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The wide albeit dusty lanes of Lucknow with its bustling markets, the poetic use of Urdu, and the quirks of its people have caught the fancy of many writers, poets and artists in the past. The latest to join that list is filmmaker Onir, who has chosen the romantic city as the backdrop for his latest venture, Veda. The film is a love story loosely based on Shakespeare's tragedy, Hamlet.
"When I first came to Lucknow, I totally fell in love with the city," says Onir who is busy giving final touches to the film's script. "I want the story to look, feel and sound authentic. I plan to include the architecture, food, baazars and their renowned culture of tehzeeb in the film," he says. The city has also been home to some of the greatest Urdu poets, such as Mir Anis and Mirza Dabeer. To lend this poetic touch to the film, Onir has brought on board Bhavani Iyer, who is also working on Vikramaditya Motwane's upcoming film Lootera, and scriptwriter Adhiraj Singh to write the dialogues. "While Iyer is familiar with the Lucknowi dialect, Adhiraj is a humorist who will help evolve the elements of dark humour in the script," explains Onir.
The story of Veda, named after the film's protagonist, uses the set-up of the chikankari embroidery industry in the city to tell a tragic tale of love. "It does not entirely derive from Hamlet, but we have borrowed some dark themes from it for the story," says Onir. Initially, he had planned to shoot Veda in South Africa and London, but later changed his mind. "I now intend to film it mostly in Lucknow and some scenes will be shot in London," he says.
Onir, who has, in the past, used the cinematic medium to underline an array of causes — with films such as I AM and My Brother Nikhil — has decided to keep Veda free of any such themes. "This is essentially a love story. Religion and politics do play a part in the film, but in a very positive way. We have tried to showcase that these things do not matter in case of love," explains the 43-year-old.