Film-maker Omer Farooque in Dhanbad on Tuesday. Picture by Gautam Dey
If Gangs of Wasseypur has piqued the pride of a people, here’s the best way to protest and present the other side of a coin — a movie about a success story of the Dhanbad town to counter its portrayal as a hotbed of crime.
Omer Farooque, a Dhanbad-based film-maker, has taken it upon himself to make a movie, sardonically titled I live in Wasseypur, to show the area in the best positive light, a progressive and resurgent locality.
The Anurag Kashyap movie, loosely based on real-life incidents involving the notorious coal mafia, came as a “shock” for Farooque.
“Being a native of Dhanbad, I watched Gangs of Wasseypur on June 29 but was shocked by the wrong portrayal of the locality. I immediately decided to make a movie to highlight its positives,” said Farooque.
“I discussed the idea of making a movie with local artistes Avinash Kumar of Dhanbad and Satyam Kumar of Jharia on June 29 itself. Both agreed to work on the project and we began shooting at Puja Talkies on July 1,” added the 38-year-old, whose short film Sharab: The Mirage, based on the plight of coal miners, had won the best movie award at the Third Cine Kala Awards in 2010.
Avinash will play the lead role of a character called Ehsaan Quraishi, an IAS aspirant from Wasseypur. The film is about how the protagonist goes on to fulfil his dream, braving hurdles that include the supposed bad name of his locality and how it can act as a deterrent when he chooses to venture out to make it big.
Farooque conceded that “Wasseypur indeed had a history of crime”.
“But despite that and various constraints, people are scripting success stories in various fields including academia and the professional arena. Their success needs to be highlighted rather than the saga of crime, which is now a thing of the past.”
Though Farooque is a native of Shivlibari in Nirsa, he shared the sentiments of a section of Wasseypur’s residents who had demanded a stay on the film’s release.
The initial furore over Gangs of Wasseypur in Dhanbad has died down. While the movie has attracted packed houses elsewhere, including Ranchi, the response from the residents of the coal capital who are familiar with the ways of the coal mafia has been relatively tepid. But for some, including Farooque, a sense of unfairness rankles.
“The movie has caused irreparable damage to Dhanbad’s image, especially that of Wasseypur, which is a peaceful locality. Many marriage proposals of girls of Wasseypur are being rejected by people from outside after watching the movie,” he added.
Initially, Farooque was aiming to make a short film. He even consulted Bengali film-maker Tathagata Bhattacharya, who suggested him to go full throttle.
“We will take up shooting on a full swing after Ramadan and release it either in December or January next year,” said Farooque, the son of a watchmaker M. Nasiruddin.
He added that the film would be shot in Wasseypur and other parts of Dhanbad and Jamshedpur, while the post-production work would be done in Mumbai.
Apart from winning accolades for Sharab: The Mirage, which was also adjudged the best movie during a short film festival organised by Society for Promotion of Professional Excellence in 2010 in Jamshedpur, Farooque also played the role of a gangster’s henchman in Ram Gopal Verma’s D.
He had moved to Mumbai in 1998 for making a career in Bollywood. His first break came in a TV serial, Yug, six months after his stay in Mumbai.
Farooque, who is credited with setting up a unit of the Indian People’s Theatre Association at Nirsa in 2007, added, “Cinematographer Akbar Sheikh has agreed to work in my movie, which will be made at a budget of around Rs 50 lakh to Rs 60 lakh. Some Jamshedpur-based financiers have agreed to invest in the movie.”
Making sure the creative retort will be no less attractive a package, Farooque promised viewers a true flavour with local language and folk songs, much like Gangs of Wasseypur.
Will the new movie beat the old at the box office?