Reel life turns real in film on murdered scribe

March 27th, 2008 - 9:12 am ICT by admin  

By Subhash K. Jha
Mumbai, March 27 (IANS) The celluloid world merged with the real world when senior police officer R.K. Sharma was sentenced for the murder of journalist Shivani Bhatnagar. That day, Bollywood director Sushen Bhatnagar shot a dramatised version of the Sharma hearing for his film “Monica” which is based on the life and troubled death of Shivani Bhatnagar.

Sharma, the Indian Police Service (IPS) officer charged with killing Shivani Bhatnagar, was given a life term but spared the gallows.

Director Bhatnagar, who shares his surname with the murdered mediaperson, sounds stunned. “It wasn’t planned that way at all. But while we were shooting the murder trial and verdict in our film with an actor named Dadhi Pandey playing Varma’s role, we got to know that the real-life cop had been sentenced. It was uncanny, almost as if the dead girl was telling us something.”

Sushen has taken his namesake’s signal from heaven very seriously. “I want to complete ‘Monica’ and release it as soon as possible. Shivani’s story of a small-town girl’s ambition has to be told. The issue is alive right now because of Sharma’s sentencing. Shivani’s story cannot be allowed to die.”

Divya Dutta is playing Shivani on the screen.

Says the director: “I’ve done a true-life drama, ‘Trisha’ with Divya earlier. It’s important for me as a filmmaker to use cinema as an extension of the newspaper. I feel Divya understands the mindset and the yearnings of an ambitious small town girl better than most actresses in Bollywood, who don’t know of the existence of a world outside the metropolis.”

Ashutosh Rana plays a character inspired by the late Pramod Mahajan, who had been accused of involvement in the murder.

Journalist Shivani Bhatnagar was killed by goons allegedly hired by Sharma, the IPS officer from the Haryana cadre, in 1999. Bhatnagar, who befriended Sharma in course of her assignments as a reporter, later shared intimate ties with him.

The liaison turned sour after the officer refused to wed Bhatnagar and the spurned woman threatened to ruin his career. Sharma, who feared his wife, decided to eliminate her.

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