- The Washington Times - Monday, June 28, 2010

Coming soon to a theater near you! The wildest, wackiest comedy ever. You’ll be “sheiking” with laughter as a jihad-loving Saudi billionaire and his American hunters get involved in a hilarious immigration scam — green cards meet the Green Berets.

Maybe.

The director of the new Indian film that satirizes Osama bin Laden said he “definitely” hopes to show it in America, but added that the comedy will first have its success tested in European markets.

According to director Abhishek Sharma, the controversial “Tere bin Laden” (“Without You, bin Laden“) — slated to debut in Europe on July 16 — will first start running in smaller theaters in Britain, where its box-office progress will be closely monitored.

But when asked by The Washington Times whether he believes his comedy film about the man who planned the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will ever run in America, Mr. Sharma said, “Yes, definitely.”

“America will be useful if we can tap the market correctly,” the director added. “We would just like to see how the film holds up at the European market under a limited release before we show it in America.”

“Tere bin Laden” is Mr. Sharma’s debut film. It satirizes the head of al Qaeda in a tongue-in-cheek comedy starring Pakistani singer-actor, Ali Zafar.

Mr. Zafar plays an ambitious young news reporter from Pakistan who is desperate to immigrate to the U.S. and pursue the American dream, but his visa applications are always rejected. When things look bleak, he meets a bin Laden look-alike and hatches a scheme to produce a fake video and sell it to news channels as a breakthrough scoop. The White House then becomes involved and sends an overzealous secret agent to track down the hero.

Although based on a controversial topic, Mr. Zafar does not believe “Tere bin Laden” will be taken as offensive.

“When I received the offer I was apprehensive, as the title of the film goes ‘Tere Bin Laden.’ But when I read the script I found it was a comedy,” Mr. Zafar said in an interview with the Press Trust of India. “It is a satire and does not hurt anyone’s ideology.”

“The idea excited me and the script was hilarious. It was fun to do this film,” he added.

When asked by The Times whether he would book “Tere bin Laden,” Shariq Hamid, manager of FunAsiA Indian movie theaters said he does not think the film would be offensive though he was not explicit on whether he would actually show it.

“I am not aware of any controversies with this movie as it is comedy,” said Mr. Hamid, whose chain has locations in California, Maryland and elsewhere. He thinks the film will be “nothing political as the name may suggest.”

Several calls and e-mails to managers at Loehmann’s Twin theaters in Annandale and other Indian-film exhibitors nationwide asking whether they would show “Tere bin Laden” were not returned.

“Tere bin Laden” is not the first attempt by India’s film industry — by some measures the world’s largest — to base a comedy around a reviled historical figure. Production of “Dear Friend Hitler” — a movie that chronicles the ill-fated romance of Adolf Hitler and Eva Braun — was halted earlier this month when lead Indian actor Anupam Kher pulled out of the film because of its sensitive subject material.

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