Panaji: The seamier side of Goa will unravel on the silver screen with ‘Anjuna Beach’, a Bollywood film set on the 2008 murder and sexual assault of British teen Scarlett Keeling.
More than three years after Scarlett was left to die at Anjuna beach, Bollywood producer Sikandar Khan re-tells the story in the film releasing July 29.
The vivacious teenager who rode elephants, hung out at beach shacks and is said to have occasionally done drugs will be played by Italian-Ukranian model-cum-actress Nataliya Kozhenova.
Nataliya says that the film projects the deceased Scarlett as a young girl who loved life and lived it to the hilt.
"The story is very nice. It tries to protect Scarlett like she was not into drugs and is in favour of foreigners. It is scheduled for release on July 29," Nataliya, who has been working in Bollywood for the last two years, told IANS. Nataliya claims she worked as a model in Italy before moving to India.
"It was fantastic to get a chance to play Scarlett. It just happened by chance one day that director Shakeel Saifee asked me if I could play the role... My Hindi was zero at the time, but later I managed to even deliver my dialogues in Hindi," said the 24-year-old.
"Anjuna Beach", produced by Sikander Khan and directed by Shakeel S. Sai, also stars Kiran Kumar and Iranian actress Farhanaaz.
Scarlett`s sexual assault and death in 2008 marks a watershed period in Goa`s image as a safe holiday tourism destination, with the gory episode exposing Goa`s seedy underbelly as a destination for drugs. Abhishek Bachchan-starrer Hindi film "Dum Maaro Dum" also tried to show the murky side of Goa.
After the Scarlett case, Goa has seen a string of events that led to the state gaining infamy as a drug haven and as an unsafe tourist destination especially for foreign women.
International media attention towards Goa`s crumbling and corrupt law and order edifice did not help matters, especially after Scarlett`s mother Fiona Mackeown campaigned for justice for her slain daughter and exposed how the police and politicians were involved in covering up the death as a suicide.
Later, during the trial of her daughter`s alleged assaulters - both beach shack hands - Simon D`Souza and Placido Carvalho, Fiona named Home Minister Ravi Naik and his son Roy. They were alleged to have been linked to the drug mafia operating in the state, a charge the Naiks rejected as false.
Nataliya says she knew nothing about the Scarlett story.
"Really, before I got this role, I never knew about the Scarlett story. I came to know everything during shooting at location (Anjuna beach), and everybody who had seen Scarlett in real, they tell me I look very similar to her," she said.
Similarities they may share, but both are different in other ways too. While Scarlett`s post mortem viscera examination showed a cocktail of drugs in her system, Nataliya claims she has nothing to do with drugs.
"I have nothing to do with drugs and I do not understand people who are into drugs. In my movie Scarlett is just a girl who loves life but she is not into drugs," she said.