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Last Updated: Friday, 16 May, 2003, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Indian director plans Pakistan shoot
Mahesh Bhatt
Bhatt says there is a need to be "audacious" in film
Indian director Mahesh Bhatt is hoping to make the first ever Indian film shot entirely in Pakistan - a project he described as a "South Asian Schindler's List".

Bhatt's film will be about the true story of a Muslim who saved the lives of 200 Sikhs during the riots that took place during partition in 1947.

In Schindler's List, Steven Spielberg filmed the story of a German businessman who saved about 1,000 Jews by employing them in a munitions factory.

"I was wanting to make a South Asian Schindler," Bhatt told BBC World Service's World Today programme.

"After being exposed to hundreds of movies which looked at Germans as demons, finally came a film which saw a German with a golden heart.

"That made the world weep."


Bhatt said he hoped to achieve something similar when his film was shown in India, which would highlight Pakistani bravery towards Indians even at the height of tensions during partition in 1947.

"When I was going through the history of the partition of India and Pakistan, I came across an incident of a brave Muslim policeman who just with a stick prevented a mob from killing over 200 Sikhs that were locked in a home," Bhatt said.

We are glued together by our genes, we eat the same food, wear the same clothes, and I think, despite trying our best, we are unable to separate ourselves
Mahesh Bhatt
"So I sourced my inspiration from that brave, anonymous policeman, and I felt that in a country where we have demonised the Pakistanis in our movies, it's time to look at them affectionately."

Bhatt added that his hopes to shoot the film entirely in Pakistan were based on a symbolic need as well as being important for authenticity.

"It's the need of the plot because it turns the clock back to '47 and it needs the terrain of the north-west frontier," Bhatt said.

"It will also, in these times, make the political point that we can finally go and shoot there - who says the Asian miracle is over?"

'Expecting miracles'

Bhatt conceded that he had often been accused of a holding a politically-naive viewpoint, but said that his message was one of unity.

"We need to be audacious.

"People do accuse me of being naive, and they say that I am expecting miracles to happen.

Bhatt's film is based on the events of partition
"I say look, I am committed to this idea, I am happy to be making this film in Pakistan.

"The worst case scenario is that I will write the plot, and then have to shoot on my own terrain.

"But this film will certainly be made, because there is a need to look at those people across the boarder and also here - Hindus who helped the Muslims to cross the boarder, and Muslims who helped Hindus to cross the boarder.

"It's time we paid a tribute to them - and learned something from them."

'Same stock'

Bhatt is of mixed Hindu-Muslim parentage, something he admits has shaped political views he attempts to put across in his films.

"The pluralism that India boasts about is in operation here," he stated.

"My father belongs to the lineage of the great saint of Gujarat, and my mother is Shi'a Muslim, so I am the embodiment of what is called the composite culture.

"When the world is being swept by global homogenisation, there is a tribal backlash - but I think India and Pakistan essentially belong to the same racial stock.

"We are glued together by our genes, we eat the same food, wear the same clothes, and I think, despite trying our best, we are unable to separate ourselves.

"It's time to accept the inevitable - that together we can fly - or we will sink."

Mahesh Bhatt
"I sourced my inspiration from that brave, anonymous policeman"

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