Wednesday 9 June 2010

Gandhi and his 'Dear Friend' Hitler

Eva Braun: as seen by Bollywood in Hitler biopic with Indian twist
Rhys Blakely, Mumbai

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Never in Indian cinema has the course of true love run smooth. But now Bollywood, famous for its sentimental musicals, is hoping to woo audiences with its weirdest romance yet — based on the life of Hitler.

“It will be a romance but not in the typical sense,” Rakesh Ranjan Kumar, the director of Dear Friend Hitler, told The Times. He added that the film “aims to capture the personality of Adolf Hitler”.

“As a leader he was successful. I want to show why did he lose as a human being? What were the problems, what were the issues, what were his intentions?”

The prospect of a kitsch Bollywood biopic based on the Führer’s relationship with his long-term mistress, Eva Braun, invites comparison with Springtime for Hitler, the fictional Nazi musical at the centre of Mel Brooks’s Broadway and film comedy The Producers.

“Eva had been Hitler’s girlfriend since she was 17 years old. The film shows how she comes in his life in his last days,” Mr Kumar said.

The project — Mr Kumar’s first as a director — has been lent weight by the casting of Anupam Kher, one of the sub-continent’s most acclaimed and prolific actors, as Hitler. Braun will be played by Neha Dhupia, a former Miss India, who says that she has researched widely to prepare herself for the role.

“How do you marry the most hated man in the world? I think it’s by taking each day at a time,” she said.

However, those hoping for a typical Hindi melodrama, replete with song and dance, are likely to be disappointed. Mr Kumar is aiming, it seems, for something closer to Downfall, the heavyweight German film lauded for its insight into Hitler’s psyche — albeit with an Indian twist.

Dear Friend Hitler, due to be released at the end of the year, will tell the story of the fascist leader’s final days in his Berlin bunker. It was there, while the Soviet Army bombarded the German capital, that he married Braun in a brief civil ceremony about 40 hours before he killed himself on April 30, 1945. The couple met in October 1929 but the existence of Braun — she is said to have reminded Hitler of his mother — was kept from the German public until after the war.

There are no plans for any musical routines in the film.

The film will also focus on the fate of the Free India Legion, an armed unit made up of Indian soldiers that was raised in 1941 and attached to the German Army. The Legion, which fought alongside Axis troops, was a rogue offshoot of Mahatma Gandhi’s peaceful freedom movement that campaigned to liberate the sub-continent from British rule.

The project is thought to be the first Bollywood film that will focus on the Führer, who chose the swastika, an ancient Hindu symbol, for his Nazi emblem and with whom many Indians are fascinated.

According to Mr Kumar his film’s title alludes to two letters that Gandhi wrote to the dictator. Gandhi addressed Hitler as “Dear Friend” before begging him not to go to war.

The director said that his film “shows Hitler’s love for India and how he indirectly contributed to Indian independence”.

One of the film’s producers said that “if we should thank anybody for Indian freedom, it should be Hitler” — a reference to how Britain’s war effort exhausted its finances, contributing to its relinquishing control over its former Empire. “But just because you delve into the mind of Hitler does not mean that you condone his barbarism,” the producer added.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is one film that will not be advertised in the UK, or even mentioned.