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United we stand



Proud Indian...Sohail Khan in New Delhi. Photo: S. Subramanium.

AS REPUBLIC Day fervour combines with the fragrance of friendship, with the Indo-Pak thaw being the flavour of the season, Bollywood too has stepped in with its version of feel-good cinema, albeit on foreign turf. Producer Sohail Khan is coming up with an anti-racism film, "I - Proud to be Indian" where the protagonist played by Sohail himself finds support from a Pakistani character, essayed Imran Ali, a U.K.-based actor of Pakistani origin, to fight the skinheads. "The film is based on real life experiences faced by my South Asian friends. For example, if you go to Britain the immigration officials deliberately ask why you have come to our country although everything is mentioned on the visa," says Sohail.

Directed by U.K.-based Puneet Sira, who has faced racial attacks, the film was completed in 34 days on location in London's East End - area known to be a hub of such activities - with the support of Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan immigrants. "I have faced racial abuses right from the school days. Eggs have been thrown at our windowpanes. And the problem has increased in the last few years, because such groups have found representation in the Parliament," says Sira.

However, the world over immigrants are facing similar problems. Torture of Bangladeshi and Nepali immigrants in India is a case in point. Sohail says his sympathies lie with all such people, whatever their nationality and wherever they face such remarks. "I have made this point clear in the film as well."

Perhaps that's why Sohail's character in the film has no name.

The film also shows Sohail in love with Imran's sister portrayed by debutante Hina Rehman. "We haven't made this an issue in the film at all. Both are friends and the families accept that. The film's high point is its consistency. When they are fighting for the same cause, how can they differ on such issues, " points out Sira.

Imran does not fear any reactions from Pakistan. "After all we share the same history. I want to work in Bollywood and have no qualms sitting in front of Indian flag. I don't know about politicians, but people at large won't mind it."

Laudable indeed.

ANUJ KUMAR

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