­ated parts of Pak­istan in In­dia. The rea­son given by the pro­duc­ers was that In­dia’s film in­fra­struc­ture sim­ply worked for the project.

That’s one rea­son, but as Me­hta re­ferred to, se­cu­rity is a ma­jor con­sid­er­a­tion.

When di­rec­tor Mira Nair was mak­ing the film ver­sion of Pak­istani au­thor Mohsin Hamid’s best­selling novel,

The Re­luc­tant Fun­da­men­tal­ist, she spent four days film­ing ex­te­ri­ors in Karachi but by­passed the coun­try for the ma­jor­ity of the shoot.

She was can­did dur­ing an in­ter­view in 2014, when it first screened: “We couldn’t get in­sur­ance to bring ac­tors over (to Pak­istan). Delhi is a sis­ter to La­hore in many deep ar­chi­tec­tural ways.”

This phe­nom­e­non may have started with An­gelina Jolie’s A Mighty Heart, based on the ab­duc­tion and killing of Daniel Pearl. Di­rec­tor Michael Win­ter­bot­tom had filmed in Pak­istan ear­lier, and even shot a fair amount in Karachi, be­fore se­cu­rity con­sid­er­a­tions caused the pro­duc­tion to shift to Mum­bai and Pune.


A scene from Mira Nair’s The Re­luc­tant Fun­da­men­tal­ist, which was set in Pak­istan but shot in In­dia.

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