- Reuters Photo

KOLKATA: A Bengali film-maker inspired by the December protests over the gang rape of a 23-year-old trainee physiotherapist in New Delhi is hoping his new film would help change people's mindset.

"What I want to say through my film is that anti-rape laws or street protests alone cannot stop a social menace," said Milan Bhowmik.

"It is also about the conscience of people which needs to be changed," he told Reuters in an interview.

Five men and a teenager were put on trial for the December 16 assault in which the student was gang-raped and severely beaten in a moving bus before she and a male friend were thrown out. The woman died of internal injuries in a Singapore hospital two weeks later.

Mainstream Indian media did not identify the victim; referring to her only as "Nirbhaya", a Hindi word meaning "fearless". Thousands of people held protest rallies for days, condemning the police for not preventing such crimes and demanding the death penalty for the assailants.

Bhowmik's film, titled "Nirbhoya" in Bengali, is based on media reports of the incident and his meeting with the victim's family, although the film would have fictional characters in West Bengal.

"The trigger for me definitely was the Delhi gang rape and the huge protest that rocked the nation," the director told Reuters during a break from filming at a resort on the outskirts of Kolkata. "But the protests also provoked me to think if such an agitation alone can stop the crime."

"But the big question is whether after the protests, rapes have come down in India," he said. "No, and perhaps here is where we have to address the problem for a real solution beyond laws and legalese."

Bhowmik said the film would have shots of the bus cruising through the streets of New Delhi and passing through several police checkpoints.

The alleged ringleader in the rape case was found dead in his prison cell at Tihar jail earlier this month but there are no plans to feature Ram Singh's apparent suicide in the film.

While the film-maker is little known outside West Bengal, the cast of "Nirbhoya" includes Soumitra Chatterjee, winner of the 2008 national award for best actor.

Bhowmik said filming for "Nirbhoya" is scheduled to finish by April and it would open in cinemas within a couple of months.

"I think my film tries to offer an answer to every question that is raised about rapes," he said.

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