Members of the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad group stormed the set of Kathryn Bigelow’s hunt for Osama bin Laden film in the Indian city of Chandigarh today, protesting the portrayal of Muslim culture in India, according to reports. Bigelow’s crew had been shooting there for four days although the director is understood not to have been on set during the unrest. Bin Laden was killed by a Navy SEAL team in Abbottabad, Pakistan last year, but unable to shoot there, the Sony Pictures and Annapurna Pictures film is instead using Chandigarh as a stand-in for Lahore — and the Hindu radicals are against the filmmakers portraying their sworn enemy Pakistan on Indian soil. (Since 1947, Muslim Pakistan and predominantly Hindu India have fought 3 wars and remain wary of one another.) Vijay Bhardwaj, a leader of the VHP, told Reuters, “We will not let them put Pakistani flags here and we will not let them shoot for the film.” A member of the crew told AFP that talks had been held with the Hindu protestors to try to defuse the situation. “Nothing has been shut down. We are still filming and will continue to do so,” the person said.
The incident in India isn’t the first controversy the film has faced. The Pentagon has said it is investigating charges made by Rep. Peter King that Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal were privy to inside information about the bin Laden mission, and an original release date that would have fallen just ahead of this year’s presidential elections was ultimately shifted to December, thus steering clear.
Meanwhile, media reports from the set say the long-untitled picture is using the working moniker Zero Dark Thirty which is military-speak for a very early starting time. The film stars Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Kyle Chandler, Harold Perrineau, Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong and Edgar Ramirez.