Mumbai: He was several continents away when terrorists struck the twin towers in New York. But the 9/11 strike had a profound influence on ambitous young filmaker Abhishek Sharma who longed to give an artistic response and has finally got the chance with ‘Tere Bin Laden’ (Without you, Laden), a satire on Osama bin Laden.
It might sound incongruous for an Indian debutant director to dabble in a global theme like a satire on the world`s most wanted terrorist, but Sharma is confident of pulling it off.
"Post-9/11, I wanted to react to the incident as an artist to express what happened after the terror attack - the world got divided into two parts. But I could never find a subject to express myself," Sharma, 32, told reporters in an interview.
"I thought it would be better if I tell my story in a comic way rather in a serious tone because sometime comedy cuts across better..."
The story centres on a Pakistani reporter, Ali Hasan, who wants to go to America but runs into visa restrictions post-9/11. So Ali is stuck in Karachi working with a small shady news channel and covering trivial news when he bumps into Noora, a poultry farmer who looks like Osama.
So, he gives him an Osama makeover, tapes his speech to make his way to America.
"Now, what could be a bigger irony than this guy from a third world country who has an American dream but uses an Osama tape to reach his destination. I really loved the irony as a concept and thought I should work on it," said Sharma.
A post-graduate in design and direction from the National School of Drama (NSD) in Delhi in 2001, Sharma did theatre in Delhi before coming to Mumbai, where he joined Adlabs as studio executive.
He has dared to make Osama the butt of jokes in his first film, but says the film is not meant to be offensive to any one.
"I don`t think that it would be offensive to anyone because the film is a portrayal of the mad world we live in. It`s not a spoof in that sense, it`s more of a satire or farce. Rather making fun of someone, we are making fun of the situation of the world we live in. I think it is sensitive enough," said Sharma.
Sharma hunted high and low to find an Osama look-alike and finally settled on theatre co-star Prahuman Singh.
"We searched a lot. Failed. Then I thought of Prahuman, who did theatre with me seven years back. I call him my protégé because he did his first play with me and then disappeared. When I was looking for this character, I thought of him.
"I thought if we enhance his feature by make-up, he might look like Osama. He`s a pretty good actor and he could mimic Osama very well...," he said.
Though the script has a Pakistani backdrop, Abhishek couldn`t shoot in the country. All he had were a few master shots taken while he was there to complete his research.
"Unfortunately, the situation was not conducive enough to shoot in Pakistan because the security issues are huge. Pakistanis are very welcoming people. I went there for my research. We took some master shots and fused it with the film to create one organic whole," said Sharma.