The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jail shoots down Bachchan shoot

It was 8 o’ clock on Sunday morning when a convoy of close to 20 cars came to a halt at the Presidency jail gates. The focus was on a tall, well-built ‘jailbird’ in dark vest and trousers, meant to walk out of the prison in style. Only, he was refused entry by the jail authorities for security reasons and so, all carefully-crafted plans of his exit ‘shot’ had to be shot down. He finally retreated, scorned and sullen.

The man who failed to get into Presidency jail in order to get out was Abhishek Bachchan and packing up far sooner than planned was Team Mani Ratnam, denied a crack at a vital sequence in the yet-to-be-titled Hindi film.

Ratnam, a star in the cast and the crew were not the only ones miffed by the no-camera, no-action twist in the shooting tale on Sunday. Presidency jail inmates, led by don Aftab Ansari, were left grumbling at the missed opportunity to catch the Bachchan beta, up close (inside the main iron gate) and personal (as a “history-sheeter”). If things had gone according to the filmi plan, Abhishek would have swaggered out from behind the imposing prison gates on being released after a “short stint” behind bars. But that was not to be. “Nothing doing. We cannot permit Abhishek to go inside the jail through the main gate and later walk out, as convicts do at the time of their release,” said jail superintendent S. Hussain, soon after Ratnam and the rest had been shown the door.

According to Hussain, the famed film-maker had obtained permission from the state government to shoot outside the jail gates. “How could I allow him to enter the jail, which lodges several high-profile, high-risk prisoners'” he demanded.

Ratnam is known to have contacted home secretary Amit Kiran Deb to try and find a way into the prison compound, but to no avail. “Abhishek, too, tried to persuade the jail authorities as a last resort. But then, he returned to his car in a huff,” narrated a jail warder. Deb later confirmed that the production company Madras Talkies had been granted permission to shoot “outside” the jail.

Chintu Mahapatra, executive producer of the film, later said they were “hurt” at the way they were “denied permission” to enter the jail. “This could have been our last sequence in the first round of shooting in the city,” he said, adding that it was time for them to pack up and leave for Mumbai.

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