‘Bollywood babe’ to play burqa-wearing Muslim sparks lawsuit

Bipasha Basu is feted as Asia’s sexiest woman. Asiya Andrabi is India’s most militant female Muslim leader. Now the two are set to meet in court in a row over whether a Bollywood babe can portray a burqa-wearing Muslim on the silver screen.

Andrabi decided to sue the makers of Lamhaa, a Bollywood blockbuster about the plight of Kashmir and the lives of militants fighting Indian rule, when she discovered Basu had been cast to play her character.

She had held a number of earlier meetings with the film’s producer, she said, in which he reassured her she would be truthfully portrayed and sympathetic to the struggle of Kashmiri separatists.

Andrabi became a militant women’s leader in the early 1980s and formed her own group, Dukhtaran e Millat (Daughters of the Nation) to campaign against families who married off their poor daughters, the payment of dowries and pornography. She led a group of activists who defaced Bollywood billboards showing revealing pictures of actresses like Basu.

She believes Kashmir should be allowed to leave the Indian union and join Pakistan, though she says there are only two countries in the world – “Muslims and non-muslims” – and advocates jihad to advance the power of Islam.

In her private life, she is married to a notorious Kashmiri militant, with whom she has two children, she observes purdah and wears a burqa in public. She has said that a woman’s place is in the kitchen, cooking for her family.

She consulted lawyers when she read newspaper reports that she would be played by Basu in the film. Her worst fears were confirmed when Basu arrived in the Kashmiri capital Srinagar with Bollywood leading man Sanjay Dutt to begin filming.

Andrabi was furious because Basu is known for revealing her voluptuous curves, playing vamps who scheme to steal other women’s husbands, and her long-term affair with heart-throb actor and male model John Abraham. Playing Andrabi will be her most challenging role yet.

“I don’t want to see my character played by a woman like Bipasha Basu who prefers to be seminude most of the times. She might be glamorous but she is an undignified woman and is part of the immorality spreading industry – Bollywood. I am a religious woman who believes in Islamic values, observes purdah and refrains from evil deeds. More importantly I am the only Asiya Andrabi on this earth, so let it be just one,” she said.

According to Andrabi, the director has reneged on his earlier promise to show her a copy of the script before shooting it.

Basu is reported to have walked out on the director last week, claiming she was in danger but had not been given sufficient security to feel safe. The producers have denied that any character in the film is based on Andrabi.

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