New Delhi, March 5 (IANS) Nalin Singh, scriptwriter of 'My Friend Hitler', says the western media misinterpreted his story which was based on letters written to the German dictator by Mahatma Gandhi. He says the film's screening at the Berlin Film Festival cleared misconceptions about it.
'The Indian media understood the concept well...none of the national, regional newspapers or media made it look like a controversial one. The controversy started with an article in the Guardian newspaper in London written by Alex Von Tunzelman. All the western media followed that story,' Singh told IANS in an interview.
'The Guardian story took the reference of some other story. None of the journos bothered to take our interview or point of view, they were selling 'sensationalism' well to their 'target audience',' said Singh, a first time scriptwriter who also plays a part in the movie. He features as Hitler's think tank and propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.
The project was first announced in 2008 with Anupam Kher as Hitler but the veteran actor backed out following protests by the Jewish Federation headed by Jonathan Solomon, who was outraged on learning that an Indian director will depict how the tyrant 'indirectly contributed to India's independence'.
A pass out of IMT Ghaziabad management school, Singh did his production and direction course from TV 18 and was also active in Delhi's street theatre circuit.
Asked whether controversy helped the film, he said: 'I would be more interested in staying in the news for the right reasons. None in Bollywood could dare to attempt this topic because of the risk involved in the language, because it's a period film. Berlin had to be recreated in India and and required the minutest detailing and research of the sets and the properties used...'
Directed by debutant Rakesh Ranjan Kumar, the film stars Raghuvir Yadav as Adolf Hitler and Neha Dhupia as his partner Eva Braun. It is produced by the Amrapali Group, a real estate developer, and may hit the screens after the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament that ends in May.
The movie has three tracks - Hitler, Gandhi and connecting them the Azad Hind Fauj.
The film was screened at the Berlin film festival last month and Singh says, 'the international cut will be in German, French and English and won't have songs.'
'The movie evoked a very positive response (at the Berlin film fest). We are very, very, very happy with the results that we have got...all the misconceptions about the movie just got cleared and people have started praising the brilliant concept which is truly international and yet so Indian.'
The Indian version will have a Holi song and a bhajan.
Reacting to the foreign media calling it a typical Bollywood song and dance number without seeing it, he said: 'It is high time the western media accepted the way we Indians are. We love songs and music. And, for God's sake, Hitler is not dancing around the trees to sing songs. It does have a bhajan 'Vaishnav janato' which was a reality at the time of Gandhi.
'The movie also is not a copy of 'Downfall', which shows Hitler's last days inside a bunker. There might be some common sequences in all the movies though, as all of them are based on facts of history.'
Singh says the Hindi version of 'Dear Friend Hitler' was a challenge.
'Two years of hard research, to do 'Dear Friend Hitler' in Hindi was a major challenge. This is the first time that Bollywood has adapted a foreign subject and we are doing it in Hindi. Earlier, we have seen Gandhi, Ramayan and our slumdogs speaking in their language...Hitler was a German, when he can speak in English in 'The Last Ten Days' why can't he speak in Hindi?' argued Singh.
What is the ratio of history and fiction in his script?
'Very few fictional characters....I believe the story has to be told interestingly and the treatment has to be pacy and gripping.'
'We have put in our best. The movie is going to be talked about for years. It glorifies India's stand for peace at a time when the whole world was fighting World War II; we were fighting for our independence through 'ahimsa' (non-violence). History had never seen such a fight for independence, and we won.'
About the expectations from the film, he said: 'I would be a happy filmmaker if I could change even one Westerner's view towards India.'
(Arpana can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)