Indian actor announces Hitler film

Film will tell little-known story of Axis-leaning revolutionary

NEW DELHI -- The recent announcement of what is possibly the first film from India based on the life of Adolf Hitler, titled “Dear Friend Hitler” and by an unknown first time director Rakesh Ranjan Kumar, has raised eyebrows for its potentially controversial storyline.

Expected to begin filming in about a month, the film will star veteran actor Anupam Kher (“Bend It Like Beckham”) as Hitler and former Miss India turned Bollywood starlet Neha Dhupia as Hitler's mistress Eva Braun. Kher once portrayed Gandhi on Indian television.

But don't expect any Bollywood style song and dance or a comedy send up on the lines of Mel Brooks's “Springtime for Hitler,” as Kumar claims his version would be closer to the acclaimed German film “Downfall,” focusing on the dictator's final days.

Kumar has been quoted saying that the film's title alludes to a couple of letters Gandhi wrote to the dictator, addressing him as “Dear Friend” before urging him not to go to war.

In addition to showing Hitler's relationship with Braun, Kumar adds the film “will show Hitler's love for India and how he indirectly contributed to Indian independence (from British rule). It also depicts the struggle for survival of the lesser known Indian Legion soldiers who were left in Germany by Subhas Chandra Bose (leader of the Indian National Army) to fight for India’s independence and Germany’s prestige.”

Bose was a freedom fighter who believed that Gandhi's philosophy of non-violence would never secure India's independence and established the Indian National Army with Japanese support, which fought the British in World War II in Burma.

Bose's alliances with the Nazis and other militarist regimes at war with Britain have been hotly debated by historians and politicians.

Kumar also adds that the film “will be a romance but not in the typical sense...The film will not show the love life of Hitler. It will show Eva, who has been rarely spoken about in history. The film shows how she comes in his life in his last days.”

Kher also added that the film will be realistic about Hitler's personal life and was quoted saying, “Sure, Eva stuck with him right till the bitter end, but I don’t think she had much of a choice. They may have loved each other but in such difficult times, I don’t think anyone would think of romance or singing duets.”

Kher, who is among India's most respected actors and runs his own acting academy in Mumbai and London, insists that the film will not be romanticizing Hitler. “He was a demon and will remain one...People shouldn’t draw conclusions without reading the script. We Indians are capable of making a realistic film and as head of an acting academy, I’d like my students to be impressed.”

Meanwhile, wire agency Press Trust of India reported Tuesday that Indian Jews in Israel were “shocked” about the project. The president of the Central Organisation of Indian Jews in Israel, Noah Massil, said, “I am a proud Indian and assert my Indian identity everywhere I go in Israel. I tell fellow Israelis that in my birthplace there was no anti-Semitism. However, I am having to bow my head in shame at this recent ignorance shown by Bollywood, which is also very dear to us.”

Massil, who was born in India but later emigrated to Israel, added, “All I know is that Hitler never supported India's independence. I will write to Indian president Pratibha Patil and prime minister Manmohan Singh to intervene in order to prevent bringing disrepute to our entertainment industry.”