Sharman, Naseer play peacemakers in Mumbai`s crime belt

New Delhi: He braved local gangs and black-outs while shooting his debut `Allah ke Banday` but filmmaker Faruk Kabir says that his lead actors Sharman Joshi and Naseerudin Shah were the ones who surprised him.

The two stars travelled by autorickshaws and walked miles in Mumbai`s `tadipaar` belt to reach the locations of the film, which delves into the sprawling world of juvenile crime and it`s victims.

The director who managed a casting coup for his debut film, which hits theatres today, said that he is thankful to the "giving" actors, who put their all into the project.

"We shot the film in 45 locations and in places like Cheetah Camp and Mulund, places where no film crew has ever ventured. Of course we had trouble. The local gangs demanded
`hafta` money and our budget did not allow for that, so shooting was often an unnerving experience," Kabir told reporters.

But what shone through the gruelling experience was his actors` dedication and the love of the local film buffs who turned protectors of the film crew. And when Naseeruddin spoke even the goons and the unruly crowd listened.

"Sharman used to come to set in autos because his car could not enter the narrow `galis`. Or everyone would walk from one location to another. When we had trouble with the goondas (thugs), Naseer sahab along with the locals played peacemakers. All that made it a great experience, which I do not think I will ever have again," said the filmmaker.

The 28-year-old decided to tackle the subject of juvenile crime in his debut feature film, during the course of a journey across India for his documentary `The Unheard Voices`.

"It was a 136 day-long journey and I kept coming across children in crime and their stories. It was rampant. I visited juvenile homes and found out that the reformatories were extremely violent, volatile places which instead turned children into hardened criminals," said Kabir.

The filmmaker says that the hardest part of the film was not getting the A-list cast on board, but getting police permissions, so a lot of the film, made on a shoe-string budget of Rs 6 crores, was shot guerrilla style on trains and roads.

But getting the cast of Shah, Joshi and Atul Kulkarni was a cakewalk in comparison, said Kabir who also makes his acting debut with the film.

"I worked on the screenplay for almost a year and all three of the actors reacted strongly to the script and within a month I had my dream cast. I would say that getting Naseer saab was the easiest. After reading the script, he said, `Give me any role in the film and I will do it`," said Kabir who began his career in the film industry as an assistant to director Aziz Mirza at the age of 18.

When asked whether acting and directing at the same time was a tough task, Kabir who calls himself a "reluctant actor", answered in the negative.

"As a director, a lot of preparation and work went into the film prior to the shooting. because of the extensive homework, detailed story boarding et all, that went in, I was very clear about my characters. So therefore acting became easy. And I only stepped in because I could not find an actor that fit the character," said the filmmaker.