His li’l film, Udaan, is sweeping up big honours and with his confidence boosted by 14 awards, debutant producer Sanjay Singh is now going international with an English film that could be dubbed in Hindi.
Against Itself, written and directed by National Award winner Kranti Kanade, revolves around a boarding school in India and its secular teacher whose Gandhian principles invite discord.
"He’s a westerner, yet more Indian than any Indian," elucidates Singh, who, during a trip to Los Angeles last December, was able to send the script across to Harvey Keitel through his agent.
Much to Singh’s delight, the Hollywood legend, who met him at his favourite New York hangout, Bobby’s, loved the philosophy inherent to the script and was hooked from the first narration being a keen believer in Gandhian values and inspired by Sufi poets like Kabir, Meera, Rumi and Hafiz. "The film deals with religious intolerance that’s one of the core issues of contemporary society. And I believe that art can sometimes more effectively deliver a message, than politics," reasons Keitel, who was in India last month.
Over six days in Mumbai, the 71-year-old veteran, attended script reading sessions from 10 am to 7 pm, did look and wardrobe tests, interacted with the cast and crew and even went location hunting. "He was excited to see that most people in India spoke English and was impressed with the theatre talent we have here, some of whom will be part of my cast," says Singh.
Back in India
Keitel, who was in India 15 years ago, admits to having watched Hindi films and movies based on India. “I like Mira Nair’s films. Salaam Bombay was terrific. I also liked Slumdog Millionaire,” says the actor who is a favourite of master directors like Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott and Martin Scorsese.
Singh, who has roped in Slumdog Millionaire boy wonder, Ayush Mahesh Khedekar, plans to go on the floors mid-March and wrap the film in a 35-day schedule.
Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs, From Dusk To Dawn, Pulp Fiction
Jane Campion’s The Piano and Holy Smoke
Martin Scorsese’s Who’s That Knocking At My Door, Mean Streets, Taxi Driver
Barry Levinson’s Bugsy (nominated for Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Supporting Actor)
Ridley Scott’s The Duellists and Thelma and Louise
James Mangold’s Cop Land
Abel Ferrara’s Bad Lieutenant
Theob Angelopoulos’s Ulysses’ Gaze