'90 pc Mumbai localities anti-North Indians'

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Mumbai, Nov 2: After country-wide protests against attacks on North Indians in Maharashtra, it is the turn of Bollywood to focus on the ''politics of regionalism'' being followed in the state.

Set to hit theatres worldwide this Friday is 'Deshdrohi', a film with a stark portrayal of discrimination faced by people of the North who have settled in Maharashtra -the constant verbal attacks on them by the local Marathi-speaking population and the feeling of contempt with which they are looked upon in the state.

Produced and directed by Kamaal Khan, a known face in the Bhojpuri Film industry, 'Deshdrohi', featuring Kamaal in the lead role along with Bollywood actor Gracy Singh, Aman Verma, Zulfi Syed and many others, is based on the personal experiences of the filmmaker, who came to Mumbai from Roorkie many years ago to make a career as a filmmaker.

Posing a question ''does an Indian need a visa to stay in any part of the country'', the filmmaker said,''Desdrohi is an incisive comment of the divisive politics promoted by outfits like the MNS and that makes people from North India victims of discrimination at all levels be it in terms of jobs, getting accommodation or satisfying their daily needs.'' Talking to UNI on the eve of the film's release on Friday, Kamaal said,''through the film, we wanted to put across to a pan Indian audience the message that making any kind of distinction among Indians by categorising them as, say, a South Indian, North Indian or East Indian is not right.

The film is an attempt to mobilise the common man against this politics so that people themselves put an end to it.'' ''The film reflects my personal experiences as a North Indian settled in Mumbai and other cities of Maharashtra - be it in restaurants or while travelling in a bus,''Kamaal says.

''As a North Indian, hailing from Roorkie, settled in Mumbai, I have experienced a lot of discrimination against me by Maharashtrians. So I thought of making a film which shows the verbal and other attacks being faced since long by North Indians in Maharashtra,''he adds.

'Deshdrohi' shows how a North Indian Raja, who comes to live in Mumbai, is often at the receiving end of the taunts and verbal volleys from local Mumbaites, finding himself often labelled with epithets like 'Bhaiya' (a term often used by Maharashtrians for people from UP and Bihar).

Like Raja, the lead character of 'Desdrohi' , Kamaal also feels that all of ''us are first and foremost Indians and only after that inhabitants of a particular state.'' Condemning the "hate campaign" against North Indians settled in Maharashtra, Kamaal said,''this treatment of people who are guests come to settle in various parts of Maharashtra is reprehensible.

''This is very unlike the treatment given to people from western and Southern parts of India when they come to settle in UP or Bihar.

In UP and Bihar, we treat people come to settle from other states as our revered guests.'' In this context, he laments that despite being a cosmopolitan city, Almost 90 per cent of local Marathi-speaking people in Mumbai are today gripped with the ''anti-North Indian'' mentality.

However, the film's direct lashing out at Maharashtrians for their "hate Campaign" against people from UP and Bihar earned the displeasure of the Censor board.

''The film faced a lot of displeasure from the Censor Board which was expected since the Board is dominated by Marathi speaking people, against whom the film points a direct finger,''Kamaal said.

The Censor Board simply refused to pass the film.

''The Censors stalled the film for three to four months, refusing to clear it, forcing is to go to the court. Some of the Censor Board's objections were absolutely ridiculous.

For example they took objection to scene where the protagonist says that "Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh and Shivaji Maratha never said they were North Indians, South Indians or West Indians.

All of them said we are Indians and India is one." However, when the judge of the appeal court saw the film, he asked the Censor Board what was the problem in clearing the film,''Kamal said.

Ultimately the film was cleared and was granted a 'UA' certificate.

Kamaal, who earlier made films in Bhojpuri language, decided to make 'Deshdrohi' in Hindi to ensure that the film reached out to a wider audience across the country.

''I made the film in Hindi because I wanted to put across its message to a wider audience. Making the film in Bhojpuri would have limited its reach,''Kamaal said.

The film will be released in approximately 300 prints across India and an additional 50 prints in foreign countries.


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