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Would have been suffocated if I were living in Pakistan, says Omertà director Hansal Mehta

Speaking on a television show, the filmmaker said India is a vibrant democracy while there is no hope for justice in Pakistan.

Photo: Shutterbugs Images

Mayur Lookhar

Hansal Mehta's Omertà, starring Rajkummar Rao, has received acclaim on the international festival circuit and is now scheduled to be released in India on 20 April.

Omertà is the story of British Pakistani terrorist Omar Saeed Sheikh, who was sentenced to death (since commuted to life in prison) for the abduction and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

Mehta appeared on a new show hosted by veteran television journalist Barkha Dutt where he didn’t hesitate to say he would have been suffocated if he were living in Pakistan.

Dutt, who must have seen the film at a festival, pointed out a particular scene where Sheikh (Rao) asks his defence lawyer in an [Indian] court, “Are you happy in India as a Muslim?” To which the lawyer replies, "Very happy." Dutt felt that was quite a statement.

"It is a very big statement," Mehta said. "With all our frailties, with all this feeling of polarization in the country, the threat to democracy that we feel, we are still a very free country. We still live in a vibrant democracy."

The filmmaker, however, had a different view about India’s neighbour Pakistan.

"I shudder to think what [would have happened] if I were living in an autocracy like Pakistan," he said. "What if I was living there? I would have been suffocated. My voice would have been suffocated. It was a statement I needed to make. It was a statement that I had to make.

"It is not a comment on every Muslim. The biggest difference between the two countries is that we have a vibrant judiciary. Justice still has a chance in this country. Unfortunately, that process has been completely hijacked in our neighbouring country.”