At a time when mainstream Hindi cinema is changing, audiences are maturing and there is no fixed formula for success, one would think that Abhishek Sharma would have had an easy time making a satire on Osama bin Laden. But the 35-year-old National School of Drama graduate and director of Tere Bin Laden was apprehensive. "Not about the subject but, yes, picking a serious topic and giving it a humorous tone was definitely a challenging task," he says.
Tere Bin Laden has been declared a hit already and into its fourth week has made Rs 8 crore, almost recovering its Rs 8.25 crore budget.
Sharma, who has dabbled in theatre in Mumbai and Delhi in the past, says the idea came to him one day when he came home with a severe headache and tied a scarf around his head. His wife saw him and said, 'You look like Osama bin Laden.'
"That got me thinking about making a movie on the subject. I had read that many of the Osama tapes are possibly fake, and so decided to give the whole issue a light and satirical treatment."
Getting WalkWater Films to produce the film wasn't difficult, as they loved the script, Sharma says, and gave their full support. "The most difficult task was to find a man who could actually make Osama a loveable guy," Praduman Singh, with whom Sharma had worked in his first play, got the nod after Sharma had auditioned hundreds of actors. "That is the most crucial character in the movie and we needed someone who resembled him and was good at mimicry as well," he says.
Having done theatre for seven years, donning a film director's hat was a big change for Sharma. He was adamant that he would not take big-ticket stars because then the film would not have the desired effect. Getting the look of the movie, in terms of location, costumes and language, was crucial as well, Sharma says. "We wanted to get the feel of Karachi and scouted for locations all over India."
So successful was he in recreating look and feel that one could believe it has been shot in Pakistan. Sadly, the film has been banned in Pakistan, although it will release in North America this weekend.
While Tere Bin Laden is a satire, Sharma feels it touches upon some real and serious issues -- for instance, the change in people's attitudes post-9/11, and the craze of going to America among youngsters like Ali, the protagonist, to the extent that they go to any extent to realise their dream.
As of now, Sharma is basking in the success of Tere Bin Laden and not thinking about his next venture. After all, the last 15 months of his life have been given to to the movie. He believes he deserves a little break.