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Michael Winterbottom’s A Mighty Heart is one of the most talked-about subjects in India at the moment. Mostly because Brangelina — the hot pair of producer Brad Pitt and lead actress Angelina Jolie — have flown into the country to film the movie. As around the world, the handsome pair have their own set of loyal fans in India, too.

It’s well known by now that A Mighty Heart is based on Mariane Pearl’s account of the terrifying and unforgettable abduction and ordeal of her late husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, at the hands of the Taliban in Karachi, Pakistan in 2002. Angelina Jolie plays Mariane Pearl.

It’s been reported that the Brangelina team with their three kids — Maddox, Zahara and baby Shiloh Nouvel — in tow, have landed in Pune city on October 1, and will stay put for a month. Arti Surendranath, Indian ad filmmaker, is the line producer for this film.

“This is a very sensitive and complex project. I want the experience for the foreign crew to be wonderful and have been busy working towards that,” she commented when asked about the project. Arti and husband Kailash Surendranath, who run Kailash Picture Company, have worked with Michael Winterbottom and producer Andrew Eton before as line producers for Code 46, which starred Tim Robbins and Samantha Morton.

“I want them to see India beyond the camel and elephant rides and cows crossing the streets! So I’m going to suggest things to do here and organise it all for them. I would ensure that the pre-production goes smoothly,” adds a charged-up Arti. “Most foreigners shy away from shooting in India because of the red tape and the slow pace. I want to change all that, because considering we have great infrastructure, super technicians and such varied locales, it’s really a shame more international work is not done here,” she said hoping strongly that there will be many more such ‘proper’ foreign collaborations in the future.

Along with Dan Futtermann playing Daniel Pearl, there is Indian actor Irrfan who will be seen in role of a captain who was a part of the investigations. His character is one of the real people Mariane interacted with during the traumatic incident. “I am playing the role of a Pakistani investigating official. He is an APS from Pakistan and his name is Mir Zuber. He will closely interact with Angelina Jolie’s Mariane Pearl,” informed Irrfan who made his debut in Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay! in the late 80s. “Michael Winterbottom is a very talented director which is why I am working with him. I am a big fan of his earlier work and always wanted to work with a great director like him. For me, it’s an honour to be a part of this project,” said Irrfan enthusiastically.

New doors might be opened for Irrfan in the West as he has already acted in Mira Nair’s The Namesake which is based on Jhumpa Lahiri’s book and will be released early next year. However, Irrfan admitted modestly, “I can’t talk about the future. Let the future unravel by itself. One can only hope for the best.”

Aly Khan, a smalltime actor based in England (currently on the UK TV series Sharpe’s Challenge and The Bill will also be part of the lead cast. However, since he is in London at the moment, he was unavailable for comment.

A portion of the film was originally to be shot in Pakistan and the crew was in Karachi a couple of months ago, but since Irrfan was supposedly denied a visa, the location has been shifted to India — the country with a much ‘softer’ image. “It’s not been decided whether Pakistan will be recreated in India or not. We might shoot there too,” said Irrfan when quizzed about the same.

But this seems unlikely because not very long ago a Pakistani newspaper had reported that a production crew of the movie was recently caught filming scenes in Karachi and Islamabad, as well as the Pakistani countryside, without permission from the government.

A press minister from the government had issued a statement to the Pakistan Daily Times saying, “No request by the film unit to shoot in Pakistan had been made to the embassy.” He had made it clear that documentary and feature filmmakers must obtain permission and an appropriate visa from the Pakistani government before shooting and all forms of unauthorised attempt at filming is illegal.

Whatever the case be, but for now it seems Pakistan’s loss is India’s gain. It’s not every day that a prestigious project is shot on a big scale in shot in the country. (Sampurn)

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