Dholakia to cast Naseer or Victor Banerjee for a hardliner's role in Lamhaa

By Subhash K. Jha, Bollywood Hungama News Network

The casting for Rahul Dholakia's film on Kashmir militancy now gets tricky. The main leads being locked, in the director now moves to the strong supporting roles that are based on real-life politicians from the Valley. And that's where the casting gets tricky. Who will play the crucial role of the Geelani-like hardliner? Rahul Dholakia has zeroed in on two brilliant choices for this dynamic character's role.

The two actors short-listed for the role are Naseeruddin Shah and Victor Banerjee. Naseer with his opulent mastery of the Urdu language and the art of oratory would be perfect. However, the actor has done several films on militancy and political extremism including his new release Wednesday.

Says Dholakia, "Naseer would be perfect. He has the mesmeric presence required to hold large audiences in a political thrall. But he has played the suave radical earlier in Sarfarosh."

The other choice is Victor Banerjee who has shown keen interest in Lamhaa. "Victor was one of the first actors I sent the script. He loved it. My only reservation was that Victor has always played soft gentle characters like the ones in Satyajit Ray's Ghaire Bhaire and David Lean's Passage To India."

Santosh Sivan's Kashmiri fable Tahaan has clinched the casting in Victor's favour. "I really liked him in the grandfather's role in Tahaan. He brings a certain warmth to the table. And with his gentle eyes, he can make the hardliner speechifying over 'Azaad Kashmir' look really credible."

In fact Santosh Sivan's Kashmiri fable is influencing Dholakia's casting in unexpected ways. Sarika who won the National Award for her performance as the bereaved mother in Dholakia's Parzania, was supposed to play an abandoned wife in Lamhaa. "But she has already played that role in Tahaan. And even in my Parzania, she had similar emotions to project. So I've cast an equally talented and neglected Shernaz Patel in that role."

Dholakia found Santosh Sivan's film on Kashmir to be too sweet. "It wasn't the reality in Kashmir that I've visited repeatedly in the course of my research for Lamhaa. But I also know Tahaan was a difficult film to shoot. I liked the performances, especially the child, Purav Bhandare. I'm bracing myself to face severe climactic and security hardships in Kashmir."

Dholakia is candid enough to admit Bipasha was the only leading lady who wasn't daunted the militancy situation in Kashmir. "Most actors are scared to shoot in the Valley. Bipasha was willing to take up the challenge. After Parzania which was about the Gujarat situation, I want to ensure that my film on Kashmir gets seen by a large audience which meant I need actors with a commercial clout."

Dholakia says he has seen a lot of dark-skinned Kashmiri girls. "Bipasha doesn't play the stereotypical Kashmiri. She's willing to give the role time and attention to make it look authentic. It's a very unconventional and challenging role. She shares very contrasting relationships with Sanjay Dutt and Kunal Kapoor. There's no romantic involvement with either hero."

In the meanwhile, Dholakia is writing his script for the third time. "Things are changing so rapidly in the Valley. I'm re-writing most of the screenplay for the third time. In my earlier drafts, I had predicted what's happening now in the Valley. Now in my final draft I've to pre-empt the political situation so my film won't look outdated when we come out."

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