By Krittivas Mukherjee, 06 Mar 2007, Source: Reuters ,
MUMBAI, March 6 (Reuters) – A well-known Bollywood filmmaker hopes to prick the conscience of viewers about human right abuses in Indian Kashmir with a movie on police killings of innocent people in staged gunbattles to win rewards.
"Dhoka", or Betrayal, is the latest offering from a Hindi film industry — the world's largest by number of tickets sold — that has been forced by a maturing audience to diversify from its formulaic song-and-dance fare into more realistic themes.
Mahesh Bhatt, known as much for his fluffy musicals as for handling controversial subjects such as Hindu-Muslim riots, says "Dhoka" will turn the spotlight on "state atrocities" in the insurgency-torn Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir.
"There is a need to speak about the misdeeds of the state, the betrayal of police in each of those regions where human rights are trampled upon everyday," Bhatt, who is producing the movie and helping daughter Pooja direct it, told Reuters.
"Dhoka" will be partly shot around Kashmir's verdant valleys and snow-capped peaks but Bhatt did not give a release date.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed or have disappeared in mainly Hindu India's only Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir during a 17-year-old separatist revolt.
Kashmiris say some of those who have disappeared are innocent people killed by police in fake gunbattles to claim rewards and earn promotions meant for eliminating militants.
In late January and February, protests erupted in the Kashmir Valley following the alleged killing of five innocent Kashmiris in staged gunbattles by Indian forces, who then passed off the dead men as militants.
Seven policemen have been charged with the killing of one of the men — a carpenter and father of five. Police said they were also investigating the four other cases.
"The conscience of the country hasn't been questioned on these gross violation of rights of the people of Kashmir," said Bhatt.
The filmmaker is also completing a movie that delves into the mind of a potential suicide bomber in a story set against the backdrop of the 2005 London train and bus bombings.
In the past, Bollywood's offerings on Kashmir have generally been populist, patriotic fare which cast neighbouring Pakistan and menacing Muslim extremists as the villains, and the Indian security forces as heroes.
But films like "Mission Kashmir" have generally failed to impress critics.
In contrast, "Dhoka" is the story of a young Kashmiri man grappling with the staged killing of someone close to him and aims to highlight the plight of Kashmiris whose lives have been touched by violence.
The conflict has officially killed more than 40,000 people. Human rights groups put the toll at about 60,000 dead or missing.
"Custodial deaths and fake gunbattles of police are a menace in Kashmir," said Bhatt, who is also known as an activist for creative freedom and religious harmony.
Authorities deny allegations that security forces regularly pick up people in Kashmir and kill them in fake gunbattles.
Bhatt has chosen a Kashmiri newcomer to play the lead in Dhoka, hoping the actor can inject some realism into the film.