Real life characters renamed in 'No One Killed Jessica'

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By Subhash K. Jha

Mumbai, Jan 4 (IANS) It's no secret that "No One Killed Jessica" is inspired by the murder of Jessica Lall but the producers have kept the names fictional barring the model to avoid any kind of legal trouble.

Directed by Rajkumar Gupta and produced by UTV Motion Picures, the film starring Vidya Balan and Rani Mukerji is releasing Friday.

The initial plan was to go whole hog and recreate the entire case in all its details, including the characters with their real names. In fact, say sources, director Rajkumar Gupta wanted to offer Shayan Munshi, the prime witness in the murder that took place in 1999, the chance to play himself.

However, according to legal advice, the original spelt trouble. So all the names of the main dramatis personae, including prime accused Manu Sharma and the key witnesses have been changed, to avoid legal and financial troubles.

When questioned about it, Gupta said: "You will have to see the film to see why we have done what we have with the characters. Beyond that I don't want to comment on the names of the characters."

Siddharth Roy Kapoor of UTV is more forthright about the hasty and hushed changes made to camouflage the real-life characters in "No One Killed Jessica".

"The film is Rajkumar Gupta's creative interpretation of Sabrina's journey, her trials, tribulations and finally vindication after Jessica's demise. So, we felt Jessica's was the only character that needed to be specifically indentifiable," said Kapoor.

A source sheds more light on the matter.

"The film decided to backtrack on real names when eyewitnesses and other people associated with the Jessica Lal case began to make urgent and anxious inquiries about the film. The characters are still easily identifiable. Only their names have been disguised," a source said.

"In our country any film based on real incidents immediately invites legal and financial trouble. The makers of 'No One Killed Jessica' didn't want to be stuck in dozens of legal snags and moral debates. That's why all the names have been changed."