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Amitabh Bachchan and Johnny Depp to star in Mira Nair’s Shantaram

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Mira Nair the renowned director Nair, who has films such as “Vanity Fair,” “Monsoon Wedding,” “Mississippi Masala” and “Salaam Bombay!” under her belt, is all set to create history . She has supposedly roped in the Big B and Johnny Depp(Pirates of Caribbean fame) to star in Shantaram a movie based on Gregory David Roberts book by the same name . Mira was very proud after being given the opportunity by Warner Brothers to direct Shantaram . The movie is slated to release in 2008 and is supposed to be Mira’s best work till date .Shantaram will be shot extensively, in Mumbai and also in Australia and North America. Eric Roth is writing the script of the film.Speculation is that now she will have her hands full with Shantaram, she will no longer be directing Gangsta M.D., the Hollywood version of the Bollywood hit, Munna Bhai MBBS.

Faced with a choice of either Russell Crowe or Johnny Depp in the lead, Roberts opted for the latter.

Mira Nair

“I had this connection with Johnny Depp long before the auctions for the distribution. He has a lot of Indian friends. The way he spoke about them has made me realise that he was the best actor who could bring that love to the film,” Roberts said.

Synopsis of the movie —Based on the life story of author Gregory David Roberts, a heroin addict incarcerated for a robbery ,escapes prison and reinvents himself as a doctor in the slums of Bombay. His ties to the crime underworld there lead him to Afghanistan, where he partners with a mob boss locked in a battle with Russian criminals . Shantaram is one journey that you would not want to miss .

Shantaram



You’re getting into another big film, Shantaram.

Yes, I’m very charged about it. When in June 2006 Peter Weir left the project, the producers Warner Brothers who had approached me for the Harry Potter film, called me. It’s a very big project. Not like you make a phone call and you get Shantaram. They sent me the script in confidence and warned me that other directors were being considered. I went off to Kampala where I read the book. When I returned they requested for a private screening of The Namesake. They liked the film. We met in October. By then I was completely immersed in the book and its concept. I knew it thoroughly. It’s the same territory as Salaam Bombay…It’s set in my beloved city of Mumbai. Shantaram is set in the 1980s’ Mumbai at a time when I was in the city. The script for Shantaram was written by Eric Roth even before Peter Weir came on. So I was working from that draft and telling my producers my concept of how Shantaram should be done.

And how should it be done?

It’s about time we got Mumbai and India right. Who needs a City Of Joy here? Authenticity is very important to Shantaram. I guess it my love for Mumbai city, my knowledge of the script and their fondness for my work that clinched the matter. And of course Johnny Depp felt Shantaram was in secure hands.

How’s Johnny Depp?

Oh, for all stratospheric box-office status he’s a humble soul. He’s generally inquisitive about the world. He considers Shantaram his bible. You know Russel Crowe and Brad Pitt were also very keen. Amitabh Bachchan and Johnny Depp will be very good together.

Johnny Depp

You had a casting problem with The Namesake. You originally wanted Rani Mukherjee.

We met in New York. Her dates were looking completely fluid. It wasn’t looking possible for her to define when it’d be possible for her to shoot for me. Rani and I will definitely work together. But for The Namesake I wonder if she’d have been comfortable aging far older than she is. The heroine has to go from 21 to 50.

Was that a bit of an upset?

Fortunately, it was early days for the project. I had seen Rani in Yuva and thought she was my Asima. Because she was Bengali I didn’t go to Tabu first. Finally Tabu fitted in perfectly. She makes me believe in destiny. Tabu and I worked together to create Asima, the musicality in her voice, her delicacy and strength.

And Kal Penn?
He was a comic star before The Namesake. It’s a ground-breaking role for Kal . I’ve to give my 15-year-old son credit for my signing Kal. He loved Kal for Harold and Kumar…. My son would make me promise every night that I’d get Kal for my film. Then Kal wrote to me and urged me to see his work.

Your last three films are based on works of literature.
That’s just a coincidence. I’ve equally enjoyed doing original screenplays like Salaam Bombay and Monsoon Wedding.

Where do you place The Namesake in your oeuvre?
I’m totally happy with it. This film is in a deep way inspired by personal grief. I lost my mother-in-law who was like a mother to me. She died unexpectedly of medical malpractice in NY. We were suddenly burying a woman we loved. The Namesake comes out of the needs and the commitments of a family life. I made it entirely for myself. I myself have lived in Kolkata and Manhattan. In one city I was an actor in political theatre, in the other I became a filmmaker. I think I was qualified to make The Namesake. It gave me an opportunity to unite the two cities.

Have you discovered your core as an artiste?
I’m assured now. I must always take risks and have the adrenaline of never repeating myself. It would’ve been easy for me to do another film on street kids after Salaam Bombay. I refuse to be boxed.

Are you okay being an NRI filmmaker?
I’ve three fully functional homes in Delhi, Kampala and Manhattan. I’ve my whole biradari (community) in Delhi. I give the airlines some serious business. This year I’m in India a lot. Shantaram goes to three continents. But it’ll be shot mostly in Mumbai.

People think you’re making a film on the life of the filmmaker V Shantaram.
Yes, my whole biradari thinks so. A photographer-friend sent me an image of V Shantaram’s studio. I sent it to Johnny Depp telling him , here’s the Shantaram in our life.

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1 Comment »

  1. Pingback by Deepa Mehta ropes in Big B and John for “Exclusion”

    [...] Mira Nair’s , “Shantaram” and now Deepa Mehta’s “Exclusion”, Amitabh Bachchan seems all geared out [...]

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