'R31m heist film no joke'
A movie based on the country's biggest cash-in-transit robbery has been slated for its comic approach by one of the men convicted of the crime.
The film, 31 Million Reasons, set to premiere at the Durban International Film Festival this week, is loosely based on Naresh Veeran's debut crime thriller of the same name.
Starring Isidingo's Jack Devnarain, 31 Million Reasons is set in Durban and produced and directed by award-wining duo Ross Garland and John Barker.
In 2001, 16 people were found guilty of a R31-million cash-in-transit heist from an SBV van - among them five policemen, three SBV guards, a prominent Chatsworth lawyer and six women, three of them sisters.
Only R5-million of the stolen money was recovered, but the assets of the accused were frozen after their arrest and sold on auction to try to recoup some of the funds.
The book was based on just a portion of the actual events of the heist.
Veeran said the book was an account of what could have happened, how the heist could have been planned and where the money could be.
He said the movie did not accurately translate the book. "Things have to be dramatised for film, to create a different kind of drive to the story."
Clive Gounden, one of 16 men sentenced for their role in the heist, said the concept of the movie should have been based on what really happened that night, how much was taken, the reaction of the police and how the location of the money was kept secret.
"If the role players were consulted, it would have benefited everybody. There is nothing better than the truth. The actual crime that was perpetrated was not a social event or something to be proud of. It was a criminal offence.
"As much as it was done by predominantly Indians and the community would have said it was done by people of Indian origin and they were the masterminds, this is not a joke. It's the wrong message that one would not want to send to the general public. I don't think people should have made a joke of it. There should have been criticism rather than laughter over it.
"For the robbery to have been executed, it took people with a lot of courage. The movie should have been a warning and should educate the public rather than make a mockery," said Gounden.
He was initially sentenced to an effective 43 years in prison - 20 years for the R31-million robbery and 23 years for another R7.4-million heist in 1998 from a cash depot in Pinetown. His sentence was later reduced to 23 years after a successful appeal, for his role in the R31-million robbery.
Gounden - who was released on parole last year after serving 13 years - said he had nothing against the movie as long as it had educational value and prevented people from committing similar offences.
"I'm sure by now the people who were involved would want to tell what really happened on the night of the robbery. If the idea was for the public to know exactly what happened, there should have been some consultation."
But Veeran claimed the movie was not about a robbery that happened 10 years ago, but was based on a book, which loosely associated itself with an incident that happened 10 years ago.
"It's not about the role players or those characters. It is based on an idea and there are lots of ideas around."
He said it was not a comedy, but the story of a robbery.
"The themes are not joy, but greed and corruption. People can choose to laugh at it but it's not funny."
Veeran said he did not think it made a mockery of the events.
"I think he (Gounden) needs to see the movie first to make a judgment like that."
Garland, who has produced movies such as Spud and Confessions of a Gambler , is overseas and was not available for comment.
Co-producer Brad Logan refused to comment.