- Golden Globe Awards
Bahattar Hoorain [72 Virgins] (India)
Bahattar Hoorain (72 Virgins), helmed by director Sanjay Puran Singh Chauhan, is a dark comedy. At an extremist training facility, Bilal and Hakim are instructed that if they give their lives in the name of Allah, they will be rewarded with bahattar hoorain (72 beautiful virgins) in heaven.
Following their terrorist attack in Mumbai, the two men are surprised to not end up in the arms of beautiful virgins but in a hospital where their ghosts watch an autopsy being performed on their bodies.
The screenplay of the 90-minute film, which was shot in 28 days, was written by Anil Pandey and Junaid Wasi. The cast includes Payan Malhotra, Aamir Bashir, Ashok Pathak and Rasheed Naz.
The film examines the very real consequences of violent extremism and aims to convey the message that all life is precious and should be treated with nothing but dignity and respect.
In an interview on Zoom with the HFPA in December 2021, while he was in Mumbai, India, director Chauhan shared what inspired him to make the movie. “Since 9/11, I have been reading and hearing about suicide bombing. I wanted to make a very different perspective behind this, the thought of this ideology of suicide bombing. I always believed that there is a heaven and paradise, but the moment you open your eyes in this world, you are in a paradise and the moment you close your eyes, it’s over.
“So, you don’t need to find it anywhere else; you don’t have to die for it. Just by default, you are in paradise. That was my inspiration and thought behind this idea.”
He added that he was scared audiences might misunderstand the topic, but said that he has been getting good feedback, especially from the Muslim community. “I’m getting good feedback from them because this is a sore nerve that I am touching, and people are fed up with this around the world.
“My idea was never to talk about Islam because Islam is a peace-loving religion. But unfortunately, because of certain migrations and people who are misusing it, we sometimes think, okay, this is from the religion. But it is not.”
The director explained that he shot some of the film in black and white because he is talking about the afterlife, and some in color because the characters are trying hard to remember. “In memories, only the hard colors are left, so they are trying to fill their memories because they are trying to understand what is happening around them and why they are not getting this.
“Once you have a physical body form, you can see the colors. But once you have left this world, nothing is left, like color and everything. Nothing is there, so it’s black and white.”
The National Award-winning writer-director said that he tried to create a paradox in every scene. “I wanted to create a world that whatever we are seeing, we are not believing in that.”
As such, he has a scene where there is a young couple kissing while the destruction is happening when one of the terrorists detonates himself. “This was difficult because I love making inspirational films. All the scenes are not part of the narrative right now, but we shot those scenes because I wanted to tell the story gorgeously, but also a story of destruction, a story of the misguided youth, their psyche.”