Latha Venkatraman

Mumbai, Jan. 6

WHY turn a page of history that is best forgotten is the question Censor Board officials asked Shonali Bose, director of the film Amu.

The movie, which traces the story of a young Indian-American girl who comes to India in search of her roots, has ended up with an `A' Certificate.

Kaju, the protagonist, played by Konkona Sen Sharma, is taken 20 years behind time to the 1984 communal riots in New Delhi that resulted in the death of thousands of Sikhs.

Slated for release this week, the film represents the efforts of filmmakers who operate outside the parameters of a classic Bollywood production. But that calls for an uphill task as funds are not easily available.

Initial promises to offer funds were withdrawn as financiers preferred to back lucrative Bollywood assignments with big stars, says Bedabrata Pain (pronounced as Pyne), the executive producer of Amu and also a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab.

"We faced a lot of difficulty in getting funds for the film. I had some money that came my way from a patent won on a digital camera technology that I had worked on with a team of four scientists. We contacted some financiers who were willing to put money on this script," says Pain.

The film, made on a budget of Rs 3 crore, is being distributed in a limited way by Shringar Films. Says Pain: "We are hoping that interest in the film picks up through word of mouth." The film, for most parts, is in English interspersed with Hindi, Bengali and Punjabi dialogues.

The story of Kaju's past opens up pages from the 1984 communal riots that rocked Delhi following the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi.

Shonali Bose, the writer and director, has pieced together real incidents with the fictional story of a girl's search for her past. There are scenes in the film where the dialogues have been blanked out.

"The Censor Board asked for five audio cuts. Instead of replacing the dialogues we decided to blank out the dialogues," says Pain.

An interesting aspect of the film is the presence of Brinda Karat, leader of the All-India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA). Contrary to belief, Karat does have a theatre background. "We thought of Brinda Karat when we conceived of the plot. When she finally gave her screen test all of us were convinced that she fitted the role perfectly," says Pain.

The others in the cast include Ankur Khanna, Lovleen Mishra and Yashpal Sharma.

Narrowing down on the actor for the main protagonist involved going through at least 100 actresses from the UK and the US. "Finally, we decided on Konkona. She stayed with us in the US to learn the American diction and style of speaking," he said.

The film is slated to be shown at the Rotterdam Film Festival later this month. "This screening should open up prospects for world screenings of the film," says Pain.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated January 7, 2005)
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