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'There are no heroines left in Afghanistan'

By Syed Firdaus Ashraf
Last updated on: September 25, 2006 16:20 IST
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In one of the first films of its kind: Afghan actors and Bollywood technicians come together to produce Spring Of Hope.

Shot in Kabul, the film is both in Pushtu and Persian.

At a press meet in Mumbai, the lead actor, writer, producer and director, Hashmatullah Khan said, "For the last 25 years, Afghan films and theatres were in shambles. This is the first film made by the people of Afghanistan with the help of technicians from Bollywood. I hope people in India like this film."

Made on a surprising budget of Rs 2 crore, Khan said he was confident that he would get distributors for his film in India.

"But first I will show my film in a few film festivals including the International Film Festival of Goa," Khan said. He plans to release it in December with English subtitles. 

Incidentally Spring Of Hope will release about the same time as Yash Chopra's Kabul Express.

The cast of Spring Of Hope is from Afghanistan, except for lead actress Zarina, who hails from Tajikistan.

"There are no heroines left in Afghanistan," rued Khan. "In the last 25 years, all our heroines have grown old. That's why I took a Tajik heroine because my film is set in a college."

According to Khan, life in Kabul is picking up and many cinema halls are opening in the country. "Today, there are 21 theatres in Kabul and all of them run Indian films illegally," said Khan.

The Afghan film industry does not produce much though, he says, and ever since the Taliban were ousted in 2002, only two films have become popular. One was Roya Sadat's Three Dots, funded by a Japanese production company, and Siddik Bramak's Osama.

When Zarina, a citizen of Dushanbe in Tajikistan, was asked if she felt safe shooting in Afghanistan, she replied, "I felt I was at home. The people in Afghanistan treated me like a princess. They are very good people."

Zarina said she grew up on Hindi films and loves Shah Rukh Khan, Madhuri Dixit and Amitabh Bachchan.

Asked whether she would like to work with any one of them, she said, "Why not? Sure!" After a pause, she continued, "But I will not dance or do any songs in a film. And no exposure."

Khan has earlier acted in Hindi films like Pahonche Hue Log, Sach, Band Darwaza and Kishan Avtar before venturing into direction and launching his own company Rahmi Films International.

The film's cinematographer is S Pappu (Khiladi 420, International Khiladi).

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Syed Firdaus Ashraf