Is Bollywood too late on 9/11 movies?

Jun 25, 2009 Robin Bansal

New Delhi, June 25 (IANS) Hollywood has highlighted it, so have others. But the Hindi film industry has barely touched upon 9/11 as a theme, with Kabir Khan's "New York" coming eight years after the tragic incident in the US.

Experts say it is too "late" to make a film on the subject even as the film is set to be released Friday.

" 'New York' is has been nearly eight years since the incident happened. The Mumbai film industry is very late in reacting to this kind of a storyline...The topicality of such a theme is lost because of the delay," film historian Gautam Kaul told IANS.

Film critic Omar Qureshi said the same.

"India is a little late on this. Hollywood (the US) and other countries have already made movies on 9/11. Indian filmmakers did pass a thought that they should do it but did not because it was too sensitive for them to handle," he said.

"Everyone here got a shock after the 26/11 attacks and it triggered reactions. Everything became very sensitive then on, which is exactly what happened to the world after 9/11 and they (Indian filmmakers) realised that this is one story to be told," he added.

Starring John Abraham, Katrina Kaif, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Irrfan Khan, "New York" can be called Bollywood's rare full-fledged attempt at dealing with the subject.

Hollywood has kept drawing references from the tragedy and showcased it in documentaries and feature films like "Fahrenheit 9/11" (2004), "Inside 9/11" (2005), "World Trade Center" (2006), "United 93" (2006) and "Reign Over Me" (2007), to name a few.

In 2004, US-based Indian filmmaker Haider Bilgrami made "Bandhak", about a professional who is killed by a racist following the World Trade Center attack. His brother Baldev, in a frenzy of revenge, takes a white man hostage.

In 2007, Pakistani director Shoaib Mansoor made a mark on the global scene with his first feature film "Khuda Kay Liye", which was based on the same subject.

In the same year, veteran Indian actor Naseeruddin Shah touched upon the subject in his directorial debut "Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota" but his story revolved around a group of people from India on board the flights that crashed into the World Trade Center.

It was followed up by Vishesh Films' "Dhokha", about a Muslim protagonist whose relationship comes to a grinding halt courtesy the repercussions of the attacks.

Both films were box office duds. Well-known filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt feels "Dhokha" failed because it had new faces.

"'Dhokha' had 9/11 as a background but it did not do well because it had new people... and now that a commercial film ('New York') has come after eight years with an A-list star cast, everyone is noticing the theme," said Bhatt over telephone from Mumbai.

Commenting on the lack of Bollywood films on the theme, Bhatt said: "The images of the twin towers being attacked by the planes have kind of become the defining images of the 21st century but Indian filmmakers don't deal with social realities.

"They like to lock themselves up only in light matters like that of the heart. A matter of political turmoil is not a Bollywood filmmakers' cup of

tea," he said.

Apart from "New York", Karan Johar's upcoming "My Name Is Khan" is also on the same subject.

The film is about a Muslim (Shah Rukh Khan) who suffers from Asperger syndrome, a form of autism which impacts social interaction abilities and he is arrested as a suspected terrorist in post-9/11 Los Angeles after the authorities mistake his disability for suspicious behaviour.

Also starring Kajol, the film is scheduled for 2010 release, almost a decade after the 9/11 tragedy. The box office performance of "New York" could be a pointer to how well the subject will be received.

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