Killings given Bollywood flavour
By Emily Buchanan and Bhasker Solanki
Bollywood films are renowned for their fantastical
romantic plots mixed with vibrant song and dance
routines.Rarely do they look into controversial issues.
Now, however, a British take on a Bollywood production is
doing just that by tackling the practice of so-called
honour killings in Britain.
Production has already started in locations in and around
the Berkshire town of Slough and brings together a multi-
cultural cast and crew from India, Pakistan and Britain.
Such killings involve the victims - usually young women -
being murdered by relatives who judge them to have
brought dishonour on the family, often because of their
social contact with men.
They have been perpetrated for centuries in the Middle
East and South Asia but, as communities have migrated,
the practice has spread to Europe, including the UK.
The problem is particularly serious across Punjab state,
on both sides of the border between India and Pakistan.
Police estimate up to 12 people are murdered each year in
the name of honour in England, Wales and Northern
Ireland, with a further 500 forced into marriage or
attacked. There is a lack of data as the police record
killings as murder rather than having a special
It is estimated that over 200 girls are taken out of
Britain each year to be forcibly married. There is no way
of finding out if some of these girls are killed abroad
for refusing to do what the family wants - or if the
family finds out they have already found a partner.
On the set of Honour Killings, Indian director Avtar
Bhogal says he has long wanted to make a film on the
subject and was compelled to do so after discovering the
problem existed in Britain.
"There can never be honour in such killing," he said.
His film spans three generations.
Firstly, there is the story of an affluent Sikh
businessman - played by the veteran of Hindi cinema Prem
Chopra - who is jailed for murdering his daughter after
she fell in love with a Muslim man.
When his grandson then also begins a secret relationship
with a Muslim woman, it leaves her father racked by
indecision, as he weighs up whether he too must kill to
protect his family's honour.
The tension builds with the prospect of history repeating
itself as romance again crosses the religious divide.
In spite of the heavy subject matter, no Bollywood-style
film could go without fizzing song and dance routines to
draw in the crowds.
Gulshan Grover, who has performed in hundreds of films
both in Bollywood and Hollywood, plays the jailed
He feels it is important to highlight social issues in a
way that still attracts the public.
"No one wants a film with a message, whereas if the
viewership is larger and more people are watching
something and a message is slid into it then it's far
more effective," says Mr Grover.
The young lead actor is British born Sandeep Singh. He
had to travel to Mumbai for specialist training in
"A Bollywood hero always has to have all the elements...
to sing, dance, move around and fight. He has to be very
expressive and show emotions, which makes the role
The Muslim woman he wants to marry is played by popular
Pakistani actress Zara Sheikh, while her father is played
by another veteran, the Pakistani actor Jawed Sheikh.
Choreographer Longi Fernandes, riding high after the
success of his work in Slumdog Millionaire, has been
putting the cast through their paces in the grounds of a
large house near Slough.
Meanwhile, the part of an Englishman who is a close
friend of the businessman's family is played by Tom
The son of American missionaries, Mr Alter has lived in
India all his life and speaks fluent Hindi and Urdu.
He thinks Britain's multi-cultural society provides the
best context for the plot.
"Usually in our Hindi films we go to some other location
and say it's India. This is a story of England, so it's
the only place where we can shoot it."
The cast are filming the emotional morality tale in
Punjabi and Hindi, as well as English, and it is to be
dubbed into several other languages for the international
Its Punjabi version is to be called Rabba Maph Kare (God
The film will be released next spring and there are plans
for premieres in Mumbai, Lahore and London.