Lead actor pulls out of Bollywood Hitler film

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The Independent Culture

The lead actor in a planned Bollywood film on Adolf Hitler that has drawn protests from Jewish groups and condemnation from historians said Friday he had pulled out of the project.

Anupam Kher, who had agreed to play the role of the German dictator in "Dear Friend Hitler," said he had withdrawn two months before filming was to begin because of criticism sparked by news of the production.

"I am deeply moved by the outpouring of messages on social networks, the letters which I have received and the protestations I have heard about from organisations in many countries," he said in a statement sent to AFP.

He wrote on his Twitter account that "sometimes human emotions are more important than cinema."

The film, budgeted at two-three million dollars, has drawn opposition from sections of India's small Jewish community and campaigners abroad for its proposed portrayal of the fascist leader, according to local media reports.

Comments from director Rakesh Ranjan Kumar that the film would show Hitler's "love" for India came under fire from historians, who contend that the German dictator had no respect for a people he viewed as racially inferior.

Kher defended the theme of the controversial movie which is a rare foray into dark material for the Bollywood film industry, more famous for its vast and colourful dance routines and suggestive love scenes.

Hollywood and European film makers have made dozens of films on Hitler, but opposition to the Bollywood production appears to stem partly from a belief the Indian director will misrepresent or trivialise the Holocaust.

The film did not aim to "glorify or romanticise the role of the dictator," Kher said. "Indeed, that he was the architect of a World War and the man responsible for pogroms against the Jews can never be denied."

The film, which from early comments bears more than a passing resemblance to the critically acclaimed 2004 German film "Downfall" starring Bruno Ganz, will focus on Hitler's personality and relationships during his last days.

Its makers say the title alludes to two letters written to Hitler by India's independence hero Mahatma Gandhi. No decision yet has been taken on whether singing and dance routines will be included in the production.

Kher was set to star opposite former Miss India Neha Dhupia who is lined up to portray Eva Braun, whom Hitler married hours before they committed suicide in April 1945.

Filming is to start in August.

Kher's decision recieved the thumbs up from sections of Bollywood, the world's most prolific film industry.

"He has done the right thing by withdrawing from the film because Hitler is a subject that will hurt many people," prominent film producer-director Ravi Chopra told AFP by telephone from Mumbai, India's entertainment hub.

"This move will generate a lot of controversy so I am not sure if it would be right to go ahead and make this film," said the film-maker, whose big-budget film "Banda Yeh Bindas Hai" (He's A Chilled Out Guy) is scheduled to be released on August 6.

Another Bollywood producer, who did not want to be named, described Kher's pullout as a "personal decision" but added it could hurt the actor's career.

"It is better these days to avoid controversial issues and Hitler is not a subject to be taken lightly," he said.