Bollywood characters derived from headlines specially ones that are taken from extremist news reports, are now being seen as tricky territory.
In Rensil D'Silva's hushed and much talked-about Kurbaan, Om Puri plays a hardcore terrorist who masterminds a massive terror attack in the US. Surely a politically-incorrect role for an actor, if ever there was one. In fact, Irrfan Khan had said no to play a global terrorist in Kurbaan.
Playing a terrorist automatically puts the actor in the suspicious list on the international airports. And so what if it's just a part?
But Om is fearless. "I'm aware of the repercussions. I'm also aware others actors turn down parts of terrorists. But I've no such reservations. A role is a role. We cannot be moral and judgmental about the characters we play. In Kurbaan I play the terror mastermind, a fully committed jehaadi who is ready to sacrifice everything including his wife (Kirron Kher) for the cause."
It's a role with deep reverberations. But Om is prepared for the backlash. "I played a radical mullah mouthing rabid dialogues in Jagmohan Mundhra's Shoot On Sight. It was just a role. I think our audiences are mature enough to understand this."
However the audiences' level of maturity seems to have gone for a toss. Om has apparently started receiving warnings from fundamentalist organizations about playing an extremist.
Om says he won't be deterred. "I played a Pakistani in Charlie Wilson's War and East Is East. And now, in October, I go into the sequel West Is West with the same cast. This time, Vijay Raaz and Ila Arun have been added. Is it dangerous to experiment with morality in your actors? Let it be. In my new release Baabarr, I played a corrupt colourful cop who doesn't think tweaking the law is a big deal. It's good to enter the hearts and minds of people who live by their own weird morality."