Page last updated at 08:49 GMT, Wednesday, 3 September 2008 09:49 UK

Bollywood takes ideas from terror

By Prachi Pinglay
BBC News, Mumbai

A still from Little Godfather
'Little Godfather' explores a different aspect of terror, says director Joy Augustine

For India's largest film industry Bollywood, its home, the city of Mumbai (Bombay), has always been a fertile ground for ideas.

The city's criminal gangs, the glamorous film and fashion industry and the many inspiring rags-to-riches stories of business tycoons have been the fodder for many hit films.

But now some of the new film-makers are charting new territories.

The constant terror threats and serial blasts in the city, which have kept India's financial capital on tenterhooks in recent years, have begun to find their way into the film scripts.

Among recent releases was "Mumbai Meri Jaan" (Mumbai my life) which depicts the lives of people affected by the serial train blasts of July 2006 which killed nearly 200 people.

"This film is about surviving a tragedy," says director Nishikant Kamat.

"Whenever a tragedy strikes, we are all affected, worried and depressed. This story, though based on the train blasts, is not just about the city or this event; it is about how people cope with tragedy," he says.

'Entertaining, cathartic'

Besides "Mumbai Meri Jaan", at least four other films revolving around a bomb explosion in the city have been made or are in the making.

Slated for release soon is "A Wednesday" - a thriller.

Director Neeraj Pandey says the story is about a few hours in a day - a Wednesday - when a terrorist holds the city to ransom.

A still from A Wednesday
'A Wednesday' is a thriller with terror as its theme

"The backdrop of the film is terror and it is shot entirely in Mumbai. But it is going to be very entertaining and cathartic. It is not about the real events that the city has experienced," he says.

A recent release - psycho-thriller "Aamir" - showed an ordinary man who is blackmailed into planting a bomb in Mumbai.

In Aamir, the city itself was as much a protagonist as the lead actor. Critics lauded its gritty portrayal of the underbelly of the city.

Joy Augustine, a first-time director, is exploring a different aspect of terror in "The Little Godfather", which is still under production. Based on the children who make a living selling goods on Mumbai's local trains, the film explores how they rise to the occasion when a tragedy strikes their city.

"The story is about common people getting trapped and the relationship between young hawkers and commuters," he says.

Social tensions

The films are also breaking away from the age-old Bollywood formula - they are an hour shorter than the average three-hour-long Hindi films and have minimal music and dance, and there is little romance.

A still from Mumbai Meri Jaan
'Mumbai Meri Jaan' is based on the serial blasts on Mumbai trains

Mr Pandey says it is the dark underbelly of the city that attracts experimental filmmakers like him.

Mumbai has seen turbulent riots, serial blasts and huge police operations. There are innumerable ghettos where religious and social tensions loom large.

And the city's vast visual appeal - its heritage buildings, the famed local trains, the massive slums, the heavy monsoon rains, the iconic Marine Drive by the Arabian Sea - is a film maker's delight.

Alpana Mishra, from the production firm UTV is a great enthusiast for the new genre of Mumbai terror films. "The subject is very topical... and each of them was a great story that should be told."

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