Bhatt’s film to highlight abuses in Kashmir
6 March 2007
Mumbai: A well-known Bollywood filmmaker, Mahesh Bhatt, hopes to prick the conscience of viewers about human right abuses in occupied Kashmir with a movie on killings of innocent people by police in staged gun battles to win rewards. “Dhoka”, or Betrayal, is the latest offering from a Hindi film industry that has been forced by a maturing audience to diversify from its formulaic song-and-dance fare into more realistic themes. 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 occupied 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,” said Bhatt, who is producing the movie and helping daughter Pooja direct it. “Dhoka” will be partly shot around Kashmir’s verdant valleys and snow-capped peaks but Bhatt did not give a release date. Kashmiris say some of those who have disappeared are innocent people killed by police in fake gun battles 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 gun battles 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. Sleeping Conscience? “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 occupied Kashmir have generally been populist, patriotic fare which cast Pakistan and Muslim extremists as the villains, and the Indian security forces as heroes. Many movies, based on this formula got huge success, however, 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.