Chandigarh becomes Osama’s Abbottabad – for Hollywood film

Osama Bin Laden
MUMBAI: The two places may be 600 km apart, but Oscar-winning Hollywood director Kathryn Bigelow has chosen Chandigarh and its surroundings in Punjab to depict the Pakistani city of Abbottabad – where Al Qaeda mentor Osama bin Laden was shot dead by US special forces – for her new film.

On Thursday, her unit shot at a dhaba and some shops in Mani Majra, an old town suburb of Chandigarh, for the movie "Zero Dark Thirty" or "ZD30".

Sources in Bigelow’s film unit say some of the film scenes will be shot in and around Chandigarh and some places in neighbouring Punjab. They had Wednesday shot some scenes in the city’s busy Sector 15 market which is frequented by youngsters owing to its location in the education zone.

To give the feel of a Pakistani town, the shops have signboards written in Urdu, the language commonly used in Pakistan, while three-wheeler auto-rickshaws and other vehicles too have got a brightly coloured layer of paint and Pakistani registration numbers.

A local hardware shop, Ramgarhia Hardware store has been renamed ‘Shahzad Hardware and Paint Store’ in Urdu. An internet cafe and a phone call centre have also been given Pakistani names for the shots.

"While the supporting actors in the backdrop are mostly hired locally or from Delhi, their clothes and appearance has been made to match with life in Pakistan," a member who accompanied the unit from Delhi, told IANS here.

"Given the security environment in Pakistan and the strained US-Pakistan relations, too many risks were involved in shooting the film inside that country."

Bigelow, who hit a high in 2010 by becoming the first woman director to win the Academy Award for her film "The Hurt Locker", depicting war-ravaged Iraq, has chosen locations in north India to shoot her movie on the elimination of bin Laden.

Bin Laden was hunted down by US special operation forces in a midnight raid at a ‘safe house’ in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad in May last year. It saw the special forces landing at a compound and killing the Al Qaeda chief who masterminded the 9/11 attack in the US in 2001 and other terror operations across the world.

Incidentally, the shooting for the film began here just days after the Abbottabad ‘safe house’ was demolished by the authorities in Pakistan earlier this week.

Police sources here said the Hollywood film unit, which is taking the help of production companies in Chandigarh and Delhi, is expected to shoot in the area for a week.

The film is expected to be released at the end of this year.