Bollywood tale of orphan puts spotlight on Kashmir

Tue Mar 10, 2009 9:59am EDT
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By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

MUMBAI (Reuters Life!) - A new Bollywood film set in Indian Kashmir depicts life in the troubled region through the eyes of a teenage boy whose parents are killed by separatist militants.

The film's makers say the 14-year-old hero of "Sikandar" becomes a pawn in a game played out between militants, the army, politicians and clerics in the Himalayan region.

"My main concern in Kashmir is the children, the next generation, and that is why I wrote this story," director Piyush Jha told Reuters in an interview.

Bollywood's offerings on Kashmir have generally been populist, patriotic fare which cast neighboring Pakistan and menacing Muslim militants as villains, and the Indian security forces as heroes.

In contrast, "Sikandar" is a thriller that weaves in the insurgency and relations between Hindus and Muslims in the Himalayan region.

Officials say more than 47,000 people have been killed in Kashmir since discontent against New Delhi's rule turned into a full-blown rebellion in 1989. Separatists put the toll at 100,000.

But overall violence involving Indian troops and separatist guerrillas declined significantly across Kashmir since India and Pakistan began a slow-moving peace process in 2004, which was paused by India after last November's Mumbai attacks.

Jha said audiences across India needed to be made aware of the problems plaguing the Himalayan region.

"As a filmmaker I cannot offer a solution," Jha said. "What I want is for the audience to think about this very serious issue." The film opens in Indian cinemas in April.

(Writing by Tony Tharakan; Editing by Bappa Majumdar and Sanjeev Miglani)