New Man’s Land

Writter-director Piyush Jha’s name does not instantly ring a bell.

Written by Debesh Banerjee | Published: March 14, 2009 3:36:40 am

Director Piyush Jha makes his Bollywood comeback with Sikandar,a film on football set in Kashmir

Writter-director Piyush Jha’s name does not instantly ring a bell. But he scripted and directed a semi-hit comical satire on Bollywood in 2004,King of Bollywood,and then went underground. The 40-year-old is finally making a comeback in March this year with Sikandar,based on a boy and his passion for football. “I did not find any subject appealing enough. So I travelled across the country visiting and meeting people in Chhattisgarh,Kashmir,Madhya Pradesh and Bihar to research for my next film,” he says. It was on one of his trips to Kashmir that Jha stumbled on the idea for Sikandar.

Starring the now grown up Parzaan Dastur as lead (from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai),R Madhavan and Sanjay Suri,Sikandar is a story set against the unrest in Kashmir. “But it isn’t a film about terrorism or political tensions in the state,” asserts Jha. Dastur plays a 14-year-old (Sikandar Raza) whose only concern and passion is football,and being the best at it. Along the way he gets distracted by the violence in the strife-torn state and ends up working for the movement. “I did not want to get embroiled in the political scenario. But there are many stories where children are growing up in such strange environments,” says Jha,who regards the Oscar-winning No Man’s Land (2001) as an inspirational film.

On his visits to Kashmir,Jha did not encounter gun toting people with streets barricaded and shops with shutters down. “Militancy is on the wane there. People have the same aspirations as anywhere else in the country. I wanted to highlight that vision on screen since everyone is already numbed by violence,” explains Jha,who worked for five years making television commercials,before foraying in Bollywood. The 40-day shoot in the Betab valley in Kashmir was most enjoyable as the crew often got invited by locals for kehwa.

The casting,reasons Jha,was the most crucial part. The lead needed to have experience and resemble a Kashmiri. Dastur,he says,was the ideal choice. “He had experience and looked like a local. We had to fend off tourists from Dastur since they mistook him as a local,” he laughs. The film will release on March 27.

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