VHP activists disrupt Osama film shoot

Chandigarh: The shooting of Kathryn Bigelow`s film on Osama bin Laden here to depict killing of the al Qaeda leader in Abbottabad was stalled today by VHP activists who objected to hoisting of Pakistani flags.

The crew was forced to cancel the shoot and move the cameras away after the protests when a few scenes of the film was being recreated by the Oscar-winning director at Manimajra town on the outskirts of the city.

Activists of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) led by Vijay Singh Bhardwaj forcefully disrupted the shooting and removed the sign boards put in Urdu on few shops, a crew member said, adding the cameramen were also allegedly pushed and abused.

They raised slogans against Pakistan and removed its flags put in place to recreate the actual spot in Abbotabad where US commandos killed the dreaded al Qaeda leader in a helicopter raid on May 2, 2011.

"They (the movie crew) are showing Chandigarh as Pakistan, this is not acceptable in any terms. Why should any place in India be converted to look like Pakistan? We will never allow Pakistan`s flags flying at places in the city where the shooting is taking place," Bharadwaj said.

After the melee, the VHP activists went to police to register a formal complaint against the film`s director. Bigelow later said no Pakistani flag will be put in place at the shooting areas.

Station House Officer (SHO) Rajesh Shukla assured VHP activists that Pakistani flags will not be permitted at the shooting locales after which they dispersed. No case has been registered, he said. "Our objection is to hoisting of Pakistani flags," Bhardwaj said.

The film`s crew has been shooting in prominent markets at the Punjab Engineering College here and at Patiala with shop boards in Urdu, auto-rickshaws with Lahore number plates, burqa-clad women and men in shalwar-kameez, chappals and skullcaps. The title of the film is being kept as a closely guarded secret but for now it is being talked about as `Zero Dark 30`.

Meanwhile, the shopkeepers whose shops were hired for the purpose of shooting lamented that with sign boards put in Urdu on their establishment had adversely affected their business.

Bigelow, 60, became the first woman to win the Academy award for the best director for the Iraq war drama `The Hurt Locker` in 2010. The crew, keeping the plot under wraps, is shooting the story of Osama being hunt down by the US commandos. The unit had planned a month-long shoot at various locations in Chandigarh.

With US-Pakistan relations strained, Bigelow could not shoot in Pakistan where the infamous Abbottabad building was razed over the weekend. Sources said that the production team plans to recreate Abbottabad in Rajasthan as well.