Anti-tobacco film hero has mouth cancer

MUMBAI Fri Aug 19, 2011 5:11pm IST

Crew members prop up Shafiq Sheikh, in a superman outfit, while shooting for the film ''Ye Hai Malegaon Ka Superman'' in this file photo. REUTERS/Handout

Crew members prop up Shafiq Sheikh, in a superman outfit, while shooting for the film ''Ye Hai Malegaon Ka Superman'' in this file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Handout

MUMBAI (Reuters) - For Shafiq Sheikh, the irony is tragic.

Sheikh, who acted in the spoof film "Ye Hai Malegaon Ka Superman" about an Indian super-hero who saves his town from a tobacco-loving villain, is himself suffering from mouth cancer caused by his incessant tobacco habit.

"He made the film about the after-effects of tobacco, but now he is suffering because of that very habit. We kept telling him not to, but he didn't listen," said Shaikh Nasir, the film's director.

The film deals with local issues, has local actors and is in the local language. Malegaon's Superman is skinny, wears shorts and flies into electric wires, his mission to save a village from a tobacco-loving villain.

The movie, which was acquired by producer Sunil Bohra, was to release nationwide in November, but Shaikh isn't sure if his lead actor, who is only 25, will still be alive.

"He may not be around till then, so we are doing a premiere in Malegaon on Eid (August 31st), and screening it once there. I want it to happen while he is around," Shaikh said.

The film has been made on a shoestring budget with a handycam, and with local youth as actors. But people have taken notice.

"Superman" was screened in two prestigious film festivals in the country and led to the development of a 34 episode TV series titled "Malegaon Ka Chintu."

"He acted in the TV series too, and that is when we realised he had cancer. The producer of the series, Deepti Bhatnagar, brought him to Mumbai and paid for his treatment," Shaikh said.

"He was operated upon, but the cancer has re-emerged," Shaikh said.

Sheik, who is married with two daughters, is part of the Malegaon film industry, which produces low-budget, spoof movies set in the industrial town of Malegaon, around 300 km (190 miles) from Mumbai.

Shaikh, a former video parlor owner who took to making films, says one of the reasons he wants to screen the movie in his home-town is because he wants to drive home the point about tobacco.

"So many people eat tobacco in my village. I hope they realise now what a bad idea it is," said Shaikh.

He has recorded messages from prominent Bollywood stars about the dangers of tobacco to be played at the end of the screening.

(Editing by Elaine Lies)

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