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Mumbai on film: Bad taste or true drama?

Indian commando in Mumbai
Many film-makers believe the drama of Mumbai makes for good cinema

By Prachi Pinglay
BBC News, Mumbai

"Taj Terror", "Taj to Oberoi", "48 hours at Taj", "Operation Five Star Mumbai", "26/11- Mumbai under Terror", "Shootout at Oberoi" and "Operation Cyclone".

These might seem like newspaper headlines of the recent Mumbai attacks but they are in fact some of the 20 titles waiting for approval for possible movies based on the events of last month.

To some, the rush to register the titles seems like appalling bad taste coming so soon after so many funerals.

"It always happens. People jump on every tragedy. It is like ambulance chasing," says well-known documentary film-maker Anand Patwardhan.

"A tiny percentage of these film-makers may be sincere. A film should be genuine and sensitive. If it tries to reduce violence and communal hatred - which is the underlying reason for such violence - then it should be made and is good for society.

"But the chances are that it is an attempt to exploit the misery of people."

Accusations of bad taste were certainly levelled at former Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh after he visited the Taj Mahal Palace hotel with film-maker Ram Gopal Varma.

Few made

Several films have been made in the past couple of years with terror as their backdrop - such as Mumbai Meri Jaan (Mumbai my love), A Wednesday and Shoot on sight - and more are in production.

Indian film technician
Indian film-makers are not shy of covering controversial issues

Sushma Shiromanee, vice-president of the Indian Motion Pictures and Producers' Association, a body that deals with title registration for Hindi films in Mumbai, confirmed that several producers had applied for titles related to the Mumbai attacks.

However, experts say that despite the registration numbers, few films are actually made and released.

"When an event like this happens, several producers and writers want to tell the story. Many have applied for titles pertaining to the attacks. These applications will be studied by our committee and if anything is inappropriate, we'll advise them to change it. These procedures take almost a month," Ms Shiromanee said.

Cinema trade analysts say the unprecedented manner in which 10 gunmen entered the city and opened fire, held hostages for more than two days and left more than 170 people dead, is valuable film material.

Film-makers want to depict different aspects of those 60 hours.

Two of the most popular hotels of India's financial capital were held under siege, while gunmen opened fire at the famous Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST), the Leopold cafe and other well-known places.

Emotional story

B Subhash, producer and writer of several commercial Hindi films, has applied for a title called "Bird's point of view of the Taj Terror." He says that far from being in bad taste, the film aims to bring out the impact of terror on innocent lives.

Smoke gushes out of the Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai on 27 November
Many film-makers say the human angle will be their focus

"A bird is a symbol of innocence," he says, "and I want to show what happened in Mumbai from that point of view.

"Terrorism is a horrifying thing. There will be some action as well but basically it will be an emotional story. We should complete writing within a month and early next year it should go on the recording floors."

Jug Mundra, whose film Shoot on Sight was based on the lives of people after the London bombings of 2005, said a fresh perspective was required.

"We all saw what happened. So if I were to make a film on the 26 November attack it would be about people.

"It should show how a random act of violence changes people's lives, how serendipity in adverse circumstances brings people together. I feel that an incident such as the Mumbai attack can offer an insight into the human psyche.

"Filmmakers are always looking for drama which often comes from conflict situations such as this."

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