CHANDIGARH: Anti-Pakistan and anti-Osama bin Laden slogans, a Hollywood film crew running for cover, police reinforcements rushing in... this is not exactly what Oscar-winning Hollywood director Kathryn Bigelow had in mind while shooting for her film "Zero Dark Thirty" based on how the Al Qaeda chief was killed in his Abbottabad hideout.
Bigelow has re-created Abbottabad town in Chandigarh's suburbs.While murmurs of protest against the shooting of the film in Chandigarh's suburb of Mani Majra had started Thursday, Friday saw full-fledged protests by right-wing activists and traders, forcing the Hollywood crew to run for cover with their cameras and equipment as their Indian production unit members tried to save the situation from getting worse.
Bigelow, who was on the sets canning her shots, was however not present when the trouble took place. Hired bouncers could be seen trying to shield the film crew. Locals complained of rude behaviour by the bouncers. Protestors, claiming to be from the Shiv Sena and other right-wing organizations, shouted anti-Pakistan and anti-Osama slogans at the venue of the film shooting in a commercial area of Mani Majra. They were objecting to the film unit openly using Pakistani flags, Urdu signboards and other things to depict a Pakistani town environment.
Sensing trouble, the Chandigarh police rushed reinforcements, including a quick reaction team (QRT), to control things. Members of the film unit and the protesters, including the area traders association (Beopar Mandal) were taken to the area police station to reach a "compromise". Police sources said the film production unit agreed to pay Rs.700,000 to the traders body as compensation for the loss of trade and other damage.
Traders in the area, some of whom had earlier willingly agreed to allow the film unit to change the signboards outside the shops to denote a Pakistani town, were Friday seen complaining that their business was affected due to the shooting that has been going on for the last two days. They were also upset that the shooting had led to traffic blockade in the area.
"The film unit has been compelling us to move according to their wish. This is just not acceptable," an upset shopkeeper Ajay Gupta told. Market welfare association vice chairman Subhash Saria told IANS: "We were only aware that the shooting will take place for one day. However, this is the second day and these people have blocked our roads. They even stopped me today from entering the market. The bouncers are literally harassing us."
Being the start of a new month, traders in the area say that their business is being affected by the film shooting. Locals said the bouncers created a fuss when people tried to take pictures of the shooting in progress. "One of the people involved in the argument was a local journalist, Sushil Jain," one bystander said.
"I was just taking pictures of the traffic blockade, and the bouncers thought I am trying to capture the director of the movie Kathryn Bigelow. How can they stop people from doing whatever they are in their own shops?" he said.
"A bouncer started pushing and shooing us away when we protested against the traffic blockade. It has been two days since we had a customer in the shop," Saria said. Association president Naresh Kumar Panna said: "The consent of ward presidents of the market was taken for the shooting. Nevertheless, we were unaware that it will cost us so much trouble. We have been bluffed into allowing them."
Defending the film unit, Mani Majra Station House Officer (SHO) Rajesh Shukla told IANS: "When the Government of India and Chandigarh administration has given the crew permission to shoot, how can we stop them? The market welfare association was well aware of the shooting and when the shoot is on, the crew will make the arrangements according to their requirements."
Following the protests, the shooting of the film stopped for some time and the venue was changed for that duration. Bigelow, who hit a high in 2010 by becoming the first woman director to win the Academy Award for her film "The Hurt Locker", depicting war-ravaged Iraq, has chosen locations in north India to shoot her movie on the elimination of bin Laden.
Bin Laden was hunted down by elite US Navy Seals in a midnight operation in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad in May last year. (IANS)