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Thursday, 3 October, 2002, 14:45 GMT 15:45 UK
Exiled director speaks of threats
Actress Manisha Koirala
Actress Manisha Koirala objected to the "indecent" film

As the row over controversial Bollywood film Ek Chhotisi Love Story (A Small Love Story) continues to grip India BBC News Online talks to the film-makers.

Film director Shashilal Nair has been forced to flee India after finding himself at the centre of a storm over his movie.

The film ventures into forbidden territory by Indian standards, exploring a teenage boy's infatuation with a 26-year-old woman, played by Manisha Koirala.


I have been threatened by the Indian underworld, politicians, business tycoons and industrialists

Shashilal Nair
Director
Nair, fearing for his life after allegedly receiving death threats from politicians, the Indian mafia, and business tycoons demanding he delete contentious scenes, escaped to the UK.

The scandal broke when Koirala condemned the film as indecent and for ruining her reputation because of scenes which she deemed too sexually explicit, even though a body double was used.

Her application to a High Court in Bombay to stop the release of the film last month was refused and she has now lodged an appeal.

"For 20 seconds, for four shots (in the film), I have had to leave India because I have been threatened by the Indian underworld, politicians, business tycoons and industrialists," said Nair.

Plagued

"I have had to leave my family behind simply because this one actress has held everyone to ransom.

"I have even heard that the Indian prime minister has been made aware of this situation."

The film was plagued by obstacles from the onset as supporters of the right-wing Shiv Sena Group attacked cinemas screening the movie on the day of its release.

Koirala is known to have approached the influential leader of the party Bal Thackeray to gain his support.

It has been a strange period for producers Abdul Hafiz and Afzal Khan, two pharmacists from Huddersfield, England, who decided to make a Bollywood film.

'Quick getaway'

Hafiz said the film was never meant to cause a scandal

"I remember sitting in a taxi outside a cinema in Bombay and watching these hooligans smashing up windows and attacking people over our film as we made a quick getaway," he says.

"It was scary but so disheartening to watch as this film was never meant to be controversial."

He blames Manisha Koirala for much of the controversy.

"I think Manisha should apologise for the trouble that she has caused as I don't see what she will achieve by trying to stop the film now, as half of India has already seen it and it will have a wide release in the UK.

"I am just happy that the film is doing well now and the fighting has stopped."

'Dream'

Hafiz said: "I've always dreamed of making an Indian film ever since I was a student at university.

"One day last year I was driving along in the car with Afzal when I just asked him casually if he wanted to make a film, and he agreed.

"We had known each other for four years and I thought we had the business sense to make the dream come true."

Eager to start their first project both Hafiz and Afzal Khan flew to Bombay to find contacts in Bollywood.

"We set ourselves up in a hotel and started auditioning directors about their ideas and stories," said Hafiz.

"We managed to see about 10 directors in four days but weren't really impressed with anyone until we met Mr Nair."

See also:

13 Sep 02 | South Asia
06 Sep 02 | South Asia
05 Sep 02 | South Asia
17 Jul 02 | Entertainment
30 Jul 02 | South Asia
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