A Surrey filmmaker is looking to find the perfect actress to play the role of the late Maple Batalia in his next film.
Mani Amar says he is holding an “unofficial casting call” before the official one through an agent.
“As this is the most important role and since so many people have contacted me already about it, I am willing to review applicants and short list them,” said Amar. “I know so many people in the industry now that it wouldn’t hurt to just put out the word that I am getting a head start on casting for Maple’s role.
“It would be a wonderful thing if I can find someone who can encompass Maple’s role as I envision it,” he added.
Amar said his film will follow Batalia in her last 24 hours of life.
“She was someone who was so driven, she’d get so much stuff done in a single day, it would take most people a week to accomplish as much,” Amar told the Now. “Not only would she squeeze in a workout or run, but she’d go to school, work, go on casting calls, work on her artwork, take care of her nephew, niece, and so much more. Her story is so very tragic.”
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Amar said before her death, Batalia had just landed a commercial for Rocky Mountaineer, and was staying at school late that week to make up for time she’d miss doing the shoot.
“My goal is to show her drive and passion for life, and how the world was robbed of her,” he added.
The up-and-coming model, actress and health sciences SFU student was shot and killed in a parking lot outside her school by her ex-boyfriend in September of 2011.
Batalia’s killer and ex-boyfriend, Gurjinder Dhaliwal, received a life sentence last March after being convicted of second-degree murder. He was given no chance of parole for 21 years.
This will be Amar’s third feature film.
His first, A Warrior’s Religion, was released in 2009 and aimed to bring awareness to misconceptions about gang violence in South Asian culture, with strong references to Sikhism.
Then in 2011 – the same year Batalia was killed – he released Footsteps Into Gangland. That film, based on true events, followed several young Indo-Canadians who found their lives destroyed by gangs and violence and abuse in their families. Some felt he was painting Indo-Canadians in a bad light.
But now Amar is turning his attention to Batalia’s story.
“I knew Maple’s sister when my first two projects came out,” Amar revealed. “She was always supportive of my work, a few months after Footsteps Into Gangland came out, Rosy in a panic messaged me on Facebook saying that she feels like she is living in one of my films. I found out later that Maple had been murdered.”
In late January, the co-accused in her death, Gursimar Bedi, was sentenced to 22 months, minus time served.
For Amar, that meant the time was right to move forward.
“Why I do anything in film, simple, to bring awareness to issues plaguing society. Dating violence goes quietly ignored…. People group everything under domestic violence but they fail to realize young women are going through different problems and circumstances with their significant others,” he said.
Interested applicants for the role of Batalia in his forthcoming film can email Amar at email@example.com with a resume and headshots.